Russian Foreign Ministry on Nord Stream 2, Britain, and US Support for ISIS

By Stephen Lendman

Source

From beneath the Baltic Sea, Russia’s 745-mile pipeline will supply 55 billion cubic meters of gas annually to Germany and Europe.

Nearly completed, it’ll soon be operational despite US efforts to undermine the project.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova (MZ below) stressed that the project “is in full accord with norms of international law, EU regulatory requirements and laws of littoral states” Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany.

It’ll greatly enhance European energy security, not undermine it as US dark forces claim.

According to Gazprom Export head Elena Burmistrova, European consumers will save at least 7.9 billion euros in annual energy costs over 30% more expensive US LNG.

MZ stressed that Russia never uses “energy supplies or the transit issue as a weapon and has no intention to do this in the future.” 

Moscow is “committed to politics-free energy cooperation and its development with all countries based on the principles of respect for partners’ interests and mutual benefit.”

Despite Russia’s good faith in dealings with Germany on the project important to its energy security, an unacceptable joint US/German agreement didn’t reciprocate, Moscow’s US envoy Anatoly Antonov explained, saying:

Its “hostile tonality directed at our country fundamentally contradicts the spirit of” what bilateral and multilateral relations should be all about, adding:

“The attempts to present us as an aggressor and a country involved in ‘malign’ activities have long become the calling card of Russophobes.” 

“The threats against us are groundless and futile.”

“We’ve never inflicted our deliveries on anyone, never used our energy resources as a weapon of political pressure, nor tried to resolve by these means any opportunistic goals ascribed to us.” 

“We reject any accusations on that score.” 

“We view these attempts as nothing else but unscrupulous competition.”

“Russia is ready to deliver as much” energy to recipient countries as they wish to recieve.

According to what the Biden and Angela Merkel regimes agreed on, US sanctions on Nord Stream 2 will be rescinded in return for US/German investments in Ukraine’s energy security.

Berlin also pledged to demand that Russia extend the gas pipeline to Ukraine so its US-controlled ruling regime will get $3 billion in annual transit fees.

Germany will support renewed sanctions on Russia if accused of “aggression” the Kremlin abhors by any nations against others.

According to an unnamed State Department Russophobe:

“Should Russia attempt to use energy as a weapon or commit further aggressive acts against Ukraine (sic), Germany will take action at the national level and press for effective measures at the European level, including sanctions to limit Russian export capabilities to Europe in the energy sector.”

Nord Stream 2 is a commercial project. Yet Biden/Merkel regime dark forces continue to unacceptably politicize it.

MZ stressed that the pipeline “will function reliably (by) providing affordable energy to European consumers. 

It will “strengthen energy security of (recipient) European countries.”

Totalitarian Britain partners with Washington’s diabolical war on Russia by other means.

MZ slammed Big Lies by MI5 head Ken McCallum.

He falsely accused Russia of threatening UK security by cyber attacks — a US, UK, EU, Israeli specialty, not how Russia operates against any nations.

No evidence suggests otherwise, none by McCallum.

Like other Johnson regime hardliners, he’s hostile to all things Russia, inventing things to accuse the Kremlin of. No legitimate ones exist.

MZ: If Britain has concrete facts, not “empty talk,” reveal it. 

Otherwise its remarks are baseless like many times before.

“Moscow is guided by the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of other countries” — polar opposite how the US-dominated West operates. 

The Kremlin “repeatedly warned London that the anti-Russia hysteria that has been launched in the UK will eventually have a backlash against its masterminds.”

Russian Special Presidential Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov has indisputable evidence of the US/ISIS connection.

MZ explained that Russia repeatedly raised this issue with other world community member states.

It “provided evidence multiple times…based on (credible) data,” adding:

“We have many questions about unmarked helicopter flights, recorded since 2017, over the areas of activity of ISIS militants” where they’re deployed as proxy US foot soldiers.

Afghan sources explained that US helicopters are “used to deliver reinforcements, weapons and munitions, and remove killed and wounded terrorists from battlefields.” 

“We made this information public and said that (it) should attract serious attention from specialized bodies and all involved parties.” 

“We spoke about this before, and, I should stress once again, this kind of activity was not possible without the knowledge of the US and NATO that control Afghan air space.”

The same thing has gone on in Syria throughout at least most of the past decade.

The US and its imperial partners use ISIS and likeminded jihadists as proxies in Washington’s war theaters.

Russia supplied this information to the UN — ignored by pro-Western secretary general Guterres and his predecessor. 

Nord Stream 2 ‘Deal’ Is Not an American Concession, It’s Admission of Defeat

See the source image

July 23, 2021

Source

All in all, Washington’s virtue-signaling is one helluva gas!

After much arm-twisting, bullying and foghorn diplomacy towards its European allies, the United States appears to have finally given up on trying to block the giant Nord Stream 2 project with Russia. What an epic saga it has been, revealing much about American relations with Europe and Washington’s geopolitical objectives, as well as, ultimately, the historic decline in U.S. global power.

In the end, sanity and natural justice seem to have prevailed. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic Sea will double the existing flow of Russia’s prodigious natural gas to Germany and the rest of Europe. The fuel is economical and environmentally clean compared with coal, oil and the shale gas that the Americans were vying with Russia to export.

Russia’s vast energy resources will ensure Europe’s economies and households are reliably and efficiently fueled for the future. Germany, the economic engine of the European Union, has a particular vital interest in securing the Nord Stream 2 project which augments an existing Nord Stream 1 pipeline. Both follow the same Baltic Sea route of approximately 1,222 kilometers – the longest pipeline in the world – taking Russian natural gas from its arctic region to the northern shores of Germany. For Germany’s export-led economy, Russian fuel is essential for future growth, and hence benefiting the rest of Europe.

It was always a natural fit between Russia and the European Union. Geographically and economically, the two parties are compatible traders and Nord Stream 2 is merely the culmination of decades of efficient energy relations.

Enter the Americans. Washington has been seething over the strategic energy trade between Russia and Europe. The opposition escalated under the Trump administration (so much for Trump being an alleged Russian stooge!) when his ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, fired off threatening letters to German and other European companies arrogantly warning that they would be hit with sanctions if they dared proceed with Nord Stream 2. Pipe-laying work was indeed interrupted last year by U.S. sanctions. (So much for European sovereignty and alleged meddling in internal affairs by Russia!)

The ostensible American rationale was always absurd. Washington claimed that Russia would exploit its strategic role as gas supplier by extracting malicious concessions from Europe. It was also claimed that Russia would “weaponize” energy trade to enable alleged aggression towards Ukraine and other Eastern European states. The rationale reflects the twisted Machiavellian mentality of the Americans and their supporters in Europe – Poland and the Baltic states, as well as the Kiev regime in Ukraine. Such mentality is shot-through with irrational Russophobia.

The ridiculous paranoid claims against Russia are of course an inversion of reality. It is the Americans and their European surrogates who are weaponizing a mundane matter of commercial trade that in reality offers a win-win relationship. Part of the real objective is to distort market economics by demonizing Russia in order for the United States to export their own vastly more expensive and environmentally dirty liquefied natural gas to Europe. (So much for American free-market capitalism!)

Another vital objective for Washington is to thwart any normal relations developing between Russia and the rest of Europe. American hegemony and its hyper-militaristic economy depend on dividing and ruling other nations as so-called “allies” and “adversaries”. This has been a long-time necessity ever since the Second World War and during the subsequent Cold War decades, the latter constantly revived by Washington against Russia. (So much for American claims that Russia is a “revisionist power”!)

However, there is a fundamental objective problem for the Americans. The empirical decline of U.S. global power means that Washington can no longer bully other nations in the way it has been accustomed to doing for decades. The old Cold War caricatures of demonizing others have lost their allure and potency because the objective world we live in today simply does not make them plausible or credible. The Russian gas trade with the European Union is a consummate case in point. In short, Germany and the EU are not going to shoot themselves in the foot, economically speaking, simply on the orders of Uncle Sam.

President Joe Biden had enough common sense – unlike the egotistical Trump – to realize that American opposition to Nord Stream 2 was futile. Biden is more in tune with the Washington establishment than his maverick predecessor. Hence Biden began waiving sanctions imposed under Trump. Finally this week, the White House announced that it had come to an agreement with Germany to permit Nord Stream 2 to go ahead. The Financial Times called it a “truce” while the Wall Street Journal referred to a “deal” between Washington and Berlin. (Ironically, American non-interference is presented as a “deal”!)

The implication is that the United States was magnanimously giving a “concession” to Europe. The reality is the Americans were tacitly admitting they can’t stop the strategic convergence between Russia and the rest of Europe on a vital matter of energy supply.

In spinning the eventuality, Washington has continued to accuse Russia of “weaponizing” trade. It warns that if Russia is perceived to be abusing relations with Ukraine and Europe then the United States will slap more sanctions on Moscow. This amounts to the defeated bully hyperventilating.

Another geopolitical factor is China. The Biden administration has prioritized confrontation with China as the main long-term concern for repairing U.S. decline. Again, Biden is more in tune with the imperial planners in Washington than Trump was. They know that in order for the United States to have a chance of undermining China as a geopolitical rival the Europeans must be aligned with U.S. policy. Trump’s boorish browbeating of Europeans and Germany in particular over NATO budgets and other petty issues resulted in an unprecedented rift in the “transatlantic alliance” – the euphemism for American dominance over Europe. By appearing to concede to Germany over Nord Stream 2, Washington is really aiming to shore up its anti-China policy. This too is an admission of defeat whereby American power is unable to confront China alone. The bully needs European lackeys to align, and so is obliged to offer a “deal” over Russia’s energy trade.

All in all, Washington’s virtue-signaling is one helluva gas!

The Empire is throwing in the towel on North Stream 2

The Empire is throwing in the towel on North Stream 2

July 21, 2021

This was expected for quite a while now, but nonetheless, this is huge news: the Biden Admin has given up on US plans to prevent the NS2 from being completed.  Not only that but, apparently, Blinken wants the Ukies to stop bitching about NS2.

Yet another “ally” betrayed by Uncle Shmuel when needed.  True.  And, tonight, the Ukro nationalists are busy mixing mourning, hysterics and vague promises/threats to “do something about this”.

Still, good news.  This might well be the first time Europe has shown some tiny little balls, but maybe they will now start growing, God knows the EU needs them 🙂

Yet another proof that the Empire is already dead and the USA in agony.

The Saker

The Geneva Summit: Nothingburger or Watershed?

THE SAKER • JUNE 17, 2021 

The long awaited summit between Presidents Putin and Biden has finally taken place, but was it a success? Will it change anything? The answer to this question very much depends on one’s expectations. Let’s take a closer look beginning with the context.

Context of the summit

Just about the only thing which both US and Russian observers agree on is that the state of the Russian-US relations is about as bad as can be (in my personal opinion, it is even much worse than during the Cuban Missile Crisis or any other time in the Cold War). As I have mentioned many times, I believe that the AngloZionist Empire and Russia have been at war at least since 2013. Remember Obama with his “Russian economy in “in tatters”? That was the outcome Obama promised the people of the USA (Quick factcheck: the company Deloitte recently polled the CEOs of major Russian corporations and only 4% of them felt “pessimistic” about their financial perspectives as “negative”, 40% replied “same as before” and 56% replied “optimistic”). Of course, this was was not a conventional war, it was about 80% informational, 15% economic and only 5% kinetic. This, however, does not change the fact that this war was an existential war for both sides, one in which only one side could prevail while the other would, if not quite disappear, then at least totally lose its superpower status. This is a civilizational war, which pitted western and Russian civilizational (cultural, social and even religious) models against each other roughly along the following lines:

The US/Anglo-Zionist worldview: we are the “city upon a hill”, the beacon of light and hope for mankind. Our “manifest destiny” is to “expand the area of freedom” worldwide. We have the best armed forces in history, the strongest economy, the best everything. We are the “leaders of the free world” whose “responsibility” is to lead the world. This is not imperialism, this is the “duty” and “responsibility” placed upon us by history. Our values are universal values and must be universally accepted by all. Those refusing to join our model are authoritarian “rogue states”. Russia must accept that because she lost the Cold War and that western values have prevailed. Those who refuse to accept this are “revanchists” who want to overturn the outcome of the Cold War and rebuild the Soviet Union. The US had to expand NATO to the East to protect Europe from “Russian aggression”. Now “America” is back and, with our allies and friends, we will create a “rules based” international order which we will benevolently enforce to the immense gratitude of all of mankind.

Russian worldview:

Russia rejects any form of imperialism, for herself and for others. Russia wants a multilateral world order, based on international law and the full sovereignty of nations. Each nation should have the right to pursue its own cultural, economic, spiritual and civilizational model without being threatened, sanctioned, bombed, subverted or invaded. Russia rejects the so-called “western values” (turbocapitalism, imperialism, wokeness, multiculturalism, militant atheism, critical race theory, gender fluidity, etc.). The US is welcome to fly homo-flags on its embassies, but it has no business telling others how to live. In fact, the US has to accept two closely related realities: first, the US does not have the means to impose its ideology on the rest of the planet and, second, the rest of the planet sees the total hypocrisy of a country claiming to stand for values which itself gets to violate as much as it wants. Any comparisons are immediately dismissed with the words “but this is completely different!!!”.

Again, Russia agrees that the US is welcome to live in a post-truth, post-reality, delusion if it wants, but she also believes, and says so, that the West has no right to try to impose its pretend-values on others, especially when it constantly violates them all when convenient.

The core issue

The core belief underlying these very different worldview is extremely simple: the US sees itself as exceptional and, therefore, endowed with special rights and sees Russia as a much inferior interlocutor which needs to accept the US hegemony upon the world. In sharp contrast, Russia denies the USA any special status and demands that the US leaders accept Russia as an equal interlocutor before any meaningful dialog or cooperation could even be discussed.

I think that it would be fair to say that roughly between 2013 and 2020 both countries exerted immense efforts in a kind of a massive arms wrestling match to show that it, and not the other guy, would prevail.

For a very short while, Trump tried to get some kind of dialog going, but he was quickly and completely neutered by the Neocons and the messianic imperialists in his own camp (I think of Pompeo for example) and his efforts, however sincere, yielded absolutely nothing: Trump was not able to put an end to the war started by Obama.

Then came Biden and, at first, things looked hopeless. Seeing the massive failure of the first US-China meeting in Alaska, one could have been excused to expect a similar, or even worse, outcome from any meetings between Biden and Putin. Many (on both sides) believed that such a meeting was pointless at best since the US had painted itself into a zero-sum corner in which anything short of an exchange of insults would be seen by the US media (and the public opinion it shapes) as a “defeat”, “surrender” and possibly even “treason” by Biden. That is definitely the message conveyed by much of the US media, including Fox.

 


I want to express my total disgust with US Republicans who, for four years, were literally hounded by the US media for Trump’s alleged “caving in” to Putin or even for being a “Manchurian candidate” put in power by “Putin”. Now the Republicans are using the exact same language accusing Biden of “weakness” and for “caving in” to Putin. Truly, the Dems and the GOP are like Coke and Pepsi: different labels, same product. Worse, both the Dems and the GOP place their petty interests above the well-being of the United States and its people. I consider both parties traitors to the US and its people.


What actually happened

In spite of all the nay-sayers (on both sides!), Putin and Biden did meet. True, the meeting did not yield any spectacular results, but it would be wrong to conclude that nothing of importance happened.

First, the tone of the Biden administration towards Russia and Putin did change, remarkably so, especially after Biden’s infamous “uhu, he is a killer”. Some sanctions were lifted, the US basically gave up on trying to prevent North Stream 2 (NS2) from being completed, and a number of small steps were achieved, including:

  • An agreement to discuss cybersecurity on an expert level (something the Russians had been demanding for years, but which the USA rejected out of hand).
  • joint declaration strategic stability (more about that below)
  • An agreement to discuss outstanding issues on an expert level
  • A return of both US and Russian ambassadors to their former positions
  • A discussion on a possible prisoner swap
  • A discussion on possible future arms control agreements

Also of interest are the points which were mentioned in passing, mostly by the US side, but which were clearly not focused on. These include:

  • The Ukraine and Belarus
  • Human Rights (aka “Navalyi” & Co.)
  • Russian alleged interference in western elections
  • Russian alleged covert operations against the US
  • The alleged Russian threat to the EU or in the Arctic
  • Russian ties to China and Iran

That is the official picture. But let’s be a little more wise about this: the US and Russian delegations (about 400 people each) included some very high ranking officials, including the Russian Chief of General Staff. Neither side would have bothered with such a massive undertaking only for the purpose of exchanging threats, ultimatums or insults. And such summits are never organized unless the parties have at least a reasonable prospect of some kind of understanding (this is why the return of the ambassadors was announced before the summit!).

So what really happened here?

To answer that question, we first need to look at what did not happen.

First, it is quite clear that the language/tone of the Biden administration has dramatically changed. This was immediately noticed by the (mentally infantile) US media which attacked Biden in his press conference for not putting enough pressure on Putin. Oh sure, Biden did pay lip service to the usual russophobic nonsense the US media seems to be forever stuck on, but it is quite clear what the US legacy ziomedia did not get what it wanted: they wanted Biden to “unite the West behind the USA” and then “tell” Putin to “behave” and admit something – anything – about the Russian “wrongdoings”. Putin gave them absolutely and exactly nothing. If anything, we could say that he held up a mirror to Uncle Shmuel and that Uncle Shmuel had nothing to say to that.

Second, and for the first time in a very long while, the US did not engage in any threats or ultimatums. If anything, it was quite amazing to see Biden getting angry at an imbecile journo from CNN (I think) who asked Biden why he expected Putin to “change his behavior” when the latter admitted no wrongs. Later Biden apologized, but he was clearly frustrated with the level of imbecility of the US press media.

 


The US media truly showed its true face during both press conferences. With Putin, they asked stupid, leading questions, based on their own delusional assumptions, and Putin easily swatted down these questions by pointing out at undeniable and well-known facts. The Biden press conference was, as usual, completely sanitized with a prepared list of reporters and questions, and with no Russian journalists allowed (pluralism, free media or free speech anybody?!). The infantilized US public did not think much about this, but in the rest of the world – in Zone B if you wish – people immediately noticed the startling difference between the two leaders and between the two press conferences. It will be awfully hard for the US to speak of “freedom of speech” when its President cannot be trusted to talk to his counterpart alone (Bliken never left his side, just like Dick Cheney did for Bush Jr. or Don Regan did for Reagan in his latter years) and cannot take unscripted questions from the (supposedly) “free” media. The US media clearly wanted Biden to go to Geneva, and tell Putin “now you submit or else…” and only the completely ignorant and infantilized US public could actually take that nonsense seriously. When that did not happen, they turned on Biden and accused him of weakness for “making no threats”!


Third, and crucially, by NOT discussing silly issues but by focusing on the real, important, topics underlying the US-Russian relations, Biden de-facto admitted two things:

  1. The US policy towards Russia since 2013 has failed and
  2. Russia is an equal partner to the USA who cannot be bullied, threatened or attacked

So much for “talking to the Russians from a position of force” which ALL the western leaders mantrically promised us. In sharp contrast, the Kremlin did not have to make any threats: the recent military exercises, which truly freaked out NATO and the EU, made any posturing by Russia quite unnecessary.

I am not so naive as to believe that any of this is set in stone.

First, we know that US politicians typically meet with their Russian counterparts and say “A” only to later come back home, cave in to the war lobby, and then declare “non-A”. Trump did that, as did Kerry and many others. US diplomats are mostly ignorant political appointees and/or warmongering Neocons who simply are not intellectually equipped to deal with their Russian counterparts (James Baker was probably the last truly sophisticated US Secretary of State). Second, we all understand that Biden is really “Biden” (the man himself is just a front, real decisions are taken by the collective “Biden”), which means that while he and even Bliken can agree on something, but that by no means implies that they will stand by what they agreed on. Finally, is is objectively really hard to undo that which was done: eight years of self-defeating delusions about itself and the rest of the world have done immense damage to the United States and it would take something pretty close to a miracle to now reverse a course which at least two US administrations have so foolishly insisted on pursuing.

Yet, what Biden did and said was quite clearly very deliberate and prepared. This is not the case of a senile President losing his focus and just spewing (defeatist) nonsense. Therefore, we must conclude that there are also those in the current US (real) power configuration who decided that Biden must follow a new, different, course or, at the very least, change rhetoric. I don’t know who/what this segment of the US power configuration is, but I submit that something has happened which forced at least a part of the US ruling class to decide that Obama’s war on Russia had failed and that a different approach was needed. At least that is the optimistic view.

The pessimistic view would suggest that, just like a boxer who has thrown so many punches that he now needs to catch his breath, the leaders of the Empire just needed a short time break, to “catch their breath”, before resuming the endless cycle of petty attacks, threats and accusations against Russia.

Time will show which group is right. My money is on the pessimists (as usual).

What we can say now is this: the period 2013-2021 saw a huge decline in US power abroad and the explosion of an equally huge internal political and social crises which are still catastrophically hurting the United States (Obama and Trump were truly the weakest and worst Presidents in US history). In sharp contrast, the same 2013-2021 years saw a huge rise in Russian military, political, economic and social power. Denying this reality forever is simply not an option for the USA (even if the US media never reports about this). It appears that the Biden Administration decided to keep up the same infantile language as its predecessors for internal consumption, but decided that a change of attitude on the international front was urgently needed, if only in order to avoid taking on both Russia and China (and, possibly, Iran) at the same time. History also shows that even just talking to Russia from a presumed “position of strength” was useless at best and suicidal at worst. The history of western imperialism in China offers a more ambiguous image, but the current revival of Chinese power under Xi also suggests that the Chinese won’t cave in to their former colonial masters.

What about China?

If China was mentioned at all, it is not official. The Kremlin had already indicated in numerous statements that trying to turn China and Russia against each other was not a realistic option, so on the Russian side there were no expectations of anything changing on that issue. Besides, while China has a lot to offer Russia, the USA has literally absolutely nothing Russia would want or need. The same goes for Iran, albeit at a lesser degree. There are those in the US ruling class who believe that China is a much more dangerous enemy for the AngloZionist Empire than Russia and it is possible that these are the interests which pushed Biden into a more realistic stance. The truth is that anybody who knows anything about the Sino-Russian relationship (which the Chinese now officially call the “strategic comprehensive partnership of coordination for the new era”) understands that these two countries vitally need each other. Did the US diplomats really hope that they could sway Russia to the US side? Probably not. So, at most, what they needed was a short time break or, at least, some kind of temporary stabilization of the “Russian front”.

What about the Europeans?

The Europeans are stuck in some kind of political no man’s land: some want a confrontation at all cost (3B+PU), especially since the EU stopped funding them, while others are clearly fed-up (Germany, France, Italy, etc.) with the current situation. They all realize that something has just changed, but they appear unsure as to what, why and how. And how shall the EU now treat Biden? First, while hating Trump was seen as “politically correct” by the EU ruling classes, hating Biden is quite unthinkable. Second, while Biden did “consult” with the G7 and NATO, these “consultations” yielded no meaningful result. Unlike the summit with Putin, these “preparatory summits” were just nice PR, a feel-good, “rah-rah, we are all united” kind of symbolic event. Think of it as an imperial king visiting his colonies: fun but not very important. But meeting the leader of a “gas station masquerading as a country” required the presence of 400 or so top US officials and months of preparations. Finally, the fact that “Biden” had to yield to Germany on NS2 shows that the grip of Uncle Shmuel on Germany is weakening, “another writing on the wall” which “Biden” apparently read.

So who won?

At this point I don’t think that we can say that anybody won. In fact, the existential war opposing the AngloZionist Empire to Russia is not over. At most, this will be a temporary ceasefire allowing Uncle Shmuel to catch his breath. But I think that we can also fairly conclude that Obama’s war on Russia has failed and that the Biden Administration is more in touch with reality than Obama ever was. How long this new realism will last is anybody’s guess. I don’t think we should put much stock in the idea that now a new era of peace or collaboration has begun. But maybe, just maybe, the USA will stop playing what I call a “game of nuclear chicken” with a superpower which is at least a full decade ahead in military (and civilian!) nuclear technology and delivery vehicles and a superpower which is now working as a binomial with another nuclear superpower, China.

Conclusion: the US-Russian Joint Statement on Strategic Stability

This is the full text of the US-Russian Joint Statement on Strategic Stability I mentioned above: (emphasis added)

We, President of the United States of America Joseph R. Biden and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, note the United States and Russia have demonstrated that, even in periods of tension, they are able to make progress on our shared goals of ensuring predictability in the strategic sphere, reducing the risk of armed conflicts and the threat of nuclear war. The recent extension of the New START Treaty exemplifies our commitment to nuclear arms control. Today, we reaffirm the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. Consistent with these goals, the United States and Russia will embark together on an integrated bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue in the near future that will be deliberate and robust. Through this Dialogue, we seek to lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures.

The language here is very important: it is the repudiation of a major US delusion which began with Ronald Regan’s “Star Wars” and which was shared by each following President: the notion that the US can win a nuclear war against Russia by technologically or economically defeating Russia. The website “Defense One” (which is hardly a “Russian disinformation outlet”) had this to say about this decades long illusion:

Biden can correct the mistakes of the past. The future of missile defense will be thoroughly studied as part of a broader nuclear posture/deterrence review that will be started in the few weeks. Mindful that less expensive offensive weapons can always be developed to overwhelm, sabotage, or destroy any conceivable defensive system, his administration can return to diplomacy, seek verifiable mutual reductions, prevent the development of new threats, and address rising concerns such as the weaponization of space and cyber threats. That would allow the transfer of funds from the weapons that don’t work to programs that will rebuild and add to America’s security.

If this is really what is happening (and we need to wait before coming to any hasty conclusions!) then this is good news. Good news for Russia which has nothing to gain from any “reloaded Cold War” with the West, good news for the Europeans which need to recover at least a modicum of agency, good news for the USA, which is bled dry and is quickly becoming a underdeveloped third world country, and good news for the entire planet which would be devastated by any nuclear war between any combination of superpowers. If this is really what happened.

For the time being, the “crazies in the basement” are still every bit as crazy as before (see here and here for a few good examples). So are the woke-freaks (see here and here). So is the homo-lobby (see here and here). They all hate Russia and Putin with a passion, and they ain’t going away anytime soon. Besides, it is not like “Biden” will do anything other than give them all a standing ovation, full support and millions of dollars to their cause: these “minorities” (more accurately: this coalition of minorities) are the ideological foundation for Biden’s entire presidency, they brought him to power and he cannot renounce them.

How long brainwashed doubleplusgoodthinking sheep will continue to “take a knee” against “systemic racism” is anybody’s guess, however.

On the external front, the US cannot give up its messianic ideology and claims of exceptionalism. This would be truly unthinkable for the vast majority of US Americans. This does not change the fact that, as I have written many times, the AngloZionist Empire and the current US political system are neither sustainable, nor reformable. Besides, empires are almost impossible to reform. That is why they usually end up collapsing. And when they do, they often try to lash out at those they blame for their own failures. This is exactly what has been going on since 2013 and this will not and, in fact, cannot change until the final – and inevitable – collapse.

There will be no friendship or even partnership between the USA and Russia for as long as the USA will continue to serve as the latest host for the parasitic AngloZionist Empire. Аs the spokesman for Putin, Peskov, just declared “So far, there are no reasons to exclude the United States from the list of unfriendly countries“.

Finally, did Putin “win”?

I would answer both yes and no. Yes, he did win in the sense that his strategy of dealing with an Empire on the warpath against Russia has been proven extremely effective. All the nay-sayers (liberal or neo-Marxists) have been accusing Putin of caving in to pretty much everything everywhere, yet it is the USA which had to eat crow, drop all its preconditions and ask for a summit. None of the many propaganda attacks against Russia (MH17, Skipal, chem weapons, Belarus, the Karabakh war, Navalnyi, doping, sports and flags, the seizure of Russian diplomatic offices, the kidnapping of Russian citizens, economic and political sanctions, threats, sabre-rattling at the borders, etc. etc. etc.) have worked or even yielded any meaningful results. In that sense, yes, Putin did win. But that existential war is not over, not for the US, not for Russia and neither it is over for China, Iran and any other country wanting true sovereignty.

In that sense, what happened in Geneva is not the beginning of the end (primarily because that beginning of the end has already long taken place, even if it was never reported in Zone A), but it is definitely a chance to change some dynamics on the international scene. The infinite arrogance of the likes of Trump and Pompeo has been replaced by a much more cautious and realistic approach, at least in superpower relations. But Putin/Russia will only have truly won once the US accepts the reality that the Empire is dead and that the USA, like all ex-empires, must now become a “normal” country (like all former empires had to). Sounds easy, but this is almost infinitely hard when imperialism is what you were born, raised, educated and conditioned to live with and when you sincerely believe that your brand of imperialism is somehow benevolent, even altruistic. Russia/Putin will only have truly won once the last empire in history finally gives way to a civilized international world order. Until then, the struggle of Russia – and all the other members of the resistance against the Empire – will continue.

The “Three Seas Initiative”: The West’s “Answer” to China’s Belt and Road?

By Brian Berletic

Global Research, June 09, 2021

All Global Research articles can be read in 51 languages by activating the “Translate Website” drop down menu on the top banner of our home page (Desktop version). 

Visit and follow us on Instagram at @crg_globalresearch.

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To counter not only China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) but also Russia’s growing ties with Western Europe, an “alternative” infrastructure drive is being proposed that if and when completed, Washington, London, and Brussels hopes will further contain Russia and cut China off from European markets.

Called the “Three Seas Initiative,” it is described in a Bloomberg op-ed titled, “This Is How Europe Can Push Back Against China and Russia,” as:

…a joint endeavor by 12 eastern members of the European Union to update the physical and digital links between the Baltic, Adriatic and Black Seas.

The op-ed argues that the initiative is the only way to fight off “Russian bullying and Chinese meddling.”

But upon closer scrutiny – even the selling points made by the author – Andreas Kluth – reads instead like a thinly veiled attempt to bully and meddle in Europe – and at the expense of the obvious opportunities trade and ties with Russia and China will bring.

Kluth’s argument includes blaming the Soviet Union’s neglect of Eastern European nations as the reason they lack modern infrastructure today, claiming:

Though economically vibrant, most of this region still lags the rest of the bloc in infrastructure. Travel by road and rail takes two to four times longer on average than in the rest of the EU. 

What’s missing in particular is good highways, railway tracks and gas pipes running north and south. This is a legacy of the Cold War. The Soviet hegemons made sure that Russian gas, tanks and troops could easily move east-west, but cared not a hoot about other connections among the countries they occupied.

Yet the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 – 30 years ago. If Eastern Europe currently still lacks modern infrastructure – it would be more appropriate to state that it is Brussels who “cares not” about making improvements.

The infrastructure proposed is also curious. The op-ed claims:

Projects include, for example, a port in Croatia that could welcome ships carrying liquefied natural gas — from the US, for example — and the pipelines that would bring this gas north to partner countries. Poland already has an LNG terminal.

This is not necessary infrastructure though. Europe already has access to hydrocarbons in the form of Russian energy moved into the region through existing pipelines and at costs much cheaper than LNG shipped across the Atlantic from the United States will ever be.

The inclusion of this “example” reveals Kluth’s hand and the true nature of this argument – this isn’t about stopping imagined “Russian bullying,” this is about imposing very real American bullying.

In other words, expensive infrastructure would be built specifically to put in place energy imports that would cost more and come with far more strings attached politically than Russian energy. These strings would include – and the op-ed itself mentions this specifically – cutting off relations with both Moscow and Beijing.

And regarding Beijing – Kluth accuses China of seeking political favor in return for infrastructure investments and construction projects – citing Hungary as an example of a partner nation “compromised” by its relationship with Beijing. Kluth claims that Hungary has blocked EU condemnation of alleged “human rights abuses” by China – never considering that the accusations themselves may have been politically motivated in the first place by opponents of Beijing.

Kluth – after describing the Three Seas Initiative as a means of escaping “bullying and meddling” – makes clear that US and EU investment in the projects should themselves come with political strings attached – noting:

…the EU should also be clear about its expectations. First, all involved, including Hungary, must acknowledge the geopolitical subtext and unambiguously declare their allegiance to Brussels, foregoing dalliances with Beijing. Second, the initiative mustn’t become the germ of an eastern bloc that defines itself in opposition to the rest of the EU.

While Russian “bullying” and Chinese “meddling” remain squarely in the realm of politically-motivated accusations – Kluth is openly declaring Washington’s and Brussels’ intentions to invest in a neglected Eastern Europe are predicated on acquiring unflinching obedience and the full surrender of national sovereignty – a proposition made without any hint of intentional irony.

Three Seas Initiative: About Primacy, Not Progress 

US foreign policy has been and continues to be predicated on maintaining global primacy. Any nation, anywhere on Earth that challenges Washington’s ability to act upon the global stage with absolute impunity is designated an enemy and thus targeted through a combination of political, economic, and even military coercion.

Two nations that have found themselves on this list for decades are Russia and China.

Both Russia’s re-emergence after the collapse of the Soviet Union as a major global power and China’s rise both regionally in Asia and globally – have demonstrably inhibited Washington’s worst impulses.

While Washington describes both Russia and China as threats to global peace and stability – it was Russia’s intervention in Syria that prevented the nation from suffering a similar fate as Libya or Iraq at America’s hands.

It has been China’s incremental rise that has created viable alternatives for nations across Asia just now working their way out from under the shadow of America’s Indo-Pacific “primacy” – a notion still included openly as part of US foreign policy – demonstrated in a “framework” paper published as recently as the Trump administration.

Notions of “Russian bullying” and “Chinese meddling” are geopolitical projections made by Western policymakers in a bid to justify a continued campaign of coercion – and not just against Russia, China, and nations along their peripheries – but also against allied nations like Germany who seek to diversify their ties between East and West – US sanctions targeting German companies involved in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project with Russia being only the latest example.

Perhaps the ultimate irony of all is that as Washington and Brussels attempt to dangle the promise of modern infrastructure over the heads of Eastern Europe – Kluth of Bloomberg himself admits that China has already come through in the case of Hungary – and Russia has been reliably pumping cheap energy into Eastern and Western Europe since before the collapse of the Soviet Union – and of course – ever since.

Once again – while pointing the accusing finger elsewhere – the US and its EU partners reveal themselves as the central threat to peace and prosperity. In reality, Chinese infrastructure projects coupled with US-EU investments, and cheap energy from Russia would be most beneficial to the nations of both Eastern and Western Europe – but clearly what is in the continent’s best interests run at cross-purposes to Washington’s and thus while Russia and China have never demanded exclusive economic ties with Europe – Washington is.

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Brian Berletic is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook” where this article was originally published. 

Featured image is from New Eastern Outlook

Vladimir Putin at the plenary session of the 24th St Petersburg International Economic Forum.

June 04, 2021

Vladimir Putin at the plenary session of the 24th St Petersburg International Economic Forum.

http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/65746

http://en.kremlin.ru/misc/65746/videos/4789

This year’s forum, with the theme A Collective Reckoning of the New Global Economic Reality, is one of the biggest events since the start of the pandemic. Heads of state and government, heads of major Russian and international associations, companies and banks, leading experts and politicians are taking part in discussions at the SPIEF in person or via videoconference.

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Stanislav Natanzon, plenary session moderator: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

I am happy to welcome you all at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum.

This is the first global event of this level that people are attending in person, or at least it is a ‘hybrid’ event, to use the new buzzword. In any case, it is good to see you again. I think we have quite a backlog of topics for discussion, and I really hope the conversation today will be vibrant, frank and intense.

By tradition, we will first give the floor to the leaders and then we will have a discussion.

Mr President, please, you are the first to have the floor.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Your Highness Emir Tamim, Mr Federal Chancellor Kurz, ladies and gentlemen, friends,

I welcome all the participants and guests of the 24th St Petersburg International Economic Forum.

As you know, since the beginning of last year, most meetings at many traditional venues have been cancelled or were attended remotely because of the pandemic. We are happy that after this long break, Russia is hosting the first major international business event and providing a platform for representatives of the global business community to communicate with each other, not only using modern telecommunications, but directly. At the same time, we have certainly done our best to ensure the participants’ safety and adopted the most stringent sanitary protocols.

I repeat, the very fact that this massive forum is being held is certainly a positive sign. This once again shows that partner-like ties and contacts between entrepreneurs, investors and experts are gradually becoming customary and normal once again.

We are also witnessing the same positive global economic trends. Despite the all-out 2020 slump that, according to experts, was the greatest since World War II, one can already safely say that the global economy is returning to normal. The global GDP is expected to post unusually high growth rates this year, the biggest rise since the 1970s. As you know, experts are talking about six percent growth.

This, of course, was an effect of the large-scale and extraordinary decisions made by economic authorities worldwide. By the way, practice showed that traditional monetary policy measures would not be enough to overcome the current crisis. The budgetary policy that was actively supported by central banks in developing countries for the first time has played a key role in the rapid economic recovery.

We should understand that leading economies have many resources and tools for stimulating business activity. The statistics speak for themselves: In 2020, industrial countries’ budget deficits increased by an average of ten percent of their GDPs, while in developing countries, the growth was about five percent. And we know that these budget deficits largely finance anti-crisis measures. Of course, it is good that such solutions are available, and this is, certainly, a positive aspect. Unfortunately, there are also some negative sides to this.

As a result, we can see that global economic recovery is proceeding unevenly, given the different capabilities of different countries. This is fraught with greater disproportions and wider gaps in living standards both within certain countries and between them. And this breeds serious political, economic and social risks for the development of the modern interdependent world and for our common security. I have already spoken about this at the World Economic Forum in Davos this past January.

A case in point is our efforts to fight the pandemic. Unless we ensure broad, universal access to coronavirus vaccines on all continents, the threat of the pandemic, its new outbreaks will remain with us. Pockets of infection will survive, posing a threat to the entire planet.

What do we see now? According to the IMF, countries with a high level of income and 16 percent of the world’s population have access to 50 percent of the vaccines produced. As the result, only 10 percent of the world’s population have been fully vaccinated or received the first jab, whereas hundreds of millions of people have no access to vaccines simply because their countries do not have the required technology, production facilities or money to buy the vaccines. And the assistance being provided to these countries by those who can afford to do it has been negligibly small so far.

Regrettably, as the saying goes, it is every man for himself in the fight against the coronavirus on the global scale. The necessary volume of assistance is not being provided where it is badly needed now, or, which is absolutely absurd, politically motivated bans are imposed on the purchase of tested and effective vaccines that have been proved to be completely reliable. In the current situation this looks like unwillingness to protect one’s own citizens from this threat. This is indeed taking place; we have seen this happen.

As you know, Russia is contributing to the efforts against the coronavirus. We have created four vaccines, and these achievements of our scientists have been recognised throughout the world. For example, Sputnik V has been registered in 66 countries with a combined population of over 3.2 billion.

I would like to point out specifically that we have not only created unique technologies and promptly launched vaccine production in Russia, but we are also helping our foreign partners localise their manufacturing as well. So far, Russia is the only country doing this.

As I have already mentioned, today every adult in Russia can receive a vaccine in maximally comfortable conditions, voluntarily and free of charge. I would like to use this occasion to once again urge our citizens to make use of this opportunity to protect themselves and their loved ones. As I have said, the Russian vaccine has been declared the safest and most effective vaccine in the world, with an efficacy of over 96 percent. According to our regulatory bodies, not a single death has been reported among those who received the vaccine. I have already said this, and I can judge from my own experience: you can get a small fever, and this is the only side effect, while the protection is very strong.

In addition, I would like to ask the Government, regions and business to work jointly on the vaccination of people who come to Russia as migrant labourers. Many of them work in our construction industry, in trade and services, as well as in housing and utilities.

The domestic pharmaceutical industry is ready to continue increasing the production of vaccines. We fully meet our own requirements and can give foreigners an opportunity to come to Russia for vaccination. Given the efficiency of our vaccines, I know that the demand for them is high. Moreover, it is now common practice for people from various countries, including entrepreneurs, heads of large European and other companies, to make special trips to Russia to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

In this context, I would like to ask the Government to analyse all aspects of this issue before the end of this month so as to organise paid vaccination for foreigners in this country, taking into account, of course, security requirements and sanitary control.

Colleagues,

Obviously now, at the stage of post-crisis recovery it is important not only to ensure sustainable growth but also to benefit from the emerging opportunities and effectively develop competitive advantages as well as the scientific and technological potential. In the process, it is very important to preserve and strengthen business and investment ties between countries.

Multilateral projects are primarily capable of reviving and developing the global economy and we are grateful to our partners for the cooperation that is continuing during the epidemic and despite the difficult situation in international relations.

Incidentally, I would like to tell you in this connection that the laying of the first line of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline was completed today, two and a half hours ago. The work on its second line continues.

In fact, the line pipe, including the offshore section, has been laid. The pipe in Germany is in place. Now parts of the pipe must be lifted and welded on the Russian side. That is all. Anyway, pipe laying is over.

The readiness of the Russian line of the gas route to the Slavyanskaya compressor station was also ensured this week. Why am I talking about this? Because this station is one of the most powerful compressor facilities in the world and is a point of departure for the new gas pipeline. Slavyanskaya has been supplied with gas.

To sum up, Gazprom is ready to fill Nord Stream 2 with gas. This route will create direct links between the Russian and German systems and will ensure energy security and reliable gas supplies for the Europeans, like Nord Stream 1. I must add that this project is profitable economically and fully conforms to the most stringent environmental and technical requirements.

We are ready to implement similar high-tech projects with our European and other partners in the future, and we hope that the logic of mutual benefit and mutual profit will inevitably prevail over all sorts of artificial barriers in the current political environment.

Now allow me to say a few words about some of the priorities on our domestic business agenda.

Thanks to the prompt and timely measures taken, the Russian economy and labour market are already approaching their pre-crisis levels. We have managed to save millions of jobs and avoid a sharp drop in people’s incomes. True, we have encountered problems. Unemployment increased and real incomes declined; we all know this. But none of that was anywhere near the disaster that could have happened, given the circumstances. That, at least, we have managed to avoid.

We have prevented a sharp drop in incomes, as I said. Our decisions to support businesses, workers, and regions have worked. The targeted assistance provided to Russian families and people who lost their jobs also came highly useful.

Indeed, difficulties with employment remain. We will probably talk about this later. We also know that the pandemic is not the only reason for the challenges we are facing such as a relatively high unemployment rate among young people or strained regional labour markets. We know we cannot blame everything on the pandemic, and we understand that some of these problems have a systemic nature stemming from unresolved structural problems in our economy.

The Government should enhance its programmes to promote employment in those constituent regions where unemployment is still high. At the same time, I emphasise, we need to continue taking targeted action, and propose solutions that take into account the economic specifics in each region. Furthermore, I am instructing the government to launch a permanent nationwide programme to support employment of young people, including measures to promote youth entrepreneurship.

It is obvious that the main, systemic response to the employment problem, and the key condition for raising people’s incomes is economic growth. This is obvious, and everyone understands it. New, high-quality jobs are needed in all sectors and regions of Russia.

World history shows that the relaunch of the economy following serious shocks has always been connected to boosting investment in infrastructure, territorial development, new technologies and personnel training.

I would like to thank the Russian regions that did not take a break or find excuses amid the most difficult pandemic environment that required great concentration of resources and attention, but continued to work on improving their business climate, maintaining dialogue with businesses and attracting investors. These regions have been rightfully distinguished by the National Investment Climate Ranking. Thus, Bashkortostan, Nizhny Novgorod Region and the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area are listed among the ten best regions to invest in; Samara, Sakhalin and Chelyabinsk regions have shown good dynamics.

We will provide systemic assistance to the regions in improving the business environment. I would like to ask the Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoys to boost efforts in this area and the Government to focus on supporting the regions that have difficulties with raising investment. It is necessary to help them introduce the best management practices and improve the level and quality of work with investors.

This task is quite concrete: a transparent, predictable and comfortable environment must be provided for businesses, private investments and new projects in all Russian regions by 2024.

In particular, each region will need to outline priority development areas; this information will be open to businesses, as well as the region’s urban development and infrastructure plans for building utility lines, roads and communication systems, so that it would be easier for businesses to pick the best place for their new production site or other facility.

It is necessary to eliminate excessive links in the chain, various superfluous formalities and approvals, first of all, for the most sensitive areas such as connection to the grid, construction permits, and others.

We are consistently removing dated requirements at the federal level. Thus, starting September 1, almost 4,000 more building codes and regulations will no longer be mandatory. That will leave only 3,000 mandatory requirements in construction of the more than 10,000 we had previously. But there is still room for simplification.

I would like to note that this huge and painstaking work to streamline regulation took two years. Again, we will keep at this, while at the same time maintaining high requirements for the quality and reliability of construction.

I am asking the regional heads as well as the customers of major facilities at the federal and regional levels, and heads of our state-owned companies and private businesses to keep in mind that all construction permits will need to be prepared in line with the updated regulations and should take into account the rapid changes in construction technologies, and use advanced, highly sustainable building materials. All this will need to be considered.

In general, each region must offer an understandable, comprehensive algorithm for the investor to go all the way from project concept to the opening of a new industrial facility or a property as efficiently and quickly as possible, without wasting time or sustaining unnecessary costs.

I will once again stress the importance of cooperation between the Government and the regions. I would like to note that the performance of the federal ministers responsible for economic matters will also be evaluated by how quickly the situation improves in those regions where, as I said, there are still problems with the business and investment climate. Please do not pretend that this does not concern the federal government. This applies to everyone. We need a common result, and we need to work with the regions that need support.

Again, we should not have any so-called backward regions thrown on the sidelines of economic growth. Each constituent entity of the Russian Federation has investment and economic potential. We need to unlock and effectively use it in the interests of all Russians, for the good of all Russian families.

A programme of infrastructure loans that will give the regions an opportunity to attract long-term loans at a low interest rate will become a new instrument for their development. We have already spoken about this, discussed these matters and made public statements to the effect. In all, the actual investment in infrastructure under this programme must be no less than $500 billion in the next two and a half years.

I would like to ask regional governors to be very attentive to drafting projects for this type of funding. It is necessary to spend funds primarily on creating a comfortable environment for people and upgrading cities and other residential areas. This is a major factor of economic growth and investment appeal in the modern world, in the economy that surrounds people.

Based on the best international standards and the experience of rating the investment climate, the Agency for Strategic Initiatives drafted, in cooperation with experts and commissions of the State Council, a national rating of living standards in the regions of Russia. It is an important indicator and I would like to tell you about our first results in this respect.

Moscow, Tyumen Region, Tatarstan, the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area and St Petersburg are in the lead for obvious reasons. They are our traditional business centres. They have long invested serious funds in infrastructure for people. Importantly, more and more Russian regions are guided by high standards and are demonstrating good dynamics in many areas. Thus, the Republic of Mordovia has one of the best education systems; Udmurtia has very comfortable conditions for launching and running businesses, while Novgorod Region leads in social protection.

I would also like to mention such an interesting integral rating indicator as the commitment of people to their region, a desire to live and work there and link the future of their children with it. Sevastopol and Kaliningrad Region are at the top in this respect.

I would like to emphasise that the rating of the quality of life in the regions makes it possible to assess the situation objectively, to see which regions have the most experience and the best practices. Moreover, this rating is primarily based on the opinion of residents themselves. This feedback allows regional managerial teams to plan work better and to focus efforts on the most sensitive problems, such as, of course, more affordable housing.

I am aware that here, at the forum panels, and in the country in general, the issue is being discussed about what will happen next with reduced-APR mortgage lending, which, as you may recall, is now available at an APR of 6.5 percent. Indeed, this programme has become one of the key anti-crisis measures to support individuals and the economy. To date, over half a million households have applied for and received this loan. An additional 2 trillion rubles, approximately, have been attracted to housing construction.

As you may know, the programme will expire very soon, on July 1. To reiterate, this was an anti-crisis programme, meaning that it was temporary.

At the same time, abruptly terminating it is, of course, not an option. We must keep in mind the important role that easy-term mortgage lending is playing in the current circumstances for resolving our people’s housing problems and developing the construction industry, which, as we are aware, is the driving force behind related industries. Therefore, I propose extending this programme in all regions for another year, that is, until July 1, 2022. We will raise the rate slightly in doing so. Some changes will be made, including setting the easy-term mortgage rate at 7 percent APR. The maximum loan amount will be set at 3 million rubles and it will be applied throughout the country.

At the same time, I would like to let you know about a new decision designed to make mortgage loans more affordable for families with children. Here is what it is about. As you may be aware, a systemic special mortgage programme for families that had a second and subsequent child after January 1, 2018, is already in place. I propose expanding this to all families with children born after January 1, 2018, even if there is only one child in the family so far. That is, to reiterate, with the birth of their first child, a family will be able to take out a mortgage loan at a rate of 6 percent and buy housing on the primary market or refinance an existing mortgage loan. The maximum amount of such a loan for Moscow and St Petersburg, as well as the Moscow and Leningrad regions, where real estate prices are objectively higher, will be 12 million rubles, with 6 million rubles available in the other constituent entities of the Federation.

Colleagues,

We hope that a better quality of life and improved infrastructure in Russian regions will make them more attractive for promising projects, for more private investment, and will open up additional opportunities for large companies as well as small and medium-sized businesses, serving as an important support for the economy, and in many ways contributing to a modern, competitive business environment. Competition is the main driver of growth and, importantly, a market mechanism that keeps prices down.

Last year, we made a fundamental, systemic decision to support small and medium-sized businesses. We halved insurance premiums for small businesses from 30 to 15 percent. We will certainly not go back on this. Moreover, we are ready to take further steps to support entrepreneurship. I will mention some of them now.

Firstly, I propose launching a new mechanism to support SME lending as soon as this year – something we call umbrella guarantees.

Here is how it works. Our development institution, the SME Corporation, will issue guarantees for loans from partner banks. In fact, it will take on some of the risks and make loans more affordable for SMEs. According to estimates, this will allow entrepreneurs to attract additional resources for development, at least 600 billion rubles by 2024.

Secondly, I know that businesses, especially small ones, sometimes complain about the high bank charges on their trade and other operations.

We have already extended the faster payment system, which enables transactions with lower charges, for non-cash payments between individuals and entrepreneurs. However, so far, this system has not been as widely used by businesses as it could be.

As a reminder, by September 1, all the so-called systemically important, backbone banks in Russia must connect to the fast payments system. I also think it would be right if the largest of them do this in the very near future, by July 1.

In addition, I have one more proposal that I think will be a pleasant surprise for those who are involved in this type of business, small and medium companies. I am suggesting that they be fully reimbursed until the end of the year for the commission they pay for using the Fast Payments System (FPS) when they sell their services or goods to individuals, to people. I repeat: the cost of FPS will be zero for these companies.

I discussed this issue with my colleagues and the Governor of the Central Bank. It will be necessary to support financial institutions through the budget and avoid discouraging them.

My third point: companies that are now using the simplified taxation plan must transfer to the general tax schedule if they go beyond the employee limit or the revenue limit. Of course, in this case a business will have to shoulder an additional fiscal burden, and this can impede growth and compel entrepreneurs to use tricks, like the artificial division of a big company into small ones.

The restaurant business is a case in point in this respect. I suggest these companies participate in the pilot programme at the start of next year to work out the process for a more comfortable transition from the one tax schedule to the other.

With respect to some details, the companies in this programme will pay no VAT if their revenue is below 2 billion rubles a year. Importantly, they will retain the right to pay a reduced insurance premium rate of 15 percent even if their personnel count grows to 1,500 people. Currently the threshold is 250 people.

Colleagues, let us see what effect this has on keeping businesses legal and encouraging companies to grow. As for making businesses legal, I think all interested people understand what I am talking about: all cheques must go through the cash register; employment must be official and purchases must be legal as well, that is, recorded in the cash register. (Applause).

Thank you. I suppose we speak the same language. For my part, I will do all I can to see that the state meets its commitments.

I will add that we have already agreed to relieve of filing a tax declaration those entrepreneurs that are working under the simplified tax scheme and using cash registers. I would like to draw the attention of my colleagues in the Government and Parliament to the relevant draft law that was adopted in the first reading last year: it has stalled since then. Please finalise this as soon as possible.

Fourthly, small and medium-sized businesses must be relieved of antimonopoly oversight that is clearly excessive. Many existing threshold numbers have not been revised for a long time now and do not match today’s economic realities, since the economy and the companies keep growing.

For example, antitrust oversight covers all companies with annual revenue of over 400 million rubles. I propose doubling this amount to 800 million rubles, thus sparing a large number of growing companies burdensome and unnecessary reporting and paperwork. I propose setting a similarly higher threshold for oversight of mergers and acquisitions. That is, if a deal does not exceed 800 million rubles, it will not require the approval of antimonopoly authorities.

And, finally, my fifth point: measures to drive demand for the output of entrepreneurs across all sectors of the economy are especially relevant now. In this regard, I propose increasing the share of goods and services that our large companies, as well as state and municipal customers, must purchase from small and medium-sized enterprises, including non-profit organisations. It should be at least 25 percent.

We have held numerous discussions on this matter. I want to draw your attention right away to the fact that we are talking about companies that operate under Federal Law 223 and the companies that work with state and municipal authorities under Law 44. I am aware there are many subtleties here. And I know well that Russian industry does not even make certain products. However, the bar must be set where I said, and the Government will finalise the finer points.

In addition, it is imperative to cut the time it takes to pay for delivered goods and services from 30 to 15 business days, which is also important. Small businesses and socially oriented NGOs must see this time go from 15 to seven days.

Of course, real companies, not all sorts of sham or affiliated operations, should benefit from these preferences. I want the oversight authorities to keep this in mind. At the same time, I am instructing the Government to make sure that procurement for state needs involves mainly Russian manufacturers, of course, in compliance with internal competition rules, in this case.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As I have said earlier, international cooperation must be instrumental in overcoming the socioeconomic consequences of the pandemic. It is all the more important for us to pool our efforts in the face of common, systemic, long-term challenges that do not depend on the situation in the market or political disputes and setups, but determine the future of entire societies in a decisive way.

What am I talking about now? What am I referring to? Primarily, the climate agenda. Scientists estimate that over 2 trillion tonnes of greenhouse gases have accumulated in the Earth’s atmosphere because of human economic activity. Every year, the volume goes up by 50 billion tonnes, gradually warming up the planet.

I often hear that Russia is not that interested in resolving global environmental problems. I can say that this is nonsense, a myth, and sometimes outright distortion. Like other countries, we feel the risks and threats in this area, including desertification, soil erosion and melting permafrost. Many of those here work in the Arctic and know that we have entire cities built on permafrost in the Arctic. If it all starts to thaw, what consequences will Russia face? Of course, we are concerned.

We are consistent supporters of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol, and the Paris Agreement. I must emphasise that there is no separate Russian, European, Asian, or American climate. All our countries bear a common responsibility for today’s world and for the lives of future generations. We must set aside political and other differences and avoid turning the transition to “hydrocarbon neutrality” into an instrument of dishonest competition where attempts are made to change investment and trade flows in someone’s specific interests under the pretext of the hydrocarbon footprint, and where limited access to advanced ‘green’ technology becomes a factor in deterring individual countries and manufacturers.

How do we see Russia’s contribution to countering climate change? I am sure environmental and climate projects in our country will play a leading role in global efforts in climate conservation by virtue of Russia’s size, place and role in the world. We have set a goal: in the next 30 years the accumulated amount of pure greenhouse emissions must be lower in Russia than in Europe. This is an ambitious goal, but I am confident that it is feasible. I would like to ask the Government to draft a detailed plan of action on this before October 1 of this year. We will discuss this issue at a separate meeting.

What are our areas of focus?

The first one includes projects designed to reduce emissions throughout the economy. I have already mentioned that the Russian energy sector is increasing its share of low-carbon sources primarily through building nuclear and hydroelectric power plants and using renewable sources of energy. We have the world’s largest gas reserves, and while gas – we will probably discuss this later – is, of course, carbon, it is the purest kind of carbon, and we will be unable to do without it during the transition period.

Incidentally, using its nuclear industry as the foundation, Russia is already creating infrastructure for the production of hydrogen to be used as a raw material, fuel and energy source in metallurgy, the production of cement, and transport, among other areas.

We will also keep reducing emissions from hydrocarbon production and utilising associated gas. By the way, we probably utilise more gas this way than any other oil-producing country. We will thoroughly modernise the thermal power industry and electrify gas transport infrastructure. We also plan to further improve energy efficiency in the residential sector and heat supply systems, to switch public transport to natural gas, electric and hybrid engines, and to reduce material consumption in construction. In a word, we are talking about end-to-end technological retrofitting of our entire economy and infrastructure.

Clearly, such projects need market incentives in order to be launched successfully. To this end, we are starting to issue state-subsidised ‘green bonds.’ Also, we have developed performance criteria for environmental projects or a ‘green taxonomy’ in the parlance of experts.

Of course, reducing emissions is not enough to overcome the challenge of global warming. Greenhouse gas sequestration is essential if we want to achieve carbon neutrality. It is important to reduce existing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and our main goal is to learn to capture, store, and make productive use of carbon dioxide coming from all sources.

Now, regarding a second area in this context: an entire industry, a fundamentally new market for so-called ‘carbon units’ is being created almost before our eyes. Many people, especially those in power production, are aware of this, but I will explain. This is the amount of harmful airborne emissions that can be absorbed by a section of land or forest. So, if you have done some additional work on your land to increase its ability to absorb the emissions in the air, you have created a number of carbon units. Many countries and associations are already planning to accept these units from exporters to offset the emissions from the production of imported goods.

Russia has enormous potential for emission absorption with its forests, tundra, agricultural lands and marshlands. Our country has a fifth of the world’s forests; they occupy almost 10 million square kilometres. Specialists and scientists believe that they are already absorbing billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents every year.

I repeat, the importance of Russia’s potential in natural compensation is enormous, simply huge in terms of the planet’s climate sustainability. Clearly, by virtue of its natural advantages, Russia can maintain a special place in the global market for carbon units. To achieve this, we need to use the forests and lands more effectively and enhance their absorption capacity. We must increase reforestation areas, fight wildfires, and expand pristine nature reserves, sanctuaries and national parks. In effect, we are now doing all this and intend to continue to do this in the future while introducing new soil-recovery agro-technology.

Importantly, we can work towards three objectives at the same time. Firstly, by investing in technology, the protection of forestry and land improvement, we will enhance the environmental wellbeing of our people, and the cities and territories they live in. Secondly, we will create jobs in the new high-tech industry of greenhouse emissions mitigation, and third,ly we will provide our exporters with an additional dimension for competitiveness in foreign markets.

This concerns many of you here in this hall. I would like you to see this as a direct message to Russian companies that are buying or starting to buy carbon units abroad or are planning to do this in the future. Instead, it is better to invest funds in climate projects in our country. Eventually, those who engage in this will receive many benefits, economic benefits. This effort will be more effective and oriented towards the future.

I would like to note that, based on our estimates, revenue from this new climate industry in the Russian market could soon surpass $50 billion a year, which is another important figure. In a word, this is a good, beneficial destination for investment by both domestic and foreign companies. We invite our interested partners to take part in this work. We will create the necessary conditions for this.

I would like to discuss several issues that are of critical importance for climate projects in Russia. It is necessary to work through in detail the criteria underlying these projects, to determine the sites and areas that are best suited for launching them, and the kind of technologies to use.

It is also imperative to create a transparent and objective system for assessing the outcome of climate projects. This is a critical part of what I am saying now – that is, to identify the current absorbing capacity of the sites and what it will be after the project is implemented. Actually, it is about calculating the delta in the form of the “carbon units” that I just mentioned.

All the while, it is important to monitor the emission and absorption of greenhouse gases based, among other things, on observations from outer space, digital technologies, and AI methods.

The construction of such a national system that makes use of the potential of Russian science is already underway in Russia. We are creating a network of “carbon testing grounds” to monitor carbon dioxide emission and absorption in real time, as well as the state of environmental systems, the quality of water resources and other variables.

We are also creating a pilot carbon market in Sakhalin Region. This experiment will come as a step towards achieving carbon neutrality and creating a nationwide carbon unit market.

I am aware that a system of this kind is about to be launched in other countries as well. Here is another important matter, which concerns mutual recognition of greenhouse gas emission and sequestration. This requires a transparent climate statistics system, mutual understanding between states and, of course, joint scientific research. We are open to this cooperation.

I am instructing the Government, by July 2022, to fully form the regulatory framework for implementing climate projects in Russia at the level of federal laws and departmental bylaws and guidelines, so that businesses, domestic and international alike, can draw up and implement their plans in this area relying on clear and easy-to-follow rules and criteria.

Colleagues, let me close by saying again that, despite the challenges presented by the global pandemic, life is gradually returning to normal. To reiterate, our meeting in St Petersburg is a case in point. Next week, St Petersburg will be hosting matches of the 2021 UEFA European championship which is getting underway.

On this note, I would like to convey my greetings to our great friend, the Emir of Qatar. It was his birthday yesterday. Our best wishes to you, Your Highness. I am confident that Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup 2022 with great success.

Such major events and forums truly unite and bring people from different countries closer. Businesspeople, of which there are many here, are well aware that in-person contacts based on mutual trust move forward, in many respects, business projects and initiatives, and, therefore, the global economy.

Russia will do its best to create every opportunity for these contacts to take place, for sharing experience and demonstrating the latest achievements in science and technology.

Thank you for your patience and your time, and I wish the forum every success.

Thank you very much.

Good News and Bad News: Biden Punts on Russia and Takes Some Heat on Afghanistan

See the source image
Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest.

Philip Giraldi

May 27, 2021

The Establishment Foreign Policy has long advocated a policy of staying in Afghanistan until a political reliable government is established there.

Possibly the best news to come out of the past week has been the announcement of a possibly Egyptian mediated cease fire between Israel and Gaza late last Thursday. The fighting killed 243 Palestinians, including 66 children, versus twelve Israelis including two children and also did major damage to schools, medical facilities and other infrastructure in Gaza. It is being widely presumed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pulled the plug on the “Guardians of the Walls” offensive because of concerns that Israeli Army brutality was inflicting serious damage on the hitherto favorable perception of the Jewish state in the United States. As U.S. support of Israeli initiatives for both the money and political cover that Washington provides is essential to the Netanyahu long term plan to annex nearly all of the West Bank, it would have seemed prudent to take one’s foot off the pedal until the expected next round of fighting.

Though it has not been confirmed, it seems reasonable to assume that President Joe Biden might have offered a considerable sweetener to Netanyahu to nudge the Israeli leader towards the cease fire. It appears to have come in the form of an offer to help pay for and assist the reconstruction of Gaza with one apparent condition, that Hamas effectively completely disarm by getting rid of all its missiles. Presumably U.S. or United Nations inspectors would make sure the job were done right, would share what they learn about Gaza’s tunnel system with Israeli intelligence, and the IDF in turn would find it much easier going the next time it chooses to attack. As usual, the American taxpayer would be victimized to undo the damage in paying for a significant part of the multi-billion dollar reconstruction tab.

But in terms of benefiting actual American interests, there has also been the Biden Administration decision to lift the sanctions imposed by Donald Trump on the contractors who have been working on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline which will deliver Russian gas to Germany. The Trump Administration, driven by its gaggle of neocon advisers, had declared that the pipeline was a “national security threat” and initiated sanctions on all parties involved, including Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, while also appointing a special envoy to put pressure on the German government to renege on the deal. The pipeline was and is good business for Moscow and also for Berlin since the Russian gas is cheaper than other available supplies. It will cost $11 billion to complete, is over 95% finished and will reportedly create at least 10,000 jobs.

It initially looked as if Biden would continue the Trump policy. As recently as mid-March Secretary of State Tony Blinken stated that it was a bad deal because “this pipeline is a Russian geopolitical project intended to divide Europe and weaken European energy security.” He said he would do “whatever he can to stop [its] completion” and also warned that companies working on the pipeline must cease work immediately or face more “harsh” U.S. sanctions. Most of the companies were and are Western European and nominally NATO allies of the U.S. and Nord Stream 2 and while it appeared likely that the project would be completed for good economic reasons, the German government was reportedly undecided, afraid to confront Biden.

Washington was angered, at least in part, because it wanted to sell more expensive American gas to the Germans. Biden surprisingly has decided to abandon the bad Trump policy, which, inter alia also has given fuel to European anti-U.S. sentiment while serving unnecessarily to increase tension with Russia. The move was welcomed both in Germany and in Russia. The German Foreign Minister noted that it was a sign that Washington is now willing to work with its “partners.” It is an all too rare “win” for American foreign policy.

Now for the bad news. President Joe Biden has recently received an unexpected gift in the form of a letter signed by 126 retired admirals and generals stating that he is not qualified to hold office because of his health and because the 2020 election process was flawed. It also raises a number of specific foreign and national security policy issues, including the threat from China, the border crisis and increased censorship. One might expect that the letter originated in a circle of disgruntled Trump supporters and could therefore be ignored, but many of signatories are not known to be Republican Party supporters. Given that, the agenda just might be more complicated and its timing suggests that it might be linked to the United States proceeding with its withdrawal from Afghanistan.

What might be referred to as the Establishment Foreign Policy as opposed to what sometimes goes on in the State Department and White House has long advocated a policy of staying in Afghanistan until the establishment of a stable and political reliable government in Kabul is completed. And to be sure there are many dissidents in Congress who see leaving Kabul as yet another avoidable defeat for the United States. Given all of that, several previous attempts by Donald Trump to withdraw the U.S. troops were successfully undermined by critics and eventually abandoned. Biden, however, appears to be sticking to his pledge to depart fully by September 11th and many tons of military equipment are currently being removed from the country.

This has produced multiple attacks on the intention to leave Afghanistan effectively in the hands of the Taliban. A humanitarian pitch has included stories on how women will suffer, being deprived of schooling and opportunity if and when the Taliban return to power. That claim is unfortunately true but the continued presence of a couple of thousand American soldiers at bases in a country as large and infrastructure deficient as Afghanistan will not reverse attitudes that are as much cultural and religious as political.

And the pressure on Biden to reverse the decision is growing. On May 25th, for example, the Center on National Security at Fordham Law in New York hosted a discussion panel looking into “Departure from Afghanistan: Envisioning a Responsible Withdrawal.” The panel’s conclusions were to say the least mixed and have already been used by critics of the Biden decision.

Pressure is also coming from Congress, even from lawmakers who would normally support the White House. “This has some eerie resemblances” [to Vietnam], Representative Gerald E. Connolly, a Virginia Democrat, said pointedly at a “heated” hearing last week at the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He recalled the unexpectedly rapid collapse of security in Saigon in 1975 as U.S. forces evacuated the last of the personnel from the American embassy, lifting employees from the roof of the building with helicopters. He added that “It seems the American game is to cut its losses and leave and hope for the best — not our problem. The problem is because of this engagement, just like Vietnam, we’re leaving behind hundreds of thousands of Afghans who relied on us, trusted us, for security.”

And if more resistance to the plan were needed, it came last week from George W. Bush, best noted for his disastrous invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq. Bush had no end game to extricate the U.S. from either intervention and the results of the improvised policies that have continued now for nearly twenty years are clearly evident. Bush said in a Fox News interview “I’ve always warned that no U.S. presence in Afghanistan will create a vacuum, and into that vacuum is likely to come people who treat women as second class citizens… One of the great successes of the liberation of Afghanistan and the removal of al-Qaeda’s safe haven was that women and girls began to flourish in the country… We all benefit when women and girls are empowered to realize their full potential and become contributing members of society. And Laura and I will always stand behind them… I’m also deeply concerned about the sacrifices of our soldiers, and our intelligence community, will be forgotten…”

Bush also said that Iran is very dangerous for “world peace” because it is targeting Israel, revealing yet again that he, like the Bourbon kings of France, has not learned anything since leaving office. In any event, the comments by Bush, the pushback in Congress, the holding of academic conferences on leaving Afghanistan as well as the letter from retired senior military officers just might be part of the same plan to force Biden into extending the timetable or even revoking the orders for U.S. departure from Kabul. And it just might succeed. That would be very bad news indeed.

Also by this author

A little less conversation, a little more action

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the sidelines of the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting, Reykjavik, May 19, 2021
A little less conversation, a little more action

May 20, 2021

by Pepe Escobar and first posted at Asia Times

So Sergey Lavrov and Tony Blinken met for nearly two hours at the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik, on the sidelines of the ministerial session of the Arctic Council.

Frosty? Not really. Even if the get together may not have been a throwback to a Reagan-Gorbachev funfest in the good old Cold War days. After all, there was a NATO warship parked right outside the windows of Harpa Hall – like a prop in a Marvel blockbuster.

Self-described “amateur guitarist” Blinken may have been relatively swayed by the charms of the 1968 Elvis stunner A Little Less Conversation.

Well, at least there was some conversation. As for “a little more action”, as Elvis sang it, it remains to be seen. A good sign is that they addressed each other as “Sergey” and “Tony”. Blinken even attempted a “Spasiba”.

Let’s start with Lavrov – who routinely dwells in the Valhalla of diplomacy, unlike average apparatchik Blinken.

We agreed to continue our joint actions, which are developing quite successfully, on regional conflicts where the interests of the United States and Russia coincide. This is the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula, and the situation with efforts to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear program. This is Afghanistan, where the expanded troika consisting of Russia, China, the United States, Pakistan is actively working. We discussed how at this stage we can make all our joint actions more effective.

So there was “a very useful conversation” (Lavrov again) on what they do coincide (revival of the JCPOA), don’t coincide (Afghanistan) and hardly coincide (North Korea).

More than useful, actually: “constructive”. Lavrov again: “There is an understanding of the need to overcome the unhealthy situation that developed between Moscow and Washington in previous years.”

Lavrov made it very clear what we are at a stage of mere “proposal” to “start a dialogue, considering all aspects, all factors affecting strategic stability: nuclear, non-nuclear, offensive, defensive. I have not seen a rejection of such a concept, but experts still have to work on it.”

So Blinken did not reject it. The devil is how the “experts” will “work on it”.

Those pesky “laws of diplomacy”

It’s quite useful to compare what they said to each other – at least according to what was leaked.

Lavrov stressed discussions must be “honest, factual and with mutual respect”. Most important area of cooperation is “strategic stability”. He crucially invoked the “laws of diplomacy” – something that the Hegemon has not exactly been fond of lately: they “call for reciprocity, especially when it comes to responding to any kind of unfriendly action.” Implied is Moscow’s willingness to solve problems “inherited from previous US administrations.”

Blinken said the US wants a predictable and stable relationship: “It’s our view that if the leaders of Russia and the United States can work together cooperatively, our people, the world can be a safer and more secure place.” Areas where interests “intersect and overlap” include battling Covid-19 and climate change, apart from Iran, Afghanistan and North Korea.

“Russian aggression” though could not simply be thrown into the Arctic Sea: “If Russia acts aggressively against us, our partners, our allies, we will respond… not for purposes of escalation, not to seek conflict, but to defend our interests.”

So “experts” will have a field day – actually, days, weeks and months – figuring out how which brands of “Russian aggression” attack “our interests.”

As it stands, it looks like the bilateral Putin-Biden summit next month in a “European diplomatic capital” – as rumors swirl in Brussels – may be a go. To hope that it would take place, for instance, in Nursultan – the diplomatic capital of Eurasia – is a long shot.

Lavrov: “We will prepare proposals for our presidents both on these issues [the work of diplomatic missions] and the matters related to our dialogue on strategic stability.”

It’s quite enlightening to consider two parallel developments to Reykjavik.

The State Dept. confirmed it will waive sanctions against the Swiss-based company overseeing the construction of Nord Stream 2. And SWIFT confirmed to the Russian Central Bank that business continues as usual, and Moscow won’t be cut off from the system.

These may be interpreted as goodwill gestures ahead of the possible June summit. Afterwards, no one knows.

It’s also enlightening to note what Lavrov and Blinken did not discuss: vaccine diplomacy.

Sergey Naryshkin, the director of the SVR foreign intel, is now on the record saying that the registration of Sputnik V vaccine at the EU is being stalled by “signals from the corridors of power” in Brussels – something I confirmed weeks ago with relatively independent diplomats. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) still sustains that the vaccine may be registered before the end of the month.

And then there are glaring cases like Brazil, the target of tremendous pressure by Washington to prevent Sputnik V’s approval. Sputnik V has been registered by 61 nations, overwhelmingly in the Global South.

Let’s assume that Cold War 2.0, in theory, may have been put on hold. Now it’s time then for a “little more action”. Will it come to the point that Sergey and Tony will agree on “a little less fight, a little more spark” and dance to the rhythm of “all this aggravation ain’t satisfactioning me”?

Related

Brave New Cancel Culture World

Brave New Cancel Culture World

May 01, 2021

If we need a date when the West started to go seriously wrong, let’s start with Rome in the early 5th century

By Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted at Asia Times

In 2020, we saw the enshrinement of techno-feudalism – one of the overarching themes of my latest book, Raging Twenties.

In lightning speed, the techno-feudalism virus is metastasizing into an even more lethal, wilderness of mirrors variant, where cancel culture is enforced by Big Tech all across the spectrum, science is routinely debased as fake news in social media, and the average citizen is discombobulated to the point of lobotomy.

Giorgio Agamben has defined it as a new totalitarianism.

Top political analyst Alastair Crooke has attempted a sharp breakdown of the broader configuration.

Geopolitically, the Hegemon would even resort to 5G war to maintain its primacy, while seeking moral legitimization via the woke revolution, duly exported to its Western satrapies.

The woke revolution is a culture war – in symbiosis with Big Tech and Big Business – that has smashed the real thing: class war. The atomized working classes, struggling to barely survive, have been left to wallow in anomie.

The great panacea, actually the ultimate “opportunity” offered by Covid-19, is the Great Reset advanced by Herr Schwab of Davos: essentially the replacement of a dwindling manufacturing base by automation, in tandem with a reset of the financial system.

The concomitant wishful thinking envisages a world economy that will “move closer to a cleaner capitalist model”. One of its features is a delightfully benign Council for Inclusive Capitalism in partnership with the Catholic Church.

As much as the pandemic – the “opportunity” for the Reset – was somewhat rehearsed by Event 201 in October 2019, additional strategies are already in place for the next steps, such as Cyber Polygon, which warns against the “key risks of digitalization”. Don’t miss their “technical exercise” on July 9th, when “participants will hone their practical skills in mitigating a targeted supply chain attack on a corporate ecosystem in real time.”

A New Concert of Powers?

Sovereignty is a lethal threat to the ongoing cultural revolution. That concerns the role of the European Union institutions – especially the European Commission – going no holds barred to dissolve the national interests of nation states. And that largely explains the weaponizing, in varying degrees, of Russophobia, Sinophobia and Iranophobia.

The anchoring essay in Raging Twenties analyzes the stakes in Eurasia exactly in terms of the Hegemon pitted against the Three Sovereigns – which are Russia, China and Iran.

It’s under this framework, for instance, that a massive, 270-plus page bill, the Strategic Competition Act , has been recently passed at the US Senate. That goes way beyond geopolitical competition, charting a road map to fight China across the full spectrum. It’s bound to become law, as Sinophobia is a bipartisan sport in D.C.

Hegemon oracles such as the perennial Henry Kissinger at least are taking a pause from their customary Divide and Rule shenanigans to warn that the escalation of “endless” competition may derail into hot war – especially considering AI and the latest generations of smart weapons.

On the incandescent US-Russia front, where Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sees the lack of mutual trust, no to mention respect, as much worse than during the Cold War, analyst Glenn Diesen notes how the Hegemon “strives to convert the security dependence of the Europeans into geoeconomic loyalty”.

That’s at the heart of a make-or-break saga: Nord Stream 2. The Hegemon uses every weapon – including cultural war, where convicted crook Navalny is a major pawn – to derail an energy deal that is essential for Germany’s industrial interests. Simultaneously, pressure increases against Europe buying Chinese technology.

Meanwhile, NATO – which lords over the EU – keeps being built up as a global Robocop, via the NATO 2030 project – even after turning Libya into a militia-ridden wasteland and having its collective behind humiliatingly spanked in Afghanistan.

For all the sound and fury of sanction hysteria and declinations of cultural war, the Hegemon establishment is not exactly blind to the West “losing not only its material dominance but also its ideological sway”.

So the Council on Foreign Relations – in a sort of Bismarckian hangover – is now proposing a New Concert of Powers to deal with “angry populism” and “illiberal temptations”, conducted of course by those malign actors such as “pugnacious Russia” who dare to “challenge the West’s authority”.

As much as this geopolitical proposal may be couched in benign rhetoric, the endgame remains the same: to “restore US leadership”, under US terms. Damn those “illiberals” Russia, China and Iran.

Crooke evokes exactly a Russian and a Chinese example to illustrate where the woke cultural revolution may lead to.

In the case of the Chinese cultural revolution, the end result was chaos, fomented by the Red Guards, which started to wreak their own particular havoc independent of the Communist Party leadership.

And then there’s Dostoevsky in The Possessed, which showed how the secular Russian liberals of the 1840s created the conditions for the emergence of the 1860s generation: ideological radicals bent on burning down the house.

No question: “revolutions” always eat their children. It usually starts with a ruling elite imposing their newfound Platonic Forms on others. Remember Robespierre. He formulated his politics in a very Platonic way – “the peaceful enjoyment of liberty and equality, the reign of eternal justice” with laws “engraved in the hearts of all men”.

Well, when others disagreed with Robespierre’s vision of Virtue, we all know what happened: the Terror. Just like Plato, incidentally, recommended in Laws. So it’s fair to expect that the children of the woke revolution will eventually be eaten alive by their zeal.

Canceling freedom of speech

As it stands, it’s fair to argue when the “West” started to go seriously wrong – in a cancel culture sense. Allow me to offer the Cynic/Stoic point of view of a 21st century global nomad.

If we need a date, let’s start with Rome – the epitome of the West – in the early 5th century. Follow the money. That’s the time when income from properties owned by temples were transferred to the Catholic Church – thus boosting its economic power. By the end of the century, even gifts to temples were forbidden.

In parallel, a destruction overdrive was in progress – fueled by Christian iconoclasm, ranging from crosses carved in pagan statues to bathhouses converted into churches. Bathing naked? Quelle horreur!

The devastation was quite something. One of the very few survivors was the fabulous bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius on horseback, in the Campidoglio/ Capitoline Hill (today it’s housed in the museum). The statue survived only because the pious mobs thought the emperor was Constantine.

The very urban fabric of Rome was destroyed: rituals, the sense of community, singin’ and dancin’. We should remember that people still lower their voices when entering a church.

For centuries we did not hear the voices of the dispossessed. A glaring exception is to be found in an early 6th century text by an Athenian philosopher, quoted by Ramsay MacMullen in Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eight Centuries.

The Greek philosopher wrote that Christians are “a race dissolved in every passion, destroyed by controlled self-indulgence, cringing and womanish in its thinking, close to cowardice, wallowing in all swinishness, debased, content with servitude in security.”

If that sounds like a proto-definition of 21st century Western cancel culture, that’s because it is.

Things were also pretty bad in Alexandria. A Christian mob killed and dismembered the alluring Hypatia, mathematician and philosopher. That de facto ended the era of great Greek mathematics. No wonder Gibbon turned the assassination of Hypatia into a remarkable set piece in Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (“In the bloom of beauty, and in the maturity of wisdom, the modest maid refused her lovers and instructed her disciples; the persons most illustrious for their rank or merit were impatient to visit the female philosopher”).

Under Justinian – emperor from 527 to 565 – cancel culture went after paganism no holds barred. One of his laws ended imperial toleration of all religions, which was in effect since Constantine in 313.

If you were a pagan, you’d better get ready for the death penalty. Pagan teachers – especially philosophers – were banned. They lost their parrhesia: their license to teach (here is Foucault’s brilliant analysis).

Parrhesia – loosely translated as “frank criticism” – is a tremendously serious issue: for no less than a thousand years, this was the definition of freedom of speech (italics mine).

There you go: first half of the 6th century. This was when freedom of speech was canceled in the West.

The last Egyptian temple – to Isis, in an island in southern Egypt – was shut down in 526. The legendary Plato’s Academy – with no less than 900 years of teaching in its curriculum – was shut down in Athens in 529.

Guess where the Greek philosophers chose to go into exile: Persia.

Those were the days – in the early 2nd century – when the greatest Stoic, Epictetus, a freed slave from Phrygia, admirer of both Socrates and Diogenes, was consulted by an emperor, Hadrian; and became the role model of another emperor, Marcus Aurelius.

History tells us that the Greek intellectual tradition simply did not fade away in the West. It was a target of cancel culture.

Putin rewrites the law of the geopolitical jungle

Putin rewrites the law of the geopolitical jungle

April 23, 2021

By Pepe Escobar and first posted at The Saker Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Asymmetric, swift and harsh”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Tensions skirting wartime levels”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U.S. POLICY CHANGES FASTER THAN THE WEATHER

 16.04.2021 

South Front

Video: Biden's Phone Call To Putin. US Policy Changes Faster than the  Weather - Global Research
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You can read this article in German. LINK

Hopes and expectations for a partial normalization between Moscow, Washington and Kiev stepping off the warpath were brief and flickered only for a moment before being entirely extinguished.

On April 13, U.S. President Joe Biden held a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The White House statement on the matter was positive, optimistic even, saying that the two discussed a number of regional and global issues.

They agreed to pursue a strategic stability dialogue on a range of arms control and emerging security issues.

They spoke about Ukraine, and how Russia needs to put forward effort to de-escalate the situation.

In response, Putin outlined approaches to a political settlement based on the Minsk Package of Measures.

The counterparts agreed to meet for talks a month after the diplomatic crisis sparked by Biden’s claims that Putin was a “killer.”

The situation seemed to be largely defused, proven by the fact that the United States decided not to deploy two of its warships to the Black Sea and, in fact, recalled them.

Immediately after that, the Biden Administration turned around, with the US President signing an executive order sanctioning Russia, and recalling 10 ambassadors.

He declared a national emergency over Russia’s alleged threat and all aspirations of normalization quickly evaporated.

The US Secretary of State immediately said that he was “pleasantly surprised” by the position of all 30 NATO states against Russia’s presumed aggression against Ukraine.

In addition, Russian ambassadors were summoned to the Foreign Ministers of the UK and Poland.

It was a united front, two complete shifts in rhetoric within a single day.

The same day, Biden had a short speech, expressing hope of establishing a rapport with Russia.

It was a very cliché text, and he quickly bolted afterwards.

He answered two questions, including one regarding Nord Stream 2.

He simply ran out of text and left, solidifying any “conspiracies” regarding whether he’s actually in control of his own ship.

As a result of the instability in US politics, Russia said that it was considering to ditch the US dollar.

No other Biden Putin meetings are likely to take place, mostly due to the incredible hypocrisy shown within a single day.

Meanwhile, the situation in Ukraine appears to be heading towards deterioration.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the “Army is ready” and that the situation was under control, albeit there were “certain issues.”

While Moscow’s attention was focused on Washington, Turkey reportedly sent its troops to Ukraine.

According to Turkish media, Ankara’s specialists arrived to train Ukrainian soldiers in operating the Bayraktar TB2 drones.

April 15th may come down in modern history as the day a new war began, be it hot or cold.

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So Who Wants a Hot War?

So Who Wants a Hot War?

April 17, 2021 

by Pepe Escobar and cross-posted with Strategic Culture Foundation

It’s not by accident that the Hegemon is going no holds barred to harass and try to smash Eurasian integration by all means available.

It’s a scorpion battle inside a vortex of distorted mirrors inside a circus. So let’s start with the mirrors in the circus.

The non-entity that passes for Ukrainian Foreign Minister traveled to Brussels to be courted by US Secretary of State Blinken and NATO secretary-general Stoltenberg.

At best, that’s circus shadowplay. Much more than NATO advisers in a frantic revolving door in Kiev, the real shadowplay is MI6 actually working very close with President Zelensky.

Zelensky’s warmongering script comes directly from MI6’s Richard Moore. Russian intel is very much aware of all the fine print. Glimpses were even carefully leaked to a TV special on the Rossiya 1 channel.

I confirmed it with diplomatic sources in Brussels. British media also got wind of it – but obviously was told to further distort the mirrors, blaming everything on, what else, “Russian aggression”.

German intel is practically non-existent in Kiev. Those NATO advisers remain legion. Yet no one talks about the explosive MI6 connection.

Careless whispers in Brussels corridors swear that MI6 actually believes that in the case of a volcanic but as it stands still preventable hot war with Russia, continental Europe would burn and Brexitland would be spared.

Dream on. Now back to the circus.

Oh, you’re so provocative

Both Little Blinken and NATO straw man Stoltenberg parroted the same script in Brussels after talking to the Ukrainian Foreign Minister.

That was part of a NATO “special meeting” on Ukraine – where some Eurocrat must have told a bunch of extra clueless Eurocrats how they would be carbonized on the spot by Russian TOS-1 Buratino’s terrifying explosive warheads if NATO tried anything funny.

Listen to the sound of Blinken yappin’: Russian actions are “provocative”.

Well, his staff certainly did not hand him a copy of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu examining step by step the deployment of the annual US Army DEFENDER-Europe 21: “The main forces are concentrated in the Black Sea and Baltic region.”

Now listen to the sound of Stoltenberg yappin’: We pledge “unwavering support” to Ukraine.

Woof woof. Now go back to play in your sandboxes.

No, not yet. Little Blinken threatened Moscow with “consequences” whatever happens in Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov’s infinite patience is nearly Daoist. Sun Tzu’s Art of War, by the way, is a Daoist masterpiece. Peskov’s answer to Blinken: “It is simply not necessary for us to go around forever proclaiming: ‘I am the greatest!’ The more one does this sort of thing, in fact, the more people doubt it…”

When in doubt, call the irreplaceable Andrei Martyanov – who always tells it like it is. The Crash Test Dummy gang in D.C. still does not get it – although some Deep State pros do.

Here’s Martyanov:

As I am on record constantly – the United States never fought a war with its Command and Control system under the relentless sustained fire impact and its rear attacked and disorganized. Conventionally, the United States cannot win against Russia in Europe, at least Eastern part of it and Biden Admin better wake up to the reality that it may, indeed, not survive any kind of escalation and, in fact, modern Kalibrs, 3M14Ms, as a matter of fact, have a range of a 4,500 kilometers, as well as 5,000+ kilometer range of X-101 cruise missiles, which will have no issues with penetrating North American airspace when launched by Russia’s strategic bombers without even leaving the safety of Russia’s airspace.

The Patrushev effect

The circus went on with the phone call from “Biden” – that is, Crash Test Dummy with an earpiece and a teleprompter in front of the phone – to President Putin.

Call it the Patrushev effect.

In his stunning interview to Kommersant, Triple Yoda Patrushev mentioned a very civilized late March phone call he had with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. Of course there’s no smokin’ gun, but if anyone would come up with the face-saving idea of a Biden-Putin phone call that would have been Sullivan.

The spin from Washington and Moscow is only slightly divergent. The Americans highlight that “Biden” – actually the deciding combo behind him – wants to build “a stable and predictable relationship with Russia, consistent with US interests.”

The Kremlin said that Biden “expressed interest in normalizing bilateral relations.”

Away from all this fog, what really matters is Patrushev-Sullivan. That has to do with Washington telling Turkey that US warships would be transiting the Bosphorus towards the Black Sea. Sullivan must have told Patrushev that no, they won’t be “active” in Donbass. And Patrushev told Sullivan, OK, we won’t incinerate them.

There are absolutely no illusions in Moscow that this putative Biden-Putin summit in a distant future will ever take place. Especially after Daoist Peskov had made it very clear that “no one will allow America to speak with Russia from a position of strength.” If that sounds like a line straight out of Yang Jiechi – who made shark fin’s soup out of Blinken-Sullivan in Alaska – that’s because it does.

Kiev, predictably, remains stuck in circus mode. After getting sharp messages from Mr. Iskander, Mr. Khinzal and Mr. Buratino, they changed their mind, or at least pretend to, and are now saying they don’t want war.

And here comes the intersection between circus and the serious stuff. The “Biden” combo never said, explicitly, on the record, that they don’t want war. On the contrary: they are sending those warships to the Black Sea and – circus again! – designating an envoy, Ministry of Silly Walks-style, whose only job is to derail the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

So the cliffhanger – like a teaser for Snowpiercer – is what happens when Nord Stream 2 is completed.

But before that, there’s something even more momentous: next Wednesday, on his speech to the Russian Security Council, President Putin will lay down the law.

It’s Minsk 2, stupid

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, has struck a much less Daoist note than Peskov: “The United States is our enemy, doing everything to undermine Russia’s position in the international arena, we do not see other elements in their approach to us. These are our conclusions”.

That’s stone to the bone realpolitik. Ryabkov knows the Hegemon’s “non agreement-capable” mindset inside out. So an added dimension to his observation is its direct connection to the only solution for Ukraine: the Minsk 2 agreements.

Putin reiterated Minsk 2 on his live teleconference with Merkel and Macron – and certainly to “Biden” in their phone call. The Beltway, the EU and NATO are all aware of it. Minsk 2 was signed by Ukraine, France and Germany and certified by the UN Security Council. If Kiev violates it, Russia – as a member of the UNSC – must enforce it.

Kiev has been violating Minsk 2 for months now; it refuses to implement it. As a faithful Hegemon satrapy, they are also not “agreement-capable”. Yet now they are seeing the – firepower – writing on the wall if they as much as think of starting a blitzkrieg against Donbass.

The open secret in the whole Ukraine/Donbass wilderness of mirrors under the circus tent is of course China. Yet Ukraine, in a sane world, would not only be part of a Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) corridor, but also part of the Russian Greater Eurasia project. China specialist Nikolai Vavilov recognizes the importance of BRI, but is also certain Russia is above all defending its own interests.

Ideally, Ukraine/Donbass would be inserted in the overall revival of the Silk Roads – as in internal Central Eurasian trade based and developed taking into consideration Eurasia-wide demand. Eurasia integration – in both the Chinese and Russian vision – are all about interconnected economies via inter-regional trade.

So it’s not by accident that the Hegemon – on the verge of becoming an irrelevant player across Eurasia – is going no holds barred to harass and try to smash the continental integration by all means available.

In this context, manipulating a failed state to meet its own doom is just (circus) business.

Does Biden Want to Provoke Russia into A Rash Military Action, “Leading” the World to the Brink of Nuclear War?

The Crisis in Ukraine and the Nord Stream II Gas Pipeline

By Mark H. Gaffney

Global Research, April 15, 2021

All Global Research articles can be read in 51 languages by activating the “Translate Website” drop down menu on the top banner of our home page (Desktop version).

***

Scarcely three months into his presidency, Joe Biden is “leading” the world to the brink of nuclear war over Ukraine. In February, Biden insisted that the US would never accept the Russian annexation of Crimea. Even though 95% of Crimeans voted in 2014 to return to Russia, Biden continues to describe the annexation as “aggression” and an “invasion.” Democratic referendums apparently are irrelevant if Washington disapproves of the outcome. 

Nor did the Russians invade. At the time, Russian troops were already present in Crimea by an earlier agreement with the previous elected Ukrainian government. This kind of distorted history has become standard in what passes for journalism in the West on any issue involving Russia. 

Recently, president Biden had the impertinence to describe Vladimir Putin as a “killer.” I say impertinence because in 2002 Senator Biden himself was the most vocal promoter in the US Senate of the 2003 Iraq War that killed at least a million Iraqis. As Putin put it, “it takes one to know one.”

And when Putin responded to Biden’s “killer” comment by wishing the US president good health and offering to meet with him to discuss world events, Biden brusquely dismissed the offer, saying he was “quite busy.” Well informed people probably gagged at the remark, given Biden’s scaled back work schedule and his visibly worsening mental impairment.

Ukrainian president Zelensky withdrew from the Minsk peace process. And then days later, Zelensky essentially declared war on Russia by issuing a decree stating that, if necessary, Crimea will be liberated from Russian control through military action.

Zelensky also called on the West to expedite Ukraine’s entry into NATO. Should this occur, it would obligate a NATO military response in the event of war. Following his plea, there were a series of emergency meetings at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Since 2014, at least 14,000 Russians, most of them civilians, have been killed in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine. Over seven years, the Ukrainian army has been shelling and terrorizing the Russian towns and communities that lie east of the line of control. The western press has hardly covered any of this violence. When it does, Russia is typically blamed.

As I write, a military buildup is underway in the region. Russian and Ukrainian forces are massing on both sides of the border. The other day, Kremlin officials described the situation along the front line as “unstable” and “terrifying.” Yet, Biden and his advisers appear determined to throw gas on the fire. Days ago, Biden ordered two US destroyers into the Black Sea where a Russian naval buildup is also underway. The US ships were to pass through the Bosporus on April 14-15. 

It is certainly true that the Black Sea is an international waterway. The US Navy has the right to sail there. But given all that has transpired, is it really wise to risk a nuclear showdown with Russia over a regional dispute that surely cannot be vital to US national interests. US officials have never explained why liberating Crimea and eastern Ukraine should be important to Americans.

So, why is Biden engaging in brinksmanship? 

The reason is simple, though it is never mentioned in the western press. Biden and his advisers hope to provoke Russia into a rash military action. They intend to score a propaganda coup by branding Putin as the aggressor. This will enable them to ratchet up enormous political pressure on Germany to cancel the Nordstream II gas pipeline, which is 95% complete. The pipeline starts in northern Russia near St. Petersburg and runs beneath the Baltic Sea to Germany. When finished, the capacious pipeline will provide Germany (and Europe) with abundant cheap natural gas. But Biden’s team views the pipeline as an existential threat to US hegemony in Europe. And it seems they are prepared to take the world to the nuclear brink to prevail on the issue.Biden’s Ukrainian “Putin Push” Could Lead to World War III

Over the years, the US has already expended enormous political capital to force a halt to the Nordstream project. Western intelligence agencies have gone to elaborate lengths, cooking up one scam after another, to increase pressure on the German government.

Some examples are the alleged 2018 poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England, allegedly by Russia, and the more recent case of dissident Alexei Navalny who was also allegedly targeted with the same Russian-made nerve agent used on the Skripals, known as Novichok.

Despite the sensational charges, media storm, and hyped expulsion of Russian diplomats, both stories have since unraveled. Western intelligence agencies failed to explain how the Skripals and Navalny managed to survive Novichok’s extreme toxicity. The substance is so lethal that even the first responders and doctors who came in contact with the alleged victims should also have died. Does anyone believe that the Russians are so incompetent they failed repeatedly to assassinate their alleged victims using their own nerve agent? 

The smear campaigns may have worked on Americans, but they failed where it matters most, in Germany. 

The US wants to supply Germany with liquified natural gas from North America delivered by tankers at a much higher price. This would make Germany permanently dependent on more expensive US natural gas, while Nordstream II would liberate Germany from US political controls and influence. 

The problem for Washington is that the German government has not budged. A recent poll shows why. Despite all of the attempts to discredit Putin, 67% of Germans still support completion of the Nordstream II project. Typically well informed, the German people understand that the pipeline is vital to their country and to Europe. It’s a safe bet they also see through the CIA’s transparent propaganda.

It is noteworthy that the US-backed 2014 coup that toppled the previous government in Kiev occurred immediately after then-Ukrainian president Yanukovitch had rejected an economic package offered by the European Union (also backed by the US), and instead signed onto a deal with Russia that was much more favorable to Ukraine.

The timing was significant. It was at this point that Washington gave the green light for the coup. After which, the US moved into Ukraine with its own economic “reforms.” Monsanto, for example, ever eager to increase its market share, began buying up large tracts of fertile Ukrainian farmland for the purpose of exporting its GMO poisons into the region.

After failing to block the pipeline using every covert scheme in the CIA and State Department playbook, the Biden team has now upped the stakes. Evidently they are prepared to risk World War III to maintain Germany’s current status as a US vassal. Controlling Germany is one of the keys to controlling Europe.

With regard to Ukraine becoming a member of NATO, entry into the NATO alliance is a lengthy process. A number of conditions must first be met and, given that Ukraine is an economic basket case, it is unlikely any of this has occurred. For this reason, Zelensky’s plea for expedited membership may not be feasible. Furthermore, Ukraine’s gloomy economic situation is about to worsen because one of its main sources of revenue is about to disappear.

Because the Nordstream II pipeline passes far to the north and bypasses Ukraine, the country stands to lose $billions in royalty fees it presently collects for Russian gas delivered to Europe across its territory. This is surely why Ukrainian officials have joined with Americans in calling for cancellation of the project.

At the time of his election in 2019, Ukraine president Zelensky promised to end the civil war and make peace with Russia. But the issues have turned out to be so intractable that positions on both sides have since hardened. Russia has no intention of ever surrendering its only warm water port in Crimea, nor will the eastern provinces ever submit to control by Kiev. Putin has begun passing out Russian passports to residents in Luhansk and Donets, and this suggests Moscow could be contemplating the next step, namely, political absorption of both provinces back into Russia.

Given that Biden’s team is doing everything in their power to make a bad situation worse, Putin faces the biggest challenge of his political career. For many years, Putin has been such a model of restraint vis a vis the West, that many Russians feel he has been too accommodating, especially in the face of continued US hostility and warmongering. Not that Russians are spoiling for a fight. My research indicates otherwise. The Russian people have no appetite for war. They understand the horrors of war far more acutely than do Americans. After all, thirty million of their countrymen perished in the debacle with Nazi Germany. Although I believe Putin long since ceased caring what Americans think of him, he knows if he oversteps he risks antagonizing the Germans who could still decide to cancel Nordstream II. So, Putin must tread carefully. But if Ukraine forces the issue, the Russian military is prepared to act.

Assuming the pipeline is completed, I predict it will permanently change Germany’s relationship with the US and with Russia. In that case, the European balance of power will shift eastward. Russia and Germany are natural trading partners. Increased commerce between the two countries will insure the peace in Europe well into the future. Continuing US attempts to block the emergence of this important trade relationship is a testament to failed US leadership dating back many years.

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Mark’s latest book is Deep History and the Ages of Man (2020) which is available at Amazon.com. Mark can be reached for comment at markhgaffney@earthlink.net

Featured image is from Asia Times

Incentives: Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin possible moves – Donbass crisis.

Incentives: Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin possible moves – Donbass crisis.

April 11, 2021

By David Sant for the Saker Blog

Several analysts have written articles about how Russia is likely to respond in the theater to an offensive by Ukraine to restart the Donbass War. My purpose in this article is to look at the psychology and incentives of Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin and the possible moves that each of them may make in response to the Donbass crisis.

The Nature of the Dispute

It is fairly well established that two primary motives seem to be driving the Atlanticist pressure on Russia and continuing eastward expansion of NATO. The larger issue is that Russia, Iran, and China seem to be increasingly resistant to the rule of the Atlanticist monopolar hegemony enforced by the US Military and NATO. As someone recently said, the American empire is a currency empire sustained by forcing all energy transactions to be priced in US Dollars, and controlling energy transit points. By moving away from using USD for oil and gas transactions, Russia, China, and Iran pose a mortal threat to the empire.

The secondary issue, the one driving the timing, is control of oil and gas pipelines. In short the USA wants Europe to use American-controlled gas and oil, which means Saudi and Qatari oil, and American LNG. They want to create pipelines and delivery routes for American-controlled energy, and close or prevent delivery routes for Russian energy. The three current flashpoints are Syria, Ukraine, and the route of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, all three of which are current or potential pipeline routes.

Several years ago the US successfully pressured Bulgaria into cancelling the South Stream Pipeline through the Black Sea. However, US sanctions have been unable to deter Germany from allowing the Russians to complete the Nord Stream 2.

With the completion of the project only a few months away, the US seems determined to stop it at any cost. This appears to be the motive behind instigating the Ukrainian government to invade Donbass. If Russia defends Donbass, she will be demonized in the Western press, and this will be used to pressure Germany to cancel Nord Stream 2. From the American perspective, getting the Ukrainians to fight the Russians weakens both at no political cost to the US.

It is my opinion that the Biden Administration is making a major miscalculation by continuing this approach. For the past seven years, Russia has absorbed round after round of sanctions and provocations by the US government in Ukraine and Syria. The Biden regime seems to assume that if they instigate a war in Donbass now, that Russia will continue as they have before, to absorb the blow without striking back. I suggest that this time it will be different.

The History and Psychology of Biden and Putin

Vladimir Putin was handpicked by the Western handlers to replace Boris Yeltsin in 1999, largely because he was known to be reliable. However, Putin surprised those who appointed him by turning against the oligarchs and reigning in the chaos that was dismembering Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Putin enforced the law and cracked down on corruption, including corruption by the Western interests that put him in power.

Displeased by this turn of events, the West, led by Bill Browder, has spent the past fifteen years demonizing Putin. For example, when Russia granted asylum to Edward Snowden in 2013, multiple US politicians used scripted talking points calling Mr. Putin “a schoolyard bully.” That analogy was rather inept, as Russia did not invite Snowden, but rather got stuck with him, as his passport was cancelled while in transit, making it impossible for him to board his flight out of Russia. Putin actually said that as a former intelligence officer himself, he did not view Snowden’s leak of classified information in a positive light.

The problem with demonizing one’s opponent is that it can lead to strategic errors if you make the mistake of believing your own propaganda. If we look at Mr. Putin’s past behavior we see four consistent characteristics.

First, he follows the rules. Whether it is the START treaty, the chemical weapons accord, or the Minsk Agreements, the Putin regime has consistently tried to keep the old treaties alive and to follow agreed upon UN procedures for conflict resolution.

Second, when Mr. Putin has taken steps to oppose the Atlanticist agenda, he has done so in a way that allowed his opponents to save face. When the US was preparing to invade Syria in 2013, Putin persuaded Assad to agree to eliminate his chemical weapon stockpile. This pulled the rug out from under the US invasion, but it did not make the US look bad.

When Russia entered Syria to fight ISIS, they did not publicly expose the fact that the US and Israel were the primary backers of ISIS. Putin went along with the ruse and said, if America is fighting ISIS we will fight ISIS too, and did so legally at the invitation of Syria. Russia’s work allowed Trump to take credit for defeating ISIS, even though it completely ruined eight years of CIA efforts to train and arm those terrorists.

Third, Mr. Putin keeps his word. When he draws a red line, he enforces it. He speaks quietly but it is wise to listen carefully to what he says. We have seen this in the way that Russia dealt with terrorist groups that agreed to deconfliction versus those that did not, as well as the ones that agreed and then went against it.

And, lastly, when all else has failed and the other party crosses the red line anyway, Putin punches fast, hard, and unexpectedly, and often in a different theater than where the provocation has occurred. We saw this when Russia destroyed the oil smuggling network that the US and Turkey had set up in Northeastern Syria. We saw it again when Russia saved Mr. Erdogan from a US-backed coup only thirty minutes before he probably would have been captured.

Joe Biden

Joe Biden loved to tell the story on the campaign trail about his interaction with a black gangster named “Corn Pop” when he was a lifeguard in college. They almost had a fight but Biden brought a chain with him, and they later became friends. The fact that he even tells this tale signals that Biden has no real experience against a serious enemy. Men with street credibility don’t need to tell stories. They are known and respected.

The reality of Biden’s career is that he has played second fiddle to stronger leaders and only appears to have gotten the presidential nomination because it was his turn and he was deemed to be controllable by his handlers. Biden obtained the presidency through a fraud seen so openly that he has one of the lowest presidential approval ratings in history.

Biden and Putin met for the first time alone in 2011 for talks in Russia. According to Mike McCormick, who was Biden’s stenographer, Biden was halfway through his talk when suddenly the microphone, cameras, and lights were turned off and Putin and all of the media walked out leaving Biden humiliated. Something similar happened to Biden in China a few months later.

This is probably what Biden was referring to when he recently said that Putin was “a killer” with “no soul.” That interaction tells us exactly what Putin thinks of Biden. He considers him to be a weakling with no substance.

Biden’s team is stacked with Russophobes who are motivated by the desire to finish what they began in Ukraine under Obama. They believe they can successfully use information war and dirty tricks to isolate Russia from Europe and control all the energy conduits. Whether due to hubris or ignorance, they do not believe Russia would dare to strike back at the real instigator of the war in Ukraine.

Biden’s response to a Russian strike would probably be a plaintive high pitched, “c’mon man!” However, if Kamala Harris is making the decisions the risk of escalating to a nuclear response is much higher. The problem is that both Biden and Harris were picked and installed by a “power behind the throne,” so it is unclear exactly who would be making the decision of how to respond.

The Imminent Danger of the Current Imbroglio

There is no doubt that the US intends to create a war in Ukraine before the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline can be finished. This will happen within months if not weeks. It is also clear that Zelensky is being placed under tremendous pressure to force Russia into defending Donbass.

Russia has drawn a red line around Donbass. Ukraine had agreed to a peaceful resolution through the Minsk Accords. But with US encouragement, Kiev violated everything they agreed to, making it now politically impossible to re-integrate Donbass into Ukraine.

If Zelensky invades Donbass, then not just Ukraine, but the USA and NATO will be viewed by Russia as having crossed an inviolable red line. Yes, Russia will be forced to defend Donbass, because Putin will not allow Russians to be subjected to genocide. Russia does not want to fight Ukrainians, whom despite the jokes, they view as their Russian brothers. They are frustrated and angry that the USA has forced them into this position.

For this reason, I believe that Mr. Putin will do something that the Biden regime is not expecting with similar psychological impact to the sudden turning off of the lights and cameras. He will find a way to inflict debilitating pain on the decision makers who have forced Russia into intervening in Ukraine.

In addition to defending Donbass, Russia may strike the USA in a different theater. But they will do so in a way that cannot be confused with a nuclear attack. Unlike the previous chess moves that allowed the US leadership to save face, this one will neutralize and publicly humiliate the USA and the Biden regime as a paper tiger.

The Narrow Window of Technological Supremacy

While the US was busy invading third world countries as part of the War on Terror, Russia was quietly developing their defense technologies. They have now achieved technological supremacy over the USA in three areas: air and missile defenses, hypersonic missiles, and electronic countermeasures (ECM).

In the area of air defenses the Russian S-400 is an extremely capable platform which the West has very little experience fighting against. Russia has the capability to impose a no fly zone within about 500 kilometers of its S-400 batteries, of which there are several from Crimea to Kaliningrad. Israel’s use of the F-35 to bomb Syria has given the Russians live data on NATO’s most advanced stealth fighter.

The S-500 space defense system is scheduled to enter service in 2021. Since the S-500 can defend against ICBMs it may affect the balance of power of mutual assured destruction (MAD).

The Zircon and Khinzal hypersonic missiles are currently in service and are the most effective anti-ship weapons in the Russian arsenal that we know of. Their standoff range enables strikes on enemy ships from 500 to 2,000 kilometers. This means that Russia has the ability to strike ships in the Mediteranean and North Sea using assets based on Russian soil, not even counting the assets based in Latakia, Syria. NATO forces currently have no defense against hypersonic missiles.

Russian ECM capabilities have been somewhat exaggerated by news stories about the 2014 encounter with the USS Donald Cook. The Donald Cook was allegedly shut down by ECM attack while an SU-24 overflew the vessel. However, more accurate sources noted that any ECM attack, if there even was one, would have been executed using ground-based equipment, not the Su-24 fighter. If this attack really happened, the US Navy has presumably hardened its vessels against ECM in the seven years since.

We do know that Russian ECM systems in Syria were able to disable the vast majority of Tomahawk Missiles fired at Syria in April 2017. Other than aircraft carriers, the primary American method of projecting power is Arleigh-Burke class destroyers such as the USS Donald Cook which carry about 50 Tomahawk missiles each. The 2017 exercise in Syria probably indicates that Russia is able to jam volleys of Tomahawk missiles with better than 90% success. The remaining 10% of the subsonic Tomahawks can be easily shot down by anti-aircraft batteries.

The question is whether the US Navy has found a way to harden the Tomahawk missiles against Russian ECM since 2017. If not, then given the much smaller size and number of missiles that can be carried by Navy attack aircraft, the US Navy’s primary weapon for ground attack has no teeth against Russian targets. Of course in any conflict, the first target of NATO’s “wild weasel” aircraft will be SAM radars and ECM equipment.

Conclusion – Biden has Created Strong Incentives for Russia to Strike First

The US is spending billions to catch up technologically, and the window of Russian supremacy may only last for two or three years at most. Russia can be expected to reach the peak technological advantage over NATO in late 2021 after the S-500 system has been fully deployed. However, the Donbass crisis may force Russia to act sooner than they are comfortable.

If Russia were to use the window of supremacy to attempt a debilitating strike on the US military the US Navy is the most likely target. Ships are the most exposed, are not located inside another country’s borders, and are also the primary means of projecting US power. However, I would not rule out a non-missile attack on DC. For example, there are many ways that the US power grid could be turned off without using missiles. The ensuing domestic chaos might prevent the US from responding.

This is a very dangerous situation for the world because it could easily escalate to World War III or nuclear war, depending on the Biden Administration’s reaction. Part of the problem is that it is not clear who is really in charge of the Whitehouse. A nuclear response to a devastating conventional weapons defeat would be a disaster for both sides.

Russia will only strike the USA if they believe they have no other choice. What they have learned from seven years of sanctions, attempted coups, fake poisonings, and other provocations is that the US will continue this behavior for as long as Russia continues to accept it, or until Russia is broken and conquered. In short, Biden’s team may have finally convinced Russia that they have no other choice.

President Biden has handed Putin the justification for a first strike by openly stating his intention to conduct a cyber attack on Russia “soon.” That is a public declaration of war. The fact that the Russian ambassador was recalled from Washington and has not been sent back should be a wakeup call to America that DC itself is on the potential target list.

For these reasons I believe that there is a high probability that Russia will strike first before NATO can fully put in place the forces for planned exercises for this Summer. The strike will probably be non-nuclear, focused against US forces only, and its purpose will be to delegitimize the US power in the eyes of the junior members of NATO, and to weaken or cripple the US ability to project power.

If China and Iran see Russia strike the US military, it would not be surprising if they also pile on using their own hypersonic missiles to destroy US Navy assets in the Persian Gulf and South China Sea.

The Biden regime’s underestimation of Russia and failure to heed Putin’s warnings have created conditions which make possible a sudden and humiliating defeat of the US Navy, which could effectively end the US ability to project power overseas.

However, wars are rarely short, and victories rarely decisive. For this reason it would be better for all parties to de-escalate the conflict immediately. Unfortunately, the Biden regime is the only one in a position to do that, and they have shown no intention of doing so.

RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN WAR: TRAGEDY FOR PEOPLE, CHANCE FOR ELITES

10.04.2021 

South Front

Russian-Ukrainian War: Tragedy For People, Chance For Elites
Illustrative Image

Against the backdrop of ongoing political provocations and bellicose rhetoric from all parties involved in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, military escalation is constantly growing. Local forces, as well as the OSCE observers, report about more and more ceasefire violations in the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. There are daily statements on casualties on both sides of the conflict among the military and local civilians.

Now, when all the global media are closely following the situation in the eastern regions of Ukraine, the international community is wondering whether Donbass will become the point of the next military conflict, and what its scale will be. The main question is “Cui Prodest”?

The answer is unambiguous: the administration of Ukrainian President is a real stakeholder in the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. In the current Ukrainian reality, there are plenty of circumstances that determine the pattern of conduct of Volodimir Zelensky.

First, the current economic situation in Ukraine is disastrous. The Ukrainian state is on the way to lose the ability to fulfill its social obligations. According to the data for 2020, its GDP in real terms suffered about 4% drop. According to the IMF, this drop will be at least 7%. If for the United States, China or Russia, a 4% drop in GDP is a big problem, for Ukraine it is almost a disaster, as GDP indicators were low even before the crisis.

Secondly, the economic situation in Ukraine was aggravated by the coronacrisis. The number of those contaminated by COVID-19 per day there is one of the biggest among the European countries, and even in the whole world. The death rate is also disproportionately high. The country’s economy is suffering, as most regions are still under lockdown, and since April 5, restrictions have been tightened again.

The fall in national budget income was caused by a complex of reasons, including pure management of national economy and the extremely high level of corruption that caused the destruction of the industrial complex, drop in already low per capita income, accompanied by a decreasing revenue gained from gas and cargo transit from East to West.

Third, the Zelensky administration is now facing a rapid decrease in people’s support. The national disappointment in his political program is caused by the rejection of his campaign promises to stop the war in Donbass.

Fourthly, it is increasingly difficult for NATO allies to fuel Kiev’s anti-Russian hysteria in the absence of any actual changes of the issue. The military conflict in the Eastern Ukraine is already 7 years old, and the only alarming statements no longer contribute to the increase in financial support from the US and its allies.

The last but not least is a political request from a part of the American elite, who are interested in various forms of pressuring Russia. They support blocking of the Nord Stream 2 project by any means; destruction of bilateral relations between Russia and leading European countries, up to war outbreak along its borders.

On the other hand, such a policy of the United States does not fully coincide with the national interests of leading European countries. However, new war in Eastern Ukraine would define Russian status as enemy for years while the US will strengthen its weight in European security.

The position of the Zelensky administration and the interests of the United States represent sufficient set of reasons to outbreak war in Eastern Ukraine.

Indeed, official Kiev does not need to care about the actual result of the conflict, but its very existence.

There are only 3 scenarios of the military conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

  • The Ukrainian army wholly or partially occupies the territory of the DLPR.
  • The forces of both sides remain in their current positions.
  • The DLPR forces, with Russian support, advance on the Ukrainian territory for several dozens of miles.

There is almost a zero probability that Ukraine will suffer a crushing defeat and the DLPR forces will occupy the territory to the Dnieper River. Russia now has neither the strength nor the ability to gain control over such a vast territory, and the collective West, in its turn, would not let this happen.

If any of the above scenarios are implemented, Zelensky and his supporters among the US elites will benefit.

For many years, the US and European media have shaped Russia as the aggressor, the enemy of democratic values and the authoritarian tyrannical regime that must be contained. The idea of an external military threat, which being sequentially built up by the West, serves as a pretext for its increasing military funding both in defense industry and army itself amid inevitable unification under the US leadership.

In its turn, Ukraine, positioning itself as the Eastern European Shield against “Asian Barbarians”, receives significant and steadily growing support from NATO countries, gaining momentum to development and further nazi-like ideology originally rooted in Western Ukraine.

Unleashing the war, Zelensky has a chance to reclaim his status as the national leader. In case of the conquest of the self-proclaimed republics, or the preservation of the current troops’ positions, he will become a hero who saved Ukraine from “evil Russians”.

Even after having lost the war, he would claim that the entire country was saved with little blood and only a small piece of land that was temporary lost, taking on the role of a good strategist who defended the sovereignty in the furious fighting shoulder to shoulder with his NATO allies.

Zelensky’s policy can only fail if Russia captures half of Ukraine, which de facto is not possible.

Thus, almost whatever may happen during the conflict, Ukraine can be sure that it will receive stable financial flows from its Western allies for years ahead. Having become a “real” Eastern Shield of Europe, Ukraine may finally get the coveted NATO membership.

Finally yet importantly – the hot military conflict will undoubtedly divert public attention from the economic problems inside the country.

Unleashing a war in Donbass will allow Zelensky to solve his main problems, albeit at the cost of lives of thousands of Ukrainians.

Today, many analysts assure that there will not be a full-scale war, since Ukraine is weak, and Zelensky must assess country’s military strength in front of the Russian power. Let’s hope this is the case, while remembering who the beneficiary of the conflict is.

In its turn, the United States, at the cost of Ukrainian soldiers’ lives, can resolve a good part of its problems in the European region, while Russia seems to lose strategically in any of these war scenarios.

Definitely, the war in Ukraine will lead to the closure of the Nord Stream 2 project, which is already at the final stage of construction. Key contacts between Russia and NATO countries will be frozen, no more significant bilateral cooperation in economy will be possible.

A new war near the Russian borders that involves national armed forces will have an important impact on the internal situation in the country. It is not clear to what extent the Russian society, which has suffered the break of economic relations with Western countries and numerous sanctions, is ready to support the struggle for Donbass.

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Russia ‘would really not want’ Cold War 2.0

Russia ‘would really not want’ Cold War 2.0

April 09, 2021

The Triple Yoda, Nikolai Patrushev, hopes cooler heads can avoid sanctions such as the SWIFT ‘nuclear option’

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

The Beltway was always fond of describing the late Andrew Marshall – who identified emerging or future threats for the Pentagon and whose proteges included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz – as Yoda.

Well, if that’s the case, then Chinese national security supremo Yang Jiechi – who recently made shark fin’s soup out of Tony Blinken in Alaska – is Double Yoda. And Nikolai Patrushev – Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation – is Triple Yoda.

Amid current ice-cold US-Russia relations – plunged into their worst state since the end of the Cold War – Triple Yoda, discreet, diplomatic and always sharp as a dagger, remains a soothing voice of reason, as demonstrated in a stunning interview by Kommersant daily.

Patrushev, born in 1951, is an army general who worked for KGB counter-intel in Leningrad, during the USSR days. Starting in 1994 he was the head of quite a few FSB departments. From 1999 to 2008 he was the FSB director, and led counter-terror ops in the North Caucasus from 2001 to 2003. Since May 2008 he is Russia’s top security advisor.

Patrushev rarely talks to the media. Thus the importance, for global public opinion, of highlighting some of his key insights. Let us hope the Beltway will be listening.

Patrushev clearly states that Russia does not want Cold War 2.0: “We would really not want that.” And he hopes that “common sense will prevail in Washington.”

Patrushev speaks

On Biden declaring Putin a “killer”: “I would not like to draw parallels, but exactly 75 years ago, in March 1946, Churchill delivered the famous Fulton speech in the presence of President Truman, in which he declared our country, his recent ally in the anti-Hitler coalition, an enemy. This marked the beginning of the Cold War.”

On Ukraine and Donbass: “I am convinced that this is a consequence of serious internal problems in Ukraine, from which the authorities are trying to divert attention in this way. They solve their problems at the expense of Donbass, while capital from the country has been flowing abroad for a long time … and Kiev is selling to foreigners – as they say now, at democratic prices – those remnants of industry that were able to stay afloat.”

On the first order of business for the US and Russia: It’s “the sphere of strategic stability and arms control. There is already a positive example here. It is our common decision to extend the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Arms, which was certainly not easy for the US administration.”

On possible areas of cooperation: “There is a certain potential for joint work on such issues as the fight against international terrorism and extremism … as well as Syria, the Middle East settlement, the nuclear problem of the Korean peninsula, the JCPOA with Iran … It is long overdue to discuss cyber-security issues, especially in view of Russia’s concerns and the accusations that have been brought forward to us for several years now.”

On contacts with Washington: “They continue. At the end of March, I had a telephone conversation with the assistant to the president of the United States for national security, Mr Sullivan .… By the way, it was held in a calm, business-like atmosphere, and we communicated quite thoroughly and constructively.”

On having no illusions about US apologies: “The United States dropped atomic bombs on Japan completely unnecessarily – although they knew perfectly well that the Red Army was starting hostilities against the Japanese grouping in Manchuria; they knew that Tokyo was ready to surrender. And the Japanese, and indeed the whole world, have been told for three quarters of a century that atomic strikes were inevitable … a kind of punishment from above. Remember what Obama said in his speech at the Hiroshima mourning event? ‘Death fell from heaven.’ And he did not want to say that this death fell from an American plane on the orders of the American president.”

On improvement of relations: “Given the unprecedentedly difficult nature of the internal situation in the United States today, the prospects for the further development of relations can hardly be called encouraging.”

On the US seeing Russia as a “threat,” and whether it is reciprocal: “We now see the main threat in a pandemic. For the United States, by the way, it turned out to be the moment of truth. The problems that American politicians were hiding from their fellow citizens became obvious, including by diverting their attention to the legends of ‘aggressive Russia.’”

On US bio-labs: “I suggest that you pay attention to the fact that numbers of biological laboratories under US control are growing by leaps and bounds across the world. And – by a strange coincidence – mainly at the Russian and Chinese borders … Of course, we and our Chinese partners have questions. We are told that there are peaceful sanitary and epidemiological stations near our borders, but for some reason they are more reminiscent of Fort Detrick in Maryland, where Americans have been working in the field of military biology for decades. By the way, it is necessary to pay attention to the fact that outbreaks of diseases uncharacteristic of these regions are recorded in the adjacent areas.”

On US accusations that Russia uses chemical weapons: “There is zero evidence, there is no argumentation either; some speculation does not even withstand an elementary test … When chemical incidents occurred in Syria, conclusions were drawn instantly and based on the information of the notorious ‘White Helmets.’ The organization worked so ‘well’ that it sometimes published its reports even before the incidents themselves.”

On NATO: “The question arises: who is holding back whom? Are Washington and Brussels holding back Russia, or is it their task to hold back the development of Germany, France, Italy and other European states? On the whole, NATO can hardly be called a military-political bloc. Remember how in the days of feudalism the vassals were obliged to appear to the master with their armies at his first  request? Only today they still have to buy weapons from the patron, regardless of their financial situation; otherwise questions about their loyalty will arise.”

On Europe: “Engaging with Europe is important. But being together with Europe at any cost is not a fix for Russian geopolitics. Nevertheless we keep the doors open, because we understand perfectly well that there is a momentary situation that Western politicians are guided by, and at the same time there are historical ties that have been developing between Russians and Europeans for centuries.”

On multipolarity: “There are a number of problems in the world today that, in principle, cannot be resolved without normal cooperation between the world’s leading players – Russia, the USA, the EU, China and India.”

The SWIFT ‘nuclear option’

Patrushev’s insights are particularly relevant as the Russia-China strategic partnership is solidifying by the minute; Foreign Minister Lavrov, in Pakistan, has called for literally everyone, “including the European Union,” to join Russia’s vision of a Greater Eurasia; and everyone is waiting for a face-off in the Donbass.

Patrushev’s diplomatic finesse still cannot erase the uneasy feeling in chancelleries across Eurasia about the distinct possibility of an incoming flare-up in the Donbass – with some extremely worrying consequences.

Dangerous scenarios are being openly discussed in Brussels corridors, especially one that sees the US/NATO combo expecting a de facto partition after a short hot war – with Novorossiya absorbing even Odessa.

If that is established as a fact on the ground, a new harsh round of US sanctions will follow. Iron Curtain 2.0 would be in effect; pressure for cancelation of Nord Stream 2 would reach fever pitch; and even the expulsion of Russia from SWIFT would be considered.

Dmitri Medvedev, currently Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council, once called the latter “the nuclear option.” Patrushev was diplomatic enough not to address its volcanic consequences.

The US war on Europe: a continental 911? (OPEN THREAD #7)

The US war on Europe: a continental 911? (OPEN THREAD #7)

April 08, 2021

For anybody wanting peace, it is important to understand the logic of those who want war.  What I propose to do today is to list all the reasons why the US is waging war not only on Russia, but also on Europe.  This time again I will use a bulletpoint list (in no special order)

  • The Empire and Russia have been at war for years now, at least since 2013; until now, this war was 80% informational, about 15% economic and only about 5% kinetic.  Yet from its initiation, it was an existential war for both sides and it still is.  At the end of it all, only one party will remain standing, the other one will have collapsed and profoundly changed.  The above ratios are now about to change.
  • The “Biden” administration is a who’s who of the worst Russia haters on the US political scene, check out this excellent article by Andrei Martyanov which explains that.  You might also enjoy an article I wrote in distant 2008 entitled “How a medieval concept of ethnicity makes NATO commit yet another a dangerous blunder“.
  • Needless to say, the Woke and LGTBQ+ freaks (which are all over the “Biden” admin) all hate Russia for being (in their very mistaken opinion) both “White”,  “Christian” and “Conservative” (only the latter is mostly true).
  • So far, all the efforts of Obama, Trump and Biden have yielded exactly *zero* results.  Or, better, it did produce results, but not the ones it was supposed to achieve: Russia increased her sovereignty and economic independence, the Russia people rallied around Putin, and the Russian political scene became even more anti-western than before.  The US plan against Russia failed, true, but the Russian people (and politicians) all understood that the attempt was to destroy Russia as a country, a nation and a civilization.
  • After decades of incompetent and corrupt “leadership” by all administrations, the US is in terrible shape by pretty much any relevant metric.  You could say that the “imperial pie” which the US and the EU share has shrunk that, in turn, means that the US has to seize a bigger chunk of it.  Hence the US opposition to NS2 which does not threaten the 3B+PU nations, but threatens to make the EU more competitive (cheaper energy) than the US (more expensive energy).  Hence, NS2 must be stopped at all costs (“Biden” just appointed a “special envoy” to kill NS2: Amos Hochstein).
  • Up until now, the EU (mostly Germany) were able to resist the US pressure, but with a large scale shooting war in the Ukraine, NS2 will be instantly cancelled, this will be a political triumph for the US Neocons.
  • The Nazi Banderastan created by the US Dems (shame on you if you ever voted for Obama or “Biden”!) has become a black hole by any relevant metric and should a war break out, this will affect the EU far more than the USA, hence this is yet another chance for Uncle Shmuel to grab a bigger piece of the “western imperial pie”.
  • Next, even if the Russian forces stay behind the current line of contact, any overt Russian intervention in the Ukraine will result in an immediate war hysteria in the West, securing the total domination of the US (via NATO) of the entire European continent.
  • Also, if the Ukronazi Banderastan is ever allowed to join NATO (in whatever form), then NATO will have to deal with the largely anti-NATO population of the eastern Ukraine.  It is therefore objectively in the interests of the USA and NATO to simply get rid of the Donbass and incorporate in NATO only the pro-Nazi parts of the Ukraine while blaming “break-up” and “invasion” on Russia.  The only part of the Ukraine which the US/NATO really wanted was, of course, Crimea (an ancient Anglo fantasy!).  Putin made sure this will never happen and now this pipe dream will never become reality.
  • The political scene in Europe is undergoing a deep crisis: some countries risk falling apart (UK, Spain), all of them are hit hard by the pandemic, riots are taking place everywhere (even in “peaceful” Switzerland! in St Gallen cops shot rubber bullets at protesters) which, frankly, threatens the long term future of the EU (which itself is an instrument of US domination of Europe).  Triggering a war will completely change this landscape just like the 9/11 false flag changed the political landscape in the USA.
  • And then there is NATO itself, a fantastically ineffective organization in military terms, but an extremely effective one politically.  Since 1991, this organization had lost any purpose, a new war in the Ukraine will give it a (entirely fake) purpose for decades to come, thereby keeping Europe a US colony (which, of course, the “new Europeans” want, but of the “old Europeans” – no so much).
  • The fact that NS2 is something like 95% completed is a slap in the face of Uncle Shmuel and the “Biden” administration will want to show these pesky Europeans “who is boss”.  Since triggering a war will immediately stop NS2, it will punish the Europeans not only by denying them cheap energy, but also by the billions of dollars they already wasted on this project, and the more billions they will have to pay Russia in the future.
  • The Ukraine cannot enter NATO, at least officially, until all its border issues are resolved.  That is the official propaganda line.  But what if Russia intervenes in the Donbass, then I would not put it past the Poles to move a number of battalions to the Lvov and Ivano-Frankovsk regions and that will de facto place the western Ukraine under Polish control and, thereby under NATO control and thereby US control.  And no need for any votes of referendums – it will all happen while the world will watch in horror the war in the Donbass.

I could go on, but I think the point is clear: for the “Biden” administration, the upcoming war will be a dream come true, a way of killing many birds with one stone and, most importantly, a way to really hurt Russia (that will be true in spite of the fact that Russia will easily prevail militarily against any imaginable combination of forces in the eastern Ukraine.

Of course, all of the above is predicated on the deeply mistaken belief by US politicians that Russia is weak and the US invulnerable.  Remember, while US politicians are long on chutzpah and narcissistic and messianic self-worship, they ain’t too knowledgeable about history (or anything pertaining to Zone B).

The bottom line is this: Uncle Shmuel is preparing a continental 9/11 PSYOP operation.  Even worse is that I don’t see what/who/how anybody could stop it.

Do you?

Kind regards

The Saker

THE DONBASS WAR OF 2021?

07.04.2021 

The Donbass War Of 2021?

Written by J.Hawk exclusively for SouthFront.

Ever since assuming office, the Biden Administration has been probing countries it designated as America’s enemies for weaknesses through a variety of provocations. So far this approach has not had any successes. China plainly told Biden’s SecState Blinken to go packing, Iran is showing no eagerness to kowtow to Washington under new management, and Russia itself has stayed the course, brushing off verbal attacks and promising either in-kind or asymmetrical responses to any new chicaneries from Washington or Brussels.

That does not mean that Washington has acknowledged defeat. Unwilling to concede, it is liable to escalate a crisis situation elsewhere. Since Navalny’s perennial “poisonings”, “hunger strikes”, and “leg pains” have not had the desired effect on Western governments and his life and health are moreover quite secure in a Russian prison, so the prospect of a new war in Eastern Ukraine is back on the agenda, and the opponents of Nord Stream 2 now have two things to pray for: Aleksey Navalny’s death and a Russia-Ukraine war.

Zelensky on the Spot

The Russian government has made it clear on numerous occasions that it is adhering to the Minsk Agreements, will not abandon the Donbass, but at the same time will not escalate the situation out of the desire to minimize the damage to all concerned. In practical terms it means a continuation of “coercive diplomacy”. Russian military force will be used only if Ukraine attempts to create facts on the ground through offensive action. For that reason it is unlikely in the extreme that Russia will be the one to escalate first. It is worth remembering that both the summer 2014 campaign and the winter 2014/15 campaign were initiated by Kiev which first sent troops and bombers to suppress the then-peaceful protests against the Maidan and referenda to secede, and then to hope to quickly resolve the stalemate. Both operations ended in failure through the efforts of the hastily assembled and armed militias of the breakaway republics, with some “Northern Wind” military support that decimated Ukrainian forces.

Poroshenko survived the disasters that shredded the Ukrainian military thanks to the alliances he’s made with the nationalists while preparing for the Maidan. Zelensky’s position is considerably weaker and more vulnerable to the consequences of a military defeat. Having been elected on a promise to end the war in the Donbass, he has already badly disappointed his supporters on that score. But his transformation into a warhawk, perhaps best characterized by his awkward appearances on the front lines wearing an ill-fitting helmet and a remarkably short armor vest, has not earned him even grudging respect from the nationalists and neo-Nazis on whose shoulders much of Ukraine’s war effort rests. While Poroshenko could get out of many a tight spot with his “Cynical Baderite” jacket, Zelensky is now a very lonely person in Kiev, a hostage to the decisions of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council whose decisions he automatically signs, in contrast with Poroshenko who often simply ignored them.

In practice it means that Zelensky might be in process of being a scapegoat for Ukraine’s all-but-inevitable defeat at the hands of Russian forces hastening to aid the republics in the event of Ukraine’s military scoring early victories. Blackmail might be playing a role in Zelensky’s calculus too. There were persistent reports in March of an imminent release of a documentary implicating Zelensky’s office in the failure of Ukrainian intelligence operation to lure Wagner associates to Ukraine in order to imprison and try them. At the same time, if Zelensky sends his military to a defeat, his reputation will be gravely damaged, possibly to the point of forcing him to resign and even endangering his life. His nervous activity of the first week of April, including a total non-sequitur of a visit to NATO headquarters in order to plead for Ukraine’s quick admission to the alliance, is indicative of a man in a tight spot with no easy ways out.

Resistible Force Meets Immovable Object

Zelensky might be in a less anxious mood if he had a reliable military instrument to wield. The Ukrainian Armed Forces are not that instrument. While the Russian military entered 2014 rather unprepared for the prospect of high-intensity land warfare thanks to the Serdyukov reforms that made the brigade the main tactical unit, since that time much lost ground has been recovered through the reactivation of several divisions and armies, such as the First Guards Tank Army, and modernization of Land Forces’ equipment. Russia’s military today is a considerably more impressive force than it was seven years ago.

Meanwhile Ukraine’s armed forces stagnated. Unmodernized T-64 remains its most numerous main battle tank while production of light armored vehicles proceeds at a trickle. Considering that artillery has been the most active arm in the years of static warfare along the line of separation, Ukraine’s “god of war” remains in poor shape and is suffering from ammunition shortage. In the last decade, Ukraine has suffered seven major ammunition depot explosions, in addition to the tremendous expenditure of munitions during the 2014 and 2015 battles and the occasional escalations of shelling since. Since Ukraine is a failing state that cannot even maintain its crumbling civilian infrastructure, it is little wonder that it has failed to establish domestic munitions manufacture. It did receive some supplies of weapons and munitions from NATO member states which have stores of Soviet-pattern weapons themselves, most notably Bulgaria, but little in the way of heavy artillery munitions. Since Ukraine also does not manufacture artillery pieces, specifically the technology-intensive barrels, for either its tanks or howitzers, the existing artillery park is being gradually used up, and every shell fired not only diminishes existing reserves but also adds to the wear and tear of the artillery pieces. An effort to provide cheap indirect fire capabilities by procuring 120mm “Molot” mortars manufactured in a factory owned by Poroshenko did not live up to expectations. There have been several cases of these mortars bursting during live fire exercises, with dire consequences for their crews. And if a simple technology of a mortar cannot be mastered by Ukraine’s defense industry, what success can it have attempting more challenging tasks?

Nor is the human factor any better. To borrow Wellington’s characterization of his own soldiers, UAF rank and file are “scum of the earth, enlisted to drink.” Military service remains highly unpopular and attracts only those who cannot find lucrative employment in the civilian economy—or abroad. Draft evasion and bribery of military recruitment officials is widespread, leading the Rada to drastically increase penalties for such activities to include lengthy prison terms. Even if such measures do not result in an exodus of able-bodied males out of the country, they are hardly likely to fill the ranks with motivated recruits. In the first week of April 2021 alone, Ukrainian forces have lost on average one soldier a day to non-combat causes, which included alcohol and drug overdoses, careless handling of weapons, suicide, and murder. The single greatest killer of Ukrainian soldiers, however, are their own minefields, which have killed 57 soldiers and injured 126 between July 27, 2020 (the beginning of the last ceasefire) and April 3, 2021, a statistic indicating a very low level of training and discipline.

Units themselves remain understrength. Some of the brigades are short of 60% of enlisted personnel and 30% of officers. Troops’ low morale translated into not only irregular and erratic training but also into poor equipment maintenance habits. An inspection of the 59th Brigade whose results fell into the hands of Novorossia intelligence services revealed that as of March 2020, some 60% of the brigade’s heavy weapons and vehicles were either greatly behind their maintenance schedule or were altogether unserviceable. The brigade has not held any maneuvers because the fuel supplies delivered to its logistics units never made it to the actual tactical subunits, suggesting theft by brigade’s leadership.

Cossack Mace

For all of the above reasons, a Ukrainian military operation, even a limited one, seems unlikely in the immediate future. The very visible Ukrainian troop movements meant that no element of surprise could be achieved. The aim appears to have been to relocate sizable formations to the Donbass so as to provide them with an ability to launch a quick, almost no-warning attack in the future, after Novorossia’s vigilance has been dulled by months of alerts and provocations.

Unless other events intervene, the period of greatest danger will be the Cossack Mace exercise held during the summer of 2021. The aim of the exercise which will take place under British leadership is to practice repelling a “Russian invasion” and then launching an offensive to secure the Ukraine-Russia border which would mean the end of Novorossia.

The fact of British leadership is particularly worrisome, since that country seems to have undertaken the task of “dirty tricks” on Washington’s behalf. In this instance, the “dirty trick” could be using the exercise to rehearse invasion of the Donbass immediately prior to its execution or, equally plausibly, the exercise itself might turn into an invasion. Foreign command of the invasion would be consistent with the Ukrainian trend of slipping under direct control by Western powers, and reminiscent of the role of the Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI) in the planning and execution of Croatia’s Operation Storm in 1995.

One can’t even rule out direct British participation in such an operation, since a British-supported Ukrainian offensive against Novorossia forces would not be an offensive against Russia. The Defence Review released in March 2021 stated that the British Army would stand up four so-called “ranger regiments”, or battalion-sized formations whose aim would be to train “indigenous forces” and, if need be, actually go to battle with them in order to pursue British interests as part of the “Global Britain” project. An addition of professional British soldiers, in conjunction with British planning and execution of the operation, would provide a morale boost to the UAF and increase the chances of at least moderate success. Once embedded within Ukrainian forces, British troops would also serve as a deterrent against a direct Russian intervention.

An Ounce of Prevention

It may well be that the sudden Russian troop movements, the reinforcement of Crimea, and even Belarus’ deployment to the border of Ukraine, indicate contingency planning to launch an enveloping counteroffensive that would trap Ukrainian forces in a giant cauldron between the Dnepr River and Novorossia itself. At the very least, their presence forces Ukraine to divert forces away from its offensive grouping on the Donbass toward the border with Russia and even Belarus. It is also possible that the snap deployment was intended to pre-empt Ukraine’s increasingly obvious moves to mount an offensive during the summer, an offensive with direct foreign military employment. Russia’s pre-emption may also include a changed status of the Donbass. President Putin’s declaration that the rights of 600,000 holders of Russian passports in Novorossia has become a priority for him. An official recognition of Novorossia, combined with the placement of a Russian peacekeeper force, would stop the Ukrainian offensive dead in its tracks and moreover render any British participation unsustainable, though at certain diplomatic cost due to the withdrawal from the Minsk Agreements it would entail. The forceful Russian response has already had the effect of knocking not only Ukraine but, judging by the panicky demands for Russia to “explain” its troop movements, all of NATO. It communicated that under no circumstances will Ukraine enjoy tactical, operational, or strategic surprise. Now the question is whether Russia and major European powers can craft a diplomatic solution that will allow Zelensky to back down in a face-saving manner, thus ending the danger of war against the Donbass.

British “ranger regiments” and “greyzone warfare”

Use of NATO forces directly vs. unrecognized republics is no the same as use of NATO forces against Russia. Recognition by Russia would, on the other hand, create an additional layer of deterrence, though associated with risks for Russia.

If LPR/DPR are formally recognized by the Russian Federation which then spreads the umbrella of “extended deterrence” which, it should be noted, is backed by a potent nuclear arsenal. It would also mean Russia’s formal rejection of Minsk Agreements and of the Normandy Four format, creating a legal limbo fraught with unpredictability. NATO countries which committed themselves to preserving Ukraine’s “sovereignty and integrity” could hardly be expected to ratify this move.

Major minelaying operations by Ukrainian forces, which may be part of the offensive preparations. The greater the extent and intensity of mines on a certain sector of the front, the greater the ability to concentrate forces on other sectors—suggesting that whichever  sectors of the front are not seeing a minelaying operations are being reserved as corridors for future assault, making them eligible for DPR/LPR defensive minelaying.

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Ukraine redux: war, Russophobia and Pipelineistan

Ukraine redux: war, Russophobia and Pipelineistan

April 07, 2021

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

Ukraine and Russia may be on the brink of war – with dire consequences for the whole of Eurasia. Let’s cut to the chase, and plunge head-on into the fog of war.

On March 24, Ukrainian President Zelensky, for all practical purposes, signed a declaration of war against Russia, via decree No. 117/2021.

The decree establishes that retaking Crimea from Russia is now Kiev’s official policy. That’s exactly what prompted an array of Ukrainian battle tanks to be shipped east on flatbed rail cars, following the saturation of the Ukrainian army by the US with military equipment including unmanned aerial vehicles, electronic warfare systems, anti-tank systems and man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS).

More crucially, the Zelensky decree is the proof any subsequent war will have been prompted by Kiev, debunking the proverbial claims of “Russian aggression.” Crimea, since the referendum of March 2014, is part of the Russian Federation.

It was this (italics mine) de facto declaration of war, which Moscow took very seriously, that prompted the deployment of extra Russian forces to Crimea and closer to the Russian border with Donbass. Significantly, these include the crack 76th  Guards Air Assault Brigade, known as the Pskov paratroopers and, according to an intel report quoted to me, capable of taking Ukraine in only six hours.

It certainly does not help that in early April US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, fresh from his former position as a board member of missile manufacturer Raytheon, called Zelensky to promise “unwavering US support for Ukraine’s sovereignty.” That ties in with Moscow’s interpretation that Zelensky would never have signed his decree without a green light from Washington.

Controlling the narrative

Sevastopol, already when I visited in December 2018, is one of the most heavily defended places on the planet, impervious even to a NATO attack. In his decree, Zelensky specifically identifies Sevastopol as a prime target.

Once again, we’re back to 2014 post-Maidan unfinished business.

To contain Russia, the US deep state/NATO combo needs to control the Black Sea – which, for all practical purposes, is now a Russian lake. And to control the Black Sea, they need to “neutralize” Crimea.

If any extra proof was necessary, it was provided by Zelensky himself on Tuesday this week in a phone call with NATO secretary-general and docile puppet Jens Stoltenberg.

Zelensky uttered the key phrase: “NATO is the only way to end the war in Donbass” – which means, in practice, NATO expanding its “presence” in the Black Sea. “Such a permanent presence should be a powerful deterrent to Russia, which continues the large-scale militarization of the region and hinders merchant shipping.”

All of these crucial developments are and will continue to be invisible to global public opinion when it comes to the predominant, hegemon-controlled narrative.

The deep state/NATO combo is imprinting 24/7 that whatever happens next is due to “Russian aggression.” Even if the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) launch a blitzkrieg against the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics. (To do so against Sevastopol in Crimea would be certified mass suicide).

In the United States, Ron Paul has been one of the very few voices to state the obvious:  “According to the media branch of the US military-industrial-congressional-media complex, Russian troop movements are not a response to clear threats from a neighbor, but instead are just more ‘Russian aggression.’”

What’s implied is that Washington/Brussels don’t have a clear tactical, much less strategic game plan: only total narrative control.

And that is fueled by rabid Russophobia – masterfully deconstructed by the indispensable Andrei Martyanov, one of the world’s top military analysts.

A possibly hopeful sign is that on March 31, the chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, General Valery Gerasimov, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, talked on the phone about the proverbial “issues of mutual interest.”

Days later, a Franco-German statement came out, calling on “all parties” to de-escalate. Merkel and Macron seem to have gotten the message in their videoconference with Putin – who must have subtly alluded to the effect generated by Kalibrs, Kinzhals and assorted hypersonic weapons if the going gets tough and the Europeans sanction a Kiev blitzkrieg.

The problem is Merkel and Macron don’t control NATO. Yet Merkel and Macron at least are fully aware that if the US/NATO combo attacks Russian forces or Russian passport holders who live in Donbass, the devastating response will target the command centers that coordinated the attacks.

What does the hegemon want?

As part of his current Energizer bunny act, Zelensky made an extra eyebrow-raising move. This past Monday, he visited Qatar with a lofty delegation and clinched a raft of deals, not circumscribed to LNG but also including direct Kiev-Doha flights; Doha leasing or buying a Black Sea port; and strong “defense/military ties” – which could be a lovely euphemism for a possible transfer of jihadis from Libya and Syria to fight Russian infidels in Donbass.

Right on cue, Zelensly meets Turkey’s Erdogan next Monday. Erdogan’s intel services run the jihadi proxies in Idlib, and dodgy Qatari funds are still part of the picture. Arguably, the Turks are already transferring those “moderate rebels” to Ukraine. Russian intel is meticulously monitoring all this activity.

A series of informed discussions – see, for instance, here and here – is converging on what may be the top three targets for the hegemon amid all this mess, short of war: to provoke an irreparable fissure between Russia and the EU, under NATO auspices; to crash the Nord Steam 2 pipeline; and to boost profits in the weapons business for the military-industrial complex.

So the key question then is whether Moscow would be able to apply a Sun Tzu move short of being lured into a hot war in the Donbass.

On the ground, the outlook is grim. Denis Pushilin, one of the top leaders of the Lugansk and Donetsk people’s republics, has stated that the chances of avoiding war are “extremely small.” Serbian sniper Dejan Beric – whom I met in Donetsk in 2015 and who is a certified expert on the ground – expects a Kiev attack in early May.

The extremely controversial Igor Strelkov, who may be termed an exponent of “orthodox socialism,” a sharp critic of the Kremlin’s policies who is one of the very few warlords who survived after 2014, has unequivocally stated that the only chance for peace is for the Russian army to control Ukrainian territory at least up to the Dnieper river. He stresses that a war in April is “very likely”; for Russia war “now” is better than war later; and there’s a 99% possibility that Washington will not fight for Ukraine.

On this last item at least Strelkov has a point; Washington and NATO want a war fought to the last Ukrainian.

Rostislav Ischenko, the top Russian analyst of Ukraine whom I had the pleasure of meeting in Moscow in late 2018, persuasively argues that, “the overall diplomatic, military, political, financial and economic situation powerfully requires the Kiev authorities to intensify combat operations in Donbass.

“By the way,” Ischenko added, “the Americans do not give a damn whether Ukraine will hold out for any time or whether it will be blown to pieces in an instant. They believe they stand to gain from either outcome.”

Gotta defend Europe

Let’s assume the worst in Donbass. Kiev launches its blitzkrieg. Russian intel documents everything. Moscow instantly announces it is using the full authority conferred by the UNSC to enforce the Minsk 2 ceasefire.

In what would be a matter of 8 hours or a maximum 48 hours, Russian forces smash the whole blitzkrieg apparatus to smithereens and send the Ukrainians back to their sandbox, which is approximately 75km north of the established contact zone.

In the Black Sea, incidentally, there’s no contact zone. This means Russia may send out all its advanced subs plus the surface fleet anywhere around the “Russian lake”: They are already deployed anyway.

Once again Martyanov lays down the law when he predicts, referring to a group of Russian missiles developed by the Novator Design Bureau: “Crushing Ukies’ command and control system is a matter of few hours, be that near border or in the operational and strategic Uki depth. Basically speaking, the whole of the Ukrainian ‘navy’ is worth less than the salvo of 3M54 or 3M14 which will be required to sink it. I think couple of Tarantuls will be enough to finish it off in or near Odessa and then give Kiev, especially its government district, a taste of modern stand-off weapons.”

The absolutely key issue, which cannot be emphasized enough, is that Russia will not (italics mine) “invade” Ukraine. It doesn’t need to, and it doesn’t want to. What Moscow will do for sure is to support the Novorossiya people’s republics with equipment, intel, electronic warfare, control of airspace and special forces. Even a no-fly zone will not be necessary; the “message” will be clear that were a NATO fighter jet to show up near the frontline, it would be summarily shot down.

And that brings us to the open “secret” whispered only in informal dinners in Brussels, and chancelleries across Eurasia: NATO puppets do not have the balls to get into an open conflict with Russia.

One thing is to have yapping dogs like Poland, Romania, the Baltic gang and Ukraine amplified by corporate media on their “Russian aggression” script. Factually, NATO had its collective behind unceremoniously kicked in Afghanistan. It shivered when it had to fight the Serbs in the late 1990s. And in the 2010s, it did not dare fight the Damascus and Axis of Resistance forces.

When all fails, myth prevails. Enter the US Army occupying parts of Europe to “defend” it against – who else? – those pesky Russians.

That’s the rationale behind the annual US Army DEFENDER-Europe 21, now on till the end of June, mobilizing 28,000 soldiers from the US and 25 NATO allies and “partners.”

This month, men and heavy equipment pre-positioned in three US Army depots in Italy, Germany and the Netherlands will be transferred to multiple “training areas” in 12 countries. Oh, the joys of travel, no lockdown in an open air exercise since everyone has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Pipelineistan uber alles

Nord Stream 2 is not a big deal for Moscow; it’s a Pipelineistan inconvenience at best. After all the Russian economy did not make a single ruble out of the not yet existent pipeline during the 2010s – and still it did fine. If NS2 is canceled, there are plans on the table to redirect the bulk of Russian gas shipments towards Eurasia, especially China.

In parallel, Berlin knows very well that canceling NS2 will be an extremely serious breach of contract – involving hundreds of billions of euros; it was Germany that requested the pipeline to be built in the first place.

Germany’s energiewende (“energy transition” policy) has been a disaster. German industrialists know very well that natural gas is the only alternative to nuclear energy. They are not exactly fond of Berlin becoming a mere hostage, condemned to buy ridiculously expensive shale gas from the hegemon – even assuming the hegemon will be able to deliver, as its fracking industry is in shambles. Merkel explaining to German public opinion why they must revert to using coal or buy shale from the US will be a sight to see.

As it stands, NATO provocations against NS2 proceed unabated – via warships and helicopters. NS2 needed a permit to work in Danish waters, and it was granted only a month ago. Even as Russian ships are not as fast in laying pipes as the previous ships from Swiss-based Allseas, which backed down, intimidated by US sanctions, the Russian Fortuna is making steady progress, as noted by analyst Petri Krohn: one kilometer a day on its best days, at least 800 meters a day. With 35 km left, that should not take more than 50 days.

Conversations with German analysts reveal a fascinating shadowplay on the energy front between Berlin and Moscow – not to mention Beijing. Compare it with Washington: EU diplomats complain there’s absolutely no one to negotiate with regarding NS2. And even assuming there would be some sort of deal, Berlin is inclined to admit Putin’s judgment is correct: the Americans are “not agreement-capable.” One just needs to look at the record.

Behind the fog of war, though, a clear scenario emerges: the deep state/NATO combo using Kiev to start a war as a Hail Mary pass to ultimately bury NS2, and thus German-Russian relations.

At the same time, the situation is evolving towards a possible new alignment in the heart of the “West”: US/UK pitted against Germany/France. Some Anglosphere exceptionals are certainly more Russophobic than others.

The toxic encounter between Russophobia and Pipelineistan will not be over even if NS2 is completed. There will be more sanctions. There will be an attempt to exclude Russia from SWIFT. The proxy war in Syria will intensify. The hegemon will go no holds barred to keep creating all sorts of geopolitical harassment against Russia.

What a nice wag-the-dog op to distract domestic public opinion from massive money printing masking a looming economic collapse. As the empire crumbles, the narrative is set in stone: it’s all the fault of “Russian aggression.”

Rosatom Trolls and Advertises Northern Sea Route During Suez Traffic Jam (Ruslan Ostashko)

April 03, 2021

Source

Translated by Sasha and subtitled by Leo.

A specimen of real, as opposed to false creativity has been once again demonstrated by one of the Russian state corporations – Rosatom. Its PR team used the jamming of the Suez canal by a container ship for advertising the Northern Sea Route and for trolling to the Western ‘partners’.

The situation in the Suez canal vividly demonstrated why Russia is strengthening its position in the Arctic. A huge container carrier that jammed the main transport artery of the planet has caused gigantic losses – $10 billion a day. That is if we don’t count all sorts of indirect consequences like a local oil shortage caused by its delivery delays.

Source – Izvestiya: “Tankers carrying $400 million worth of oil found themselves blocked by the ship ‘Ever Given’ which ran aground in the Suez Canal a few days ago. The magazine South China Morning Post reported this on March 26 from sources of the analytical agency Kpler.”

With this situation as the background, our Rosatom began quite creatively advertising our Northern Sea Route, aiming precisely at the foreign audience.

Rosatom: “Thread: reasons to consider Northern Sea Route as a viable alternative to the Suez Canal Route.

1. Way more space to draw peculiar pictures using your giant ships.

2. If you get icebound, we have icebreakers, well to break the ice.

3. You might get stuck in the Suez Canal for days.”

This is not only an advert but also a trolling addressed at the Anglo-Saxon russophobes who believe that they control the key transport arterials of the planet. In the past they did. However, as the climate is ch sanging and the Russian icebreaker fleet is growing, the Western control over the trade between the South-East Asia and the European Union is doomed to weaken. Such incidents as the blocking of the Suez Canal merely urge the product suppliers from China to EU to ponder whether it is worth a risk of getting stuck in a jam and ensuring losses or better to entrust the steering of the container ships to the Russian icebreakers.

The blocking of the canal also reminds the Europeans how important is the Northern Stream 2 for them. Because it is not only the oil tankers that were stuck in the canal. The carriers with the liquid gas from Qatar were there too. In the meantime, the pipeline deliveries from Russia are protected from such risk. Oil has already reacted to this. Spot prices of gas, particularly the liquid petroleum gas, may rise for a brief period. But something else is interesting here. The Head of the National Energy Security Foundation Konstantin Simonov says: “The accident vividly demonstrated the advantage of Russia as the gas supplier to Europe and that pipelines should not be written off,” the expert said.

Source – Russian Gazette: “Europe gets the bulk of its LPG from Qatar and the gas tankers sail via the Suez Canal. Taking into account the empty gas storages due to lower temperatures during the past winter, the blockage of this route leaves Europe with three options: either to buy more of Russian pipeline gas or again the Russian LPG, or to buy the LPG in the USA. Had the Northern Stream 2 been in operation now, as it was initially planned, Europe would not have had any problems with gas supply.”

Like that! The ‘sworn partners’ of Russia are used to thinking they have everything under control. However such incidents demonstrate how fragile is the Western civilization in reality, dependent on a mount of various factors that have a lot less influence on us. I already raised this topic when back in I discussed the frost in Texas. Now, looking at the fuss around the container carrier blocking the Suez, I am left with nothing else but the urge to join the question put forward by a spiteful Russian political writer, Viktor Marakhovsky:

Source – Telegram channel Marakhovskoye Vremya: “Dear respected friends, I do not understand the bureaucratic hubbub around the container carrier in the Suez Canal. I can name a few ways of clearing the ship straight away. First, to start a flashmob in the social networks, to colour the avatars and to share the #IyouContainerCarrier tag, to declare a sitting school strike. Second, to invite the Avengers, although I think Hulk and Vision can manage, if just two of them. Third, to ask the modern visionary who earlier dug the super speed tunnels, rescued the children from the cave and solved the electricity supply in Australia. He surely has something up his sleeve.”

“It is impossible that the leading civilization, presided by the architect of the universe, would turn out to be unable to easily and simply straighten some barge that got turned by the wind (!) And it can’t be that some lousy wind block 12% of global trade. …Or can it be that civilization thinks too much of itself?”

That is a rhetorical question. But the salvation, just like the anti-COVID vaccine, will come from Russia. Our icebreakers will escort all the ships to their intended destinations. Don’t doubt that. And a banal wind, may it be even the Arctic one, is no obstacle for the Russian technology. If someone doesn’t want it, well, let them spend additional exuberant sums on insurance due to being stuck in the Suez Cana

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