The Ukraine claims to be ready for an imminent war, today or tomorrow :-)

September 10, 2021

The Ukraine claims to be ready for an imminent war, today or tomorrow :-)

by Andrei for the Saker blog

Well, we heard that, what, 10’000 times already?  Probably.

But is this a reason to simply ignore yet another tsunami of hysterics coming out of Kiev?

I mean, I get it: North Stream 2 has been completed today, all that’s left is a bunch of paperwork (which the Poles and Ukies are still trying to sabotage by offering to “participate” in the bureaucratic processes). Barring any last-minute “creative solutions” by the 3B+PU gang, the gas itself should start flowing on October first.  And since the “Turkish stream” is already working, it is true that Russia has successfully bypassed all the crazies and is now offering its energy to Europe directly.

As for the “West” and its values, well, let’s just say that greed is far more sacred to the West than its own propaganda.  How do we know that? Nobody offered the Ukies any “compensation” or, even less so, “security guarantees”.

The US/NATO/UK/EU have clearly shown that while they love to act like the infamous “civilized” “White Man” with his famous “burden”, they have no stomach for screwing around with Russia for real, not in the Black Sea, not in the Ukraine, not in the Baltic and not in the North or anywhere else.

In other words, the Ukronazis feel ditched and are watching the events in Afghanistan in utter horror.

Also, since the Ukronazis always said that Russia will attack the Ukraine as soon as NS2 is completed, so in a way, there is a logic here: since NS2 was completed today, therefore Russia must attack today.  Especially since the Zapad 2021 military maneuvers have started (and they are involving a bigger and much more capable military force than the entire military power of the 3B+PU countries).

In the Ukie logic, this all means that Russia will attack today or tomorrow at the latest, from both Belarus and Russia.  BTW – Lukashenko was in Moscow yesterday and the two countries signed 28 documents further integrating Russia and Belarus economically and militarily.  As for political integration, Putin and Lukashenko both said that first, the two countries must align their economies before going into stuff like a single currency or even a single Parliament.  So that is for the (not too far away) future.

Then there are the various statements from top Ukro officials.

Zelenskii declared that a war is now inevitable.  He also stated that the Ukronazi armed forces were now amongst the most formidable on the planet and that NATO would “lose” without the Ukraine and the EU would become very weak (he was not joking).

The head of the Ukronazi Security Council, Danilov, not only agreed, but he said that if the Ukies see an impending Russian attack, the Ukies would attack first and “liberate” the Donbass.  He got a standing ovation from the Ukronazi corner.

The head of the Ukrainian military admitted that he daydreamed about, listen to this, a Ukrainian military parade on the Red Square in Moscow, with Ukie flags and all (that old Polish wet dream again…).

Remember the other “NATO candidate” Saakashvili who lost a war against a small Russian military force in 3 days only?  He now declared that if Russia attacks the Ukraine, all the US would send, at best, is warm blankets and inflatable boats.  He is right.  Welcome to reality Ukies!

As for the official Ukie media (all non-regime-run TV channels have now been banned), let’s just say that they “further amplified” the feelings of Ukie politicians and leave it at that.

Foreign Minister Lavrov reacted to all that by saying that the folks in Kiev were “schizophrenics”.  Peskov also spoke of mental problems.

So, will we have a full-scale war in Europe today or tomorrow?

Probably not.  HOWEVER

First, never say never, especially when dealing with schizophrenics.  Normal deterrence theory assumes what is called “a rational actor” on all sides.  The one thing which the Ukronazis sure ain’t is “rational”!

Second, you have to stop thinking like you normally do and imagine yourself in, say, Ze’s skin.  Objectively, for them, a continuation of, well, maybe not “peace”, that has not happened since the Ukronazi coup, but at least “low simmering” war might well be WORSE than a full-scale war with Russia.  The kind of “non-full-war” which the Nazi-occupied Ukraine has been (barely) surviving is a surefire way to a final, total, collapse.  Not only that, but Ze & Co. probably do realize that even if Russia does openly intervene, it would at most be to liberate the rest of the Donbass and probably move towards the Mariupol direction.  Sure, the Russians would probably do to the Ukies something similar to what they did to Saakashvili and basically defang the Ukraine, but remember that in 08.08.08 the Russians were already advancing on Tbilissi and stopped not because the “invincible Georgian army” stopped the invader, but because the Russians have ZERO need for anything Georgian once their fangs have been removed, least of all any need to enter their capital.  In fact, the Russians quickly packed and left, leaving just enough forces in South Ossetia and Abkhazia to make darn sure that they would never be attacked again.  This is most likely what the Russians would do in case of a war with the Ukraine, only at a larger scale.  But now think like Ze: Saakashvili himself is not in power, but he is alive, got plenty of money and basically is living a good life (in their minds, at least).  He did not get lynched by angry Georgians (who did put him on an international wanted list for many of his crimes).  Ze would much rather be the future Saakashvili than the future Mussolini, and that goes for a lot of them.  Sure, the Ukronazi true believers will all be killed by Russians, but the top folks will do what ex-President Ashraf Ghani did and pack their money and run.

Third, dumb and desperate (D&D) rulers always see war as a solution to get the flag-waving kind to blindly support them.  I vividly remember how Argentinian General and dictator Galtieri pulled off exactly that with his ill-fated liberation of the Malvinas/Falklands from the Brits (which, of course, I support 110% on principle, but the execution was nothing short of terrible, by the fault of Argentinian politicians and Galtieri himself (and the local commander too, Mario Menendez).  And that is a trick which every President except Trump pulled at least once while in office (and he basically also did that with the murder of Soleimani which was an act of war).

The Neocons still seem to be dreaming of attacking somebody, anybody, but following the monumental faceplant in Afghanistan, there are very few nations out there that the US can seriously take on (Monaco?  Lichtenstein?  Costa Rica (which has no military to begin with)?  Grenada (no military either, but lots of very bad and even traumatic memories for the US)?  Not the Vatican, the ceremonial Swiss guard might do what it did during the insurrection of 1792 and declare “We are Swiss, the Swiss do not part with their arms but with their lives. We think that we do not merit such an insult. If the regiment is no longer wanted, let it be legally discharged. But we will not leave our post, nor will we let our arms be taken from us” (yes, tiny Switzerland had a proud and very interesting history, and she only became the Empire’s cheap prostitute in 1990).  And today’s Swiss guards at the Vatican could change their (rather silly) ceremonial uniforms, but on real fatigues and fight to the end.  I don’t see these genius super-warriors taking them on 🙂

So – war later today or tomorrow?

No, probably not.

But the fact is that the Ukies simply have no other choice than to try all they can to trigger a war sooner or later (but preferably sooner).  For these Nazi schizophrenics war is, REALLY, preferable to peace.  Remember for all the butthurt crazies on other websites who were going into hysterics every time I spoke of “Nazis” in the Ukie context, the fact remains that while Ze initially came to power as a total NON-Nazi (while Poroshenko’s gang was “the real deal”), the fact that Ze is, literally, a clown and has no real power base other than the pro-peace Ukrainians whom he totally betrayed, resulted into the Ukie Nazis taking de facto control of the Ze regime.

Just like the Neocons are a minority in the USA, but one which sets the agenda no matter who is in power in the White House, so are the Ukronazis: a minority, but one which sets the agenda.  And “their” Ukraine is, truly, an anti-Russia, something which Putin publicly declared a “red line” which Russia will never allow.

See any venues for compromise here?

Me neither.

Finally, a war would allow the Ukronazis to “consolidate” their power in the western regions of the (historically real) “Ukraine” which Russians will certainly stay away from (Lvov, Ivano-Frankovsk, etc.).  Most of the locals *truly* are non-Russians and have never been Russians in the past.  The Ukronazi ideology is still popular there, so the Ukronazis can create their little and landlocked “Nazi Taiwan” and give up a country they cannot control, if only because it is entirely artificial, and accept a smaller country, but once which makes more sense and which they can control.

So “something” is definitely coming.  It might be a stupid stunt like trying to pass under the bridge to Crimea or some major terrorist attack (that is the one thing which the SBU is actually pretty darn good at, we should not dismiss them too quickly!).  Or this, the Ukies are regularly flying all types of drones over the Donbass and even over Crimea.  What if they sent a manned aircraft of some kind?  It will be shot down for sure (even over the LDNR).  They can also set off a false flag very very easily (just like the Czechs recently did): blow up some major civilian infrastructure object which the cannot be maintained (no money, all the specialists gone) anyway and blame it on Putin and, of course, “Petrov and Boshirov”.

I think of that as a “home made MH-17” (the initial one was clearly a US operation like KAL007 many years ago).

We cannot predict what “it” will be, but we can be sure that will be 1) very visible 2) very ugly 3) very bloody.

Yes, the Russians are as ready as can one can be.  But the Ukies will have the advantage of choosing the time and place.  This means that the SVR/GRU must now carry the burden of making darn sure that the Ukronazis authorities are chock full with SVR/GRU agents and even officers: it is vital for Russia to make sure that the Kremlin gets any such Ukie plans even before they are finalized in Kiev.  Удачи вам, ребята! (good luck guys!).

Andrei

The Taliban, 9/11, the Empire, MAGA eastern wet pampers

September 09, 2021

The Taliban, 9/11, the Empire, MAGA eastern wet pampers

by Andrei for the Saker Blog

Most of you must have heard it: the Taliban will organize a major celebration on September 11th to mark the liberation of Afghanistan from the US occupation and the creation of the new Afghan government.  The Russians and the Chinese have been invited.  As are the Pakistanis.  Not sure about Iran (do you know?)?

The Afghan government could be called a “GITMO government” since 5 members are former GITMO hostages and one, the head of security/intel, is still on the FBI most wanted list.

Needless to say, the Taliban had nothing to do with 9/11.  As for Bin-Laden and al-Qaeda they were somewhat involved, but only as “patsies”.

But the US government declared that the Taliban guilty and invaded Afghanistan.

Twenty years later, the Taliban are in total control and the US has probably executed one of the dumbest, worst and generally immoral military operation in history.  And 20 years later, the US was totally defeated.  Not by Russia.  Not by China.  Not by Iran.  Not even by Venezuela.  By the Afghans, after 20 years of warfare and trillions spent.

I have to agree with a Russian analyst who recently declared that “no, this is not even a “regular/normal” imperial collapse, this is the worst and most shameful imperial collapse in history”.

I fully concur.

As for what the Taliban will do this Saturday, it can’t even be called “spitting in Uncle Shmuel’s face”.  It’s even more than that.  Maybe we could speak of “urinating into Uncle Shmuel’s face” or some other even ruder metaphor showing both the total and utter contempt in which the Taliban hold not only the USA but the entire AngloZionist Empire AND somehow express the magnitude of the humiliation inflicted upon the USA.

I lack the words to come up with a suitable metaphor.

Can somebody come up with something sufficiently powerful?

Also, and especially for the MAGA folks out there:

CNN has reported that the entire “Ukie plan” to kidnap Russian PMCs was organized by the CIA and botched by the Ukies.  The harcore Ukronazis are now accusing CNN of either being “duped by the FSB” or even for being used by Putin personally.  Or both.

Anyway, what this goes to prove that Trump approved a clear terrorist attack against Russia.  Either that, or he did not even know about it, which might be worse…

And you guys are seriously discussing his possible comeback?!?!

Get real!

I saw an interesting poll somewhere (sorry, don’t remember where exactly) which shows that 49% of US Americans feel safer than on 9/11 20 years ago and 41% feel less safe.

And that is the real outcome of this monumentally evil and stupid Neocon plan.

After 20 years of warfare, pompous self-aggrandizement, many thousands dead and maimed and trillions spent.

Nothing will ever wash off this shame from the awareness of folks in Zone B and even many in Zone A.

Finally, today the Ukronazis shelled the Donbass again, with howitzers and mortars.  They were aiming at a water pumping station, miss and wounded/killed a couple.  Either way, this is a warcrime.  The Russians have declared that they have the designation of the unit which fired and the name of the commander who gave the order.

Which is all very predictable, since 1) US officials just visited the Ukraine 2) the CNN story is a HUGE scandal in the Ukie Rada and 3) Zelenskii is desperate to show that he might still be useful to the USA.

As for the Poles, they are fearing Russian invasion, so they put bared wire (I kid you not!) along their eastern border.  Which remind me of a Russian joke: a man walks down the street minding his own business, when he sees a woman on a balcony screaming “help! he wants to rape me! help!!!” from the top of her lungs.  The man looks up and says, “ma’am, calm down, I have no interest in you whatsoever and you are on the balcony while I am in the street” to which the woman replies, “yeah, maybe, but I can come down!“.

The Russian military is engaged in some large and serious, not fake, military maneuvers: 200’000 soldiers in both Russia and Belarus.  Hence all the wet pampers in eastern Europe (especially in Poland – the “hyena of Europe” always was a cowardly animal).

The Poles have even predicted the date of the Russian invasion: tomorrow (not a joke)

I have terrible news for Poland, the Baltic statelets and the Ukraine: nobody in Russia has any need for you, or your land.  Nobody.  Oh, and, for your information: “defenses” like walls, barbed-wires or even trenches cannot stop a modern military, such crap would not even slow the Russians down.

Summary: both Biden and Zelenskii might get impeached or otherwise removed.  That’s won’t solve anything for the US or the Ukraine, but sheer magnitude of their incompetence and stupidity makes such an outcome quite possible.

Not even in my most wildest and craziest dreams could I ever have imagined such a quick and total collapse of the Empire and of the USA.  I have to pinch myself several times a day, each time I get the news 🙂

Cheers

Many interesting developments in Russia

THE SAKER • JULY 20, 2021

Su-75 “Checkmate”

The past week has been quite intense in Russia – lots of interesting developments took place, and today I will mention three:

  1. Putin wrote a very interesting essay on the history of Russia and the Ukraine, which he followed up with a very interesting interview.
  2. Russia just concluded final tests for truly formidable weapons systems like the S-500 and the Mach 8 hypersonic missile Zircon.
  3. In its yearly aviation salon MAKS, Russia has just presented a 5th generation, single engine light multi-functional fighter the Su-75 “Checkmate”

These are all truly huge developments for Russia which we need to look into separately.

Putin’s history of Russia and the Ukraine

First, I highly recommend that you take the time to read the full article here and the full interview here (there is no point for me to use the space here to pepper you with excerpts), especially if you are not well-acquainted with Russian history or live in Zone A. Furthermore, being the “Putin groupie and fanboy” which I so-notoriously am (guilty as charged!), I won’t surprise anybody by saying that I agree with almost every word Putin wrote or spoke. And, frankly, all the facts Putin lists are really common knowledge for most people (unless they have been brainwashed by US/Ukronazi propaganda) and there is really no point for me to repeat “yes, this is true” and “yes, he is right” over and over again.

So all I propose to do next is to just to add a few comments of mine about this article+interview (I will assume that readers will have read them both; if not, I suggest completely skipping this section),

  1. First, as I just said, there is absolutely nothing new in this article for educated people. But that is not Putin’s target audience anyway. Putin’s target audience are the younger generations (in the Ukraine, the West and even, alas, Russia proper!) who know very little, if anything, about history. And while this is also true of Russia, this is especially true in the Ukraine where people have been massively brainwashed since 1917 (as Putin explains this very well in his article).
  2. The real reason why this article caused such a stir in Russia and total hysterics amongst the Ukronazi nutcases (who, again, are now predicting an imminent Russian invasion, what else?) is that while these facts were known for decades, but considered very politically incorrect to mention them lest the Ukrainians get offended: from the late 80s and until now, the Ukronazis taught a very different version of history, which includes coming from the Sumerian civilization, building the pyramids in Egypt, digging the Black Sea, founding the ancient Aryan civilization, etc. Even more crucially, the official Ukronazi narrative claims that Russians and Ukrainians are completely different people (Ukies are true, pure, Aryans while Russians are Ugro-Altaic Mongols). So what Putin did with this article is simply to (finally!) proclaim that the emperor is naked and the clueless Ukies ignorant of their own history.
  3. This article also marks a rather dramatic change of tone from the Kremlin. In the past the Kremlin always tried to maintain a polite and respectful attitude towards the Ukies and their Wakanda-like delusions about history. Now this is over, Russia has finally and openly decided to declare to the Ukies (and the rest of the world!) that their founding myths are based on precious *nothing* and that Russia is done treating this utter nonsense as if it has any factual basis in the adult world.

I would like to offer one more commentary on Putin’s statements.

I believe that there has been a “war of words” waged by the Ukrainian nationalists against the Russians for many decades (I remember listening to the Ukie service of RL/RFE and I was always amazed at the completely open hatred – bordering on racist bigotry – of the Ukie propaganda; even when compared to all the other national minority services of RL/RFE which, I assure you, included a lot of bone fide nutcases in many of its services) and the Russian side was mostly quiet and demure lest the Ukies get offended. That is now over, in this war of words Russia will now use her verbal ammunition to debunk the Ukronazi pseudo-historical fairy tales. I very much welcome that!

Finally, I believe that the Kremlin is already working on “post-Ze” options. Frankly, this also comes not a second too soon! The Ukraine has been in free fall for years already, but even by Ukie standards the chaos and tensions which are taking place now have grown into full scale hysterics which is both truly amazing and very concerning (I will spare you all the details now, I have enough such articles already posted, but I will probably have to revisit this slow agony in the near future). I get the feeling that the Kremlin expects a truly bona fide Nazis leader to come to power by one way or another after “Ze” (Note: while “Ze” did end up catering to the Ukronazis, he himself is most definitely not “the real thing” – he only pretends). Maybe a “President Avakov” next (no Nazi either, by the way, just a man very skilled at using Nazis)?

The bottom line is this: the final collapse of the Ukraine is what the Kremlin is now openly waiting for next. And even if “Biden” wants to force “Ze” to abide by the Minsk Agreements, this will mean the end for “Ze” and a return to full/total power of the Ukronazis. Why? There are roughly three forces in the Ukraine right now, at least apparently:

  1. The regime in power (“Ze” and his gang)
  2. The opposition (mostly the OPZZh party)
  3. The real hardcore Nazis (you can think of them as the Ukie version of the Hutu “Interahamwe” in Rwanda

The regime is in deep agony and simply not viable.

The opposition is divided, often politically discredited and lacks both a clear leader and a clear vision.

In sharp contrast, the Ukronazis gang is small, but very well organized, very well funded and very well led (most of the “street level” Ukronazi leaders are imbeciles like Liashko or, better, Tiagnibok, but Avakov is no idiot, he is good at working with his US patrons and with the truly crazy folks like Andrei Biletskii or Aleksei Danilov.

True, in the long term the political prospects of the opposition look pretty good, as they have a few (very few?) pretty sharp leaders, and their program recommends better relations with Russia, something truly vital (literally!) for the Ukraine. But I don’t see the opposition having the strength to take on the Ukronazis just yet: first “Ze” needs to go, the Ukronazis need to seize full control of power again, and then come up with some truly crazy shit (that all Nazis are good for, as history has shown) which will break-up the Ukraine into various successor states. Only at that point will the current opposition have good political chances in the eastern and southern parts of the Ukraine. But the current situation is too complex and too fluid to take anybody’s guesses and predictions too seriously. Only time will truly show.

The S-500 and Zircon weapons systems have now been fully tested

The quick way to summarize this development is to say that both the S-500 and the Zircon have no comparable competitors anywhere in the world, not even vaguely comparable ones. Both the S-500 and the Zircon missiles are way, waaaay ahead of any other weapons system in their categories. Even better, the Empire has nothing, and really I mean absolutely nothing, it could oppose to either one of these weapons systems. And with not too much hyperbole, it would be fair to say that, once fully deployed, the S-500 will make most of the US/NATO aviation and tactical/operational and even some strategic missiles completely obsolete. As for the Zircon, it does the same thing to the USN’s surface fleet. To say that this is huge would be an understatement, especially since US/NATO force planners must now decide what to do about this, and that is no small task considering that is now becoming obvious that US/NATO force planners made some truly major mistakes in their assumptions about what the modern 21st century battlefield will really look like. Force planning deals with many immense technological and bureaucratic inertia and to “simply change course” is not “simple” at all: it typically takes decades!

I have no doubt that the US MIC propaganda machine will now talk a lot about US ‘hypersonic’ weapons and about 6th generation super-dooper aircraft. But let’s be honest here: the US hypersonic weapons program is in its infancy (at best) and is struggling. As for the USAF, it will take it many years to at least reduce the long list of major problems of the F-35, and even that is not a real solution: while I am sure that, given enough time, the USAF/USN will find a way to use this aircraft effectively (at least against non-peer adversaries), the only real solution to this ugly mess is to not only quickly revive the F-15 (in its F-15X form, which looks promising), but also to embark on the development of a 5++ generation aircraft while at the same time working on a real, truly 6th gen, successor (in the good sense of the word) for the F-35. This being said, if the F-35 proves anything, it is that the Pentagon and the US MIC are corrupt beyond what any words could express (from a purely corruption point of view the F-35 was a stunning success!) and this begs the question: can these guys even develop a halfway decent or even a good aircraft?! Or has the country which developed the superb F-16, A-10. 747 or the F-15 lost its ability to produce truly superb aircraft? I don’t know.

What do you think?

The brand new 5th generation single-engine Su-75 “Checkmate”

This is really THE news of the day! This is nothing short of earth-shattering. Let’s begin with a list of factoids I tried to collect from different sources: (since all this info was only unveiled a few hours ago, there might still be mistakes, so caveat emptor!)

  • Name: Sukhoi Su-75 “Checkmate”
  • High commonality with Su-57
  • Single engine (crucial!)
  • Top speed 2400 km/h (about 1500mph or 1300 knots or just under Mach 2)
  • Thrust vectoring engines
  • 30M dollars typical cost
  • 5,5 years development only (using supercomputers)
  • 1500km combat range
  • STOL (shorter than Su-57’s about 400m)
  • Max load: 7.5 tons
  • Service Ceiling just under 17km
  • Max load: 8+ G
  • Ferry range 3000km+ (on internal fuel)
  • Low RCS
  • Advanced avionics and all glass cockpit
  • The Belka N036 AFAR antenna with a detection range of 350-400km
  • Long, medium and short range weapons for any targets
  • Can engage 6 targets (in air, land, water and air defenses) simultaneously
  • Will feature the long-range 30P6 air to air missile (range: about 160km)
  • AI support and guidance
  • Five air-to-air missiles carried internally
  • Onboard advanced EW defenses
  • The Su-75 has a cannon carried inside its internal sections
  • There will be a pilotless version of the Su-75 (automated and remote-controlled)
  • The Su-75 has advanced datalinks allowing it to operate together with other aircraft or drones
  • Supercruise (not sure? Probably only in a future engine)
  • The aircraft is “open architecture” (so it can be adapted to specific needs)
  • Sukhoi expects to sell about 300 Su-75 in the next 15 years or so
  • The Su-75 can be adapted for naval carrier use
  • The target clients are the both the RAF and foreign clients (but only export versions for foreign clients).
  • Its first flight is scheduled for 2023 and adoption by the RAF is, assuming a contract is confirmed, set for 2025.
  • Price: 25-30 million dollars depending on specific requirements

What do I make of these characteristics? Here are some of my thoughts (keep in mind that while I did some work with the Swiss Air Force, I am not an aerospace engineer, so take all I say with at least a pound or two of salt and wait for real experts to pitch in!).

First, this is a much needed aircraft for Russia which currently does not have modern single engine combat aircraft. Currently, the “core” aircraft of the (RAF) are all big twin engines: Su-30SM, Su-35, Su-34, .etc. Even the much smaller “F-16 counterpart” has two engines. Even the (comparatively) smaller MiG-35 is a twin engine. These are all superb aircraft, but a single-engine aircraft would be much cheaper, not only to purchase, but even more so to maintain.

Second, Russia’s main weakness when compared to the US/NATO is primarily quantitative: while they are much inferior, US/NATO aircraft are produced in huge numbers the Russian industrial base and finances cannot match, at least not by producing very advanced but also very expensive aircraft a la Su-35S. The RAF needs many cheap but highly effective combat aircraft and the Su-75 might well be “the” dream machine for Russia.

Third, a single-engine 5th generation aircraft for about 30 million dollars is an extremely attractive option, especially with its open architecture. Especially when its only competitor is the truly pathetic F-35 (which is really not much of a 5th gen aircraft, at least for the foreseeable future (especially since it has fundamentally flawed core-design issues, read all about it here).

By the way, the Russians are officially denying that they wanted to make a “Russian response” to the F-35. They say that the F-35 and the Su-75 are in completely different categories and when you look at such parameters are speed, maneuverability, max load or, especially, price, you can see that the Russians are fundamentally correct: it’s not “just” that the Su-75 is a much superior aircraft, it is really in a completely different “punching weight” category.

Fourth, just like a truly effective air defense system requires different weapons systems all integrated into a single network and working together, so does tactical/operational aviation. These are the main categories the RAF needs to fill: CAS aircraft (Su-25M), strike aircraft (Su-24M and Su-34), air superiority and interceptors (Su-30SM, Su-35S), advanced long-range interceptors (MiG-31BM) and a cheap, ubiquitous and very capable “dogfighter” for the frontline aviation which can deal with enemy aircraft while also supporting the ground forces. Russian did built some very good single fighters in the past, including the MiG-23 (criticized in the West, but loved by Russian pilots) and, arguably, the most successful fighter ever built, the MiG-21. So Russians know how to do that, they just have not done that in way too many years and the appearance of the Su-75 comes “not a second too late” for the Russian military which will finally have a truly “full-spectrum” of modern, indigenously built, combat aircraft.

Here is a good image showing how similar the Su-75 and Su-57 are externally:

There were some speculations that the Russians were working on a successor for their Yak-141 VSTOL combat aircraft (which the US Americans tried to copy as a basis for their F-35 and miserably failed), but the Russians have appeared to be content with “only” STOL capabilities. Considering the catastrophic failure of the F-35B (and the non-deployment of the Yak-141) might be the wiser choice. If the Su-75 ever makes it on a carrier of some kind, short catapult-assisted take-offs is probably the wiser solution.

One last thing: for the first time in decades the Russians have (finally!) managed to keep things really hush-hush and there were almost zero leaks about the Su-75, and most of those which did happen were carefully orchestrated by the Russian authorities. I am not talking about the mass media like Argumenty i Fakty or Popular Mechanics. Even the specialized press had only a few good guesses about what this “soon to be unveiled and totally new 5th gen fighter” would look like. There were a few partial photos, some drawings, a few partial photos, all augmented by educated guesses. Not only that, but there is still a lot we don’t know, including on some really important topics like the Su-75 radar and longest range air-to-air missiles.

Conclusion:

This has been a long and important week for Russia which, I think, illustrates a few important things:

  • The Russians have clearly lost lost their very last illusions about the Nazi-occupied Ukraine and are now actively preparing the “post-Ze” period.
  • Putin feels the popular pressure and is embarking on a PR campaign in preparation for the next elections.
  • The Russian MIC is doing better than ever and the recent Russian high-tech successes show that Russia has gone into what they call a “high-quality separation” (качественный отрыв) from the West or Asia.

All in all, this is all good news.

Crying wolf in the Ukraine (again)

Crying wolf in the Ukraine (again)

THE SAKER • JULY 5, 2021 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pretty clear, no?

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

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

Conclusion: alas, only more crying wolf…

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

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

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Director General of Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency Dmitry Kiselev Moscow, April 28, 2021

April 28, 2021

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Director General of Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency Dmitry Kiselev Moscow, April 28, 2021

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

We have available video in Russian and transcript in English.

Transcript:

Dmitry Kiselev: Our relations with the United States are really “hell”. Personally, I don’t recall them being at such a low ebb ever before. This is even worse than the Cold War times, in my opinion. Ambassadors have returned back to their home countries. What’s going to happen next? What is the possible scenario?

Sergey Lavrov: If it depended on us alone, we would gladly resume normal relations. The first possible step towards this, which I regard as obvious, is to zero out the measures restricting the work of Russian diplomats in the United States. It was as a response measure that we restricted the operations of American diplomats in Russia.

We proposed this to the Biden administration as soon as it had taken the oath and assumed office. I have mentioned the idea to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. I did not try to press it; I just said that an obvious way to normalise our relations would be to zero out the measures initiated by Barack Obama. Several weeks before leaving office, he was so annoyed he virtually slammed the door by seizing Russian property in violation of all the Vienna conventions and throwing Russian diplomats out. This has caused a chain reaction.

We patiently sat back for a long time, until the summer of 2017, before taking any response measures. The Trump administration asked us to disregard the excessive measures taken by the outgoing Obama administration. However, Donald Trump’s team failed to normalise the situation, and so we had to take reciprocal measures. But the Americans have not stopped there.

We can see that the Biden administration continues to go downhill, although US President Biden said during his conversation with President of Russia Vladimir Putin soon after his inauguration, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told me that they are thoroughly reviewing their relations with Russia, hoping that this would clarify many things. However, instead they adopted new sanctions, which triggered not simply a mirror response on our part. Our response was asymmetrical, just as we had warned them on numerous occasions. It has to do, in part, with a considerable disparity in the number of diplomats and other personnel of the US diplomatic missions in Russia, which is way above the number of Russian diplomats in the United States.

As for the strategic picture of our relations, I hope that Washington is aware, just as Moscow is, of our responsibility for global stability. There are not only the problems of Russia and the United States, which are complicating our citizens’ lives and their contacts, communications, businesses and humanitarian projects, but also differences that are posing a serious risk to international security in the broadest possible meaning of the word.

You remember how we responded to the outrage that took place during Joe Biden’s interview with ABC. You are also aware of how President Putin reacted to President Biden’s proposal of a meeting. We have taken a positive view of this, but we would like to understand all aspects of this initiative, which we are currently analysing.

Nothing good will come out of this, unless the United States stops acting as a sovereign, as President Putin said during his Address to the Federal Assembly, accepts the futility of any attempts to revive the unipolar world or to create an architecture where all Western countries would be subordinate to the United States and the Western camp would work together to “rally” other countries across the world against China and Russia, admits that it was for a purpose that the UN Charter sealed such principles as respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as non-interference in the internal affairs of other states and sovereign equality of states, and simply honours its commitments and starts talking with us, just as with any other country, on the basis of respect for each other and for a balance of interests, which must be established. President Putin said this clearly in his Address, pointing out that Russia is always open to broad international agreements if they suit our interests. But we will harshly respond to any attempts to cross the red line, which we ourselves will determine.

Dmitry Kiselev: Would it be realistic to expect them to become aware of this and stop acting as a sovereign? Hope is fine, but the reality is completely different.

Sergey Lavrov: I have not expressed any hope. I just mentioned the conditions on the basis of which we will be ready to talk.

Dmitry Kiselev: And what if they refuse?

Sergey Lavrov: It will be their choice. This means that we will be living in conditions of a Cold War, or even worse, as you have already mentioned. In my opinion, tension did run high during the Cold War and there were numerous high-risk conflict situations, but there was also mutual respect. I believe that this is lacking now.

There have been some schizophrenic notes in the statements made by some of the Washington officials. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said just a while ago that sanctions against Russia would be continued, that they are producing, by and large, a desired effect, and that their objective is not to “escalate” with Russia. Even I am at a loss about how to comment on this. I hope anyone can see that such statements are doing no credit to those who are upholding and promoting this policy.

Dmitry Kiselev: I had a chance to hear an opinion – perhaps even a commonplace opinion, to some extent, in certain circles – to the effect that diplomats are doing a poor job, that we are constantly digging in our heels, that our position is inflexible and non-elastic, and this is the reason why our relations are poor.

Sergey Lavrov: Are you alluding to circles inside this country?

Dmitry Kiselev: Yes, inside this country.

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, I also read these things. Thankfully, this country protects freedom of speech much better than many Western countries, including the United States. I read the opposition’s online resources and newspapers, and I think that perhaps these people have a right to express their point of view that consists in the following: “If we refrained from disputing with the West, we’d have Parmesan cheese and lots more things that we are sincerely missing; but for some reason, they have cut short food purchases in the West [they do not even explain that this was done in response], they have stopped buying food and gone into import substitution, thus increasing the price of food.”

You know, this is a narrow, lopsided view taken entirely from the standpoint of creature comforts, a choice between a television set and a fridge. If they think it essential to accept US values, I would like to remind them about what US President John Kennedy, the greatest US President to my mind, once said: “Don’t think what your country can do for you. Think what you can do for your country.” This is a radical distinction from today’s liberal views, where personal wellbeing and personal feelings alone are the things that matter.

The promoters of these philosophical approaches, as I see it, are not just unaware of what our genetic code is all about, but are trying in every way to undermine it. For, apart from the desire to live well, to be well-fed, to be confident that one’s children, friends and relatives are well too, a feeling of national pride always played an equally important role in what we did throughout our one thousand years’ history. If someone thinks that these values are of no importance for him or her, as it is [politically] correct to say now, it is their choice, but I am certain that the overwhelming majority of our people have a different opinion.

Dmitry Kiselev: Are you counting on a meeting with Antony Blinken? When can this meeting be held, and will it take place at all in the foreseeable future?

Sergey Lavrov: When we were talking over the phone, I congratulated him in keeping with the diplomatic etiquette. We exchanged a few appraisals of the [current] situation. The talk was, I feel, well-meaning, calm and pragmatic. When our US colleagues have completed staffing their Department of State, we will be prepared to resume contacts – naturally, on the understanding that we will engage in a search for mutually acceptable arrangements on many problems, starting from the functioning of the diplomatic missions and ending with strategic stability and many other things. US and Russian business communities are concerned with expanding their cooperation, something that the American-Russian Chamber of Commerce has recently told us. We have concluded by stating that there will be some joint multilateral events, on whose sidelines we will be able, as chance offers, to talk. But no signals have come from the US so far. Speaking about the schedule of events, Russia will be taking over the Arctic Council chairmanship from Iceland three weeks from now. An Arctic Council ministerial meeting is scheduled to take place in Reykjavík on May 20-21. If Secretary Blinken leads the US delegation, I will, of course, be prepared to talk with him, if he is interested.  Given that we will chair the Arctic Council for the next two years, I have informed our Iceland colleagues that I will attend this ministerial meeting.

Dmitry Kiselev: Is there any certainty as to who will definitely join the list of unfriendly states?

Sergey Lavrov: The Government of Russia is attending to this on instructions from President of Russia Vladimir Putin. We are participating in this work, as are other respective agencies.  I would not like to jump the gun right now.  We are reluctant to be indiscriminate and put on that list just any country that will say somewhere “something wrong” about Russia. Our decision will be based, of course, on a deep-going analysis of the situation and on whether we see opportunities to have a dialogue with that country in a different way. If we come to the conclusion that there is no chance of this, then, I think, the list will, of course, be periodically extended. But this is not a “dead” paper. As is only natural, it will be revised in tune with how our relations develop with this or that state.

Dmitry Kiselev: When will the public be able to read this list?

Sergey Lavrov: Soon, I think. The Russian Government has concrete assignments. We understand the criteria that are guiding us in this work. So, I think, the wait will not be very long now.

Dmitry Kiselev: Will the unfriendly states be banned from hiring local workforce?

Sergey Lavrov: There will be a ban on hiring any physical persons whether Russian or foreign.

Dmitry Kiselev: Is this the only measure with regard to unfriendly states or some others are in the offing?

Sergey Lavrov: At this stage, this is the concrete aim set in the executive order signed by President of Russia Vladimir Putin.

Dmitry Kiselev: Donbass is another subject. Tensions have continued to escalate there since early 2021, and it appears that they have subsided a little since US President Joe Biden called President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin. In my show News of the Week, I noted that US military guarantees to Ukraine had turned out to be a bluff. Nevertheless, shootouts continue, and they are using banned large-calibre weapons. It seems like this peace is not very different from war, and that the balance is highly unstable. Over 500,000 Russian citizens now live in Donbass. Will there be a war?

Sergey Lavrov: War can and should be avoided, if this depends on us and on the self-defence fighters, as far as we understand their principled approaches. I cannot speak and make guesses on behalf of the Ukrainian party and President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky because, by all indications, his main goal is to stay in power. He is ready to pay any price, such as pandering to neo-Nazis and ultra-radicals who continue to brand the Donbass self-defence fighters as terrorists. Our Western colleagues should reassess the developments that have taken place since February 2014.  None of these districts attacked the rest of Ukraine. They were branded as terrorists, and an anti-terrorist operation was launched against them and then another operation involving “joint forces.”. But we do know for sure that they have no desire to make war on representatives of the Kiev regime.

I have repeatedly told our Western colleagues, who are totally biased in their assessment of current developments, and who unconditionally defend Kiev’s actions, that Russian journalists and war correspondents working on the other side of the demarcation line show an objective picture. They work in trenches there almost without respite, and they provide daily news reports. These reports show the feelings of the people living in these territories that are cut off from the rest of Ukraine by an economic blockade, where children and civilians are being regularly killed, and where the civilian infrastructure, schools and kindergartens are being destroyed. I asked our Western colleagues why they don’t encourage their media outlets to organise the same work on the left side of the demarcation line, so that the scale of damage there can be assessed and to see which facilities have been the hardest hit.

As for the recent developments, when we openly announced the military exercises in the Southern and Western military districts – we made no secret of that, you remember the shouts about the alleged Russian build-up on the border with Ukraine. Just take a look at the terms used: we speak about drills in the Southern and Western military districts, while they say that Russia is amassing troops on the Ukrainian border. And when the drills ended and we made the relevant announcement, the West claimed maliciously that Russia had to back off, to withdraw. This is an example of wishful thinking.

This is reminiscent of the situation with the G7: every time they meet they announce that Russia will not be invited to the group. We have stated on numerous occasions that we will never re-join it, that there will not be any G8, and that this is a thing of the past. However, continued references to this subject, as well as claims that Russia has “rolled back” and has ordered its troops to “return to their barracks” shows, of course, that in this instance the West wants above all to take advantage of this situation to prove that it has the last word and the dominant place in modern international relations. This is regrettable.

The subject of a settlement in Ukraine has been discussed by President Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The other day President Putin spoke about it with President of France Emmanuel Macron. The issue was also raised during a recent conversation with US President Joe Biden. The situation is clear, as I see it. The patrons of President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky and his team refuse to make him honour the Minsk Agreements, even though they are aware of the futility of trying to use military force; they have heard the signals sent from Donetsk and Lugansk about their readiness to defend their land, their homes and their people who refuse to live by the laws being enforced by neo-Nazis.

President Putin has said clearly that we will never abandon the people of Donbass, who are standing up to the openly radical neo-Nazi regime. President Zelensky keeps saying in his interviews that there are no problems with the Russian language or the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, and that he is willing to discuss all these subjects with President Putin. It is a shame perhaps that a person I have always regarded as clever says that the Russian language and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church have no problems in Ukraine. I have no doubt that he is very well aware of the situation. Maybe nothing at all is being reported to him, but in that case he is living in a dream world. But the West has definitely sent its signals to Zelensky.

As you have mentioned, it would be senseless to pin hopes on US military assistance. This has always been clear to everyone. If anyone entertained such illusions, such advisers are good for nothing in any government, including the government of Mr Zelensky. Regrettably, the West continues to try to convince us that the Minsk Agreements should be mitigated and the sequence of the actions set out in them changed. Zelensky says he likes the agreements, but only if it is all the other way round, that they first take full control of these territories, including the border with Russia, and only then deal with the elections, amnesty and a special status for these territories. It is clear that if they did this, if they were allowed to do this, there would be a massacre. The West is unable or unwilling to force Zelensky to comply with the Minsk Agreements strictly in accordance with the sequence set out in them, which does not permit any double interpretation and has been formulated unambiguously from the first to the last step. Control of the border is the very last step to be taken after these territories receive a special status, which must be sealed in the Constitution of Ukraine, after free elections are held there and their results are recognised as such by the OSCE.

Of course, there must also be total amnesty. Not in the way envisaged by the Poroshenko government or the current regime, which only want to approve an  amnesty on an individual basis for those who are proved to have committed no crime. This is yet another misinterpretation. The Minsk Agreements stipulate an amnesty for those who took part in fighting on both sides, without any transitional justice process, which our Western colleagues are now beginning to discuss.

I believe that the brunt of responsibility lies with the West, because only the West can make President Zelensky honour the commitments which his predecessor signed and he himself signed in Paris in December 2019 when he, the presidents of Russia and France and the Chancellor of Germany reaffirmed the absence of any alternative to the strict observance of the Minsk Agreements, and he pledged to amend the legislation and the Ukrainian Constitution to formalise the special status of Donbass on a permanent basis.

Dmitry Kiselev: Many people are wondering why Russia fails to recognise Donbass. It did recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia. There is an inner “lobby” in Russia, even among my fellow journalists, who are demanding that we recognise Donbass – the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic. Why are we failing in this?

Sergey Lavrov: You are right that there is an analogy with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But there is just one exception: no agreements similar to the Minsk Package of Measures were signed in those countries, when Saakashvili’s aggression against Tskhinval and the positions of peacekeepers, including Russian peacekeepers, occurred. The Medvedev-Sarkozy document was discussed there, and it implied a number of steps. But it was not signed by Georgia. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, after reaching an agreement with us in Moscow, took a plane to Tbilisi to ensure Saakashvili’s support for the document. Saakashvili signed it, but he deleted all the key provisions.  Mr Sarkozy attempted to represent this as a compromise, but everyone understood everything. It had a preamble saying that the Russian Federation and the French Republic, desirous of normalising the situation in South Caucasus, propose to Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia the following:  a ceasefire. Saakashvili crossed out the heading, leaving just the first and subsequent items. Since then, the West has been demanding that we comply with these agreements. This is just an example.

In the case of Donbass, the situation was different. The 17-hour long negotiations in Minsk involving the Normandy format leaders (President Franсois  Hollande of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Petr Poroshenko of Ukraine, and President of Russia Vladimir Putin) produced a result, which was endorsed, two days later, by the UN Security Council without any amendments or doubts that it should be implemented.

Today, the moral and international legal truth is on our side and on the side of the Donbass militias.  I think that we must not let Mr Zelensky and his entire team “off the hook,” writhing as they might. Mr Zelensky’s statement is a fine specimen (made when he had all but given up hope of turning the Minsk Agreements upside down) to the effect that they are no good, albeit necessary, because the saving of the Minsk Agreements guarantees that the sanctions against Moscow will be preserved as well. We asked the West, what they think about this. They just look aside shamefacedly and say nothing.  I think it is a shame and a disgrace, when an international legal document is held up to mockery in this manner.  The West, which has co-authored this document and supported it at the UN Security Council, is demonstrating absolute helplessness.

Dmitry Kiselev: President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky cannot get a call through to President of Russia Vladimir Putin, who is not picking up the receiver. Your Ukrainian counterpart, Dmitry Kuleba, cannot get a call through to you. What does this mean? Why is this?

Sergey Lavrov: This means that they are seeking to revise the Minsk Agreements and represent Russia as a party to the conflict even in this area of their activities.

Requests that came in until recently both from my counterpart Kuleba and President Zelensky dealt with the topic of settlement in Donbass. We replied that this [topic] should be discussed not with us, but with Donetsk and Lugansk, as you agreed under the Minsk Agreements.   The agreements say in black and white that the key stages of settlement should be the subject of consultations and coordination with Donetsk and Lugansk. When they say that a “nasty situation is looming large” at the line of contact and want to talk to Minister Sergey Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin, they are barking up the wrong tree. Meeting with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko in the Kremlin the other day, President Putin made it amply clear that if they wanted to talk about this, the address should be different.  If our colleagues, including President Zelensky, want to discuss how to normalise bilateral relations, they are welcome. We are always ready to talk about this.

Dmitry Kiselev: There is no reply or acceptance so far, is there?

Sergey Lavrov: I heard that Mr Zelensky instructed the chief of his office, Andrey Yermak, to come to terms on the timeframes. The location is of no importance, because each day of delay means new deaths.

Incidentally, let us take the fact that people are dying and what is happening at the line of contact. Over the last couple of weeks, Kiev has been insisting quite aggressively on the need to reaffirm the ceasefire. All of its Western patrons have also been urging us to influence Donbass so that the ceasefire takes hold in earnest. Speaking on the phone with President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel last week, President Putin reminded them of the facts. And the facts are as follows: In July 2020, the Contact Group reached what was perhaps the most serious and effective ceasefire agreement, because it contained a verification mechanism.  It implied a sequence of actions, primarily each side’s commitment not to return fire immediately on the spot but report the violation to the top command and wait for its order on how to act, to wit, whether to respond in kind or to negotiate an arrangement under the mechanisms created for commander-to-commander liaison on the ground.   This agreement, as it was implied, was translated into military orders issued by the DPR and the LPR. These orders were published. Kiev pledged to do the same, but did nothing. Instead it started fiddling with words again. Instead of performing the obligation to report each shelling attack to the top command and get orders from them, they began replacing this clear-cut arrangement with confused formulas, although they were blamed for this by Donetsk and Lugansk at all subsequent meetings, and Russian representatives in the Contact Group, too, repeatedly said as much. The same happened in the Normandy Format.  This is what Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Dmitry Kozak has been doing all these months in contacts with his French and German colleagues. The head of President Zelensky’s Office, Andrey Yermak, was representing Ukraine. I read transcripts of their talks. It was like talking to a brick wall. They were at cross purposes: the Ukrainian leaders had obviously decided that it was necessary to revive the ceasefire story. It was shameful and unseemly.

It was a great pleasure to watch the Servant of the People series, when no one suspected that its main character would follow this path in real life. But he took the wrong path. If Mr Zelensky watched the series again today and tried to fathom the convictions of the person he had impersonated so well on screen, and later compared those convictions with what he is doing now, he would, perhaps, have achieved one of the most effective transformations.  I do not know when he was himself and when he underwent a transformation. But the contrast is striking.

Dmitry Kiselev: Another subject is the Czech Republic. What was it? How are we to understand it?

Sergey Lavrov: I cannot speculate on this because I do not understand intellectually what they wanted. One can watch it like a not too elegant television series.

This story is full of schizophrenic components. Czech president Milos Zeman says it should be sorted out, not denying the possibility of a subversive act by foreign agents, but suggesting taking into account the story told by the Czech leadership, including the incumbent Prime Minister Andrej Babis (the then Minister of Finance, in 2014), that it was the result of negligence by the depot owners. President Zeman only suggested that consideration should be given to the case that has never been disproven over the seven years. He is accused of high treason now. President of the Senate Milos Vystrcil said that by stating the need to investigate all the leads President Zeman had disclosed a state secret. Is this not schizophrenia? A pure case, I think.

There needs to be an investigation into what was stored in the depot. The German media said that they kept antipersonnel mines prohibited by the convention signed, inter alia, by the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. A lot of questions remain.

Dmitry Kiselev: Indeed, how could it happen that a certain Bulgarian citizen supplying antipersonnel mines (by all appearances they were found there), controlled a depot in the Czech Republic which was not then under the control of the government?

Sergey Lavrov: It so happens.

Dmitry Kiselev: Maybe the Czechs would be better to start with themselves?

Sergey Lavrov: Probably. Or follow the example of Ukraine where too a vast number of armed people, weapons and ammunition are controlled not by the Ukrainian armed forces, but by “volunteer battalions.” It is a trend where the state proves its inability to ensure, if you like, its monopoly over the use of force.

Dmitry Kiselev: Ukraine is one thing but the Czech Republic is a member of the EU. It is bound by other international commitments than those of Ukraine and presents itself differently.

Sergey Lavrov: Above all, in addition to the aforementioned conventions (Ottawa Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention and the so-called Arms Trade Treaty, they are all parties to it), the EU has its own quite strict rules that do not encourage but rather prohibit any actions like supplies and sending forces to regions where there are conflicts.

Dmitry Kiselev: What do you think about the so-called British files? This looks like an orchestrated information campaign against Russia.

Sergey Lavrov: As before, the British continue to play a very active, serious and subversive role in relations between Russia and Europe. Britain has withdrawn from the EU but it has not slackened its activities there. On the contrary, it has been trying to exert maximum influence on the EU countries’ positions towards Moscow. This is not surprising at all.

You don’t even need to go very far back in history. In 2006, Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with polonium. The inquest began in one way, and then the process was classified because it was necessary to analyse the materials of intelligence services. And then they announced the verdict, but the materials involved in the case have never been made public. As Arnold Schwarzenegger used to say, “Trust me.” I would rather side with Ronald Reagan’s “trust but verify.” But they don’t allow us to verify; they only demand that we trust them.

In 2014, the Malaysian Boeing was downed. They formed a team comprising a narrow group of four countries – the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia and Ukraine. They did not even invite Malaysia, the country that lost the plane. These four countries have agreed, as it has since transpired, that any information would only be revealed on the basis of consensus. Ukraine, where the disaster took place, was given the right of veto, while Malaysia was invited to join the group only six months later. The black boxes, which the self-defence forces provided to Malaysia, were analysed in London. I don’t recall them making the information public.

In 2018, there were the Skripals and the “highly likely.” Nobody knows to this day how the Skripals survived the alleged poisoning, why the police officer who worked with them did not display any symptoms of poisoning, and why the woman involved died while her partner did not get sick. There are very many questions.

In 2020, we had the case of Alexey Navalny. He was flying from Tomsk to Moscow, but the plane landed in Omsk. Nobody on board the plane or in the Omsk hospital got sick. A bottle of water [from his hotel room] was taken by Maria Pevchikh to Germany on the plane that transported Navalny – nobody knows anything. Doctors at the Charité hospital did not find any traces of poison, but they were found at the Bundeswehr. German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer demanded transparency in connection with our recent military drills in the southern and western regions of Russia. But we announced the drills beforehand, whereas the Bundeswehr, whose experts allegedly found traces of Navalny’s poisoning, is keeping information from us. Our request for the results of tests and biomaterials has been denied.

After that there was a long story involving the OPCW. It allegedly took part in collecting samples from Navalny. According to the remarkable information from Berlin, German experts were present during the collection of the samples, but OPCW experts are not mentioned at all. We are trying to sort this information out. Nobody wants to explain anything. Germany is directing us to the OPCW, which says that the request came from Germany and so we should ask them. It is a conspiracy of silence. We have seen this happen in crime movies about bandit groups operating all over the country after the war. This is regrettable.

Getting back to Britain, we can see that London is continuing its anti-Russia policy. Chief of the UK Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) Richard Moore said a few days ago that Russia is “a declining power” whose allegedly “reckless behaviour” needs to be dealt with. This is inherent arrogance and a belief that they continue to rule the world. They are sending “signals” to us and propose establishing ties. In other words, they are not against communicating with us, but they are trying to discourage others from doing the same. This could be an aspiration for a monopoly of contacts and a desire to prove that they are superior to others.

Dmitry Kiselev: Speaking about decline, Britain is a perfect example of a declining empire “on which the sun never sets,” a small island in the North Sea with clouded prospects. To return to the Czech Republic, opinions within the country on the latest developments are totally inconsistent. There is no consensus, and nothing has yet been proven, but diplomats have been expelled. There has already been a result.

Sergey Lavrov: They claim that this is not the reason why our diplomats were expelled.  Two statements were made on the same day. They appeared to be interconnected. Prague is now trying to prove that there is no connection between them. They have announced that the explosions were organised by Petrov and Boshirov, the ubiquitous Russian suspects. It’s like blaming them for the sinking of the Titanic. The same day it was announced that 18 diplomats would have to leave the country. The majority of people accepted this as “punishment” for the 2014 explosions. After that, the Czech authorities said they would track down Petrov and Boshirov and issue an arrest warrant for them. As for the 18 diplomats, they identified them as spies. They expelled them because they turned out to be intelligence agents. No proof that any of these 18 diplomats are guilty of illegal activities has been provided. It is not surprising that former Czech President Vaclav Klaus said that the country’s authorities were like a tiny pooch barking at a huge dog, hoping that the big boys (the United States and Britain) would throw their weight behind them. Do you remember a time from your childhood when local bullies waited until dusk to demand 15 kopeks from a smaller kid, and if he refused they summoned the “big boys.” The logic is very similar. This is regrettable.

We never schemed against our Czech colleagues. Why would we need to blow up that warehouse? Some people say that the Russians were angry that the Bulgarian planned to send munitions to Ukraine. This is a completely schizophrenic view of the situation. This is impossible to imagine. But the machinery has been set in motion. I hope our Czech colleagues will come to their senses after all and will take a look at what they have done. If reason prevails, we will be ready to gradually rebuild the conditions for our diplomatic missions to function normally.  If not, we will make do. We know how we will be working. We don’t have to ingratiate ourselves with anyone.

Dmitry Kiselev: Working on what?

Sergey Lavrov: We know how we will be working in the Czech Republic and other countries. Pinpoint attacks are being made against Russia in the Baltics, Poland and, recently, Romania. Bucharest has added, though, that its decision was in no way connected to the EU’s position. This came as a surprise. They just decided to send that Russian diplomat back home. Why? They have not explained.

Dmitry Kiselev: It is notable that Germany has not supported the Czech Republic.

Sergey Lavrov: I have read the relevant statement by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. He spoke like a responsible politician. It is not always that the German Foreign Ministry takes such a balanced and astute position. Many of its other statements have indiscriminately supported injustice, for example when Ukraine adopted sanctions against the Opposition Platform – For Life political party, its leader Viktor Medvedchuk and several of his associates, all of them Ukrainian citizens.  The German Foreign Ministry expressed its approval, saying that this was fully in keeping with OSCE principles. This is absurd.

Therefore, what Heiko Maas said the other day is a responsible political statement. It has not smoothed over differences but pointed out the importance of maintaining dialogue and looking for agreements, since we live side by side.

Dmitry Kiselev: Recently in China, you said we needed to look for alternatives to the SWIFT international payment system, and Russia was preparing for this. Is there a specific timeframe, and what stage of the preparations are we at?

Sergey Lavrov: Many have already spoken about this. This is happening because in recent years, the West has been looking for more ways of infringing on Russia’s legitimate interests. Now they are openly mentioning the possibility of disconnecting our country from SWIFT. Responsible politicians just have to think of ways to play it safe.

In addition to these statements, the United States is increasingly abusing the role of the dollar in the international monetary system, using certain countries’ dependence on dollar settlements to limit their competitive opportunities – China and other states they dislike. China, Russia, and Turkey are now looking for opportunities to reduce their dependence on the dollar by switching to alternative currencies, or even better – by making settlements in their national currencies. The responsible agencies, including in our country, are thinking about how to prevent damage to the economy and the financial system if some hotheads actually disconnect us from SWIFT. Russia launched a national payment card system a few years ago; MIR cards have been in use in Russia since then. The system is already developing ties with its foreign counterparts, as similar cards are being issued in China and Japan. It is also building ties with the internationally accepted payment card Maestro.

As regards the SWIFT system, specifically, the Central Bank of Russia recently introduced and continued to develop a system for the transfer of financial messages. It is quite popular. I think we need to support and strengthen this in every possible way to ensure we do not depend on anyone. Let me emphasise that we are not trying to self-isolate. We want to be part of the international community. Part of a community where justice and democracy work. We have discussed the problems of democracy with the West. But once they are asked to come to an agreement, to declare that democracy should triumph in international relations, too, they lose their enthusiasm. They are full of lectures on internal democratic processes, but when it comes to the international arena, we get raised eyebrows. Here, allegedly, there are established ‘practices’ that ‘Russia and China are trying to implement’ (it’s about this). But in reality, Moscow and Beijing only want to preserve the principles of the UN Charter, according to which everyone is equal and must seek agreement.

One needs to have a safety net in terms of payment systems and transfer of financial messages. We have one. I hope it will grow stronger and be able to provide a guarantee if suddenly, contrary to our desire to cooperate with everyone, the West discriminates against Russia, abusing its current position in the international economic and monetary systems, in this situation, we really cannot afford to depend on anyone.

Dmitry Kiselev: So the Central Bank’s system for transfer of financial messages is the budding alternative to SWIFT?

Sergey Lavrov: I am not an expert. I don’t know how reliably and effectively it provides a full warranty. But the groundwork is already there. I am confident that the Government and the Central Bank must do everything to make it reliable and guarantee us complete independence and protection from more damage that might be inflicted on us.

Dmitry Kiselev: In a conversation with your Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, you proposed an initiative to create a coalition of countries affected by illegal sanctions. To what extent has this project progressed? What countries could join it?

Sergey Lavrov: I would not put it like that. We have been working at the UN for a long time to end the practice of unilateral illegitimate sanctions such as embargoes, blockades and other restrictions. We have been working for a number of decades to lift the embargo the United States declared on Cuba. The respective resolution is supported by more than 190 votes annually, with only the United States and one small island nation voting against it.

However, since this practice of unilateral restrictions began to be widely used (started by Barack Obama, expanded by Donald Trump, and applied to this day), a large group of countries voted in the UN to establish the position of Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights and their impact on the civilian population and the socioeconomic situation in a particular country. Special Rapporteur Alena Douhan is a citizen of Belarus. This institution, created by the UN General Assembly, is working and circulating reports. I think it is a very useful step.

Another specific course of action is now being developed in New York to the same end, as you mentioned, to counter illegal unilateral measures. It is a group in support of the UN Charter. Nothing revolutionary – just in response to our Western colleagues forming flagrantly non-universal groups.

US President Joe Biden has put forth the idea of ​​holding a Summit for Democracy. Naturally, the Americans will recruit the participants and will judge who is worthy to be called a democracy and who is not.

Also, in recent years, our French and German colleagues have being making calls to ensure freedom of the media through the Alliance for Multilateralism, a group they announced outside the framework of universal institutions. They rallied more than thirty states under its banners even though there is UNESCO, where the same topic is discussed by everyone.

Or, there was an appeal in support of international humanitarian law. Law is universal. It is the responsibility of the UN bodies. But again, they recruited about 50 states.

Such appeals have nothing to do with universal bodies, but they cover the agenda that is discussed at a universal level. They place that agenda into a framework where they are more comfortable negotiating with those who obey, and then they present it as the ultimate truth.

This movement against illegitimate unilateral actions is much broader than just sanctions.

Dmitry Kiselev: Can this movement be formalised by membership?

Sergey Lavrov: The membership is in the UN. This is the difference: we are not creating anything against anyone. In the Asia-Pacific region, we would like to leave everything as it is. ASEAN has its partners, while anyone else can join security discussions. The logic of the West acts against this. They are implementing the Indo-Pacific Strategy with its declared goal of containing China and isolating Russia.

The same is happening at the UN. They create various partnerships on topics that need to be discussed as part of the UN agenda. We insist that everyone must fulfil their obligations under the UN Charter, not scatter the global agenda across their compartments, only to present it later as the international community’s opinion.

Dmitry Kiselev: A recent update: the Americans confirmed they had made efforts to prevent Brazil from buying the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. Brazil indeed refused, even though the coronavirus situation in that country is simply awful. What is your assessment?

Sergey Lavrov: This does not surprise me. The Americans are not even embarrassed to do things like that; they are not hiding it.

When former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo travelled to Africa, he openly and publicly called on his colleagues at a press conference to cut off trade with Russia and China because these countries pursue selfish goals. Right, the United States trades with African states for the sole benefit of their peoples, of course.

As for the vaccine issue, a protest movement kicked off in Brazil against that decision. If the Americans have admitted they were behind it, that means they are true to their logic and believe everything is possible and permitted, and they can now openly dictate their will.

Not so long ago, French President Emmanuel Macron warned of a new type of world war, and that Russia and China were using vaccines as a weapon and means of propaganda. That rhetoric is now receding. Germany, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, is already seriously talking about the possibility of using the Russian vaccine.

We are not going to force anyone. I think life itself will set things straight. Vladimir Vysotsky said: “I always try to find the good in people. They will show the bad themselves.”

Dmitry Kiselev: A year ago, in an interview with our agency in the midst of the pandemic, you said you missed football. Are you back to sport yet?

Sergey Lavrov: In fact, I am. I did miss playing for a couple of weeks. We took a break and kept it low-key. But later, when we realised what precautions we could take, the games resumed. We play every Sunday.

What Just Happened in the Ukraine?

THE SAKER • APRIL 25, 2021 

Before we look into what just happened in the Ukraine, we need to first recall the sequence of events which lead to the current situation. I will try to make a short summary (skipping a lot of details) in the bullet-point style:

  1. Whether Ze initially intended to stop the war in the eastern Ukraine we don’t know, but what we do know is that he failed not only to stop it, in many ways his policies were even worse than Poroshenko’s. This might be the well-known phenomenon of a supposedly “pro-peace and happiness” politician being accused of being “weak” and thus not “presidential”; this politician has to show his “strength” is “patriotism”, that is acting recklessly on the external front. We see that from putatively “liberal” politicians such as the Dems in the USA and Labor in Israel. Historically, “liberals” are the most common war initiators. Ze showed his weakness almost from day 1, and the Ukronazis immediately seized this opportunity to engage in a massive multi-level campaign for war against Russia. This resulted in:
  2. A quasi-official repudiation of the Minsk Agreements and Steinmeier Formula by Kiev, followed by a sharp increase in bellicose statements and, most crucially a large scale move of forces (including tanks, heavy artillery, MLRS and even ballistic missiles!) towards the line of contact. At the same time Ukronazi politicians began making statements saying that a) the Ukrainian army was capable and willing to “liberate” all of the “Russian occupied” Ukrainian land thus, including both the Donbass and Crimea b) that Russia was going to attack the Ukraine anyway and c) that the consolidated West had to help the Ukraine because only the Ukrainian forces were keeping the asiatic drunken Russian hordes from over-running not only the Ukraine, but even the rest of Europe. Since the Ukraine simply has no agency, this begs the question of the US (and, to a lesser degree, the UK) rationale was for these moves. It is quite simple:
  3. Force Russia to openly intervene to protect the population of the Donbass from the inevitable genocide which the Ukronazis would have meeted out to the population of the LDNR.

How good was this plan? I would argue that it was a very solid plan which, for the USA, meant a win-win situation. Here is how it should have gone:

First, the Ukrainian forces would attack the LDNR, probably along three axes: one between the city of Gorlovka and Donetsk, one frontally attacking Donetsk proper, not to invade the city, but to tie down LDNR forces in protection of their capital, and one in the south with the aim of reaching the Russian border. This way, the LDNR defenders would have to defend their capital while, at the same time, risking envelopment on two axes. Remember that the LDNR has no strategic depth (Donetsk is practically on the frontline) and that the LDNR defenders could not trade space for time.

I have seen some “experts” saying that since the Ukrainians have laid down a very large number of mines they are clearly not going to attack since they would lose time – and possibly men – to cross these minefields. First, there is no way of knowing if these mines are real or fake (many mines also have a timer anyway) but, second, more crucially: an attacking force always wants to concentrate in one specific location of the line of contact, which means that the attacking forces has to not only attack, but also protect herself from enemy counter-attacks: minefields are very effective at providing this sort of protection. The “defensive” moves can, and do, in reality, form an integral part of any offensive plans.

Of course, The Big Question was this: could the LDNR forces stop the Ukronazis? There are those who say that yes, and those who say no. Rather than suggesting an answer, let’s look at both of these outcomes:

Option 1: the LDNR forces successfully stop the Ukrainian invasion:

That would be, by far, the best outcome for Russia, but for the LDNR this outcome, while better than a defeat, would probably result in a lot of deaths and destruction. We know that both the Ukrainian military and the LDNR forces have been profoundly reformed and restructured since 2014. Crucially, the LDNR forces went from being self-organized and disparate militias to a conventional military force capable of operational level combined arms operations. Would that be enough to stop a larger Ukrainian force? Possibly. But this is by no means certain, not only because war is an unpredictable thing to begin with, but also because we really have no way of knowing how well the Ukrainian military was reformed. If what they got was the same type of “training” as the Georgians in the years leading up to 08.08.08 then there is a good cause to doubt it. LDNR leaders, however, did not engage in bravado and silly flag-waving and they took the threat very seriously, which tells us that they were by no means certain of what might happen next. Now let’s look at option 2:

Option 2: the LDNR defenses eventually collapse in one or even several locations:

What if the LDNR forces failed to stop the Ukrainians? At this point, Russia would have absolutely no choice but to intervene to save the people of the Donbass (more than half a million of which already have Russian passports!). I won’t discuss here the options a LDNR+Russia counter-attack would have or how much Ukronazi-occupied land Russia could or should liberate (that is not the topic here). In this case, two things are absolutely certain:

  1. Russia would comprehensively defeat any combination of Ukrainian forces.
  2. The US/NATO would declare a state of quasi war with Russia and create something similar to the Berlin Wall along whatever line of contact would result from a Russian counter-attack.

In this scenario, the biggest loser would, of course, be the Ukraine. But the next loser would be Russia, because instead of “just” dealing with a nutcase Nazi regime next door, Russia would now face a hysterically paranoid and russophobic consolidated West. At the end of such a war, Russia would face something similar to what happened at the end of the Korean war: a ceasefire followed by decades of tensions.

The big winner would be the USA: its main instrument for the colonization of Europe (NATO) would finally find itself a purpose in life (stop the Russians, of course), NS2 and other cooperation between the EU and Russia would all but totally freeze, making the European economy non-competitive against the US, and the US MIC would have a great time selling very expensive, if not very effective, military hardware to all the the European countries. And that strategic US victory would not cost the US a single soldier! What’s there not to like about this?

Well, for Russia this would be a very bad outcome. Yes, Russia has the means to take on both the US and NATO militarily, but politically and economically, this would hurt Russian interests, not critically, but substantially.

Then, there is this: the Ukraine is a thoroughly deindustrialized failed state, worse than many African countries. While there was a lot of window-dressing going on both inside the Ukraine and in the West’s legacy media, the COVID pandemic and its horrible consequences inside the Ukraine became impossible to conceal or deny, especially to the Ukrainian people themselves. Right now, the entire Ukraine is like a vase in a store: if you break it, you own it and you must fix it. Even if we exclude an outcome where the Russian tanks stop at the western borders of the Ukraine and take a middle-of-the-road option where the Russians stop at the Dnieper river, this would have huge consequences for the Russians, including:

  1. The frontline between the Ukronazis and the LDNR+Russian forces would be massively stretched becoming much longer, yet every kilometer of that line of contact would have to be protected. This begs the question: protected by whom?
  2. The Russian side would suddenly inherit several large cities (Chernigov, Kharkov, Poltava, Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporozhia, Mariupol, Berdiansk, etc.). Not only would the Russians have to clear these cities from Ukrainian insurgents and stay-behind forces, but Russia would also have to rebuild them and feed a population much larger than the current population of the LDNR.
  3. The Russian economy simply cannot bear the burden of what is currently a Nazi run Ukraine which has turned into a massive black hole sucking in huge ressoures and never letting anything leave (except emigrating Ukrainians). At best, Russia is currently investing billions of rubles to rebuild Crimea (which the Nazis always hated and neglected – except to build themselves mansions on the Black Sea) while barely keeping the LDNR afloat.

It is the consolidated West (US+UK+EU) which destroyed the Ukraine, and the Russians will capitalize on this by making the West responsible for fixing what it broke, and that won’t happen since the EU does not have the means to do it right now while the USA is not directly threatened by this situation and thus has no reasons to intervene beyond making sure that the regime in Kiev remains a) rabidly anti-Russian and b) totally under the control of the USA.

Thus, neither option 1 nor option 2 were desirable for Russia. So Putin created option three.

Putin’s option 3:

In response to the seemingly unstoppable escalation towards war was something nobody in the West expected: Putin used the pretext of regularly scheduled military exercises to quickly and dramatically increase the Russian capabilities near the Ukraine: Russia moved two Armies (58th and 41st) and three Airborne Divisions (7th76th and 98th) towards Russia’s western regions (including Crimea). The Russians also moved almost their entire Caspian Flotilla into the Black Sea. More Russian warships entered the Black Sea through the Bosphorus. Next, all six advanced 636.3 type diesel-electric submarines (possibly the quietest on the planet, at normal cruising speed they produce less noise than the surrounding environment, turning them into acoustic black holes) went on patrol. Finally, Russia deployed her coastal defense missile systems Bal and Bastion, turning the entire Black Sea into a Russian shooting range). And, crucially, Russia did all that very publicly, in broad daylight, officially announcing her military moves and not even bothering with any type of camouflage or deception.

To those ignorant of military realities this looked like Russia was “threatening the Ukraine”. This is absolute nonsense. All Russia needs to do to threaten the Ukraine is to remind the Ukrainians that Russian long range weapons are enough to obliterate the Ukrainian military and that Russia can use these standoff weapons without moving any forces at all. No, the real object of these Russian moves was not the Ukraine, but the West itself, especially any western force crazy enough to decide to enter the war and militarily help the Ukraine. Why? Here again, I will offer my view of how this situation might have evolved:

  1. First, the Ukrainians attack the LDNR. LDNR forces take the initial blow and try to contain the Ukrainian advance.
  2. The Russians declare a no-fly zone over the area of operations and strikes the advancing Ukrainian forces with her formidable firepower. The outcome here is not in doubt.
  3. NATO+EU nations decide to intervene, say by sending several Polish battalions into the Ukraine. US+UK forces conduct reconnaissance operations by flying near (or even over) the line of contact and by sending special forces. After a few warnings (or not), the Russians decide to shoot down one of these intelligence aircraft or drones. The West decides to “show solidarity” by engaging in cyber-attacks against Russia, imposing even more sanctions and by airlifting even more forces into the Western Ukraine.

At this point, the US+NATO+EU and Russia would be at the brink of a major war. But here is the crucial thing: by moving two armies and three airborne divisions (a huge force, way bigger and more capable than any combo of NATO forces!) so quickly Russia, proved to NATO that she can quickly achieve a huge numerical advantage anywhere any NATO force might decide to attack. Conversely, no NATO nation has the ability to concentrate its conventional forces so quickly and on any point along the frontline.

Comparing force sizes is engaging in “bean counting” and is useless. It really does not matter very much how big a force is, what matters is the force ratios along key sectors of the FEBA or the front (assuming there is a “front”, which sometimes does not really exist) and at a specific moment in time.

Also, keep in mind that, unlike most western airborne forces, Russian airborne forces are fully mechanized, they even have some tanks, plenty of armored vehicles, their own artillery and an ability to move very very quickly (remember the Rusbat in Bosnia going to Pristina almost overnight?). Western airborne forces are attack forces designed to enforce the western imperial hegemony worldwide, so they have to be much lighter. The Russians have no need to send airborne forces across the border, they need them to defend Russia and to be deployed within less than about 1000km from the main Russian forces. Thus, Russia “sacrificed” their strategic mobility of her airborne forces to give them a tactical and operational mobility and firepower which western airborne forces can’t even dream about. So what could these three divisions do in the context of a Ukrainian attack?

Well, they could do what they are mostly designed to do, deploy behind enemy lines, destroy (or hold) strategic targets (like bridges, power stations, missile bases, etc.) hold some strategic location or present a threat from the rear to the Ukrainains. But that overlooks the major reform the Russian AB forces have undergone. They are also really high mobility and high readiness forces which, for example, could be deployed to protect the Russian peacekeeping force in Transnistria (such a move would also be protected by the long range fire capabilities of both the Black Sea Fleet and the Russian Aerospace Forces). Russian AB units could also be deployed in the Ukrainian rear to create chaos and disrupt the Ukrainian supply lines. Finally, any Polish force threatening to intervene could be quickly attacked and destroyed. Again, that would enrage the Western politicians, and it is at this moment that the Russians could move her armies across the border to show that any combo of western forces would be annihilated. This would leave the West only two options: fold or go nuclear. And going nuclear does not seem to be an option the West wants to exercise, hence folding would be the only viable option. So far (things might change in the future, who knows how crazy NATO can act?).

Finally, Putin spoke directly to the West in his speech before the Federal Assembly when he said:

The meaning and purpose of Russia’s policy in the international arena – I will just say a few words about this to conclude my address – is to ensure peace and security for the well-being of our citizens, for the stable development of our country. Russia certainly has its own interests we defend and will continue to defend within the framework of international law, as all other states do. And if someone refuses to understand this obvious thing or does not want to conduct a dialogue and chooses a selfish and arrogant tone with us, Russia will always find a way to defend its stance.

At the same time, unfortunately, everyone in the world seems to be used to the practice of politically motivated, illegal economic sanctions and to certain actors’ brutal attempts to impose their will on others by force. But today, this practice is degenerating into something even more dangerous – I am referring to the recently exposed direct interference in Belarus in an attempt to orchestrate a coup d’état and assassinate the President of that country. At the same time, it is typical that even such flagrant actions have not been condemned by the so-called collective West. Nobody seemed to notice. Everyone pretends nothing is happening.

But listen, you can think whatever you like of, say, Ukrainian President [Viktor] Yanukovych or [Nicolas] Maduro in Venezuela. I repeat, you can like or dislike them, including Yanukovych who almost got killed, too, and removed from power via an armed coup. You can have your own opinion of President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko’s policy. But the practice of staging coups d’état and planning political assassinations, including those of high-ranking officials – well, this goes too far. This is beyond any limits.

Suffice it to mention the admission made by the detained participants in the conspiracy about a planned siege of Minsk, including plans to block the city infrastructure and communications, and a complete shutdown of the entire power system in the capital of Belarus! This actually means they were preparing a massive cyberattack. What else could it be? You know, you cannot just do it all with one switch.

Clearly, there is a reason why our Western colleagues have been stubbornly rejecting Russia’s numerous proposals to establish an international dialogue on information and cyber security. We have come up with these proposals many times. They avoid even discussing this matter.

What if there had been a real attempt at a coup d’état in Belarus? After all, this was the ultimate goal. How many people would have been hurt? What would have become of Belarus? Nobody is thinking about this.

Just as no one was thinking about the future of Ukraine during the coup in that country.

All the while, unfriendly moves towards Russia have also continued unabated. Some countries have taken up an unseemly routine where they pick on Russia for any reason, most often, for no reason at all. It is some kind of new sport of who shouts the loudest.

In this regard, we behave in an extremely restrained manner, I would even say, modestly, and I am saying this without irony. Often, we prefer not to respond at all, not just to unfriendly moves, but even to outright rudeness. We want to maintain good relations with everyone who participates in the international dialogue. But we see what is happening in real life. As I said, every now and then they are picking on Russia, for no reason. And of course, all sorts of petty Tabaquis are running around them like Tabaqui ran around Shere Khan – everything is like in Kipling’s book – howling along in order to make their sovereign happy. Kipling was a great writer.

We really want to maintain good relations with all those engaged in international communication, including, by the way, those with whom we have not been getting along lately, to put it mildly. We really do not want to burn bridges. But if someone mistakes our good intentions for indifference or weakness and intends to burn or even blow up these bridges, they must know that Russia’s response will be asymmetrical, swift and tough.

Those behind provocations that threaten the core interests of our security will regret what they have done in a way they have not regretted anything for a long time.

Putin very very rarely threatens, but when he does, people listen because they understand that his warnings are never a bluff and that when he promises something he has the means to realize his threat (in this case, 2 Combined Arms Armies and 3 Airborne Divisions, all backed by Russian long range and hypersonic weapons and, if all else fails, by the most modern and robust nuclear triad on the planet). As for what would be a Russian “red line”, Putin decided to deliberately leave this point ambiguous only saying that “I just have to make it clear, we have enough patience, responsibility, professionalism, self-confidence and certainty in our cause, as well as common sense, when making a decision of any kind. But I hope that no one will think about crossing the “red line” with regard to Russia. We ourselves will determine in each specific case where it will be drawn.” The point of this strategic ambiguity is to leave the West guessing when it is safe to make a move and when not. This very simply maximizes the deterrent effect of the rest of his speech.

And, today, the Russians have “clarified” that the Kerch strait are not close to traffic, not even Ukrainian traffic. “All” that Russia did was to declare some exclusion zones for military exercises purposes, but traffic under the Crimean Bridge remains open. Right. And how long will it take Russia to (truly) re-close that strait? Minutes. This unspoken threat is primarily a threat to the Ukrainians, showing them how easy it would be for Russia to sever their lines of communications should they threaten Russia.

Yes, Putin did win this round quite elegantly, without a single Russian soldier dying. But the problem is that this undeniable Russian success really solves nothing. All the causes which led the Ukronazi regime to bring the entire region to the edge of the abyss are still present. Inside the Ukraine nothing has changed and, if anything, things are even worse: total censorships of opposition TV channels, political persecutions (including torture and kidnappings), the same warlike rhetoric. The economy in in shambles and Ukrainians are emigrating by the millions (both to Russia and to the EU), the Nazi deathsquads continue to enjoy total impunity, and, of course, the total COVID catastrophe (the West gives the Ukies lethal weapons to use against Russian, but no vaccine, and way more people are dying from COVID in the Ukraine than are dying at the frontlines! These are “European” and “Western” “values” at work…)

Sure, it does appear that a combination of European reservations and the risk of the members of the ruling elite in Kiev to be physically eliminated by Russian strikes, possibly combined with a realization by the “Biden” Administration that a total blow-up in the Ukraine would strain US-European relations (there will be plenty of blame to go around) resulted in the current perceived deescalation.

Sadly, and in spite of the current reprieve, some kind of war between Russia and the Ukraine is still probably inevitable. Right now, the bulk of the Russian forces are returning to their normal areas of deployment, with, probably, some staying. We can also be sure that the Russians will have a major after action review to find out what went wrong and what needs to be changed. As a result, next time around, the Russian will move their forces even faster.

But what about the US, it’s NATO proxies and the Ukronazi regime?

The US is still scrambling to try to retake control of an international situation which has clearly gone totally out of hand for the wannabe world Hegemon. Even more importantly, the internal situation of the USA is truly critical with many very serious crises occurring simultaneously. Yes, there is also a lot of window-dressing in the US media, but most people see and know what is really going on. Which means that the US is as weak as it is unstable. Finally, judging by the low intellectual abilities of US decision makers, we should always expect something silly or even dangerous, or both, from this Administration for and by Woke-freaks (especially since “diversity” has now completely replaced “competence”).

NATO and the EU are in a bind. While some countries go “totally insane” (the Czech Republic and the usual 3B+PU) others are desperately trying to keep things together (Germany). As for the regime in Kiev, it is barely holding on to power and has no other options left than doubling down over and over and over again. Crucially, the junta in Kiev will continue to blame Russia for absolutely everything and anything (about 99% of what the Ukie political class does nowadays is hate on Russia and threaten to defeat Russia militarily).

None of that qualifies as “peace” in any meaningful sense of the word (people die everyday, almost all of them civilians). Worst of all, the same causes can only lead to the same outcomes, and there is very little anybody can do to change this. Thus, at best, what we are seeing is only a reprieve. But as long as a gang of Neo-Nazi thugs continues to hold power in Kiev, war will be a quasi inevitability. True peace will only come when the Ukronazis are either dead, or jailed or back in Canada. Until then there shall be no peace, only degrees of war.

What about the deescalation in the Donbass? (OPEN THREAD #17)

What about the deescalation in the Donbass? (OPEN THREAD #17)

April 23, 2021

The Saker

There is, amongst some, a strong sense of relief: Defense Minister Shoigu has declared that the formations deployed by Russia to western Russia will now return to their regular bases.  Of course, the Ukrainians claim that they “deterred a Russian attack” while the Russians say that “the West got the message”.  Is that so and, if yes, who is right?

Well, I think that we can dismiss the Ukie nonsense out of hand.  Nobody out there, except the Ukrainians themselves, seriously believe that Russia “blinked”, if only because destroying the entire Ukrainian military would take Russia less than a week.  In fact, the Ukrainians know that very well, they just won’t admit it.

Notice that while the Ukrainians claim that they deterred Russia, Russia does not claim to have deterred the Ukrainians, instead Russia declared that the Russian bear roared loud enough to deter the united West.  Right there we have an important clue as to what has really happened.

I, however, submit that the causes which triggered the initial Ukrainian move to bring a large armored force right to the line of contact are still here.  In other words, nothing has been resolved.

What happened is this: in response to the threat from both the Ukrainians and US/NATO, Russia simply demonstrated her ability to quickly concentrate a truly huge force (2 Armies and 2 Airborne Divisions) along her border.  She also redeployed the Caspian Flotilla into the Black Sea, brought in large landing ships and, generally, “flexed her military muscles” in order to convey a clear message to the Ukrainians, the Europeans and the US:

  • To the Ukrainians: attack the Donbass and you will die, as for the Ukraine, it will break apart into several new successor states.
  • To the EU: if a war starts, you will even lose the very little agency you have left and your economy will not be competitive against the USA.
  • To the USA: if a war starts, you will face a stark choice: lose face or start a full-scale war against Russia.

Yes, so far, this strategy has proved very effective.  The Ukrainians were clearly terrified and the EU showed no enthusiasm for that war (except the UK, which risks very little, and the Poles who specialize in stupid historical decisions).  As for “Biden”, he realized that a full scale war against Russia was suicidal.

So are we now out of the danger zone?

Absolutely not.  There is still one thing the West is determined to achieve: to fight Russia down to the last Ukrainian.  For the US Neocons, to see the two Slavic brothers kill each other is old dream come true.  Furthermore, the US still needs to bring the EU down to its economic knees to force it to buy energy, services and goods from the USA.  Last, but not least, the Ukraine has lost any appeal it might have had for the USA: the only thing which the Ukraine can still offer is to be a thorn in Russia’s side.

And then, there is the “Ze” regime in Kiev: not viable, not reformable, the Ukraine is has been comprehensively deindustrialized and now the Ukrainians are dying in huge numbers from the COVID pandemic: Banderastan is the ultimate failed state, worse than many African ones, in fact.

Yes, “Ze” was told by his masters to “cool it” and, so far, he has obeyed, but that solves exactly none of his problems.  Worse, there are a lot of well-armed Ukronazi deathsquads who still have the means to create some kind of incident which would reignite the whole thing again.  Also, it is worth remembering that the Brits and the Ukies both have a proven record of successful covert operations, which by definition include false flags.

In other words, nothing has really changed.  Yes, right now, Uncle Shmuel is trying to find out what his options are, and he will come up with a corrected plan (remember, Neocons are stupid, yes, but they are also clever in a short term, “horizontal” way).  Right now “Biden” is licking his wounds from the embarrassing faceplant with the attempt to kill Lukashenko and the (frankly silly) nonsense coming out of the Czech Republic.  There are some signs that at least the Germans realize what is really going on and who is truly trying to screw them over (while most of the German political class is corrupt to the bone, some German politicians are sensitive to the mood of the German business community).

Simply put: all we are observing today is a short term reprieve, nothing more.

The Russians know that, and it is safe to say that while some of their forces will demonstratively retreat, others will stay.  More importantly, now that this operational redeployment of key formations has been rehearsed, very publicly, the Russians have shown the US/NATO that Russia can deal with any military threat (in contrast, it would take NATO months to bring a big enough force to eastern Europe to represent a credible threat).

Finally, Ze has made a rather ridiculous speech telling Putin that they should meet.  Putin’s response was perfect: you want to meet with me to discuss our bilateral relations (which, incidentally, you have destroyed) – sure.  No problem.  But if you want to discuss the Donbass, you have to engage in direct talks with the LDNR, as the Minsk Agreement and the Steinmeier formula, which you have signed, stipulate.  In other words, back to square one.

This is a situation of not one, but two “thorns”: the Ukronazi Banderastan is definitely a thorn in the side of Russia, while the LDNR is a thorn in the side of Banderastan.  Make a guess, which side can put up with its thorn longer than the other side?

Many have forgotten it, but in a moment of anger, Poroshenko did tell Putin “take the Donbass if you want it!”, and Putin declined.  Since then, the Russians have shown over and over again that they do NOT want the Donbass.  At most, they might have to take it to save it from genocide, but even in this case the Russians have no intentions of invading the rest of the Ukraine only to have to deal with 1) Ukronazi insurgencies and 2) rebuilding this failed state from its current zero all the way back.  And that is the worst Russian threat not only for the Ukraine, but for all of Europe: Russia does NOT want, or need, the Ukraine and Russia won’t take it over, even in case of a full-scale war.  At most, Russia will repeat what she did in the 08.08.08 war: defang the Nazi regime by obliterating the Ukrainian military, and then let the regime naturally collapse.

Anyway, I will write a more detailed analysis of this situation next week, but right now I submit that all that is happened is a limited and temporary deescalation, not any kind of return to even semi-normality (and the Ukies are still murdering LDNR civilians every day, including with heavy weapons).

So, what do you think?  Back to sanity, or only a reprieve?

The Saker

Putin rewrites the law of the geopolitical jungle

Putin rewrites the law of the geopolitical jungle

April 23, 2021

By Pepe Escobar and first posted at The Saker Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Asymmetric, swift and harsh”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Tensions skirting wartime levels”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will the allies have to die for Kiev?

Thierry Meyssan Political consultant, President-founder of the Réseau Voltaire (Voltaire Network). Latest work in English – Before Our Very Eyes, Fake Wars and Big Lies: From 9/11 to Donald Trump, Progressive Press, 2019.

by Thierry Meyssan

The Ukrainian population is divided between a part of European culture and another of Russian culture.

This singularity offers Washington a playground against Moscow. For several weeks now, the drums have been beating, sounding war.

But none of the allies want to die for Kiev or sacrifice themselves to Russia.

VOLTAIRE NETWORK | PARIS (FRANCE) | 20 APRIL 2021

The US armed forces

Joe Biden has always been the “Pentagon’s man”.

1- The Anglo-Saxons have a hereditary enemy: the Russians. For them, Russians are despicable people, destined since Otto I (10th century) to be nothing but slaves, as their name indicates (‘Slavic’ means both ethnicity and slave). In the 20th century, they were against the USSR, allegedly because it was communist, and are now against Russia without knowing why.

2- Second adversary, enemies they have created for themselves by waging an “endless war” against them since September 11, 2001: the populations of the wider Middle East, whose state organisation they are systematically destroying, whether they are allies or adversaries, in order to “send them back to the stone age” and exploit the riches of their region (Rumsfeld/Cebrowski strategy).

3- Third adversary: China, whose economic development threatens to relegate them to second place. In their eyes, they have no other choice than war. This is at least what their political scientists think, and they even speak of the “Thucydides trap” in reference to the war that Sparta waged against Athens, frightened by its flight [1].

4 – The issues of Iran and North Korea are far behind the first three.

Joe Biden’s Interim National Security Strategy [2] or their Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community [3] keep repeating this from different angles.

Fighting three wars at once is extremely difficult. The Pentagon is currently looking at how to prioritise these. It will report in June. There is absolute secrecy about the commission that is doing this assessment. No one even knows who the members are. Yet without delay, the Biden administration is focusing on Russia.

Whether we are independent or subservient to the “American Empire”, we must stop trying to avoid seeing. The United States of America has no other objective than to destroy Russian culture, Arab state structures, and – eventually – the Chinese economy. This has absolutely nothing to do with the legitimate defence of their people.

There is no other way to explain why the United States spends astronomical sums on its military that bear no relation to the budgets of those it describes as its “friends” or “enemies”. According to the Institute for Strategic Studies in London, the US military budget is at least equal to the sum of the budgets of the other 15 most armed

states [4].

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Military budgets of the 15 largest states (in billions of US dollars).Source: Institute for Strategic Studies

Issues for confrontation with Russia

The US is concerned about Russia’s recovery. After experiencing a sharp drop in life expectancy between 1988 and 1994 (5 years less), it has recovered, then largely surpassed that of the Soviet era (12 years more), although its healthy life expectancy remains one of the lowest in Europe. Their economy is diversifying, particularly in agriculture, but remains dependent on energy exports. Their army has been renewed, their military-industrial complex is more efficient than the Pentagon’s, and it has acquired experience in Syria.

For Washington, the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline threatens to free Western Europe from its dependence on US oil. While the attachment of Crimea to the Russian Federation, and even that of Donbass, is at least partially a blow to Ukraine’s dependence on the American Empire (Crimea and Donbass are not of Western culture). Finally, the Russian military presence in Syria is slowing down the project of political destruction of all the peoples of this region.

“When you want to drown your dog, you say it has rabies”

It was undoubtedly President Biden who opened the hostilities by calling the Russian president a “killer”. The two powers had never exchanged insults, even in the Gulag era. His interlocutor replied politely and offered to discuss the matter publicly, which he refused.

The United States has a short-term view of the world. They do not see themselves as responsible for their legacy. According to them, the evil Russians have amassed more than 100,000 troops in the vicinity of Ukraine and are preparing to invade it, as the Soviets did in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. But then it was not Russia, but the USSR; not the Putin doctrine, but the Brezhnev doctrine; and Leonid Brezhnev himself was not Russian, but Ukrainian.

The Russians, on the contrary, have a long-term view of the world. In their view, the barbaric Americans challenged the balance of power with the attacks of 11 September 2001. Immediately afterwards, on December 13, 2001, President Bush announced the withdrawal of the United States from the ABM Treaty. The United States then brought into NATO, one by one, almost all the former members of the Warsaw Pact and the USSR in violation of their promise at the time of the dissolution of the latter. This policy was confirmed by the Bucharest Declaration in 2008 [5].

Everyone knows the peculiarity of Ukraine: Western culture in the West, Russian culture in the East. For about fifteen years, the country was politically frozen, until Washington organised a pseudo-revolution and put its puppets, in this case neo-Nazis, in power [6]. Moscow reacted quickly enough for Crimea to declare its independence and join the Russian Federation, but it hesitated for the Donbass. Since then, it has been handing out Russian passports to all the inhabitants of this Ukrainian region for which it is the only hope.

The Biden administration

President Biden was known, when he was a senator, for introducing legislation in the Senate that was devised by the Pentagon. When he became president, he surrounded himself with neo-conservative figures. We cannot repeat it enough: the neo-conservatives were Trotskyite militants who were recruited by Republican President Ronald Reagan. Since then, they have always remained in power, except during the parenthesis of Jacksonian President Donald Trump, switching from the Republican to the Democratic Party and back again.

During the colourful Maïdan ’revolution’ (2013-14), Joe Biden, then vice-president, took up the cause of the neo-Nazis who were agents of Nato’s stay-behind networks [7] He ran the operation with one of the then assistant secretaries of state, Victoria Nuland (whose husband, Robert Kagan, is a founder of the Project for a New American Century, the fundraising arm of Republican George W. Bush). President Biden decided to make her the deputy to his new Secretary of State. She relied on the then US ambassador to Kiev, Geoffrey Pyatt, now posted in Athens, Greece. As for President Biden’s new Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, he is both judge and jury because his mother is of Ukrainian origin. Although he was raised in Paris by his mother’s second husband, te lawyer Samuel Pisar (advisor to President Kennedy), he is also a neo-conservative.

Preparing for the confrontation with Russia

In mid-March 2021, the United States and its Nato partners organised the Defender-Europe 21 manoeuvres. These will continue until June. This is a repeat of the mega-exercise Defender-Europe 20, which was reduced and shortened due to the Covid-19 epidemic. It is a huge deployment of men and equipment to simulate a confrontation with Russia. These manoeuvres are joined by a nuclear bomber exercise in Greece, attended by the aforementioned Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt.

On March 25, President Volodymyr Zelensky published the new Ukrainian Security Strategy [8], three weeks after President Joe Biden published the US one.

Responding to Nato, Russia undertook its own manoeuvres on its western border, including its border with Ukraine. It was even sending additional troops to Crimea and as far as Transnistria.

On 1 April, the US Secretary of Defense called his Ukrainian counterpart about a possible increase in tension with Russia [9]. President Volodymyr Zelensky issued a statement saying he was monitoring Russian moves that could be provocative [10].

On 2 April, the United Kingdom organised a meeting of the British-Ukrainian Defence and Foreign Ministries, under the responsibility of British Minister Ben Wallace [11] (who was very active in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict [12]).

On April 2, President Joe Biden called his Ukrainian counterpart to assure him of his support against Russia. According to the Atlantic Council, he announced his decision to give him a hundred combat aircraft (F-15, F-16 and E-2C) currently based at Davis-Monthan air base [13].

On April 4, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Democrat Adam Smith, negotiated with Ukrainian parliamentarians to provide large subsidies to the Ukrainian army in exchange for the Ukrainian commitment to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline [14]

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Discreet return trip to Qatar by President Zelensky and the head of the Ukroboronprom arms factories on April 5, 2021.

On April 5, President Volodymyr Zelensky paid a visit to Qatar. The official purpose was to develop trade relations. Qatar is the main supplier of weapons to the jihadists and, according to our information, the question of possible financing of fighters was discussed. The director general of the military manufacturer Ukroboronprom, Yuriy Gusev, was on the trip. It was he who had supplied weapons to Daesh on order from Qatar [15].

On April 6, Lithuania, which in the past protected the western part of Ukraine in its own empire, enquired about the military situation [16]

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President Zelensky receives the Chairman of the Nato Military Committee on April 7, 2021.

On 6 and 7 April, British General Sir Stuart Peach, Chairman of the Nato Military Committee, visited Ukraine to clarify the reforms necessary for the country to join Nato [17].

On 9 April, in accordance with the Montreux Convention, the Pentagon informed Turkey of its intention to transit warships through the Dardanelles and Bosporus straits.

After discussing weapons and money with Sheikh Tamin in Qatar, President Zelinski came to talk about men with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on 10 April 2021.

On April 10, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan received his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky in Istanbul as part of regular consultations between the two nations [18]. In view of the Qatari endorsement, Nato member Turkey immediately began recruiting international jihadists in Syria to fight in the Ukrainian Donbass. Turkish military instructors were also sent to the Ukrainian port of Mariupol, the headquarters of the International Islamist Brigade [19], created by President Erdoğan and his then Ukrainian counterpart with Tatars loyal to Washington against Russia.

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Logically, the Russian Federation was amassing troops on the Ukrainian border. So its partners in the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) questioned it about its manoeuvres. The Russian side only answered evasively. The Vienna Document (1999) obliges OSCE members to provide each other with all information on the movements of their troops and equipment. But we know that the Russians do not operate like the West. They never inform their people or their partners during an operation, only when their deployments are over.

Two days later, the G7 issued a statement expressing concern about Russian movements, but ignoring those of Nato and Turkey. It welcomed Ukraine’s restraint and called on Russia to “stop its provocations” [20].

On April 13, on the occasion of the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting with the Ukraine/NATO Commission, the United States pulled out all the stops. All the allies – none of whom wanted to die because the Ukrainians could not get a divorce – were invited to support Kiev and denounce Russia’s “escalation” [21]. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held extensive talks with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kouleba [22]. War was inexorably on the way.

Suddenly, President Joe Biden lightened the mood by phoning his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. He proposed a summit meeting, whereas Putin had dismissed the proposal for a public debate when he had insulted him [23]. After this initiative, war seemed avoidable.

On April 14, Antony Blinken, however, summoned his main allies (Germany, France, Italy and the UK) to mobilize them [24]

JPEG - 39.7 kb
.President Biden clarified his position on Russia on April 15, 2021.

On April 15, President Joe Biden gave his vision of the conflict, expelled ten Russian diplomats [25] He imposed sanctions on Russia, which was accused not only of rigging elections to get President Donald Trump elected, but also of offering bounties for the assassination of US soldiers in Afghanistan and of attacking federal computer systems using SolarWinds software.

Predictably, Russia expelled a similar number of US diplomats. In addition, it set a trap for a Ukrainian diplomat, who was caught in the act of espionage with classified documents in his hand.

Continuing on his path, President Volodymyr Zelensky went to meet his French and German counterparts, President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel. While deploring the Russian escalation and reaffirming their moral support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, they were evasive about what would happen next. In the end, if the United States and Russia are to meet and discuss, it is a bit early to die for Kiev.

Thierry Meyssan

Translation

Roger Lagassé

[1Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?, Graham Allison, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2017).

[2Interim National Security Guidance, White House, March 3, 2021. “President Biden’s National Security Strategy”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Roger Lagassé, Voltaire Network, 9 April 2021.

[3Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community, Director of National Intelligence, April 9, 2021.

[4The Military Balance 2021, Institute for Strategic Studies, Routledge (2021).

[5] “Bucharest Summit Declaration”, Nato, April 3, 2008.

[6] “Who are the Nazis in the Ukrainian government?”, by Thierry Meyssan, Voltaire Network, 3 March 2014.

[7NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe, Daniele Ganser, Routledge (2005).

[8] Presidential Order 121/2021.

[9] “Readout of Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III’s Call With Ukrainian Minister of Defence Andrii Taran”, US Department of Defense, April 2, 2021.

[10] “Zelensky on Russian troops near border: Ukraine is ready for any provocations”, Ukrinform, April 2, 2021.

[11] “UK defense secretary initiates talks with Taran due to escalation in eastern Ukraine”, Ukrinform, April 2, 2021.

[12] “Nagorno-Karabakh: victory of London and Ankara, defeat of Soros and the Armenians”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Roger Lagassé, Voltaire Network, 24 November 2020.

[13] “U.S. Should Provide Lend-Lease Type of Aid Package for Ukraine to Help it Upgrade its Air Force – Atlantic Council”, Defense Express, April 7, 2021.

[14] “Arakhamiya, Congressman Smith discuss expanding military support for Ukraine”, Ukrinform, March 5, 2021.

[15] “Qatar and Ukraine come to deliver Pechora-2D to ISIS”, by Andrey Fomin, Oriental Review (Russia) , Voltaire Network, 22 November 2015.

[16] “Ukrainian, Latvian defense ministers discuss security situation on Ukraine’s borders”, Ukrinform, April 7, 2021.

[17] “NATO Military Committee Chairman visits Ukraine”, NATO, April 6, 2021.

[18] “Turkey recruiting jihadists to send them to Ukraine ”, Voltaire Network, 18 April 2021.

[19] « L’Ukraine et la Turquie créent une Brigade internationale islamique contre la Russie », par Thierry Meyssan, Télévision nationale syrienne , Réseau Voltaire, 12 août 2015.

[20] “G7 Foreign Ministers statement on Ukraine”, Voltaire Network, 12 April 2021.

[21] “NATO-Ukraine Commission addresses security situation in and around Ukraine”, NATO , Voltaire Network, 13 April 2021.

[22] “Meeting of Antony Blinken and Dmytro Kouleba”, USA (Department of State) , Voltaire Network, 13 April 2021.

[23] “Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Call with Vladimir Putin”, USA (White House) , Voltaire Network, 13 April 2021.

[24] “Main allies meeting on Ukraine”, United States (Department of State) , Voltaire Network, 14 April 2021.

[25] “Remarks on Russia”, by Joseph R. Biden Jr., Voltaire Network, 15 April 2021.

https://www.voltairenet.org/article212801.html

U.S. POLICY CHANGES FASTER THAN THE WEATHER

 16.04.2021 

South Front

Video: Biden's Phone Call To Putin. US Policy Changes Faster than the  Weather - Global Research
Video here

You can read this article in German. LINK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Videos

MORE ON THE TOPIC:

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

The Crisis in Ukraine and the Nord Stream II Gas Pipeline

By Mark H. Gaffney

Global Research, April 15, 2021

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, why is Biden engaging in brinksmanship? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured image is from Asia Times

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

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

April 11, 2021

By David Sant for the Saker Blog

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

The Nature of the Dispute

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

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

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

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

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

The History and Psychology of Biden and Putin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joe Biden

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Imminent Danger of the Current Imbroglio

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

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

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

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

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

The Narrow Window of Technological Supremacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Putin’s Ukrainian Judo

Putin’s Ukrainian Judo

Source

April 14, 2021

By Dmitry Orlov and posted with special permission

A terrible war is about to erupt on Russia’s border with the Ukraine—or not—but there is some likelihood of a significant number of people getting killed before project Ukraine is finally over. Given that around 13 thousand people have been killed over the past seven years—the civil war in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine has gone on for that long!—this is no laughing matter. But people get desensitized to the mostly low-level warfare. Just over the past couple of weeks a grandfather was shot by a Ukrainian sniper while feeding his chickens and a young boy was killed by a bomb precision-dropped on him from a Ukrainian drone.

But what’s about to happen now is forecasted to be on a different scale: the Ukrainians are moving heavy armor and troops up to the line of separation while the Russians are moving theirs up to their side of the Ukrainian border, a position from which they can blast any and all Ukrainian troops straight out of the gene pool without so much as setting foot on Ukrainian territory—should they wish to do so. The Russians can justify their military involvement by the need to defend their own citizens: over the past seven years half a million residents in eastern Ukraine have applied for and been granted Russian citizenship. But how exactly can Russia defend its citizens while they are stuck in the crossfire between Russian and Ukrainian forces?

The rationale of defending its citizens led to conflict in the briefly Georgian region of South Ossetia, which started on August 8, 2008 and lasted barely a week, leaving Georgia effectively demilitarized. Russia rolled in, Georgia’s troops ran off, Russia confiscated some of the more dangerous war toys and rolled out. Georgia’s paper warriors and their NATO consultants and Israeli trainers were left wiping each others’ tears. Any suggestion of arming and equipping the Georgians since then has been met with groaning and eye-rolling. Is the upcoming event in eastern Ukraine going to be similar to the swift and relatively painless defanging of Georgia in 2008? Given that the two situations are quite different, it seems foolish to think that the approach to resolving them would be the same.

Is it different this time and is World War III is about to erupt with eastern Ukraine being used as a trigger for this conflagration? Do the various statements made at various times by Vladimir Putin provide a solid enough basis for us to guess at what will happen next? Is there a third, typically, infuriatingly Russian approach to resolving this situation, where Russia wins, nobody dies and everyone in the West is left scratching their heads?

The Ukrainian military is much like everything else currently found in the Ukraine—the railway system, the power plants, the pipeline systems, the ports, the factories (the few that are left)—a patched-up hold-over from Soviet times. The troops are mostly unhappy, demoralized conscripts and reservists. Virtually all of the more capable young men have either left the country to work abroad or have bribed their way out of being drafted. The conscripts sit around getting drunk, doing drugs and periodically taking pot shots into and across the line of separation between Ukrainian-held and separatist-held territories. Most of the casualties they suffer are from drug and alcohol overdoses, weapons accidents, traffic accidents caused by driving drunk and self-harm from faulty weapons. The Ukrainian military is also working on winning a Darwin award for the most casualties caused by stepping on their own land mines. As for the other side, many of the casualties are civilians wounded and killed by constant shelling from the Ukrainian side of the front, which runs quite close to population centers.

The Ukrainian military has received some new weapons from the US and some NATO training, but as the experience in Georgia has shown, that won’t help them. Most of these weapons are obsolete, non-updated versions of Soviet armaments from former East Bloc but currently NATO nations such as Bulgaria. These really aren’t of much use against an almost fully rearmed Russian military. A lot of the Ukrainian artillery is worn out and, given that Ukrainian industry (what’s left of it) is no longer able to manufacture gun barrels, artillery shells or even mortar rounds, this makes the Ukrainian military quite literally the gang that can’t shoot straight. It’s a great day for them if they manage to hit a kindergarten or a maternity clinic and most of the time they are just cratering up the empty countryside and littering it up with charred, twisted metal.

In addition to the hapless conscripts and reservists there are also some volunteer battalions that consist of hardcore Ukrainian nationalists. Their minds have been carefully poisoned by nationalist propaganda crafted thanks to large infusions of foreign (mostly American) money. Some of them have been conditioned to think that it was the ancient Ukrs who built the Egyptian pyramids and dug the Black Sea (and piled the left-over dirt to build the Caucasus mountain range). These may or may not be more combat-capable than the rest (opinions vary) but, much more importantly, they are a political force that the government cannot ignore because they can quite literally hold it hostage. They have been known for stunts such as shelling the offices of a television channel whose editorial policies they found disagreeable and physically assaulting a busload of opposition activists.

It is these Ukro-Nazi zealots that stand directly in the way of any peaceful settlement of the situation in eastern Ukraine and an inevitable eventual rapprochement between the Ukrainians and Russia. There is a deep and abiding irony in that these über-antisemitic Ukro-Nazis are about to be ordered into battle against Russia by a Jewish comedian (Vladimir Zelensky, president) who got elected thanks to a Jewish oligarch (Igor “Benny” Kolomoisky). Are they going to be annihilated? Quite possibly, yes. Will their annihilation make Ukraine and the world a better place? You be the judge. To the Russians these Nazi battalions are just a bunch of terrorists and, as Putin famously put it, it is up to him to send terrorists to God and then it is up to God to decide what to do with them. But there is a more efficient strategy: let them remain somebody else’s problem. After all, these Nazi battalions have almost zero ability to threaten Russia. Eventually the Europeans will realize that the Ukraine must be denazified, at their own expense, of course, with Russia offering advice and moral support.

To understand where this Ukrainian nationalist menace came from without venturing too far down the memory hole, it is enough to appreciate the fact that at the end of World War II some number of Ukrainian war criminals who fought on the side of the Nazis and took part in acts of genocide against Ukrainian Jews and Poles found a welcoming home in the US and in Canada, where they were able to feather their nests and bring up the next several generations of Ukrainian Nazis. After the collapse of the USSR, they were reintroduced into the Ukraine and given political support in the hopes of thoroughly alienating the Ukraine from Russia. In the course of serial color revolutions and unending political upheaval and strife they were able to become prominent, then dominant, in Ukrainian political life, to a point that they can now hold the Ukrainian government hostage whenever it fails to be sufficiently belligerent toward Russia, to maintain strict anti-Russian censorship in the media and to physically threaten anyone who voices disagreement with them.

Russophobia and belligerence toward Russia are, in turn, all that is currently required of the Ukraine by its US and EU masters, who wish to portray the Ukraine as a bulwark against a supposedly aggressive Russia but in reality wish to use it as an anti-Russian irritant and to use it to contain (meaning to restrict and frustrate) Russia economically and geopolitically. To this end the Ukrainian school curriculum has been carefully redesigned to inculcate hatred of all things Russian. The Ukraine’s Western mentors think that they are constructing a pseudo-ethnic totalitarian cult that can be used as a battering ram against Russia, along the lines of Nazi Germany but with much tighter external political control, or, to use a more recent, updated CIA playbook, along the lines of Al Qaeda and its various offshoots in the Middle East.

The rationale that’s used to serve up all this is “countering Russian aggression.” But it is inaccurate to describe Russia as aggressive. It is much closer to the truth to describe it as, by turns, assimilative, protective and insouciant. It is assimilative in that you too can apply for a Russian citizenship based on a number of criteria, the most important of which is cultural: you need to speak Russian, and to do so convincingly you have to assimilate culturally. If an entire Russian-speaking region starts waving the Russian tricolor at rallies, singing the Russian anthem and then holds a referendum where a convincing majority votes to rejoin Russia (97% in Crimea in 2014), then Russia will annex that territory and defend it. And if lots of people in a Russian-speaking region individually apply for Russian citizenship, swear allegiance to Russia and are issued Russian passports, then Russia will try to defend them individually against attack.

All would be sweetness and light with this scheme of voluntary accession if certain Russian regions didn’t periodically start demanding independence or if the Russians themselves didn’t periodically shed their self-important and ungrateful dependents. As this has happened, Russia has granted them sovereignty, which, more often than not, they didn’t know what to do with. At various times, Russia has freely bestowed national sovereignty on a whole slew of countries: Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, the Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria, Rumania, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan… For some of them, it granted them sovereignty several times over (Poland seems to be the prize-winner in that category). The political elites of these countries, having become used to suckling at Mother Russia’s ample bosom, naturally look for someone new to invade and/or liberate them and then to feed them.

After the collapse of the USSR, their new masters naturally became the US and the EU. But as these newly sovereign nations soon found out, not as much milk has flowed in their direction from their new masters, and some of them have started casting furtive glances toward Russia again. The twentieth century was a confusing time for many of these countries, and many of them are puzzled to this day as to whether at any given time they were being occupied or liberated by Russia. Let us consider, as a mini case study, the three Baltic mini-nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. With the exception of the Lithuanians, who had their 15 minutes of fame during their brief late-medieval dalliance with Poland, these three ethnic groups never made good candidates for sovereign nations. They were first dominated by the Germans, then by the Swedes.

Then Peter the Great purchased their lands from the Swedes with silver coin, but after that they continued to toil as serfs for their German landlords. But then in mid-19th century the Russian Empire abolished serfdom, starting with Estonian and Latvian serfs as an experiment. It then introduced compulsory schooling, wrote down the local languages, and invited the more promising native sons to come and study at St. Petersburg. This started them on the way toward developing a national consciousness, and what a headache that turned out to be!

While the Russian Empire held together they remained under control, but after the Russian Revolution they gained independence and swiftly turned fascist. As World War II neared, the Soviet leadership became justifiably concerned over having little pro-Nazi fascist states right on their border and occupied/liberated them. But then as the Germans advanced and the Red Army retreated, they were re-occupied by the fascists/liberated from the communists. But then as the Germans retreated and the Red Army advanced, they were re-occupied/re-liberated again and became, for a time, exemplary Soviet Communists.

And so they remained, occupied/liberated, being stuffed full of Soviet-built schools, hospitals, factories, roads, bridges, ports, railways and other infrastructure—until the USSR collapsed. They were the first to demand independence, singing songs and holding hands across all three republics. Since then they have squandered all of their Soviet inheritance and have progressively shed population while serving as playgrounds for NATO troops who get a special thrill, I suppose, by training right on Russia’s border. Their political elites made a tidy little business of Russophobia, which pleased their new Western masters but gradually wrecked their economies. Having reached their peak during the late Soviet era, they are now hollow shells of their former selves.

And now, lo and behold, an embarrassingly large chunk of their populations is pining after the good old Soviet days and wants better relations with Russia (which, in the meantime, seems to have largely forgotten that these Baltic statelets even exist). Their political elites would want nothing more than for Russia to occupy/liberate them again, because then they could be rid of their noisome constituents and move to London or Geneva, there to head up a government in exile and work on plans for the next round of occupation/liberation.

To their horror, they are now realizing that Russia has no further use for them, while their new masters at the EU are sinking into a quagmire of their own problems, leaving them abandoned with no kind master to care for them and to feed them. They thought they had signed up to administer a vibrant new democracy using free money from the EU, but instead they are now stuck administering a depopulating, economically stagnant backwater peopled by ethnic relicts. In eras past, they would have only had to wait until the next wave of barbarian invasion from the east. The barbarians would slaughter all the men, rape and/or kidnap all the prettier women, and the naturally recurring process of ethnogenesis would start again. But now there are a dozen time zones of Russia to their east and no hope at all of any more barbarian invasions, so all they can do is drink a lot and, by turns, curse the Russians and the Europeans.

The situation is much the same throughout Eastern Europe, in a great arc of semi-sovereign, pseudo-sovereign and (in the case of the Ukraine) faux-sovereign nations from the Baltic to the Black Sea and on to the Caspian Sea and beyond. The many serial occupations/liberations have given their political elites a wonderful weathercock-like quality: one moment they are wearing Nazi insignia and heiling Hitler and the next moment they are good Soviet Communists reciting the 10 Commandments of the Builders of Communism. The Ukraine (getting back to it, finally) is no different in this respect but different in another: by no stretch of the imagination is it even a nation, or a combination, assemblage or grouping of nations; it is, strictly speaking, an accidental territorial agglomeration. As a failed attempt to create a monoethnic nation-state it is a chimera.

The following map, labeled “Dynamics of agglomeration of Ukrainian territories,” shows the process in detail. The toponym “Ukraine” (“Ukraina”) is most likely of Polish origin, meaning “border zone,” and it seems to have first become a thing in 1653 when the red-colored region below decided that it had had enough of Polish Catholic dominance and discrimination (its inhabitants being Orthodox Christians) and chose to rejoin Russia. The region became known as Malorossia, or Little Russia, and the yellow-colored districts were added to it over time. And then, after the Russian Revolution, came the big gift: Malorossia and neighboring districts were formed into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, and to make it something more than just a rural backwater Lenin saw it fit to lump in with it a number of Russian regions shaded in blue. It was this mistake that paved the way to the current impasse in what is but by all rights should never have been eastern Ukraine.

Then, right before, and again right after World War II Stalin lumped in the green-shaded western districts, which were previously part of he Austro-Hungarian Empire. Its inhabitants were Austrian, Polish, Hungarian, Rumanian and most of the rest, though initially Russian, had spent five centuries under foreign rule and spoke a distinctive, archaic dialect that served as the basis for creating the synthetic language now known as Ukrainian, while the rest of what is now Ukraine spoke Russian, Yiddish and a wide assortment of village dialects. It was this alienated group that was used as leavening to fashion a synthetic Ukrainian nationalism. In turn, Ukrainian Bolshevik leaders used this faux-nationalism to fashion the Ukraine into a regional power center within the USSR.

And then came the final mistake when Nikita Khrushchev, very much a product of the Ukrainian regional power center, paid it back for helping to promote him to the top job by giving it Russian Crimea—a move that was illegal under the Soviet constitution which was in effect at that time and a prime example of late Bolshevik political corruption that was undone in 2014 with great jubilation.

There are those who think that the solution to the Ukrainian problem is to take the Ukraine apart the same way it was put together. Behold the following map. Moving east to west, we have the Russian tricolor over Crimea (the only factual bit so far), then the flag of Novorussia covering all those territories that were arbitrarily lumped into the newly created Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic by Lenin in 1922. Further west we have the flag of the state of Ukraine. And to the west is the flag of the Right Sector, a nationalist party with distinct Nazi tendencies that is currently active in Ukrainian politics.

I believe that, with the exception of Crimea, this map may very well turn out to be complete and utter nonsense. It seems outlandish to think that the Ukrainian Humpty-Dumpty, which is in the process of being knocked off the wall most unceremoniously by just about everyone, including Russia, the EU and the US, is going to break apart into such tidy, historically justifiable pieces. For one thing, national borders don’t matter so much any more once you are east of the Russian border, all of Europe now being one big unhappy mess. With millions of Ukrainians trying to eke out a living by working in Russia, or Poland, or further West, the distinctions between the various bits of the Ukrainian territory they are from are just not that meaningful to anyone.

For another, all of the Ukraine is now owned by the same bunch of oligarchs whose fortunes are tightly integrated with those of transnational corporations and of Western financial institutions. None of them care at all about the people that once inhabited this region and their varied histories and linguistic preferences. They care about translating economic and financial control directly into political control with a minimum of diplomatic politesse. The Ukraine has been in the process of being stripped bare of anything valuable for 30 years now, up to and including its fertile soil, and once there is nothing left to loot it will be abandoned as a wild field, largely uninhabited.

But we are not quite there yet, and for now the only map that really matters is the following one, which shows the two separatist regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, collectively known as Donbass, short for Donetsk Basin, a prolific coal province that was mainly responsible for fueling the Ukraine’s former industrial might, which to this day continues to produce anthracite, a valuable, energy-rich coal that is now scarce in the world. It is that relatively tiny but densely populated sliver of land along the Russian border, less than 100km across in many places, that is the powder keg that some believe may set off World War III.

The Ukrainian military has been massing troops and armor along the line of separation while the Russian military has pulled up its forces to their side of the border. Shelling, sniper fire and other provocations from the Ukrainian side are intensifying, with the hope of provoking the Russians into moving forces onto Ukrainian territory, thus allowing the collective West to shout “Aha! Russian aggression!” Then they could put a stop to Nord Stream II pipeline, scoring a major geopolitical victory for Washington and follow that up with plenty of other belligerent moves designed to hurt Russia politically and economically.

For the Russians, there are no good choices that are obvious. Not responding to Ukrainian provocations and doing nothing while they shell and invade the cities of Donetsk and Lugansk, killing Russian citizens who live there, would make Russia look weak, undermine the Russian government’s position domestically and cost it a great deal of geopolitical capital internationally. Responding to Ukrainian provocations with overwhelming military force and crushing the Ukrainian military as was done in Georgia in 2008 would be popular domestically but could potentially lead to a major escalation and possibly an all-out war with NATO. Even if militarily the conflict is contained and NATO forces sit it out, as they did in Georgia, the political ramifications would cause much damage to the Russian economy through tightened sanctions and disruptions to international trade.

Those being the obvious bad choices, what are the obvious good ones, if any? Here, we have to pay careful attention to the official pronouncements Putin has made over the years, and to take them as face value. First, he said that Russia does not need any more territory; it has all the land it could ever want. Second, he said that Russia will follow the path of maximum liberalization in granting citizenship to compatriots and that, in turn, the well-being of Russia’s citizens is a top priority. Third, he said that resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine through military means is unacceptable. Given these constraints, what courses of action remain open?

The answer, I believe, is obvious: evacuation. There are around 3.2 million residents in Donetsk People’s Republic and 1.4 million in Lugansk People’s Republic, for a total of some 4.6 million residents. This may seem like a huge number, but it’s moderate by the scale of World War II evacuations. Keep in mind that Russia has already absorbed over a million Ukrainian migrants and refugees without much of a problem. Also, Russia is currently experiencing a major labor shortage, and an infusion of able-bodied Russians would be most welcome.

Domestically, the evacuation would likely be quite popular: Russia is doing right by its own people by pulling them out of harm’s way. The patriotic base would be energized and the already very active Russian volunteer movement would swing into action to assist the Emergencies Ministry in helping move and resettle the evacuees. The elections that are to take place later this year would turn into a nationwide welcoming party for several million new voters. The Donbass evacuation could pave the way for other waves of repatriation that are likely to follow. There are some 20 million Russians scattered throughout the world, and as the world outside Russia plunges deeper and deeper into resource scarcity they too will want to come home. While they may presently be reluctant to do so, seeing the positive example of how the Donbass evacuees are treated could help change their minds.

The negative optics of surrendering territory can be countered by not surrendering any territory. As a guarantor of the Minsk Agreements, Russia must refuse to surrender the Donbass to the Ukrainian government until it fulfills the terms of these agreements, which it has shown no intention of doing for seven years now and which it has recently repudiated altogether. It is important to note that the Russian military can shoot straight across all of Donbass without setting foot on Ukrainian soil. Should the Ukrainian forces attempt to enter Donbass, they will be dealt with as shown in the following instructional video. Note that the maximum range of the Tornado-G system shown in the video is 120km.

And should the Ukrainians care to respond by attacking Russian territory, another one of Putin’s pronouncements helps us understand what would happen next: if attacked, Russia will respond not just against the attackers but also against the centers of decision-making responsible for the attack. The Ukrainian command in Kiev, as well as its NATO advisers, would probably keep this statement in mind when considering their steps.

The Donbass evacuation should resonate rather well internationally. It would be a typical Putin judo move knocking NATO and the US State Department off-balance. Since this would be a large humanitarian mission, it would be ridiculous to attempt to portray it as “Russian aggression.” On the other hand, Russia would be quite within its rights to issue stern warnings that any attempt to interfere with the evacuation or to launch provocations during the evacuation process would be dealt with very harshly, freeing Russia’s hands in dispatching to God the berserkers from the Ukraine’s Nazi battalions, some of whom don’t particularly like to follow orders.

The West would be left with the following status quo. The Donbass is empty of residents but off-limits to them or to the Ukrainians. The evacuation would in no sense change the standing or the negotiating position of the evacuees and their representatives vis-à-vis the Minsk agreements, locking this situation in place until Kiev undertakes constitutional reform, becomes a federation and grants full autonomy to Donbass, or until the Ukrainian state ceases to exist and is partitioned. The Ukraine would be unable to join NATO (a pipe dream which it has stupidly voted into its constitution) since this would violate the NATO charter, given that it does not control its own territory.

Further sanctions against Russia would become even more difficult to justify, since it would be untenable to accuse it of aggression for undertaking a humanitarian mission to protect its own citizens or for carrying out its responsibilities as a guarantor of the Minsk agreements. The Donbass would remain as a stalker zone roamed by Russian battlefield robots sniping Ukrainian marauders, with the odd busload of schoolchildren there on a field trip to lay flowers on the graves of their ancestors. Its ruined Soviet-era buildings, not made any newer by three decades of Ukrainian abuse and neglect, will bear silent witness to the perpetual ignominy of the failed Ukrainian state.

History is as often driven by accident as by logic, but since we cannot predict accidents, logic is the only tool we have in trying to guess the shape of the future. Rephrasing Voltaire, this, then, is the best that we can expect to happen in this the best of all possible worlds.


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

10.04.2021 

South Front

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MORE ON THE TOPIC:

THE DONBASS WAR OF 2021?

07.04.2021 

The Donbass War Of 2021?

Written by J.Hawk exclusively for SouthFront.

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

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

Zelensky on the Spot

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

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

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

Resistible Force Meets Immovable Object

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

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

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

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

Cossack Mace

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

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

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

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

An Ounce of Prevention

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

British “ranger regiments” and “greyzone warfare”

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

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

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

MORE ON THE TOPIC:

Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity on Avoiding War in Ukraine

By Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

Global Research, April 07, 2021

Antiwar.com 6 April 2021

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

***

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Avoiding War in Ukraine

Dear President Biden,

We last communicated with you on December 20, 2020, when you were President-elect.

At that time, we alerted you to the dangers inherent in formulating a policy toward Russia built on a foundation of Russia-bashing. While we continue to support the analysis contained in that memorandum, this new memo serves a far more pressing purpose. We wish to draw your attention to the dangerous situation that exists in Ukraine today, where there is growing risk of war unless you take steps to forestall such a conflict.

At this juncture, we call to mind two basic realities that need particular emphasis amid growing tension between Ukraine and Russia.

First, since Ukraine is not a member of NATO, Article 5 of the NATO Treaty of course would not apply in the case of an armed conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

Second, Ukraine’s current military flexing, if allowed to transition into actual military action, could lead to hostilities with Russia.

We think it crucial that your administration immediately seek to remove from the table, so to speak, any “solution” to the current impasse that has a military component. In short, there is, and can never be, a military solution to this problem.

Your interim national security strategy guidance indicated that your administration would “make smart and disciplined choices regarding our national defense and the responsible use of our military, while elevating diplomacy as our tool of first resort.” Right now is the perfect time to put these words into action for all to see.

We strongly believe:

1. It must be made clear to Ukrainian President Zelensky that there will be no military assistance from either the US or NATO if he does not restrain Ukrainian hawks itching to give Russia a bloody nose — hawks who may well expect the West to come to Ukraine’s aid in any conflict with Russia. (There must be no repeat of the fiasco of August 2008, when the Republic of Georgia initiated offensive military operations against South Ossetia in the mistaken belief that the US would come to its assistance if Russia responded militarily.)

2. We recommend that you quickly get back in touch with Zelensky and insist that Kiev halt its current military buildup in eastern Ukraine. Russian forces have been lining up at the border ready to react if Zelensky’s loose talk of war becomes more than bravado. Washington should also put on hold all military training activity involving US and NATO troops in the region. This would lessen the chance that Ukraine would misinterpret these training missions as a de facto sign of support for Ukrainian military operations to regain control of either the Donbas or Crimea.

3. It is equally imperative that the U.S. engage in high-level diplomatic talks with Russia to reduce tensions in the region and de-escalate the current rush toward military conflict. Untangling the complex web of issues that currently burden U.S.-Russia relations is a formidable task that will not be accomplished overnight. This would be an opportune time to work toward a joint goal of preventing armed hostilities in Ukraine and wider war.

There is opportunity as well as risk in the current friction over Ukraine. This crisis offers your administration the opportunity to elevate the moral authority of the United States in the eyes of the international community. Leading with diplomacy will greatly enhance the stature of America in the world.

For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

  • William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)
  • Marshall Carter-Tripp, Foreign Service Officer & former Division Director in the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (ret.)
  • Bogdan Dzakovic, former Team Leader of Federal Air Marshals and Red Team, FAA Security (ret.) (associate VIPS)
  • Graham E. Fuller,Vice-Chair, National Intelligence Council (ret.)
  • Robert M. Furukawa, Captain, Civil Engineer Corps, USNR (ret.)
  • Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)
  • Mike Gravel, former Adjutant, top secret control officer, Communications Intelligence Service; special agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps and former United States Senator
  • John Kiriakou, former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former Senior Investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
  • Karen Kwiatkowski, former Lt. Col., US Air Force (ret.), at Office of Secretary of Defense watching the manufacture of lies on Iraq, 2001-2003
  • Edward Loomis, NSA Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)
  • Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA presidential briefer (ret.)
  • Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East & CIA political analyst (ret.)
  • Pedro Israel Orta, CIA Operations Officer & Analyst; Inspector with IG for the Intelligence Community (ret.)
  • Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)
  • Scott Ritter, former MAJ., USMC, former UN Weapon Inspector, Iraq
  • Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel (ret.)
  • Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA
  • Sarah G. Wilton, CDR, USNR, (ret.); Defense Intelligence Agency (ret.)
  • Robert Wing, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (former) (associate VIPS)
  • Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel (ret) and former U.S. Diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq War

*

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Tension in Ukraine and the Turkish Straits Issue التوتر في أوكرانيا وقضية المضائق التركية

Tension in Ukraine and the Turkish Straits Issue

Ukraine tensions - Russia, USA, NATO, the Turkish Straits

 ARABI SOURI 

حسني محلي
International relations researcher and specialist in Turkish affairs

The following is the English translation from Arabic of the latest article by Turkish career journalist Husni Mahali he published in the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen news site Al-Mayadeen Net:

The Ukrainian interior, especially the border separating the west and east of the country, is witnessing a dangerous tension, which many expect will turn into hot confrontations between Ukraine backed by America and some European countries and Russia that support separatists in the east of the country, who in 2014 declared autonomy in the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.

This tension acquires additional importance with the approaching date of the exercises scheduled to take place next month, with the participation of Ukrainian forces and NATO units, the largest of their kind since the fall of the Soviet Union. Moscow sees in these maneuvers, which bear the name ‘Defending Europe – 21’, as a direct threat, because they will include the Black Sea and the North Baltic Seas, which are potential hotbeds of confrontation between Russia and NATO.

All this comes as Washington continues its relentless efforts to include Ukraine and Georgia in the (NATO) alliance before the end of this year, after it included in 2004 both Bulgaria and Romania to it, in an attempt to tighten the blockade on Russia in the Black Sea, which Turkey also overlooks.

President Biden called his Ukrainian counterpart Zalinsky (a Jew and a friend of Netanyahu), and after that the contacts made by the defense and foreign ministers, the chief of staff, and the secretary-general of the US National Security Council with their Ukrainian counterparts this week, to prove the seriousness of the situation in the region, after Washington confirmed its absolute support for Ukraine in its crisis with Russia.

The Russian response to these US-Ukrainian provocations was not late, Moscow mobilized very large forces in the region, and large naval maneuvers began in the Crimea and the Krasnodar region in southeastern Ukraine and in the northern Black Sea.

The timing of the Turkish Parliament Speaker Mustafa Shantop’s speech about President Erdogan’s powers to withdraw from the Montreux Convention gained additional importance, because it coincided with the escalation between Moscow and Washington, and sparked a new debate in the Turkish, Russian and Western streets, as 120 retired Turkish diplomats signed, and after them 103 admirals retirees, on two separate statements in which they denounced Shantop’s words, and said: ‘The withdrawal from the Montreux Agreement puts Turkey in front of new and dangerous challenges in its foreign policy, and forces it to align itself with one of the parties to the conflict in the region.

The response came quickly from Interior Minister Suleiman Soylu and Fakhruddin Altun, spokesman for President Erdogan, who accused the admirals of ‘seeking a new coup attempt. While the Public Prosecutor filed an urgent lawsuit against the signatories of the Military personnel’s statement, the leader of the National Movement Party, Devlet Bakhsali, Erdogan’s ally, demanded that they be tried and their pensions cut off. Some see this discussion as an introduction to what Erdogan is preparing for with regard to the straits and raising the level of bargaining with President Putin.

The ‘Montreux Convention’ of 1936 recognized Turkey’s ownership of the Bosporus and the Dardanelles straits while ensuring freedom of commercial navigation in them for all ships, and set strict conditions for the passage of warships owned by countries not bordering the Black Sea through these straits. Washington does not hide its dissatisfaction with this convention, and since the fall of the Soviet Union, it has been planning to send the largest possible number of its warships to the Black Sea and the bases it is now seeking to establish in Bulgaria and Romania, and later Ukraine and Georgia.

With Turkey’s support for this American scheme, Russian warships will find themselves in a difficult situation en route to and from the Mediterranean. Russian diplomatic circles have considered the Istanbul channel that Erdogan seeks to split between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, parallel to the Bosphorus, as an attempt by Ankara to circumvent the ‘Montreux Convention’, so that American and (North) Atlantic warships can pass through this channel in the quantity and sizes they want, far from the conditions of the Montreux Convention.

All these facts make Turkey, directly or indirectly, an important party in the possible hot confrontations in Ukraine, given Ankara’s intertwined strategic relations with Kiev, especially in the field of war industries, especially the jet engines for drones and advanced missiles. In addition to this, the Turkish religious and national interest in the Crimea region, which Muslims make up about 15% of its population, with their bad memories during the communist Soviet rule, the ideological enemy of the Turkish state, which is the heir to the Ottoman Empire, which is the historical enemy of the Russian Empire.

Whatever the potential developments in the Ukrainian crisis and their implications for the Turkish role in the Black Sea region, with their complex calculations, Moscow and Washington (and their European allies) do not neglect their other regional and international accounts in the Mediterranean and Red Sea regions, especially with the continuation of the Syrian, Yemeni, Somali and Libyan crises, and their repercussions on the balance of power in the basins of the Straits of Hormuz, Bab el-Mandeb and the Eastern Mediterranean, where ‘Israel’ is present, which borders Jordan with its recent surprising events.

Erdogan Used 3000 Syrian Terrorists in the Nagorno Karabach Battles

https://syrianews.cc/erdogan-used-3000-syrian-terrorists-in-the-nagorno-karabach-battles/embed/#?secret=MqFNSvMgQn

Here, the recent Russian-Iranian-Chinese moves with their various elements gain additional importance, because they disturbed and worried Western capitals, which found themselves forced, even in their last attempt, to distance Tehran from this alliance, by returning to the nuclear agreement as soon as possible.

Washington and Western capitals believe that this may help them to devote themselves to the Ukraine crisis, and then to similar issues in other regions, through which it aims to tighten the siege on Russia in its backyards in Central Asia and the Caucasus, where Georgia and Azerbaijan have direct links with Turkey.

It has become clear that, with all its geostrategic advantages, it will be the arena of competition, and perhaps direct and indirect future conflict between Washington and Moscow, as they race together to gain more positions in its arena, which supports President Erdogan’s position externally, because his accounts have become intertwined in Syria and Karabakh with Russia, and its ally Iran, it will also support his projects and plans internally to stay in power forever, thanks to US and European economic and financial support. Without this, he cannot achieve anything.

The bet remains on the content of the phone call that the Turkish president is waiting for from President Biden, for which many have written many different scenarios that will have their results reflected on the overall US-Russian competitions. This possibility will raise the bargaining ceiling between Erdogan and both Putin and Biden, whoever pays the most will win Turkey on his side or prevent it from allying with his enemy.

Intercontinental Wars – Part 3 The Open Confrontation

https://syrianews.cc/intercontinental-wars-part-3-the-open-confrontation/embed/#?secret=byysW2Qrix

Tsar Putin Brings the Sultan Wannabe Erdogan Half Way Down the Tree

https://syrianews.cc/tsar-putin-brings-the-sultan-wannabe-erdogan-half-way-down-the-tree/embed/#?secret=AkXY3KfFOg

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التوتر في أوكرانيا وقضية المضائق التركية

حسني محلي
باحث علاقات دولية ومختصص بالشأن التركي

حسني محلي

المصدر: الميادين نت

5 نيسان 12:08

مهما كانت التطورات المحتملة في الأزمة الأوكرانية وانعكاساتها على الدور التركي في منطقة البحر الأسود، بحساباتها المعقدة، لا تهمل موسكو وواشنطن حسابتهما الإقليمية والدولية الأخرى في منطقتي الأبيض المتوسط والأحمر.

التوتر في أوكرانيا وقضية المضائق التركية
تسعى واشنطن لضم أوكرانيا إلى حلف شمال الأطلسي

يشهد الداخل الأوكراني، وخصوصاً الحدود الفاصلة بين غرب البلاد وشرقها، توتراً خطيراً يتوقع الكثيرون أن يتحوّل إلى مواجهات ساخنة بين أوكرانيا المدعومة من أميركا وبعض الدول الأوروبية وروسيا التي تدعم الانفصاليين شرق البلاد، الذين أعلنوا في العام 2014 حكماً ذاتياً في جمهوريتي دونيتسك ولوغانسك.

يكتسب هذا التوتّر أهمية إضافية مع اقتراب موعد المناورات المقرر إجراؤها الشهر القادم، بمشاركة القوات الأوكرانية ووحدات الحلف الأطلسي، وهي الأكبر من نوعها منذ سقوط الاتحاد السوفياتي. ترى موسكو في هذه المناورات التي تحمل اسم “الدفاع عن أوروبا – 21” خطراً يستهدفها بشكلٍ مباشر، لأنّها ستشمل البحر الأسود وبحر البلطيق الشمالي، وهي ساحات المواجهة الساخنة المحتملة بين روسيا والحلف الأطلسي.

يأتي كلّ ذلك مع استمرار مساعي واشنطن الحثيثة لضم أوكرانيا وجورجيا إلى الحلف قبل نهاية العام الجاري، بعد أن ضمّت في العام 2004 كلاً من بلغاريا ورومانيا إليه، في محاولة منها لتضييق الحصار على روسيا في البحر الأسود الذي تطل تركيا أيضاً عليه.

وجاء اتصال الرئيس بايدن بنظيره الأوكراني زالينسكي (يهودي وصديق لنتنياهو)، وبعده الاتصالات التي أجراها وزراء الدفاع والخارجية ورئيس الأركان وسكرتير عام مجلس الأمن القومي الأميركي بنظرائهم الأوكرانيين خلال الأسبوع الجاري، لتثبت مدى جدية الوضع في المنطقة، بعد أن أكدت واشنطن دعمها المطلق لأوكرانيا في أزمتها مع روسيا.

لم يتأخّر الرد الروسي على هذه الاستفزازات الأميركية – الأوكرانية، فقامت موسكو بحشد قوات كبيرة جداً في المنطقة، وبدأت مناورات بحرية واسعة في شبه جزيرة القرم وإقليم كراسنودار جنوب شرق أوكرانيا وفي شمال البحر الأسود. 

وقد اكتسب التوقيت الزمني لحديث رئيس البرلمان التركي مصطفى شانتوب عن صلاحيات الرئيس إردوغان للانسحاب من اتفاقية “مونترو” أهمية إضافية، لأنه تزامن مع التصعيد بين موسكو وواشنطن، وأثار نقاشاً جديداً في الشارع التركي والروسي والغربي، إذ وقّع 120 دبلوماسياً تركياً متقاعداً، وبعدهم 103 أميرالات متقاعدين، على بيانين منفصلين استنكروا فيهما كلام شانتوب، وقالوا: “إن الانسحاب من اتفاقية “مونترو” يضع تركيا أمام تحديات جديدة وخطيرة في سياستها الخارجية، ويجبرها على الانحياز إلى أحد أطراف الصراع في المنطقة”.

جاء الرد سريعاً على لسان وزير الداخلية سليمان صويلو، وفخر الدين التون، المتحدث باسم الرئيس إردوغان، اللذين اتهما الأميرالات “بالسعي لمحاولة انقلاب جديدة”، فيما أقام وكيل النيابة العامة دعوى قضائية عاجلة ضد الموقعين على بيان العسكر، وطالب زعيم حزب الحركة القومية دولت باخشالي، حليف إردوغان، بمحاكمتهم وقطع المرتبات التقاعدية عنهم. ويرى البعض أن هذا النقاش مقدمة لما يحضّر له إردوغان في ما يتعلق بالمضائق ورفع مستوى المساومة مع الرئيس بوتين. 

وكانت اتفاقية “مونترو” للعام 1936 قد اعترفت بملكية تركيا لمضيقي البوسفور والدردنيل، مع ضمان حرية الملاحة التجارية فيهما لجميع السفن، وحددت شروطاً صارمة على مرور السفن الحربية التي تملكها الدول غير المطلة على البحر الأسود من هذه المضائق. لا تخفي واشنطن عدم ارتياحها إلى هذه الاتفاقية، وهي تخطط منذ سقوط الاتحاد السوفياتي لإرسال أكبر عدد ممكن من سفنها الحربية إلى البحر الأسود، وتسعى الآن إلى إنشاء قواعد في بلغاريا ورومانيا، ولاحقاً في أوكرانيا وجورجيا.

وبدعم تركيا لهذا المخطط الأميركي، ستجد السفن الحربية الروسية نفسها في وضع صعب في الطريق من البحر الأبيض المتوسط وإليه. وقد اعتبرت أوساط دبلوماسية روسية قناة إسطنبول التي يسعى إردوغان لشقّها بين بحر مرمرة والبحر الأسود، وبشكل موازٍ لمضيق البوسفور، محاولة من أنقرة للالتفاف على اتفاقية “مونترو”، حتى يتسنّى للسفن الحربية الأميركية والأطلسية المرور في هذه القناة بالكم والكيف اللذين تشاؤهما، بعيداً من شروط اتفاقية “مونترو”.

كل هذه المعطيات تجعل تركيا، بشكل مباشر أو غير مباشر، طرفاً مهماً في المواجهات الساخنة المحتملة في أوكرانيا، نظراً إلى علاقات أنقرة الاستراتيجية المتشابكة مع كييف، وخصوصاً في مجال الصناعات الحربية، وفي مقدمتها المحركات النفاثة للطائرات المسيّرة والصواريخ المتطورة. يُضاف إلى ذلك الاهتمام التركي الديني والقومي بمنطقة القرم التي يشكل المسلمون حوالى 15% من سكّانها، مع ذكرياتهم السيّئة خلال الحكم السوفياتي الشيوعي، العدو العقائدي للدولة التركية، وهي وريثة الإمبراطورية العثمانية التي تعدّ العدو التاريخي للإمبراطورية الروسيّة.

مهما كانت التطورات المحتملة في الأزمة الأوكرانية وانعكاساتها على الدور التركي في منطقة البحر الأسود، بحساباتها المعقدة، لا تهمل موسكو وواشنطن (وحلفاؤهما الأوروبيون) حسابتهما الإقليمية والدولية الأخرى في منطقتي الأبيض المتوسط والأحمر، وخصوصاً مع استمرار الأزمات السورية واليمنية والصومالية والليبية، وانعكاساتها على موازين القوى في حوضي مضيقي هرمز وباب المندب وشرق الأبيض المتوسط، حيث تتواجد “إسرائيل” التي تحتل فلسطين المجاورة للأردن بأحداثه الأخيرة المفاجئة.

وهنا، تكتسب التحركات الروسية – الإيرانية – الصينية الأخيرة بعناصرها المختلفة أهمية إضافية، لأنها أزعجت وأقلقت العواصم الغربية التي وجدت نفسها مضطرة، ولو في محاولة أخيرة منها، إلى إبعاد طهران عن هذا التحالف، عبر العودة إلى الاتفاق النووي بأسرع ما يمكن. 

وتعتقد واشنطن والعواصم الغربية أن ذلك قد يساعدها للتفرغ لأزمة أوكرانيا، وبعدها لقضايا مماثلة في مناطق أخرى، تهدف من خلالها إلى تضييق الحصار على روسيا في حدائقها الخلفية في آسيا الوسطى والقوقاز، حيث جورجيا وأذربيجان ذات الصلة المباشرة مع تركيا. 

وقد بات واضحاً أنها، وبكل مزاياها الجيوستراتيجية، ستكون ساحة المنافسة، وربما الصراع المستقبلي المباشر وغير المباشر بين واشنطن وموسكو، وهما تتسابقان معاً لكسب المزيد من المواقع في ساحتها، وهو ما يدعم موقف الرئيس إردوغان خارجياً، لأن حساباته باتت متداخلة في سوريا وكاراباخ مع روسيا وحليفتها إيران، كما سيدعم مشاريعه ومخططاته داخلياً للبقاء في السلطة إلى الأبد، بفضل الدعم الاقتصادي والمالي الأميركي والأوروبي. ومن دون ذلك، لا يمكنه أن يحقق شيئاً.

يبقى الرهان على فحوى المكالمة الهاتفية التي ينتظرها الرئيس التركي من الرئيس بايدن، والتي كتب من أجلها الكثيرون العديد من السيناريوهات المختلفة التي ستنعكس بنتائجها على مجمل المنافسات الأميركية – الروسية. سيرفع هذا الاحتمال سقف المساومة بين إردوغان وكلٍّ من بوتين وبايدن. ومن يدفع منهم أكثر سوف يكسب تركيا إلى جانبه أو يمنعها من التحالف مع عدوه.

حتى تلك الساعة، يبدو واضحاً أن الجميع يراهن على مضمون الصفقة التي سيقترحها الرئيس بايدن على الرئيس إردوغان، وشروط الأخير للقبول بتفاصيلها أو رفضها، وهو يدري أن الرئيس بوتين يملك بدوره ما يكفيه من الأوراق لإبقاء تركيا خارج الحلبة الأميركية، حتى لا تعود، كما كانت في سنوات الحرب الباردة، سمكة عالقة في الصنارة الأميركية. 

Ukraine redux: war, Russophobia and Pipelineistan

Ukraine redux: war, Russophobia and Pipelineistan

April 07, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Controlling the narrative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does the hegemon want?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gotta defend Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pipelineistan uber alles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crucial interview of Foreign Minister Lavrov (MUST READ!)

Crucial interview of Foreign Minister Lavrov (MUST READ!)

Source

April 02, 2021

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview given to Channel One’s Bolshaya Igra (Great Game) talk show, Moscow, April 1, 2021

Vyacheslav Nikonov: The word “war” has been heard increasingly more often lately. US and NATO politicians, even more so the Ukrainian military, have no trouble saying it. Do you have more reasons to be concerned now than ever before?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes and no. On the one hand, the confrontation has hit bottom. On the other, deep down, there’s still hope that we are adults and understand the risks associated with escalating tensions further. However, our Western colleagues introduced the word “war” into the diplomatic and international usage. “The hybrid war unleashed by Russia” is a very popular description of what the West perceives as the main event in international life. I still believe that good judgment will prevail.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: Recently, the United States has ratcheted the degree of confrontation up to never-before-seen proportions. President Joe Biden said President Vladimir Putin is a “killer.” We have recalled Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov.

Sergey Lavrov: He was invited for consultations.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: Hence, the question: How do we go about our relations now? How long will this pause last? When will Mr Antonov return to Washington?

Sergey Lavrov: What we heard President Biden say in his interview with ABC is outrageous and unprecedented. However, one should always see the real actions behind the rhetoric, and they began long before this interview back during the Barack Obama administration. They continued under the Trump administration, despite the fact that the 45th US President publicly spoke in favour of maintaining good relations with Russia, with which he was willing to “get along,” but was not allowed to do so. I’m talking about the consistent degradation of the deterrent infrastructure in the military-political and strategic spheres.

The ABM Treaty has long since been dropped. President Putin has more than once mentioned how, in response to his remark that George W. Bush was making a mistake and there was no need to aggravate relations, the then US President said that it was not directed against Russia. Allegedly, we can take any steps that we deem necessary in response to the US withdrawing from the ABM Treaty. Allegedly, the Americans will not take these actions as directed against them, either. But then they started establishing anti-missile systems in Europe which is the third missile defence position area. It was announced that it was built exclusively with Iran in mind. Our attempts to agree on a transparency format received support during the visit to Moscow by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, but were later rejected. We now have a missile defence area in Europe. Nobody is saying that this is against Iran now. This is clearly being positioned as a global project designed to contain Russia and China. The same processes are underway in the Asia-Pacific region. No one is trying to pretend that this is being done against North Korea.

This is a global system designed to back US claims to absolute dominance, including in the military-strategic and nuclear spheres.

Dimitri Simes can also share his assessment of what is said and written in the United States on that account. A steadfast course has now been taken towards deploying intermediate and shorter-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific region.

The INF Treaty was discarded by the Americans on far-fetched pretexts. This was not our choice. In his special messages, President Vladimir Putin suggested agreeing, on a voluntary basis and even in the absence of the INF Treaty, on a mutual moratorium with corresponding verification measures in the Kaliningrad Region, where the Americans suspected our Iskander missiles of violating restrictions imposed by the now defunct treaty, and at US bases in Poland and Romania, where the MK-41 units are promoted by the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, as dual-purpose equipment.

To reiterate, this rhetoric is outrageous and unacceptable. However, President Putin has reacted to it diplomatically and politely. Unfortunately, there was no response to our offer to talk live and to dot the dottable letters in the Russian and English alphabets. All of that has long since gone hand-in-hand with a material build-up in the confrontational infrastructure, which also includes the reckless eastward advance of NATO military facilities, the transformation of a rotational presence into a permanent presence on our borders, in the Baltic States, in Norway, and Poland. So everything is much more serious than mere rhetoric.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: When will Ambassador Antonov return to Washington?

Sergey Lavrov: It’s up to President Putin to decide. Ambassador Antonov is currently holding consultations at the Foreign Ministry. He has met with the members of the committees on international affairs at the State Duma and the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly. He has had conversations at the Presidential Executive Office as well.

It is important for us to analyse the current state of our relations, which did not get to this point overnight, and are not just because of this interview, but have been going this way for years now. The fact that inappropriate language was used during President Biden’s interview with ABC shows the urgency of conducting a comprehensive analysis. This does not mean that we have just been observers and have not drawn any conclusions over the past years. But now the time has come for generalisations.

Dimitri Simes: Now that I am in Moscow, after a year in Washington, I see a striking contrast between statements by the leaders of the two countries. I think you will agree that when officials in Washington talk about relations with Russia, their pattern is simple and understandable: “Russia is an opponent.” Sometimes, Congressmen are more abrupt and call it “an enemy.” However, political leaders from the administration still call it “an opponent.” They allow cooperation with Russia on some issues that are important to the US, but generally it is emphasised that militarily Russia is “the number one opponent,” while politically it is not just a country with objectionable views but a state that “tries to spread authoritarian regimes throughout the world,” that “opposes democracy” and “undermines the foundations of the US as such.”

When I listen to you and President of Russia Vladimir Putin, I have the impression that in Moscow the picture is more complicated and has more nuances. Do you think the US is Russia’s opponent today?

Sergey Lavrov: I will not go into analysing the lexicon of “opponent,” “enemy,” “competitor” or “rival.” All these words are juggled in both official and unofficial statements. I read the other day that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that for all the differences with Russia and China, the US does not have anything against these countries. As for what the US is doing, it is simply “promoting democracy” and “upholding human rights.” I don’t know how seriously one can take this description of US policy towards Moscow and Beijing. However, if they are promoting democracy, practice must justify theory.

George W. Bush announced that democracy was established in Iraq in May 2003. Aboard an aircraft carrier, he declared that Iraq’s liberation from its totalitarian regime was completed and democracy was established in the country. There is no point in elaborating. It is enough to mention the toll of the US-unleashed war – hundreds of thousands of people. We should also remember that the “rule” of the notorious Paul Bremer resulted in the birth of ISIS, which was rapidly joined by members of the Baath Party, employees of Saddam Hussein’s secret services, who had lost their jobs. They simply needed to provide for their families. ISIS emerged not because of ideological differences. Relying on US mistakes, the radicals actively used this fact. This is what democracy in Iraq is all about.

“Democracy” in Libya was established by bombs, strikes and the murder of Muammar Gaddafi which was accompanied by Hillary Clinton’s cry of admiration. This is the result: Libya is a black hole; refugee flows bound for the north are creating problems for the EU that does not know what to do about them; illegal arms and terrorists are being smuggled through Libya to the south, bringing suffering to the Sahara-Sahel Region.

I do not wish to describe what the Americans feel towards the Russian Federation. If their statements about us being their “opponent,” “enemy,” “rival” or “competitor” are based on the desire to accuse us of the consequences of their reckless policy, we can hardly have a serious conversation with them.

Dmitri Simes: When officials in Washington, the Joseph Biden administration or Congress, call Russia an opponent and emphasise this, I think they would not agree that it is simply rhetoric. Nor would they agree that it is designed solely for domestic consumption. The Biden administration is saying that the US did not have a consistent policy towards Russia and that former US President Donald Trump let Russia “do everything the Russian Government of Vladimir Putin wanted.” Now a new sheriff has come in and is willing to talk in a way he sees fit without paying much attention to how Moscow will interpret it; and if Moscow doesn’t like it, this is good. This is being done not to evoke discontent, of course, but to show that Russia is finally realising that it cannot behave like this anymore. Is there any chance that this new Biden administration policy will compel Russia to show some new flexibility?

Sergey Lavrov: The policy you mentioned, which is promoted in the forms we are now seeing, has no chance to succeed. This is nothing new: Joseph Biden has come in, started using sanctions against Russia, toughening rhetoric and in general exerting pressure all along the line. This has been going on for many years. The sanctions started with the Barack Obama administration and, historically, even earlier. Like many other restrictions, they have simply become hypertrophied and ideology-based starting in 2013, before the events in Ukraine.

Dimitri Simes: They will tell you, and you know this better than I do, that this policy has not been pursued sufficiently consistently, that it was not energetic enough, and that now they and their NATO allies will get down to dealing with Russia seriously so as to show us that we must change our behaviour fundamentally not just when it comes to foreign policy but also our domestic policy.

Sergey Lavrov: Dimitri, you are an experienced person, you know the United States better than Vyacheslav Nikonov or I do. What else can they do to us? Which of the analysts has decided to prove the practicability of any further pressure on Russia? How well do they know history? This question is for you.

Dimitri Simes: Mr Minister, you probably know that I am not a fervent supporter of the policy of the Biden administration.

Sergey Lavrov: I am asking you as an observer and an independent expert.

Dimitri Simes: In my opinion, the Biden administration still has a sufficient set of tools it can apply against Russia, including new sanctions, the promotion of NATO infrastructure in Europe, a more “harmonised” pressure on Russia together with its allies, the advance of the US policy not closer to the traditional Old Europe (I am referring to Britain and especially to France and Germany) but to Poland, and lastly, the supply of lethal weapons to Ukraine. It is now believed in Washington that it is very important to show Russia that its current policy in Ukraine has no future and that unless Russia changes its behaviour it “will pay a price.”

Sergey Lavrov: My views on the current developments range from an exercise in absurdity to a dangerous play with matches. You may know that it has become trendy to use examples from ordinary life to describe current developments. All of us played outdoors when we were children. Kids of different ages and with different kinds of family upbringing played in the same places. In fact, we all lived as one big family then. There were two or three bad boys on every street; they humiliated other kids, disciplined them, forced them to clean their boots and took their money, the few kopecks our mothers gave us to buy a pie or breakfast at school. Two, three or four years later, these small kids grew up and could fight back. We don’t even have to grow up. We do not want confrontation.

President Putin has said more than once, including after President Biden’s infamous interview with ABC that we are ready to work with the United States in the interests of our people and the interests of international security. If the United States is willing to endanger the interests of global stability and global – and so far peaceful – coexistence, I don’t think it will find many allies for this endeavour. It is true that the EU has quickly towed the line and pledged allegiance. I regard the statements made during the virtual EU summit with Joe Biden as unprecedented. I don’t remember ever hearing such oaths of allegiance before. The things they said publicly revealed their absolute ignorance of the history of the creation of the UN and many other events. I am sure that serious politicians – there are still some left in the United States – can see not just futility but also the absurdity of this policy. As far as I know, the other day 27 political organisations in the United States publicly urged the Biden administration to change the rhetoric and the essence of the US approach to relations with Russia.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: This is unlikely to happen. I believe that your example with “tough guys” on every street is too mild. The United States has gone beyond the pale, let alone the street ethics, which have always been respected. We can see this happening in Ukraine. President Biden is one of those who created modern Ukraine, the Ukrainian policy and the war in Donbass. As I see it, he takes the situation very personally, and he will try to keep it in its current tense state. How dangerous is the situation in Ukraine in light of the ongoing US arms deliveries, the decisions adopted in the Verkhovna Rada on Tuesday, and the statements made by the Ukrainian military, who are openly speaking about a war?  Where do we stand on the Ukrainian front?

Sergey Lavrov: There is much speculation about the documents that the Rada passed and that President Zelensky signed. To what extent does this reflect real politics? Is it consistent with the objective of resolving President Zelensky’s domestic problem of declining ratings? I’m not sure what this is: a bluff or concrete plans. According to the information published in the media, the military, for the most part, is aware of the damage that any action to unleash a hot conflict might bring.

I very much hope this will not be fomented by the politicians, who, in turn, will be fomented by the US-led West. Once again, we see the truth as stated by many analysts and political scientists, including Zbigniew Brzezinski, being reaffirmed. They look at Ukraine from a geopolitical perspective: as a country that is close to Russia, Ukraine makes Russia a great state; without Ukraine, Russia does not have global significance. I leave this on the conscience of those who profess these ideas, their fairness and ability to appreciate modern Russia. Like President Vladimir Putin said not long ago; but these words are still relevant, – those who try to unleash a new war in Donbass will destroy Ukraine.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: The US and Western diplomacy have definitely accomplished one thing: they put Russia and China in one boat. Indeed, we have already become strategic partners in deeds not just in words. You have just come back from China. You go there more often than once a year, for sure. During this trip, was there anything new that you sensed from Chinese leadership, which has recently come under unprecedented and rude attacks from the Americans? How strong are the bonds that are being established between Russia and China? How high is the bar that we can or have already reached in our relationship?

Sergey Lavrov: Like Russians, the Chinese are a proud nation. They may be more patient historically. The Chinese nation’s national and genetic code is all about being focused on a historical future. They are never limited to 4 or 5- year electoral cycles. They look further: “a big journey begins with a small step” and many other maxims coined by Chinese leaders go to show that they appreciate a goal that is not just on the horizon, but beyond the horizon. This also applies to reunifying Chinese lands – incrementally and without haste, but purposefully and persistently. Those who are talking with China and Russia without due respect or look down on us, or insult us are worthless politicians and strategists. If they do this to show how tough they are for the next parliamentary election in a couple of years, so be it.

Winston Churchill famously said that “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” A big debate is underway about which one is more effective. The coronavirus infection has taken the debate up a notch. To what extent the Western democracies have shown themselves capable of opposing this absolute evil and to what extent countries with a centralised, strong and “authoritarian” government have been successful. History will be the judge. We should wait to see the results.

We want to cooperate; we have never accused anyone of anything, or mounted a media campaign against anyone, even though we are being accused of doing this. As soon as President Putin announced the creation of a vaccine, he proposed establishing international cooperation. You do remember what was being said about Sputnik V. At first, they said that it was not true, and then that this was propaganda and the only purpose was to promote Russia’s political interests in the world. We can see the ripple effect of this. On March 30, Vladimir Putin held talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. We sensed a more realistic commitment to cooperate rather than try to engage in “vaccine discrimination” or “vaccine propaganda.”

Getting back to the heart of the matter, by and large, no one should be rude to other people. But what we see instead is a dialogue with a condescending tone towards great civilisations like Russia and China. We are being told what to do. If we want to say something, we are asked to “leave them alone.” This was the case in Anchorage when the discussion came to human rights. Antony Blinken said that there were many violations in the United States, but the undercurrent was clear – they would sort it out themselves and are already doing so. However, in Xinjiang Uygur, Hong Kong and Tibet, to name a few, things should be approached differently. It’s not just about a lack of diplomatic skills. It runs much deeper. In China, I sensed that this patient nation, which always upholds its interests and shows a willingness to find a compromise, was put in a stalemate. The other day, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson made a relevant comment. I don’t remember that ever happening before.

With regard to whether we are being pushed into the arms of China or China is being pushed into our arms, everyone remembers Henry Kissinger’s words that the United States should have relations with China which are better than relations between China and Russia, and vice versa. He saw this historical process and knew which way it could go. Many are writing now that the United States is committing a huge strategic mistake making efforts against Russia and China at a time, thereby catalysing our rapprochement. Moscow and Beijing are not allying against anyone. During my visit to China, Foreign Minister Wang Yi and I adopted a Joint Statement on Certain Issues of Global Governance in Modern Conditions, where we emphasised the unacceptability of violating international law or substituting it by some secretly drafted rules, of interference in other countries’ internal affairs and, overall, everything that contradicts the UN Charter. There are no threats there. The documents signed by the leaders of Russia and China always emphasise the fact that bilateral strategic interaction and multifaceted partnership are not directed against anyone, but focus exclusively on the interests of our peoples and countries. They build on a clear-cut and objective foundation of overlapping interests. We look for a balance of interests, and there are many areas where it has been achieved and is being used for the benefit of all of us.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: Have you noticed any change in China’s position? It is clear that Beijing is in a very tight situation. How far is China willing to go in its confrontation with the United States? It is obvious that they are now responding harshly. Sanctions are being introduced against Beijing, so it responds with tough counter-sanctions, and not only against the United States, but also against its allies, who are also joining the sanctions. Europe has joined this confrontation. Are we prepared to synchronise our policies with China, for example, our counter-sanctions, as we did with Belarus? Do we have a common strategy to counter the increasing pressure from the so-called alliance of democracies?

Sergey Lavrov: There is a general strategy, and I just mentioned it. Along with the Statement signed during my visit to China, a comprehensive Leaders’ Statement was adopted last year. Now we are preparing the next document, which will be signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, and dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Treaty on Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation. Our strategic treaty will be renewed.

These documents spell out our line of conduct. We are not planning, and will not plan, any schemes to retaliate for what they are doing to us. I do not think that we will synchronise our responses to any new sanction acts against China and Russia.

Our level of cooperation continues to grow qualitatively.

You mentioned military alliances. There is popular speculation out there that Russia and China might conclude a military alliance. First, one of the documents signed at the highest level underscored that our relations are not a military alliance, and we are not pursuing this goal. We regard NATO as an example of a military alliance in the traditional sense, and we know that we do not need such an alliance. NATO clearly breathed a sigh of relief after the Biden administration replaced Donald Trump. Everyone was happy to again have someone to tell them what to do. Emmanuel Macron still occasionally tries to vainly mention the EU’s strategic autonomy initiative, but no one else in Europe even wants to discuss it. It’s over, the boss is here.

That kind of alliance is a Cold War alliance. I would prefer thinking in terms of the modern era where multi-polarity is growing. In this sense, our relationship with China is completely different from that of a traditional military alliance. Maybe in a certain sense, it is an even closer bond.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: The “alliance of democracies” will be created. This is obvious although fewer people in Russia still believe that it’s about democracy. In its election, its attitude towards freedom of the media and opportunities to express opposing views, the US has made it very clear that it has big problems with democracy. Europe also gives examples that compel us to doubt its efforts to promote a strong democratic project. After all, it still holds a position as a player under a big boss.

Vladimir Putin had a conversation with Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel via videoconference on March 30 of this year. Without Vladimir Zelensky, by the way. This is the Normandy format minus Ukraine, which resulted in a bitter response from Kiev.

They discussed a broad range of issues. Meanwhile, you have said more than once that our relations with the EU are frozen or absent altogether. Do you mean that we stay in contact or that contact is possible with individual EU members but not with the EU as a whole?

Sergey Lavrov: This is exactly the case, and this was also mentioned during the March 30 talks, and during Vladimir Putin’s conversation with President of the European Council Charles Michel. We are surprised that this assessment offends the EU. This is simply an objective fact.

It took years to develop relations between Moscow and the EU. By the time the state coup in Ukraine took place these relations included: summits twice a year; annual meetings of all members of the Russian Government with all members of the European Commission; about 17 sectoral dialogues on different issues, from energy to human rights; and four common spaces based on Russia-EU summit resolutions, each of which had its own roadmap.

We were holding talks on visa-free travel. It is indicative that the EU broke them off back in 2013, long before the crisis in Ukraine. As some of our colleagues told us, when it came to a decision on signing the proposed agreement, the aggressive Russophobic minority adamantly opposed it: Russia cannot receive visa-free travel status with the EU before Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova do. This is the entire background. What the EU did after that, braking all channels of systematic dialogue was a burst of emotion. They took it out on us because the putschists insulted the West by throwing out the document signed by Yanukovich and the opposition the day before, this despite the fact that Germany, France and Poland had endorsed this document. The first actions of the new authorities were to remove the Russian language from daily life and to expel Russians from Crimea. When Russian-speakers and Russians in Ukraine opposed this and asked to be left alone, a so-called “anti-terrorist operation” was launched against them.

In effect, the EU imposed sanctions on us and broke off all communication channels because we raised our voice in defence of Russian citizens and ethnic Russians in Ukraine, Donbass and Crimea. We try to discuss issues with them when they start making claims against us. They probably understand this; I hope they are still seasoned politicians. But if they understand this but don’t want to consider it in their practical policy, it means that they are being charged with Russophobia or cannot do anything about the aggressive Russophobic minority in the EU.

Dimitri Simes: I believe when we talk about the EU, it’s important to look at what the EU is and to what extent it has changed compared to what it used to be and what it was supposed to be when it was founded. The EU was primarily designed as an organisation for economic cooperation.

No political component was even envisioned at the start. It was about the EU contributing to European economic integration. The possibility was even mentioned of Russia playing some associated role in that process. But then they said the EU should also have some common values. At first, the idea was that those common values were the cement of the EU itself. Then a new idea emerged in Warsaw that it would be nice for those European values ​​(since they are actually universal) to spread to other regions, as well as for Russia to respect them, or even to obey them. When I look at the EU’s approach to Ukraine, the conflict in Donbass and the demands to return Crimea to Kiev, it seems to me that the EU is becoming a missionary organisation. When you deal with crusaders, trying to reckon with them or appealing to their logic and conscience is probably useless. Do you not think that the EU has journeyed to a place where there are limited opportunities for partnership and great potential for confrontation? Or am I being too pessimistic?

Sergey Lavrov: No, I agree with you, absolutely. This is a missionary style – lecturing others while projecting superiority. It is important to see this tendency, as it has repeatedly brought Europe to trouble.

This is actually the case. Established as the Coal and Steel Community, then the European Economic Community – if you look at the EU now, look at their values, they are already attacking their own members like Poland and Hungary, just because these countries have somewhat different cultural and religious traditions. You said it originated in Poland. I actually forget who started this…

Dimitri Simes: I first heard it from Polish delegates at a conference.

Sergey Lavrov: Now Poland itself is facing the consequences of its ideas, only not outside the EU, but within the organisation.

When anyone tries to impose any values on Russia, ​​related, as they believe, to democracy and human rights, we have this very specific response: all universal values ​​are contained in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights that everyone signed. Any values invented now, which they try to impose on us or other countries, are not universal. They have not been agreed upon by the entire international community. Even inside the EU, look at those street protests! A couple of years ago, they had protests in France in defence of the traditional family, the concepts of “mother,” “father,” and “children.” This lies deep. Playing with traditional values ​​is dangerous.

As to the EU once inviting Russia as an associate member, we never agreed to sign an association document. Now the same is being done with regard to the Eastern Partnership countries – Armenia, Ukraine, and Moldova. As for Russia’s relations with the EU, which Brussels destroyed, only one thing remained – the basic document on the terms of trade and investment. It was indeed the subject of negotiation between the Brussels Commission and the Russian Federation. This is a document that remains valid. We cooperate with individual countries, but not with the EU, because those were the terms agreed upon, and their practical implementation is going through bilateral channels. The only thing the EU is doing in this respect now is imposing sanctions and banning its members from fulfilling some parts of this agreement because they want to “punish Russia.” That’s it, there are no other ties.

We are being told that we are deliberately derailing our relations (although the facts are simply outrageous), trying to shift our ties with Europe to bilateral channels, wanting to “split up” the European Union. We don’t want to split anyone up. We always say that we are interested in a strong and independent European Union. But if the EU chooses a non-independent position in the international arena, as we just discussed, this is their right. We cannot do anything about it. We have always supported its independence and unity. But in the current situation, where Brussels broke off all relations, when certain European countries reach out to us (we have not tried to lure anyone) with proposals to talk, to visit any of the sides and discuss some promising projects in bilateral relations, how can we refuse our partners? It is quite unfair (even a shame) to try to present such meetings as part of a strategy to split up the EU. They have enough problems of their own that split them up.

Dimitri Simes: This is a philosophical issue in Russia’s relations with the EU. When the EU has imposed anti-China sanctions, China made a tough response. This was an unpleasant surprise for the EU and caused indignation. Meanwhile, Brussels does not expect such a response from Russia in the firm belief that Russia has no economic levers to oppose the EU. To my knowledge, Russia has not imposed any serious sanctions on the EU.

This is an interesting situation. Russia supplies Europe with 33 percent of its gas. The figures for oil are about the same. I think during all this time Russia has proved convincingly that it won’t use energy for political leverage in Europe. Understandably, Russia has been interested in this, especially when it comes to the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. It seems to me that certain people in Europe have forgotten that if Russia does not do something, it doesn’t mean that it cannot do it, or won’t be compelled to do it if the EU’s pressure on Russia crosses a line. Do you think this is possible in theory? Or does Russia completely rule out such actions?

Sergey Lavrov: You are saying (metaphorically) that they either have not read (which is most likely) or have forgotten the epic about Ilya Muromets who slept on the stove while nobody paid attention? This is not a threat. We will never use energy supplies or our oil and gas routes in Europe to this end. This is a position of principle regardless of anything else.

Dimitri Simes: Even of you are disconnected from SWIFT and everything else?

Sergey Lavrov: We will not do that. This is a position of principle for President of Russia Vladimir Putin. We will not create a situation where we force EU citizens “freeze.” We will never do this. We have nothing in common with Kiev that shut down water supplies to Crimea and takes delight in it. This is a disgraceful position in the world arena. Frequently accusing us of using energy as an instrument of influence, as a weapon, the West keeps silence on what Kiev is doing with water supplies to Crimea. I believe the provision of basic needs on which the daily life of common citizens depends, should never be an object of sanctions.

Dimitri Simes: In this case, what do you mean by referring to “the phenomenon” of Ilya Muromets?

Sergey Lavrov: It is possible to respond in different ways. We have always warned that we will be ready to respond. We will respond to any malicious actions against us but not necessarily in a symmetric manner. By the way, speaking about the impact of the sanctions on civilians, look what is taking place in Syria under the Caesar Act. My colleagues in Europe and, incidentally, in the region, whisper that they are horrified by the way this act has eliminated any opportunity to do business with Syria. The goal is clear – to stifle the Syrians to make them revolt and overthrow Bashar al-Assad.

Now a few words about our and China’s responses to the European sanctions. After all, China also avoided suspending economic activity. It simply imposed sanctions on a number of individuals and companies that held certain anti-China positions. We are doing basically the same.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: As we know, Ilya Muromets did not shut down oil and gas supplies. He used other methods that were often symmetrical. I think we also have a solid set of instruments.

Don’t we exaggerate the importance of the EU in the modern world? It has an identity and there are European values. I know this since I have dealt with European MPs and experts for many years.

However, I have the impression that there are two main values: the first one is the euro and the second is LGBT and 60 more letters that describe this notion linked with sexual identity, their presence, absence, or mix.

The EU is undergoing a crisis – Brexit. Britain has left the EU. The economic crisis is very bad. Probably, in Europe it is worse than elsewhere. The economy has dropped by up to 10 percent in many countries. The vaccine-related crisis has shown that Europe cannot counter the virus and adopt a common policy. These problems are emerging at all levels. It cannot draft a common economic policy, migration rules, and so on. Maybe, we are really paying too much attention to Europe? Maybe we can act without looking back at this “falling” structure?

Sergey Lavrov: But where are we paying too much attention to Europe? We have a very simple position that President of Russia Vladimir Putin has set forth many times: we do not feel hurt. As we know, hurt people get the short end of the stick, or as we say in Russia, hurt people are made to carry water, something we are short of in Crimea. We will always be willing to revive our relations, practically to raise them from the ashes, but to do this we must know what the EU is interested in. We will not knock on a locked door. They are well aware of our proposals, just as the Americans know our proposals on strategic stability, cyber security and many other things. We have said to all of them: “Our friends and colleagues, we are ready for this. We understand that you will have some reciprocal ideas but we have not yet heard them. As soon as you are ready, let’s sit down and discuss them, seeking a balance of interests.” Meanwhile, now we are being accused of neglecting policy on the EU, so I don’t think we are courting this alliance or exaggerating its importance. It determines its place in the world itself. We have already talked about this today.

As for European values, we have many ongoing debates. Some people need European price tags more than European values. They want to travel there for shopping, recreation, buy some property and return home. As I said, our common values lie in our history, the mutual influence of our cultures, literature, art and music. They are great.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: As for modern European culture and art, have they really…

Sergey Lavrov: I am referring to our historical roots.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: Because I think today’s Europe is pretty empty in terms of culture.

Sergey Lavrov: There are some funny songs; we can listen to them in the car sometimes.

Dimitri Simes: Speaking of relations with the United States, I would like to ask you a personal question because you lived and worked there for a long time when you were Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Of course, you have also been dealing with the US as the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation. I lived in the US for almost 50 years.

Sergey Lavrov: Why past tense?

Dimitri Simes: I am now in Moscow. When I look at the United States today, I have the impression that it is undergoing a cultural revolution. I think that if many people in the Joseph Biden administration or the Democrats in Congress are told this, they would not feel offended in any way. They will say that a cultural revolution is long overdue, that it is finally necessary to eradicate racism, give equal and not-so-equal prevailing opportunities to sexual orientation minorities because they were also discriminated against and to develop a true democracy that requires that all those who want to vote can vote. In practice, this means that millions of people will have an opportunity to vote without necessarily being US citizens at all. This is why the Democrats emphatically oppose a ban on voting on Sundays. As you know, there was never any voting in the US on Sundays. Sunday is called God’s day. The Democrats wanted Sunday elections so that buses could go to Afro-American churches and take people to the polling stations.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: Why take them by bus? They can vote by mail.

Dimitri Simes: Both options are available.

Sergey Lavrov: Why not put a ballot box right in a church?

Dimitri Simes: Exactly. Do you believe the United States is, in many respects, evolving into a different country and that this is not necessarily an irreversible process, though a momentous one? Also, would you agree that this process is not a purely American internal matter because it goes hand in hand with the emergence of a new revolutionary ideology that requires that American values spread around the world and that these American models should not be resisted as they are now in Russia and China? Can this lead to an existential conflict?

Sergey Lavrov: We will talk about this but, first, let me finish what I was saying about European culture. Here is, in my view, a telling illustration of the state of European culture today. If we talk about revolutions, including a cultural revolution, the Eurovision  contest speaks volumes.  What they are doing now to the Belarusians is repulsive. This is sheer censorship that goes like this: since we – nobody knows who exactly, some anonymous individuals – fancy that we heard some innuendoes in your song, we will not allow you to take part in the contest unless you have another song. But then the same fate befalls another Belarusian song. What does this have in common with art, culture or democracy?

As for a cultural revolution in the United States, I do feel that processes which deserve to be described like this are unfolding there. Everyone probably wants to eradicate racism and, as for us, we have never had any doubt regarding this. We were trailblazers behind the movement to secure equal rights for all people, regardless of the colour of their skin. However, we should beware that we do not slip into another extreme, the one we have observed during the Black Lives Matter events, and into aggression against white people, white US citizens.

The other day we marked an international day designated to increase awareness of this issue and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, speaking at a General Assembly meeting, said that the previous year had been a year of the most serious and numerous manifestations of white supremacy. I have asked to be given the full text of his speech, as I want to understand what specifically he had in mind. If this is about having a sense of a trend you talked about and the willingness to follow this trend, it is lamentable. This is still the United Nations Organisation and not a venue for promoting US concepts, some US trends.

As for why they need this, yes, they want to spread this to the rest of the world. They have a huge potential to achieve this goal. Hollywood has also started to change its rules, so that everything reflects the diversity of contemporary society, which is also a form of censorship, art control and the way of imposing some artificial restrictions and requirements on others. I have seen black actors perform in Shakespeare’s comedies. The only thing I do not know is when a white actor will play Othello. You see, this is nothing less than absurdity. Political correctness reduced to absurdity will lead to no good.

The other tool is social networks and internet platforms, as well as servers located in the United States. The US flatly refuses to discuss ways of either making internet governance more democratic or establishing common rules regulating social networks for the sake of avoiding the recurrence of the situation with TikTok and other social networks we encountered during the recent events in Russia, including the spread of abominable information, like personal abuse, pedophilia and many other things. We have already approached TikTok and other social networks about the need to establish elementary rules of respect and propriety but the Americans are unwilling to make these types of rules universal.

In Anchorage, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken lectured the Chinese on human rights, ethnic minorities and democracy in China. Indeed, Mr Blinken said they [in the US] also had to address certain issues in this field but they would do it on their own. During talks with the Americans – the same goes for the Europeans – as soon as you start offering to discuss ways of democratising international relations or the supremacy of law on an international scale, they invariably get away from the subject. They want to replace international law with their own rules, which have nothing in common with the supremacy of law globally, on a universal scale. I already talked about large-scale rallies in France in defence of traditional family values. It appears that to secure the rights of one group of people, the rights of another group have to be infringed upon. That is, promoting these values around the world is not an end in itself, but rather a tool for ensuring their dominance.

Dimitri Simes: Richard Nixon once told Nikita Khrushchev that there would be no true harmony or true partnership between the Soviet Union and America unless the Soviet Union stops spreading its ideology. And that was a big problem in the Brezhnev era, I must say, because they discussed a détente while at the same time supporting a continued international class struggle. As I see it, Leonid Brezhnev was doing it without much conviction. But now, things have turned the other way around. Now the collective West is eager to proliferate its ideology and values. And they seem to be doing so with far greater conviction and perseverance than the Soviet Union under Leonid Brezhnev ever tried. Does this pose a risk of collision?

Sergey Lavrov: Under Leonid Brezhnev, the Soviet Union saw no threat to its existence. One can argue whether that stance was far-sighted enough, but that is how it was. Today’s West senses a threat to its dominance. It is a fact. So all those wiggling moves, including the invention of some ‘rules’ – as in the rules-based international order, something the West has come up with to replace the UN Charter – they reflect precisely this tendency.

I agree that we have swapped positions, or rather the Soviet Union and the modern West have. I don’t think this will offend anyone since this is not a big secret. I spoke with Rex Tillerson when he was US Secretary of State. He is a thoughtful and experienced politician and diplomat. It was good to work with him. We disagreed on most things, but we always wanted to continue the dialogue to bring our positions just a little bit closer at least. When he first told me they were concerned about Russia’s interference in some elections, I said they had not proved anything to us yet, and all we heard was accusations. When they began to accuse us of interfering in their elections, we repeatedly proposed using the special channel we had for exchanging information about threats to information networks and organisations. They refused. We had repeatedly offered dialogue even before that, when Barack Obama was president, from October 2016 until Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. They always refused.

I pointed out to Tillerson that they had in fact directly stipulated in legislation that the US State Department should spend $20 million a year to support Russian civil society and promote democracy. That was not even a suspicion on our part as they did it openly (for example, the Ukraine Support Act). There was nothing to prove – they just announced that they would interfere. He told me that was totally different. I asked him why, and he said because we promoted authoritarianism, and they spread democracy. That was it.

Dimitri Simes: And he said it with sincere conviction, didn’t he?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: Mr Lavrov, naturally, this policy leads to a drastic polarisation. The polarisation of international relations is a dangerous thing. We remember the early 19th century, and the early 20th century. It always ended in wars. The Americans, losing their global dominance, will create (they have already announced this) a new ‘alliance of democracies.’ I mean create American and pro-American alliances, compelling everyone else to make their choice. This polarisation will increase. What will this mean for the world and for the alliances where Russia is a member? I mean BRICS (which I think they will try to split up), the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). How far can this go? How dangerous is it?

Sergey Lavrov: This is a deliberate policy and an extension of the agenda we are talking about – about the United States promoting democracy and spreading benefit. The Americans and Europe are very active (but the Americans are especially active) in Central Asia. They are trying to create their own formats such as C5+1. Russia is also part of a 5+1 format in Central Asia, in addition to the SCO, CIS, EAEU and CSTO – one that involves the foreign ministers of five Central Asian countries and your humble servant. That format is useful. True, the volume of economic ties that the US and the EU are now building with Central Asia is still incomparable with our economic interpenetration, but they are pursuing an unambiguous goal to weaken our ties with our allies and strategic partners in every possible way.

The numerous initiatives around the Afghan reconciliation and around the Indo-Pacific region envision Central Asia’s reorientation from its current vector to the South – to help rebuild Afghanistan and at the same time weaken its ties with the Russian Federation.

I could talk for a long time about the Indo-Pacific region and the Indo-Pacific concept. That multi-layered initiative is aimed at hindering China’s Belt and Road Initiative and limiting the Chinese influence in the region, creating constant irritants for that country. There have been some slips about creating an ‘Asian NATO.’ Although in the US interpretation the Indo-Pacific region is described as ‘free and open,’ the chances that positions will be worked out through an equal or open process there are slim. It is already obvious that it isn’t ‘open’. China has not been invited; rather, that country is declared a target for containment. We have not been invited either, which means the attitude to Russia is similar. I would say those are long-term trends. We are talking about this frankly with our neighbours and closest allies. I am confident that they understand all these threats. None of them even considers the possibility of anyone telling them who to talk or not talk to. It is their sovereign right to choose their partners.

The term ‘multi-vector’ has become semi-abusive, but we are not giving up the multi-vector approach. We are open to cooperation and friendship with everyone who is ready for relations based on equality, mutual respect, compromise and balance of interests. That our Western colleagues are clearly abusing this approach, especially in post-Soviet countries, is an obvious fact.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: Is it possible to avoid the actual military scenario in these circumstances? Isn’t it time to create an alliance of free countries given the role reversal that has taken place in the modern world? An alliance, perhaps, of genuine democracies that will oppose the ongoing all-out attack?

Sergey Lavrov: We will not get involved in this kind of political engineering. Russia is committed to the United Nations. When France and Germany put forward the effective multilateralism concept, we asked them what it meant. There was silence followed by joint articles written by the foreign ministers of France and Germany stating that the European Union is an example of effective multilateralism, and everyone needs to adapt to the European processes. Our question why the readily available and universal UN multilateral platform is not a good option remained unanswered. However, the answer is there, and we mentioned it more than once today. They are making up the rules that the international order is supposed to be based on.

Dimitri Simes: Mr Minister, we have taken up much of your time and we appreciate it. But we cannot let you go without asking you one more personal question. What is it like to be Russia’s Foreign Minister in this rapidly changing world?

You have worked in several completely different eras. When you were Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, it was a period of Russia’s “romantic infatuation” with the United States, though perhaps not quite on the terms that were beneficial for Russia. In the early 21st century, Russia was in search of partnerships. Well, then we got what we are witnessing now. How do you, a person who, in many ways, is the architect of this era, a witness and a participant of this process, find your work in this very complex role?

Sergey Lavrov: To put it short, I never get bored. That is if we are talking about the different eras in my career. We all lived in these eras, and we have seen these transitions. You asked me earlier whether the United States has changed. It has. A lot.

Dimitri Simes: Have you changed?

Sergey Lavrov: Probably. It’s not for me to say. A person perceives the environment as a constantly evolving process. People grow up, get smarter or dumber, but they have no way of seeing it.

Dimitri Simes: Do you think we have all become disappointed in many ways, but we have grown, too, as a result of these experiences, and, of course, in the first place, a person holding such positions as yours?

Sergey Lavrov: This is true, of course. How can this not influence the formation of a person? The personality never stops to evolve. It is something that lasts until the end of our lives. Those revolutionary developments had a strong influence on me. I believe the 9/11 attacks were the turning point in the American life. I was in Manhattan, in New York, at the time, and I felt that odour. I was having a hard time trying to make a phone call, because the phones went dead. Since then, New York has become a different city. This free city, living its own life around the clock and enjoying it, became wary and started looking over its shoulder to see if there was someone around who could hurt it.

This suspicion then spread deeply into American society. There were probably serious reasons for that. I have to commend the US intelligence services, because since then, apart from the Boston Marathon, which we had warned them about, there have been no other terrorist attacks. However, wariness and aloofness can still be felt. Perhaps, there are people who want to take advantage of this in order to do things that you just mentioned. If 11 million Americans become eligible to vote, welcome to the one-party system, Back in the USSR.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: Mr Lavrov, thank you very much for the interview. Now that we are within the historic walls of the Foreign Ministry’s Mansion on Spiridonovka, a place where history and great diplomacy were made, including the diplomacy of the great powers, I would like to wish us all the return of diplomacy. If it comes back, as President Vladimir Putin is conveying to President Joe Biden, in the form of a live-stream dialogue, then The Great Game will be at your service and at the service of the two presidents.

Sergey Lavrov: Thank you. President Biden has already said that diplomacy has returned to US foreign policy. Your dream has come true.

source: https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/4662534

CHAOS IN UKRAINE IS MAKING AN EPIC COMEBACK

South Front

You can read this article in German. LINK

In Ukraine, the situation is slowly, but surely, falling into even a deeper abyss, full of violence and corruption – in the name of democracy for sure.

Joe Biden entered the White House, a true Ukrainian friend, who is prepared to support Kiev to the ends of the Earth. Especially after the investigations into him and his son Hunter Biden over stealing billions faded into obscurity.

As such, the internal situation in Ukraine is worrisome for even the most disillusion observer.

It all started with the shutting down of opposition TV channels and immediately moved to attacks on the largest and most popular opposition party – “Opposition Platform – For Life!”.Opposition leaders were then sanctioned, for being “Putin agents”, and many of its members were openly censored and persecuted. Then it came down to censoring and persecuted another well-known opposition figure – Anatoly Shariy, and his party.

Websites were pulled down, accounts were banned, cases were opened against those against President Volodymyr Zelensky and his “Servant of the People” party.

Crumbling power is being consolidated by the small clique of Nazi apologists and foreign puppets, which in the current format appears to be represented by President-Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky. Any resistance is being snuffed out. This is how democracy works in Ukraine, and it has the full backing of the bastion of Democracy – Washington.

As a significant additional concern comes the situation in Eastern Ukraine.

The ceasefire is all but forfeit, provocations are daily. Soldiers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are frequently reported as dead or wounded, and it is all blamed on the “pro-Russian separatists” in the face of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.

At the same time, Kiev forces regularly shell both military positions, as well as civilian locations, mostly indiscriminately. According to opposition sources, the Ukrainian Armed Forces also use civilians to shield itself, while they attack.

Every single chance is being used to cause a provocation that could potentially escalate. The leadership of self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk have warned Kiev against worsening the situation, as heavy clashes were reported more than once.

The largest incident in the recent weeks took place on February 25th, near Gorlovka, and since then clashes have been frequently happening across the entire contact line.

Critical mass is nearing, and the impetus was expressed in Joe Biden’s words that the EU needs to “stand for Ukrainian sovereignty” and that the US was prepared to take the lead. G_3(A)

The lead isn’t being taken, but Kiev’s impunity has begun. “Russian aggression” is back on the agenda and the fight against is must be renewed.

This is justification for many harsh actions, that border atrocities, both in Eastern Ukraine and, internally for Ukraine.

With Washington’s blessing, all opposition being steadily removed, a “pure democracy” is coming to Ukraine. There are many ticking time bombs in Ukraine, and when one explodes, the chain reaction promises to throw everything into chaos

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