ROCKETS POUND US BASE IN NORTHERN IRAQ LEADING TO CASUALTIES

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The United States has already started bearing the consequences of the decision of the Biden administration to halt the troop drawdown from the Greater Middle East.

On February 15th, 14 rockets struck the area of the US military base near Erbil International Airport, 4 of them within the compound, 10 of which were near strikes. One private contractor was killed and 5 were injured. In a rare event, 1 US service member was also wounded.

The location of the attack coincides with Turkey’s operation “Claw Eagle 2” which targets the alleged Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) positions. Most of northern Iraq was on edge, as a result.

Turkey and the US, as NATO allies appear to not be cooperating whatsoever, as they’re pursuing separate goals in largely the same areas of the Middle East.

Ankara’s activities contribute to the chaos of the Middle East situation, as it targets the PKK, while the US mostly targets and is targeted by Iranian-backed forces.

Another US ally, this time one that aligns its activities with it – Israel struck unknown targets around Damascus.

It launched missiles from the occupied Golan Heights, and many of them were intercepted by Syrian air defenses, however, some landed on their targets. It is unclear what was targeted and what the damage was.

There have been no strikes by Israel through Lebanese airspace after a drone was downed, and Hezbollah vowed to attempt to destroy any Israeli aircraft that encroaches on its airspace.

Movements throughout the Middle East are beginning for the US and its allies.

In Iraq, many of the targeted convoys in the last several weeks have reached their destinations.

With a lack of reports of convoy targeting, it would appear that the currently static positions are under threat.

Iran is continuing its movements, undermining US and Israeli influence, and it has had general success in recent weeks. The US is fighting back against it.

On February 11th, a truck moving supplies for an Iranian-backed unit, al-Haydariyun, was targeted near Syria’s border with Iraq.

According to the Resistance Media Network, the truck was targeted by a drone likely operated by the US military.

In Yemen, the US said it would attempt to impose a peace deal, on its own terms. It claims to stop supporting Saudi Arabia’s genocidal intervention. Washington, however, also continues providing defensive services and intelligence.

Following Joe Biden’s first foreign policy speech, the time for the US to move has come. In the coming days, the “fight against ISIS” is sure to ramp up, alongside various other movements throughout the Middle East.

IRANIAN ROCKETS BECOME EVEN MORE POWERFUL AS ISRAEL LACKS OPTIONS TO CONTAIN TEHRAN INFLUENCE

South Front

Despite Israel’s best efforts, Iran’s influence and presence in the Middle East, and in Syria specifically is spreading.

One could blame that on the Biden administration’s halt in the “maximum pressure” campaign, but that influence was increasing even when Donald Trump sat in the White House.

Currently, Iran is furthering its interests and there is little to truly deter it.

On February 1st, Iran carried out its first successful missile launch since Joe Biden became president.

The missile is the Zuljanah, Iran’s newest domestic built satellite-carrying rocket. It is hailed as Tehran’s “most powerful rocket engine” and it can either carry a 220-kilogram satellite, or up to 10 smaller ones.

The Trump Administration, and also Israel have repeatedly accused Iran of using such tests as a way to develop capability for ballistic missiles with a nuclear warhead.

On the very same day, Iran also notified the US that it couldn’t simply rejoin the Nuclear Deal, that the sanctions had to go.

Currently, the Biden Administration appears to be considering its actions, and is not undertaking any further movements to antagonize Tehran.

This stillness is something Israel is discontent with, as it provides Iran and its proxies to operate rather freely.

Tel Aviv is likely feeling a sense of urgency, as even Hezbollah launched an anti-aircraft missile at its drone. That is a rare occurrence.

The Iron Dome was also recently updated and tested out against advanced drones and smaller missiles. That is something both Iran and its proxies are quite adequate at employing.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) arrested a shepherd who cross from Syria into soil occupied by Israel and was apprehended. Threats are all around, and the paranoia is growing.

The concern and need to dig in and protect its own is also apparent in the Juniper Falcon exercise that began on February 4th. It is a join cooperation between the IDF and US European Command.

The drill focuses on improving cooperation, and improving the joint ability to defend from external threats.

Defending both the Israeli and US interests in the Middle East from external threat may become reality sooner, rather than later.

One of the battlegrounds where the US-Israeli bloc feels itself threatened is Syria. On February 4th, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) announced that it had secured the Homs-Deir Ezzor highway. The next operation may take place in the Hama-Aleppo-Raqqa triangle.

The SAA, together with Russian aerial support, and likely some Iranian assistance are making progress.

When ISIS activity goes down, as a result of these operations, Israel will potentially need to be more careful in its raids and activities, because its adversaries may have their hands mostly untied.

Any neutral observer would easily notice that, currently, Iran and the Damascus government are achieving success in their endeavors. And that happens in spite of the actions of ISIS, Israel, Turkey and the US.

THE VICIOUS CYCLE OF MIDDLE EASTERN “DIPLOMACY”

South Front

26.01.2021 

In the Middle East, the proxy war between Israel and Iran is unfolding with full speed.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) targets various positions in Syria, allegedly damaging Iran’s interests. In return, Tehran’s allies and proxies target Israel’s allies throughout various positions in the Middle East.

On January 22nd, IDF warplanes struck targets in the vicinity of the city of Hama in central Syria. It was launched from Lebanese airspace, and at least seven missiles hit various targets.

Most of the missiles, however, were intercepted by Syrian defenses. Reportedly a civilian family was killed, as a project struck the heavily populated district of Kazo in Hama city.

It is unclear what specifically was targeted by the IDF, but it usually disregards reports of civilian casualties.

The missiles that were used in the attack turned out to be US-made GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb (SDB), a type of smart bomb.

Following the strikes in Syria, five U.S. supply convoys were attacked in different parts of Iraq.

The first attack took place in the southern city of Nasiriyah, a third of the supplies was destroyed and a vehicle was damaged.

Two of the attacks happened in the central province of Babylon.

The remaining two attacks were carried out in al-Diwaniyah and near Abu Ghraib, west of the capital Baghdad.

There are reports of injuries, no deaths and some damage to equipment and supplies. Injuries were suffered by members of the US-led coalition in Iraq, and not just Iraqi contractors doing their job for a wage.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq – Ashab al-Kahf claimed responsibility for all five attacks and vowed to continue carrying them out.

Saudi Arabia, a behind-the-scenes ally of Israel, and a very open ally of the U.S. was also subject to an attack.

On January 23, Saudi defenses intercepted a missile or a drone attack over Riyadh. Social media users posted videos of what appeared to be an explosion in the air over the city.

The Houthis haven’t claimed responsibility of the attack, or commented on it. However, according to reports, Iran recently deployed advanced Shahed-136 suicide drones to the Ansar Allah movement in order to assist them in their fight against the Saudi-backed coalition.

On the previous day, Saudi Arabia reported that it had foiled an attempted attack by a booby-trapped boat, and another drone attack, but no evidence was provided apart from the claim.

The situation in the Middle East is in a sort of vicious cycle. Israel targets reported Iranian positions throughout Syria. Tehran then responds by targeting Israel’s allies through its proxies.

Neither of the sides directly targets each other, at least not yet. Tel Aviv has even vowed to carry out a strike on Iran’s nuclear program if the Biden Administration rejoins the Iran Nuclear Deal. In own turn, Iran seems to be rock-solid to retaliate.

MILITARY AND POLITICAL TRENDS OF 2020 THAT WILL SHAPE 2021

South Front

2020 was a year full of surprises. It marked the advent of a new reality which may, with an equal probability, lead humanity to a new dark age or to a global digital dystopia. In this context, there is little room for a positive scenario of sustainable development that would benefit people in general, as opposed to just a group of select individuals and special interest groups. The heft of shifts in 2020 is comparable to what European citizens felt on the eve of another change of the socio-economic formation in the early 17th  and 20th centuries.

The past year began with the assassination of the Iranian military genius General Qasem Soleimani by the United States, and it ended with the murder of the prominent scholar Mohsen Fakhrizadeh by the Israelis.

Iran's top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh assassinated near Tehran -  YouTube

In early January, Iran, expecting another aggressive action from the West, accidently shot down a Ukrainian civil aircraft that had inexplicably altered its course over Tehran without request nor authorization. Around the same time, Turkey confirmed the deployment of its military in Libya, beginning a new phase of confrontation in the region, and Egypt responding with airstrikes and additional shows of force. The situation in Yemen developed rapidly: taking advantage of the Sunni coalition’s moral weakness, Ansar Allah achieved significant progress in forcing the Saudis out of the country in many regions. The state of warfare in northwestern Syria has significantly changed, transforming into the formal delineation of zones of influence of Turkey and the Russian-Iranian-Syrian coalition. This happened amid, and largely due to the weakening of U.S. influence in the region. Ankara is steadily increasing its military presence in the areas under its responsibility and along the contact line. It has taken measures to deter groups linked to Al-Qaeda and other radicals. As a result, the situation in the region is stabilizing, which has allowed Turkey to increasingly exert control over most of Greater Idlib.

ISIS cells remain active in the eastern and southern Syrian regions. Particular processes are taking place in Quneitra and Daraa provinces, where Russian peace initiatives were inconclusive by virtue of the direct destructive influence of Israel in these areas of Syria. In turn, the assassination of Qasem Soleimaniin resulted in a sharp increase in the targeting of American personnel, military and civil infrastructure in Iraq. The U.S. Army was forced to regroup its forces, effectively abandoning a number of its military installations and concentrating available forces at key bases. At the same time, Washington flatly rejected demands from Baghdad for a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops and promised to respond with full-fledged sanctions if Iraq continued to raise this issue. Afghanistan remains stable in its instability. Disturbing news comes from Latin America. Confrontation between China and India flared this year, resulting in sporadic border clashes. This situation seems far from over, as both countries have reinforced their military posture along the disputed border. The aggressive actions of the Trump administration against China deepen global crises, which has become obvious not only to specialists but also to the general public. The relationship between the collective West and the Russian Federation was re-enshrined in “the Cold War state”, which seems to have been resurrected once again.

The turbulence of the first quarter of 2020 was overshadowed by a new socio-political process – the corona-crisis, the framework of which integrates various phenomena from the Sars-Cov2 epidemic itself and the subsequent exacerbation of the global economic crisis.  The disclosure of substantial social differences that have accumulated in modern capitalist society, lead to a series of incessant protests across the globe. The year 2020 was accompanied by fierce clashes between protesters professing various causes and law enforcement forces in numerous countries. Although on the surface these societal clashes with the state appear disassociated, many share related root causes. A growing, immense wealth inequality, corruption of government at all levels, a lack of any meaningful input into political decision making, and the unmasking of massive censorship via big tech corporations and the main stream media all played a part in igniting societal unrest.

In late 2019 and early 2020 there was little reason for optimistic projections for the near future. However, hardly anyone could anticipate the number of crisis events and developments that had taken place during this year. These phenomena affected every region of the world to some extent.

Nevertheless, Middle East has remained the main source of instability, due to being an arena where global and regional power interests intertwine and clash. The most important line of confrontation is between US and Israel-led forces on the one hand, and Iran and its so called Axis of Resistance. The opposing sides have been locked in an endless spiral of mutual accusations, sanctions, military incidents, and proxy wars, and recently even crossed the threshold into a limited exchange of strikes due to the worsening state of regional confrontation. Russia and Turkey, the latter of which has been distancing itself from Washington due to growing disagreements with “NATO partners” and changes in global trends, also play an important role in the region without directly entering into the confrontation between pro-Israel forces and Iran.

As in the recent years, Syria and Iraq remain the greatest hot-spots. The destruction of ISIS as a terrorist state and the apparent killing of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi did not end its existence as a terror group. Many ISIS cells and supporting elements actively use regional instability as a chance to preserve the Khalifate’s legacy. They remain active mainly along the Syria-Iraq border, and along the eastern bank of the Euphrates in Syria. Camps for the temporary displaced and for the families and relatives of ISIS militants on the territory controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in north-eastern Syria are also breeding grounds for terrorist ideology. Remarkably, these regions are also where there is direct presence of US forces, or, as in the case of SDF camps, presence of forces supported by the US.

The fertile soil for radicalism also consists of the inability to reach a comprehensive diplomatic solution that would end the Syrian conflict in a way acceptable to all parties. Washington is not interesting in stabilizing Syria because even should Assad leave, it would strengthen the Damascus government that would naturally be allied to Russia and Iran. Opposing Iran and supporting Israel became the cornerstone of US policy during the Trump administration. Consequently, Washington is supporting separatist sentiments of the Kurdish SDF leadership and even allowed it to participate in the plunder of Syrian oil wells in US coalition zone of control in which US firms linked to the Pentagon and US intelligence services are participating. US intelligence also aids Israel in its information and psychological warfare operations, as well as military strikes aimed at undermining Syria and Iranian forces located in the country. In spite of propaganda victories, in practice Israeli efforts had limited success in 2020 as Iran continued to strengthen its positions and military capabilities on its ally’s territory. Iran’s success in establishing and supporting a land corridor linking Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Iraq, plays an important role. Constant expansion of Iran’s military presence and infrastructure near the town of al-Bukamal, on the border of Iraq and Syria, demonstrates the importance of the project to Tehran. Tel-Aviv claims that Iran is using that corridor to equip pro-Iranian forces in southern Syria and Lebanon with modern weapons.

The Palestinian question is also an important one for Israel’s leadership and its lobby in Washington. The highly touted “deal of the century” turned out to be no more than an offer for the Palestinians to abandon their struggle for statehood. As expected, this initiative did not lead to a breakthrough in Israeli-Palestinian relations. Rather the opposite, it gave an additional stimulus to Palestinian resistance to the demands that were being imposed. At the same time, Trump administration scored a diplomatic success by forcing the UAE and Bahrain to normalize their relations with Israel, and Saudi Arabia to make its collaboration with Israel public. That was a historic victory for US-Israel policy in the Middle East. Public rapprochement of Arab monarchies and Israel strengthened the positions of Iran as the only country which not only declares itself as Palestine’s and Islamic world’s defender, but actually puts words into practice. Saudi Arabia’s leadership will particularly suffer in terms of loss of popularity among its own population, already damaged by the failed war in Yemen and intensifying confrontation with UAE, both of which are already using their neighbor’s weakness to lay a claim to leadership on the Arabian Peninsula.

The list of actors strengthening their positions in the Red Sea includes Russia. In late 2020 it became known that Russia reached an agreement with Sudan on establishing a naval support facility which has every possibility to become a full-blown naval base. This foothold will enable the Russian Navy to increase its presence on key maritime energy supply routes on the Red Sea itself  and in the area between Aden and Oman straits. For Russia, which has not had naval infrastructure in that region since USSR’s break-up, it is a significant diplomatic breakthrough. For its part. Sudan’s leadership apparently views Russia’s military presence as a security factor allowing it to balance potential harmful measures by the West.

During all of 2020, Moscow and Beijing continued collaboration on projects in Africa, gradually pushing out traditional post-colonial powers in several key areas. The presence of Russian military specialists in the Central African Republic where they assist the central government in strengthening its forces, escalation of local conflicts, and ensuring the security of Russian economic sectors, is now a universally known fact. Russian diplomacy and specialists are also active in Libya, where UAE and Egypt which support Field Marshal Khaftar, and Turkey which supports the Tripoli government, are clashing. Under the cover of declarations calling for peace and stability, foreign actors are busily carving up Libya’s energy resources. For Egypt there’s also the crucial matter of fighting terrorism and the presence of groups affiliated with Muslim Brotherhood which Cairo sees as a direct threat to national security.

The Sahel and the vicinity of Lake Chad remain areas where terror groups with links to al-Qaeda and ISIS remain highly active. France’s limited military mission in the Sahara-Sahel region has been failure and could not ensure sufficient support for regional forces in order to stabilize the situation. ISIS and Boko-Haram continue to spread chaos in the border areas between Niger, Nigeria, Cameroun, and Chad. In spite of all the efforts by the region’s governments, terrorists continue to control sizable territories and represent a significant threat to regional security. The renewed conflict in Ethiopia is a separate problem, in which the federal government was drawn into a civil war against the National Front for the Liberation of Tigray controlling that province. The ethno-feudal conflict between federal and regional elites threatens to destabilize the entire country if it continues.

The explosive situation in Africa shows that post-colonial European powers and the “Global Policeman” which dominated that continent for decades were not interested in addressing the continent’s actual problem. Foreign actors were mainly focused on extracting resources and ensuring the interests of a narrow group of politicians and entities affiliated with foreign capitals. Now they are forced to compete with the informal China-Russia bloc which will use a different approach that may be a described as follows: Strengthening of regional stability to protect investments in economic projects. Thus it is no surprise that influential actors are gradually losing to new but more constructive forces.

Tensions within European countries have been on the rise during the past several years, due to both the crisis of the contemporary economic paradigm and to specific regional problems such as the migration crises and the failure of multiculturalism policies, with subsequent radicalization of society.

Unpleasant surprises included several countries’ health care and social protection networks’ inability to cope with the large number of COVID-19 patients. Entire systems of governance in a number of European countries proved incapable of coping with rapidly developing crises. This is true particularly for countries of southern Europe, such as Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Greece. Among eastern European countries, Hungary’s and Romania’s economies were particularly badly affected. At the same time, Poland’s state institutions and economy showed considerable resilience in the face of crisis. While the Federal Republic of Germany suffered considerable economic damage in the second quarter of 2020, Merkel’s government used the situation to inject huge sums of liquidity into the economy, enhanced Germany’s position within Europe, and moreover Germany’s health care and social protection institutions proved capable and sufficiently resilient.

Coronavirus and subsequent social developments led to the emergence of the so-called “Macron Doctrine” which amounts to an argument that EU must obtain strategic sovereignty. This is consistent with the aims of a significant portion of German national elites. Nevertheless, Berlin officially criticized Macron’s statements and has shown willingness to enter into a strategic partnership with Biden Administration’s United States as a junior partner. However, even FRG’s current leadership understands the dangers of lack of strategic sovereignty in an era of America’s decline as the world policeman. Against the backdrop of a global economic crisis, US-EU relations are ineluctably drifting from a state of partnership to one of competition or even rivalry. In general, the first half of 2020 demonstrated the vital necessity of further development of European institutions.

The second half of 2020 was marked by fierce mass protests in Germany, France, Great Britain, and other European countries. The level of violence employed by both the protesters and law enforcement was unprecedented and is not comparable to the level of violence seen during protests in Russia, Belarus, and even Kirgizstan. Mainstream media did their best to depreciate and conceal the scale of what was happening. If the situation continues to develop in the same vein, there is every chance that in the future, a reality that can be described as a digital concentration camp may form in Europe.

World media, for its part, paid particular attention to the situation in Belarus, where protests have entered their fourth month following the August 9, 2020 presidential elections. Belarusian protests have been characterized by their direction from outside the country and choreographed nature. The command center of protest activities is officially located in Poland. This fact is in and of itself unprecedented in Europe’s contemporary history. Even during Ukraine’s Euromaidan, external forces formally refused to act as puppetmasters.

Belarus’ genuinely existing socio-economic problems have led to a rift within society that is now divided into two irreconcilable camps: proponents of reforms vs. adherents of the current government. Law enforcement forces which are recruited from among President Lukashenko’s supporters, have acted forcefully and occasionally harshly. Still, the number of casualties is far lower than, for example, in protests in France or United States.

Ukraine itself, where Western-backed “democratic forces” have already won, remains the main point of instability in Eastern Europe. The Zelenskiy administration came to power under slogans about the need to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine and rebuild the country. In practice, the new government continued to pursue the policy aimed at maintaining military tension in the region in the interests of its external sponsors and personal enrichment.

For the United States, 2020 turned out to be a watershed year for both domestic and foreign policy. Events of this year were a reflection of Trump Administration’s protectionist foreign policy and a national-oriented approach in domestic and economic policy, which ensured an intense clash with the majority of Washington Establishment acting in the interests of global capital.

In addition to the unresolved traditional problems, America’s problems were made worse by two crises, COVID-19 spread and BLM movement protests. They ensured America’s problems reached a state of critical mass.

One can and should have a critical attitude toward President Trump’s actions, but one should not doubt the sincerity of his efforts to turn the slogan Make America Great Again into reality. One should likewise not doubt that his successor will adhere to other values. Whether it’s Black Lives Matter or Make Global Moneymen Even Stronger, or Russia Must Be Destroyed, or something even more exotic, it will not change the fact America we’ve known in the last half century died in 2020. A telling sign of its death throes is the use of “orange revolution” technologies developed against inconvenient political regimes. This demonstrated that currently the United States is ruled not by national elites but by global investors to whom the interests of ordinary Americans are alien.

This puts the terrifying consequences of COVID-19 in a new light. The disease has struck the most vulnerable layers of US society. According to official statistics, United States has had about 20 million cases and over 330,000 deaths. The vast majority are low-income inhabitants of mega-cities. At the same time, the wealthiest Americans have greatly increased their wealth by exploiting the unfolding crisis for their own personal benefit. The level of polarization of US society has assumed frightening proportions. Conservatives against liberals, blacks against whites, LGBT against traditionalists, everything that used to be within the realm of public debate and peaceful protest has devolved into direct, often violent, clashes. One can observe unprecedented levels of aggression and violence from all sides.

In foreign policy, United States continued to undermine the international security system based on international treaties. There are now signs that one of the last legal bastions of international security, the New START treaty, is under attack. US international behavior has prompted criticism from NATO allies. There are growing differences of opinion on political matters with France and economic ones with Germany. The dialogue with Eastern Mediterranean’s most powerful military actor Turkey periodically showed a sharp clash of interests.

Against that backdrop, United States spent 2020 continuously increasing its military presence in Eastern Europe and the Black Sea basin. Additional US forces and assets were deployed in direct proximity to Russia’s borders. The number of offensive military exercises under US leadership or with US participation has considerably increased.

In the Arctic, the United States is acting as a spoiler, unhappy with the current state of affairs. It aims to extend its control over natural resources in the region, establish permanent presence in other countries’ exclusive economic zones (EEZ) through the use of the so-called “freedom of navigation operations” (FONOPs), and continue to encircle Russia with ballistic missile defense (BMD) sites and platforms.

In view of the urgent and evident US preparations to be able to fight and prevail in a war against a nuclear adversary, by defeating the adversary’s nuclear arsenal through the combination of precision non-nuclear strikes, Arctic becomes a key region in this military planning. The 2020 sortie by a force of US Navy BMD-capable AEGIS destroyers into the Barents Sea, the first such mission since the end of the Cold War over two decades ago, shows the interest United States has in projecting BMD capabilities into regions north of Russia’s coastline, where they might be able to effect boost-phase interceptions of Russian ballistic missiles that would be launched in retaliatory strikes against the United States. US operational planning for the Arctic in all likelihood resembles that for South China Sea, with only a few corrections for climate.

In Latin America, the year of 2020 was marked by the intensification of Washington efforts aimed at undermining the political regimes that it considered to be in the opposition to the existing world order.

Venezuela remained one of the main points of the US foreign policy agenda. During the entire year, the government of Nicolas Maduro was experiencing an increasing sanction, political and clandestine pressure. In May, Venezuelan security forces even neutralized a group of US mercenaries that sneaked into the country to stage the coup in the interests of the Washington-controlled opposition and its public leader Juan Guaido. However, despite the recognition of Guaido as the president of Venezuela by the US and its allies, regime-change attempts, and the deep economic crisis, the Maduro government survived.

This case demonstrated that the decisive leadership together having the support of a notable part of the population and working links with alternative global centers of power could allow any country to resist to globalists’ attacks. The US leadership itself claims that instead of surrendering, Venezuela turned itself into a foothold of its geopolitical opponents: China, Russia, Iran and even Hezbollah. While this evaluation of the current situation in Venezuela is at least partly a propaganda exaggeration to demonize the ‘anti-democratic regime’ of Maduro, it highlights parts of the really existing situation.

The turbulence in Bolivia ended in a similar manner, when the right wing government that gained power as a result of the coup in 2019 demonstrated its inability to rule the country and lost power in 2020. The expelled president, Evo Morales, returned to the country and the Movement for Socialism secured their dominant position in Bolivia thanks to the wide-scale support from the indigenous population. Nonetheless, it is unlikely that these developments in Venezuela and Bolivia would allow to reverse the general trend towards the destabilization in South America.

The regional economic and social turbulence is strengthened by the high level of organized crime and the developing global crisis that sharpened the existing contradictions among key global and regional players. This creates conditions for the intensification of existing conflicts. For example, the peace process between the FARC and the federal government is on the brink of the collapse in Colombia. Local sources and media accuse the government and affiliated militias of detentions and killings of leaders of local communities and former FARC members in violation of the existing peace agreement. This violence undermine the fragile peace process and sets conditions for the resumption of the armed struggle by FARC and its supporters. Mexico remains the hub for illegal migration, drug and weapon trafficking just on the border with the United States. Large parts of the country are in the state of chaos and are in fact controlled by violent drug cartels and their mercenaries. Brazil is in the permanent state of political and economic crisis amid the rise of street crime.

These negative tendencies affect almost all states of the region. The deepening global economic crisis and the coronavirus panic add oil to the flame of instability.

Countries of South America are not the only one suffering from the crisis. It also shapes relations between global powers. Outcomes of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and the global economic crisis contributed to the hardening of the standoff between the United States and China.

Washington and Beijing have insoluble contradictions. The main of them is that China has been slowly but steadily winning the race for the economic and technological dominance simultaneously boosting own military capabilities to defend the victory in the case of a military escalation. The sanction, tariff and diplomatic pressure campaign launched by the White House on China since the very start of the Trump Presidency is a result of the understanding of these contradictions by the Trump administration and its efforts to guarantee the leading US position in the face of the global economic recession. The US posture towards the South China Sea issues, the political situation in Hong Kong, human rights issues in Xinjiang, the unprecedented weapon sales to Taiwan, the support of the militarization of Japan and many other questions is a part of the ongoing standoff. Summing up, Washington has been seeking to isolate China through a network of local military alliances and contain its economic expansion through sanction, propaganda and clandestine operations.

The contradictions between Beijing and Washington regarding North Korea and its nuclear and ballistic missile programs are a part of the same chain of events. Despite the public rhetoric, the United States is not interested in the full settlement of the Korea conflict. Such a scenario that may include the reunion of the North and South will remove the formal justification of the US military buildup. This is why the White House opted to not fulfill its part of the deal with the North once again assuring the North Korean leadership that its decision to develop its nuclear and missile programs and further.

Statements of Chinese diplomats and top official demonstrate that Beijing fully understands the position of Washington. At the same time, China has proven that it is not going to abandon its policies aimed at gaining the position of the main leading power in the post-unipolar world. Therefore, the conflict between the sides will continue escalating in the coming years regardless the administration in the White House and the composition of the Senate and Congress. Joe Biden and forces behind his rigged victory in the presidential election will likely turn back from Trump’s national-oriented economic policy and ‘normalize’ relations with China once again reconsidering Russia as Enemy #1. This will not help to remove the insoluble contradictions with China and reverse the trend towards the confrontation. However, the Biden administration with help from mainstream media will likely succeed in hiding this fact from the public by fueling the time-honored anti-Russian hysteria.

As to Russia itself, it ended the year of 2020 in its ordinary manner for the recent years: successful and relatively successful foreign policy actions amid the complicated economic, social and political situation inside the country. The sanction pressure, coronavirus-related restrictions and the global economic crisis slowed down the Russian economy and contributed to the dissatisfaction of the population with internal economic and social policies of the government. The crisis was also used by external actors that carried out a series of provocations and propaganda campaigns aimed at undermining the stability in the country ahead of the legislative election scheduled for September 2021. The trend on the increase of sanction pressure, including tapering large infrastructure projects like the Nord Stream 2, and expansion of public and clandestine destabilization efforts inside Russia was visible during the entire year and will likely increase in 2021. In the event of success, these efforts will not only reverse Russian foreign policy achievements of the previous years, but could also put in danger the existence of the Russian statehood in the current format.

Among the important foreign policy developments of 2020 underreported by mainstream media is the agreement on the creation of a Russian naval facility on the coast of the Red Sea in Sudan. If this project is fully implemented, this will contribute to the rapid growth of Russian influence in Africa. Russian naval forces will also be able to increase their presence in the Red Sea and in the area between the Gulf of Aden and the Gulf of Oman. Both of these areas are the core of the current maritime energy supply routes. The new base will also serve as a foothold of Russia in the case of a standoff with naval forces of NATO member states that actively use their military infrastructure in Djibouti to project power in the region. It is expected that the United States (regardless of the administration in the White House) will try to prevent the Russian expansion in the region at any cost. For an active foreign policy of Russia, the creation of the naval facility in Sudan surpasses all public and clandestine actions in Libya in recent years. From the point of view of protecting Russian national interests in the Global Oceans, this step is even more important than the creation of the permanent air and naval bases in Syria.

As well as its counterparts in Washington and Beijing, Moscow contributes notable efforts to the modernization of its military capabilities, with special attention to the strategic nuclear forces and hypersonic weapons. The Russians see their ability to inflict unacceptable damage on a potential enemy among the key factors preventing a full-scale military aggression against them from NATO. The United Sates, China and Russia are in fact now involved in the hypersonic weapon race that also includes the development of means and measures to counter a potential strike with hypersonic weapons.

The new war in Nagorno-Karabakh became an important factor shaping the balance of power in the South Caucasus. The Turkish-Azerbaijani bloc achieved a sweeping victory over Armenian forces and only the involvement of the Russian diplomacy the further deployment of the peacekeepers allowed to put an end to the violence and rescue the vestiges of the self-proclaimed Armenian Republic of Artsakh. Russia successfully played a role of mediator and officially established a military presence on the sovereign territory of Azerbaijan for the next 5 years. The new Karabakh war also gave an additional impulse in the Turkish-Azerbaijani economic and military cooperation, while the pro-Western regime in Armenia that expectedly led the Armenian nation to the tragedy is balancing on the brink of collapse.

The Central Asia traditionally remained one of the areas of instability around the world with the permanent threat of militancy and humanitarian crisis. Nonetheless, despite forecasts of some analysis, the year of 2020 did not become the year of the creation of ISIS’ Caliphate 2.0 in the region. An important role in preventing this was played by the Taliban that additionally to securing its military victories over the US-led coalition and the US-backed Kabul government, was fiercely fighting ISIS cells appearing in Afghanistan. The Taliban, which controls a large part of Afghanistan, was also legalized on the international scene by direct talks with the United States. The role of the Taliban will grow and further with the reduction of the US military presence.

While some media already branded the year of 2020 as one of the worst in the modern history, there are no indications that the year of 2021 will be any brighter or the global crises and regional instability will magically disappear by themselves. Instead, most likely 2020 was just a prelude for the upcoming global shocks and the acute standoff for markets and resources in the environment of censorship, legalized total surveillance, violations of human rights under ‘democratic’ and ‘social’ slogans’ and proxy wars.

The instability in Europe will likely be fueled by the increasing cultural-civilizational conflict and the new wave of newcomers that have acute ideological and cultural differences with the European civilization. The influx of newcomers is expected due to demographic factors and the complicated security, social situation in the Middle East and Africa. Europe will likely try to deal with the influx of newcomers by introducing new movement and border restrictions under the brand of fighting coronavirus. Nonetheless, the expected growth of the migration pressure will likely contribute to the negative tendencies that could blow up Europe from inside.

The collapse of the international security system, including key treaties limiting the development and deployment of strategic weapons, indicates that the new detente on the global scene will remain an improbable scenario. Instead, the world will likely move further towards the escalation scenario as at least a part of the current global leadership considers a large war a useful tool to overcome the economic crisis and capture new markets. Russia, with its large territories, rich resources, a relatively low population, seems to be a worthwhile target. At the same time, China will likely exploit the escalating conflict between Moscow and the US-led bloc to even further increase its global positions. In these conditions, many will depend on the new global order and main alliances within it that are appearing from the collapsing unipolar system. The United States has already lost its unconditional dominant role on the international scene, but the so-called multipolar world order has not appeared yet. The format of this new multipolar world will likely have a critical impact on the further developments around the globe and positions of key players involved in the never-ending Big Game.

No Expiry Date for Retaliation of Heinous Crime Against General Soleimani – Iran

No Expiry Date for Retaliation of Heinous Crime Against General Soleimani - Iran

By Staff, Agencies

Chief of staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri said on Thursday that there is no expiry date for taking revenge on assassination of Iranian Commander Lt. General Qassem Soleimani.

Baqeri made the remarks in a message on the eve of the first martyrdom anniversary of General Soleimani [January 3].

Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guard [IRG] Quds Force Lt. General Soleimani was assassinated in the US terrorist attack on his motorcade at Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020.

A day after the assassination of General Soleimani, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran reserves the right to take revenge by proportionate military action, and will do it.

At his message, Baqeri said the US should leave the West Asia region; this is inevitable, and all revolutionary youth across the region and the world will make double effort to achieve the end.

Baqeri stressed the need to follow General Soleimani’s guidelines.

He further highlighted determination of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Muslim nations and freedom-seekers across the world advocating proportionate retaliation of the crime.

Iran’s Armed Forces will continue following up the resistance ideology with strong motivation, he stressed.

Baqeri said that martyr Soleimani could get the hearts of the Islamic Ummah closer and create coherence among them.

General Soleimani strengthened the Resistance front against the Zionist regime of ‘Israel’ and destroyed the US hegemony clout, he added.

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Russia vs a Biden Administration

THE SAKER • DECEMBER 29, 2020 

It sure looks like Biden will take over the White House one way or another, and while Trump and his supporters might still try a few things, the political correlation of forces inside the US ruling classes is clearly against Trump. As for the “deplorables” – they have been neutralized by stealing the election. Which means that Russia will soon face the most rabidly russophobic gang of messianic Neocons in history. So what can the world expect next?

The Dems are not meaningfully different from the Republicans. True, the Dems blame Russia for everything, while the Republicans blame China. Not much of a difference here: it is all about hate and scapegoating. And both of these factions of the oligarchic Uniparty like to blame Iran for, well, being located in the “wrong” part of the world, the Middle-East, which all US politicians (and not to mention their Israeli masters) want to control. As for the Israel Lobby, it has been trying to trigger a US attack on Iran for many decades. Recent US moves of key personnel and bombers might indicate that discussions of an attack on Iran are still very much taking place.

I don’t believe that these fundamental directions in US foreign policy will change much.

Why?

Primarily because the AngloZionist Empire and even the US as we knew them are basically dead, which means that irrespective of who is in control of the US, the objective means/capabilities of the Empire and the US will remain the same. In other words, when Biden promises to show Russia how tough and mighty he will be, he will not have any more capabilities to threaten Russia with than Trump had.

So the first thing we can expect is simply “more of the same”.

Now, in the Empire of Illusions which the United States has become, appearances matter much more than facts. US politicians have two quasi-reflexive reactions to any problem: use violence or throw money at it. Of course, using violence against Russia (or China and Iran) would be extremely dangerous. So throwing money at a problem is the way chosen by the US political elites (see here for the, rather boring, details).

A lot of that money will also be spent on ideological nonsense like supporting trans-gender rights in Africa, woke-awareness in the Baltic, “critical race theory” in Japan (good luck with that!), “Holocaust studies” in Poland and the like.

What will happen next is that this money will be spread amongst a pretty large US and EU bureaucracy (and its subcontractors) to all sorts of political PR actions aimed at presenting modern Russia as “Putin’s Mordor” whose “Nazguls” (scary GRU and/or SVR and/or FSB agents) run around the planet looking for more targets to infect with the totally ineffective, but still scary, “Novichok”. In the past, much of that money was spent inside Russia by all sorts of CIA-run NGOs and much of it was also spent on various propaganda efforts outside Russia. Again, this will not change, if anything, expect even more money poured into what are in reality strategic PSYOP operations.

The sad truth is that US politicians know very little about Russia, a country which they hate and fear, but not a country they even begin to understand. In this case, what US politicians will not realize is that Russia herself has changed a great deal in the past years: many new laws and regulation (see machine translated example here) were adopted which, in essence, “plugged” many political “holes” in the Russian legislation which allowed AngloZionist organizations to have a great deal of influence in Russia. As a result of these reforms, it has become far more difficult for western run NGOs to influence the Russian political scene.

As a direct result of these new rules, I expect that a higher ratio of money will stay allocated to activities situated in the West and less for Russian-based activities. In plain English, this means that more US printed money will be spent on completely useless activities. The only people benefitting from this will be the entire class of pseudo “Russia experts” whose only true expertise is on how to secure grant money. They will produce even more conferences and papers which nobody will care about, but which will allow the US Neocons and their deep state to show how “Biden is firm with Russia”. The typical US cocktail of waste, mismanagement and fraud (and let’s not forget good old corruption!).

Russia’s response to that will also be “more of the same”: Russian politicians will continue to express their disgust with their western “partners” (FYI – when Russians speak of “partners” it is understood by all that they mean this only sarcastically). Foreign Minister Lavrov and one of his deputies have recently made statements basically indicating that Russia will not seek any (!) form of dialog with the West, because, frankly, it is pretty clear to them that this is a total waste of time: Russia has nobody in the West to speak to: the only country with real agency (albeit severely limited by its subordination to Israel) would be the US, all the other countries of the West are really colonies and/or protectorates with no sovereignty at all.

What about all the many military provocations the Empire is organizing all around Russia? Do they concern Russia leaders or not?

Well, no and yes.

In purely military terms, US/NATO military capabilities are no real threat to Russia whose military is much smaller, but also much more capable than the western ones. Why? Simply because building a truly powerful military has been a core strategic priority for the Kremlin who needed a military actually capable of a) deterring the West from attacking Russia and b) defeating the West should deterrence fail. In sharp contrast, western militaries have not been training for real wars for decades already: most of what the US/NATO do is using western militaries for all sorts of propaganda purposes (like “sending messages” or “showing determination” etc.) and for counter-insurgency operations, not for fighting a real, major, wars.

Right now the Russian military is much more modern (about 80% of new gear on average across all military branches and services!) and much better trained for real combat operations. In sharp contrast, the US MIC is heavy on hot air (Space Force! Hypersonic missiles! Artificial Intelligence!) and short on any actually deployed and engageable weapon systems. Away from the propaganda machine (aka “corporate legacy ziomedia”), the reality is that the West is about 1.5-2 decades behind Russia in most critical military technologies.

Last, but not least, wars are not won by machines, computers or fancy engineering: they are won by soldiers, real men, who know what they are defending and why. The contrast between the typical Russian soldier (in any service or branch of the military) and his western counterpart could not be greater than it is today. Simply put: no western country can boast that it has soldiers like Russia has and, again, I don’t mean the “super dooper” elite Spetsnaz operators, I am talking about your very average, garden variety, infantry soldier, like the ones who saved Russia in the Chechen conflict in spite of operating in truly horrible and totally chaotic circumstances. These guys might not look like much, but as soldiers they are the kind every commander dreams about.

All this is to say that Russians have nothing to fear from all the western sabre-rattling, except maybe one thing: the rogue officer, on either side, who would suddenly decide to open fire (for whatever reason) thereby creating a situation which could escalate into a full-scale war very rapidly.

The other thing which is objectively bad for Russia is the number of key treaties the US has now withdrawn from: these treaties are most needed, especially as confidence building measures. Right now there are very few treaties left and that means that the US is desperate to try to suck Russia into an arms race.

This won’t work.

Why?

Putin himself explained it very well when he recently said that while the West throws huge sums of money at any problem, Russia allocates brains, not money. According to Putin, it is the use of brains, rather than wasting money, which allowed Russia to develop all the weapon systems mentioned by Putin for the first time in 2018. This made it possible for Russia to get ahead by a decade or more, while using only a small fraction of the kind of money the US, and other western countries, are allocating on “defense” (while not being threatened by anybody!). In the competition between the US money printing press and the Russian brains, you can be sure that the latter one will always prevail.

The bottom line is this: the US can spend many hundred billion dollars on “countering Russian (or Chinese) influence”, but this will do absolutely nothing to help the objective circumstances and capabilities of the Empire or the US.

So the real question is what will change on the level below direct military confrontation.

In a recent press conference, Putin mentioned something very interesting about the outgoing Trump administration. He said:

“The current administration introduced new sanctions against Russia 46 times – against our legal entities and economic operators. Forty-six times – this has never ever happened before. But at the same time, bilateral trade grew by 30 percent over the previous year, oddly enough, even despite those restrictions.”

So if the putatively pro-Russian Trump Administration sanctioned Russia 46 times, it is normal for the Russians to look at Biden with equanimity or even a resigned fatalism: “the West has always hated us, the West still hates us and the West will always hate us” – this truism is all but unanimously accepted amongst Russian politicians.

Still, we can count on Biden and Harris to try to show how “tough” they are on Russia and Putin: they will show their prowess mostly by demanding that their NATO/EU colonies and protectorates continue “send messages” to Russia and show their “unity” and “solidarity” with each other, mostly by parroting self-evidently nonsensical Anglo and German propaganda. Will the bilateral trade between Russia and the US continue to grow? Probably not as the list of corporations and agencies the US declares to be under sanctions will only grow further. But never say never, especially with the comprehensively hypocritical Dems…

How about the kind of self-evidently ridiculous stories about Russians using (a clearly ineffective) combat biological agent like the so-called “Novichok”, trying to kill irrelevant bloggers and failing to do so, or some variation on “animal Assad” “poisoning his own people”? Will that nonsense also continue? Probably, mainly simply because this is something which the Empire has demonstratively proved that it has the ability to do. So why not continue, especially with a press corps willing to parrot even the most ridiculous nonsense.

The bottom line is this: to get a sense of what any actor could do next, one always has to multiply intentions by capabilities. If there is one thing which the outgoing Maga Administration has shown, is that its declared intentions and actual capabilities are not at all commensurate: hence the long list of countries Trump threatened, but never meaningfully attacked. “Biden” (and I use this term very loosely, meaning “Biden and his real handlers”) will inherit the very same geostrategic toolkit Trump had at his disposal for four years and which did not make it possible for him to effectively flex muscles, not even against weak and nearby Venezuela! We can be pretty sure that the rhetoric about Russia will get even more hate-filled and paranoid. Petty harassment (such as arrest of nationals, closures of offices, expulsion from various international events, etc.) will also continue, not so much because they work, but because a lot of people depend on these for their salary.

How likely is a shooting war? In my personal opinion, not very likely at all. I think that the folks at the Pentagon are mostly aware of the real world out there, and they probably recognize that the US armed forces are in no condition to fight any halfway capable opponent.

How likely is it that the US will use a protectorate like the Ukraine or Georgia to reignite another local war? It is not impossible, especially since the US did support SBU infiltration of terrorists into Russia. Keep in mind that the sole goal of such (a, frankly, suicidal) attack would be to provoke Russia into a military response, not to actually achieve anything else. The main problem here is that the regular armed forces of the Ukraine and Georgia are in no condition to fight, and that the (US letter soup controlled) Ukrainian and Georgian special services have already tried this many times, and so far without success, mainly because, unlike all the western countries, Russia has the actual means to lock her borders when needed.

What about the reported plan to destabilize Russia by creating conflicts all along her periphery?

It would take way too long for me here to describe what is taking place in each of these countries right now, but I will offer just the following bullet points:

  • Russia has officially declared that she will never allow Belarus to be conquered by the West (irrespective of the means used). That ship has sailed.
  • Russia is slowly, but surely and very successfully “choking” the economies of the three Baltic statelets, mostly by denying them transit of Russian cargo and by letting them cut themselves off (yes, they did that to themselves!) from the Russian-Belarusian energy network.
  • Poland is, as always, very loud, and, also as always, highly irrelevant. Poles are only potentially dangerous to a very weak, divided country, or when backed by powerful patrons. Neither is true nowadays.
  • The Ukraine poses no threat to Russia, it is way too weak, too corrupt, too mismanaged and too poor to represent a threat to Russia. The Minsk Agreements have been de-facto rejected by the entire Ukronazi political class and the Donbass is now gone forever.
  • The Caucasus is now firmly in Russian hands (there is no force capable of challenging the Southern Military District or the 58th Combined Arms Army in the region). Those who believe that Turkey strengthened its position in the region simply do not understand the outcome of the recent war (especially the very interesting drone war which showed that while Armenia could not deal with them, Russian EW literally destroyed Turkish drones in mid-air (this also happened in Syria, by the way).
  • Central Asia is an inherently unstable region, mainly because these countries never succeeded in effectively transitioning from the Soviet period to full independence. And yes, the US has a great deal of influence in this region. But only Russia can provide effective security guarantees to the leaders of Central Asia, they all know that. Finally, Kazakhstan plays an important “buffer” role for Russia, putting distance between her and her chronically unstable southern neighbors.
  • In the Far East, Russia and China are enjoying a long honeymoon in which their already very deep relationship only gets deeper and their collaboration stronger (in spite of western PSYOPs trying to scare Russians about how China wants to take Siberia, and other silly fairy tales). Russia is now even supplying key strategic defense technologies to China.
  • Last, but most certainly not least, Russia has total superiority in the Arctic, where the West is many decades behind Russia. In fact, Russia is massively expanding her capabilities (civilian and military) in the Russian north, which will give her even more weight on our planet’s very rich north.

Now ask yourself: do you see any of that changing in the next 4 years, even assuming a rabidly hostile Biden Administration? I sure don’t.

Conclusion:

Yes, the political atmosphere between Russia and the Empire will get worse. Most of the “action” will take place in the public media space. The quasi simultaneous collapse of the Anglo-Zionist Empire and the United States (at least as we knew them before the election steal) will not give much time or energy to western leaders to pursue policies which have already failed in the past and for which they simply do not have the means.

Trump or Biden was never a meaningful choice for Russia (only the Russian court jester Zhirinovskii thought otherwise). It’s not much of a choice today either. The most likely consequence of these collapses will be that the world will split in roughly two sections: “Section A” which will include all the countries of the “collective West” and which will be busy trying to survive a crisis which has only begun and “Section B”: the rest of the world, which will try hard to decouple itself from the sinking West and try to develop itself in this rather unstable environment.

Also, many Russians remember the gerontocracy which ruled in the last years of the USSR and they know how such gerontocracies act (make no difference if the country is ruled by a Chernenko or a Biden – such rulers are always weak and clueless).

Biden or Trump – no real difference for Russia.

This is why most Russians don’t care either way.← NATO and the EU Are Sending a “messag…

Naqqash’s solution for Middle East: A Levantine Confederation (Pt. 3)

Source

Description:

In a recent conference held on Zoom and published on YouTube, senior Middle East political analyst Anees Naqqash spoke about his 2014 book titled The Levantine Confederation: The Battle of Identities and Policies.

The book proposes that the solution to the chronic problems of the war-ravaged and tumultuous Middle East region lies in the establishment of a confederation that unites the states of the Levant, or what Naqqash often calls the ‘West Asian region’.

Middle East Observer will gradually be publishing English translations of the author’s online talk over several posts. The following is Part Three.

To read Part One see here.
To read Part Two see here.

Source:  Kalam Siyasi (YouTube Channel)

Date:  Aug 26, 2020

(Important Note: Please help us keep producing independent translations for you by contributing as little as $1/month here)

Transcript:

Anees Naqqash:

In view of this complex situation, I saw that it was our duty to begin the battle for the reestablishment of a new Levant via new political thought, and to determine the priorities of the (ongoing greater) regional conflict and put them in the following order:

The first struggle must be named “national liberation from Western and Zionist hegemony”.  We cannot dream of an economic renaissance and intellectual and social liberation if our countries are still under direct or indirect occupation by Western and Zionist powers. Therefore, the Levantine political parties and movements have to realize that national liberation must be a collective mission to support the resistance movement in the region for the sake of liberating Palestine. During this battle, the American forces in the region must be defeated in order to clear the region of foreign forces and Zionism.

The second mission is to find new political ideas that diverge from Ibn Khaldun’s theory of domination (i.e. there can be no social order without a form of power based upon constraint and domination) because our study of previous empires (shows that) they were ruled by the dominant ethnicities, tribes, clans or families (of those times). The Umayyads were one group who dominated the entire nation just to rule it under the name of the Umayyads. The same applies to the Abbasids and the Ottomans who were the predominant group (in their nation during their respective times). Despite the advantages and the power that these empires had, they were built on domination rather than dialogue. At that time in history, it was probably difficult to have a dialogue that brings together all these ethnicities and peoples in order to build an empire based upon mutual understanding and social contracts. I am saying this to make sure our reading (of events) is realistic. Today, however, domination is no longer acceptable nor permitted, even if it offers a booming economy and heightened regional security. National, innate and religious tendencies remain an obstacle to accepting hegemony and domination of asabiyyah (defined by Ibn Khaldun as social solidarity).

Therefore, our only solution is to present a project of dialogue which we have named “The Levantine Confederation”. This project is built upon an understanding between states that have strong central security, states that are aware of the international conflict and are able to act as a lever to this project by starting a strategic dialogue between each other in order to build a Levantine system similar to the European system.

This (Levantine system) will restore to the Levant its previous empires, not by domination, but by a new socio-political contract that respects (the Levant’s) cultural and religious heritage, respects human rights, and builds a new system without changing the current maps, because changing them may lead to new clashes and instabilities. However, the borders will have minimal restrictions. (In other words,) the black borderline will be turned into a light gray line, similar to the EU borders that are almost non-existent. A person will be able to travel all over the Levant without a need for a travel visa. Goods will be transported from one country to another without paying customs except for a nominal fee. A (Levantine) investor will invest in any (Levantine) country. The economic renaissance can also be integrated with agricultural, industrial and energy – oil and gas – projects, etc.

We will build this (Levantine) system through understanding as Europe did. As a result, we will have fulfilled a big dream of the Islamic movement, i.e. uniting the Ummah (the Islamic community). (This system) would not unite a billion and a half (Muslims), but (at least) it would unite the core (of the Ummah) at the Levant. We will have also realized a huge dream of Arab nationalists who are not chauvinists nor racists. They rather adopted nationalism as an ideology to confront the West or unite Arabs against the Western and Zionist attack, but they failed (to do so).

However, this (Levantine) confederation will include many countries from inside and outside the Arab world, which will contribute towards freeing the Arab region from Zionism and Western control, and ensuring its coexistence with its natural neighbors with whom it shared a history of 1400 years under previous imperial systems.

Consequently, our (project) would have integrated with previous projects that have not succeeded, and we would find a new atmosphere for dialogue away from the atmosphere created by the mouthpiece of Western media financed by petrodollars. Unfortunately, the demonic Western media, with its intellectual toxins that fuel sectarian and ethnic conflicts in our region, no longer comes (to us) in English, nor in French. It is no longer a white man raising these issues to us. Their news rather come via Arab media funded by Arab petrodollars from Gulf countries that have put themselves at the service of the American-Zionist project, which is no longer a secret to anyone.

(To be continued…)


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The Assassin’s Creed: Murder As Israeli State Policy

By Jeremy Salt

Source

“If our dreams for Zionism are not to end in the smoke of assassins’ pistols and our labor for its future to produce only a new set of gangsters worthy of Nazi Germany, many like myself will have to reconsider the position we have maintained for so long in the past.” — Winston Churchill, November, 1944, from his address to the House of Commons on the murder of Britain’s Resident Minister in the Middle East, Lord Moyne, by two members of the zionist terrrorist organization, Lehi. [1]
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh Terror df757

Israel’s crimes against Iran in the past decade include the sabotage through the Stuxnet virus of the centrifuges in its nuclear development program,  the killing through missile attack of its militia members in Syria, the sabotage of its Natanz nuclear plant in July this year and the murder in recent years of five of its leading nuclear scientists,  most recently, a few days ago, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Each of these attacks would have been carried out at least with the approval of the US government, if not the active involvement at some level of both the US and its puppet Iranian terrorist organization, the MEK (Mujahedin e-Khalq). In reverse,  Israel would have been closely involved in the US assassination of  Qasim Suleimani in Iraq in January this year.  These murders might be state operations but are no different in their brazen nature,  their illegality and their brutality from hits organised by Mafia gangs.  In the case of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh,  a distinguished physicist,  he was apparently dragged from his car during the attack and finished off in the middle of the road.  The crime was so heinous that even voices usually hostile to Iran (including the New York Times and former CIA director John Brennan) were appalled.

Each of these attacks is a casus belli for war. Two can play at this game, which means that by these attacks, Israel is virtually inviting the assassination of its own political leaders and military commanders, or its senior representatives abroad. That Iran does not strike back, in the same way, is not necessarily a sign that it does not have the capacity to organise such retaliation.  Apart from the criminality and violations of international law that such actions represent,  Iran is never going to strike back at a time of Israel’s choosing.

Nevertheless, the government is under pressure from its own people to deal a devastating counter-blow, not necessarily against individuals but against Israeli infrastructure such as the port at Haifa.  Each of these provocations pushes Iran closer to the edge, as intended by Israel.  The repeated refusal of the government to respond is being criticised in Iran as a sign of weakness,  as the more Israel gets away with the more it will try to get away with. At the same time, even though Israel is responsible, an Iranian reprisal would trigger off a large-scale military response by Israel and full-scale war that no one in their right mind would want. It is a further sign of the moral void at their centre that Netanyahu and many of the fanatics around him do want such a war and are prepared to drop bombs on live nuclear reactors to achieve their aims

The general view seems to be that Israel did this so Biden would not be able to sign back on to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement from which Trump withdrew the US in 2018. That may be so, but Netanyahu might have calculated that this latest savagery would be the final spark igniting the war he has wanted for years.  Either of these outcomes would suit him.

There are always parallels in history and for Israel’s attempts to provoke an open war with Iran, one parallel would be Israel’s attempts to draw Egypt’s President Gamal Abd al Nasser into war in 1967.  This was no ‘preemptive’ war but another war of choice.  1948 was the first, because only through war could the zionists seize  Palestine, at least most of it.  1967 was the second,  launched to destroy Egypt’s armed forces, to destroy Nasser’s Arab world leadership, and to occupy the rest of Palestine. 

It was strikingly successful. All Palestine ended up under occupation and the Egyptian military was shattered.  Nasir’s pan Arab leadership was not destroyed but gravely weakened by Egypt’s failure to see the war coming and defend itself.

Just as Israel has been trying to draw Iran into the open through the assassination of its scientists and the sabotage of its nuclear plants,  so in the year before the 1967 war it set out to draw Nasser into the open through provocations along the Syrian armistice line.  These took the form of incursions by armored tractors into the DMZ, triggering off shelling by the Syrian army and then air attacks by Israel.  

Although Israel was determined to destroy any Arab nationalist government and to destroy Arab nationalism itself, the main target of these provocations was Nasser.  He was the foremost Arab champion and Israel wanted him where it could get at him.  It knew that sooner or he would have to respond to its provocations on the Syrian front by taking action on the Egyptian front.

When Israel shot down six Syrian planes in April 1967, the ball started to roll.  Israeli politicians talked of going further than ever before, of teaching Syria a lesson, and even of invading Syria and occupying Damascus, 15 years ahead of its invasion of Lebanon and occupation of Beirut. 

By the second week of May, war was regarded as inevitable.  Nasser moved troops and tanks into Sinai and called for the withdrawal of the UN Emergency Force (UNEF) from the armistice line.  Although Israel was the aggressor in the 1956  war, UNEF forces were inside Egypt because Israel refused to accept them on its side of the armistice line, and as usual, it got its way. 

On May 22 Nasser closed the Straits of Tiran, the entrance point to the Gulf of Aqaba, but without actually blocking them to Israeli shipping.  Under pressure,  however,  to stand up to the Israelis,  he had moved the final piece on the board that set the stage for war. 

Israel repeated the rhetoric of 1948.  İt was again being threatened with extermination and annihilation at the hands of an Arab ‘ring of steel.’ In fact,  it knew, and so did the CIA, that it would easily defeat any Arab army or combination of Arab armies.  Behind the panic deliberately set in motion among the Israeli population,  the generals could not wait to get going.   They vowed to be on the banks of the Suez Canal within a week. This was an opportunity  – one they had created – that Israel could not afford to miss. The military would deliver a knockout blow: according to Yigal Allon, “There is not the slightest doubt about the outcome of this war and each of its stages.”

And so it turned out to be.  On the Arab side, there is not the slightest doubt that Nasser did not want war. His threats were those of the Arab champion and his intended audience the Arab world,  but behind the scenes, he was looking for a way out of the crisis into which he had been maneuvered. An Egyptian delegation led by  Vice-President Zakaria Muhi Al-Din was due to fly into Washington on June 7 for talks to begin the following day on bringing the crisis to an end. On June 5, with the window of the opportunity for war about to close,  Israel attacked.

There is symmetry in all of these wars. Israel plays the role of the victim even while preparing to attack.  In 1948 Chaim Weizmann talked of extermination while assuring the Americans behind the scenes that the Arab armies counted for nothing. Israel’s arrogance was checked in the first week of the 1973 war, with humiliation at the hands of Hizbullah waiting in 2000 and 2006.  Yet if there is a learning curve Israel does not see it, an example of what long ago US Senator J. William Fulbright called the “arrogance of power.”

Israel applies the same tactics at the micro as well as the macro level.  On the West Bank and Gaza, it murders and massacres, and when there is a Palestinian response it has its rationale for more crushing blows.  On the West Bank, this usually takes the form of enlarging settlements or building new ones. 

From the Zionist point of view, this has been a good year.  Following the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel by the UAE and Bahrain, the UAE has gone as far as blocking entry visas to the citizens of a dozen Muslim countries while allowing Israelis visa-free entry.  Talks in Saudi Arabia between Netanyahu and Muhammad bin Salman – apparently arranged without the knowledge of the king – open the way to the establishment of diplomatic relations, although for the time being this is not expected.  MBS can give Israel most of what it wants without needing to come into the open, and as the nominal custodian of the two holy places such a move would enrage Muslims around the world,  with explosive consequences possible at the time of the hajj.

Israel’s strategic advances also include the commercial,  military, and strategic relationship it is establishing in the eastern Mediterranean with Greece and the Greek government of southern Cyprus, which has already allowed Israeli military units to train on the island because of the similarity of the topography to southern Lebanon. Successfully playing off fears of Iran in the Gulf,  Israel plays off Greek rivalry with Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean.  

Able to attack from the very centre of the central Arab lands – occupied Palestine – Israel is now steadily moving into a position that will eventually enable it to threaten Arab states and Iran from the periphery, from the gulf in the southwest and from the northeastern corner of the Mediterranean.  It has pushed these doors open and on the basis of all its past behavior, it will keep pushing until it gets what it wants.

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh has antecedents dating back to the barrel bomb murders in Palestinian markets in the 1930s, the assassination of Lord Moyne in Cairo on November 6,  1944,  the blowing up of the King David Hotel in 1946, the assassination of Count Folke Bernadotte in 1948  and the massacres and destruction that have marked the zionist presence in the Middle East ever since.  Whether the enemy is a state, an organization, or an individual,  the enemy must be destroyed.   The standing refusal of the international ‘community’ to punish Israel for any of these crimes only encourages the zionist state to go still further.

Speaking to the House of Commons after the murder of Lord Moyne, Churchill, a strong advocate of Zionism all along,  remarked that “If there to be any hope of a peaceful and successful future for Zionism  these wicked activities must cease and those responsible for  them must be destroyed root and branch.” [2] These wicked activities have never ceased, those responsible for them have never been destroyed root and branch, the smoke of the assassins’ pistols now hangs over an entire region and Zionism has produced generations of criminals fully worthy of Nazi Germany.    

No state can endlessly endure Israel’s provocations. Iran and Hizbullah are playing the long game, compared to Netanyahu’s greed for instant satisfaction but at some point, there will be a limit to what they can endure and then there will be war,  possibly if not probably the most devastating in the modern history of the Middle East.  What will the international ‘community’ say then? It will be far too late to regret that it should have done something to stop Israel earlier.

Endnotes

[1] Catrina Stewart ‘Sir Winston Churchill: Zionist hero,’ Independent, November 3, 2012[2] ‘Palestine (Terrorist Activities) in the House of Commons at 12am on 17th November, 1944.’ theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=1944-11-17a.2242.1  For more on Commons debate on the murder of Lord Moyne,  see also api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/commons/1944/nov/07/assassination-of-lord-moyne#S5CV0404PO_19441107_HOC_294  Churchill assured the House that the Zionists had lost a good friend in Lord Moyne.  According to Yitzhak Shamir, however, one of the architects of the murder, and a terrorist who later became an Israeli Prime Minister (like Menahim  Begin), Moyne was an anti-semite who did not believe in a Jewish nation or a Jewish people.  See Joanna Seidel ‘Yitzhak Shamir: why we killed Lord Moyne,’ Times of Israel, July 5, 2012. 

Persian Gulf in the US and Israel’s Sights

By Viktor Mikhin
Source: New Eastern Outlook

SLM

After more than three years of diplomatic tensions and a hostile media campaign against each other, it seems that Saudi Arabia and Qatar finally decided to settle their relations. Political scientists and experts around the world are now wondering what finally motivated the two rivals to put their differences behind them and start a policy of rapprochement.

In this regard, it should be noted that in June 2017, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates — commonly known as the “Arab Quartet” — severed diplomatic relations with Qatar and imposed a complete blockade on the tiny emirate of the Persian Gulf. These countries, led by Riyadh, closed their airspace, land and sea routes to Qatari planes, cars and ships, prompting Doha to use Iranian airspace. Kuwait, a country stuck in the middle of a dispute between its neighbors, tried diligently to reconcile the opposing sides, and even the “great peacemaker of the Persian Gulf” — now deceased Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al Sabah — entered the case, but to no avail.

In the end, however, Kuwaiti mediation efforts seem to have brought fruit. Kuwaiti Foreign Affairs Minister Sheikh Ahmed Nasser Al-Mohammad Al Sabah spoke on Kuwaiti State Television to read a statement about the split between Qatar and the Arab Quartet:  “Recently, fruitful discussions took place. All parties expressed their interest in unity and stability in the Persian Gulf and Arab countries, as well as in reaching a final agreement that will ensure lasting solidarity”.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia welcomed Kuwait’s efforts, while Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE, which boycotted the emirate along with the Saudis, remain silent. Some news reports suggest that Riyadh has broken off the ranks of these allies to normalize relations with Qatar under US pressure. Bahrain, Egypt, and the UAE are not members of the normalization agreement that the Saudis intend to sign with Qatar. Some Arab media reported that normalization would begin with a bilateral agreement between Riyadh and Doha, followed by Manama and Cairo. The UAE’s stance is still unclear, even if they tend to be reluctant to pursue this issue in the waterway of Saudi Arabia.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani expressed the Qatari optimism regarding the solution of the Persian Gulf crisis, adding that the Emirate has a strong positive attitude towards any initiative that brings peace to the region.  Moreover, Saudi Arabia also expressed optimism that the three-year crisis would soon be resolved. Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said at a conference of the International Institute for Security Studies in Manama, Bahrain, that “significant progress” has been made in resolving the crisis that began in 2017.

Although the details of the deal between Qatar and Saudi Arabia have not yet been made public, political analysts and experts in the region have rightly placed the event in the broader context of “boiling tensions” between Iran, on the one hand, and the United States and Israel, on the other. It should be recognized that the current US president Donald Trump is still defending his advantages to the very last, resorting to all visible and invisible methods. Initially, a plan to launch a military strike on the alleged nuclear facilities of Iran was revealed. In this connection, there was even a secret meeting in the White House, where Trump asked his military and advisers about such a possibility. However, the military, accustomed to a quiet and peaceful life, with the situation with Iran, which has modern air defense equipment and missiles, which can easily cover all US bases in the region with a barrage of fire, has somewhat cooled the fervor of the belligerent president. But, nevertheless, the American President’s advisors, among which is the senior advisor of the White House Hasid Jared Kushner, Trump’s favorite brother-in-law, constantly keep buzzing in the President’s ears about the impending threat to America from “bearded Iranian ayatollahs”.

Finally, a solution was reached – Jared Kushner and his team rushed to Saudi Arabia and Qatar to negotiate in a region bubbling with tension and hatred towards Israel and the United States after the despicable assassination of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who had recently worked on the COVID-19 issue.   The delegation included Ambassadors for the Middle East Avi Berkowitz, Brian Hook and Adam Boler, Executive Director of the American International Development Finance Corporation.  Incidentally, the senior advisor and his team have recently been actively involved in negotiations to normalize relations between Israel and Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan. Officials said in public speeches that they would like to promote and sign more such agreements before President Donald Trump transfers power to President-elect Joe Biden on January 20.

American officials believe, and the US media sometimes write, that Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the deal with Israel will encourage other Arab countries to follow their example. But the Saudis don’t seem to have reached such a milestone deal, and officials in recent weeks have focused on other countries concerned about Iran’s regional influence as a unifying factor.

Kushner’s trip took place shortly after the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh by unknown attackers, whose hand was allegedly pointed by the Israeli Mossad and the American CIA. In fact, a few days before the murder, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Saudi Arabia and met with Mohammed bin Salman, joined by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Given that Joe Biden has repeatedly announced his intention to join an international nuclear pact with Iran, Mohammed bin Salman and Benjamin Netanyahu fear that the future White House master will pursue a policy toward Iran similar to that adopted during Barack Obama’s presidency, which has sharpened Washington’s ties with its traditional regional allies and, in particular, with Israel.

Therefore, there is no doubt that the deal between Qatar and Saudi Arabia will be directed against Iran, although it is not yet clear how it will affect the Iranian-Qatari relationships. Both parties to the deal — Qatar and Saudi Arabia — have not yet gone into detail and, for example, the Qatar embassy in Tehran has refused to comment on any details of the agreement. Yet this deal may not be sufficient to safeguard Qatar’s national interests, especially if it pushes the emirate away from Iran, which has opened its airspace and sea routes to Doha over the past three years. This new arrangement between Riyadh and Doha is obviously of direct relevance to the US, but it is most likely related to Iran, because the situation in the region has not only not changed as a result of thoughtless policies of Washington, but has further strained the situation.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia are still in a state of competition in many countries, such as Libya and Syria. When Qatar was under blockade, it sought support from other countries, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, and therefore, if the Qataris damaged their previous relations by getting closer to the Saudis, there would be very high risks for Doha, the Tehran Times stressed. The newspaper also noted that the establishment of relations between Doha and Riyadh can never be in Qatar’s favor, as Saudi Arabia still does not recognize the role of Doha in regional issues and both countries are fiercely competing in Egypt.

Iran welcomed Kuwait’s mediation efforts to end the three-year crisis between Qatar and the Arab Quartet. But Tehran seems to be closely monitoring the situation in the region in light of US and Israeli efforts to increase pressure on the Islamic Republic.  Iran seeks to strengthen ties with Qatar and other Arab states in the region, but it also seeks to make it clear to those states that it does not accept any restructuring aimed at harming its interests.  “We welcome understandings in the Persian Gulf announced by Kuwait. Iran’s longstanding policy is diplomacy, good neighborly relations & regional dialogue. We hope reconciliation contributes to stability and political & economic development for all peoples of our region,” Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted a few hours after Kuwait issued a statement saying that ”fruitful negotiations“ had been held between all parties to the conflict.

Undoubtedly, the situation in the Persian Gulf is far from any settlement. And even if Riyadh’s Doha settles its difficult relations, the most important question remains — the relations of the United States and Israel with Iran and their futile efforts to change the state system in this Islamic Republic.

Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

The Iranian-Turkish Scandal Over Azerbaijan Is Just A Gigantic Misunderstanding

12 DECEMBER 2020

By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

The Iranian-Turkish Scandal Over Azerbaijan Is Just A Gigantic Misunderstanding

President Erdogan’s recitation of a 19th-century Azeri nationalist poem during his attendance at Baku’s Victory Parade as his Azerbaijani counterpart’s guest of honor last week provoked harsh criticism from Iranian officials who regarded it as implying territorial claims on their country’s three northwestern provinces that form part of the historic Azerbaijan region (which also naturally includes the Republic of Azerbaijan), though the entire scandal is just a gigantic misunderstanding since it’s doubtful that the Turkish leader meant to convey any such intentions and simply wasn’t aware at the time of how negatively those words would be interpreted by the Iranian government.

The Aras River Poem

The Iranian-Turkish Strategic Partnership was rocked by a sudden scandal after Tehran strongly protested President Erdogan’s recitation of a 19th-century national Azeri nationalist poem during his attendance at Baku’s Victory Day parade as his Azerbaijani counterpart’s guest of honor last week. The controversial words that the Turkish leader uttered are as follows: “They separated the Aras River and filled it with rocks and rods. I will not be separated from you. They have separated us forcibly.” This poem has previously been used by some to imply territorial claims on Iran’s three northwestern provinces that form part of the historic Azerbaijan region, which was separated by the Aras River from what is nowadays the Republic of Azerbaijan (which forms the other half of that transnational region) as a result of Russian imperial conquests at the time.

Diplomatic Disagreements

Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif swiftly responded on Twitter by writing that “Pres. Erdogan was not informed that what he ill-recited in Baku refers to the forcible separation of areas north of Aras from Iranian motherland. Didn’t he realize that he was undermining the sovereignty of the Republic of Azerbaijan? NO ONE can talk about OUR beloved Azerbaijan.” The Turkish Ambassador to Iran was then summoned to that country’s Foreign Ministry over President Erdogan’s comments, after which the Iranian Ambassador to Turkey was symmetrically summoned to that country’s Foreign Ministry to deny the allegations made against their leader and complain about Tehran tweeting about this misunderstanding instead of utilizing diplomatic channels to resolve it. The resultant scandal has predictably emboldened opponents of their strategic partnership to become more vocal.

The Iranian-Turkish Strategic Partnership

Objectively speaking, however, the entire issue seems to be a gigantic misunderstanding. It’s extremely unlikely that President Erdogan was aware of the negative historical connotation associated with that nationalist Azeri poem, exactly as Foreign Minister Zarif suggested, but at the same time, Tehran felt obligated to publicly oppose anything that can even remotely be misportrayed by those will ill intent as encouraging Azeri separatism in northwestern Iran. Iran and Turkey are closer nowadays than at any time in recent memory as a result of their geostrategic convergence on several issues of common interest across the so-called “Greater Middle East” such as Nagorno-Karabakh, Syria, and even Libya. It’s therefore unthinkable that President Erdogan would knowingly jeopardize this historic moment just to earn more applause during a parade in Baku.

Azerbaijan’s Regional Integration Proposal

It can’t be known for sure, but President Erdogan might have had his Azerbaijani counterpart’s visionary proposal for a regional integration platform in mind — which he likely would have been briefed about before his trip — when he made the decision to recite that poem during the parade. President Aliyev told reporters after his talks with President Erdogan shortly before the parade started that a new multilateral platform should be created in the region for all the relevant countries to join. The day after, President Erdogan told a Turkish TV channel that “Mr. Putin has a positive view on this idea”, which the Turkish leader also said could include Armenia, Georgia, and Iran as well. If this ambitious platform is successfully created, then the Aras River — among other borders — would naturally transform from a regional barrier into a bridge for regional integration.

Iranian Interests

There’s a pretty good chance that most — if not all — of the relevant countries will decide to join, with the only possible uncertainties between Armenia and Georgia, the first of which might still be sour about its nearly three-decade-long occupation force finally being kicked out of Nagorno-Karabakh while the latter might refuse to join any platform alongside Russia due to their dispute over the status of Abkahzia and South Ossetia (which Tbilisi claims as its own while Moscow recognizes both of them as independent). In any case, Iran has everything to gain by strengthening multilateral strategic relations with Azerbaijan, Russia, and Turkey, especially those with a security dimension such as thwarting any separatist plots of ultra-nationalist radicals in its northwestern provinces who might be influenced by hostile third parties like the US and “Israel”.

President Erdogan’s Optimistic Mindset

Having established the background context of President Erdogan’s controversial remarks, it therefore can’t be discounted that was simply assuming the future successful implementation of the regional integration proposal that President Aliyev had just publicly unveiled immediately prior to the military parade at which his guest of honor was invited to speak. In the Turkish leader’s mind, the nationalist aspirations embodied by that poem could finally be fulfilled through peaceful means as a result of creating a transnational community of peace and prosperity through closer regional integration between Azerbaijan and Iran alongside the other members such as Turkey, Russia, and possibly even Armenia and Georgia that could also join this initiative. Had he known how negatively Iran would have reacted to his words, however, then he might not have said them in hindsight.

Clarifying The Turkish Leader’s Comments

All that President Erdogan seemingly intended to convey was that the era of regional divisions has ended as a new era of regional integration emerges in its wake following Azerbaijan’s glorious military victory over Armenia. He certainly didn’t mean to imply that the Azerbaijan would set its sights on the historic Iranian region of the same name next, but just that the Aras River which has separated the transnational Azeri people for over one and a half centuries might soon transform from a regional barrier to a gateway for regional integration in the event that President Aliyev’s visionary proposal is successful. Having presumably been briefed about it ahead of time, he probably thought that his recitation of that nationalist Azeri poem would speak to the heartfelt aspirations of this divided people without realizing how negatively the Iranian state would react to it.

Hindsight Is 20/20

It’s for this reason that observers can remain optimistic about the prospects of the Iranian-Turkish Strategic Partnership and the larger regional integration goals that their leaders share since both governments will probably realize just how gigantic of a misunderstanding this entire scandal really is after finally speaking to one another about it behind closed doors. President Erdogan likely only had positive intentions in mind, yet Tehran wanted to make sure that no one with ill intent exploited his words, hence its very harsh public reaction to them. In hindsight, perhaps President Erdogan shouldn’t have recited that nationalist poem, the same as Foreign Minister Zarif should have resorted to traditional diplomatic channels to resolve the misunderstanding instead of going public with it, yet neither state representative meant any harm by what they did.

A Sad Misunderstanding

It’s all simply a sad misunderstanding where one well-intended action unwittingly led to another. After President Erdogan recited the nationalist Azeri poem, the Iranian government felt compelled to publicly respond in order to make its displeasure known and preemptively thwart any potentially forthcoming Balkanization attempts by hostile third parties such as the US and “Israel”. It’s regrettable how everything turned out considering the original intent since this scandal has overshadowed President Aliyev’s visionary regional integration proposal. Moreover, the opponents of the Iranian-Turkish Strategic Partnership in both countries and abroad have become more vocal over the past few days, which could set into motion a self-sustaining cycle of distrust among their friendly people if such views aren’t moderated as soon as possible.

Concluding Thoughts

Looking forward, it’s predicted that this scandal will soon pass and that the Iranian-Turkish Strategic Partnership will emerge even stronger as a result, especially if both countries join Azerbaijan’s proposed regional integration platform alongside Russia and perhaps even Armenia and Georgia as well in the best-case scenario. As it stands, all sides should accept that this scandal is just a gigantic misunderstanding and realize in hindsight what they should have done better. Under no circumstances must they submit to the sudden pressure upon them to weaken their newfound strategic partnership since that would only ultimately end up playing into their geopolitical enemies’ hands. The larger region needs closer integration at this historic moment, not a return to the era of distrust and Balkanization plots, which both leaderships seem to understand very well.

CURSE OF SAUDIS: TANKER EXPLOSIONS AND OTHER UNFORTUNATE EVENTS

South Front

A series of unfortunate events linked to the Saudi invasion in Yemen continues to pursue the Kingdom.

On December 14, an explosion hit the Singapore-flagged BW Rhine, a chemical tanker hauling gasoline, off the Saudi port city of Jeddah, which is also known as the distribution center for oil giant Saudi Aramco. The BW Group said that the explosion erupted after the Singapore-flagged BW Rhine was hit by “an external source”, but all 22 sailors on board received no injures. Later, Saudi media claimed that the explosion was caused by an attack with a water-born improvised explosive device. At the time of the attack, the ship was carrying more than 60,000 metric tons of gasoline from the Aramco refinery at Yanbu.

This is not the first attack in the Red Sea waters attributed to the Houthis. About three weeks ago, on November 25, a Greek-managed oil tanker was damaged in a WBIED attack on the Saudi petroleum terminal located near Jeddah. A few days earlier, on November 23, the Houthis struck the Jeddah distribution station with a Quds-2 cruise missile.

The developments in the Red Sea, one of the key areas of global maritime transportation of energy resources, come amid the increase in tensions between Iran and the US-Israeli bloc.

On November 27, the top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated in an apparent US-Israeli plot outside of Tehran. This move contributed to the growth of tensions and Iran, expecting even more attacks before President Trump leaves office, even reinforced its defenses on the coast of the Persian Gulf. The Iranian leadership also promised to avenge the assassination. The increase of attacks on US-Israeli interests and their allies in the region is likely a part of this asymmetric response.

On December 14, Israeli media also reported a large-scale cyberattack on 40 Israeli firms working in the financial, technology and logistics sectors. On December 13, a “sophisticated hacking group backed by a foreign government” allegedly committed a cyber attack and stole information from the U.S. Treasury Department and a U.S. agency responsible for deciding policy reguarding the internet and telecommunications, according to reports in mainstream media. US “anonymous sources” expectedly accused the Russians, but there are more candidates.

In the coming weeks tensions will likely continue to grow in the Greater Middle East, as the United States and Israel are working to secure their recent diplomatic breakthroughs and are taking active steps to entrench the legacy of the 4 years of the Trump presidency.

Trump will continue political civil war to maintain his relevance: analyst

November 20, 2020 – 21:12

By Amir Mohammad Esmaeili

 TEHRAN – Jim W. Dean, the managing editor of Veterans Today, tells the Tehran Times that Donald Trump is going to continue the American political civil war to maintain his relevance, and also to help protect himself from prosecution. 

“There are many, even in U.S. intelligence, who have considered him a national security threat, and who fully expect him to profit from selling U.S. classified material for his personal interest and attempt to rebuild himself after he leaves office as the ideology enforcer of the Republican party, as a big Mafia Don, even those running in primary elections must kneel and kiss the ring of ‘Don’ Trump,” notes Dean, who comes from an old military family going back to the American Revolution.

Here is the full text of the interview:

Q: How do you analyze the U.S. presidential election and its following consequences? 
 
A: It is both a relief and a torment. The thought of four more years of an autocratic Trump regime would have put 79 million Americans into a depression. And not the least of that would be because we have been looking forward to his losing his presidential immunity so the legal cases, including criminal ones, can proceed against him and his family. 

“There are many, even in U.S. intelligence, who have considered him (Trump) a national security threat, and who fully expect him to profit from selling U.S. classified material for his personal profit.”Hundreds of retired ex-prosecutors are ready to assist in this process, people who have served both Republican and Democratic administrations. They are joined in the belief that Trump should be made an example of to dissuade any future autocratic new president thinking that he can follow in Trump’s shoes.

There are many, even in U.S. intelligence, who have considered him a national security threat, and who fully expect him to profit from selling U.S. classified material for his personal profit and attempt to rebuild himself after he leaves office as the ideology enforcer of the Republican party, as a big Mafia Don, even those running in primary elections must kneel and kiss the ring of ‘Don’ Trump.

Q: How do you see the current chaotic situation in the U.S.?

A: The chaos in the election count is subsiding. The Washington Post, three months prior to the election had revealed the White House plan to contest the election due to Trump being so behind in the polls. It has turned into a circus that will stain the Republican party for years. 

Their original plan was focused on challenging a close election, but Rudy Giuliani is now viewed as taking a wrecking ball to that strategy. He chose to flood the courts with scores of election fraud claims, many of them based on Twitter social media platform reports alone. 

That, combined with Trump’s tweeting about “The Steal”, blew up the original plan with almost all of the early challenge cases being thrown out for lack of evidence. Some judges hinted that the attorneys presenting them might have their law licenses taken away. Pro-Trump law firms have begun backing off filing any more cases, including in Pennsylvania.

The political strategy now seems to be focused on challenging the vote count with nitpicks as a way to operate a fundraising scam that will fund a Trump supporter PAC called Save America. Trump is thinking of revenge and needs to be able to control his base to intimidate the Republican leadership and to be a critic of the Biden presidency.

The man wants to continue hogging the media spotlight with his endless false claims to keep his base riled up, the biggest of which will be that the election was stolen from him, and them.

Q: How do you assess the reaction of the U.S. political and security apparatus to the political unrest? 

A: There had been months of preparation for election unrest, both for street protests and rioting. But there was also contingency planning for the possibility that an angry Trump might do some crazy things, including starting a conflict somewhere. 

“Trump is thinking of revenge and needs to be able to control his base to intimidate the Republican leadership and to be a critic of the Biden presidency.”This planning even involved a high alert being put out for any possible false flag attack being planned which could justify a Trump “retaliatory” strike. The scenarios included a possible nuclear event where Trump could call a national emergency. 

On the political end, we know from White House leaks via the Washington Post, that Trump asked his staff to consider the nuclear option of demanding the Republican State legislatures take the step of casting their respective state Electoral College votes for Trump, under a Constitutional pathway that has never been used.

The consensus, so far, is that the Republican Party going forward would not want that on their record. The Supreme Court has already hinted it does not want to get involved in an election court case and is letting some items on its docket just run out of time. It does not want its reputation besmirched by a desperate Trump.

Q:  Will U.S. foreign policy towards West Asia change in Biden’s presidency? 

A: Biden has sent some early signals, such as the unipolar Trump foreign policy mania seems to be history. The EU will be the first benefactor for renewing better relations. This triggers some early responses inside the EU that it is time to take responsibility for its own defense, which will be popular with American taxpayers. 

Biden has indicated the U.S. rejoining the JCPOA, but then later attached some conditions to it, which could doom that move. 

Expect Biden to be a hawk with Russia, China, and North Korea, but trying to bring a coalition along with him so he does not follow the Trump lead of talking one game and then doing another.

تحالف خماسيّ دوليّ في وجه القطبيّة الأميركيّة وأعوانها

د. وفيق إبراهيم

التمرد الدولي على الأحادية القطبية الاميركية يتأجج في أميركا الجنوبية والقوقاز وبحر السلع والتنافسات الاقتصادية، لكنه يرتدي في الشرق الأوسط شكل استعادة سورية لسيادتها بشكل كامل، وذلك من خلال الإمساك بوجهي أزمتها الداخلي المتعلق بالميادين العسكرية والخارجي المتجسد بنحو ستة ملايين نازح سوريّ ينتشرون في تركيا والأردن ولبنان وأوروبا ومصر وأنحاء اخرى متوزعة.

واذا كانت الدولة السورية نجحت في الانتصار مع تحالفاتها الروسية والإيرانية وحزب الله على المشروع الإرهابي المدعوم خليجياً وأميركياً فإنها تعمل على استعادة النازحين ضمن إطارها الوطني.

إلا أنها تصطدم بعجزها الاقتصاديّ عن استيعاب هذه الأعداد الكبيرة نتيجة لتدمير معظم مناطقها. هذا بالإضافة الى الحصار والعقوبات الأميركية، الاوروبية والخليجية التي تصيب بنيوياً الاقتصاد السوري بما يؤدي الى تراجع إمكانياته بمعدلات كبيرة.

هناك أمثلة على المحاولات الاميركية لمنع الدولة السورية من استكمال سيادتها، يكفي أن الأميركيين مارسوا ضغوطاً لمنع مصر والإمارات ودول اخرى في اوروبا من حضور المؤتمر الدولي الذي اعدته سورية قبل يومين لمعالجة أزمة النازحين منها.

واتفقوا مع اوروبا والخليج على ممارسة ضغوط في كل الاتجاهات لمنع نجاحه في معالجة ازمة النازحين.

هؤلاء جميعاً مقتنعون بوجهة النظر الاميركية التي تجزم ان استكمال سورية لسيادتها الدستورية والشعبية لن تقتصر تداعياتها على الشرق العربي.

فسورية حليف لاتجاه دولي إقليمي وعربي يعمل على مكافحة النفوذ الاميركي والادوار الاوروبية والخليجية المنصاعة له.

هنا يقدم الاميركيون نموذجاً عن قوة سورية، يظهر بوضوح في قدرتها على جمع 26 بلداً في مؤتمرها الخاص للنازحين ونجاحها في التمهيد لحلف خماسي يرفع شعار كسر الحظر الأميركي مع تحالفاته في السماح بعودتهم الى ديارهم.

مَن هو هذا الخماسي؟ وما هو مشروعه الفعلي؟ إنه سورية وروسيا وإيران والصين وفنزويلا، يرفعون شعار العمل الجدي والحازم على دفع أكبر كمية ممكنة من النازحين للعودة الى ديارهم.

هذا جانب هام جداً من المشروع الخماسيّ، إلا ان هذا الجانب يعمل على توطيد أواصر العلاقات الدولية لهذا الخماسي في مواجهة القطبية الأميركية.

بما يؤدي الى توتير أميركي – خليجي – إسرائيلي مع ضياع اوروبي لم يعُد يعرف ماذا يفعل.

لذلك يحاول الاميركيون بزخم شديد عرقلة إعادة النازحين الى ديارهم في إطار خطة عميقة لإجهاض هذه الخماسية. ويرى الاميركيون ان هذه الخماسية تتضمن بشكل عملي خمسة مشاريع، الاول هو مشروع الدولة السورية المعروف والثاني هو الطموح الروسي للعودة الى القطبية العالمية من خلال دور بلاده في آسيا الوسطى وسورية وفنزويلا وعلاقاته العميقة بكل من الصين وايران.

أما المشروع الثالث فهو الصين التي تعتقد ان هيمنتها الاقتصادية على العالم لم تعد بعيدة وقد لا تتأخر عن 2025، بما يؤكد حاجتها الى تحالفات وازنة في مختلف القارات كإسناد يمنع الأميركيين من الاستفراد بها. لذلك نراها وللمرة الأولى تلتحق بمؤتمر النازحين «السوري» وتتبنى مواقف جذريّة من الصراع مع الأميركيين.

لجهة المشروع الرابع فهو إيران التي نجحت ببناء تحالفات قوية من افغانستان الى باكستان واليمن والعراق وسورية وصولاً الى حليفها القوي حزب الله، هذا رغم الحصار المضروب عليها من قبل الخليجيين والاوروبيين والاميركيين.

هذا ما يدفع ايران الى الإصرار على حماية الدولة السورية حليفتها الاساسية في مجابهة الاميركيين والاسرائيليين، بما يؤدي الى تزخيم جبهة التصدي بالتعاون مع روسيا والصين وفنزويلا في قلب اميركا الجنوبية المجاورة للأميركيين في الشمال.

يتبقى المشروع الخامس الخاص بفنزويلا التي تتعرّض منذ 15 سنة لحصار اميركي يعمل على إسقاط دولتها للسيطرة على أكبر آبار للنفط في العالم تختزنها في اراضيها.

هذه الدول الخمس التي اجتمعت مع 21 دولة اخرى في مؤتمر النازحين في دمشق بدأت تتحضر جدياً لبناء آليات تعرقل القطبية الاميركية الأحادية، التي لا تعمل إلا وقف برنامج يقوم على نهب ثروات العالم وتدمير الدول التي ترفض هذا الاجتياح الاميركي المستمر من 1990.

فهل تنجح هذه الخماسية؟

هذه الدول ليس لديها خيارات كثيرة، فإما ان يهزمها الاميركي نهائياً ويلحقها بمستعمراته او تنتصر عليه وتصمد لتمهّد الطريق نحو نظام قطبي جديد يمنع العربدة واحتلال الدول واستعمال لغة الحروب والحصار والمقاطعات لتركيع الدول.

بما يؤكد أن هذه الخماسية ماضية نحو مجابهة الأميركية لإعادة استقرار نسبي كبير للعلاقات الدولية.

Will Biden be the head of restoration and review of major Middle Eastern files? هل يكون بايدن رئيس الترميم ومراجعة الملفات الشرق أوسطية الكبرى؟

Will Biden be the head of restoration and review of major Middle Eastern files?

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Brigadier General Dr. Amin Mohammed Hatit

The world has not known a president who has created in international relations and corrupted the major core files in it, as witnessed with Donald Trump, the current U.S. president, who failed to renew his mandate, and now has to come out of the White House with a praise that regrets his luck and blames those who failed him or betrayed him.

Trump is coming out of power, leaving behind him, as well as from the major international files that have corrupted his tracks, and who are waiting for the parties concerned to intervene in the United States, contrary to the arrogance and insanity of the Trumpi in its circulation, and to put an end to the corruption that caused a terrible imbalance in international relations and caused serious damage to it on more than one level, but the Middle East region has been harmed by Trump’s aggressiveness, greed and madness, a lot of harm that he has inflicted on him in exchange for cash or in kind payments to him. He’s connected to those files on Trump’s back in order to fix what’s been corrupted.

Here… Apart from the issues of armaments, climate, alliances, international relations and the economic, security and political wars that America is waging on more than one level, the files that America is affecting in our region are not the small size of the Syrian and Iraqi situation to the Iranian nuclear file to the deal of the century to the Turkish and Gulf ogres, all of which are hot citizens affected by the decision and the American behavior, which makes us ask the question about the course of the new American policy in those citizens and how will the performance of the new democratic president Joe Biden and the second Catholic reach to Rule in America after John F. Kennedy, and will it be a dramatic coup on Trump’s decisions in these files? Or does the deep American state have other decisions and paths that do not deny the above?

First of all, it should be noted that despite all that has been said and said of the situations or coups that America is witnessing with the change of head of state, it is not to be taken for granted, since the truth seems otherwise. Although the president’s personality is essential in the state, there are standards and controls in the U.S. system that prevent the formation of extreme coup slings and prevent interruptions with the past, so the new president, whoever comes to the White House, finds himself obliged to deal with the legacy of the former departing whatever this legacy is on the basis that the rule “that governing continues” taking into account cases of exceptional anomalies as happened with Trump and his coup decisions. The next president inherits the legacy of the former and treats it as a fait accompli that means America and then works on restoration and correction for development and rarely we see radical coups as Trump did in specificfiles.

Trump has left major files on the Middle East that require decisions from new President Joe Biden to address, reform, or change, raising the question of the new u.S. policy paths to those files with the change in the head of state after the presidential election that prevented Trump from remaining in the White House for four more years. Here, taking into account the principle of continuity of state function, a change may govern the U.S. performance on these files unevenly, a change imposed by the new balance of power, trump’s failure to reach the finals of the file, and Biden’s tendency to restore and correct from the degree to which those files have reached:

1 The war on Syria and the U.S. presence there and in Iraq: Through the stated positions and realities on the ground, we do not expect the Biden administration to take a decision to withdraw from the two countries, and U.S. policy under the new president will be destined for a situation that does not constitute the declaration of defeat of the Arab Spring in them, which is the “spring” he launched The Democrats under Obama’s term, so the two countries will have to deal with a U.S. administration that will try to get the whole country to try to activate the division and fragmentation files, especially since Biden is the owner of the partition project and that his land is slowly forming in the northeastern Euphrates Syria and in the north of Iraq in the Kurdistan region. It is true that the partition decision is not easy to achieve in light of the existing changes on the ground, but it has become a danger that has increased its intensity from what existed, which means that the two countries will not see soon breakthroughs under the Biden administration that will bring them back to normal except by exceptional political and military action with the support of allies, which is urgent and not excluded..

2 «Deal of the century» will be the most likely destination with Biden in power with what will constitute a freeze of negative frequencies on the personal status of both Netanyahu and Mohammed bin Salman where we see that biden’s project to solve the Palestinian issue is based on two-state basis in the form of the “deal of the century”, and this project will return to the forefront taking into account the steps achieved under the deal that has not been implemented what makes it final and not revisitable, as the size ofthe The obstacles to the completion of implementation are now much larger than the size of the pressure to pass it, and therefore we see that the Palestinian issue will enter into a new stage of fanship in which there is no ability to follow up in the deal of the Century Trump and there are not enough opportunities for a radical solution that satisfies the Palestinians, but will register in any case the opponents of the “deal of the century” that they succeeded in first and freeze it later and still hindered them to work in order to abort what has been implemented and prevent the resumption of work.

3. Iran’s nuclear dossier will see an important move toward a re-examination of the U.S. position in it after Trump withdrew America’s signature on the 5+1 solution with Iran and was enshrined in a Security Council resolution. We believe that Iran will enter with the U.S. and other parties in restrictive negotiations in order to develop this agreement after America backs away from Trump’s malicious actions against it..

I think that Biden will return Turkey in general and Erdogan in particular to the seat set by the West for him and will not let him follow his authoritarian and mongol march on the region from Libya to Azerbaijan, passing through Syria, Iraq, Cyprus and Greece, and Erdogan will find himself controlled by Biden’s leadership bringing him back to work, for his advantage, without special Turkish expansionist independent project.

5 Saudi and Gulf illusion and the War of Yemen, Yemen may be at the forefront of america’s review of its policy in the region by Biden, where we do not expect the latter to give additional time to Saudi Arabia to resolve the war of Yemen, a solution that is now in the rule of the impossible, so we believe that the war of Yemen may see its dramatically end in the coming year.

Therefore, we can say that the possible breakthroughs will be witnessed by the Yemeni and Iranian situation, and complications in the Syrian, Iraqi and Palestinian affairs if there is no internal shock supported by external support and control even the restriction of the Gulf and Turkish movement in the region from the American side, but the response remains subject to the decisions of regional and international stakeholders, who will act without a doubt on the basis of the developments drawn by the confrontations internationally and regionally, which dropped the saying that “America is the destiny” doing what it wants and imposes what it wants, America is finished, with the rise of multipolarity.

هل يكون بايدن رئيس الترميم ومراجعة الملفات الشرق أوسطية الكبرى؟

العميد د. أمين محمد حطيط

لم يعرف العالم رئيساً أميركياً أحدث في العلاقات الدولية وأفسد في الملفات الأساسية الكبرى فيها كما شهده مع دونالد ترامب الرئيس الأميركي الحالي، الذي فشل في تجديد ولايته، وبات عليه ان يخرج من البيت الأبيض مذموماً مدحوراً يندب حظه ويلوم من خذله أو خانه.

يخرج ترامب من الحكم مخلفاً وراءه كمّاً من الملفات الدولية الكبرى التي أفسد مساراتها والتي ينتظر الأطراف المعنيون بها تدخلاً أميركياً مغايراً للغطرسة والجنون الترامبي في تداولها، ولوضع حدّ للإفساد الذي أحدث خللاً فظيعاً في العلاقات الدولية وتسبّب بأضرار بالغة فيها على أكثر من صعيد، اما منطقة الشرق الأوسط فقد نالها من عدوانية ترامب وجشعه وجنونه الكثير الكثير من الأذى الذي أنزله فيها مقابل أموال نقدية أو عينية دفعها له من كان مستفيداً من أفعاله السيئة تلك، ولهذا يعوّل من هو على صلة بتلك الملفات على خلف ترامب من أجل أن يصلح ما أفسد فهل يفعل خاصة على صعيد الملفات التي تعنينا مباشرة في المنطقة؟

وهنا… وبعيداً عن قضايا التسلح والمناخ والتحالفات والعلاقات الدولية والحروب الاقتصادية والأمنية والسياسية التي تشنّها أميركا على أكثر من صعيد، فإنّ الملفات التي تؤثر فيها أميركا في منطقتنا ليست بالحجم الصغير من الوضع السوري والعراقي الى الملف النووي الإيراني الى صفقة القرن الى التغوّل التركي والجموح الخليجي وكلها مواطن حامية تتأثر بالقرار والأداء والسلوك الأميركي ما يجعلنا نطرح السؤال حول مسار السياسة الأميركية الجديدة في تلك المواطن وكيف سيكون فيها أداء الرئيس الجديد جو بايدن الديمقراطي المسنّ وثاني كاثوليكي يصل الى الحكم في أميركا بعد جون كنيدي، وهل ستكون انقلابات دراماتيكية على قرارات ترامب في هذه الملفات؟ أم أن للدولة الأميركية العميقة قرارات ومسارات أخرى لا تتنكر لما سبق؟

بداية لا بدّ من التنويه انه رغم كلّ ما قيل ويقال من أوضاع أو حالات انقلابية تشهدها أميركا مع تغيير رأس الدولة هو أمر لا يمكن الاخذ به على إطلاقه، حيث انّ الحقيقة تبدو خلاف ذلك. اذ رغم انّ شخصية الرئيس أساسية في الدولة فإنّ هناك معايير وضوابط في النظام الأميركي تمنع تشكل الحالات الانقلابية الجذرية الحادة وتحول دون إحداث انقطاع مع الماضي، وبالتالي فإنّ الرئيس الجديد أيّاً كان هذا القادم الى البيت الأبيض يجد نفسه ملزماً بالتعامل مع إرث السابق المغادر كيفما كان هذا الإرث على قاعدة «انّ الحكم استمرار» مع الأخذ بعين الاعتبار حالات من الشذوذ الاستثنائي كما حصل مع ترامب وقراراته الانقلابية. فالرئيس القادم يرث تركة السابق ويتعامل معها على أساس أنها أمر واقع يعني أميركا ثم يعمل على الترميم والتصحيح من أجل التطوير وقلما نشهد حالات انقلابية جذرية كما كان يفعل ترامب في ملفات محدّدة.

لقد خلف ترامب ملفات كبرى تعني منطقة الشرق الأوسط وتتطلب قرارات من الرئيس الجديد جو بايدن لمعالجتها تصحيحاً أو ترميماً أو تغييراً، ما يطرح السؤال عن مسارات السياسة الأميركية الجديدة حيال تلك الملفات مع التغيير الحاصل في رأس الدولة بعد الانتخابات الرئاسية التي منعت ترامب من البقاء في البيت الأبيض لأربع سنوات جديدة. وهنا، ومع الاخذ الحتمي بمبدأ استمرارية عمل الدولة فإنّ تغييراً قد يحكم الأداء الأميركي حيال تلك الملفات بشكل متفاوت تغييراً فرضته موازين القوى الجديدة وتعثر ترامب وفشله في الوصول الى نهائيات الملف ونزعة بايدن للترميم والتصحيح انطلاقاً من الدرجة التي وصلت اليها تلك الملفات وفقاً لما يلي:

1

ـ الحرب على سورية والوجود الأميركي فيها وفي العراق: من خلال المواقف المعلنة والوقائع القائمة على الأرض لا نتوقع ان تتخذ إدارة بايدن قراراً بالانسحاب من البلدين، وستكون السياسة الأميركية في ظلّ الرئيس الجديد متجهة لوضع لا يشكل إعلان هزيمة «الربيع العربي» فيهما وهو «الربيع» الذي أطلقه الديمقراطيون في ظلّ ولاية أوباما ولذلك سيكون على البلدين التعامل مع إدارة أميركية ستحاول بعد الفشل في وضع اليد على كامل البلاد ستحاول تفعيل ملفات التقسيم والتجزئة التامة خاصة أنّ بايدن صاحب مشروع التقسيم أصلاً وانّ أرضيته تتشكل رويداً في شمالي شرقي الفرات سورياً وفي الشمال العراقي في إقليم كردستان. وصحيح انّ قرار التقسيم ليس أمراً سهلاً تحقيقه في ظلّ المتغيّرات الميدانية القائمة إلا أنه بات خطراً ارتفعت نسبة شدّته عما كان قائماً ما يعني انّ البلدين لن يشهدا في ظلّ إدارة بايدن انفراجات قريبة تعيدهما الى الوضع الطبيعي إلا بعمل استثنائي سياسي وعسكري يحصل بدعم من الحلفاء وهو أمر بات ملحاً كما انه غير مستبعد.

2

ـ «صفقة القرن» سيكون التجميد فيها هو الوجهة المرجحة مع وجود بايدن في السلطة مع ما سيشكل تجميدها من ترددات سلبية على الوضع الشخصي لكلّ من نتنياهو ومحمد بن سلمان حيث نرى انّ مشروع بايدن لحلّ القضية الفلسطينية قائم على أساس الدولتين في غير صيغة «صفقة القرن»، وسيعود هذا المشروع الى الواجهة أخذاً بعين الاعتبار الخطوات التي تحققت في إطار الصفقة التي لم ينفذ منها ما يجعلها نهائية غير قابلة لإعادة النظر، حيث انّ حجم العوائق لاكتمال التنفيذ بات الآن أكبر بكثير من حجم الضغوط من أجل تمريرها ولهذا نرى انّ القضية الفلسطينية ستدخل في مرحلة مراوحة جديدة لا يكون فيها قدرة على المتابعة في صفقة القرن الترامبية ولا يوجد فرص كافية لحلّ جذري يرضي الفلسطينيين ولكن سيسجل على أيّ حال لمعارضي «صفقة القرن» انهم نجحوا في عرقلتها أولاً وتجميدها لاحقاً ويبقى عليهم العمل من أجل إجهاض ما نفذ منها ومنع استئناف العمل بها.

3

ـ الملف النووي الإيراني. سيشهد هذا الملف تحريكاً مهماً باتجاه إعادة النظر بموقع الولايات المتحدة فيه بعد ان سحب ترامب توقيع أميركا عن الحلّ الذي توصلت اليه مجموعة 5+1 مع إيران وكرّس بقرار من مجلس الأمن. ونعتقد انّ إيران ستدخل مع الأميركي والأطراف الأخرى في مفاوضات مقيّدة من أجل تطوير هذا الاتفاق بعد ان تتراجع أميركا عن إجراءات ترامب الكيدية بحقها. ولا نتصوّر بأنّ أميركا ستعود الى الاتفاق وكان القرار الترامبي لم يقع بل نرى حلاً وسطاً سيحكم الملف تستفيد منه إيران ما سيؤكد مرة أخرى انّ صمود إيران حفظ حقوقها ويثبت انّ سياسة العقوبات الأميركية فشلت في تحقيق الأهداف منها.

4

ـ التغوّل التركي الواسع، سيواجَه بقرارات أميركية جدية تمنع استمراره، واعتقد انّ بايدن سيعيد تركيا عامة وأردوغان بخاصة الى المقعد الذي حدّده الغرب له ولن يدعه يتابع مسيرته التسلطية والتغوّل على المنطقة امتداداً من لبيبا الى أذربيجان مروراً بكلّ من سورية والعراق وقبرص واليونان، وسيجد أردوغان نفسه مع بايدن أنه أمام قيادة تضبطه وتعيده الى العمل لمصلحتها وعنصراً في معسكرها دون أن تترك له المجال لممارسة مشروع تركي توسعي خاص مستقلّ عن الغرب. وهذا سينعكس حتماً على الميدان في كلّ من ليبيا وسورية والعراق وأذربيجان.

5

ـ الوهم السعودي والخليجي وحرب اليمن، قد يكون اليمن في طليعة المستفيدين من مراجعة أميركا لسياستها في المنطقة على يد بايدن، حيث لا نتوقع أن يعطي الأخير وقتاً إضافياً للسعودية لحسم حرب اليمن، وهو حسم بات في حكم المستحيل، لذلك نعتقد انّ حرب اليمن قد تشهد نهاية لها خلال العام المقبل وبشكل دراماتيكي من الوجهة السعودية،

وعليه نستطيع ان نقول انّ انفراجات مرجحة سيشهدها الوضع اليمني والإيراني، وتعقيدات أو مراوحة في الشأن السوري والعراقي والفلسطيني انْ لم تحدث صدمة داخلية مسندة بدعم خارجي وضبط حتى التقييد للحركة الخليجية والتركية في المنطقة هذا من الجانب الأميركي، أما الردّ فيبقى رهن قرارات المعنيين الإقليميين والدوليين، الذين سيتصرفون بدون شك على أساس المستجدات التي رسمتها المواجهات دولياً وإقليمياً، والتي أسقطت القول بانّ «أميركا هي القدر الذي لا يُردّ» والتي تفعل ما تشاء وتفرض ما تشاء، فأميركا هذه انتهت وانّ عالم القطب الواحد الذي رغبت به غير قائم الآن، في ظلّ وضع باتت ملامح نظامه مؤكدة قائمة على التعددية في المجموعات الاستراتيجية.

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Written by J.Hawk exclusively for SouthFront

Kiev’s Unrequited Love

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

Ankara’s Burning Hate

Chicken Kiev Meets Cold Turkey: Black Sea Axis Emerges?

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

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

Quid pro Quos

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

Chicken Kiev Meets Cold Turkey: Black Sea Axis Emerges?

Match Made in Hell

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

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Russian President Putin Delivers Speech at Valdai Discussion Club -2020 – Update

Source

The Transcript follows.

Update : October 24th

The formal transcript is now complete

Update : October 23rd

Note that it is not quite complete and we are waiting for the Kremlin resources to complete (as usual correct and accurate) the complete transcript.  Yet, most of it is here, and the most interesting details are in the Questions and Answers.  (Settle in, it was a 3 hour session and nobody wanted to let Mr Putin go, even after 3 hours!)

Fyodor Lukyanov: Friends,

Guests of the Valdai Club,

I am delighted to welcome you to the final session of the 17th annual meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club. It is my special honour and pleasure to welcome our traditional guest for our final meetings, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues, friends,

Participants of the 17th plenary meeting of the Valdai Club,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to welcome you all to our traditional annual meeting. We are meeting in an unusual format this time; we are videoconferencing. But I can see there are also people in the room. Not as many as usual of course, but nevertheless there are people present, and, apparently, you have had an in-person discussion, and I am delighted that you have.

We are certainly aware, we can see that the coronavirus epidemic has seriously affected public, business, and international affairs. More than that – it has affected everyone’s routine rhythm of life.

Almost all countries had to impose various restrictions, and large public gatherings have been largely cancelled. This year has been challenging for your Club as well. Most importantly, though, you continue to work. With the help of remote technology, you conduct heated and meaningful debates, discuss things, and bring in new experts who share their opinions and present interesting outside-the-box, sometimes even opposing, views on current developments. Such an exchange is, of course, very important and useful now that the world is facing so many challenges that need to be resolved.

Thus, we still have to understand how the epidemic affected and will continue to affect the present and future of humanity. As it confronts this dangerous threat, the international community is trying to take certain actions and to mobilize itself. Some things are already being done as collaborative efforts, but I want to note straight away that this is only a fraction of what needs to be done in the face of this formidable common challenge. These missed opportunities are also a subject for a candid international discussion.

From the onset of the pandemic in Russia, we have focused on preserving lives and ensuring safety of our people as our key values. This was an informed choice dictated by our culture and spiritual traditions, and our complex, sometimes dramatic, history. If we think back to the great demographic losses we suffered in the 20th century, we had no other choice but to fight for every person and the future of every Russian family.

So, we did our best to preserve the health and the lives of our people, to help parents and children, as well as senior citizens and those who lost their jobs, to maintain employment as much as possible, to minimise damage to the economy, to support millions of entrepreneurs who run small or family businesses.

Perhaps, like everyone else, you are closely following daily updates on the pandemic around the world. Unfortunately, the coronavirus has not retreated and still poses a major threat. Probably, this unsettling background intensifies the sense, like many people feel, that a whole new era is about to begin and that we are not just on the verge of dramatic changes, but an era of tectonic shifts in all areas of life.

We see the rapidly, exponential development of the processes that we have repeatedly discussed at the Valdai Club before. Thus, six years ago, in 2014, we spoke about this issue when we discussed the theme The World Order: New Rules or a Game Without Rules. So, what is happening now? Regrettably, the game without rules is becoming increasingly horrifying and sometimes seems to be a fait accompli.

The pandemic has reminded us of how fragile human life is. It was hard to imagine that in our technologically advanced 21st century, even in the most prosperous and wealthy countries people could find themselves defenceless in front of what would seem to be not such a fatal infection, and not such a horrible threat. But life has shown that not everything boils down to the level of medical science with some of its fantastic achievements. It transpired that the organisation and accessibility of the public healthcare system are no less, and probably much more important in this situation.

The values of mutual assistance, service and self-sacrifice proved to be most important. This also applies to the responsibility, composure and honesty of the authorities, their readiness to meet the demand of society and at the same time provide a clear-cut and well-substantiated explanation of the logic and consistency of the adopted measures so as not to allow fear to subdue and divide society but, on the contrary, to imbue it with confidence that together we will overcome all trials no matter how difficult they may be.

The struggle against the coronavirus threat has shown that only a viable state can act effectively in a crisis – contrary to the reasoning of those who claim that the role of the state in the global world is decreasing and that in the future it will be altogether replaced with some other forms of social organisation. Yes, this is possible. Everything may change in the distant future. Change is all around us, but today the role and importance of the state do matter.

We have always considered a strong state a basic condition for Russia’s development. And we have seen again that we were right by meticulously restoring and strengthening state institutions after their decline, and sometimes complete destruction in the 1990s.

Then, the question is: what is a strong state? What are its strengths? Definitely, not total control or harsh law enforcement. Not thwarted private initiative or civic engagement. Not even the might of its armed forces or its high defence potential. Although, I think you realise how important this particular component is for Russia, given its geography and the range of geopolitical challenges. And there is also our historical responsibility as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council to ensure global stability.

Nevertheless, I am confident that what makes a state strong, primarily, is the confidence its citizens have in it. That is the strength of a state. People are the source of power, we all know that. And this recipe doesn’t just involve going to the polling station and voting, it implies people’s willingness to delegate broad authority to their elected government, to see the state, its bodies, civil servants, as their representatives – those who are entrusted to make decisions, but who also bear full responsibility for the performance of their duties.

This kind of state can be set up any way you like. When I say “any way,” I mean that what you call your political system is immaterial. Each country has its own political culture, traditions, and its own vision of their development. Trying to blindly imitate someone else’s agenda is pointless and harmful. The main thing is for the state and society to be in harmony.

And of course, confidence is the most solid foundation for the creative work of the state and society. Only together will they be able to find an optimal balance of freedom and security guarantees.

Once again, in the most difficult moments of the pandemic, I felt pride and, to be honest, I am proud of Russia, of our citizens, of their willingness to have each other’s backs. And of course, first of all, I am proud of our doctors, nurses, and ambulance workers – everyone, without exception, on whom the national healthcare system relies.

I believe that civil society will play a key role in Russia’s future. So, we want the voice of our citizens to be decisive and to see constructive proposals and requests from different social forces get implemented.

This begs the question: how is this request for action being formed? Whose voice should the state be heeding? How does it know if it is really the voice of the people and not some behind-the-scenes messages or even someone’s vocal yelling that has nothing to do whatsoever with our people and that at times becomes hysterical?

Occasionally, someone is trying to substitute self-serving interests of a small social group or even external forces for a genuine public request.

Genuine democracy and civil society cannot be “imported.” I have said so many times. They cannot be a product of the activities of foreign “well-wishers,” even if they “want the best for us.” In theory, this is probably possible. But, frankly, I have not yet seen such a thing and do not believe much in it. We see how such imported democracy models function. They are nothing more than a shell or a front with nothing behind them, even a semblance of sovereignty. People in the countries where such schemes have been implemented were never asked for their opinion, and their respective leaders are mere vassals. As is known, the overlord decides everything for the vassal. To reiterate, only the citizens of a particular country can determine their public interest.

We, in Russia, went through a fairly long period where foreign funds were very much the main source for creating and financing non-governmental organisations. Of course, not all of them pursued self-serving or bad goals, or wanted to destabilise the situation in our country, interfere in our domestic affairs, or influence Russia’s domestic and, sometimes, foreign policy in their own interests. Of course not.

There were sincere enthusiasts among independent civic organisations (they do exist), to whom we are undoubtedly grateful. But even so, they mostly remained strangers and ultimately reflected the views and interests of their foreign trustees rather than the Russian citizens. In a word, they were a tool with all the ensuing consequences.

A strong, free and independent civil society is nationally oriented and sovereign by definition. It grows from the depth of people’s lives and can take different forms and directions. But it is a cultural phenomenon, a tradition of a particular country, not the product of some abstract “transnational mind” with other people’s interests behind it.

The duty of the state is to support public initiatives and open up new opportunities for them. This is exactly what we do. I consider this matter to be the most important for the government’s agenda in the coming decades – regardless of who exactly will hold positions in that government. This is the guarantee of Russia’s sovereign, progressive development, of genuine continuity in its forward movement, and of our ability to respond to global challenges.

Colleagues, you are well aware of the many acute problems and controversies that have accumulated in modern international affairs, even too many. Ever since the Cold War model of international relations, which was stable and predictable in its own way, began to change (I am not saying I miss it, I most certainly do not), the world has changed several times. Things in fact happened so quickly that those usually referred to as political elites simply did not have the time, or maybe a strong interest or ability to analyse what was really going on.

Some countries hastily ran to divide the cake, mostly to grab a bigger piece, to take advantage of the benefits the end of the cold confrontation brought. Others were frantically looking for ways to adapt to the changes at any cost. And some countries – recall our own sad experience, frankly – just fought for survival, to survive as a single country, and as a subject of global politics, too.

Meanwhile, time increasingly and insistently makes us question what lies ahead for humanity, what the new world order should be like, or at least a semblance of one, and whether we will take informed steps forward, coordinating our moves, or we will stumble blindly, each of us just relying on ourselves.

The recent report of the Valdai Club, your club, reads: “…in a fundamentally changed international setting, the institutions themselves have become an obstacle to building a system of relations corresponding to the new era rather than a guarantee of global stability and manageability.” The authors believe that we are in for a world where individual states or groups of states will act much more independently while traditional international organisations will lose their importance.

This is what I would like to say in this respect. Of course, it is clear what underlies this position. In effect, the post-war world order was established by three victorious countries: the Soviet Union, the United States and Great Britain. The role of Britain has changed since then; the Soviet Union no longer exists, while some try to dismiss Russia altogether.

Let me assure you, dear friends, that we are objectively assessing our potentialities: our intellectual, territorial, economic and military potential. I am referring to our current options, our overall potential. Consolidating this country and looking at what is happening in the world, in other countries I would like to tell those who are still waiting for Russia’s strength to gradually wane, the only thing we are worried about is catching a cold at your funeral.

As a head of state who works directly in an environment that you and your colleagues describe from a position of expertise, I cannot agree with the assumption that existing international structures must be completely rebuilt, if not dismissed as obsolete and altogether dismantled. On the contrary, it is important to preserve the basic mechanisms of maintaining international security, which have proved to be effective. This is the UN, the Security Council and the permanent members’ right to veto. I recently spoke about this at the anniversary UN General Assembly. As far as I know, this position – the preservation of the fundamentals of the international order established after World War II – enjoys broad support in the world.

However, I believe that the idea of adjusting the institutional arrangement of world politics is at least worthy of discussion, if only because the correlation of forces, potentialities and positions of states has seriously changed, as I said, especially in the past 30 to 40 years.

Indeed, like I said, the Soviet Union is no longer there. But there is Russia. In terms of its economic weight and political influence, China is moving quickly towards superpower status. Germany is moving in the same direction, and the Federal Republic of Germany has become an important player in international cooperation. At the same time, the roles of Great Britain and France in international affairs has undergone significant changes. The United States, which at some point absolutely dominated the international stage, can hardly claim exceptionality any longer. Generally speaking, does the United States need this exceptionalism? Of course, powerhouses such as Brazil, South Africa and some other countries have become much more influential.

Indeed, by far not all international organisations are effectively carrying out their missions and tasks. Called to be impartial arbiters, they often act based on ideological prejudices, fall under the strong influence of other states, and become tools in their hands. Juggling procedures, manipulating prerogatives and authority, biased approaches, especially when it comes to conflicts involving rival powers or groups of states, have unfortunately become common practice.

The fact that authoritative international organisations following in the wake of someone’s selfish interests are drawn into politicised campaigns against specific leaders and countries is saddening. This approach does nothing but discredit these institutions, and leads them towards decline and exacerbates the world order crisis.

On the other hand, there are positive developments when a group of interested states joins forces to resolve specific issues, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which for almost 20 years now has been contributing to the settlement of territorial disputes and strengthening stability in Central Eurasia, and is shaping a unique spirit of partnership in this part of the world.

Or, for example, the Astana format, which was instrumental in taking the political and diplomatic process regarding Syria out of a deep impasse. The same goes for OPEC Plus which is an effective, albeit very complex, tool for stabilising global oil markets.

In a fragmented world, this approach is often more productive. But what matters here is that, along with resolving specific problems, this approach can also breathe new life into multilateral diplomacy. This is important. But it is also obvious that we cannot do without a common, universal framework for international affairs. Whatever interest groups, associations, or ad-hoc alliances we form now or in the future – we cannot do without a common framework.

Multilateralism should be understood not as total inclusivity, but as the need to involve the parties that are truly interested in solving a problem. And of course, when outside forces crudely and shamelessly intervene in a process that affects a group of actors perfectly capable of agreeing among themselves – nothing good can come of that. And they do this solely for the purpose of flaunting their ambition, power and influence. They do it to put a stake in the ground, to outplay everyone, but not to make a positive contribution or help resolve the situation.

Again, even amid the current fragmentation of international affairs, there are challenges that require more than just the combined capacity of a few states, even very influential ones. Problems of this magnitude, which do exist, require global attention.

International stability, security, fighting terrorism and solving urgent regional conflicts are certainly among them; as are promoting global economic development, combatting poverty, and expanding cooperation in healthcare. That last one is especially relevant today.

I spoke in detail about these challenges at the UN General Assembly last month. Meeting them will require working together in a long-term, systematic way.

However, there are considerations of a more general nature that affect literally everyone, and I would like to discuss them in more detail.

Many of us read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry when we were children and remember what the main character said: “It’s a question of discipline. When you’ve finished washing and dressing each morning, you must tend your planet. … It’s very tedious work, but very easy.”

I am sure that we must keep doing this “tedious work” if we want to preserve our common home for future generations. We must tend our planet.

The subject of environmental protection has long become a fixture on the global agenda. But I would address it more broadly to discuss also an important task of abandoning the practice of unrestrained and unlimited consumption – overconsumption – in favour of judicious and reasonable sufficiency, when you do not live just for today but also think about tomorrow.

We often say that nature is extremely vulnerable to human activity. Especially when the use of natural resources is growing to a global dimension. However, humanity is not safe from natural disasters, many of which are the result of anthropogenic interference. By the way, some scientists believe that the recent outbreaks of dangerous diseases are a response to this interference. This is why it is so important to develop harmonious relations between Man and Nature.

Tensions have reached a critical point. We can see this in climate change. This problem calls for practical action and much more attention on our part. It has long stopped being the domain of abstract scientific interests but now concerns nearly every inhabitant of the planet Earth. The polar ice caps and permafrost are melting because of global warming. According to expert estimates, the speed and scale of this process will be increasing in the next few decades.

It is a huge challenge to the world, to the whole of humanity, including to us, to Russia, where permafrost occupies 65 percent of our national territory. Such changes can do irreparable damage to biological diversity, have an extremely adverse effect on the economy and infrastructure and pose a direct threat to people.

You may be aware that this is very important to us. It affects pipeline systems, residential districts built on permafrost, and so on. If as much as 25 percent of the near-surface layers of permafrost, which is about three or four metres, melt by 2100, we will feel the effect very strongly. Moreover, the problem could snowball into a crisis very quickly. A kind of chain reaction is possible, because permafrost melting will stimulate methane emissions, which can produce a greenhouse effect that will be 28 times (sic!) larger than in the case of carbon dioxide. In other words, the temperature will continue rising on the planet, permafrost will continue melting, and methane emissions will further increase. The situation will spiral. Do we want the Earth to become like Venus, a hot, dry and lifeless planet? I would like to remind you that the Earth has an average surface temperature of 14°C while on Venus it’s 462°C.

Another subject, completely different. I would like to say a few words on a different subject. Let us not forget that there are no longer just geographical continents on Earth. An almost endless digital space is taking shape on the planet, and people are mastering it with increasing speed every year.

The restrictions forced by the coronavirus have only encouraged the development of remote e-technology. Today, communications based on the internet have become a universal asset. It is necessary to see that this infrastructure and all cyberspace operates without fail and securely.

Thus, remote, distance work is not just a forced precaution during a pandemic. This will become a new form of organising labour, employment, social cooperation and simply human communication. These changes are inevitable with the development of technological progress. This recent turn of events has merely precipitated these processes. Everyone appreciates the opportunities and conveniences provided by new technology.

But, of course, there is a reverse side as well – a growing threat to all digital systems. Yes, cyberspace is a fundamentally new environment where, basically, universally recognised rules have never existed. Technology has simply moved ahead of legislation and thus, judicial oversight. At the same time, this is a very specific area where the issue of trust is particularly urgent.

I think that at this point we must return to our historical experience. What do I mean? Let me recall that the established notion of “confidence-building measures” existed during the Cold War. It applied to relations between the USSR and the US, and between the Warsaw Pact and NATO, that is, military-political relations.

That said, let me emphasise that now, competition is usually “hybrid” in character. It concerns all areas, including those that are just taking shape. This is why it is necessary to build confidence in many areas.

In this sense, cyberspace can serve as a venue for testing these measures, like at one time, arms control paved the way for higher trust in the world as a whole.

Obviously, it is very difficult to draft a required “package of measures” in this area, cyberspace. However, it is necessary to start on it. This must be done now.

As you may be aware, Russia is actively promoting bilateral and multilateral cyber security agreements. We submitted two draft conventions on this subject at the UN and established a corresponding open-ended working group.

Recently, I proposed starting a comprehensive discussion of international cybersecurity issues with the United States. We are aware that politicians in the United States have other things to focus on now because of the election campaign. However, we hope that the next administration, whatever it may be, will respond to our invitation to start a discussion of this subject just like other items on the Russia-US agenda such as global security, the future of the strategic arms reduction treaty and a number of other issues.

As you are aware, many important matters have reached the point that they require candid talks, and we are ready for a constructive discussion on an equal footing.

Of course, the times when all important international matters were discussed and resolved by essentially just Moscow and Washington are long gone, lost to the ages. However, we see the establishment of a bilateral dialogue, in this case on cyber security, as an important step towards a much broader discussion involving many other countries and organisations. Should the United States choose not to take part in this work, which would be regrettable, we will still be willing to work with all interested partners, which I hope will not be lacking.

I would like to point out another important aspect. We live in an era of palpable international shocks and crises. Of course, we are used to them, especially the generations which lived during the Cold War, let alone World War II, for whom it is not just a memory, but a part of their lives.

It is interesting that humanity has reached a very high level of technological and socioeconomic development, while at the same time facing the loss or erosion of moral values and reference points, a sense that existence no longer has meaning and, if you will, that the mission of humankind on planet Earth has been lost.

This crisis cannot be settled through diplomatic negotiations or even a large international conference. It calls for revising our priorities and rethinking our goals. And everyone must begin at home, every individual, community and state, and only then work toward a global configuration.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which we have all been dealing with this year, can serve as a point of departure for such a transformation. We will have to reassess our priorities anyway. Trust me, we really will have to do it, sooner or later. All of us are aware of this. Therefore, I fully agree with those who say that it would be better to start this process now.

I mentioned history and the older generations who went through all the trials of last century for a reason. Everything we are discussing today will soon become the responsibility of young people. Young people will have to deal with all of the problems which I mentioned and you discussed today. Speaking about Russia, its young citizens, who are still growing up and gaining experience, will have to do this as soon as in the 21st century. They are the ones who will have to confront new and probably even more difficult challenges.

They have their own views on the past, present and future. But I believe that our people will always retain their best qualities: patriotism, fortitude, creativity, hard work, team spirit and the capacity to surprise the world by finding solutions to the most difficult and even seemingly insoluble problems.

Friends, colleagues,

I touched on a wide range of different issues today. Of course, I would like to believe that despite all the current difficulties the international community will be able to join forces to combat not imaginary but very real problems, and that we will eventually succeed. After all, it is within our power to stop being egoistical, greedy, mindless and wasteful consumers. Some may wonder if this is utopia, a pipe dream.

To be sure, it is easy to wonder if this is even possible considering what some individuals are doing and saying. However, I believe in reason and mutual understanding, or at least I strongly hope that they will prevail. We just need to open our eyes, look around us and see that the land, air and water are our common inheritance from above, and we must learn to cherish them, just as we must cherish every human life, which is precious. This is the only way forward in this complicated and beautiful world. I do not want to see the mistakes of the past repeated.

Thank you very much.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr President, thank you for this detailed statement. You have said that COVID-19 can serve as a point of departure for a reassessment. I can see that you are indeed reassessing things, because it is not everyone who speaks now about trust, harmony, the meaning of life and our mission on the planet Earth, and it was rarely so in the past as well.

I would like to say a few things in follow-up to what you have said. Of course, such a rethinking is ongoing, and we are trying to contribute to this process at the Valdai Club. However, the shocking spring developments, when we thought that the world would never be the same again, were followed by a degree of stabilisation. When global politics awoke from the mental torpor, it turned out that the agenda has hardly changed at all: we are facing the same problems, the conflicts are back and their number has even increased. But you continue with your active work despite the strained situation in global politics. Do you think that this shock had any effect on us? Do you feel any change in the sentiments of your counterparts at the top level?

Vladimir Putin: You said that the conflicts resumed when the situation improved a bit. In fact, they never abated. There is much talk about a second wave, and that the situation is back to where we were in the spring. But just look at what is happening in Nagorno-Karabakh: the conflict is still with us. And it is not just the conflicts that matter. I believe that no matter how the necessity to combat the pandemic can rally the international community, we still need to take systemic measures to settle recurring problems. This concerns the Middle East, the Syrian crisis, Libya and a great number of other problems, including terrorism and the environment. In other words, the pandemic will not help us to deal with them.

However, the pandemic is playing into our hands when it comes to raising our awareness of the importance of joining forces against severe global crises. Unfortunately, it has not yet taught humanity to come together completely, as we must do in such situations. Just look at the crises I have mentioned. We have already proposed, at the UN, among other places, that all economic and cultural restrictions be lifted for humanitarian reasons, at least temporarily.

I am not referring now to all these sanctions against Russia; forget about that, we will get over it. But many other countries that have suffered and are still suffering from the coronavirus do not even need any help that may come from outside, they just need the restrictions lifted, at least in the humanitarian sphere, I repeat, concerning the supply of medicines, equipment, credit resources, and the exchange of technologies. These are humanitarian things in their purest form. But no, they have not abolished any restrictions, citing some considerations that have nothing to do with the humanitarian component – but at the same time, everyone is talking about humanism.

I would say we need to be more honest with each other and abandon double standards. I am sure that if people hear me now on the media, they are probably finding it difficult to disagree with what I have just said, difficult to deny it. Deep down in their hearts, in their minds, everyone is probably thinking, “Yes, right, of course.” However, for political reasons, publicly, they will still say, “No, we must keep restrictions on Iran, Venezuela, against Assad.” What does Assad even have to do with this when it is ordinary people who suffer? At least, give them medicines, give them technology, at least a small, targeted loan for medicine. No.

Therefore, on the one hand, it seems like there is a tendency to unite, but, frankly speaking, by and large, I do not see any practical steps to bring it to reality. Although this trend does exist.

As for technology, it is another side of the matter. As for technology, of course, online education, telemedicine and other advanced solutions – all the modern digital technologies that had been increasingly penetrating all spheres, of course, with the pandemic have made a breach in the existing regulatory systems. They are forcing politicians, legal professionals, and administrative regulators, to move towards decision-making at a faster pace than they used to. And this is certainly, definitely changing the world.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Here is one more question related to what you have said.

Speaking about the strategy of combating the epidemic, you clearly and unequivocally stated that people’s life and safety are the main values. This strategy is understandable, but tactics differ. Last spring, the countries that chose a different path were sharply criticised.

For example, Sweden and Belarus did not introduce an economic lockdown or a tight quarantine. There were many pro and contra arguments. Six months later, we can see that the world is largely following in the footsteps of these countries instead of doing what we did in spring. I believe that you also said yesterday that there would not be any economic lockdown.

Does this mean that the balance is changing and that the balance should sometimes change in favour of the economy?

Vladimir Putin: I would say that nothing is changing in our country. I do not know about Sweden. On the other hand, I do know some things, and I will say a few words about them. The same is true about Belarus and other countries, where the decisions are made by their leadership. As for us, nothing has changed: people’s lives and health remain our priorities, without a doubt.

On the other hand, life and health are directly connected to healthcare, which must receive serious support from the federal and other budgets. For these budgets to be replenished, we need a working economy. Everything is closely interconnected. One needs to find a balance. I believe that we found this balance at the very beginning. We took a number of serious steps to support the economy. This support amounted to 4.5 percent of the GDP. Some other countries allocated even more funds for this purpose.

The point is actually not so much the amount of allocated funds but their effective use. I believe (we discussed several related issues with the Government today) that we disposed of these funds quite effectively, in a selective way and using the considerable resources we accumulated in the past years, as well as relying on the macroeconomic health of our economy, macroeconomic indicators and all the other positive achievements of the past years, to support our people, families with children, small and medium-sized businesses, and even large companies and whole industries.

Overall, there is no need in the current situation, at least in Russia, to reintroduce such restrictions as we had in spring, when we sent our people on paid leave and closed down whole enterprises. There is no need for this also because our healthcare system performed quite efficiently. We have also built up reserves, including a reserve of hospital beds, created new medicines and developed treatment guidelines. Our medics have learned how to deal with this disease, they know what and when needs to be done. In other words, we have become confident that we can deal with these problems. This is the first thing I wanted to say.

The second thing. We said from the beginning – I would just like to remind you, keeping in mind the vastness of our territory – that we were handing down a considerable part of authority for decision-making to the level of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation. Incidentally, all major countries, have, in fact, followed this path somewhat later. This has proven to be the right approach.

There is no such need today. The economy is recovering. The processing industry is recovering, the agro-industrial sector is performing quite well and is even growing, exports are recovering… Yes, we have issues that we should target. But look, we have basically acceptable macroeconomic indicators. Russia’s second-quarter economic contraction was 8 percent, and, say, the US economy, declined by 9 [percent], and the Euro zone, if I am not mistaken, by 14.5 – 14.7 [percent].

You have mentioned Sweden that imposed no restrictions, but they also happened to face an economic downturn. At first, they went public with the figure of 8.3 [percent], which was later adjusted to less than 8 [percent] – 7.7 [percent], if my memory serves me correctly. Here we go: they have introduced no restrictions, nor have they done what we have in supporting people and the economy, but their result is the same as ours. The modern world is extremely interconnected. But an economic decline is inevitable, the first thing to do is to take care of the people. This logic is immaculate. I am certain that you will agree on this point.

Now, regarding Belarus. President Lukashenko – I had many conversations with him – is fully aware of the COVID-19 threat. But Belarus has no comparable gold and currency reserves, nor such a diverse economic landscape, and he, as he says, simply had to keep the economy viable. But on the whole, the situation there is not worse, in fact, than in many other countries.

Therefore we face – and faced – no choice of this sort; our priorities are people, health, and life. We are not going to impose tough restrictions, there is no such need. There is no need to close businesses. What is needed is to adjust support for certain sectors, for example, for small and medium-sized businesses. Certain parts of this work require additional support, maybe the extension of tax benefits and some other measures that are due to expire shortly. It is necessary to take a closer look at transportation, the transport sector, and the services. We are aware of all this, we see this, and we will continue to work in these areas, no matter how difficult this might be. As I have repeatedly said, we will get through this difficult period together, with the people’s support and trust.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Colleagues, we are moving on to our traditional conversation. This time the setup of this discussion will be quite complex, since we have people sitting in the audience here, and I am also receiving questions from those who are watching online, and some of our colleagues will be able to ask their questions in person. Therefore, I will try to act as an impartial moderator and manage this conversation, and I apologise for any possible hiccups.

Let us begin. Timofei Bordachev, our colleague from the Valdai Club.

Timofei Bordachev: Good evening, and thank you for this unique opportunity.

Mr President, there has been much talk and debate, in the context of the global economic upheavals, about the fact that the liberal market economy has ceased to be a reliable tool for the survival of states, their preservation, and for their people.

Pope Francis said recently that capitalism has run its course. Russia has been living under capitalism for 30 years. Is it time to search for an alternative? Is there an alternative? Could it be the revival of the left-wing idea or something radically new? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Lenin spoke about the birthmarks of capitalism, and so on. It cannot be said that we have lived these past 30 years in a full-fledged market economy. In fact, we are only gradually building it, and its institutions. Russia had to do it from the ground up, starting from a clean slate. Of course, we are doing this taking into consideration developments around the world. After all, after almost one hundred years of a state-planned economy, transitioning to a market economy is not easy.

You know, capitalism, the way you have described it, existed in a more or less pure form at the beginning of the previous century. But everything changed after what happened in the global economy and in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s, after World War I. We have already discussed this on a number of occasions. I do not remember if I have mentioned this at Valdai Club meetings, but experts who know this subject better than I do and with whom I regularly communicate, they are saying obvious and well-known things.

When everything is fine, and the macro economic indicators are stable, various funds are building up their assets, consumption is on the rise and so on. In such times, you hear more and more that the state only stands in the way, and that a pure market economy would be more effective. But as soon as crises and challenges arise, everyone turns to the state, calling for the reinforcement of its supervisory functions. This goes on and on, like a sinusoidal curve. This is what happened during the preceding crises, including the recent ones, like in 2008.

I remember very well how the key shareholders of Russia’s largest corporations that are also major European and global players came to me proposing that the state buy their assets for one dollar or one ruble. They were afraid of assuming responsibility for their employees, pressured by margin calls, and the like. This time, our businesses have acted differently. No one is seeking to evade responsibility. On the contrary, they are even using their own funds, and are quite generous in doing so. The responses may differ, but overall, businesses have been really committed to social responsibility, for which I am grateful to these people, and I want them to know this.

Therefore, at present, we cannot really find a fully planned economy, can we? Take China. Is it a purely planned economy? No. And there is not a single purely market economy either. Nevertheless, the government’s regulatory functions are certainly important. For example, consider major industries such as aircraft construction. Without some regulatory function from the top – or from the left, right, bottom, for that matter, whether this regulatory function is visible or not – without it, it is impossible to operate in this market. And we can see that all the countries that claim respect as aircraft-building powers (contextually, I would say), their governments provide assistance to their aircraft manufacturers, all of them. And there are plenty of support methods.

By the way, the situation is much the same in the automotive industry, and in other industries. We just need to determine for ourselves the reasonable level of the state’s involvement in the economy; how quickly that involvement needs to be reduced, if at all, and where exactly. I often hear that Russia’s economy is overregulated. But during crises like this current pandemic, when we are forced to restrict business activity, and cargo traffic shrinks, and not only cargo traffic, but passenger traffic as well, we have to ask ourselves – what do we do with aviation now that passengers avoid flying or fly rarely, what do we do? Well, the state is a necessary fixture, there is no way they could do without state support.

So, again, no model is pure or rigid, neither the market economy nor the command economy today, but we simply have to determine the level of the state’s involvement in the economy. What do we use as a baseline for this decision? Expediency. We need to avoid using any templates, and so far, we have successfully avoided that. As I have said, the so-called developed economies, in Europe, have seen their GDP plummet by more than 14 percent. How high has unemployment grown in the eurozone? As far as I know, by over 10 percent. Ours has grown, too, but only by 6.3 percent. This is the result of government regulation. Or take inflation. We have been fighting it desperately. Is this not a regulatory function of the state?

Of course, the Central Bank and the Government are among the most important state institutions. Therefore, it was in fact through the joint efforts of the Central Bank and the Government that inflation was reduced to 4 percent, because the Government invests substantial resources through its social programmes and national projects and has an impact on our monetary policy. It went down to 3.9 percent, and the Governor of the Central Bank has told me that we will most likely keep it around the estimated target of around 4 percent. This is the regulating function of the state; there is no way around it. However, stifling development through an excessive presence of the state in the economy or through excessive regulation would be fatal as well. You know, this is a form of art, which the Government has been applying skilfully, at least for now.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr President, since you mentioned greed, I have to ask you the following. A lively discussion began the other day on the Finance Ministry’s proposal to reduce the staff at security-related agencies and to adjust their salaries and pensions. Is this a good time for this proposal? Or is it that the crisis is forcing us to cut expenses?

Vladimir Putin: The Finance Ministry regularly makes such proposals, crisis or no crisis. It is always in favour of reducing expenditure. In general, nearly all finance ministries in other countries do this as well. There is nothing unique in the proposal of the Russian Finance Ministry.

We do not envisage making any decisions yet. We have no term reduction or extension plans. It was just one of the Finance Ministry’s proposals. It has not even been reported to me yet. It is still at the level of discussion among Government agencies. When we need to make a final decision, I will take into account the economic realities and the real situation regarding people’s incomes, including in the security and military spheres, and a comparison of the levels of income in the country’s military and civilian sectors. There are many factors we need to take into account to prevent an imbalance on the labour market, and so on. I would like to repeat that these issues have not been discussed on the practical level. These discussions are ongoing within the framework of the Government.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Great. Our meeting has produced at least one result: the military can breathe out.

I would like to give the floor to our long-time friend who has been helping the Valdai Club a lot. Please meet Sam Charap from Washington, D.C. Usually, we had him here, but now he is at his workplace. We can get him on air now.

Sam, please.

Sam Charap: Hello, Mr. President,

I would like to return to your initiative to restore trust in cyberspace, which you mentioned in your remarks. Many argue whether there is trust in the outcome of the talks or the premises for holding them. It is not only about the election campaign, but the firm belief of many in Washington (and outside of it) that Russia is actively interfering in this area, and so on.

Can we ponder some kind of truce in this sphere in order to create proper grounds for talks and a minimum level of trust as a prerequisite for achieving more during ensuing talks? How do you think such a digital truce, so to say, may look like?

Vladimir Putin: Listen, as far as cybercrime is concerned, it always went hand in hand with digital technology and will probably always be there just like other offences. However, when we talk about relations between states, it is no coincidence that in my opening remarks I mentioned the dialogue on limiting offensive arms between the Soviet Union and the United States.

We agreed among ourselves to keep these weapons at a certain level. We propose reaching agreements in the sphere that is taking shape now right before our eyes and which is extremely important for the entire world and our countries. We need to discuss these matters in a broad context and come up with solutions.

I am not quite sure what kind of truce you are talking about. I believe it is already in place. You said that Russia is actively interfering. But I say: “We are not interfering in anything.” Moreover, the official probes conducted in the United States, including with the involvement of a special counsel, did not bring any results. They led to admitting the fact that there was no evidence of Russia’s interference. Therefore, I believe there is no need to set any preliminary conditions for us to start this dialogue. We must immediately sit down and talk. What is wrong with that approach? We are not proposing anything that does not meet our partners’ interests. If someone thinks that someone else is interfering in their affairs, well, let us come up with some general rules and develop verification tools to monitor compliance. Frankly, I do not understand where this persistence is coming from.

During the last months of President Obama’s presidency, his administration sent us a message to the effect that, indeed, it had taken them a while to review this matter, but they are now ready for a dialogue. Unfortunately, this ended quickly, and another president came to office. We started from centre-field with the new administration. Again, almost four years later now, we have not accomplished much.

I strongly hope that when the elections are over, our partners will return to this issue and respond positively to our proposals.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Fyodor Voitolovsky, Director of IMEMO, our flagship institute of international relations. Please.

Fyodor Voitolovsky: Mr President, in your statement today you mentioned one of the most burning issues of global politics, arms control. During the Cold War and especially at its final stage, the Soviet Union and the United States both applied a huge amount of efforts to create a network of treaties and a system of confidence-building measures, which limited the quantitative growth of their arsenals and reduced the risk of a conflict. Over the past 20 years, our American partners have consistently and very easily dismantled this system: first the ABM Treaty, and then the INF and Open Skies treaties. As of now, there are problems with extending the New START Treaty. Hence my question. Do you think the arms control system has a future? What new moves can be taken in this sphere?

Thank you.

Fyodor Lukyanov: I would like to add that we have a great number of questions about strategic offensive arms and especially the latest initiative advanced two days ago, and also a great deal of bewilderment over what this may mean and whether Russia has made excessive concessions.

Vladimir Putin: You asked if such arms control treaties have a future. I think that the world will have no future unless limits are put on the arms race. This is what all of us should think about, and this is what we are urging all of our partners to think about.

All of us are well aware of the problem, and you have mentioned this just now: withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, the INF Treaty and the Open Skies Treaty (the United States has not officially pulled out of it yet, but it has stated that it had launched the withdrawal process). Why? What is the reason for this decision? They do not even try to explain. They simply do not explain. Our European colleagues tell us, “Let them withdraw, but you should not do the same.” I reply, “All of you are NATO members, and so you will make flights and forward the data you collect to the Americans, while we will be unable to do this because we will remain committed to the Treaty. Let us not play dumb. Let us be honest with each other.” In fact, as far as I am aware, the United States’ European partners would like it to remain a member of the Open Skies Treaty, to keep it intact.

With regard to the INF Treaty, we have spoken about it many times, and I do not want to go over it again. When withdrawing from the ABM Treaty, the United States acted openly, directly and bluntly, but honestly. Here, though, they came up with an excuse and accused Russia of some violations, and then withdrew from the Treaty. If this were the case, if everything were just like our American partners are saying, they could also go ahead and violate it without much ado. Who was stopping them? Instead, they took this step publicly for everyone to see.

Just do not tell me that they are white and fluffy goody two-shoes who are not into underhand dealings. We are aware of what is happening with verification, in the sphere of nuclear weapons among other thing, where they weld the lids or tamper with the aircraft. They get away with it and do not let us in there. Okay, we keep quiet, but the experts know what I am talking about. They just made it a point to take these steps, and to do so publicly, with broad coverage. Clearly, they are pursuing a political goal. I just do not see any military purpose here. But the best solution is for the verification and monitoring to be implemented by all contracting parties, so that our agreements are reliably protected by these monitoring systems.

Now, START-3.We took account of all the problems when we were negotiating these issues. Only one thing was left out. It is what Russia acquired in response to the United States withdrawing from the ABM Treaty. Precisely in response to the withdrawal. I am referring to our innovative high-precision hypersonic weapons. Indeed, neither the United States nor other countries have access to such weapons, although they are working on it, and someday they will have them as well. They are telling us, “You have it, we do not, so we must take this into account.” Well, we do not mind, let us take it into account. Both regarding the number of carriers and the number of warheads. We do not mind.

There are other issues that we can discuss. But what choice do we have? The treaty expires in February. After all, my proposal is very straightforward. It lies on the surface. Nothing will happen if we extend this agreement, without any preconditions, for one year and persistently work on all the issues of concern both to us and the Americans. We will work on it together and look for solutions.

After all, the trick is that we have had hardly any constructive discussions about this so far. Our partners, to put it bluntly, shied away from a direct and substantive professional discussion. The treaty will expire in February 2020, and that is all we have left now.

Question: What is better: to preserve the current treaty as it is, to start discussing it in detail and try to find some compromise during the year or to lose it altogether and leave us, the US and Russia, and the entire world practically without any legal foundation that limits the arms race? I believe the second option is much worse than the first.

I think it is simply unacceptable but I have said, and I want to emphasise it once again, that we are not holding on to this treaty. If our partners decide it is not necessary – all right, let it be, there is nothing we can do to prevent them. Our security, Russia’s security will not be damaged by this, especially because we have the latest weapons systems. This is the first part.

The second part boils down to making these agreements multilateral by including our Chinese friends in them. But are we against this? Russia is not against this but just do not shift on us the responsibility of making this treaty multilateral. If someone wants to do this, it is fine to try to achieve this. We do not object to this. Are we an obstacle on this road? No.

But the arguments quoted by our Chinese friends are very simple. China is an enormous country, a great power with an enormous economy and 1.5 billion people. But the level of its nuclear potential is almost twice, if not more lower than that of Russia and the US. They are asking a lawful question, “What will we limit? Or will we freeze our inequality in this area?” What can you reply to this? It is the sovereign right of a 1.5 billion strong nation to decide on the best way of building its policy on ensuring its own security.

Of course, it is possible to turn this into a subject of an argument or discussion and simply block any agreement. But may I ask why would only China be pressed to be involved in this process and in signing this treaty? Where are the other nuclear powers? Where is France that, as the press reports, has just tested another submarine-launched cruise missile? Great Britain is also a nuclear power. There are other nuclear states that are not officially recognised as such, as it were, but the whole world knows that they have nuclear arms. So, are we going to behave like ostriches? Hide our heads in the sand and pretend that we do not understand what is going on? What we need is not a checkerboard pattern on our car. We need to drive it, therefore we need to ensure security. So, let us get them involved as well. Let us do it. We are not against this. The only question is whether there is any reason for this, a goal to strive for, whether there is any positive example to follow such as the agreements between the US and Russia? Or is there nothing at all?

We are ready to work from scratch, from centre-field, fine. If you ask about our position, I believe it is better not to lose what was achieved before, to move forward from the positions that have already been reached by previous generations, by the leaders of our countries. However, if our partners decide on something different, we are willing to work in any format and on any of these tracks.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Anatol Lieven, another one of our veterans, who could not come to this meeting but is taking part in it via videoconference. Please.

Anatol Lieven: Thank you very much, Mr President, for speaking to us. And I would also like to thank you personally for your very strong statement on climate change and the environment.

My question, however, relates to the new outbreak of conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Russia, like other members of the international community, has been trying very hard to bring about a peaceful solution to this conflict, but so far these efforts have failed. If they continue to fail, given Russia’s old historic links and given Russia’s military alliance with Armenia, will it be necessary in the end for Russia to take sides against Azerbaijan and Turkey?

On the other hand, could this perhaps provide a positive opportunity for Russia, given the increasing confrontation which we see between France and Turkey over Turkey’s claims in the Eastern Mediterranean? Could this perhaps be an opportunity for a rapprochement between Russia and France and other West European countries? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: I did not quite understand the last part of the question. What does the [Nagorno-Karabakh] conflict have to do with this?

Fyodor Lukyanov: Maybe he meant the possibility of rapprochement with France and Europe, since Turkey is now opposed to both them and, to a degree, to us?

Vladimir Putin: I see.

Let us begin at the beginning, with Nagorno-Karabakh and who to support in this conflict. You said that Russia has always had special relations with Armenia. But we have also always had special ties with Azerbaijan as well. There are over 2 million Armenians and some 2 million Azerbaijanis living in Russia, both those who have come to Russia in search of jobs and those who live here permanently. They send billions of dollars to their families back home. All these people have stable and close ties with Russia at the humanitarian level, person-to-person, business, humanitarian and family ties. Therefore, Armenia and Azerbaijan are both equal partners for us. And it is a great tragedy for us when people die there. We would like to develop full-scale relations with both Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Yes, there are some individual elements in each case, and some things in our relations with one partner differ from our relations with the other partner. In the case of Armenia, it is Christianity. But we also have very close ties with Azerbaijan in other spheres.

Speaking about religion, I would like to point out that nearly 15 percent of Russian citizens are Muslims. Therefore, Azerbaijan is not an alien country to us in this sense either.

But what we certainly cannot forget is what happened in the destiny of the Armenian people, the Armenian nation during World War I. This is an enormous tragedy for the Armenian people, This is the second part.

The third part is based on the fact that this conflict broke out not just as an interstate conflict or struggle for territories. It started with ethnic confrontation. Regrettably, it is also a fact that violent crimes against the Armenian people were also committed in Sumgait and later in Nagorno-Karabakh. We must consider all this in a package.

At the same time, we understand that a situation where Azerbaijan has lost a substantial part of its territory cannot continue. Over the years, we have suggested many diverse options for settling this crisis with a view to stabilising the situation in the long-term historical perspective.

I will not go into detail at this point but believe me, this was intensive work on bringing the positions of the parties closer. Sometimes it seemed like a bit more effort, another small step and we would find the solution. Regrettably, it did not happen, and today we are seeing the worst-case scenario in this conflict. The death of people is a tragedy. There are heavy losses on both sides. According to our information, there are over 2,000 dead on either side. The total number of victims is already approaching 5,000.

Let me emphasise that the Soviet Union, the Soviet army lost 13,000 people during the ten years of war in Afghanistan. Now the toll is almost 5,000 in such a short span of time. And how many are wounded? How many people, how many children are suffering? This is why it is a special situation for us.

Yes, the Minsk Group was established, I believe, in 1992. As its co-chairs, Russia, France and the US are responsible for organising the negotiating process. It is clear, and I am 100 percent confident of this, that all participants in the process are sincerely striving to settle the situation. That said, nobody is interested in this as much as Russia is, because this is a very sensitive issue for us. This is not just happening before our eyes, but in a broad sense, it is happening with our people, our friends and our relatives. This is why we are in a position that allows us to be trusted by both sides and play a substantial role as a mediator on the rapprochement of positions in settling this conflict. I would very much like to find a compromise here.

As you may be aware, I maintain close contacts with both President Aliyev and Prime Minister Pashinyan. I speak to them on the phone several times a day. Our respective foreign ministers, defence ministers and heads of special services are constantly in contact. Foreign ministers of both countries came to us again. Today, or rather on October 23, they will have a meeting in Washington. I strongly hope that our American partners will act in unison with us and promote a settlement. Let us hope for the best. This covers the first part.

The second part concerns disputes within NATO between Turkey and France. We never take advantage of frictions between other states. We have good and stable relations with France. I would not say they are full-fledged, but they hold a lot of promise and, in any case, have a good track record.

Our cooperation with Turkey is expanding. Turkey is our neighbour, and I can tell you in more detail how important interaction between our states is for both Turkey and Russia.

I do not think anyone needs our mediation. Turkey and France are perfectly capable of regulating relations between themselves. No matter how tough President Erdogan’s stance may look, I know that he is a flexible person, and finding a common language with him is possible. Therefore, I hope the situation will get back to normal here as well.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr President, a follow-up if I may, since it is a hot topic.

Still, Turkey’s much more active role than ever before is what makes the current crisis in the South Caucasus different. You said President Erdogan is flexible. That may well be the case as you spent a lot of time with him. However, many experts believe that Erdogan’s policy is actually about expanding his zone of influence to the borders of the former Ottoman Empire. These borders stretched far and wide, as we know, and they enclosed a lot of territory, including Crimea, which was part of it at some point. It was a long time ago, but nonetheless.

Should we not fear that if this becomes a consistent policy, we would have certain differences with Ankara?

Vladimir Putin: Russia is not afraid of anything. Thank goodness, we are not in a position where we should be afraid of anything.

I do not know about President Erdogan’s plans or his attitude towards the Ottoman legacy. You should ask him about it. But I know that our bilateral trade exceeds $20 billion. I know that Turkey is really interested in continuing this cooperation. I know that President Erdogan is pursuing an independent foreign policy. Despite a lot of pressure, we implemented the TurkStream project together rather quickly. We cannot do the same with Europe; we have been discussing this issue for years, but Europe seems unable to show enough basic independence or sovereignty to implement the Nord Stream 2 project, which would be advantageous to it in every respect.

As for Turkey, we implemented our project quite quickly, despite any threats. Erdogan, who was aware of his national interests, said that we would do it, and we did it. The same is true of our ties in other areas, for example, our military-technical cooperation. Turkey decided it needed a modern air defence system, and the world’s best is the S-400, a triumph of Russian industry. He said he would do it, and he bought it. Working with such a partner is not only pleasant but also safe.

As for aspirations, regarding Crimea or anything else, I know nothing about them, and I do not care about them because the interests of Russia are reliably protected, take my word for it. I am sure that our other partners are fully aware of this.

Regarding Turkey’s refusal to recognise Crimea as part of Russia, well, we do not see eye to eye on all subjects. For example, we are not always on the same page regarding the situation in the South Caucasus. But we also know about the positions of Europe and the United States. They claim to be true dyed-in-the-wool democrats, but they do not even want to hear about the people of Crimea voting for their future in a referendum, which is the highest form of direct democracy.

As I said, they adopted sanctions against the Crimean people. If Crimea was annexed, then they are the victims. Why are sanctions adopted against the victims? But if they voted freely, it was democracy in action, so why are they being punished for democracy? This is all rubbish and nonsense, but it is also a fact of life. So why point the finger at Erdogan? Just take a look at what is happening in other countries.

This is a consistent stand: he does not recognise Crimea, and he does not recognise Nagorno-Karabakh. What should we do? We must continue working with everyone and remain calm. This is exactly what we have been doing: trying to prove that our position is correct, and we will continue to uphold it, and when positions diverge, we look for compromise.

For example, as far as I know, our views on the developments in the South Caucasus do not coincide, because we believe that conflicts should be settled diplomatically at the negotiating table rather than with the use of armed force. Of course, one could say that talks have been ongoing there for 30 years, but to no avail. Well, I do not see this as a reason to start shooting.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you very much.

Of course, Mr Erdogan has been consistent. For example, he recognises Northern Cyprus. But this is perhaps part of the flexibility that you were talking about.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, you are right. I agree. I was supposed to say this but it slipped my mind. But you are correct. Northern Cyprus, yes. However, as far as I know, Turkey does not object to the country finally being unified. The principles of this unification are the problem. But, overall, you are right.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Anatoly Torkunov, President of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

Anatoly Torkunov: Mr President,

Although there are still more than two months left in 2020, I think all of us see this year as one of very dramatic and unpredictable events. So of course, there is a joke that goes, if by the end of the year we encounter aliens, nobody will be surprised.

Never mind the aliens, we will see how it goes. My question is, of course, not about them. It is related to the developments around our borders. Thank you for such a detailed and interesting account. As an expert, I was very curious to hear your remarks on the South Caucasus.

But in general, developments around our borders seem to be rather dramatic. Let us take the events in Kyrgyzstan. The elections in that country have always prompted some kind of turbulence, although this year the civil disturbances have been particularly rough. The situation in Belarus is somewhat complicated. There is also the problem of Donbass. I understand that you must be tired of talking about this. We know your firm and consistent stance on this issue.

My question is what are Russia’s current fundamental foreign policy goals in the post-Soviet space, considering that it directly concerns our security and humanitarian links? Today you have stressed several times that these people are not foreigners to us – meaning the Caucasus but also our friends in Central Asia and our friends in Belarus and Ukraine.

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: You know this better than anyone else, you are a very experienced person and a professional with a capital “P”. Our policy in the post-Soviet space within the CIS framework is the main component of our overall foreign policy. This is obvious because all the countries you listed and every other country with which we have good, very good multilateral relations, as well as those with whom our ties seem to be in a stalemate in some cases – they are not foreign countries to us all the same. These are not remote countries somewhere overseas about which we know little.

It is obvious that we lived in a single country, and not just for many years but for centuries, We have strong ties and very deep cooperation in the economy, humanitarian ties. We all speak a common language. In a sense, to a greater or lesser degree, we are essentially people of the same cultural space, not to mention our history. We have a common history and a common victory over Nazism. Our predecessors – our fathers and grandfathers – validated our special relations with their blood.

Regardless of the current events and today’s political environment, I am sure that this community of interests will eventually pave the way to the restoration of our ties with all these countries, no matter how difficult our ties with them are.

At the same time, and this is also an obvious fact, when our common state, the USSR began disintegrating, the people who dealt with this did not think about the consequences this would lead to, something they should have thought about. But it was clear that our neighbours did not always have identical interests. Sometimes their interests diverged and rope pulling was always possible. I believe we must and will find solutions to complicated issues in any way we can, but we need to avoid fueling or exaggerating anything or emphasising disputed issues. On the contrary, we must look at what can and must unite us and what does unite us. What is this? Our common interests.

Look, with respect to economic integration, who is not interested in this? Only our competitors. And the post-Soviet countries are bound to understand, at least smart people are bound to understand that a concerted effort, considering we have a common infrastructure, common transport and energy system and a common language that unites rather than divides us, etc., is our distinct competitive advantage in achieving the things for which some economic associations and structures have been fighting for decades, while we have received all this from our predecessors. We must use this, and this brings benefits to all of us. It is absolutely obvious that this is simply beneficial.

Look, Ukraine saw a revolution in 2004, and then in 2014 another revolution, a state coup. What happened as a result? Read the statistics published by the Ukrainian statistical services: shrinking production, as if they had more than one pandemic. Some of the local industries, ones the entire Soviet Union and Ukraine itself were proud of – the aircraft industry, shipbuilding, rocket building – developed by generations of Soviet people, from all Soviet republics, a legacy Ukraine, too, could and should be proud of – are almost gone. Ukraine is being de-industrialised. It was perhaps the most industrialised Soviet republic, not just one of them. There was of course the Russian Federation, Moscow, St Petersburg, Siberia, the Urals – all right, but Ukraine still was one of the most industrialised republics. Where is all this now and why is it lost?

It was just the stupidity of those who did it, just stupidity, that is all. But I hope that these common interests will still pave the way for common sense.

You just mentioned Belarus – indeed, we have witnessed these turbulent processes there. But there is something I would like to highlight As you may have noticed, Russia did not interfere in what was happening there. And we expect no one else to interfere either. No one should be stirring up this conflict to promote their own interests and impose any decisions on the Belarusian people. I already said in my opening remarks that nothing introduced from the outside without taking into account the peculiarities, culture and history of the people will ever work for that culture, those people.

The Belarusians themselves should be given the opportunity to calmly handle their situation and make appropriate decisions. The decisions they will make could pave the way for amending the country’s Constitution or adopting a new Constitution. President Lukashenko said this publicly. True, people can say, well, he will just write something for his own benefit, this kind of constitution will have nothing to do with democracy. But, you know, it is possible to slander just about anything, and there are always sceptics. But I already said this, so I will not go into more detail.

But what happened in Belarus compares favourably with what happened on the streets of some big cities in developed democracies, do you see that? There has been some harsh action indeed, I give you that, and maybe even unjustified, but then, those who allowed it should be made responsible. But in general, if you compare and look at the pictures – in Belarus, no one shot an unarmed person in the back, that is what I mean. So let us just calmly deal with this.

The same goes for Kyrgyzstan. I think current developments there are a disaster for Kyrgyzstan and its people. Every time they have an election, they practically have a coup. What does this mean? This is not funny. It means that many of these countries are taking the first steps towards their own statehood and the culture of state development.

I have told my colleagues many times that the post-Soviet countries should be treated with special attention, and we must carefully support these new sprouts of statehood. In no case should we be pressing advice or recommendations on them, and even more so, avoid any interference, because this will destroy the fragile, nascent institutions of sovereignty and statehood in those countries. It is necessary to give these nations the opportunity to carefully build these relations within society leading by example, but not acting like an elephant in a china shop with advice and piles of money to support one or the other side.

I strongly hope that we have helped Kyrgyzstan, as a member of the CSTO and the EAEU, to get on its feet, invested hundreds of millions of dollars to support the Kyrgyz economy and various industries and to help Kyrgyzstan adapt so it can join the EAEU. This also goes for phytosanitary services, customs systems, individual sectors of the economy and enterprises. We have recently implemented projects valued at up to $500 million. I am not even talking about grants that we provide annually in the amount of tens of millions of dollars.

Of course, we cannot look at what is happening there without pity and concern. Please note that we are not pressing our advice or instructions on them. We are not supporting any particular political forces there. I strongly hope that things in Kyrgyzstan will get back to normal, and that Kyrgyzstan will get on the path to progress and we will maintain excellent relations with them.

The same goes for Moldova. We can see the developments related to Moldova, and we know the Moldovan people’s needs for promoting democracy and economy. But who is buying Moldovan wine? Will France buy Moldovan wine? Who needs it in the European markets? They have more than enough of their own. When they ship wine from country to country, even within the European Union, the farmers dump it into ditches just to get rid of the cargo.

This is not just about wine. Other sectors of the economy are so closely tied to Russia that they simply cannot exist without it, at least for now. They can only sell their products in Russia. This is exactly what happened to Ukraine. Therefore, we hope that during the next election in Moldova, the Moldovan people will appreciate the efforts that the current President of the republic is undertaking to build good relations with Russia.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you very much.

Hans-Joachim Spanger has joined us from Frankfurt.

Hans-Joachim Spanger: Mr President,

Allow me to turn to an issue which is connected with a person whose name reportedly is not really used in the Kremlin, at least not in public – Alexei Navalny.

A renowned Russian scholar, Dmitry Trenin, the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, recently stated, let me quote: “The poisoning of the opposition activist Alexei Navalny has become a turning point in Russo-German relations.” And this, according to him, essentially means that, another quote, “this special role performed by Germany and its Chancellor in recent years is now a thing of the past. From now on, Germany will have the same attitude to Russia as all the other countries in Western Europe.”

My question is whether you share this view that a) there was such a special role of Germany in bilateral German-Russian relations, and b) whether you also detect such a turning point now, and if so, what Russia can do to avoid it happening, or, conversely, to turn the turning point around again? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: I will start with the first part of your question, about the poisonings. First, we have heard about poisonings here and there many times. It is not the first time.

Second, if the authorities had wanted to poison the person you mentioned or to poison anybody, it is very unlikely they would have sent him for medical treatment to Germany. Don’t you think so? As soon as this person’s wife contacted me, I immediately instructed the Prosecutor General’s Office to see if it was possible to allow him to travel abroad for medical treatment. They could have prohibited it because he was under restrictions due to an investigation and a criminal case. He was under travel restrictions. I immediately asked the Prosecutor General’s Office to allow that. And he was taken to Germany.

Then we were told that they found traces of this infamous Novichok that is known around the world. I said, “Please give us the materials.” Primarily, the biological material and the official report so that we can do more research that can give us official and formal legal grounds for initiating criminal proceedings. What was unusual about this request? Our Prosecutor General’s Office, in keeping with the agreements we have with Germany, has repeatedly forwarded official requests for these materials. Is this unusual? In addition, in a conversation with a European leader, I suggested that our specialists go to Germany and together with French, German and Swedish experts work on site to obtain the necessary materials, which we could use to initiate criminal proceedings and, should this incident prove to be a crime, investigate it. But they would not give us anything. How can you explain why? There is no explanation, there is just no explanation. This all looks strange.

Well, they said that they had found traces of Novichok. Later they passed whatever they had on to the OPCW – the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Then quite unexpectedly, they said, it is not Novichok – it is something else. So, is it Novichok or not? This has cast doubt on what was said before. Well, let us investigate the incident together. I say, as I have said several times, that if this is really true, we will definitely conduct an investigation. Unfortunately, there have been attempts on the lives of public figures and businessmen in our country. These cases were investigated in Russia, the culprits were found and punished and, what is important, all of them were punished. We are prepared to spare no effort in this case as well.

As for specific individuals, we have quite a few people like Saakashvili, but I do not think that currently these people have influence to speak of… They may also change, why not? They may undergo some transformation – which, in principle, is not bad – and will also get involved in realpolitik instead of making noise in the street. Take Occupy Wall Street – where is it? Where? Where is all the informal opposition in many European countries or the United States, for that matter? There are many parties there. Where are they? Two parties dominate the political stage and that is it. However, look what is going on in the streets.

This is why we are developing the Russian political system and will continue to do so, offering all political forces – seriously-minded, sincere and patriotic ones – the opportunity to work in compliance with the law.

Now, regarding Germany’s role. We have had very good relations with Germany in the post-war years. I think this was largely due to the German Democratic Republic, the GDR, which was the Soviet Union’s key and main ally in Europe, at least during the time that state existed. We have developed very good relations at the personal and political levels, and in the economic sphere. I know there are still a lot of people there now who sympathise with Russia. And we appreciate that.

Incidentally, the Soviet Union did play a decisive role in the reunification of Germany. It was indeed a decisive role. Some of your current allies, allies of Germany, in fact, objected to the unification of Germany, no matter what they said. We know this; we still have it in our archives. While the Soviet Union played this role. I personally believe that it was the right thing to do, because it was wrong to break a single whole into parts, and if the people there really want something, in Germany’s case they wanted unity, reunification, their pursuit should not be contained by force, as it will not do anyone any good. As for building relations between East and West Germany – this should be up to the Germans, of course. Has Germany played any special role, say, as a mediator between Russia and the rest of the world or Russia and the rest of Europe? I do not think so. Russia is a country that does not need intermediaries.

At the same time, we have always had very special economic, and even humanitarian ties with Germany. Why? Because Germany wanted to play a special role? Well, no, I think it had more to do with Germany’s own interests. Even now, Germany is Russia’s second largest trade partner, in gross volume. It used to be the first, by the way, but it is second to China now, as our trade with China is twice the volume it is with Germany. Nevertheless, there are more than 2,000 companies with German capital in our market. We have a fairly large volume of German investment and German businesses are interested in working in Russia. We are happy about this, because we know these are sincere people interested in expanding ties with our country. I regularly meet with representatives of German business; they are all our friends, or I would like to think so, anyway. This cooperation provides millions of jobs in the Federal Republic of Germany as well, because goods produced by German enterprises go to the Russian market; they enjoy demand here, which means jobs there.

Incidentally, many industries have been seeing a high level of cooperation in recent years. All the above are manifestations of the special nature of our relations, of a mutual interest, I would say. Mutual interest is at the heart of this relationship – not an ambition to play some special role. And this mutual interest will not go away, regardless of the current political situation, and we will maintain such relations, no matter what anyone does.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you very much.

We will stay in Europe for now.

Nathalie Tocci from Rome has joined us. Nathalie, please go ahead.

Nathalie Tocci: Thank you, Mr President, for your extremely candid remarks.

You spoke very eloquently about the importance and centrality of the state, but at the same time the importance of international cooperation, and, in particular, highlighted areas like security as well as climate, which I would associate also with energy transition.

Now, when it comes to security, perhaps a follow-up question on the Caucasus and the resumption of war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. At some point, hopefully very soon, there will be a new ceasefire. At the same time, the conflict itself won’t be resolved. Given that the current configuration of the three Minsk Group co-chairs has been unable to deliver a settlement in all these 26 years, does Russia think that this is the setup that should be reconsidered?

And then, perhaps, if I may, a question on climate change and, in particular, energy transition. Now, energy transition requires funding. The European Union, for instance, will dedicate approximately 40 percent of its next-generation new fund to the Green Deal. Now, when it comes to Russia, it is clear that, being a country that has depended quite importantly on its fossil fuel exports, stabilising energy markets is obviously going to be key for Russia in order to obtain the funds to move forward.

In your speech you highlighted the importance OPEC Plus had in that stabilisation of the market, and I think Russia itself played an extremely important role in ensuring that supplies were cut so as to stabilise prices. But at the same time, we are now in a second wave of the pandemic, and we are likely to see demand continuing to be rather sluggish. Would you expect, or would you like to see in 2021, a further cut in supplies to ensure a further stabilisation of prices?

Vladimir Putin: I will start with the first part of your question regarding the Minsk Group negotiation format and whether it should be changed. Unfortunately, Nathalie, I cannot answer your question. This is for a number of objective reasons, not because I want to emphasise Russia’s role, we all understand that Russia is where it is, nearby. These are our neighbours, and we have special relations with these countries and these peoples. The influences are very strong. I have already said that 2.4 million Armenians and about 2 million Azerbaijanis live in Russia. They wire tens of billions of dollars to support their families. But this is just one factor. I am not even mentioning many others, including the use of markets, cultural ties, and so on. That is, in our case, the situation is very different from relations between the United States and Armenia, or the United States and Azerbaijan, or even Turkey and Azerbaijan. Therefore, of course, we bear special responsibility and must be very careful in what we do.

In this context, the support of the United States, France and other members of the Minsk Group – 10 or 12 countries – matters a lot to us. There are European countries there, and Turkey as well. Do we need to change anything in this regard? I am not sure. Maybe the format could be tweaked a little, but it is imperative to find constructive and acceptable compromises for both sides.

To reiterate, for many years we have been looking for these compromises. We have proposed, believe me, very persistently, a variety of compromises, down to minute details and kilometres, to tell you the truth. All sorts of “corridors” were suggested, as well as an exchange of territories. All the things that were suggested… Unfortunately, we were unable to identify a solution, which eventually led to this tragedy. I hope these hostilities will come to an end soon. I agree with those who believe, including you, that the first thing is to immediately stop the hostilities. We, in fact, agreed to this during the meeting in Moscow. Unfortunately, we were unable to avoid this situation. We will continue to strive for this.

Now I would like to say a few words about oil and everything connected with it, the demand for oil and so on. We are working on alternative energy sources ourselves. We are one of the richest countries in hydrocarbons, oil and gas, but this does not mean at all that we should not think about the future. We are thinking about it and about solar energy and hydrogen energy. We are working on this. Moreover, we are working on this with a view to improving the current situation.

You know for sure that we have adopted a decision in line with which in 2022 we must make our 300 largest contaminators, that is, 300 major companies that are the biggest emitters of these gases, switch to the most accessible, latest technology that would minimise emissions into the atmosphere and into the environment in general of any pollutants, and reduce these emissions by 20 percent by 2024. But we understand that by dealing with these 300 companies and 12 cities where most of them are located, we will not drastically improve the situation. Our strategy in this respect is aimed at halving all anthropogenic emissions by 2030. We must move towards this goal. We have set it for ourselves and will pursue it consistently. We will work on it.

That said, I do not think it will be realistic, provided every country wants to be competitive, to abandon hydrocarbons in the near future. I believe the near future embraces several decades: 30, 40 and 50 years from now. This is simply unrealistic.

Therefore, when we hear about European novelties on hydrocarbons and relevant restrictions, I do not know on what basis these proposals, conclusions and decisions are made. Are they explained by domestic political struggle? Later they are followed by restrictions in international trade and cooperation, right? I do not think this will lead to anything good. It is necessary to achieve a result in this respect not through restrictions but through cooperation and a striving to reach common goals.

We have done what we ought to do under the Kyoto agreement. We have fulfilled everything we did. We are active participants in the Paris agreement and intend to do all this. We are not shutting down from it. On the contrary, we think this is the way to go.

I spoke in my opening remarks about the speed at which permafrost is disappearing and the consequences this may have for all humankind. And what about us? We have a lot of transport systems in this zone: oil and gas pipelines and railways. Our residential districts and whole cities are located on this territory. This is a huge problem for us, and that is why we are willing to work and will work, both ourselves and at the international level, for a clean environment and a reduction in anthropogenic emissions. That said, it is impossible to do without hydrocarbons.

But there is also natural gas as a hydrocarbon source. It is actually the cleanest of hydrocarbons. And what about nuclear energy? Despite what anyone says or the scare tactics around nuclear power and nuclear power stations, it is one of the cleanest kinds of energy. So what are we talking about? Take automobiles, what is the primary energy source there? Even now, Europe and the entire world still use coal to produce electricity. Yes, coal’s share is falling but it is still used.

Why should any fiscal constraints be placed on using natural gas and even diesel fuel? By the way, it can be made to be extremely clean with modern purification and usage standards. So what is the point? To give competitive advantages to certain sectors of the economy in this or that country, with politicians standing behind it. That is the only way I can explain it, not as a simple desire to improve the environment. Nevertheless, I hope sound decisions will be taken here and we will be able to find a proper balance between environmental and economic interests.

As for the demand for oil and work within OPEC+, we maintain contacts with all our partners – both the Americans and the Saudis. We do so regularly at the ministerial level. Literally just the other day I spoke to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, we consult with one another. We believe there is no need to change anything in our agreements as of yet. We will be closely tracking the recovery of the market. You said it was sluggish. It was but is recovering, I will note, it is growing.

The world economy did indeed contract due to the pandemic but consumption is on the rise. That has something to do with our decisions as part of OPEC+. We are of the opinion that nothing needs to change right now. However, we are not ruling out either maintaining existing production limits or not lifting them as soon as we had intended earlier. And if necessary, we will make further reductions. But currently we do not see the need. We have agreed with all our partners that we will closely monitor the situation.

Russia is not interested in higher or lower prices necessarily. Here, our interests overlap with those of our US partners, perhaps primarily with them, because if oil prices drop significantly, shale production will experience great difficulties, to put it mildly. However, although it did not join the OPEC+ deal in a meaningful way, the United States has, in fact, reduced output.

So, almost all market participants, all players have close or overlapping interests, as diplomats say. We will proceed based on the actual situation so as not to make a negative impact on the market. As you are aware, it is important not to impact geological exploration and the preparation of new wells. If we treat the energy sector like a stepchild and keep saying it is not good enough and does nothing but pollute, investment will dry up, and prices will skyrocket.

That is why it is necessary to act responsibly and not politicise this issue or chatter idly, especially for those who know nothing about it, but to act based on the interests of the global economy and their own countries’ interests and find a compromise between protecting nature and growing the economy, so our people can earn enough to support themselves and their families. We will succeed only if we manage to balance these interests. Anything less will lead to ruin.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr President, we at the Valdai Club have the pleasure to meet with you regularly and so we have a basis for comparison. If I may say so, I think you have learned something from the pandemic. You sound at peace when you talk about it. I have to ask. You speak so well of Europe, but does it bother you that you are considered almost a murderer there, that those closest to you in government are sanctioned and you are always called on to justify something? And yet I can hear absolution in what you say.

Vladimir Putin: You know, there is little that bothers me, because to a certain extent, when I carry out my official duties, I become the function of protecting the interests of the Russian people and the Russian state. Everything else I try to shut out, so that it does not interfere with the performance of this function. I have had a long time to get used to these attacks, since 2000, when we fought international terrorists in the Caucasus. I heard and saw everything. They portrayed me with fangs and in every other way imaginable. So, it has no effect on me.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Let us jump to the other side. Zhao Huasheng, Shanghai.

Zhao Huasheng: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

Zhao Huasheng: Thank you very much for this great opportunity.

This year’s theme at this Valdai Club session is The Lessons of the Pandemic and the New Agenda: How to Turn a World Crisis into an Opportunity for the World. I will paraphrase this: how can we turn a world crisis into an opportunity for Sino-Russian relations?

The world is rapidly changing now. Given these conditions, how do you think Sino-Russian relations should develop? I am referring to political and economic ties and regional and international cooperation. What new approaches can be expected? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: I would give a very brief answer to the question on how to further develop Sino-Russian relations: the same way we have been doing it and are doing it now. Russian-Chinese relations have reached an unprecedented level.

I am not even mentioning the term “specially privileged” relations, etc. What matters is not the name but the quality of these ties. As for the quality, we treat each other with deep trust; we have established durable, stable, and most importantly, effective ties across the board.

My friend – and I have every reason to call him a friend –President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping and I continuously consult each other on what and how things need to be done based on what has already been achieved, but we always find a way to move forward.

You know that we are working together in aviation and nuclear power engineering, as I have just mentioned, and further developing trade ties. Last year, our trade was over 111 billion. This is far from the highest figure that we can achieve. We will certainly achieve more.

We are developing infrastructure, building bridges that unite us in the literal meaning of the word. We are developing humanitarian ties and seeking implementation rather than simply planning large projects in the areas where we supplement each other effectively, including energy.

China is a big shareholder in a number of large Russian projects on gas production, and later, on liquefaction (LNG). Where are these projects carried out? Not on the border with China but in the north of the Russian Federation. We work together in a variety of other areas. And, as we have said many times, there is no doubt that international cooperation is a very important factor in stabilising world affairs; this is absolutely obvious.

To say nothing of our military and defence industry cooperation. We have traditionally maintained relations in this area on a significant scale. I am not only talking about buying and selling, I also mean the sharing of technologies. We hope to maintain this working relationship with our Chinese friends – a friendly relationship based on mutual respect, oriented toward achieving the best results for the people of both China and Russia.

As for Shanghai, it happens to be a sister city of St Petersburg, where I am from. I have been to Shanghai on more than one occasion. It is a magnificent and beautiful city, and I wish the people of Shanghai all the best.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Here is a follow-up question from China to clarify a bit what you just said. Professor Yan Xuetong wants to ask you a very simple and straightforward question: Is it possible to conceive of a military alliance between China and Russia?

Vladimir Putin: It is possible to imagine anything. We have always believed that our relations have reached such a level of cooperation and trust that it is not necessary, but it is certainly imaginable, in theory.

We hold regular joint military exercises – at sea and on land in both China and the Russian Federation – and we share best practices in the build-up of the armed forces. We have achieved a high level of cooperation in the defence industry – I am not only talking about the exchange or the purchase and sale of military products, but the sharing of technologies, which is perhaps most important.

There are also very sensitive issues here. I will not speak publicly about them now, but our Chinese friends are aware of them. Undoubtedly, cooperation between Russia and China is boosting the defence potential of the Chinese People’s Army, which is in the interests of Russia as well as China. Time will tell how it will progress from here. So far, we have not set that goal for ourselves. But, in principle, we are not going to rule it out, either. So, we will see.

Anyway, we are satisfied with the current state of relations between Russia and China in this area. Unfortunately, we have to confront new threats. For example, the intention stated by our American partners to possibly deploy medium- and short-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific Region, of course, raises alarm, and we undoubtedly will have to take reciprocal steps – this fact is self-evident.

Of course, before it comes to that, we have to see what if anything is going to happen, what threats it will pose to us, and, depending on that, we will take reciprocal measures to ensure our security.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Piotr Dutkiewicz from Canada, please.

Piotr Dutkiewicz: Mr President, thank you so much for this unique opportunity to talk to you.

You mentioned in your speech that the youth will have to push the future of Russia, the development of Russia forward. But young people are very unhappy with the world. Look at what is happening in the US, France and Israel. They are saying we have shut the door to a good future for them. According to international opinion polls, over half of young people think they will live worse than their parents do. But they are not impressed by any of this. So, I would like to ask you as the President of the Russian Federation, what you can advise and offer to Russian youth?

Vladimir Putin: I touched on this in my opening remarks, but I can say it again. Of course, the future belongs to the youth, This is the first thing.

Second, young people are usually discontent not with what is happening but with what they have achieved for today, and they want more. And this is right, this is what underlies progress. This is a foundation for the young people to create a better future than the one we have built. And there is nothing surprising or new in this idea. We can understand this from classic Russian literature. Read Fathers and Sons, it is all there.

But what can we offer? We believe we will give young people more opportunities for professional growth and create more social lifts for them. We are building up these instruments and creating conditions for people to receive a good education, make a career, start a family and receive enough income for a young family.

We are drafting an increasing number of measures to support young families. Let me emphasise that even during the pandemic, most of our support measures were designed for families with children. What are these families? They are young people for the most part.

We will continue doing this in the hope that young people will use their best traits – their daring striving to move ahead without looking back at formalities that probably make older generations more reserved – for positive, creative endeavours. Eventually, the younger generation will take the baton from the older generation and continue this relay race, and make Russia stronger.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

We have an unusual connection with Australia today. I do not remember anything like this before.

Anton Roux, Please, go ahead.

Anton Roux: Thank you, Mr President, for the opportunity to ask you a question. I really appreciated your insightful, heartfelt and considered remarks during your speech; and I come to you from our second state lockdown in Melbourne, Australia, which is also a sister city to St Petersburg. I embrace also your urging to cast aside silo mentalities.

My question is the following: How do you want to be remembered? What do you want your legacy to be as a world leader and the President of the Russian Federation during the first half of the 21st century? How would you like international historians across the world to write about you and your legacy as a leader, a man and a human being at the end of the 21st century? And how might you shape this any differently during the next phase of your leadership as President of the Russian Federation?

Vladimir Putin: If the translation is correct, you said “who lived in the 21st century.” But, thank God, we are alive and keep living in the 21st century. To be honest, I never think in terms of the areas you mentioned. I do not think about my role in history; those who are interested can decide. I never read a single book about myself.

I just keep working day in, day out, trying to resolve current issues and looking into the future so that these current issues do not stand in the way of achieving our strategic goals. It is, in fact, routine work. I proceed from what I must accomplish today, tomorrow, this year, or in three years given that we plan the budget of the Russian Federation three years in advance.

Of course, as I have said, we do consider strategic goals; this is why we have drafted and continue pursuing national development plans and national projects. But this totally unrelated to any desire to mark my place in history in some way. It is related to something completely different – ensuring the interests of the Russian people, the Russian state, strengthening Russia.

How I will be seen by future generations, I would rather leave to them and their judgment. But then, I do not think I would be interested in these judgments when they are made. In this sense I am a pragmatic person, and I am trying to work not for my image as a world leader, and I do not think I am one (I do not think I am any different from my colleagues – the heads of other states), I work to strengthen my country. This my priority and the meaning of my life.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you. I remember your interview a few months ago, ahead of the constitution referendum, when you openly said that an opportunity to remain in office after 24 years is a guarantee against bureaucratic intrigue, the people around you, so they would not look around in search of a successor.

But if this is true, it is an endless circle; they will always be searching, even while you remain in office.

Vladimir Putin: No, it must definitely end one day, I am perfectly aware of that. And the changes in the Constitution you mentioned are aimed not only at granting the incumbent head of state the right to be elected in 2024 and later, but these amendments are basically aimed at reinforcing the sovereignty of the Russian Federation, outlining our development prospects and building up the fundamental constitutional foundation for progress in the economy, the social sphere and enhancing our sovereignty.

I expect it will all work.

As to what will happen in 2024 or later – we will see when the times comes. Now we all just have to work hard like St Francis, everyone at his or her place.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Alexander Rahr, please.

Alexander Rahr: Mr President, my question is about nostalgia as well. I remember your historical speech at the German Bundestag 20 years ago, where you actually proposed building a common space from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Do you regret that?

Here is my point. The French and the Germans supported the idea. The Eastern Europeans did not. America will not, either. Actually, that keeps us from building our relations with Russia, which, I think, many Europeans would like.

If you had the opportunity to address the Bundestag again, would you also propose working together in the digital sphere or, perhaps, the environment, which would unite Europe and Russia in terms of energy? I think this is a promising idea for the future.

Vladimir Putin: Regarding what I would say if I were speaking there now, here is what happened back then.

At that time (it was 2007, correct?), many of my colleagues told me it was a bit harsh and it was not very good.

What did I actually say? I will refresh your memory. I said it is unacceptable for one country to extend its law beyond its national borders and try to subject other states to its regulations. Something along these lines.

What is happening now? Is it not Western European leaders who are saying that secondary sanctions and extending US jurisdiction to European companies are unacceptable?

If only they had enough guts to listen to what I said back then and to try to at least change the situation, do it carefully, without destroying Atlantic solidarity or the structural arrangement in NATO or elsewhere. I was not talking about that, but about the fact that it is unacceptable and bad for everyone, including those who do this.

Back then, our European partners seemed not to care and everyone looked the other way. Here again, what happened then is happening now. I am saying that this is still bad for everyone, including those who are pursuing or trying to pursue a policy of exceptionalism, because this actually destroys relations and interaction between Europe and the United States, and ultimately causes damage to the United States itself. Why do this?

This fleeting tactical gain that the United States is seeking may lead to negative strategic consequences and the destruction of trust. This is not my business, but since we are having an exchange at the discussion club, I will go ahead and philosophise. This is an absolutely obvious thing.

So, I did not say anything unusual, harmful or aggressive in Munich in 2007. But if I were to speak there now, I would not, of course, say I told you so. I would not do that just out of respect for my colleagues. I am fully aware of the realities back then and today. We do not live in a vacuum, but in real life conditions, our relationships are real and our interdependence is strong.

We understand everything perfectly well, but we need to change things. We are talking about a new world order, so these realities must be taken into account when building modern international relations, which must, of course, be based on consideration for each other’s interests and mutual respect, and respect for sovereignty.

I hope we can build our relations carefully and calmly, without destroying what has been created over previous decades, but while taking into account today’s needs. These relations will meet present requirements and the interests of all participants in international communication.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Alexei Yekaikin. Since we have talked a lot about ecology today, we cannot go without this.

Vladimir Putin: What time is it?

Fyodor Lukyanov: Yes, we are finishing up, Mr President. We feel we have already exceeded our time, but we cannot do without ecology in the end.

Vladimir Putin: No, we cannot. I agree.

Alexei Yekaikin: Thank you, Fyodor.

Good evening, Mr President.

Maybe, this question will seem a bit surprising to you although we have met several times over the years and talked about this. I would like to raise it again. It is about the Antarctic. We spoke about this at the climate session and, in general, this is an anniversary year for us – 200 years since the discovery of the Antarctic.

This is what my question is about. Russia has adopted or is adopting a strategy for developing activities in the Antarctic. A new Vostok station is under construction in the Central Antarctic as part of this strategy. You know this.

It would seem that everything is fine, investment in the infrastructure and the like. So, you may get the impression that we are doing well in the Antarctic. Alas, this is not the case, because the policy is about infrastructure but does not say a word about science. This is a fairly paradoxical situation. I would call it strange because we invest in the infrastructure whereas the main goal for which we need it, that is, science, remains somewhere backstage.

At our Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, we have prepared a draft federal programme for studying the area around the Vostok station for the next 15 years. It has been drafted in detail. It consists of two main themes. The first is the study of the past climate based on ice core data, and this study is very closely connected with the climate theme. Yes, this is drilling the ice, that is right.

The second theme concerns the subglacial lake Vostok. You also know about this. It is one of the most unique phenomena on the planet.

These are two subjects in which we, Russian scientists, are generally strong; we are not trying catch up with anyone in this respect. We are at the proper level and even ahead of some of our colleagues. Nonetheless, there is no government support for research in the Antarctic. I find this strange.

We sent this draft programme to the Ministry of Natural Resources, our relevant ministry. I do not know where exactly it is now. We do not know what happened to it. My question is very simple: does the Russian Government have the opportunity to support our efforts to study the Antarctic or will this topic go down the drain?

After all, it would be a pity to lose our priority in this area.

Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: Alexei, first of all, the fact that your colleagues and you made it to Lake Vostok and made this discovery, got to this water that is thousands of years old and that was not connected in any way with the world, remaining under the ice, this, of course, is of great interest to people like you, researchers, who study what eventually became the Earth and how the climate was changing.

I saw this; they brought me the core samples and the water. It is exciting. However, the fact that the infrastructure is being created means that preparations for research are underway. I do not know the plans regarding the allocation of funds for these purposes. You said that money was allocated for the infrastructure, but not scientific research. I doubt this is a lot of money. If the Ministry of Natural Resources …unfortunately, budget cuts are underway, which are caused by certain economic difficulties.

I am not sure if it was necessary to cut the already small expenses associated with Antarctic research. I promise I will look into it. We will punish anyone who made a mistake.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr President, you mentioned in your speech that you do not miss the Cold War. Do you miss anything at all?

Vladimir Putin: My children, I rarely see them.

Fyodor Lukyanov: We at the Valdai Club miss the opportunity to get together in person. With all the great advances in technology that allow us to hold almost complete meetings, we would still very much like to talk in person to you and each other next year.

We have not broken the record; there was a forum where the President spent more time with us, but we are close. We talked with the President of the Russian Federation for almost three hours, for which we are sincerely grateful.

Thank you very much. We will try to quickly get back to our normal schedule, and we look forward to seeing you next year.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much for hosting this.

I want to address all members of the Valdai Club, the analysts, politicians and journalists who work with this entity. It is an entity, because it has been operational for many years now. I hope you find it interesting and useful.

I am grateful to you for showing interest in Russia, in our development plans, in us today and in our history. This means that you are engaged, and it is important for us to know your opinion.

I am saying this sincerely, because by comparing what we are doing, by comparing our own assessments of our progress and our economic and political plans, comparing them with your ideas about what is good and what is bad, we find the best solutions and can adjust our plans.

I want to thank you for this and to wish you every success. I also hope for a personal meeting next time.

Good luck to you. Thank you very much.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you very much. Good-bye.

Vladimir Putin: Good-bye.

Phoenix and the rebirth of evil Part II:

October 22, 2020

The cold, reptilian eyes of William Colby

By Ken Leslie for the Saker Blog

One of the persisting delusions of the modern liberal thought states that the humanity has succeeded in overcoming its worst primitive instincts and is happily sailing towards some kind of liberal utopia populated by reasonable, objectively-minded, educated technocrats who are capable of reducing any problem to a linear combination of variables to be modelled and resolved rationally. In spite of the pre-eminence of this delusion (I could call it the Dawkins delusion) in the Anglo-Saxon world, one only needs to scratch the surface to discover that not only is humanity as prone to superstition and feral hatred towards others as they have ever been but that same old racial and religious tropes which should have died a long time ago under the onslaught of modernity are not only alive but thriving and successfully being used by the Empire in its total war against potential challengers. Nothing ever changes…

If the above were true, the world would not have been rocked by a series of fratricidal wars instigated by the United States and its vassals ever since the end of WWII.[1] More recently, the final phase of the push towards the East began in the Balkans with the neutralisation of the Serbs as a possible pro-Russian counter to the fascist NATO’s takeover of Europe. Once the European flank was secured, the United States moved to destabilise Russia’s immediate neighbourhood, namely Georgia and the Ukraine. The shift towards the Middle East was prompted by Israel’s ambition to decapitate any Arab government willing and able to assert its independence from the Anglo-Zionist nexus (this is the first time I have used Saker’s label—it fits). A number of Arab countries were destabilised or destroyed rendering the geopolitical position of multi-polar forces difficult. The undeclared war of aggression of a belligerent and imperialist West against anybody who might pose a challenge to its supremacist ambitions goes on and to understand how best to defend themselves, the nations under attack must have no illusions about the nature of the enemy.

The phenomenon I am going to discuss here is in my opinion crucial for understanding the melding of super-modern military technology and primitive murderous instincts which characterise modern warfare. The deadly secrecy and the blurring of the boundaries between combatants and non-combatants, the ruthless dehumanisation of the enemy with elements of medieval torture and unforgivable crime of the murder of a large number of innocent people combined with a bureaucratic and technical mini empire whose sole purpose was to find the targets for the killings and record the kills accurately—those were the characteristics of the infamous Phoenix Programme designed by the CIA in the mid-1960s with the aim of decapitating the secret government established by the Vietnamese communists in South Vietnam. Known by the acronym of COSVN (Central Office of South Vietnam), this clandestine and elusive body was the brain behind the successful resistance to the American occupiers and their Vietnamese vassals.

As a brief prelude, even before Diem’s demise, the question posed by the US military experts was how to counteract the growing insurgency. It was clear even then that standard military approaches wouldn’t work against a popular battle-hardened guerrilla movement which did not follow the prescribed methods of waging war. A more sophisticated strategy was needed based on the experience of other empires in crushing rebellious peasants especially the British empire which at that time was fighting rear-guard battles around the world trying to stem or control various independence movements. Since the Americans lacked the necessary experience, Diem invited Sir Robert Thompson who had masterminded the defeat of the Communist insurgency in Malaya to advise him on counter-insurgency. Thompson proposed a number of relatively sensible measures which could have helped Diem including practicing cultural sensitivity and economy of force. Diem found it impossible to act rationally and the rest is history. In 1962, worried about his prospects in the face of a large-scale popular insurgency, Diem invited an Australian Military Advisory Team (Australian Army Training Team Vietnam) to help with the growing uprising. The first commander of this unit was Colonel Ted Serong, a staunch Roman Catholic of Portuguese ancestry whose anti-Communist fervour played an important part in the genesis of the Phoenix Programme.[2]

Following the introduction of US combat troops into Vietnam in 1965 (they had been there long before this but hey!) the newly installed head of the US military command, General William Westmoreland thought that the best way to eliminate the Communist threat was to blast the hell out of the Vietnamese countryside by means of massive air raids by B-52s (“Arclight”) and large-calibre artillery bombardments which were followed by “search and destroy” deployments of large military units reinforced by tanks, BTRs helicopters and fighter jets.[3] Whole districts were declared “kill zones” (“free-fire” zones in the perverted parlance of the Pentagon) allowing psychopathic generals to satisfy their racial hatred and ideological bloodthirst by destroying vast tracts of fertile land and more importantly, killing and displacing hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Given the horrific impact of the Westmorland’s slash and burn policy, it is a minor miracle that the puppet government in Saigon lasted as long as it did.

This was truly slaughter on the industrial scale which created a massive demographic shift measured in millions of migrants from the destroyed villages into the cities and caused social problems which eventually contributed to the rapid fall of the Saigon regime. However, in spite of the fearsome firepower unleashed against the guerrillas (and increasingly North Vietnamese regular soldiers), victory eluded an exasperated Lyndon Johnson. The enemy was tactically sophisticated and fully aware of the power differential which favoured the Americans. It weaved and bobbed into and out of flooded rice fields, forests and jungles to strike the enemy when he least expected it. Well-equipped and highly motivated fighters harassed the American behemoth relentlessly while avoiding major battles.

A vast system of tunnels stretching for hundreds of kilometres was built in the province of Cu Chi containing entire underground townships complete with kitchens, hospitals, ammunition, food stores, ventilation systems and dormitories. Unlike American soldiers who lived in the comparative luxury of air-conditioned rooms, cold beer and ice cream, their opponents lived on a handful of rice a day. Sometime in 1966, it became clear even to the most intransigent of military hawks that the traditional military approach wasn’t working. The raw firepower of the US military could not best a determined and motivated peasant guerrilla army. A radically different approach was needed—a strategy much less costly in terms of American lives and much more expensive for those on its receiving end.

The need for a strategic turn in Vietnam was exacerbated by a substantial societal change taking place within the United States. Not content with blind Dullesian Cold War patriotism, younger generations of Americans began to question the wisdom of their country’s engagement in Vietnam, especially when the draft and possible death by a punji stick started to threaten the cosseted white middle class. All of a sudden, the war ceased to be cool and a beleaguered Cardinal Spellman was finding it hard to sustain the crusading zeal that characterised Diem’s rule in the 1950s.[4]

The Phoenix (or Phung Hoang) Programme was a brainchild of William Colby the then Chief of CIA Station in Saigon.[5] This is a slight exaggeration because other people on the lower rungs of the greasy pole also played their part (e.g. Nelson Brickham and many others). Phoenix, which was supposed to symbolise the rebirth of the American war effort was a complex administrative, logistical, intelligence and enforcement system supposed to facilitate what CIA and belatedly President Johnson saw as the task number one and the solution for the incipient quagmire in which America was increasingly bogged down. The task was to decapitate the clandestine “infrastructure” of the resistance movement in South Vietnam by any means possible. The definition of “infrastructure” was vague from the beginning.

What the planners in the CIA had in mind was the political personnel or cadre—the individuals who supported the insurgency at any level of the organisational hierarchy—from a hamlet party treasurer, district and province party functionary to the party leader for the South Vietnam. The problem (not that Colby saw it as one) was that these individuals were civilian non-combatants. Thus, in order to be successful, the Phoenix had to abjure the laws of war as well as the Geneva convention which prohibits the targeting of civilians. Naturally, CIAs clandestine agent and assassin networks had been active in South Vietnam ever since the 1950s. The difference this time was that a civilian (of a strong religious persuasion) was going to conduct a war of extermination against other civilians belonging to a different religion or none.

In order to understand the depth of Colby’s involvement with this murder programme, it must be remembered that he was an old Vietnam hand first sent into the country in 1959 to support the Catholic dictator Diem at the time when the disgruntled Buddhists and members of the Viet Minh started to rebel openly against his bloody repressive regime. Unlike Edward Lansdale who enjoyed the limelight, Colby worked in the shadows. His links with the Diems were deep. He became close friends with Diem’s brother Ngo Dihn Nhu, the ultra-Catholic eminence grise, chief ideologue and puppet master of the regime whose secret intelligence apparatus sowed terror and fear throughout the country through another of Colby’s friends—Tran Kim Tuyen, chief of Diem’s intelligence service. It was these structures and the relationships between them and their American advisers that formed the basis of the Phoenix programme that was to arise from the ashes of Tet six years later.

The efficacy of Colby’s killing machine depended on a successful synchronisation of conflicting local interests and bureaucratic norms. Put simply, the Phoenix mechanism consisted of three major components: intelligence gathering, capture and interrogation. The first two tasks were entrusted to so-called Provincial Reconnaissance Units (PRUs) which consisted mainly of zealous Catholic anti-communists, criminals and converted Viet Minh fighters.[6] They were dressed in black, well-armed and led by American “advisors”. Their training took place in a former Catholic seminary on the Vung Tau peninsula where the future killers and torturers were initiated into the program in a faux mystical torch-lit ceremony resembling the initiation into the Waffen SS.

Their job was to scour the countryside following tips from agents and search for anybody resembling the blurry printout of a face or a description by an agent. PRUs were infamous for their cruelty and are as close as any unit in the modern history to the Nazi Einsatzgruppen (Extermination squads). Their ideology (anticommunism), purpose (elimination of the Communist civilian infrastructure) and modus operandi (indiscriminate killing of civilians) were identical. The crimes of PRUs have been described in detail by Douglas Valentine in his book about the Phoenix Programme: they would often break into thatched peasant huts in the middle of the night and kill all people inside before ascertaining whether any of them actually belonged to Viet Cong. They measured their kills by strings of ears they would show their American commanders as proofs required for a monetary reward. Needless to say, most of those ears were innocent of any Communist affiliation. In some ways, those killed in bed had it easy. Many suspected Viet Cong cadres were taken in for interrogation and it is this aspect of the Phoenix program that chills the blood the most.

The essence of Phoenix was the vast system of interrogation centres that dotted the country. The speed with which these were built boggles the mind. Most districts had one as did most provinces and regions (including the country centre in Saigon). These centres were staffed by Vietnamese officers and soldiers and overseen by CIA advisors. In reality the anonymous architecture and anodyne titles hid some of the worst torture centres known to modern history. In the warped minds of Colby and his many Catholic minions, the only way to purge South Vietnam of “godless communism” was to bring back a turbo-charged version of the Holy Inquisition. The bow-tie wearing Savonarola understood that his war was only as good as the reports he sent to Robert Komer (the old CIA hand and Head of Pacification in Vietnam) and Johnson. To ensure a co-ordination of information, the centres were connected by telephone and teleprinter to other centres and the collation of the huge amounts of information produced by the tens of thousands of tortured prisoners was performed by super modern computers located in a dedicated centre in Saigon. This is what gave Phoenix its specific “flavour”—the blending of medieval cruelty and super-modern technology.[7]

And the torture was truly medieval. The prisoners were left to the tender mercies of criminal ARVN staff who employed everything from electroshocks to the genitals, deadly beatings and removal of nails, waterboarding, rape, sleep deprivation and other techniques still used by the CIA to extremely sadistic acts that remind one of the Sack of Magdeburg or Pavelic’s extermination camps. Kenneth Barton Osborn, an army military intelligence officer who worked with Phoenix in 1967 and 1968 flatly told the US House Operations Subcommittee that not a single VC suspect survived interrogation under his supervision. He discussed two of the murders that he witnessed personally: on one occasion, a piece of wood was inserted into the ear canal of a detainee and hammered into his brain; in another, a woman was simply left in a small cage to starve to death.[8]

The idea that the Americans were innocent bystanders in all this is another myth that is difficult to shatter. US special forces (the Green Berets) and the Navy Seals were intimately involved in the hunt for, interrogation and elimination of suspected communist cadres. According to a former Navy Seal Elton Manzione who was interviewed by Douglas Valentine: “We wrapped [detonator] cord around [prisoners’] necks and wired them to the detonator box. And basically what it did was blow their heads off [… the] general idea was to waste the first two. They planned the snatches that way. Pick up this guy because we’re pretty sure he’s VC cadre — these other guys just run errands for him. Or maybe they’re nobody; Tran, the farmer and his brother Nguyen. But bring in two. Put them in a row. By the time you get to your man he’s talking so fast you got to pop the weasel just to shut him up. I guess you could say that we wrote the book on terror.” Some like the infamous Phoenix co-ordinator John Paul Vann deserve (and have been given) much more attention.

Needless to say, the programme soon fell victim to bureaucratic entropy. It was not the torture that let Colby down but the inability of the programme to benefit from it. Inadequate or false information was fed to the central database giving a distorted picture of the success of the programme or lack thereof. In order to save or boost their careers, both Vietnamese executioners and their CIA mentors targeted innocent people and faked their “kills”. Corruption and sloth soon set in and Phoenix became a synonym for senseless and mindless murder of innocent civilians. By 1970, as Paul Ham notes in his Vietnam: The Australian War, “Phoenix had degenerated into “squads of wild-eyed, often drugged, Vietnamese killers roam[ing] the countryside and indiscriminately round[ing]up and tortur[ing] suspects or civilian sympathisers”.

From the book “The Betrayal” by William Corson: “Almost immediately in the wake of the first operations of the Phoenix hit squads in I Corps, the rapport in the CAP (Combined Action Programme) hamlets between the Marines, the PFs (Popular Forces, a local anti-communist militia), and the people, as well as the intelligence flow, dried up. Upon examination we found out that the people and the PFs were scared shitless that the Phoenix hoodlums would come and take them away, or kill them. The Phoenix tactics reeked of the same kind of terrorism practiced by Ngo Dinh Nhu’s thugs in the Delta region during the early 60s, and I knew it had to be stopped, at least in the CAP hamlets.” So, not only did the crazed assassins of Phung Hoang target innocent civilians, but were slaughtering their own allies, not dissimilar to Pavelic’s ustashe whose thirst for Serb blood caused serious problems to their Nazi masters.

It is this period between 1967 and 1971 that recorded the worst excesses of the “Bird of happiness (the meaning of the Vietnamese sacred bird Phung Hoang which was used to symbolise a Phoenix to the Vietnamese)”. Anybody could be suspected of being a secret communist cadre and end up in one of the PICs having his/her nails pulled or worse. The fear and loathing of the Phoenix created an atmosphere of… fear and loathing. Following the murderous offensives by the US military in in 1967, millions of displaced country dwellers poured into Saigon and regional cities creating unprecedented problems for the puppet government of Nguyen van Thieu (whose Catholicism was not advertised loudly) and for the country more generally. The younger generations succumbed to the lure of the dollar and gave the nation large numbers of drug dealers, smugglers and prostitutes. The climate of fear and corruption hung over the country like a dark cloud when at the end of January 1968, the Viet Minh (with the help of reinforcements from the North) executed a fantastically bold co-ordinated attack on the South Vietnamese and US military, intelligence and propaganda assets. Despite the fact that the offensive was eventually defeated, its psychological impact was immense. Not only did it contribute to the view that the United States could not win the war but it also intensified attempts to strangle the leadership of the armed resistance. Phoenix was spreading its deadly wings especially since the Tet offensive had exposed many secret Viet Minh agents especially in the Saigon area. Prisons, camps, interrogation centres and execution sites were heaving with barely-alive victims—many if not most of whom were completely innocent.

Despite the impressive statistics conjured up by computer scientists sitting in the hyper-modern collation centre in Saigon, very few if any high-level COSVN functionaries were ever caught. Instead, innocent suspects were held in the so-called “Tiger cages”—remnants of the French colonial cruelty which were simply holes topped by metal cage doors. Exposed to elements, starvation and torture, most prisoners perished without ever having had a proper trial. To make things slightly easier for its torturers, the CIA initiated another programme through its cut-outs USIS and USAID, namely, Cheu Hoi or “Open hands”. This was an attempt to get the weaker-willed members of the resistance to surrender and recant.

After a gruelling interrogation, they would be offered clemency and a chance to join ARVN. However, many if not most Cheu Hoi returners were Viet Minh soldiers or cadre who would spend some time in different ARVN units to rest, recuperate and gather information on the enemy only to escape and return again in six months’ time. Essentially, the programme such as Phoenix could have never worked. The sympathy of the people for the Viet Minh was real and even where it didn’t exist, there was little enthusiasm for the American occupiers and their Saigon vassals. The close familial bonds between the conflicted sides were so strong that many top South Vietnamese officials and top ARVN generals had close relatives in the Viet Minh and the hellish reincarnation of the Holy Inquisition could do little to sever them.

At the helm of this religious purge stood a quiet man in glasses and bow tie who would eventually reach the very top of the US intelligence pyramid—William Colby—a descendant of Irish immigrants whose religious zeal was matched only by his hatred for “godless communism”. The question of how Colby together with many other right-wing Irish Americans achieved such prominence at the apex of the American deep state has been partially addressed in a couple of my previous essays. This is still something of a taboo and I hope to shed more light on this important subject. Despite his Ivy League education, Colby was an ultramontane Catholic who attended mass every day even as a CIA station head in Saigon. I shall never understand how he managed to reconcile his religiosity with the sadistic and satanic system of murder, torture and extortion that he controlled from the US embassy annex.

This is an aspect of the US engagement in Vietnam that has been kept away from the prying eyes of the media—not that they have been particularly interested. From its inception, the Republic of South Vietnam depended completely for its survival on a tight-knit Roman Catholic network of officers, priests, politicians and agents. Although their allegiance was maintained by access to loot and power, the ultimate binding agent that kept the apparatus going was their membership of the Catholic Church. Of course, in a country which was 80-90% Buddhist, the system would not have functioned without the tacit collusion of a number of corrupted Buddhists who were ready to overlook the persecution of their co-religionists in exchange for wealth and promotion (e.g. Nguyen Cao Ky).

It is this rich resource put in place by the CIA through its man on the ground, namely Diem, that led directly to Phoenix and its excesses. Torture, forced relocation, public recantations, cold-blooded murder of innocent people, mass conversions and other forms of religious persecution—it was all there by the time Colby unleashed the CIA’s Hellboyish brainchild.[9] The primary motivator for the cruelty and sadism that characterised Phoenix was the fear by the mainly Catholic apparatus of repression of the justice that would eventually be meted by the victorious Viet Minh. This resembled the fear of retribution experienced by most German soldiers withdrawing from the scene of their giga-crime in the Soviet Union.

Unsurprisingly, these crusaders were helped and supported by the Vatican and the West. The Catholics in Vietnam knew they were an absolute minority and that their dominance and safety could only be safeguarded by means of a bloody dictatorial regime inspired by their faith. Although the foundations of the system were laid by the French, the consensus is that they were amateurs compared with the Americans and “their Vietnamese”.[10] As mentioned in part I, many Catholics found the excesses of Diem and his successors unpalatable and this led to an increase in the Catholic participation in the liberation movement.

However, the religious orgy of mindless killing and torture could not go on forever. The death of Pius XII in 1959 signalled a change of tack by the Vatican towards a less bellicose posture towards its enemies. Although attempts at a détente and lowering of tensions were being made in the West, the exotique places such as Vietnam were safe from prying eyes, at least for the time being. One can speculate that with Pius’s death Diem lost his main supporter and became supremely vulnerable from that moment on. However, all was not lost for the Catholic cause, for Pius’s first lieutenant for the Americas, Cardinal Francis Spellman was well and more belligerent than ever and the loyal soldier of the Vatican, William Colby, was hurriedly dispatched to Vietnam to bolster Diem’s murderous dictatorship. Spellman’s support for the American intervention was such that to the young non-conformist generation of the 1960s, the War in Vietnam became known as “Spellman’s war”. There was no stunt, religious or otherwise that Spellman wouldn’t pull in order to strengthen the case for a continued slaughter of innocent Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians. His continued advocacy of the war and immense power over the faithful ensured that at least for a while, Colby was free to run the programme as he saw fit. His moment came in 1968, when he was pulled from his new job as the Chief of the CIA’s Soviet Block Division and sent to Vietnam to co-ordinate Phoenix.

As stated above, the orgy of killing and torture went on for a couple of years fuelled by the need to avenge the embarrassment of Tet. However, times were changing—if not substantially. The fake patriotic fervour of the 1950s bolstered by the right-wing certainties of the era was eroding fast especially in contact with a never-ending procession of coffins of young (increasingly middle-class) Americans. The main supporter of the war, Spellman, died in 1967 and the shaky consensus regarding the importance of the war began to crumble. Let me stress that the shift away from the gung-ho approach by Kennedy (no, he actually hugely increased the number of US “advisers”) and Johnson was not motivated by any reflection or consideration of ethical precepts.[11] Rather, the war was beginning to take unprecedented toll on an exhausted America. Those were the years of strife, deadly riots, loss of confidence and assassinations and the financial situation was becoming dire. Not even the exquisitely-timed launches of different flavours of Apollo could restore the faith in the righteousness of the American cause. Add to that the publication of the Pentagon Papers by that enfant terrible of the US deep state Daniel Ellsberg which documented the lies and subterfuge inflicted on the American people by its government and things were starting to unravel fast.

The crimes committed by the Americans in Vietnam could not be hidden any longer, especially after the atrocity at My Lai when over 500 innocent men, women and children were murdered in cold blood, gang raped, tortured and mutilated by a company of crazed grunts led by a sadistic captain (Ernest Medina). There is evidence that the unit responsible was linked to the Phoenix programme and needless to say, it was later congratulated by the murderer-in-chief Westmoreland (another Catholic convert). More important, a young black major named Colin Powell made sure that no serious inquiry took place thus clearing a smooth path to promotion, a debt he would be asked to repay once again in 2003 before the eyes of an unbelieving world.

Increased scrutiny of the Phoenix programme and the loss of Colby in 1971 meant that the programme was quickly atrophying helped by the paramount goal of Richard Nixon to withdraw the US troops from Vietnam. The enthusiasm of the early days was replaced by cynicism and defeatism. The programme passed into the South Vietnamese hands (under the strategy of “Vietnamisation”) and limped on for another couple of years. By that time, the writing was on the wall and after witnessing the North Vietnamese troops’ liberation of Saigon, Colby himself was dismissed from his post as Head of the CIA. Time had come to put the skeletons back into the closet. A man of huge chutzpah, Colby wrote two books about his experiences and denied that any atrocities had taken place within Phoenix. His victims were unavailable for comment.

In spite of Colby’s best efforts, the gargantuan and technologically superior war machine of the US Empire ground to a halt and slowly withdrew under the ever-bolder jabs by the resistance. Phoenix was wound down under political and fiscal pressures and finally burst into flames sometime in 1972 generating a never-ending debate on how successful it was, notwithstanding the fact that it was an extrajudicial inquisition successful only in propagating horror and suffering.

Although America’s Vietnamese inquisition died in infamy, it never really died. Like the mythical bird which is reborn periodically, the Phoenix Programme has been reincarnated many times since the halcyon days of PRUs and PICs. The lessons of Phoenix survived the nadir of the early 1970s and were faithfully implemented in South America (Operation Condor—see e.g. Alfredo Astiz) and later in the Middle East and the Ukraine. Techniques of torture have been perfected with the help of the American Psychological Association (thank God for small mercies) and as a result of convulsions experienced following My Lai, the power of the media to question the criminal transgressions of the US military has been curtailed. And while the CIA still pulls the strings, most of the fighting these days is left to its various (mainly RC and Islamist) proxies.

To prove me wrong, the great Clint Eastwood has filmed an ode to the Hmong (sorry, I waited for so long).[12]

  1. One possible argument is that the world would be better off if people behaved rationally. Perhaps, but it is a bit like the choice between a dormant Swiss town and the explosion of life in all its forms one encounters in India and elsewhere. 
  2. According to some sources, Serong was a member of the CIA and a keen promoter of his fellow RC criminal Colby’s assassination programme. From https://newmatilda.com/2009/05/12/australias-vietnam-style-killing-program/: “”Yes,” he said, “we did kill teachers and postmen. But it was the way to conduct the war. They were part of the Viet Cong Infrastructure. I wanted to make sure we won the battle.” Another Australian Catholic officer David Kilcullen argued as late as 2004 that Phoenix had been “unfairly maligned”. 
  3. According to Avro Manhattan, Westmoreland whom many consider a premier war criminal converted to Catholicism at some point (like Tony Blair, Shiro Ishii, Adolf Eichmann and many other war criminals). 
  4. To illustrate the degenerate bloodthirst of the demonic Spellman, here is a quote from Ron Capshaw’s article available on http://libertymagazine.org/article/the-war-within. “A priest approaches the weapon, blesses it, and then sprinkles holy water on it. He does so because the weapon will be used for “Christ’s war.” The scene is not from the Middle Ages, but given the mind-set of the priest, it might as well be. It’s 1965.The weapon blessed is a B-52 bomber about to go on a mission. “Christ’s war” is the American effort in Vietnam. The priest is Cardinal Francis Spellman.” 
  5. William Colby like many of other heads of the CIA was a zealous and ruthless Roman Catholic who hid his total devotion to the aims of the Vatican and murderous instincts behind a studied façade of horn-rimmed glasses and bow ties. In this, he emulated other RC murderers and their useful idiots such as Robert McNamara, McGeorge Bundy, Walt Rostow and Allen Dulles. However, with Colby, this attempt to project respectability fails the moment you look into his cold, merciless, reptilian eyes. 
  6. Other ethnic groups including the Hmong were trained by the US Special Forces to fight the Viet Minh. 
  7. Any similarity with Abu Ghraib, CIA black prisons and rendition centres, Guantanamo and Ukrainian SBU centres in the Donbass is accidental. 
  8. From Douglas Valentine’s book “The Phoenix Program”. About 50000 people are known to have been killed by Phoenix (the true number could be double that) from 1968 until 1972. A much larger number (up to half a million) were tortured and imprisoned without trial. 
  9. If you think I am being flippant, think again. The blockbuster “Hellboy” was directed by ultra-Catholic Guillermo del Torro and starred ultra-Catholic master actor John Hurt (great actor!). In it, a cabal of black-clad Nazis attempts to summon a demon from the depths of Hell in order to stop and reverse the downfall of the Reich. In this, they are guided by none other than the Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin(!). This device satisfies both the Roman Catholics and Zionists in Holywood who will happily agree on the irredeemable evil of the Russian Orthodox faith as well as the need to shift the blame for collaborating with the Nazis from the likes of Pius XII, Petain, Franco, Menachem Begin and Vladimir Zhabotinsky onto their common enemy—a completely innocent Russian monk. The key is that the little baby demon called “Hellboy” is adopted by an ultra-Catholic academic (played by an ultra-Catholic actor) who works for a CIA-like secret institute. Hellboy is then used by the deep state (with the guidance by his mentor) to fight evil (or rather life forms which refuse to conform to the diktat of the “Judaeo-Christian” empire). Hellboy’s real name is An Ung Rama—a clear slight directed at the Hindu deity. 
  10. As became known during the war in Algeria, the French had nothing to learn when it came to manipulating a blowtorch and a pair of pliers. 
  11. A quick scan of the numbers suggests that JFK was responsible for a 20-fold increase in troop levels. In 1959, there were 760 US personnel in Vietnam. In 1963, there were 16300. So much for the liberal paeans to the “peacemaker” Kennedy. 
  12. The Hmong are an indigenous ethnic group (neither RC nor Islamist) from the central highlands of South Vietnam that fought on the side of the Americans (the film is called “Gran Torino”). 

Phoenix and the rebirth of evil part I:

واشنطن تستعدّ لشنّ حرب نوويّة ضدّ موسكو وبكين…!

محمد صادق الحسيني

في الوقت الذي ينشغل فيه الرأي العام والإعلام الأميركيين بمهرجان الانتخابات الرئاسية الأميركية فإن المخططين الاستراتيجيين العسكريين في واشنطن منشغلون بالتخطيط لحرب نووية ضدّ كل من موسكو وبكين.

اي انّ الولايات المتحدة قد تجاوزت مرحلة الحشد الاستراتيجي ضدّ هاتين القوتين العظميين، الصين الشعبية وروسيا الاتحادية، وانتقلت الى مرحلة الاستعداد العملياتي لتنفيذ ضربات نووية ضدهما، وذلك بعد فشل كل المشاريع الأميركية، في كل من غرب آسيا وجنوب شرق آسيا (بحار الصين) وأميركا الجنوبية (فنزويلا)، التي كانت تهدف الى استعادة الهيمنة الأميركية المطلقة على العالم والتي بدأت بالذوبان، بعد صعود القوى الدوليّة، روسيا والصين، والقوى الاقليمية الدولية، الجمهورية الاسلامية، وبعد ان بدأ الاقتصاد الصيني يقترب بتوأدة / بثبات من التربع على الكرسي الاقتصادي الاول في العالم.

وبالنظر إلى أهمية هذا الموقع الإخباري، الذي تديره وزارة الخارجية الالمانية، بشكل غير مباشر، ويرأس تحريره هورست تويبرت ، المعروف بارتباطاته الوثيقة ليس فقط بالخارجية الألمانية، وإنما باجهزة الاستخبارات الالمانية، وفِي مقدمتها الاستخبارات العسكرية، وبالنظر الى ما جاء في التقرير من تفاصيل غاية في الأهمية، والتي سنأتي على ذكرها لاحقاً، وانطلاقاً من ردود الفعل الروسية، الدبلوماسية والإعلامية، على هذه الاستعدادات العسكرية الأميركية الأطلسية الخطيرة، فإن من الضروري التأكيد على النقاط المهمة التالية:

أولاً: امتلاك القيادة السياسية والعسكرية الروسية والصينية معلومات دقيقة جداً، عن خطط الحرب النووية التي يجري التخطيط لها، في البنتاغون الأميركي وفي دوائر حلف شمال الأطلسي في أوروبا، وهو:

البقية

ترسيم الحدود: بين لبنان و«إسرائيل» محتمل بين أمراء الطوائف المتصارعين مستحيل

د. عصام نعمان

حاولت الولايات المتحدة، بضغط من «إسرائيل»، منذ سنة 2010 ترسيم الحدود بين المياه الإقليمية اللبنانية والمياه الإقليمية الفلسطينية الواقعة تحت احتلال العدو. أحد كبار ديبلوماسيّيها، فردريك هوف، عرض على الطرفين تقسيم المنطقة المتنازع عليها البالغة مساحتها 860 كيلومتراً مربعاً بتخصيص لبنان بـ 500 كيلومتر مربع منها على أن يكون الباقي لـِ «إسرائيل». لبنان رفض العرض الأميركي لأنّ المنطقة المتنازع عليها تقع برمّتها ضمن مياهه الإقليمية.

بعد عشر سنوات من الاتصالات والمساعي والضغوط والإعتداءات الإسرائيلية في البر والبحر، أمكن عقد اجتماع الأربعاء الماضي بين الطرفين لترسيم الحدود برعاية الأمم المتحدة وبوساطة الولايات المتحدة. ما كان الاجتماع ليُعقد لولا نجاح واشنطن في إقناع تل أبيب بتقديم تنازلات تتعلق بأسس للمفاوضات يصرّ عليها لبنان وتكفل حصرها بترسيم الحدود ولا تتعداه إلى أيّ بحث في تطبيع العلاقات أو مصالحة العدو.

يبدو أنّ المفاوضات غير المباشرة بين الطرفين ستتواصل ليس لحاجة دونالد ترامب إلى تسجيل انتصار يوظفه في حملته الانتخابية فحسب بل لحاجة «إسرائيل» أيضاً إلى إنهاء النزاع مع لبنان ومع المقاومة خاصةً التي تهدّد منشآتها النفطية البحرية وخططها لتوسيع التنقيب عن مكامن الغاز لتسويقه في أوروبا عبر أنبوب بحري سيجري تمديده بموجب اتفاق مع قبرص واليونان وإيطاليا.

إذ يبدو ترسيم الحدود بين لبنان و«إسرائيل» محتملاً، فإنّ ترسيم الحدود في لبنان بين مصالح أمراء الطوائف وصراعاتهم اللامتناهية يبدو مستحيلاً. فأزمة لبنان المزمنة تفجرت قبل سنة بانتفاضة 17 تشرين الأول/ اكتوبر الماضي ما أدّى إلى استقالة حكومة سعد الحريري. ثم تفاقمت الأزمة وتدحرجت الى انهيار مالي واقتصادي في مطالع العام الحالي.

حاول أركان المنظومة الحاكمة تدارك المزيد من المفاعيل المؤذية بتأليف حكومة من الاختصاصيين برئاسة حسان دياب، لكن الانفجار الكارثي في مرفأ بيروت جاء ليزيد الأزمة تعقيداً وحماوة. لماذا؟

لأنّ كلا من أمراء الطوائف المتصارعين على المصالح والمكاسب والنفوذ حاول أن يلقي مسؤولية الانفجار على الآخر في وقت تعاني البلاد الكثير من الأزمات الاقتصادية والاجتماعية، وتواجه تحديات واستحقاقات خطيرة وماثلة.

حدّةُ الصراعات وتداعياتها الخطيرة على مصالح فرنسا في الحوض الشرقي للبحر الأبيض المتوسط وعلى مستقبل الثقافة الفرنكوفونية في لبنان، حملت الرئيس الفرنسي إيمانويل ماكرون على زيارته مرتين في أقلّ من شهر لمحاولة التوفيق بين أمراء طوائفه المتصارعين. تدخلُ ماكرون أسفر عن تبنٍّ ظاهريّ من قبل رؤساء الكتل البرلمانية لمذكرته الإصلاحية المطلوب تنفيذها بواسطة حكومة اختصاصيين غير حزبيين. على هذا الأساس جرى التوافق، ظاهرياً مرة أخرى، على تكليف السفير مصطفى أديب تشكيل حكومة جديدة. أديب حاول بصمت ومثابرة تأليف «حكومة مهمة» للإصلاح والمحاسبة، لكن خلافات أمراء الطوائف حالت دون ذلك.

منذ اعتذار مصطفى أديب عن تشكيل الحكومة، والصراعات تحتدم بلا هوادة بين أمراء الطوائف، لا سيما بعدما أعلن سعد الحريري نفسه مرشحاً طبيعياً لتأليف حكومةٍ وفق الأسس نفسها (أيّ الفرنسية) التي كان اعتمدها أديب قبيل تكليفه رسمياً بتأليف الحكومة. الرئيس ميشال عون استبق احتمال نجاح الحريري بتأليف حكومة جديدة بتأجيل الاستشارات النيابية لمدة ثمانية أيام لحمله وحلفائه على مراعاة صهره، جبران باسيل، رئيس أكبر كتلة برلمانية (ومسيحية) تعارض تكليفه تشكيل الحكومة أو الاشتراك فيها.

لا بدّ من التوقف ملّياً أمام معارضة أكبر كتلتين برلمانيتين مسيحيتين (برئاسة كلٍّ من جبران باسيل وسمير جعجع) عن الاشتراك في حكومة يرأسها الحريري. ذلك انّ تداعيات انتفاضة 17 تشرين الأول من جهة وتفاقم مفاعيل الانهيار المالي والاقتصادي لا سيما بعد انفجار مرفأ بيروت الكارثي من جهة أخرى، بالإضافة الى هجمة التطبيع الأميركية في المنطقة وما رافقها من صراعات بين تركيا من جهة ومصر واليونان و«إسرائيل» من جهة أخرى على النفط والغاز في الحوض الشرقي للمتوسط، كلّ ذلك أدّى الى تأجيج التوترات والصراعات في مجمل منطقة غرب آسيا، لا سيما في لبنان.

من الصعب، إن لم يكن من المستحيل، ترسيم حدود مقبولة بين مصالح أمراء الطوائف وصراعاتهم في لبنان. انها صراعات «تاريخية» قديمة ومتجدّدة بفعل تدخلات دول كبرى وأخرى إقليمية تجد دائماً بين معظم هؤلاء الأمراء مَن يستدعيها ويتقبّلها وينخرط فيها.

الى ذلك، يمكن رصد هجومٍ صهيوأميركي يستهدف منطقة غرب آسيا برمتها من شواطئ البحر المتوسط غرباً الى شواطئ بحر قزوين شرقاً. هذا الهجوم المتصاعد له دوافع متعددة أبرزها ثلاثة:

أولاها، اضطرار الولايات المتحدة الى الانسحاب تدريجياً من بلدان غرب آسيا تحت وطأة مقاومات شعبية من جهة، ومن جهة أخرى بفعل عوامل سياسية واقتصادية داخلية في أميركا تدفعها الى وضع ترتيبات سياسية وعسكرية لحماية مصالحها ومصالح حلفائها الإقليميين قبل الانسحاب من المنطقة.

ثانيها، التقاء مصالح أميركا مع مصالح «إسرائيل» على تفكيك دول محيطها العربي، سورية ولبنان والعراق والأردن، الى دويلات او جمهوريات موز قميئة على أساس قَبَلي أو طائفي أو اثني لتبقى عاجزة عن التوحّد وعن تشكيل تهديد أمني للكيان الصهيوني او لمصالح دول الغرب الأطلسي في المنطقة.

ثالثها، حماية مصالح أميركا وفرنسا و«إسرائيل» الغازية والنفطية في شرق المتوسط من شواطئ ليبيا الى شواطئ لبنان وسورية، ومن شرق الفرات في سورية الى منطقتي الأهوار والبصرة في جنوب العراق. لهذا الغرض، نشرت أميركا قوات لها في منطقة التنف جنوب شرق سورية وفي منطقة شرق الفرات لقطع معابر الانتقال والنقل بين سورية والعراق. كما قامت أميركا بتشجيع جماعة من الكرد السوريين (منظمة «قسد» تحديداً) على إقامة منطقة حكم ذاتي في شرق الفرات معادية للحكومة المركزية في دمشق، كما على المباشرة في استثمار آبار النفط في المنطقة بالتعاون مع شركات أميركية.

هذه الواقعات والتطورات لم تغب عن أذهان الأحزاب والتنظيمات السياسية الانعزالية اللبنانية التي وجدت فيها ما يساعدها على تحقيق رؤيتها لمستقبل لبنان في غمرة الهجوم الصهيوأميركي الذي يستهدف المنطقة برمّتها. فليس غريباً، والحالة هذه، أن تلجأ هذه التنظيمات الانعزالية الى تأجيج الصراعات الطائفية والسياسية الناشطة في هذه الآونة بقصد الإفادة من تداعيات الصراعات الإقليمية عموماً، وتداعيات الهجوم الصهيوأميركي على سورية خصوصاً لخدمة أغراضها السياسية في الحاضر والمستقبل.

بإختصار، ترسيم الحدود بين لبنان و«إسرائيل» أمر محتمل في المستقبل المنظور. لكن لا سبيل، على ما يبدو، الى ترسيم الحدود بين أمراء الطوائف المتصارعين بضراوة على الصدارة والمصالح والنفوذ.

نائب ووزير سابق

AIPAC and U.S. elections

Source

By Richard Anderson Falk

AIPAC is a strong lobbying group that is perceived by the political parties to exert great influence on large Jewish donors and Jewish voters generally. The leadership of both parties competes for AIPAC approval, although as an organization it refrains from political endorsements at national levels. It does have a record of opposing Congressional candidates deemed critical of Israel, making inflammatory accusations that candidates critical of Israel are by that fact alone anti-Semitic. Such a campaign has been launched with at least implicit AIPAC support to defeat the candidacy of Ilhan Omer who is running for reelection in urban Minneapolis.

Part of the effectiveness of AIPAC is due to money and tight organizational discipline, and part of its influence is due to the absence of countervailing Jewish organizations that speak for liberal Zionism and progressive Jews. J-Street has attempted to provide a voice for liberal Zionism in Washington, and has limited success at legislative levels, but not in relation to party platforms or the selection of national candidates. Jewish Voice for Peace is an admirably balanced NGO, but its influence is mainly felt in civil society, where it has created growing support for a just outcome of this struggle that has gone on for a century, which includes supported the realization of the Palestinian right of self-determination whether in the form of a viable separate sovereign state or a single state whose foundational principle is ethnic equality.

Throughout its existence, AIPAC has been and remains subservient to the priorities of the Israeli leadership and consistently supportive of maximal Zionist goals, and hence an adherent of antagonistic attitudes on international law, the UN, and international morality. In my judgment, AIPAC has harmed the role of the U.S. in West Asia and at the UN by pushing American foreign policy in belligerent and regime-changing directions, focusing on heightening the confrontation with Iran, and secondarily, with Turkey, which has intensified regional tensions and dangers of war. The recent sanctions debate in the UN Security Council manifested both U.S. belligerence and its defiance of the views of even its normally close European allies.

Richard Anderson Falk is an American professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University. In 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appointed Falk to a six-year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967”.

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