Russia’s Middle East Strategy: “Balance” vs. “Betrayal”?

Global Research, September 24, 2019

There’s an intense debate raging within the Alternative and Independent media over whether Russia’s contemporary Mideast strategy amounts to “balancing” or “betraying” the Resistance given the Eurasian Great Power’s extremely close military cooperation with “Israel” in Syria.

The Freakish Fusion Of Anti-Zionism and Russophilia

There’s perhaps no political entity more reviled in the Independent Media Community — which refers to the collection of publicly financed non-Western media outlets, independent/self-funded ones, and their community of followers who all reject the Mainstream Media — than “Israel” owing to the strong anti-Zionist sentiment that the vast majority of its members embrace.

Many of them are well-intended folks who are outraged by the injustices that the self-professed “Jewish State” carries out against the occupied Palestinians with impunity, to say nothing of “Israel’s” destabilizing role in the Mideast at large. Their view is that “Israel” is one of the main forces of evil in the world, which by default makes it the enemy of all responsible international actors and their supporters. About the latter, the Alt-Media Community lionizes Russian President Putin as the real leader of the free world because they truly believe that his efforts at actively resisting American Hybrid War aggression in Georgia, Crimea, and Syria make him a modern-day hero who has profoundly altered the course of history for the better.

It’s therefore impossible for them to ever believe that the Russian leader would willingly cooperate with “Israel” on anything whatsoever unless he was secretly playing “5D chess” with the intent to eventually undermine it, but this popular dogma of the Alt-Media is actually nothing more than the freakish fusion of its members’ equally passionate anti-Zionism and Russophilia into a false projection of their own wishful thinking expectations onto Russian foreign policy.

As “politically unpalatable” as it is to the many people who practically worship President Putin as the ultimate force for good in the world, he actually has nothing against “Israel” and is on record praising it far and beyond whatever one might argue that he “has to say” for “diplomatic reasons” as proven by the author’s collection of quotes from the official Kremlin website that was published in May 2018. Not only that, but it’s an uncontested fact as revealed by the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman last September and reported by RT that Russia’s military coordination with “Israel” in Syria is real.

“Putinyahu’s Rusrael”

The unofficial alliance between the two (elaborated on by the author in his piece half a year ago provocatively titled “Putinyahu’s Rusrael“) goes further than “passively facilitating” “Israel’s” hundreds of strikes against the IRGC and Hezbollah in the Arab Republic since the onset of Russia’s 2015 anti-terrorist intervention there to include carving out an anti-Iranian buffer zone 140 kilometers beyond the occupied Golan Heights in southern Syria at Tel Aviv’s request and even dispatching Special Forces to dig up “IDF” remains in the middle of an SAA-ISIS firefight.

These details aren’t the figments of an “overactive imagination” but were officially confirmed by the Russian Defense Ministry in RT’s aforementioned hyperlinked report. As if that wasn’t enough proof of the closeness of Russian-“Israeli” relations, President Putin spoke last week at the “Keren Heyesod Foundation’s” annual conference that was hosted this year in Moscow and gave what might perhaps be one of the most important speeches of his career that’s a must-read for anyone remotely interested in the truth about their ties.

According to the transcript published by the official Kremlin website (with a video link to the Russian original here for those who doubt that he truly said what’s attributed to him), he “said with pride that probably there has never been such a high level of relations between Russia and Israel”, confidently asserting that he regards “Israel” as a “Russian-speaking country”, and even boldly saying that the two are “a true common family”, the latter description of which he immediately proceeded to say was said “without exaggeration”. It’s important to point out that the “Keren Heyesod Foundation” describes itself as the “fundraising arm of the Zionist movement” and is an extremely influential organization lobbying on behalf of that ideology’s interests all across the world, so President Putin’s words of about a familial bond between Russia and “Israel” and full endorsement of the organization’s activities were spoken to a group that embodies everything that the Alt-Media Community’s most zealous anti-Zionists oppose.

Debunking The “Betrayal” Narrative

The less mature of the community’s members insist that President Putin is secretly an anti-Zionist just like they are because they can’t overcome the cognitive dissonance that’s triggered by the factual evidence of his extremely close ties with “Israel” and now recently even the global Zionist movement given the freakish fusion of their anti-Zionist views and “hero worship” of the Russian leader as being the ultimate force of good in the world opposed to what they consider to be its ultimate evil, though the more mature among them are naturally wondering what’s driving his strategic calculations.

There are two prevailing schools of thought explaining this, namely that it either amounts to “balancing” or “betrayal”, the first-mentioned of which refers to what the author earlier wrote about Russia’s 21st-century grand strategy to become the supreme “balancing” force in Afro-Eurasia while the second simply claims that he stabbed Syria and the rest of the Resistance in the back by selling out to their enemies.

It’s that version of events that will be tackled first and debunked before explaining why President Putin is indeed “balancing”, whether the most opinionated of his supporters approve of it or not. Contrary to what many in the Alt-Media Community wishfully thought, Russia isn’t a part of the Resistance, though it’s veritably assisted them with fighting terrorism in Syria and that’s probably where the misconception comes from. Therefore, Russia can’t “betray” the Resistance since it was never allied with it in a traditional sense to begin with beyond the short-term convergence of anti-terrorist interests that they currently share. It was wrongly thought by many that this automatically translated into anti-Zionism because of how “Israel” unsuccessfully tried to apply the Yinon Plan to Syria through these means but was stopped by Russia’s intervention, but that narrative doesn’t account for the two parties reaching their military cooperation agreement a little over a week prior to the onset of that anti-terrorist campaign during Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow on 21 September, 2015.

Quid Pro Quo

Bearing in mind that Russia unofficially allied with “Israel” before officially beginning its intervention in Syria, it can be said that those two have been on the same side since the mission formally started despite their public differences over the future of the democratically elected and legitimate government of President Assad. That doesn’t, however, mean that Russia intervened in Syria because of “Israel” (though the outcome was nevertheless that Iran’s role in filling the growing security void there was countered by Russia and is progressively being replaced by it in a manner that does indeed work out to “Israel’s” modified regional benefit), but that it saw the opportunity to unprecedentedly expand their nascent partnership by taking advantage of Moscow’s pressing security interests in saving the Arab Republic from ISIS and eliminating nationals from the former Soviet Union who were fighting there in support of the terrorists before returning to their home countries to replicate the “caliphate” model that they spent years training to create.

Meanwhile, Russia keenly understood that “Israel’s” pressing security interests rested in pushing back Iran’s strategic advance towards the occupied Golan Heights and preventing the Islamic Republic and its Hezbollah allies from entering into a position to launch rocket attacks against it as part of a forthcoming liberation offensive there. Accordingly, that’s why Moscow entered into the Machiavellian pact with Tel Aviv to allow its new unofficial allies the freedom to bomb their adversaries whenever they’d like as long as they notified Moscow ahead of time to prevent midair collisions and collateral damage despite Russian troops cooperating with those same targets on the ground in fighting terrorism. With their newfound and deeply trust-based military relations, Russia and “Israel” were able to take their comprehensive ties to an altogether higher level that’s approaching the point where the latter might soon enter into a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Union according to President Putin when he was speaking to the “Keren Heyesod Foundation”.

Midwifing Multipolarity In the Mideast

It’s not just that President Putin is a philo-Semite positively inclined towards “Israel” as a result of his lifelong experiences growing up with Russian Jews (some of whom still remain his very close friends), but that this judo master understands that his country can only succeed with its ambitions to “balance” the Mideast if it’s on excellent terms with the self-professed “Jewish State”. This is even more so the case if Russia can succeed in one day replacing America’s role as “Israel’s” protector like it’s evidently trying to do after having carved out the 140-kilometer-deep anti-Iranian buffer zone last summer in a stunning geopolitical feat that not even Washington under its extremely pro-“Israeli” President was capable of pulling off. The way that Russia sees it, certain “sacrifices” must be made in and by Syria so as to accelerate the emergence of the Multipolar World Order and Moscow’s supreme “balancing” role in maintaining it, which the Eurasian Great Power believes serves grander, longer-term, and more “collective” interests than returning to the USSR’s anti-Zionist policy.

It shouldn’t ever be forgotten that Russia’s military mandate in Syria is strictly to fight terrorism and not defend the state’s internationally recognized borders, which is the “loophole” “justifying” the deal that it struck with “Israel” and debunking the claims that it “betrayed” Damascus as a result. Speaking of which, Lavrov put Russia’s relationship with Syria’s leader into perspective when remarking in 2016 that “Assad is not our ally, by the way. Yes, we support him in the fight against terrorism and in preserving the Syrian state. But he is not an ally like Turkey is the ally of the United States.” What was probably meant by that provocative clarification is that Russia does not have a conventional mutual defense agreement with Syria and therefore isn’t responsible for defending it from “Israeli” or even Turkish attacks, with Russia’s top diplomat even saying as recently as last month that Ankara’s envisaged buffer zone in northern Syria is “absolutely legal” despite Damascus condemning it as “a flagrant violation of international law, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.”

Russia’s Senior Foreign Policy Planner Schools The Fools

Earlier in the summer, Senior Advisor of the Foreign Policy Planning Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Maria Khodynskaya-Golenischeva published an article in Russia’s top think tank, the Valdai Club, about “How Bloc-Free Mentality Helps Russia Be a Welcome Foreign Actor in the Middle East” and in which she criticized those who claim without any evidence whatsoever that her country is allied with Iran against the latter’s regional enemies. The words of this high-ranking official deserve to be republished in full so as to preemptively avoid any unfounded allegations from the Alt-Media Community that they’re being misportrayed for the sake of “pushing an agenda”, so without further ado, here’s what she said that adds further credence to the argument being made in this analysis:

“Incidentally, the emphasis of some colleagues (primarily from the West) on some ‘other side of the medal’ as regards the Russia-Iran cooperation on Syria (in the bilateral format and the Astana venue) makes no sense. They are trying to present this cooperation as some Russia-Shia axis that is alienating the Arab world from Moscow, primarily the countries of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf and the Sunni opposition in Syria.

However, this view is contrary to hard facts. Russia has become the only country involved in the Syrian file to preserve contacts with all players in Syria without exception: the Syrian Government, political and armed opposition’s organizations (except those classified as terrorist) and the states involved in the Syrian settlement. There are examples of joint action by Russia and the armed Sunni opposition “on the ground”, for instance, the participation of the Shabab Al Sunnah in the operation to free the valley of the Yarmouk River from ISIS, in which the Russian Aerospace Forces were involved.

The same is true of Russia-Israel interaction, which has not been marred by Moscow-Tehran cooperation. In the framework of Syrian settlement, Russia and Israel not only discussed “deconflicting” initiatives but also cooperated “on the ground”. Importantly, it was Russia that ensured the withdrawal of the pro-Iran forces from the Golan Heights and the Russian military police ensures security in this area, thereby creating the conditions for the mission of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF)…Russia is trying to avoid alliances with these or other groups of players in order to ensure freedom of action for itself, in part, in developing bilateral relations with each of these states.”

Iran Ignores Russia’s Unofficial Alliance With “Israel”

Just because Russia isn’t allied with Iran doesn’t mean that it’s allied against it in general despite its unofficial alliance with “Israel” to that effect in Syria. In fact, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif told his Russian counterpart earlier this month that “Relations between Russia and Iran are at the highest level over the past decades” and that “Cooperation between Russia and Iran has a strategic character and is especially successful in the energy and transport sectors, and in the area of maintaining peace and security”, which is certainly true. This somewhat surprising pronouncement made in spite of Russia’s “passive facilitation” of literally hundreds of “Israeli” strikes against the IRGC and their Hezbollah allies in Syria, as well as the carving out of the 140-kilometer-deep anti-Iranian buffer zone beyond the occupied Golan Heights is due to Iran separating its interactions with Russia in the wider region from their bilateral ties and apparently accepting the existence of “indirect kinetic competition” between them in Syria.

Whether willingly or compelled out of an increasingly desperate strategic situation motivated by the carrot of some form of future sanctions relief, Iran recognizes the reality that Russia is unofficially allied with “Israel” in Syria but doesn’t allow that “politically inconvenient” fact in a third party state to interfere with their bilateral ties. After all, one of the reasons why Russia partnered with “Israel” in the first place is because Iranian influence was on the regional rise following the interlinked but delayed disasters of the US’ 2003 War on Iraq and the 2011 theater-wide Color Revolution popularly known as the “Arab Spring”, but Moscow’s purely interests-driven “balancing” act could conceivably shift against Tel Aviv one day if it comes to be regarded as too powerful once again sometime in the future. One way that “Israel” is seeking to preemptively offset that scenario, however, is to encourage Russia to fill the security voids left in the region following the US’ so-called “Pivot to Asia” (or rather, to the “Indo-Pacific”) to “contain” China and Iran’s recent setbacks in Syria.

Concluding Thoughts

Russian foreign policy isn’t formulated based on morals, ethics, or principles, but on cold, hard interests in full alignment with the Neo-Realist paradigm of International Relations despite sometimes being disguised by Neo-Liberal rhetoric touching upon the three aforementioned themes when selling a certain decision to the masses or criticizing a rival’s. Never, however, has contemporary Russian foreign policy — and especially under President Putin — ever even remotely hinted at being allied with the Resistance against “Israel”, let alone out of shared anti-Zionist sympathies. To the contrary, the practice of Russian foreign policy as evidenced by Moscow’s unofficial alliance with Tel Aviv in allowing the latter to bomb the IRGC and their Hezbollah allies literally hundreds of times with impunity and then carving out a 140-kilometer-deep anti-Iranian buffer zone to protect the self-professed “Jewish State” at its request proves that it not only doesn’t share the Resistance’s commitment to destroying “Israel”, but that it’s actually committed to protecting their enemy instead.

All of this is common knowledge to any objective observer, but unfortunately it seems to be the case that most of the Alt-Media Community is full of overly enthusiastic wishful thinkers who freakishly fused their deeply held anti-Zionist and Russophilic beliefs together and then projected that ideological monstrosity onto President Putin in imagining him to be the “knight in shining armor on a white horse” who’s destined to destroy what they regard as the global evil of “Israel” just like how St. George is depicted slaying the dragon on the Russian coat of arms. It’s regrettable that so many people bought into this false narrative that it’s practically become dogmatic at this point and enforced by a wide array of gatekeepers committed to keeping this lie alive, but that’s precisely why the author felt it necessary to carry out a comprehensive analysis of Russia’s Mideast strategy at this time. Everyone’s entitled to their own views about whether Moscow is “balancing” or “betraying” the Resistance, but their conclusions should be based on facts and not on fake news.

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Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Russia’s Vision for the Emerging Multipolar World Order. Lavrov

Global Research, September 23, 2019

The Russian Foreign Minister’s latest article provides the most up-to-date information on his country’s interpretation of International Relations straight from its top diplomat himself, which includes numerous critiques of the fading US-led unipolar world order and several envisioned goals that Moscow hopes to advance in the emerging multipolar one that’s replacing it.

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Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov’s latest article “World at a Crossroads and a System of International Relations for the Future” recently published in the “Russia in Global Affairs” magazine is a must-read for experts and observers alike who want to obtain the most up-to-date information on his country’s interpretation of International Relations straight from its top diplomat himself.

Although lengthy, it’s incredibly informative and readers should find his numerous critiques of the fading US-led order to be very interesting. He began his piece by reminding everyone about the rising threat of historical revisionism in the West that aims to delegitimize the Soviet Union’s sacrifices during World War II and its ultimate victory of fascism, the latter of which directly led to the creation of the UN whose yearly General Assembly opens up this week and on which occasion he likely timed the publication of his article.

Lavrov then proceeded to speak about the failure of the fading US-led unipolar world order and what he described as the “irreversible” trend towards a more “just and inclusive system” because of the international community’s rejection of the “arrogant neocolonial policies that are employed all over again to empower certain countries to impose their will on others.” Specifically, he condemned the West’s “rhetoric on liberalism, democracy and human rights (that) goes hand in hand with the policies of inequality, injustice, selfishness and a belief in [its] own exceptionalism” before dismantling the myths built around its hypocritical worldview of liberalism, which he rightly remarked is responsible for the suffering of the Iraqis, Libyans, Syrians, and many others. The so-called “rules-based order” that the West aggressively imposed on them is based on “rules” that “are being invented and selectively combined depending on the fleeting needs of the people behind [them].”

This includes “the controversial concept of ‘countering violent extremism’, which lays the blame for the dissemination of radical ideologies and expansion of the social base of terrorism on political regimes that the West has proclaimed undemocratic, illiberal or authoritarian” he said, which amounts to “the introduction of such new concepts is a dangerous phenomenon of revisionism, which rejects the principles of international law embodied in the UN Charter and paves the way back to the times of confrontation and antagonism.” The end result, according to Lavrov, is that “the West is openly discussing a new divide between ‘the rules-based liberal order’ and ‘authoritarian powers’” that sets the stage for a New Cold War as well as justifying the US’ unilateral abrogation of strategic stability pacts that dangerously undermine the existing balance between it and Russia. Unsurprisingly, he also said that the US wants to “contain” Russia and China and turn them against each other.

It’s against this backdrop that Lavrov believes it to be so “absurd” that the US accuses Russia of being the “revisionist force” in International Relations when all the evidence points to Washington being the one actively undermining the post-World War II system. He was quick to remark, however, that Russia was “among the first to draw attention to the transformation of the global political and economic systems that cannot remain static due to the objective march of history” through the “concept of multipolarity” as articulated “by the outstanding Russian statesman Evgeny Primakov“.

With this broad vision in mind, Lavrov proposed several ways forward for the world, beginning with every country recognizing that “the emergence of a polycentric world architecture is an irreversible process” but not one that “inevitably leads to more chaos and confrontation” so long as the principles of the UN Charter are protected and a “balance of interests” is practiced.

Ever the pragmatist, Lavrov pivotally pointed out that “it is also necessary to cautiously though gradually adjust it to the realities of the current geopolitical landscape” through expanding the UN Security Council in order to “take into account interests of the Asian, the African and the Latin American nations” in parallel with “refining the world trade system, with special attention paid to harmonizing the integration projects in various regions.” To assist with this global systemic transition, he recommended “using to the fullest the potential” of the G20, BRICS, and the SCO, all three of which could also work towards “the unhindered formation of the Greater Eurasia Partnership” combining the Eurasian Economic Union, the SCO, ASEAN, and even the EU “to create a solid foundation of security and stability throughout the vast region from Lisbon to Jakarta” in a truly inclusive Eurasianist twist to the previous Euro-centric integrational model of a “Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok”.

Altogether, Lavrov’s latest article brilliantly elaborates on Russia’s concerns with the West’s aggressive foreign policy since the end of the Old Cold War but also refreshingly offers an alternative future vision of International Relations instead of just sticking to polemical criticisms. The blueprint that Russia’s top diplomat laid out of returning to the principles of the UN Charter but cautiously adapting them to the changing conditions of the emerging Multipolar World Order is long overdue and functions as the doctrine for advancing Moscow’s envisaged end game of a Greater Eurasia Partnership that could counteract the centrifugal forces threatening to tear the world apart during this sensitive transitional phase. It’s in pursuit of this ultimate win-win outcome that Lavrov concluded his article with some words of wisdom from his famed Soviet-era predecessor Andrey Gromyko when he wrote that it’s “better to have ten years of negotiations than one day of war”.

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This article was originally published on OneWorld.

Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Has Russia “Stopped Israel” from Bombing Syria? Has Moscow Authorized Syria to Use the S-300 Air Defense System

Global Research, September 23, 2019

The Alt-Media Community has been in a state of ecstasy over reports that Russia has supposedly stopped several “Israeli” strikes in Syria and also finally given the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) the authority to use the S-300s.

Public opinion has been misled. Where is the evidence? 

The first fake news report about this topic came from The Independent’s Arabic editorial and claimed that an unnamed Russian source informed them that not only had Russia stopped several “Israeli” strikes in Syria, but that it even threatened to down the self-professed “Jewish State’s” warplanes if they refused to call off their attacks.

This political fantasy should have been rejected outright by anyone with even passing knowledge of the situation in Syria since the onset of Russia’s anti-terrorist intervention there after Moscow reached a military agreement with Tel Aviv to allow the latter to continue carrying out attacks against the IRGC and Hezbollah. This isn’t “fake news” either like the most zealous anti-Zionists in the Alt-Media Community might claim, but was officially confirmed by the spokesman of the Russian Ministry of Defense in September 2018 after the mid-air spy plane tragedy.

RT reported that he also revealed that Russia carved out a 140-kilometer-deep anti-Iranian buffer zone beyond the occupied Golan Heights at “Israel’s” behest, as well as sent Special Forces into the middle of a SAA-ISIS firefight in order to dig up “IDF” remains. Nevertheless, “true believers” of The Independent’s fake news narrative claim that it must be credible if even the “Jerusalem Post” republished it.

Disregarding the ridiculousness of an anonymous Russian military source leaking such explosive information to a Western Mainstream Media outlet instead of to their own national media, it should be pointed out that the “Jerusalem Post” is a liberal-leaning publication that has an interest in discrediting Netanyahu, especially after his latest successful trip to Russia and ahead of the elections that were held a few days after they reported on that fake news. The Alt-Media Community would ordinarily never believe any anonymous but negative report pushed by the “Jerusalem Post” about Syria, yet it unquestionably believed this “positive” one.

the unspoken truth is that Russia is actually “Israel’s” unofficial ally. President Putin has lavished extensive praise on the self-professed “Jewish State” numerous times as verified by the official Kremlin website, and he even took time out of his extraordinarily busy schedule to speak at the annual conference of the “Keren Heyesod Foundation” last week where he endorsed the activities of the group that describes itself as the “fundraising arm of the Zionist movement“.

President Putin’s speech is a must-read for anyone remotely interested in the truth nature of Russian-“Israeli” ties since it includes such crucial takeaways as the Russian leader “say(ing) with pride that probably there has never been such a high level of relations between Russia and Israel”, confidently asserting that he regards “Israel” as a “Russian-speaking country”, and even boldly saying that the two are “a true common family”, the latter description of which he immediately proceeded to say was said “without exaggeration”. Quite clearly, it’s nothing short of delusional to think that Russia is against “Israel” and that Putin is secretly an anti-Zionist.

With this in mind, the second fake news report on this topic can also be seen as laughable just like the first, as can the Alt-Media Community’s acceptance of both. Avia.pro, an obscure Russian-language website that looks like it’s from the mid-2000s and only has slightly more than 2,000 members in its VKontakte group (the top Russian social media platform) which interestingly hasn’t been updated since 2015, published a report just days after The Independent’s alleging that Russia finally gave the SAA the authority to use the S-300s to down “Israeli” jets. This, too, was also picked up by the “Jerusalem Post”, which described the site as “Russian media”.

That’s not true at all though, nor are the report’s claims by yet another anonymous Russian military source, since Avia.pro cannot be reasonably regarded as “Russian media” in the sense of how the term was used. Speaking of actual Russian media, however, none of the leading outlets reported on these two fake news reports to the author’s best knowledge. Once again, the “Jerusalem Post” evidently thought it worthy to republish unverified claims by an unnamed source in order to discredit Netanyahu, a goal that also aligns with that of many members of the Alt-Media Community who predictably fell for this hoax for that same reason.

The lesson to be learned from this latest experience is that politically minded individuals — and especially those who have become disillusioned with Mainstream Media and therefore joined the Alt-Media Community instead — have a tendency to believe whatever conforms to their wishful thinking expectations even if it’s unverified and shared by “enemy media” like the “Jerusalem Post”. When the clickbait narrative being peddled so starkly contradicts the facts like in the two examined cases, however, it speaks to a larger underlying psychological issue that goes far beyond mere cognitive dissonance and might even require professional assistance to resolve.

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Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Russia Will Assist Iran In Circumventing Illegitimate U.S. Banking Sanctions

Russia Will Cooperate With Iran in Banking in Defiance of US ‘Highest Ever’ Sanctions

By Sputnik

September 20, 2019 “Information Clearing House” –  The Russian Foreign Ministry has condemned the latest batch of sanctions introduced against Iranian institutions, calling them “illegitimate”.

“This will not affect our approaches to Iran. As we planned, we will continue to cooperate with Iran in the banking sector. This will have no effect [on Russia’s position],” Russian Foreign Ministry Second Asian Department Director Zamir Kabulov said.

The announcement comes as President Trump stated that the United States is introducing sanctions on Iran.

Speaking to reporters at the White House on Friday, Trump said that the new sanctions represent the “highest sanctions ever imposed on a country”. He also added that the latest sanctions against Iran go “right to the top”.”We have just sanctioned the Iranian national bank,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, later clarifying that he was referring to the Iranian central bank.

Later, the president said that he expected the sanctions to work on Iran. Trump added that the military option could also work, but he hoped that Washington will never have to resort to it.

Additionally, United States Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said that the National Development Fund is also falling under the sanctions.

“Today, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took action against the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), the National Development Fund of Iran (NDF) and Etemad Tejarate Pars Co. under its counterterrorism authority, Executive Order (E.O.) 13224,” the US Department of the Treasury revealed.

The US slapped sanctions against the Iranian economy’s energy, banking, and shipping sectors following its withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – a 2015 accord that lifted international sanctions from the Islamic Republic in exchange for the latter limiting its nuclear programme. Washington also threatened to impose sanctions against any entity dealing with Iran.

Relations between Washington and Tehran recently further soured after the US accused Iran of being involved in a drone attack against Saudi Aramco’s oil refineries last week.

Iran denies the allegation; moreover, Yemen’s Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for the attack.

This article was originally published by “Sputnik“- 

 

==See Also==

Russia & Iran to switch to SWIFT-free banking system

Banks in Iran, Russia Connected via Non-SWIFT Financial Messaging Service

 

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/52292.htm

 

Will the US Use Greece to Block Russia in the Black Sea?

Global Research, September 18, 2019

The Trump administration last week made its first major step to create a Greek-centric NATO corridor following United States Ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, announcement that his country intends to acquire the strategic port of Alexandroupoli. If Athens is to accept such a proposal, the country would be contributing to a geopolitical escalation. The US is attempting to push Greece, a traditional rival to Turkey, closer to them at a time when Ankara continues to defy NATO by strengthening its relations with Russia.

The port of Alexandroupoli is of particular importance to US policy in not only the Balkans, but especially to Russia. It is also an important energy route as the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) pipeline and the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) is in the region. The port is also important for transportation as it is strategically located close to the Turkish-controlled Dardanelles that connects the Aegean/Mediterranean Seas with the Black Sea, and therefore Russia.

With the acquisition of this port, NATO and US forces may be in the Balkans in only a few hours and can easily stop Russian trade with the world via the Black Sea by blockading the Dardanelles. With Turkey increasingly defying NATO – in which Greece is also a member state of – by improving relations with Russia and buying the S-400, the US can make Greece more aligned with it under the guise of ensuring Greece’s security.

Turkey violates Greece’s maritime and air space on a daily basis, Erdogan makes continued threats to invade the rest of Cyprus. Only weeks ago he made a speech in front of a map that shows Greece’s eastern Mediterranean islands occupied by Turkey, and days ago Turkey removed the inhabited Greek island of Kastellorizo from online maps to claim sovereignty over oil and gas reserves, while continuing threats to flood Greece again with illegal immigrants, among others. Greece undoubtably has an extremely aggressive neighbour.

With Turkey illegally occupying large areas of northern Syria and Cyprus, and illegally intervening in Iraq, Greece must deal with an extremely provocative and expansionist-driven neighbour. With Russia traditionally remaining silent on Turkish provocations towards Greece, it is unlikely that Moscow will stop doing so now that relations are flourishing between the two Black Sea neighbours.

The US are trying to capitalize on Erdogan’s aggression towards Greece by attempting to pivot Athens towards them. If the Greek leadership decide to accept the US offer, it will be a powerful blow towards Turkish expansionism in the Aegean and will create a major security threat for Russia. As Greece is a rival of Turkey, the fact it prioritized creating a powerful navy and air force that could block the Dardanelles if needed, might embolden Greece to take direct actions against Turkey’s continued aggressions and threats.

Despite Greece being an economically ruined country today with a demographic crisis, it still maintains high military standards. This is reflected with Greece having the best pilots in NATO, in which Turkey is also a member of. In maritime matters, Greece has a far superior navy and experience in the Aegean. The Greek Navy has a long tradition and has never been defeated in combat. For this reason, Greece’s navy is one of the most important world naval powers today, at a military and commercial level. Although Turkey’s army makes it one of the largest in the world, it is rendered useless in any war with Greece. Although Greece has a significant maritime border with Turkey, the land border is only 200km long, making it easy to fortify.

With security against Turkey’s continued aggression being a major priority for Greece, the US ambassador is trying to woo the country into allowing the privatization of the port of Alexandroupoli. He stated: “Alexandroupoli is a crucial link to European energy security, regional stability, and economic growth, so it makes sense that the United States and Greece have chosen here to work together to advance our shared security and economic interests.”

With his emphasis on security, it will likely spark huge debates in Athens as it needs security assurances but will also not want to provoke Russia, a country that Greeks see with fraternity when remembering their shared Christian Orthodox faith and Russia’s military and diplomatic role in securing Greece’s independence from the Ottoman Empire. Although Russia is unlikely to back one side or another, a US-controlled port in Alexandroupoli can significantly weaken Russia’s Black Sea capabilities.

If comments by the National Defense Minister, Nikos Panagiotopoulos, of the newly elected neoliberal government is anything to go by, it can be expected that Athens will allow Alexandroupoli to become a US-controlled port. He said that the “use of the port by the US Armed Forces” will be allowed “when there is [certainly] a need” for it, especially as Greece’s current “strategic defense relationship with the US and cooperation” are strengthened, “thereby contributing to regional stability and security.” In direct reference to Turkey, he also said “Greece is ready at any time and moment to defend and safeguard in full its sovereign rights.”

In order to avoid a US naval base on the other side of the Dardanelles, Russia should take a position it has proven to be capable of, and something the US lacks experience in- peacebuilding. If Russia can act as a mediator between Greek and Turkey, it might be enough to avoid Athens pivoting towards the US so that it can ensure its security. Russia has proven in Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere that it is willing to serve as a mediator in international affairs. With Moscow currently having amicable relations with Ankara, Russia being viewed positively by the majority of Greeks, being a regional country to both Greece and Turkey, and having its owned vested interests in the region, Russia is in a unique position to be able to mediate mutually to find a lasting peace between Greece and Turkey, and to prevent the US acquiring the port of Alexandroupoli.

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Paul Antonopoulos is director of the Multipolarity research centre.

Featured image is from InfoBrics

U.S. and Russia Battle It Out over this Huge Iraqi Gas Field

Global Research, September 18, 2019
OilPrice.com 14 September 2019

With the U.S, Russia, and China all jostling for position in Iraq’s oil and gas industry both north and south, Iraq’s oil ministry last week reiterated its desire to have one or more foreign partners in the Mansuriya gas field. Situated in Diyala province, close to the Iran border, Mansuriya is estimated to hold around 4.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, with plateau production projected at about 325 million standard cubic feet per day.

For the U.S., encouraging Iraq to optimise its gas flows so that it reduces its dependency for power from Iran is the key consideration. For Russia, Rosneft essentially bought control of the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan in northern Iraq in November 2017, so power in southern Iraq figuratively will complete the set.

Securing oil and gas contracts across all of Iraq will allow Russia to establish an unassailable political sway across the entire Shia crescent of power in the Middle East, stretching from Syria through Lebanon (by dint of Iran), Jordan, Iraq (also helped by Iran), Iran itself, and Yemen (via Iran). From this base, it can effectively challenge the U.S.’s vital oil, gas, and political ally in the region – Saudi Arabia. China, in the meantime, is operating to its own agenda in South Pars Phase 11 and its West Karoun holdings.

Iraq, like Turkey, is still – nominally at least – not committing to either the Russia or the U.S., preferring to play each off against the other for whatever they can get, and the same applies in microcosm to the field of Mansuriya. Turkey itself was a key player in this gas field through its national oil company Turkiye Petrolleri Anonim Ortakligi (TPAO) until the middle of last year – holding a 37.5 per cent stake – along with the Oil Exploration Company (25 per cent), Kuwait Energy (22.5 per cent), and South Korea’s KOGAS (15 per cent).

TPAO had signed the original development deal for Mansuriya back in 2011, promising Iraq’s oil ministry that it could be trusted to reach plateau production within 10 years at most,

a senior figure in the ministry told OilPrice.com last week. This was not an unreasonable schedule, for which TPAO would be remunerated US$7.00-7.50 per barrel of oil equivalent, a relatively generous amount compared to many of the previous awards from the ministry. TPAO agreed that the first phase would mean production of at least 100 million cubic feet a day within 12 months from the signing date.

Unsurprisingly, given the rise of Islamic State at the time, TPAO suspended all operations on Mansuriya in 2014, but more surprisingly was that it refused to resume development work in September 2017 when asked to do so by then-oil minister, Jabar al-Luaibi. There were many subsequent requests from the ministry to TPAO to resume work before the ministry rescinded the contract last July.

As it stands, Iraq’s oil ministry has made it clear that it needs Mansuriya to be properly up and running and gradually increasing production towards the 325 million standard cubic feet per day figure so that it can be used as a feedstock for the country’s calamitous power sector. Peak summer power demand every year exceeds domestic generation capacity, frequently leading to up to 20 hours per day of blackouts in many areas. Without Mansuriya and similar gas fields coming online, this will get worse, as Iraq’s population is growing at a rate of over one million per year, with electricity demand set to double by 2030, according to the International Energy Agency.

This supply-demand imbalance has resulted in Iraq’s being dependent on neighbouring Iran for a considerable amount of gas and electricity imports – around one third of its total energy supplies, in fact. Specifically, Iraq pipes in up to 28 million cubic metres of Iranian gas a day for power generation and also directly imports up to 1,300 megawatts of Iranian electricity. Even the U.S. has been forced to grant waivers for Iraq to continue to do this, given the absence of other options currently.

Playing the game of pitting one side against the other for optimal gain, the Secretary General of the Iran-Iraq Joint Chamber, Seyed Hamid Hosseini, stated recently that Iran’s gas and electricity exports to Iraq are expected to reach US$5 billion by the end of the current Iranian calendar year, ending on 21 March 2020. This comment was made at the same time as a U.S. consortium led by Honeywell signed a memorandum of understanding for a deal that would reduce the country’s current level of gas flaring by nearly 20%. Part of this deal included processing associated gas at the Siba gas field, the original deal for which was also done in 2011 and also with TPAO.

In the running at the time for both fields was Russia. So interested is it in securing gas sites in north and south Iraq, which it will eventually be able to move via its vast pipeline capabilities and networks, that even before the latest announcement on Mansuriya’s availability was made public, Gazprom Neft (the oil arm of Russia’s gas giant, Gazprom) communicated to Iraq’s current oil minister, Thamir Ghadhban, that it was ‘very interested’ in taking a role in the Mansuriya field.

“Gazprom Neft often acts as the point man for Gazprom in initial conversations, as it is a slick, well-run, Western-style company, whereas Gazprom is a bit more old-style Soviet,” said the Iraq source. “It [Gazprom Neft] also made it clear that it would be interested in other sites, such as Siba,” he added. “It should be remembered that Gazprom was in the prime position to develop the other key gas fields of North Pars, Kish, and Farzad A and B before the U.S. withdrew from the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] last year,” he concluded.

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Simon Watkins is a former senior FX trader and salesman, financial journalist, and best-selling author.

Latest Russian spy story looks like another elaborate media deception


The tale of Oleg Smolenkov is just the latest load of high-level BS dumped on us by intelligence agencies

By Matt Taibbi

September 14, 2019 “Information Clearing House” –  When I was 20, I studied at the Leningrad Polytechnical Institute, in the waning days of the Soviet empire. Most of the Russians I met were amusingly free of stress caused by following news. Why would they bother? Bull-factories like Rossiskaya Gazeta and Leningradsaya Pravda were basically collections of dreary government news releases rewritten to sound like news reports.

I saw newspapers in Leningrad shredded into slivers of toilet paper, used in place of curtains in dorm rooms, even stuffed into overcoat linings as insulation. But I can’t recall a Russian person actually reading a Soviet newspaper for the content. That’s how useless its “news” was.

We’re headed to a similar place. The cable networks, along with the New York Times and Washington Post increasingly act like house organs of the government, and in particular the intelligence agencies.

An episode this week involving a tale of a would-be American spy “exfiltrated” from Russia solidifies this impression. Seldom has a news story been more transparently fraudulent.

The story was broken by CNN Monday, September 9th, under the headline, “Exclusive: US extracted top spy from inside Russia in 2017”:

In a previously undisclosed secret mission in 2017, the United States successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government, multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge told CNN.

CNN’s lede relayed multiple key pieces of information, not one of which was really emphasized in the main of its unconfirmable story:

  • America not only had a spy inside Russia’s government, it had multiple spies, with the subject of this particular piece being merely one of America’s “highest level” sources
  • The “extraction” was completed “successfully”
  • The sources are “multiple Trump administration officials”

The story told us our spy agencies successfully penetrated Russian government at the highest levels (although apparently not well enough to foresee or forestall the election interference campaign the same agencies spent the last three years howling about).

We were also told the agencies saved an invaluable human source back in 2017, and that the story came from inside the Trump administration. But the big sell came in the second and third paragraphs (emphasis mine):

The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. The intelligence, concerning ISIS in Syria, had been provided by Israel.

The disclosure to the Russians by the President, though not about the Russian spy specifically, prompted intelligence officials to renew earlier discussions about the potential risk of exposure…

So great was this spy of ours, we were told, that he had “access to Putin” and “could even provide images of documents on the Russian leader’s desk.” This was “according to CNN’s sources,” an interesting attribution given passages like this:

The source was considered the highest-level source for the US inside the Kremlin, high up in the national security infrastructure, according to the source familiar with the matter and a former senior intelligence official.

It’s a characteristic of third world countries to have the intelligence world and the media be intertwined enough that it’s not always clear whether the reporters and the reported-about are the same people. When you turn on the TV in Banana Republics, you’re never sure which group is talking to you.

Meanwhile, former CIA director John Brennan has an MSNBC/NBC gig, as does former CIA and DOD chief of staff Jeremy Bash, and several other ex-spooks. The Washington Post is owned by Jeff Bezos, who doubles as the CEO of one of America’s largest intelligence contractors.We’re now in that same paradigm in America. CNN has hired nearly a dozen former intelligence or counterintelligence officials as analysts in the last few years. Their big get was former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, but they also now have former deputy FBI chief Andrew McCabe, former FBI counsel James Baker, and multiple former CIA, NSA, and NSC officials.

This odious situation is similar to 2003-2004, when cable networks were tossing contributor deals to every ex-general and ex-spook they could find while they were reporting on the Iraq invasion. At one point, FAIR.org found that 52 percent of the sources in network newscasts were current or former government officials.

The numbers now aren’t quite that skewed, but CNN and MSNBC both employ former senior intelligence officials who comment upon stories in which they had direct involvement, especially the Russia investigation.

The CNN piece about the exfiltrated spy quotes a “former senior intelligence official,” a ubiquitous character that has become modern America’s version of the Guy Fawkes mask. I asked the network what their position was on whether or not they felt obligated to make a disclosure when (or if) a source was one of their own employees. They haven’t responded.

Within hours after the CNN report broke, the New York Times had a triple-bylined piece out entitled, “C.I.A. Informant Extracted From Russia Had Sent Secrets to U.S. for Decades.” Written by three of their top national security writers, Adam Goldman, Julian Barnes and David Sanger, the story repeated the CNN information, but with a crucial difference:

C.I.A. officials worried about safety made the arduous decision in late 2016 to offer to extract the source from Russia. The situation grew more tense when the informant at first refused, citing family concerns…

CNN reported (and continues to report) that the “decision” to remove the spy came “soon after a May 2017 meeting.” The Times, based on interviews with its own batch of “current and former officials,” insisted the “arduous decision” came in “late 2016.” The Times noted the source “at first refused” to be extracted, explaining the delay in his removal.

How to understand all of this? A Washington Post story by Shane Harris and Ellen Nakashima released at 6:06 the next morning, “U.S. got key asset out of Russia following election hacking,” came up with the final formula. To see the complex, absurd rhetorical construction in full, one unfortunately has to quote at length:

In 2017, the United States extracted from Russia an important CIA source…

The exfiltration took place sometime after an Oval Office meeting in May 2017, when President Trump revealed highly classified counterterrorism information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador…

That disclosure alarmed U.S. national security officials, but it was not the reason for the decision to remove the CIA asset, who had provided information to the United States for more than a decade, according to the current and former officials.

The old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercials used the tagline, “You got your chocolate in my peanut butter.” This Post story is, “You got your 2016 decision in my 2017 exfiltration!”

The paper brazenly fuses two unconnected narratives, telling us that a spy who had provided valuable information in 2016 was extracted in early 2017, after the Trump-Lavrov meeting. While that sequence may be chronologically correct, the story’s own authors say the Trump-Lavrov meeting was “not the reason” for the exfiltration. So why mention it? Moreover, who was this person, and what was the real reason his removal from Russia was necessary?

On Tuesday, September 10th, the Russian newspaper Kommersantdisclosed the name of the spy. They identified him as a mid-level Foreign Ministry official named Oleg Smolenkov.

Was Smolenkov a “very valuable agent”? Maybe, but Kommersant – amusingly, playing the same role as transparent mouthpiece for security organs – said no. They quoted a Russian foreign ministry official saying, “Let the CIA prove this.” As to Trump disclosing secrets to Lavrov in that meeting, the official told the Russian paper, “CNN never before thought up such nonsense,” adding that it was “pure paranoia.”

Kommersant further related that Russians instituted a murder case over the disappearance of Smolenkov and his family in 2017.

Disappear, however, Smolenkov did not. He went from Russia to Montenegro in 2017, then ended up in Virginia, where he and his family bought a house in Stafford, Virginia in January of 2019, in his own name! This is the same person about whom the Times this past Monday wrote:

The person’s life remains in danger, current and former officials said, pointing to Moscow’s attempts last year to assassinate Sergei V. Skripal, a former Russian intelligence official who moved to Britain as part of a high-profile spy exchange in 2010…

Smolenkov was so afraid for his safety, he put his family in a house the FSB could see by clicking on Realtor.com! That’s “tradecraft” for you.

To recap: U.S. officials decided to exfiltrate a spy capable of transmitting pictures from Vladimir Putin’s desk (why are we telling audiences this, by the way?) because… why? Although all three of the initial major American news stories about this referenced Trump’s May 2017 meeting with Sergei Lavrov, the actual reason was buried in the text of all three pieces:

In the Times:

But former intelligence officials said there was no public evidence that Mr. Trump directly endangered the source, and other current American officials insisted that media scrutiny of the agency’s sources alone was the impetus for the extraction.

The Post:

In January 2017, the Obama administration published a detailed assessment that unambiguously laid the blame on the Kremlin…

“It’s quite likely,” the official continued, “that the U.S. intelligence community would already be taking a hard look at extracting any U.S. assets who would have been subject to increased levels of scrutiny” after the assessment’s publication.

CNN:

A US official said before the secret operation there was media speculation about the existence of such a covert source, and such coverage or public speculation poses risks to the safety of anyone a foreign government suspects may be involved. This official did not identify any public reporting to that effect at the time of this decision and CNN could not find any related reference in media reports.

That last passage by CNN, in which the network claimed it could not find “any related reference” to a secret source in media reports, is laughable.

Unnamed “senior intelligence officials” spent much of the early months of the Trump administration bragging their faces off about their supposed penetration of the Kremlin. Many of their leaks were designed to throw shade on the new pompadour-in-chief, casting him as a Putin puppet. A January 5, 2017 piece in the Washington Post is a classic example:

Senior officials in the Russian government celebrated Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton as a geopolitical win for Moscow, according to U.S. officials who said that American intelligence agencies intercepted communications in the aftermath of the election in which Russian officials congratulated themselves on the outcome.

We’re constantly told the intelligence agencies can’t reveal classified details out of fear of disclosing “sources and methods,” but this story revealed a very specific capability. If that “Russians celebrating Trump’s win” tale came from a person, it wouldn’t be long before the source’s head would be found in Park Sokolniki.

A more revealing Washington Post piece came in June, 2017. It was called “Obama’s Secret Struggle to Punish Russia for Putin’s Election Assault.” In that article, we’re told at length about how Brennan secured a “feat of espionage,” obtaining sourcing “deep within the Russian government” that provided him, Brennan, with insights into Russian’s electoral interference campaign.

Brennan, the Post said, considered the source’s intel so valuable that he reportedly hand-delivered its “eyes only” bombshell contents directly to Barack Obama in summer of 2016. This was before the story was told to the whole world less than a year later.

In that Post article, it was revealed that the October 2016 assessment of Russia’s role in an electoral interference campaign initially was directly tied to Putin, but Putin’s name was removed because it might “endanger intelligence sources and methods.”

Taken in sum, all of these facts suggest it wasn’t at all Donald Trump’s meeting with Sergei Lavrov that necessitated the “exfiltration.

(Side note: many of these spy stories are larded with Tom Clancy-style verbiage to make the reader feel sexier and more in the know. The CNN story, for instance, ludicrously told us that a covert source was also “known as an asset.” Derp – thanks!).

What is this all really about? We have an idea only because Brennan and Clapper aren’t the only ex-spooks pipelining info to friendlies in the media.

As noted by former CIA analyst Ray McGovern and others, Attorney General William Barr earlier this year directed the Justice Department and former Connecticut Attorney General John Durham to investigate the intelligence agencies. In June, the New York Times wrote:

Mr. Barr has been interested in how the C.I.A. drew its conclusions about Russia’s election sabotage, particularly the judgment that Mr. Putin ordered that operatives help Mr. Trump by discrediting his opponent, Hillary Clinton, according to current and former American officials.

The Times quoted former CIA officials who expressed “anxiety” about this inquiry:

While the Justice Department review is not a criminal inquiry, it has provoked anxiety in the ranks of the C.I.A., according to former officials. Senior agency officials have questioned why the C.I.A.’s analytical work should be subjected to a federal prosecutor’s scrutiny.

We know, because it was bragged about at length in hagiographic portrayals in papers like the Washington Post, that John Brennan was the source of the conclusion that Putin directed the interference. We were even told that the determination of Putin’s involvement was too dangerous to publish in late 2016, because it would compromise Brennan’s magical Kremlin mole.

Now, suddenly, we’re treated to a series of stories that try to assert that the mole was removed either completely or in part because of Trump.

Maybe there’s an element of truth there. But it’s astonishing that none of the major news outlets bothered, even as an insincere gesture to convention, to address this story’s obvious counter-narrative.

If the mole was even that important, which I’m not convinced of – as McGovern told me this week, “They make stuff up all the time” – it seems more than possible we lost this “asset” because our intelligence chiefs felt it necessary to spend late 2016 and early 2017 spilling details about our capabilities in the news media.

This story wasn’t leaked to tell the public an important story about a lost source in the Kremlin, but more likely as damage control, to work the refs as investigators examine the origins of the election interference tale.

In 2017-2018, the likes of Brennan and Clapper were regularly feeding bombshell news stories to major papers and TV stations, usually as unnamed sources. The ostensible subject of these tales was usually Russian interference or collusion, but the subtext was a squalid power struggle between the enforcement bureaucracy and its loathed new executive, Trump.

After this “exfiltration story” broke, Esquire columnist Charlie Pierce, a colleague with whom I’ve sadly disagreed about this Russia business, wrote a poignant piece called “The Spies Are Acting as a Check on Our Elected Leaders. This Is Neither Healthy Nor Sustainable.”

In it, Charlie said something out loud that few have been willing to say out loud:

My guess is that the leak of this remarkable story came from somewhere in the bowels of the intelligence community…

The intelligence community is engaged in a cold war of information against the elected political leadership of the country, and a lot of us are finding ourselves on its side. This is neither healthy nor sustainable.

I personally don’t see myself as being on either side of this Cold War, but his point is true. He’s thinking about the country, but there’s the more immediate question of our business. A situation where the newspapers and airwaves are not for relaying facts but for firing sorties in an internecine power struggle really is unsustainable.

It won’t be long before audiences realize they’re not reading true news stories but what the Russians call versii, or “versions.” Whether it’s the pro-Trump wasteland of Fox or the Brennan-Clapper government-in-exile we see on MSNBC and CNN and in the Washington Post, the news has become two different nations, both intensely self-interested, neither honest. If this continues, it won’t be long before we’re filling overcoats and bird cages with things we used to read.

* Full disclosure: I wrote for Kommersant a few times in 2003-2004, in an unsuccessful effort to try to write humorously about American politics for Russians.

====

Taibbi is an author of novels and one of America’s top investigative journalists. From Wikipedia, here are snippets from his long complex career.

Taibbi lived Mongolia in the mid-1990s, where he played professional basketball in the Mongolian Basketball Assn., which, he says, is the only other basketball league that uses the same rules as the NBA. He was known as “The Mongolian Rodman” and also hosted a radio show while there.

Taibbi worked in Russia for over six years. He and Mark Ames in 1997 co-edited the English-language newspaper, The eXile. Since then he was written for many periodicals and appeared on news shows. https://taibbi.substack.com/

 

==See Also==

Earlier:

Also read:

CNN “Anonymous Sources” spread fake news about CIA, Russian Spy & Trump

 

 

Latest Russian spy story looks like another elaborate media deception

 

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/52262.htm

 

Obama And Brennan Burned A Very Useful Spy And Now CNN Outs Him

By Moon Of Alabama

September 11, 2019 “Information Clearing House” –  A sensational CNN story claimed yesterday that Trump caused the extraction of a U.S. spy from Moscow. The story was false but had the effect of outing the spy and where he now lives:

In a previously undisclosed secret mission in 2017, the United States successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government, multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge told CNN.

A person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of the Russian was driven, in part, by concerns that President Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy.

The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. The intelligence, concerning ISIS in Syria, had been provided by Israel.

New York Times opinion writer swallowed the above story and used it to write a piece about Trump’s alleged untrustworthiness. Then her own paper debunked the CNN claim.

The story sounded dubious to me and I voiced doubt about it at Patrick Lang’s site.


Oleg Smolenkov, an employee of the presidential administration, who left for vacation in Montenegro with his family in June 2017 and disappeared without a trace there.
The CNN report allowed others to identify the spy. An aide to President Putin’s foreign policy advisor had vanished around the time CNN described. The Russian Kommersant identified him and found the place where he now lives (machine translated):


Kommersant managed to find data on where Oleg Smolenkov and his family can now be. The Washington Post website contains information on the sale of real estate on June 5, 2018, in the Stafford (Virginia) city, worth about $ 925 thousand, by certain Oleg and Antonina Smolenkovs.

Note that the wife of Oleg Smolenkov is called Antonina. The Daily Storm reported that she also worked in the government apparatus.

Photos of the mansion inside and out are on the site of one of the local real estate agencies. Its area is about 760 square meters. meters. The house stands on a plot of 1.2 hectares. The mansion has six bedrooms and six bathrooms.


bigger

That is quite a palace paid for with U.S. taxpayer money.

A search for Smolenskov’s name turns up the property records that show that he and his wife bought Lot 28 at 270800 Hunters Pond in Stafford Virginia.


bigger

(Note: The joint revocable trust in the above is a legal construct for married couples to avoid probate. It does not change the real ownership.)

NBCNEWS tried to doorstep Smolenskov:

Yet the former Russian government official, who had a job with access to secrets, was living openly under his true name.

An NBC News correspondent went to the man’s house in the Washington area and rang the doorbell. Five minutes later, two young men in an SUV came racing up the street and parked immediately adjacent to the correspondent’s car.

The Washington Post and the New York Times debunk the CNN claim that extradition was caused by Trump’s behavior.  The Post writes:

U.S. officials had been concerned that Russian sources could be at risk of exposure as early as the fall of 2016, when the Obama administration first confirmed that Russia had stolen and publicly disclosed emails from the Democratic National Committee and the account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.

The Times detailed:

[W]hen intelligence officials revealed the severity of Russia’s election interference with unusual detail later that year, the news media picked up on details about the C.I.A.’s Kremlin sources.

C.I.A. officials worried about safety made the arduous decision in late 2016 to offer to extract the source from Russia. The situation grew more tense when the informant at first refused, citing family concerns — prompting consternation at C.I.A. headquarters and sowing doubts among some American counterintelligence officials about the informant’s trustworthiness. But the C.I.A. pressed again months later after more media inquiries. This time, the informant agreed.

Some operatives had other reasons to suspect the source could be a double agent, according to two former officials, but they declined to explain further.

Russian RIA news agency says that the Kremlin admits that Smolenskov worked there but claims that he was fired several years ago without providing a date (machine translation):

Spokesman for Vladimir Putin Dmitry Peskov said that Smolenkov worked in the presidential administration, but was fired several years ago. In addition, his position did not provide for direct contacts with the head of state.

The Kremlin did not respond to clarifying questions. “Naturally, it is simply impossible to provide all the information about the employees of the presidential administration,” Peskov explained.

The U.S. spy, or maybe Russian-U.S. double agent, was outed by the Obama administration and its intelligence chief John Brennan when they provided details to the public that could only have come from someone near Russia’s president.

Nothing in the above proves that the information the spy provided to the CIA was true. It might have been just as false as the fairytales in the infamous Steele dossier that alleged a Trump-Russia connection and was later debunked by the Mueller investigation.

The spy is said to have been recruited more than 10 years ago when he worked at the Russian embassy in Washington DC. The CIA got lucky that he ended up in the Kremlin. He must have been extremely helpful with a number of issues. Moreover he still had a Kremlin career before him and might have become even more useful. To burn such an important human source is unforgivable. However it was the Obama administration and the CIA chief who allowed the leaks when they planted the ‘Russiagate’ story and made his extradition necessary.

It was also ‘officials’ who have now provided the information that led to his outing.

Why the CIA would allow such a spy, once extradited, to live under his real name is beyond me. Does it have no interest in protecting him?

This article was originally published by “Moon Of Alabama“- 

 

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/52242.htm

 

US Sanctions Threats Won’t Stop Russia-Africa Security Cooperation

Global Research, September 03, 2019

The US’ reported threats to sanction African countries that buy Russian weaponry won’t succeed in stopping security cooperation between Moscow and its partners, though it’s nevertheless a clever way to try to exploit those nations’ “deep state” divisions in a desperate bid to reverse Russian influence in the continent.

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Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zakharova warned last week that the US has been threatening to sanction African countries that buy her homeland’s weaponry, though confidently adding that this scheme won’t succeed in curtailing security cooperation between Moscow and its partners because “the supplies of Russian military equipment are a prerequisite for maintaining their national security and sovereignty, so they have no intention to give up cooperation with us in this field.” The threats that she’s referring to most likely stem from the reported expansion earlier this year of the US’ “European Recapitalisation Incentive Programme” that would in effect “encourage” non-Western countries to purchase discounted American arms in exchange for avoiding possible CAATSA sanctions. “The US Is More Africa Of Losing Africa To Russian Than To China” because Moscow’s “military diplomacy“-driven pivot to the continent, as recently advanced to a significant degree by the completion of its “African Transversal“, has a greater likelihood of effectively”balancing” Western (US & French) influence there than Beijing’s numerous BRI-related construction projects do.

To explain, Russia’s arms sales and strategic dispatch of military advisors (and even sometimes private military contractors) ensure stability in fragile conflict-torn or -threatened states, most of which have “centralized” National Democracies (regarded as “authoritarian” in the Western political parlance) that are easily influenced through this important inroad being made to its “deep state” (military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies, with an emphasis on the military component in this specific context). The restoration or maintenance of law and order in restive regions is achieved through Russia’s indirect “military interventions” in those countries, with the Central African Republic (CAR) being the case in point that established the precedent for how this model is supposed to unfold all across the continent. In exchange for these indispensable security services, recipient states seal lucrative extraction deals with Russian companies, which then spreads Moscow’s influence from the military realm to the economic one since many of these countries’ budgets are disproportionately dependent on resource exports.

Upon solidifying its influence in the military and economic spheres, Russia can then more easily expand its sway into the political one as well, but it must be remembered that this entire strategy is dependent on its initial military phase which seeks to capitalize on the continental chaos unleashed by the West’s Hybrid Wars in Africa.  Aware of this, the US is seeking to strike straight at the source of Russia’s renewed African influence by threatening its partners with sanctions if they continue to buy military equipment from Moscow, but as Zakharova said, these supplies “are a prerequisite for maintaining their national security and sovereignty”, which is why the American scheme won’t succeed. Nevertheless, it’s a clever one because targeted sanctions against military officials in Russia’s African partners could exacerbate “deep state” divisions by making some of these supposedly corrupt individuals have to choose between their national and personal interests, which sometimes leads to them leaning towards the latter. In the event that they’re true patriots, then the US might broaden its sanctions (whether threatened or promulgated) to include specific sectors or even the national economy as a whole, which would be intended to eventually spark Color Revolutions within those countries.

All responsible stakeholders in any country realize that economic development can only be maintained if security is guaranteed, hence Zakharova’s confidence that Russia’s African partners “have no intention to give up cooperation with [Moscow] in this field.” The reality is that few African countries trust the US and France after decades of their neo-colonial practices across the continent, and some of them are also suspicious of China’s strategic intentions too as a result of the relative successes made in recent years throughout the course of America’s anti-BRI infowar. This state of affairs naturally inclines them to gravitate towards Russia as a “third way” between the West and China, exactly as Valdai Club programme director Oleg Barabanov foresaw would happen when he proposed that his country become the leader of a new Non-Aligned Movement (Neo-NAM) in his policy paper earlier this year about “China’s Road to Global Leadership: Prospects and Challenges for Russia“. Given this prevailing dynamic as well as the irreplaceable role that Russia is poised to play in ensuring Africa’s security and therefore consequent development, the upcoming first-ever Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi next month will certainly solidify Moscow’s influence there and prove that Washington’s plans have failed.

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This article was originally published on OneWorld.

Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from OneWorld

Putin Discusses RussiaHoax and the Attempted Coup d’Etat with Oliver Stone

By Jim Hoft

September 03, 2019 “Information Clearing House” – The transcript for the interview was posted on the Kremlin website.

Most of the liberal mainstream media is covering the part of the interview where Oliver Stone asked Putin to be the godfather of his grandson.  The Democrat Pravda media is ignoring the rest.

Robert Wenzel posted part of the transcript on his website.

Oliver Stone: Yes. So recently, you know Russia has been obviously accused and accused over and over again of interference in the 2016 election. As far as I know there is no proof, it has not turned up. But now in the US there has been an investigation going on about Ukraine’s interference in the election. It seems that it was a very confusing situation, and Poroshenko seems to have been very strongly pro-Clinton, anti-Trump.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, this is no secret.

Oliver Stone: Do you think there was interference?

Vladimir Putin: I do not think that this could be interpreted as interference by Ukraine. But it is perfectly obvious that Ukrainian oligarchs gave money to Trump’s opponents. I do not know whether they did this by themselves or with the knowledge of the authorities.

Oliver Stone: Were they giving information to the Clinton campaign?

Vladimir Putin: I do not know. I am being honest. I will not speak about what I do not know. I have enough problems of my own. They assumed Mrs Clinton would win and did everything to show loyalty to the future US administration. That is nothing special. They wanted the future President to have a good opinion of them. This is why they allowed themselves to make unflattering statements about Trump and supported the Democrats in every possible way. This is no secret at all. They acted almost in public.

Oliver Stone: You do not want to go any further on that because you do not have any information?

Vladimir Putin: You know, this would be inappropriate on my part. If I said something more specific, I would have to put some documents, some papers on the table.

Oliver Stone: You understand that it has huge implications because Mr Trump would be very grateful?


Oliver Stone:
 But that is a noble motive. Unfortunately, the world has degenerated in these two years, with all this backbiting and accusations, dirty fighting. Anyway…Vladimir Putin: I did not interfere then, I do not want to interfere now, and I am not going to interfere in the future.

…Vladimir Putin: To change anything. If you want to return to US elections again – look, it is a huge country, a huge nation with its own problems, with its own views on what is good and what is bad, and with an understanding that in the past few years, say ten years, nothing has changed for the better for the middle class despite the enormous growth of prosperity for the ruling class and the wealthy. This is a fact that Trump’s election team understood. He understood this himself and made the most of it.

No matter what our bloggers – or whoever’s job it is to comment on the internet – might say about the situation in the US, this could not have played a decisive role. It is sheer nonsense. But our sympathies were with him because he said he wanted to restore normal relations with Russia. What is bad about that? Of course, we can only welcome this position.

Oliver Stone: Apparently, it excited the Clinton people a lot. The Clinton campaign accumulated the “Steele dossier.” They paid for it. It came from strange sources, the whole “Steele dossier” issue. Some of it comes from Ukraine. They also went out of their way, it seems to me, with the CIA, with Mr Brennan, John Brennan, and with Clapper, James Clapper, and Comey of the FBI. They all seem to have gotten involved, all intelligence agencies, in an anti-Trump way.

Vladimir Putin: They had levers inside the government, but there is nothing like that here. They applied administrative pressure. It always gives an advantage in countries such as the USA, some countries of Western Europe, about 2 percent on average, at a minimum.

Oliver Stone: Two percent? What are you talking about?

Vladimir Putin: Yes. According to experts, those with administrative pressure they can apply always have a 2 percent edge. You can look at it differently. Some experts believe that in different countries, it can vary, but in countries such as the United States, some European countries, the advantage is 2 percent. This is what experts say, they can be wrong.

Oliver Stone: I do not know. I heard of the one percent, but it seems to get more like 12 percent.

Vladimir Putin: That is possible, depending on how it is used.

Oliver Stone: Well, you are not disagreeing. You are saying that it was quite possible that there was an attempt to prevent Donald Trump from coming into office with a soft, I will call it a soft coup d’état?

Vladimir Putin: In the USA?

Oliver Stone: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: It is still going on.

Oliver Stone: A coup d’état is planned by people who have power inside.

Vladimir Putin: No, I do not mean that. I mean lack of respect for the will of the voters. I think it was unprecedented in the history of the United States.

Oliver Stone: What was unprecedented?

Vladimir Putin: It was the first time the losing side does not want to admit defeat and does not respect the will of the voters.

You can read the whole thing here.

This article was originally published by “Gateway Pundit – 

 

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/52202.htm

 

 

Syrian Army Liberates Entire Hama Governorate and Idlib’s Khan Sheikhoun

Global Research, August 29, 2019

Last week the town of Khan Sheikhoun was finally liberated by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), led by the Tiger Forces and Republican Guard. Earlier this month a truce was entered into force in Idlib. It was understood that if Ankara failed to implement its obligations under the ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia and Turkey last September in Sochi, the Syrian army would continue with their military operation. A few days later, Turkish-backed terrorist factions violated the ceasefire and the Syrian Arab Army resumed their military operation, just as planned.

The strategic town of Khan Sheikhoun is within the southern Idlib Governorate in northwestern Syria. Idlib is the last terrorist stronghold in Syria. It sits on a highway connecting Damascus and Aleppo, part of which has been controlled by terrorists since 2012.

Efforts to pave the highway as Syrian troops progress north towards two other nearby Turkish posts are underway.

In order to make their recent advancement, the SAA surrounded a heavily fortified Turkish military observation post in the northwestern village of Morek. In response to the rapid advances made by the Syrian army over the past few weeks, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said,

“We have no intention of moving it and it will continue to serve out its purpose,” he added “The regime should stop playing with fire.”

The twelve observation posts in northwestern Syria are part of the agreement reached last year between Turkey and Russia. Turkey’s support for terrorist factions throughout the war, along with looting factories in Aleppo, and their expansionist ambitions have all led to increased friction and deteriorating relations between the Turkish and Syrian governments. Furthermore, Turkey is seen as an unwelcomed invader much like the US, and all other foreign uninvited forces on Syrian territory.

Two years ago, Khan Sheikhoun made headlines for a supposed chemical weapons attack that was automatically pinned on the Syrian Government. Allegations were quickly made by local terrorists with strong ties to media platforms such as The White Helmets. Quickly thereafter and based on falsities, US President Donald Trump launched 59 tomahawk missiles on Syrian airfields.

Over 1,000 ISIS and Al Nusra Militants Surrender To Syrian Army In Last 24 Hours
Almost exactly a year later in Douma, the US, UK, and France responded to another alleged chemical weapons attack which once again was blamed on the Syrian government, by launching a coordinated missile attack on Syrian targets. In an interview with Sputnik News I mentioned both of these events and the premature attacks that followed, prior to OPCW findings being issued.

Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) issued a statement of the General Command of the Army and Armed Forces whereby it was announced that after intensive strikes over the course of days against terrorists in Hama’s northern countryside that their brave soldiers managed to liberate Khan Sheikhoun city, as well as many other locations including strategic hills in the northern countryside of Hama and Idlib’s southern countryside. They were able to inflict heavy losses on terrorists in both personnel and arms.

The General command reiterated that the plan is to liberate the entire country from terrorists. The statement concluded with confirmation that work is underway to clear these villages and towns of IED’s and the dense minefields that were planted by the terrorists, so that citizens can return to their homes and farmlands as soon as possible.

During combing operations in Khan Sheikhoun and al-Tamani’a area in Idlib’s southern countryside on Friday, the Syrian Arab Army uncovered a network of tunnels dug into mountains, which were used as fortified headquarters for Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists and affiliated groups. These tunnels included a set of chambers which were used by terrorists to plan their criminal acts and hide from the SAA’s intensive air strike campaigns, they were equipped with electric lighting, sanitation, and accommodations.

Humanitarian aid was delivered to Khan Sheikhoun on Monday, by the Russian military. Efforts are underway to restore water and electricity so that residents can return to their homes as quickly as possible.

Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated on Tuesday, the need for eliminating terrorism in Idlib and other regions of Syria during a press conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Putin said,

“The situation in the de-escalation zone of Idlib stirs our concern as terrorist groups in the area continue their attacks on the sites of Syrian army and Russian troops in Syria.”

Putin added that the de-escalation zone of Idlib should not be used for refuge by terrorists and that many procedures must be taken to remove terrorist cells from Idlib and other regions in Syria.

On Tuesday the SAA confronted an attack launched by Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists on military points positioned along the axis of Sham al-Hawa a town in Idlib’s southeastern countryside killing and injuring the majority of the attackers. The SAA also carried out a series of artillery and rocket strikes on fortifications of these terrorists and groups affiliated with them in Idlib’s countryside and was successful in destroying many dens, vehicles, and killing several domestic and foreign terrorists.

Foreign journalists came from Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Russia to view the newly liberated town. On Tuesday SANA reported that a Russian and European media delegation visited Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib’s countryside. The Governor of Idlib Muhammad Fadi Sadun also confirmed that over the past three days a road to one of the local schools was rebuilt and the building is being repaired with an expected opening date of September 1st.

“It is very painful to see all this destruction that happened to Khan Sheikhoun. Before the war, it was a very beautiful town, people lived a good, wealthy life. Thank God, now it is liberated, and we will try to do everything to make it as soon as possible the same as before, so that people live peacefully and children go to school”, he said.

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This article was originally published on InfoBrics.

Sarah Abed is an independent journalist and political commentator. For media inquiries please email sarah@sarahabed.com.

Featured image is from InfoBrics

The original source of this article is Global Research
Copyright © Sarah Abed, Global Research, 2019

 

Syrian Army Liberates Entire Hama Governorate and Idlib’s Khan Sheikhoun

 

The Media’s Russian Radiation Story Implodes Upon Scrutiny


What really happened at Nenoska was less explosive than everyone, including Trump, wanted you to believe.

By Scott Ritter

August 27, 2019 “Information Clearing House” – How the mainstream media reported an August 8 accident at a top-secret missile test facility in northern Russia should serve as a cautionary tale regarding the dangers of rushed judgments via institutional bias.

In the days following the initial report of the accident, the media exploded with speculation over both the nature of the device being tested at the Nenoksa State Central Marine Test Site and the Russian government’s muted response. Typical of the hysteria was the analysis of Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program for the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and editor of the blog “Arms Control Wonk.”

Lewis and his collaborators penned a breathless article for Foreign Policy that asked, “What Really Happened?” According to Lewis, the answer was clear: “The reference to radiation was striking—tests of missile engines don’t involve radiation. Well, with one exception: Last year, Russia announced it had tested a cruise missile powered by a nuclear reactor. It calls this missile the 9M730 Burevestnik. NATO calls it the SSC-X-9 Skyfall.” 

Lewis’s assessment was joined by President Trump’s, who tweeted, “The United States is learning much from the failed missile explosion in Russia…. The Russian ‘Skyfall’ explosion has people worried about the air around the facility, and far beyond. Not good!” Trump’s tweet appeared to conform with the assessments of the intelligence community, which, according to The New York Times, also attributed the accident to a failed test of the Skyfall missile.

Former Obama administration national security analyst Samantha Vinograd tweeted: “Possibly the worst nuclear accident in the region since Chernobyl + possibly a new kind of Russian missile = this is a big deal.”

The Washington Post editorial board joined Vinograd in invoking the imagery of Chernobyl: “If this slow dribble of facts sounds familiar, it is — the same parade of misdirection happened during the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.”

They’re all wrong. Here’s the real story of what actually happened at Nenoksa.


Likewise, the various valves, switches, and other components critical to the successful operation of a liquid-fuel ballistic missile, including onboard electronics and guidance and control systems, must be maintained in an equilibrium, or steady state, until launch. The electrical power required to accomplish this is not considerable, but it must be constant. Loss of power will disrupt the equilibrium of the missile system, detrimentally impacting its transient response at time of launch and leading to failure. Liquid-fuel ballistic missiles are tricky things. Most Russian liquid-fueled missiles make use of
hypergolic fuels, consisting of a fuel (in most cases asymmetrical dimethylhydrazine, or heptyl) and an oxidizer (nitrogen tetroxide), which, when combined, spontaneously combust. For this to happen efficiently, the fuel and oxidizer need to be maintained at “room temperature,” generally accepted as around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. For missiles stored in launch silos, or in launch canisters aboard submarines, temperature control is regulated by systems powered by the host—either a generator, if in a silo, or the submarine’s own power supply, if in a canister. 

Russia has long been pursuing so-called “autonomous” weapons that can be decoupled from conventional means of delivery—a missile silo or a submarine—and instead installed in canisters that protect them from the environment. They would then be deployed on the floor of the ocean, lying in wait until remotely activated. One of the major obstacles confronting the Russians is the need for system equilibrium, including the onboard communications equipment, prior to activation. The power supply for any system must be constant, reliable, and capable of operating for extended periods of time without the prospect of fuel replenishment.

The solution for this power supply problem is found in so-called “nuclear batteries,” or radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTG). An RTG generates electricity using thermocouples that convert the heat released by the decay of radioactive material. RTGs have long been used in support of operations in space. The Russians have long used them to provide power to remote unmanned facilities in the arctic and in mountainous terrain. Cesium-137, a byproduct of the fission of U-235, is considered an ideal radioisotope for military application RTGs.

On August 8, a joint team from the Ministry of Defense and the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics, subordinated to the State Atomic Energy Corporation (ROSATOM), conducted a test of a liquid-fueled rocket engine, in which electric power from Cesium-137 “nuclear batteries” maintained its equilibrium state. The test was conducted at the Nenoksa State Central Marine Test Site (GTsMP), a secret Russian naval facility known as Military Unit 09703. It took place in the waters of the White Sea, off the coast of the Nenoksa facility, onboard a pair of pontoon platforms.

The test had been in the making for approximately a year. What exactly was being tested and why remain a secret, but the evaluation went on for approximately an hour. It did not involve the actual firing of the engine, but rather the non-destructive testing of the RTG power supply to the engine. 

The test may have been a final system check—the Russian deputy defense minister, Pavel Popov, monitored events from the Nenoksa military base. Meanwhile, the deputy head of research and testing at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics, Vyasheslav Yanovsky, considered to be one of Russia’s most senior nuclear scientists, monitored events onboard the off-shore platform. Joining Yanovsky were seven other specialists from the institute, including Vyacheslav Lipshev, the head of the research and development team. They accompanied representatives from the Ministry of Defense, along with specialists from the design bureau responsible for the liquid-fuel engine.

When the actual testing finished, something went very wrong. According to a sailor from the nearby Severdvinsk naval base, the hypergolic fuels contained in the liquid engine (their presence suggests that temperature control was one of the functions being tested) somehow combined. This created an explosion that destroyed the liquid engine, sending an unknown amount of fuel and oxidizer into the water. At least one, and perhaps more, of the Cesium-137 RTGs burst open, contaminating equipment and personnel alike. 

Four men—two Ministry of Defense personnel and two ROSATOM scientists—were killed immediately. Those who remained on the damaged platform were taken to the Nenoksa base and decontaminated, before being transported to a local military clinic that specializes in nuclear-related emergencies. Here, doctors in full protective gear oversaw their treatment and additional decontamination. All of them survived.

Three of the ROSATOM scientists were thrown by the explosion into the waters of the White Sea and were rescued only after a lengthy search. These men were transported to the Arkhangelsk hospital. Neither the paramedics who attended to the injured scientists, nor the hospital staff who received them, were informed that the victims had been exposed to Cesium-137, leading to the cross-contamination of the hospital staff and its premises. 

The next day, all the personnel injured during the test were transported to Moscow for treatment at a facility that specializes in radiation exposure; two of the victims pulled from the water died en route. Medical personnel involved in treating the victims were likewise dispatched to Moscow for evaluation; one doctor was found to be contaminated with Cesium-137.

The classified nature of the test resulted in the Russian government taking precautions to control information concerning the accident. The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) seized all the medical records associated with the treatment of accident victims and had the doctors and medical personnel sign non-disclosure agreements. 

The Russian Meteorological Service (Roshydromet) operates what’s known as the Automatic Radiation Monitoring System (ASKRO) in the city of Severdvinsk. ASKRO detected two “surges” in radiation, one involving Gamma particles, the other Beta particles. This is a pattern consistent with the characteristics of Cesium-137, which releases Gamma rays as it decays, creating Barium-137m, which is a Beta generator. The initial detection was reported on the Roshydromet website, though it was subsequently taken offline. 

Specialized hazardous material teams scoured the region around Nenoksa, Archangesk, and Severdvinsk, taking air and environmental samples. All these tested normal, confirming that the contamination created by the destruction of the Cesium-137 batteries was limited to the area surrounding the accident. Due to the large amount of missile fuel that was spilled, special restrictions concerning fishing and swimming were imposed in the region’s waters — at least until the fuel was neutralized by the waters of the White Sea. The damage had been contained, and the threat was over.

The reality of what happened at Nenoksa is tragic. Seven men lost their lives and scores of others were injured. But there was no explosion of a “nuclear cruise missile,” and it wasn’t the second coming of Chernobyl. America’s intelligence community and the so-called experts got it wrong — again. The root cause of their error is their institutional bias against Russia, which leads them to view that country in the worst possible light, regardless of the facts.

At a time when the level of mutual mistrust between our two nuclear-armed nations is at an all-time high, this kind of irresponsible rush to judgement must be avoided at all costs. 

Scott Ritter is a former Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD. He is the author of Deal of the Century: How Iran Blocked the West’s Road to War.

This article was originally published by “The American Conservative –

 

==See Also==

Democracy Now! Drinks The Kool Aid
Mysterious Russian Nuclear Missile Accident Sparks Fears of Cover-Up & “Chernobyl Redux”

 

 

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/52175.htm

 

The successes of Russian diplomacy in the Middle East

by Thierry Meyssan

The political changes which have been transforming the Middle East for the last two months are not the result of the destruction of any of the protagonists, but the evolution of the Iranian, Turkish and Emirati points of view. Where the military might of the United States has failed, the subtlety of Russian diplomacy has succeeded. Refusing to comment on the crimes of one party or the other, Moscow is slowly managing pacify the region.

 | DAMASCUS (SYRIA)
207362-6-59650
For five years, Russia has been multiplying its approaches in order to re-establish international Law in the Middle East. It has relied in particular on Iran and Turkey, whose manner of thinking it does not really share. The first results of this patient diplomatic exercise are redefining the lines of division existing at the heart of several conflicts.

New balances of power and a new equilibrium are being set up discreetly in the Nile valley, in the Levant and the Arab peninsula. On the contrary, however, the situation is blocked in the Persian Gulf. This considerable and coordinated change is affecting different conflicts which in appearance have no connection with one another. It is the fruit of patient and discreet Russian diplomacy [1] and, in some cases, the relative good will of the USA.

Unlike the United States, Russia is not seeking to impose its own vision on the world. It begins on the contrary with the culture of its interlocutors, which it modifies by small touches at its contact.

The withdrawal of the jihadists and Kurdish mercenaries in Syria

Everything began on 3 July – one of the five founders of the PKK, Cemil Bayik, published an op ed in the Washington Post calling for Turkey to open negotiations by lifting the solitary confinement of their most famous prisoner – Abdullah Öcalan [2]. Suddenly, prison visits for the leader of the Kurdish autonomists in Turkey, forbidden for four years, were once again authorised. This opening was a secret for no-one. The rumour had been disseminated by the Peoples’ Republican Party, who considered it treason. While waiting for clarification, his electors abstained during the municipal election in Istanbul on 23 June, inflicting a severe electoral defeat on President Erdoğan’ candidate.

Simultaneously, combats flared again in the zone occupied by Al-Qaïda in the North of Syria, the governorate of Idlib. This Islamic Emirate has no central administration, but a multitude of cantons assigned to various combatant groups. The population is supplied by European « NGO’s » affiliated with the secret services of their countries, and the presence of the Turkish army prevents the jihadists from attempting to conquer the rest of Syria. Since this situation can not be openly admitted, the NATO Press presents the Islamic Emirate of Idlib as a peaceful refuge for « moderate opponents of Assad’s dictatorship ». Suddenly, Damascus, backed up by Russian air support, began to reconquer their territory as the Turkish army withdrew in silence. The combats were extremely violent, first of all for the Republic. However, after several weeks, the advance was clear, so that if nothing occurs to prevent it, the province could be liberated in October.

On 15 July, the third anniversary of the attempted assassination of which he was the object and the improvised coup d’état which followed, President Erdoğan announced the redefinition of Turkish identity, no longer on a religious, but a national basis [3]. He also revealed that his army was going to sweep the forces of the PKK out of Syria and transfer some of the Syrian refugees to a frontier zone approximately 30 to 40 kilometres deep. This zone more or less corresponds to that in which, in 1999, President Hafez el-Assad had authorised Turkish forces to suppress any Kurdish use of artillery. After having announced that the Pentagon would not abandon its Kurdish allies, US envoys came to Ankara to do just that, and to approve the Turkish plan. As we have always said, it so happens that the leaders of « Rojava », this pseudo autonomous Kurdish state in Syrian territory, are almost all of Turkish nationality. They are therefore occupying the area that they had ethically cleansed. Their troops, of Syrian nationality, sent emissaries to Damascus to ask for President Bachar el-Assad’s protection. Let’s remember that the Kurds are a nomad population which was settled at the beginning of the 20th century. According to the King-Crane Commission and the International Conference of Sèvres (1920), a Kurdistan state is only legitimate within what is currently Turkish territory [4].

It is unlikely that France and Germany will allow Syria to reconquer the totality of the Islamic Emirate of Idlib, and will abandon their fantasy concerning a Kurdistan, wherever it may be (in Turkey, Iran, Iraq or Syria, but not in Germany, where Kurds number a million). They may be forced to do so.

Similarly, despite the current discussions, it is unlikely that, should Syria be decentralised, it would grant the slightest autonomy to the region that was occupied by the Turkish Kurds.

After several years of blockage, the liberation of Northern Syria depends entirely on the change of the Turkish paradigm, fruit of the errors by the United States and Russian Intelligence.

The de facto partition of Yemen

In Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Israël support President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi, with an aim to exploit the oil reserves which straddle the border [5]. The latter has to face up to the rebellion of the Zaïdis, a school of Chiism. With time, the Saudis have received help from the Emirati, and the Zaïdi Resistance is supported by Iran. This war, fuelled by the Western powers, has provoked the worst famine of the 21st century.

However, unlike the organisation of the two sides, on 1 August, the Emirati coast-guards signed an agreement for transborder cooperation with the Iranian frontier police [6]. The same day, the head of the Yemeni militia, Abu Al-Yamana Al-Yafei – financed by the Emirates (known as the « Southern Transitional Council (STC) », or « Safety Belt », or again « Separatists ») – was assassinated by the Muslim Brotherhood of the Islah party, financed by Saudi Arabia [7].

Clearly, the alliance between two crown princes of Arabia and the Emirates, Mohammed ben Salmane (« MBS ») and Mohammed ben Zayed Al Nahyane (« MBZ »), is under pressure.

On 11 August, the militia supported by the Emirates attacked the presidential palace and several ministries in Aden, despite the support of Arabia for President Hadi, who had been sheltered in Riyadh for a long time. The following day, « MBS » and « MBZ » met in Mecca in the presence of King Salmane. They rejected the coup d’etat and called for a display of calm on the part of their respective troops. On 17 August, the pro-Emiratis evacuated the houses of government in good order..

During the week in which the « Separatists » had taken Aden, the Emirates had de facto control over the two coasts from the very strategic detroit of Bab el Mandeb linking the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. Now that Riyadh has preserved its honour, it will be necessary to give something back to Abou Dhabi.

On the battlefield, the change can only be attributable to the Emirates, who, after heavy suffering, have learned the lesson of this unwinnable war. Prudently, they approached the Iranians before firing a warning shot intended for their powerful ally and neighbour, Saudi Arabia.

Musical chairs in Sudan

In Sudan, after President Omar el-Bechir (dissident Muslim Brother), had been overthrown by demonstrations of the Alliance for Freedom and Change (AFC) and the rise in bread prices had been cancelled, a Military Council of Transition was handed power. Practically speaking, this social revolt and a few billion petro-dollars enabled the country – unknown to the demonstrators – to transit from a Qatari tutorship to another, Saudi tutorship [8].

On 3 June, a new demonstration by the AFC was dispersed in blood by the Military Council of Transition, causing 127 deaths. Faced with international condemnation, the Military Council began negotiations with civilians and came to an agreement on 4 August which was signed on 17 August. For a period of 39 months, the country will be governed by a Supreme Council composed of 6 civilians and 5 military officials, whose agreements do not specify their identities. They will be controlled by an Assembly of 300 members – nominated but not elected – including 67 % of the representatives of the AFC. There is evidently nothing democratic here, and none of the parties is complaining.

The economist Abdallah Hamdok, ex-manager of the UN Economic Commission for Africa will become the Prime Minister. He should obtain the lifting of sanctions on Sudan and reintegrate the country into the African Union. He will bring to trial ex-President Omar el-Bechir in his own country in order to guarantee that he will no longer risk being extradited to The Hague and arraigned before the International Criminal Court.

Real power will be held by « General » Mohammed Hamdan Daglo (alias « Hemetti »), who is not a General, not even a soldier, but the head of the militia employed by « MBS » in order to paralyse the Yemeni Resistance. During this game of musical chairs, Turkey – which has a military base on the Sudanese island of Suakin as a means of encircling Saudi Arabia – has said nothing.

Thus Turkey is accepting to lose in Idlib and Sudan in order to win against the pro-US Kurdish mercenaries. Only this last wager has anything vital for Turkey. It has taken a wealth of discussions for Turkey to realise that it can not win all these games at once, and that it must organise its priories.

The United States against Iranian Oil

London and Washington are pursuing their concurrence, set in motion seventy years ago, to control Iranian oil. Just as during the time of Mohammad Mossadegh, the British Crown intends to be the only decider concerning what belongs to them in Iran [9]. Washington, however, does not want the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq to benefit Teheran (a consequence of the Rumsfeld/Cebrowski doctrine) and means to fix the prices for world energy (the Pompeo doctrine) [10].

These two strategies came together with the seizing of the Iranian oil-tanker Grace 1 in the waters of the British colony of Gibraltar. Iran, in its turn, boarded two British tankers in the straits of Ormuz, pretending – the supreme insult – that the primary was transporting « contraband oil», in other words Iranian oil which was subsidised by London on the black market [11]. When the new British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, realised that his country had gone too far, he had the « surprise » to see the « independent » justice of his colony liberate the Grace 1. Washington immediately issued a mandate to seize it again.

Since the beginning of this affair, the Europeans have been paying for US policy, and protesting without much consequence [12]. Only the Russians are defending international Law – rather than their Iranian ally – as they did concerning Syria [13]. This allows them to maintain a political line which is always coherent.

In this dossier, Iran is demonstrating great tenacity. Despite the clerical about-face of the election of Sheik Hassan Rohani, in 2013, the country has been redirecting itself towards the national policy of the secular Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [14]. Its use of the Chiite communities in Saudi Arabia, Bahreïn, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen could morph into a simple solution. Here too, the long discussions of Astana could demonstrate that what is evident for one has become evident for all.

Conclusion

With time, the objectives of each protagonist have been organised into a hierarchy and are becoming clearer.

In conformity with its tradition, Russian diplomacy, unlike that of the United States, is not attempting to redefine frontiers and alliances. It is working to untie the contradictory objectives of its partners. Thus it helped the ex-Ottoman Empire and the ex-Persian Empire distance themselves from their religious definition – (the Muslim Brotherhood for the former, and Chiism for the latter – and return to a post-Imperial national definition. This evolution is clearly visible in Turkey, but supposes a change of leaders in Iran in order to become operational. Moscow is not seeking to « change the régimes », but to change some aspects of the mentalities.

Translation
Pete Kimberley

[1] See paragraphs 3, 4, 5 and 10 of the « Joint Declaration by Russia, Iran and Turkey relative to Syria », Voltaire Network, 2 August 2019, and compare them to the declarations from previous meetings.

[2] “Now is the moment for peace between Kurds and the Turkish state. Let’s not waste it”, by Cemil Bayik, Washington Post (United States) , Voltaire Network, 3 July 2019.

[3] “Turkey will not align itself with either NATO or the CSTO”, “Turkey gives up on the idea of a Caliphate for the second time”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Pete Kimberley, Voltaire Network, 6 and 18 August 2019.

[4] “The Kurdistan projects”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Pete Kimberley, Voltaire Network, 5 September 2016.

[5] “The secret projects of Israël and Saudi Arabia”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Pete Kimberley, Voltaire Network, 27 June 2015.

[6] “إيران والإمارات توقعان اتفاقا للتعاون الحدودي“, RT, 01/08/19.

[7] “Missile fired by Yemen rebels kills dozens of soldiers in port city of Aden”, Kareem Fahim & Ali Al-Mujahed, The Washington Post, August 1, 2019.

[8] “The Overthrow of Omar el-Bechir”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Pete Kimberley, Voltaire Network, 16 April 2019; « Le Soudan est passé sous contrôle saoudien », « La Force de réaction rapide au pouvoir au Soudan », Réseau Voltaire, 20 & 24 avril 2019.

[9] “London defends the shreds of its Empire against Iran”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Pete Kimberley, Al-Watan (Syria) , Voltaire Network, 23 July 2019.

[10] “The new Grand Strategy of the United States”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Pete Kimberley, Zero Hedge (USA) , Voltaire Network, 26 March 2019. “Advancing the U.S. Maximum Pressure Campaign On Iran” (Note: The graph was distributed with the text !), Voltaire Network, 22 April 2019.

[11] « Royaume-Uni/Iran : « Grace 1 » et « British Heritage » », Réseau Voltaire, 11 juillet 2019.

[12] « Déclaration conjointe des chefs d’État et de gouvernement de France, d’Allemagne et du Royaume-Uni à propos de l’Iran », Réseau Voltaire, 14 juillet 2019.

[13] “Russian comment on the seizure of the Panama-flagged tanker by Gibraltar authorities ”, Voltaire Network, 5 July 2019.

[14] By ’secular’, we mean that the very mystical President Ahmadinejad wanted to separate the religious and political institutions and put an end to the Platonic function of the Guide of the Revolution.

Posted August 20, 2019 on:

https://www.voltairenet.org/article207382.html

An Attack on Iran Would be an Attack on Russia

Moscow is proposing a diametrically opposed vision to Western sanctions, threats and economic war, one that is drawing it ever closer to Tehran

Global Research, August 06, 2019

Russia is meticulously advancing Eurasian chessboard moves that should be observed in conjunction, as Moscow proposes to the Global South an approach diametrically opposed to Western sanctions, threats and economic war. Here are three recent examples.

Ten days ago, via a document officially approved by the United Nations, the Russian Foreign Ministry advanced a new concept of collective security for the Persian Gulf.

Moscow stresses that “practical work on launching the process of creating a security system in the Persian Gulf” should start with “bilateral and multilateral consultations between interested parties, including countries both within the region and outside of it,” as well as organizations such as the UN Security Council, League of Arab States, Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Gulf Cooperation Council.

The next step should be an international conference on security and cooperation in the Persian Gulf, followed by the establishment of a dedicated organization – certainly not something resembling the incompetent Arab League.

The Russian initiative should be interpreted as a sort of counterpart of, and mostly a complement to, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is finally blossoming as a security, economic and political body. The inevitable conclusion is that major SCO stakeholders – Russia, China, India, Pakistan and, in the near future, Iran and Turkey – will be major influencers on regional stability.

The Pentagon will not be amused.

Drill, baby, drill

When the commander of the Iranian Navy, Hossein Khanzadi, recently visited St Petersburg for the celebration of Russia’s Navy Day, the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces and the Russian Defense Ministry signed an unprecedented memorandum of understanding.

Khanzadi was keen to stress the memorandum “may be considered a turning point in relations of Tehran and Moscow along the defense trajectory.”

A direct upshot is that Moscow and Tehran, before March 2020, will enact a joint naval exercise in – of all places – the Strait of Hormuz. As Khanzadi told the IRNA news agency:

“The exercise may be held in the northern part of the Indian Ocean, which flows into the Gulf of Oman, the Strait of Hormuz and also the Persian Gulf.”

The US Navy, which plans an “international coalition” to ensure “freedom of navigation” in the Strait of Hormuz – something Iran has always historically guaranteed – won’t be amused. Neither will Britain, which is pushing for a European-led coalition even as Brexit looms.

Khanzadi also noted that Tehran and Moscow are deeply involved in how to strengthen defense cooperation in the Caspian Sea. Joint drills already took place in the Caspian in the past, but never in the Persian Gulf.

Exercise together

Russia’s Eastern Military District will be part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) anti-terrorist exercise in Thailand and China early next month. According to the Eastern Military District, the training is part of “preparations for a practical phase of an ASEAN anti-terrorist exercise in China.” This means, among other things, that Russian troops will be using Chinese military hardware.

Exercises include joint tactical groups attempting to free hostages from inside official buildings; search for and disposal of explosives; and indoor and outdoor radiation, chemical and biological reconnaissance.

This should be interpreted as a direct interaction between SCO practices and ASEAN, complementing the deepening trade interaction between the Eurasia Economic Union and ASEAN.

These three developments illustrate how Russia is involved in a large spectrum from the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf to Southeast Asia.

But the key element remains the Russia-Iran alliance, which must be interpreted as a key node of the massive, 21st century Eurasia integration project.

What Russian National Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said at the recent, historic trilateral alongside White House national security adviser John Bolton and Israeli National Security Council Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat in Jerusalem should be unmistakable:

“Iran has always been and remains our ally and partner, with which we are consistently developing relations both on a bilateral basis and within multilateral formats.”

This lays to rest endless, baseless speculation that Moscow is “betraying” Tehran on multiple fronts, from the all-out economic war unleashed by the Donald Trump administration to the resolution of the Syrian tragedy.

To Nur-Sultan

And that leads to the continuation of the Astana process on Syria. Moscow, Tehran and Ankara will hold a new trilateral in Nur-Sultan, the Kazakh capital, possibly on the hugely significant date of September 11, according to diplomatic sources.

What’s really important about this new phase of the Astana process, though, is the establishment of the Syrian Constitutional Committee. This had been agreed way back in January 2018 in Sochi: a committee – including representatives of the government, opposition and civil society – capable of working out Syria’s new constitution, with each group holding one-third of the seats.

The only possible viable solution to the tragedy that is Syria’s nasty, rolling proxy war will be found by Russia, Iran and Turkey. That includes the Russia-Iran alliance. And it includes and expands Russia’s vision of Persian Gulf security, while hinting at an expanded SCO in Southwest Asia, acting as a pan-Asian peacemaking mechanism and serious counterpart to NATO.

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This article was originally published on Asia Times.

Featured image is from en.kremlin.ru

Vladimir Putin to the West: ‘We Will Bury You!’

PUTIN-THINKING

By Gilbert Doctorow

February 02, 2019 “Information Clearing House” –    I have given this essay a “fake news” title for a good reason: to direct your attention to the fact that the incumbent President of Russia is too gentle for his and our good. He does not make threats the way his predecessor, the party boss of the Soviet Union did in 1956. He does not bang his shoe on the desk in front of him while speaking to the General Assembly of the United Nations as Nikita Khrushchev also did. Thus, we Europeans and Americans are oblivious to the dangers of a hot war with Russia that we risk by pursuing our present-day foreign policy of driving Russia into a corner. War could not be further from our minds, since, we tell ourselves, no one wants war.

Because of his behavior cited above, because of the launching of the first Sputnik during his time in office and the invasion of Soviet forces in Hungary for purposes of regime change, because of the atmospheric tests of the vastly powerful hydrogen bombs that his country was producing to wage war on us, Khrushchev made a strong impression on the broad public and also on the political classes in the West as a person who was aggressive, impolite and at the head of a dangerous country.

Khrushchev proposed to us a policy of “peaceful co-existence,” allowing us to understand that non-acceptance by the West equated to the nonexistence of life on our planet. Consequently, Khrushchev and his country were always treated with respect and fear by our countries. We considered him to be a crude fellow, but no one dared to say that he was a thug, a murderer of journalists, etc. that one hears today regularly applied when our politicians and mass media describe Vladimir Putin. No one spoke back then of Russia as “a gas station not a country,” as a place that produced nothing that the world wanted or said that it was just a regional power that acted badly, all of which Barack Obama used to justify his decision to isolate Russia and cut all possible relations with this pariah state, even the channels of communications established decades ago following the Cuban Missile Crisis to give some stability and predictability in conditions of a Cold War.

Where does Putin’s finesse come from? One must understand that his past takes in a lot more than his service in the KGB. During the 1990’s he served in the administration of the liberal mayor of St. Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak. In his capacity as deputy mayor with responsibility for foreign investment, he met a whole procession of businessmen and politicians from Europe and the United States. He was part of the pro-Western entourage of the mayor and when he ascended to the presidency in 1999 he kept many of his liberal comrades close to him. They constitute even today an influential faction in Kremlin politics.In contrast to Khrushchev and the other government leaders of the USSR, Mr. Putin acts and speaks in a very civilized manner. Even today, in a period of New Cold War, of permanent confrontations with the West, of severe economic sanctions imposed on his country and provocative NATO military exercises unprecedented in scale being held on Russia’s borders, Putin still speaks of the “colleagues” and “partners” in the West, for the purpose of keeping the peace and avoiding an escalation of tensions which could, in his belief, quickly lead to armed clashes.

From his first days in power, Putin hoped to integrate Russia in NATO and, more generally, in the Western world. Putin was the first head of state to phone George W. Bush after the attack on the World Trade Center and generously offered substantial help, opening up Russia’s back yard in Central Asia to American forces to provide logistical support of the operation the USA would launch against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, Putin’s hopes for reciprocal warming of relations and integration were rejected. At this time Washington considered Russia to be a country in long-term decline and a marginal power. In 2002, the United States withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, one of the first landmark arms limitation treaties dating from 1972, showing its disregard for Russian interest in stability and transparency, and pursuing a policy of altering the strategic balance of power in its favor. Following this, we see the progressive deterioration of relations between Russia and the West that has lasted up to the present. Following this, we see the development by Russia of new weapons systems called “asymmetrical” using state of the art technologies that Putin finally spoke about publicly in his speech to the joint houses of the Russian parliament on 1 March 2018. He said then with perfect clarity, but in calm and nonthreatening language that these arms could penetrate everything that the United States had put in place to assure for itself the possibility of a decapitating first nuclear strike. He reclaimed for Russia full strategic parity with the United States, and, of course, with NATO, despite Russia’s having a military budget that is 12 time smaller than America’s.

Putin’s speech of 1 March 2018 was addressed to his people in the midst of a presidential election campaign. It was also addressed to America’s political classes and military. Regrettably, it did not speak to the American or European peoples as bluntly as Khrushchev had once done. And so we were allowed to slumber on.

Today, we the people tend to ignore the fact that Russia is the only country in the world capable of reducing the United States and/or Europe to ashes within 30 minutes. We lack any sense of the risks of war that arise from the operations of our military forces in close proximity with Russian and their proxy forces in Syria, in Ukraine…and possibly soon in Venezuela. This, under conditions of near absence of reliable communications between our civilian and military leaderships and total lack of mutual trust between all parties.

During the original Cold War, there was some limited time during which false alarms of attack by intercontinental ballistic missiles or bombers might be sorted out. Today there may be 15 minutes between alarm and incoming total destruction. Anticipating the possibility of a first strike decapitating the national leadership, response launches have been automated and function on the “dead hand” principle. In effect, the Doomsday scenario described so brilliantly by Stanley Kubrik in his ‘60s film Dr. Strangelove has become operative here and now, though the public has not a clue.

That, my friends, is the reason I say Vladimir Putin has done his and our people a disservice by not engaging in public diplomacy with the American and European peoples, by not scaring us properly so that we can come to our wits and compel our politicians and media to do likewise.

Gilbert Doctorow is a Brussels-based political analyst. His latest book Does Russia Have a Future? was published in August 2017. Reprinted with permission from his blog.

© Gilbert Doctorow, 2018

This article was originally published by Anti War” –

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/51028.htm

 

US May Still Invade Venezuela if Coup Fails: Russian Foreign Ministry

Maria-Zakharova

Maria Zakharova, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson: “We call upon all of our partners to seriously consider what real role Washington is giving them in the preparation and carrying out of the force-based scenario in the region.

This is like what was done in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, and many other places on our planet earlier. How severe will be the humanitarian and migratory crises in case those plans are implemented?”

Posted February 02, 2019

Part 2

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/51026.htm

Talk of Western Intervention in the Black Sea Is Pure Fantasy

Global Research, January 17, 2019
Asia Times 16 January 2019
black-sea-fleet-display

 

Crimea is essential to Russia strategically and economically, but speculation over Ankara helping to boost the US presence in the Black Sea is far-fetched given Turkey’s energy deals with Moscow

***

A power struggle over the Black Sea between Russia and the US plus NATO has the potential to develop as a seminal plot of the 21st century New Great Game – alongside the current jostling for re-positioning in the Eastern Mediterranean.

By now it’s established the US and NATO are stepping up military pressure from Poland to Romania and Bulgaria all the way to Ukraine and east of the Black Sea, which seems, at least for the moment, relatively peaceful, just as Crimea’s return to Russia starts to be regarded, in realpolitik terms, as a fait accompli.

After a recent series of conversations with top analysts from Istanbul to Moscow, it’s possible to identify the main trends ahead.

Just as independent Turkish analysts like Professor Hasan Unal are alarmed at Ankara’s isolation in the Eastern Mediterranean energy sphere by an alliance of Greece, Cyprus and Israel, Washington’s military buildup in both Romania and Bulgaria is also identified as posing a threat to Turkey.

It’s under this perspective that Ankara’s obstinance in establishing a security “corridor” in northern Syria, east of the Euphrates river, and free from the YPG Kurds, should be examined. It’s a matter of policing at least one sensitive border.

Still, in the chessboard from Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf, Turkey and Crimea, the specter of “foreign intervention” setting fire to the Intermarium – from the Baltics to the Black Sea – simply refuses to die.

Ukraine Russia map

‘Russian lake’?

By the end of the last glacial era, around 20,000 years ago, the Black Sea – separated from the Mediterranean by an isthmus – was just a shallow lake, much smaller in size than it is today.

The legendary journey of Jason and the Argonauts, before the Trojan war, followed the Argo ship to the farther shore of Pontus Euxinus (the ‘Black Sea’) to recover the Golden Fleece – the cure for all evils – from its location in Colchis (currently in Georgia).

In Ancient Greece, steeped in mythology, the Black Sea was routinely depicted as the boundary between the known world and terra incognita. But then it was “discovered” – like America many centuries later – to the point where it was configured as a “string of pearls” of Greek trading colonies linked to the Mediterranean.

The Black Sea is more than strategic, it’s crucial geopolitically. There has been a constant drive in modern Russian history to be active across maritime trade routes through the strategic straits – the Dardanelles, the Bosphorus and Kerch in Crimea – to warmer waters further south.

As I observed early last month in Sevastopol, Crimea is now a seriously built fortress – incorporating S-400 and Iskander-M missiles – capable of ensuring total Russian primacy all across the eastern Black Sea.

A visit to Crimea reveals how its genes are Russian, not Ukrainian. A case can be made that the very concept of Ukraine is relatively spurious, propelled by the Austro-Hungarian empire at the end of the 19th century and especially before World War I to weaken Russia. Ukraine was part of Russia for 400 years, far longer than California and New Mexico have been part of the US.

Now compare the reconquest of Crimea by Russia, without firing a shot and validated by a democratic referendum, to the US “conquests” of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya. Moreover, I saw Crimea being rebuilt and on the way to prosperity, complete with Tatars voting with their feet to return; compare it to Ukraine, which is an IMF basket case.

Crimea is essential to Russia not only from a geostrategic but also an economic point of view, as it solidifies the Black Sea as a virtual “Russian lake”.

It’s immaterial that Turkish strategists may vehemently disagree, as well as US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker who, trying to seduce Turkey, dreams about increasing the US presence in the Black Sea, “whether on a bilateral basis or under EU auspices.”

Under this context, the building of the Turk Stream pipeline should be read as Ankara’s sharp response to the rampant Russophobia in Brussels.

Ankara has, in tandem, consistently shown it won’t shelve the acquisition of Russian S-400 missile systems because of American pressure. This has nothing to do with pretentions of neo-Ottomanism; it’s about Turkey’s energy and security priorities. Ankara now seems more than ready to live with a powerful Russian presence across the Black Sea.

It all comes down to Montreux

Not by accident the comings and goings on NATO’s eastern flank was a key theme at last summer’s biennial Atlanticist summit. After all, Russia, in the wake of reincorporating Crimea, denied access over the eastern Black Sea.

NATO, though, is a large mixed bag of geopolitical agendas. So, in the end, there’s no cohesive strategy to deal with the Black Sea, apart from a vague, rhetorical “support for Ukraine” and also vague exhortations for Turkey to assume its responsibilities.

But because Ankara’s priorities are in fact the Eastern Mediterranean and the Turkish-Syrian border, east of the Euphrates river, there’s no realistic horizon for NATO to come up with permanent Black Sea patrols disguised as a “freedom of navigation” scheme – as much as Kiev may beg for it.

What does remain very much in place is the guarantee of freedom of navigation in the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits controlled by Turkey, as sanctioned by the 1936 Montreux Convention.

The key vector, once again, is that the Black Sea links Europe with the Caucasus and allows Russia trade access to southern warm waters. We always need to go back to Catherine the Great, who incorporated Crimea into the empire in the 18th century after half a millennium of Tatar and then Ottoman rule, and then ordered the construction of a huge naval base for the Black Sea fleet.

By now some facts on the ground are more than established.

Next year the Black Sea fleet will be upgraded with an array of anti-ship missiles; protected by S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile systems; and supported by a new “permanent deployment” of Sukhoi SU-27s and SU-30s.

Far-fetched scenarios of the Turkish navy fighting the Russian Black Sea fleet will continue to be peddled by misinformed think tanks, oblivious to the inevitability of the Russia-Turkey energy partnership. Without Turkey, NATO is a cripple in the Black Sea region.

Intriguing developments such as a Viking Silk Road across the Intermarium won’t alter the fact that Poland, the Baltics and Romania will continue to clamor for “more NATO” in their areas to fight “Russian aggression”.

And it will be up to a new government in Kiev after the upcoming March elections to realize that any provocation designed to drag NATO into a Kerch Strait entanglement is doomed to failure.

Ancient Greek sailors had a deep fear of the Black Sea’s howling winds. As it now stands, call it the calm before a (Black Sea) storm.

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Talk of Western Intervention in the Black Sea Is Pure Fantasy

Putin/Trump: A Tale of Two New Year Addresses

putin-trump-g20

By Finian Cunningham

January 07, 2019 “Information Clearing House” –     Russian President Vladimir Putin gave an intelligent, heartfelt and generous address to all Russians for the New Year. His words contained wisdom and original inspiration, spoken eloquently and at length, seemingly without cue cards.

By contrast, US President Donald Trump gave a churlish, selfish and shallow greeting to “some” of his citizens, a partisan address that was replete with divisiveness, militaristic jingoism and a few token words of cheer thrown in.

The two contrasting styles, and substance, say everything about the two political cultures. Russia’s is mature and intelligent. America’s, especially under Trump, has become openly self-centered, superficial and aggressive.

For starters, Putin gave a nationwide televised address in which he spoke from the Kremlin fluently for nearly four minutes without a single word misplaced. He was speaking from outdoors as could be seen from his exhaled breath touching the frigid air.

For his part, Trump didn’t actually give a nationwide New Year speech. The nearest thing was a 20-second soundbite from the White House lawn in which he wished everyone to have a “good party” while, in self-pitying tone, he added that he would be working in the Oval Office.

Later, the US president gave a phone-in interview to his favorite TV channel, Fox News, whose anchorman was reporting from reveling in New York City’s Times Square. The interview lasted for nearly nine minutes.

So, we may deduce that for all those American citizens who don’t tune into Fox, they didn’t receive a New Year greeting from their president. Not a propitious beginning for the year ahead.

Then there were the issues of style, substance and tone. Putin spoke from the heart beginning with his inclusive opening, “Dear Russians, dear friends.”

There was no harping by the Russian president on “achievements” or egotistical grandstanding. Putin urged the nation to be unified and strong. It was forward-looking and optimistic, wishing everyone to pursue their dreams and, on a practical note, calling for political and economic endeavor to improve quality of life for all Russians.His speech was personal, endearing and compassionate. “Full of hope we eagerly await the New Year,” he said with sincerity and dignity. “As long as our families are gathered together our hearts are warm.” He appealed for “helping those in need or whom we have hurt, because no man is an island. Compassion generates kindness and brings the joy of companionship.”

Cynics may say Putin was painting a rosy picture with mawkish rhetoric. But surely a leader is one who strives to uplift people and to give unity of purpose. Listening to his words, there can be little doubt that the Russian leader is committed to delivering in practical terms on making life better for Russians.

Over to Trump, the style and tone could not have been more different or jarring. When he was asked by the Fox News anchor what he was doing for New Year’s Eve, Trump immediately plunged into his bottomless ego. “Well, I am sitting at the White House talking to you…” as if seeking praise for appearing to be a selfless, dedicated commander-in-chief.

For the next nine minutes Trump went on a rambling rant, barely able to complete his sentences. His top priorities included building the wall on the Mexican border, about the need for security against immigrants, and he just couldn’t resist making jabs at Democrats and others who disagree with his politics.

Trump bragged about supposed achievements, saying that he had achieved more than any other president. He crowed about supposed economic success under his administration, and – seriously – he claimed that he was bringing US troops home from Syria (illegally present in that country) because he had “eradicated ISIS”.

“Frankly I’ve done more than I said [I would]. Not only am I able to get out [of overseas wars] but also I have won. We’ve really largely eradicated ISIS.”

He talked about the 2020 presidential election which he said, “I’m gonna win big”.

Towards the end of his divisive, pugnacious rant, Trump did make an effort to sound inclusive, when he said he wished “great wealth for our country” and he talked about the “American people being the big winners” from his presidency.

“Just success, prosperity and health for our country that’s all I want,” concluded Trump.

Well, who is painting the impossibly rosy picture here? Many reliable indicators show record numbers of American citizens suffering from in-work poverty, chronic under-employment, housing and health crises. And this president seems to have no inclination to provide practical policies for improving social conditions. His oligarch policies for enriching the super rich are delusional claims about “making American great again”.

New Year messages are traditionally about goodwill and peace. Trump’s Fox-wide address was full of militarism. He boasted about “building up our great military” at least five times.

On the purpose of creating wealth, he didn’t say it was for improving public services of health and education. Trump said: “Great wealth for our country means we can do a lot more for our military.”

Admittedly, he did at one point say “hopefully we will never have to use our military”. Nevertheless, his speech was bristling with jingoism and aggression. His view of the world was typical siege mentality and threatening. “Our military will be so strong we will never have to use it.” Meaning: we’re going to contain the world under a reign of terror.

Russia’s Putin never made a single mention of militarism in his New Year address. Even though Russia has much to be proud about from the way it defeated the US-backed terror war for regime change in Syria.

Putin talked about cherishing family, friends and compatriots and working together as a nation for the collective benefit of all.

Yet, Western politicians and their supine media relentless portray Russia as an aggressor nation!

Trump was a demagogue on steroids who evidently had not the decorum to aspire for the greater good and peace. His speech was all “me, me, me” and more “me”. Bragging, self-indulgent, militaristic, divisive and bitter. And to cap it all, barely articulate.

This tale of two New Year addresses tells you which nation has the real strength to prosper in the future.

This article was originally published by SCF” –

Finian Cunningham has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/50885.htm

Japan to Push for WWII-Era Peace Treaty with Russia

“We both do not want this to drag out into another generation,” the Japanese Prime Minister said Friday.

 

Global Research, January 06, 2019
teleSUR 4 January 2019
abe_putin-400x225

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday he intends to move towards a World War II peace treaty with Russia during a summit in Russia later this month. The treaty has been hindered for decades by a territorial dispute.

Abe is due to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in the 25th summit where they are expected to end a disagreement over a collection of islands seized by Soviet troops in the final days of the war.

“I’ll visit Russia later this month and intend to push forward with discussions towards a peace treaty,” he said, adding that there had been “absolutely no progress” on the issue for more than 70 years.

Abe said that, while there were no guarantees of an agreement, the two nations had been cooperating over issues concerning the islands, as well as economic issues, over the past two years “as never before.”

Putin caught Abe off guard in September when, on stage with the Japanese leader at a conference in Vladivostok, he suggested signing a peace treaty by year-end “without any pre-conditions.”

Abe later rejected the proposal, repeating Japan’s stance that the countries must resolve a question of sovereignty.

After the two met again in Singapore in November, the Japanese prime minister said they had agreed to advance negotiations based on a 1956 joint statement in which Moscow agreed to transfer the two smaller islands to Japan after a peace treaty was established.

Putin may be open to a deal now with the expectation that better ties will act as a counter-balance to China and draw more Japanese investment and technology, some experts say.

However, others doubt whether Putin really wants an agreement, partly because many Russian citizens are opposed to returning any of the islands, known in Japan as the Northern Territories and in Russia as the Southern Kurils.

*

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Featured image: Shinzo Abe and Vladimir Putin. September 10, 2018 © Sergey Mamontov © Sputnik

 

Japan to Push for WWII-Era Peace Treaty with Russia

2019, The Strategies of Global Warfare: War with China and Russia? Washington’s Military Design in the Asia-Pacific

Global Research, January 03, 2019
Global Research 22 August 2016
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Author’s Note and Update

At the outset of 2019, War against China and Russia is on the drawing board of the Pentagon.

The use of nuclear weapons are contemplated on a preemptive first strike basis. 

How do we know that?  .

  • World War III scenarios have been contemplated for more than ten years. They are the object of military simulations (which are classified). Leaked to the Washington Post in 2006, see Vigilant Shield global war scenario using nuclear weapons against China, Russia, Iran, North Korea
  • Recent reports (2015-2018) commissioned by the Pentagon confirm the details of  Washington’s military agenda against China and Russia (see details below, reports by the Rand Corporation’s  War against China project  and the 2018 National Defense Strategy Commission, War against China and Russia.
  • On March 1st, 2018 president Vladimir Putin unveiled an array of advanced military technologies in response to renewed US threats to wipe the Russian Federation off the Map, as contained in Trump’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review

It should be understood that these US nuclear threats directed against Russia predate the Cold War. They were first formulated  at the height of World War II under the Manhattan Project when the US and the Soviet Union were allies.

According to a secret document dated September 15, 1945, “the Pentagon had envisaged blowing up the Soviet Union  with a coordinated nuclear attack directed against 66 major urban areas. See document below (scroll down for details). 

All major cities of the Soviet Union were included in the list of 66 “strategic” targets. The tables categorize each city in terms of area in square miles and the corresponding number of atomic bombs required to annihilate and kill the inhabitants of selected urban areas. (Michel Chossudovsky, “Wipe the Soviet Union Off the Map”, 204 Atomic Bombs against 66 Major Cities, US Nuclear Attack against USSR Planned During World War II, October 27, 2018)


 

The Contemporary post Cold War context involves a scenario of a nuclear attack on Russia. “Kill the Russians”: The New Cold War is no longer Cold.

A former CIA Official is calling for “Killing of Russians”.  The US media and the State Department applaud. (scroll down for more details). 

And below is the RAND Corporation scenario of a future war against China.

The study (published in 2015) entitled War with China: Thinking the Unthinkable was commissioned by the US Army. 

For an updated analysis (December 2018) of US war scenarios against both Russia and China, see Manlio Dinucci‘s incisive analysis of the US National Defense Strategy Commission report entitled “Providing for the Common Defense”

At first glance, it reads like the script for a Hollywood catastrophe movie. And yet it’s one of the scenarios that is actually being considered in the official 2018 report by the Commission, tasked by the United States Congress with studying the national defense strategy: 

“In 2019, on the basis of fake news announcing atrocities committed against Russian citizens in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, Russia invades these countries. While US and NATO forces prepare to respond, Russia declares that an attack against its forces in these countries would be viewed as an attack on Russia itself,…  

The bipartisan Committee, composed of six Republicans and six Democrats, are looking at a similar scenario in Asia – in 2024, China stages a surprise attack and occupies Taiwan, and the United States are unable to intervene in a cost-effective manner, because Chinese military capacities have continued to grow, while those of the USA have stagnated due to insufficient military spending.

(Manlio Dinucci: America Is Preparing for Confrontation with Russia and ChinaGlobal Research, December 14, 2018) 

While America threatens the World with nuclear war, the political narrative is that the US and its NATO allies are under attack: “the security and wellbeing of the United States are at greater risk than at any time in decades.”

“Western civilization is under siege”. US-NATO “humanitarian warfare” using nuclear weapons on first strike basis against both nuclear and non-nuclear countries is casually upheld as a peace-making endeavor.

And what is of course very significant, none of this is revealed by the corporate media.

FAKE NEWS THROUGH OMISSION.  World War III is on the table and so is the use of nuclear weapons.

The possibility of a nuclear holocaust does not hit the news headlines.

Michel Chossudovsky,  Global Research, January 3, 2019 

***

Introduction

It is important to focus on Southeast Asia and East Asia in a broader geopolitical context. China, North Korea as well as Russia are potential targets under Obama’s “Pivot to Asia”, involving the combined threat of missile deployments, naval power and pre-emptive nuclear war.

We are not dealing with piecemeal military endeavors. The regional Asia-Pacific military agenda under the auspices of US Pacific Command (USPACOM) is part of a global process of US-NATO military planning.

US military actions are carefully coordinated. Major military and covert intelligence operations are being undertaken simultaneously in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia and the Asia Pacific region. In turn, the planning of military operations is coordinated with non-conventional forms of warfare including regime change, financial warfare and economic sanctions.

To  order Michel Chossudovsky’s book from Global Research click image 

The current situation is all the more critical inasmuch as a US-NATO war on Russia, China, North Korea and Iran is part of the US presidential election debate. War is presented as a political and military option to Western public opinion.

The US-NATO military agenda combines both major theater operations as well as covert actions geared towards destabilizing sovereign states. America’s hegemonic project is to destabilize and destroy countries through acts of war, support of terrorist organizations, regime change and economic warfare.

While, a World War Three Scenario has been on the drawing board of the Pentagon for more than ten years, military action against Russia and China is now contemplated at an “operational level”. U.S. and NATO forces have been deployed in essentially three major regions of the World:

  1. The Middle East and North Africa. Theater wars and US-NATO sponsored insurgencies directed against Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen  under the banner of the “Global War on Terrorism”
  2. Eastern Europe including Poland and Ukraine, with military maneuvers, war games and the deployment of military hardware at Russia’s doorstep which could potentially lead to confrontation with the Russian Federation.
  3. The U.S. and its allies are also threatening China under President Obama’s “Pivot to Asia”.
  4. Russia is also confronted on its North Eastern frontier,  through the deployment of NORAD-Northcom
  5. In other regions of the World including Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, US intervention is geared towards regime change and economic warfare directed against a number of non-compliant countries: Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Cuba, Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the thrust has largely used the pretext of “Islamic terrorism” to wage counterterrorism ops under the auspices of the US Africa Command (USAFRICOM).

In South Asia, Washington’s intent is to build an alliance with India with a view to confronting China.

Pivot to Asia and the Threat of Nuclear War 

Within the Asia Pacific region, China, North Korea and Russia are the target of a preemptive nuclear attack by the US. It is important to review the history of nuclear war and nuclear threats as well US nuclear doctrine as first formulated in 1945 under the Truman administration.

HIROSHIMA AND NAGASAKI

“We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world. It may be the fire destruction prophesied in the Euphrates Valley Era, after Noah and his fabulous Ark…. This weapon is to be used against Japan … [We] will use it so that military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children. Even if the Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, we as the leader of the world for the common welfare cannot drop that terrible bomb on the old capital or the new. …  The target will be a purely military one… It seems to be the most terrible thing ever discovered, but it can be made the most useful.” (President Harry S. Truman, Diary, July 25, 1945)

“The World will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians..” (President Harry S. Truman in a radio speech to the Nation, August 9, 1945).

[Note: the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945; the Second on Nagasaki, on August 9, on the same day as Truman’s radio speech to the Nation]

(Listen to Excerpt of his speech, Hiroshima audio video)

Hiroshima after the bomb

Is Truman’s notion of “collateral damage” in the case of nuclear war still relevant? Publicly available military documents confirm that nuclear war is still on the drawing board  of the Pentagon.

Compared to the 1950s, however, today’s nuclear weapons are far more advanced. The delivery system is more precise. In addition to China and Russia, Iran and North Korea are targets for a first strike pre-emptive nuclear attack.

US military documents claim that the new generation of tactical nuclear weapons are harmless to civilians. B61 mini-nuke depending on the model has a variable explosive capacity (one third to almost 12 times a Hiroshima bomb).

NUCLEAR DOCTRINE AND POLITICAL INSANITY

Let us be under no illusions, the Pentagon’s plan to “blow up the planet” using advanced nuclear weapons is still on the books.

The tactical nuclear weapons were specifically developed for use in post Cold War “conventional conflicts with third world nations”.  In October 2001, in the immediate wake of 9/11, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld envisaged the use of the B61-11 tactical nuclear bomb in Afghanistan. The targets were Al Qaeda cave bunkers in the Tora Bora mountains.

Rumsfeld stated at the time that while the “conventional” bunker buster bombs “‘are going to be able to do the job’, … he did not rule out the eventual use of nuclear weapons.” (Quoted in the Houston Chronicle, 20 October 2001, emphasis added.)

The use of the B61-11 was also contemplated during the 2003 bombing and invasion of Iraq as well as in the 2011 NATO bombings of Libya.

In this regard, the B61-11 was described as “a precise, earth-penetrating low-yield nuclear weapon against high-value underground targets”, which included Saddam Hussein’s underground bunkers:

 ”If Saddam was arguably the highest value target in Iraq, then a good case could be made for using a nuclear weapon like the B61-11 to assure killing him and decapitating the regime” (Defense News, December 8, 2003).

Picture: B61-11 tactical nuclear bomb. In 1996 under the Clinton administration, the B61-11 tactical nuclear weapon was slated to be used by the US in an attack against Libya.

B61-11 tactical nuclear bomb. In 1996 under the Clinton administration, the B61-11 tactical nuclear weapon was slated to be used by the US in an attack against Libya.

All the safeguards of the Cold War era, which categorized the nuclear bomb as “a weapon of last resort”, have been scrapped. “Offensive” military actions using nuclear warheads are now described as acts of “self-defense”. During the Cold War, the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) prevailed, namely that the use of nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union would result in “the destruction of both the attacker and the defender”.

In the post Cold war era, US nuclear doctrine was redefined. There is no sanity in what is euphemistically called US foreign policy.

At no point since the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945, has humanity been closer to the unthinkable…

Nuclear War is Good for Business

Spearheaded by the “defense contractors” (Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, British Aerospace  et al), the Obama administration has proposed a 1.2  trillion dollar plan over a 30 year period to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons, bombers, submarines, and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) largely directed at Russia and China.

War with Russia: From the Cold War to the New Cold War

Blowing up Russia, targeting Russian cities is still on the Pentagon’s drawing board.  It is also supported by enabling legislation in the US Congress.

The US House of Representatives H.Res. 758 Resolution

On 18 November 2014,  a major resolution H. Res. 758 was introduced in the House of Representatives. Its main thrust consists in portraying Russia as an “Aggressor Nation”, which has invaded Ukraine and calling for military action directed against Russia.

In the words of Hillary Clinton, the nuclear option is on the table.  Preemptive nuclear war is part of her election campaign.

Source: National Security Archive

According to 1956 Plan, H-Bombs were to be Used Against Priority “Air Power” Targets in the Soviet Union, China, and Eastern Europe.

Major Cities in Soviet Bloc, Including East Berlin, Were High Priorities in “Systematic Destruction” for Atomic Bombings.  (William Burr, U.S. Cold War Nuclear Attack Target List of 1200 Soviet Bloc Cities “From East Germany to China”, National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 538, December 2015

Excerpt of list of 1200 cities targeted for nuclear attack in alphabetical order. National Security Archive

The above declassified document provides an understanding of the magnitude of a first strike nuclear attack with more than 1000 Russian cities targeted.

The Contemporary Context involves a scenario of a nuclear attack on Russia. 

“Kill the Russians”: The New Cold War is no longer Cold

A former CIA Official is calling for the “Killing of Russians”.  The US media and the the State Department applaud:

 

Pivot to Asia: China is threatened by the US military in the South China Sea and the East China Sea

WAR WITH CHINA IS CURRENTLY ON THE DRAWING BOARD OF THE PENTAGON AS OUTLINED IN A RAND REPORT COMMISSIONED BY THE US ARMY

 

 

According to the Rand report:

Whereas a clear U.S. victory once seemed probable, it is increasingly likely that a conflict could involve inconclusive fighting with steep losses on both sides. The United States cannot expect to control a conflict it cannot dominate militarily.

http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR1100/RR1140/RAND_RR1140.pdf

Attack China Preemptively (“In Self Defense”)

The report is notoriously ambiguous. It focusses on how a war can be avoided while analyzing the circumstances under which a preemptive war against China is a win for the US:

The need to think through war with China is made all the more important by developments in military capabilities. Sensors, weapon guidance, digital networking, and other information technologies used to target opposing forces have advanced to the point where both U.S. and Chinese military forces seriously threaten each other. This creates the means as well as the incentive to strike enemy forces before they strike one’s own. In turn, this creates a bias toward sharp, reciprocal strikes from the outset of a war, yet with neither side able to gain con- trol and both having ample capacity to keep fighting, even as military losses and economic costs mount.

The presumption of this report is that China is threatening us, which justifies pre-emptive warfare. There is no evidence of  a Chinese military threat.  Within the realm of trade and investment, China’s constitutes a potential competitor to US economic hegemony.  According to James Petras: 

To counter China’s economic advance, the Obama regime has implemented a policy of building economic walls at home, trade restrictions abroad and military confrontation in the South China Seas – China’s strategic trade routes.

The purpose of the RAND report is that Chinese policymakers will read it. What we are dealing with is a process of military intimidation including veiled threats:

While the primary audience for this study is the U.S. policy community, we hope that Chinese policymakers will also think through possible courses and consequences of war with the United States, includ ing potential damage to China’s economic development and threats to China’s equilibrium and cohesion. We find little in the public domain to indicate that the Chinese political leadership has given this matter the attention it deserves.

The Report outlines “Four Analytic Scenarios” on how a war with China could be carried out:

The path of war might be defined mainly by two variables: intensity (from mild to severe) and duration (from a few days to a year or more). Thus, we analyze four cases: brief and severe, long and severe, brief and mild, and long and mild. The main determinant of intensity is whether, at the outset, U.S. and Chinese political leaders grant or deny their respective militaries permission to execute their plans to attack opposing forces unhesitatingly.

The concluding comments of the report underscore the potential weakness of China in relation to US-allied forces “…they do not point to Chinese dominance or victory.”

The report creates an ideological war narrative. It is flawed in terms of its understanding of modern warfare and weapons systems. It is largely a propaganda ploy directed against the Chinese leadership. It totally ignores Chinese history and China’s military perceptions which are largely based on defending the Nation’s historical national borders.

Much of the analysis focusses on a protracted conventional war over several years. The use of nuclear weapons is not envisaged by the RAND report despite the fact that they are currently deployed on a pre-emptive basis against China. The following assertions are at odds with US nuclear doctrine as defined in the 2002 nuclear posture review, which allows the use of tactical nuclear weapons in the conventional war theater:

It is unlikely that nuclear weapons would be used: Even in an intensely violent conventional conflict, neither side would regard its losses as so serious, its prospects so dire, or the stakes so vital that it would run the risk of devastating nuclear retaliation by using nuclear weapons first. We also assume that China would not attack the U.S. homeland, except via cyberspace.

While the US, according to the report, does not contemplate the use nuclear weapons, the report examines the circumstances under which China might use nukes against the US to avoid defeat.The analysis is diabolical:

Thus, it cannot be entirely excluded that the Chinese leadership would decide that only the use of nuclear weapons would prevent total defeat and the state’s destruction. However, even under such desperate conditions, the resort to nuclear weapons would not be China’s only option: It could instead accept defeat. Indeed, because U.S. nuclear retaliation would make the destruction of the state and collapse of the country all the more certain, accepting defeat would be a better option (depending on the severity of U.S. terms) than nuclear escalation. This logic, along with China’s ingrained no-first-use policy, suggests that Chinese first use is most improbable. (p. 30)

In other words, China has the option of being totally destroyed or surrendering to the US. The report concludes as follows:

In a nutshell, despite military trends that favor it, China could not win, and might lose, a severe war with the United States in 2025, especially if prolonged. Moreover, the economic costs and political dangers of such a war could imperil China’s stability, end its development, and undermine the legitimacy of the state. (p 68)

Southeast Asia

Washington’s objective is to draw South East Asia and the Far East into a protracted military conflict by creating divisions between China and ASEAN countries, most of which are the victims of Western colonialism and military aggression: Extensive crimes against humanity have been committed against Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia. In a bitter irony, these countries are now military allies of the United States. Below are selected clips confirming extensive US war crimes and crimes against humanity:


US WAR CRIMES AND CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY

Indonesia 

Up to one million killed in Indonesia, the CIA acknowledges 105,000, The lists of Communist sympathizers (and their family members) were established by the CIA

Korea

Vietnam

THE LIST OF US CRIMES IS EXTENSIVE: 37 “VICTIM NATIONS” SINCE WORLD WAR II

China and ASEAN 

Bilateral economic relations with China are slated to be destabilized. The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a US hegemonic project which seeks to control trade, investment, intellectual property, etc in the Asia Pacific region.

The RAND report states in so many words that maritime territorial disputes in the South China Sea and East China Sea would have a devastating impact on Asian countries, extending from India to Japan:

 The possibility of a Sino-U.S. war drawing in other powers and many states cannot be excluded: In addition to Japan, perhaps India, Vietnam, and NATO would be on the U.S. side; Russia and North Korea would be on China’s side. Fighting could spread beyond the region. War aims could expand, and as they did, so would the costs of losing. Even if nuclear weapons were not used, China might find other ways to attack the United States proper.  (p. 65)

US Deployments in the Asia-Pacific. China is encircled with US Military bases

Source Antiwar.com

THAAD MISSILE DEPLOYMENT IN SOUTH KOREA DIRECTED AGAINST CHINA

THAAD missiles are deployed in South Korea, against China, Russia and North Korea.  Washington states that THAAD is solely intended as a Missile Shield against North Korea.

THAAD System

THE JEJU ISLAND  MILITARY BASE DIRECTED AGAINST CHINA 

Less than 500km from Shanghai

THE REMILITARIZATION OF JAPAN UNDER PRIME MINISTER ABE’S GOVERNMENT
Japan is firmly aligned behind the US. It is a partner in the Jeju Island military base. Recent reports confirm Japan’s deployment of surface to ship missiles in the East China sea.
Japan is planning to deploy a new type of missile to the East China Sea, where Tokyo is engaged in a tense territorial dispute with Beijing. The decision marks a significant milestone in the drive by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to remilitarize Japan. The planned missile system will be designed locally, by the country’s expanding defence industry, rather than being supplied by the United States or another ally.

The Japanese media has intimated that “the missile will have a built-in capacity to strike at land targets”.

The US had military cooperation agreements with South-Korea, Philippines, Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia. More recently Malaysia has become a treaty ally of the US. under Washington’s pivot to Asia. According to South Front:

“This is seen as a major shift in Malaysia’s foreign policy which maintained a limited relationship during the tenure of former premier Mahathir Mohamad who openly opposed attempts of the West to create a unipolar world.

US PROPOSED MILITARY BASE IN SABAH, EASTERN MALAYSIA? 

At stake from Washington’s standpoint is the control of strategic waterways.

The Malaysian government has entered into a close relationship with the US characterized by purchase of US military equipment, the conduct of US-Malaysia war games in 2014.

According to unconfirmed reports, a US military base is contemplated by the Kuala Lumpur government. The purpose of these initiatives is ultimately to destabilize bilateral relations between Malaysia and China.

America’s War on Terrorism  in South and Southeast Asia

The counterterrorism strategy applied in the Middle East and Africa is also contemplated in Southeast Asia. It is used as a pretext to justify military deployments including the construction of military bases.

The potential target countries are: Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines.  Also of significance in discussing  America’s Pivot to Asia, US intelligence also supports Islamist insurgencies in the Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region.

The Global War on Terrorism is a Big Lie. Al Qaeda is a Creation of US Intelligence

From the outset of the Soviet-Afghan war in 1979 to the present, various Islamic fundamentalist paramilitary organizations became de facto instruments of US intelligence and more generally of the US-NATO-Israel military alliance.

The US has actively supported Al Qaeda affiliated terrorist organizations since the onslaught of the Soviet Afghan War.  Washington has engineered the installation of Islamist regimes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It has destroyed the fabric of secular societies.

Confirmed by Israeli intelligence media,  the Al Qaeda opposition fighters in Syria are recruited by US-NATO and the Turkish high command.

They are the foot-soldiers of the Western military alliance, with special forces in their midst. The Al Qaeda affiliated “moderate” terrorist organizations in Syria are supported by Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

The counter-terrorism agenda is bogus. It’s a criminal undertaking. What is being bombed is the civilian infrastructure of a sovereign country.

For further details see Global Research’s War on Terrorism Dossier

The above text is a point by point thematic summary of Prof. Michel Chossudovsky‘s presentation at the the University of the Philippines Cebu Conference on ASEAN and the World.  UP Cebu, Cebu, 24-25 August 2016


Order Directly from Global Research Publishers

Michel Chossudovsky

original

The US has embarked on a military adventure, “a long war”, which threatens the future of humanity. US-NATO weapons of mass destruction are portrayed as instruments of peace. Mini-nukes are said to be “harmless to the surrounding civilian population”. Pre-emptive nuclear war is portrayed as a “humanitarian undertaking”.

While one can conceptualize the loss of life and destruction resulting from present-day wars including Iraq and Afghanistan, it is impossible to fully comprehend the devastation which might result from a Third World War, using “new technologies” and advanced weapons, until it occurs and becomes a reality. The international community has endorsed nuclear war in the name of world peace. “Making the world safer” is the justification for launching a military operation which could potentially result in a nuclear holocaust.

original

America’s hegemonic project in the post 9/11 era is the “Globalization of War” whereby the U.S.-NATO military machine —coupled with covert intelligence operations, economic sanctions and the thrust of “regime change”— is deployed in all major regions of the world. The threat of pre-emptive nuclear war is also used to black-mail countries into submission.

This “Long War against Humanity” is carried out at the height of the most serious economic crisis in modern history.

It is intimately related to a process of global financial restructuring, which has resulted in the collapse of national economies and the impoverishment of large sectors of the World population.

The ultimate objective is World conquest under the cloak of “human rights” and “Western democracy”.

 

2019, The Strategies of Global Warfare: War with China and Russia? Washington’s Military Design in the Asia-Pacific

NATO Partisans Started a New Cold War with Russia

Putin is responding to the West’s aggressive actions, not the other way around.

 

Global Research, December 28, 2018
shutterstock_606070154

When historians examine the first few decades of the so-called post-Cold War era, they are likely to marvel at the clumsy and provocative policies that the United States and its NATO allies pursued toward Russia. Perceptive historians will conclude that a multitude of insensitive actions by those governments poisoned relations with Moscow, and by the latter years of the Obama administration, led to the onset of a new cold war. During the Trump administration, matters grew even worse, and that cold war threatened to turn hot.

Since the history of our era is still being written, we have an opportunity to avoid such a cataclysmic outcome. However, the behavior of America’s political, policy, and media elites in response to the latest parochial quarrel between Russia and Ukraine regarding the Kerch Strait suggests that they learned nothing from their previous blunders. Worse, they seem determined to intensify an already counterproductive, hardline policy toward Moscow.

U.S. leaders managed to get relations with Russia wrong just a few years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991. One of the few officials to capture the nature of the West’s bungling and how it fomented tensions was Robert Gates, who served as secretary of defense during the final years of George W. Bush’s administration and the first years of Barack Obama’s. In his surprisingly candid memoirsDuty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, Gates recalls his report to Bush following the 2007 Munich Security Council, at which Russian President Vladimir Putin vented about Western security transgressions, including the planned deployment of a missile defense system in Central Europe.

“When I reported to the president my take on the Munich conference, I shared my belief that from 1993 onward, the West, and particularly the United States, had badly underestimated the magnitude of the Russian humiliation in losing the Cold War . . . .” Yet even that blunt assessment given to Bush did not fully capture Gates’s views on the issue. “What I didn’t tell the president was that I believed the relationship with Russia had been badly mismanaged after [George H. W.] Bush left office in 1993. Getting Gorbachev to acquiesce to a unified Germany as a member of NATO had been a huge accomplishment. But moving so quickly after the collapse of the Soviet Union to incorporate so many of its formerly subjugated states into NATO was a mistake.”

Specific U.S. actions were ill-considered as well, in Gates’s view. “U.S. agreements with the Romanian and Bulgarian governments to rotate troops through bases in those countries was a needless provocation.”

His list of foolish or arrogant Western actions went on. Citing NATO’s military interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo during Bill Clinton’s administration, Gates noted that “the Russians had long historical ties with Serbia, which we largely ignored.” And in an implicit rebuke to his current boss, Gates asserted that “trying to bring Georgia and Ukraine into NATO was truly overreaching.” That move was a case of “recklessly ignoring what the Russians considered their own vital national interests.” Indeed, events regarding Ukraine after Gates completed his memoirs illustrated that U.S. arrogance and meddling knew few bounds. U.S. officials openly sided with demonstrators who overthrew Ukraine’s elected, pro-Russian government, and then reacted with shock and anger when Russia retaliated by seizing and annexing Crimea.

Gates’s overall assessment of Western, especially U.S., policy toward Russia during the post-Cold War era was unsparingly harsh—and devastatingly accurate: “When Russia was weak in the 1990s and beyond, we did not take Russian interests seriously. We did a poor job of seeing the world from their point of view and managing the relationship for the long term.” Unfortunately, Gates was one of the rare anomalies in the American foreign policy community regarding policy toward Russia.

His criticism, trenchant as it is, still understates the folly of the policies that the United States and its NATO allies have pursued toward Moscow. The treatment that three successive U.S. administrations meted out to a newly capitalist, democratic Russia was appalling myopic. Even before Vladimir Putin came to power—and long before Russia descended into being an illiberal democracy and then an outright authoritarian state—the Western powers treated the country as a de facto enemy. The NATO nations engaged in a series of provocations even though Moscow had engaged in no aggressive conduct that even arguably justified such actions.

The determination to confront Russia has only grown over the years, as the current tensions involving the Kerch Strait illustrate. When Russian security forces fired on three Ukrainian naval vessels that attempted to force a transit of the Kerch Strait (a narrow waterway between Russia’s Taman Peninsula and Russian-annexed Crimea that connects the Black Sea and Sea of Azov), the United States and its NATO allies reacted furiously. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley branded Russia’s conduct “outlaw actions.”

An array of U.S. lawmakers and pundits advocate highly provocative steps in response. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) the incoming chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, urged an increase in U.S. arms sales to Ukraine, asserting, “If Putin starts seeing Russian soldier fatalities, that changes his equation.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) threatened new sanctions on Russia and called for a coordinated response between the United States and its European allies. “If Putin continues his Black Sea bullying,” Inhofe stated, “the United States and Europe must consider imposing additional sanctions on Russia, inserting a greater U.S. and NATO presence in the Black Sea region and increasing military assistance for Ukraine.”

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) echoed those views. Menendez called for tougher sanctions, additional NATO exercises on the Black Sea and more U.S. security aid to Ukraine, “including lethal maritime equipment and weapons.” Some hawks even seem receptive to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s call on NATO to station warships in the Sea of Azov, even though such a step would likely lead to a shooting war between the West and Russia.

Far too many Western (especially American) analyses explicitly or implicitly act as though the United States and its NATO allies worked assiduously to establish cordial relations with Russia but were compelled to adopt hardline policies solely because of Russia’s perversely aggressive conduct. That is a distorted, self-serving portrayal on the part of NATO partisans. It falsely portrays the West as purely a reactive player—that NATO initiatives were never insensitive, provocative, or aggressive. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, the opposite is closer to the mark; Russia’s actions, both in terms of timing and virulence, tended to be responses to aggressive Western initiatives. Unfortunately, avid NATO supporters seem determined to double down, insisting that the Trump administration adopt even more uncompromising policies.

Contending that Moscow is to blame for the deterioration of East-West relations because of its military actions in Georgia and Ukraine, as U.S. opinion leaders tend to do, is especially inaccurate. The problems began much earlier than the events in 2008 and 2014. The West humiliated a defeated adversary that showed every sign of wanting to become part of a broader Western community. Expanding NATO and trampling on Russian interests in the Balkans were momentous early measures that torpedoed friendly relations.

Such policy myopia was reminiscent of how the victorious Allies inflicted harsh treatment on a defeated, newly democratic Weimar Germany after World War I. The NATO powers are treating Russia as an enemy, and there is now a serious danger that the country is turning into one. That development would be an especially tragic case of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

*

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Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow in security studies at the Cato Institute and a contributing editor at The American Conservative, is the author of 12 books and more than 750 articles on international affairs.  His latest book is Gullible Superpower: U.S. Support for Bogus Foreign Democratic Movements (forthcoming, February 2019).

Featured image is from Free Wind 2014/Shutterstock

 

NATO Partisans Started a New Cold War with Russia

How the New Silk Roads are Merging into Greater Eurasia

RUSSIA-CHINA-SILK-RD

Russia is keen to push economic integration with parts of Asia and this fits in with China’s Belt and Road Initiative

By Pepe Escobar

December 14, 2018 “Information Clearing House” –     The concept of Greater Eurasia has been discussed at the highest levels of Russian academia and policy-making for some time. This week the policy was presented at the Council of Ministers and looks set to be enshrined, without fanfare, as the main guideline of Russian foreign policy for the foreseeable future.

President Putin is unconditionally engaged to make it a success. Already at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in 2016, Putin referred to an emerging “Eurasian partnership”.

I was privileged over the past week to engage in excellent discussions in Moscow with some of the top Russian analysts and policymakers involved in advancing Greater Eurasia.

I was privileged over the past week to engage in excellent discussions in Moscow with some of the top Russian analysts and policymakers involved in advancing Greater Eurasia.
The framework for Great Eurasia has been dissected in detail by the indispensable Valdai Discussion Club, particularly on Rediscovering the Identity, the sixth part of a series called Toward the Great Ocean, published last September, and authored by an academic who’s who on the Russian Far East, led by Leonid Blyakher of the Pacific National University in Khabarovsk and coordinated by Karaganov, director of the project.Three particularly stand out: Yaroslav Lissovolik, program director of the Valdai Discussion Club and an expert on the politics and economics of the Global South; Glenn Diesen, author of the seminal Russia’s Geoeconomic Strategy for a Greater Eurasia; and the legendary Professor Sergey Karaganov, dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs at the National Research University Higher School of Economics and honorary chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, who received me in his office for an off-the-record conversation.

The conceptual heart of Greater Eurasia is Russia’s Turn to the East, or pivot to Asia, home of the economic and technological markets of the future. This implies Greater Eurasia proceeding in symbiosis with China’s New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). And yet this advanced stage of the Russia-China strategic partnership does not mean Moscow will neglect its myriad close ties to Europe.

Russian Far East experts are very much aware of the “Eurocentrism of a considerable portion of Russian elites.” They know how almost the entire economic, demographic and ideological environment in Russia has been closely intertwined with Europe for three centuries. They recognize that Russia has borrowed Europe’s high culture and its system of military organization. But now, they argue, it’s time, as a great Eurasian power, to profit from “an original and self-sustained fusion of many civilizations”; Russia not just as a trade or connectivity point, but as a “civilizational bridge”.

Legacy of Genghis Khan 

What my conversations, especially with Lissovolik, Diesen and Karaganov, have revealed is something absolutely groundbreaking – and virtually ignored across the West; Russia is aiming to establish a new paradigm not only in geopolitics and geoeconomics, but also on a cultural and ideological level.

Conditions are certainly ripe for it. Northeast Asia is immersed in a power vacuum. The Trump administration’s priority – as well as the US National Security Strategy’s – is containment of China. Both Japan and South Korea, slowly but surely, are getting closer to Russia.

Culturally, retracing Russia’s past, Greater Eurasia analysts may puzzle misinformed Western eyes. ‘Towards the Great Ocean’, the Valdai report supervised by Karaganov, notes the influence of Byzantium, which “preserved classical culture and made it embrace the best of the Orient culture at a time when Europe was sinking into the Dark Ages.” Byzantium inspired Russia to adopt Orthodox Christianity.

It also stresses the role of the Mongols over Russia’s political system. “The political traditions of most Asian countries are based on the legacy of the Mongols. Arguably, both Russia and China are rooted in Genghis Khan’s empire,” it says.

If the current Russian political system may be deemed authoritarian – or, as claimed in Paris and Berlin, an exponent of “illiberalism” – top Russian academics argue that a market economy protected by lean, mean military power performs way more efficiently than crisis-ridden Western liberal democracy.

As China heads West in myriad forms, Greater Eurasia and the Belt and Road Initiative are bound to merge. Eurasia is crisscrossed by mighty mountain ranges such as the Pamirs and deserts like the Taklamakan and the Karakum. The best ground route runs via Russia or via Kazakhstan to Russia. In crucial soft power terms, Russian remains the lingua franca in Mongolia, Central Asia and the Caucasus.

And that leads us to the utmost importance of an upgraded Trans-Siberian railway – Eurasia’s current connectivity core. In parallel, the transportation systems of the Central Asian “stans” are closely integrated with the Russian network of roads; all that is bound to be enhanced in the near future by Chinese-built high-speed rail.

Iran and Turkey are conducting their own versions of a pivot to Asia. A free-trade agreement between Iran and the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) was approved in early December. Iran and India are also bound to strike a free-trade agreement. Iran is a big player in the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), which is essential in driving closer economic integration between Russia and India.

The Caspian Sea, after a recent deal between its five littoral states, is re-emerging as a major trading post in Central Eurasia. Russia and Iran are involved in a joint project to build a gas pipeline to India.

Kazakhstan shows how Greater Eurasia and BRI are complementary; Astana is both a member of BRI and the EAEU. The same applies to gateway Vladivostok, Eurasia’s entry point for both South Korea and Japan, as well as Russia’s entry point to Northeast Asia.

Ultimately, Russia’s regional aim is to connect China’s northern provinces with Eurasia via the Trans-Siberian and the Chinese Eastern Railway – with Chita in China and Khabarovsk in Russia totally inter-connected.

And all across the spectrum, Moscow aims at maximizing return on the crown jewels of the Russian Far East; agriculture, water resources, minerals, lumber, oil and gas. Construction of liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants in Yamal vastly benefits China, Japan and South Korea.

Community spirit

Eurasianism, as initially conceptualized in the early 20th century by the geographer PN Savitsky, the geopolitician GV Vernadsky and the cultural historian VN Ilyn, among others, regarded Russian culture as a unique, complex combination of East and West, and the Russian people as belonging to “a fully original Eurasian community”.

That certainly still applies. But as Valdai Club analysts argue, the upgraded concept of Greater Eurasia “is not targeted against Europe or the West”; it aims to include at least a significant part of the EU.

The Chinese leadership describes BRI not only as connectivity corridors, but also as a “community”. Russians use a similar term applied to Greater Eurasia; sobornost (“community spirit”).

As Alexander Lukin of the Higher School of Economics and an expert on the SCO has constantly stressed, including in his book China and Russia: The New Rapprochement, this is all about the interconnection of Greater Eurasia, BRI, EAEU, SCO, INSTC, BRICS, BRICS Plus and ASEAN.

The cream of the crop of Russian intellectuals – at the Valdai Club and the Higher School of Economics – as well as top Chinese analysts, are in sync. Karaganov himself constantly reiterates that the concept of Greater Eurasia was arrived at, “jointly and officially”, by the Russia-China partnership; “a common space for economic, logistic and information cooperation, peace and security from Shanghai to Lisbon and New Delhi to Murmansk”.

The concept of Greater Eurasia is, of course, a work in progress. What my conversations in Moscow revealed is its extraordinary ambition; positioning Russia as a key geoeconomic and geopolitical crossroads linking the economic systems of North Eurasia, Central and Southwest Asia.

As Diesen notes, Russia and China have become inevitable allies because of their “shared objective of restructuring global value-chains and developing a multipolar world”. It’s no wonder Beijing’s drive to develop state-of-the-art national technological platforms is provoking so much anger in Washington. And in terms of the big picture, it makes perfect sense for BRI to be harmonized with Russia’s economic connectivity drive for Greater Eurasia.

That’s irreversible. The dogs of demonization, containment, sanctions and even war may bark all they want, but the Eurasia integration caravan keeps moving along.

Pepe Escobar is correspondent-at-large at Asia Times. His latest book is 2030. Follow him on Facebook.

This article was originally published by Asia Times” 

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/50771.htm

Is May Scared of Putin? British Showing Double Standards Over Russia

may-putin-3

By Ken Livingstone

December 04, 2018 “Information Clearing House” –     Although Saudi Arabia admitted weeks ago that its staff murdered Jamal Khashoggi, the UK hasn’t imposed sanctions on the Riyadh government. In stark contrast, when it comes to sanctioning Russia, London never lacks enthusiasm.

While no punishment has been inflicted on the Saudi government and no diplomats were expelled over the murder of the journalist in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, we have still got Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May demanding action against President Putin’s government because of recent conflict with Ukraine.

Even though it is now nine months since the attempted murder of the Skripals in Salisbury, there has still been no conclusive evidence that President Putin’s government was involved in any way. So why does Britain’s prime minister have such a double standard in how she handles events? She cannot really believe that Russia is going to go to war against the West, but there seems an absolute determination to see the removal of Putin’s government.

To understand this hysteria about Putin we need to look at the history of Russia since the disintegration of the Soviet Union back in 1991. Once Boris Yeltsin had seized power one of his first actions was to bring in a group of economists from the neo-liberal Institute of Economic Affairs which is based in London.
The looting of Russia’s economy was finally stopped and the neo-liberalist economists thrown out when Vladimir Putin was elected president in 2000 and began the reversal of the destruction of Russia’s industries. Putin firmly rejected the Wolfowitz Doctrine which led to several insurgencies in Russia’s Caucasus which Moscow suspected had the backing and instigation of British intelligence.The result of Yeltsin adopting the neo-liberal economic agenda was effectively the looting of Russia’s economy with devastating effects on the Russian people. There was widespread support from the US government for Yeltsin’s policy with the so-called Wolfowitz Doctrine which spelt out that no nation must ever again be allowed to rise to the stature of the Soviet Union and there should now be a unipolar world under the domination of the United States.

Although President Trump seems uncertain about what his policy should be towards Russia and China, his vice-president Mike Pence has no doubts. On October 4, Pence made a speech at the Hudson Institute in which he strongly denounced China. The host was Mike Pillsbury, a consultant with the US Department of Defense, who has a long involvement in America’s policy towards China. He said that Pence’s speech represents a “significant influential minority around Trump, but not a government wide position. There is a rising influence in Trump’s administration, by those who wish to provoke conflict with both China and Russia with its members still committed to the neoconservative doctrine of America’s global predominance.

Similar views have been expressed by Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton, who has constantly urged a hard line towards China and Russia. Bolton has opposed Trump’s policy towards North Korea and has been a key player in persuading Trump to get the USA to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which had been agreed between Reagan and Gorbachev in 1987.

To build support for this hostility to Putin’s administration the Western media has been filled with lies about the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Up until 2014 there was a good relationship between Putin and the directly-elected president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych. That year Yanukovych announced a delay in reaching an economic agreement with the European Union because he wished to ensure it did not damage Ukraine’s economic relations with its biggest trading partner, Russia.

Almost immediately right-wing demonstrators started protesting in Kiev’s central square. These protests quickly evolved into violent clashes with radical nationalists and paramilitary groups echoing the fascist ideology of Stepan Bandera, chanting Nazi and racist slogans and demanding the ethnic cleansing of Russians from Ukraine.

No-one will be surprised that Britain, the US and EU officials supported the coup, and there is little doubt that Western intelligence agencies had been up to their necks in encouraging these far-right groups ever since the end of WWII.

Nowhere in the Western media do we see honest reporting about the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. It is never mentioned that during the WWII, as Russian troops drove the Nazis out of Ukraine, many Ukrainians fought side-by-side with the Nazis against Stalin’s troops. This long-standing conflict has recently erupted following the Kerch Strait crisis.

The Western press constantly repeats the story that Russia has seized three Ukrainian ships in the Black Sea and their crews and dismisses Russia’s claim that these ships had illegally entered Russian waters. President Putin pointed out that “it was without a doubt, a provocation. It was organised by the president ahead of the elections. The president is in fifth place ratings-wise and therefore had to do something. It was used as pretext to introduce martial law.”

The Russian newspaper Izvestia cited sources in Ukraine’s leadership saying that they have been trying to persuade the US (unsuccessfully) to open a military base in Ukraine. The report cannot be confirmed but could well be true.

I believe that Ukraine’s President Poroshenko is deliberately talking up the so-called threat from Russia because at the elections in March he seems doomed to lose. But his imposition of martial law in several parts of Ukraine could be used to rig the forthcoming election and he has warned of the risk of full-scale war, claiming to have detected a build up of Russian tanks on the border which overlooks the fact that Moscow moved army units closer to the border four years ago.

The hardliners in Trump’s administration want him to increase his support for NATO and Kiev, while Ukraine itself wishes to become a member of the organization which would mean the frontier of the military alliance coming right up to the border of Russia.

Poroshenko has also claimed that Putin is planning to annex Ukraine. On November 29, he told the German newspaper Bild “Don’t believe Putin’s lies. Putin wants the old Russian empire back. Crimea, Donbass, the whole country… He believes his empire cannot function without Ukraine. He sees us as his colony.

Poroshenko has been pushing for the West to increase economic sanctions against Russia and urged Germany’s Angela Merkel to drop a plan to cooperate with Russia on building a new gas pipeline. Poroshenko warned this would make the EU dependent on Russian energy and reduce Ukraine’s sales to the EU via its existing pipeline.

Given the enfeebled state of Ukraine’s economy it’s hard to see how Russia could benefit by taking it over. Back in August, in my first column for RT, I spelt out the truth about the history of tensions between Russia and Ukraine. From the beginning of the Soviet Union under Lenin, Crimea had never been a part of Ukraine and over ninety percent of its population were Russians. It was only in 1954 that Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev changed the boundary to include Crimea in Ukraine.

After the overthrow of Ukraine’s government in 2014 the vast majority of Crimean residents decided to opt out of Ukraine and reunite with the Russia they had been part of for centuries before Khrushchev’s arbitrary decision. The whole of the Western media was screaming that Russia had gone to war to seize Crimea and this led to the US, UK and other European states imposing sanctions against Russia without recognising the right of Crimea’s people of to determine their own future.

Given the number of US satellites that circle the planet, spying around the world, it is surprising that America hasn’t been able to reveal the truth about whether or not Ukraine’s three ships deliberately crossed the boundary into Russian waters on November 25.

As Putin pointed out “Military vessels intruded into Russian territorial waters and did not answer [the border guards]… What were they supposed to do?” he said at a business forum in Moscow. “They would do the same in your country, this is absolutely obvious,” he told a foreign investor. “These territorial waters were always ours even before Crimea joined Russia.

As I wrote in my first article for RT, my generation was lied to all our lives about the so-called threat from the Soviet Union, so don’t be surprised if I don’t always believe what our prime ministers tell us.

Ken Livingstone is an English politician, he served as the Mayor of London between 2000 and 2008. He is also a former MP and a former member of the Labour Party.

This article was originally published by RT” 

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/50709.htm

The Trump Organization Planned To Give Vladimir Putin The $50 Million Penthouse In Trump Tower Moscow

Fact Or Fiction? 
putin-penthose

During the presidential campaign, Michael Cohen discussed the matter with a representative of Putin’s press secretary, according to two US sources.

By Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold

President Donald Trump’s company planned to give a $50 million penthouse at Trump Tower Moscow to Russian President Vladimir Putin as the company negotiated the luxury real estate development during the 2016 campaign, according to four people, one of them the originator of the plan.

Two US law enforcement officials told BuzzFeed News that Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer at the time, discussed the idea with a representative of Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary.

The Trump Tower Moscow plan is at the heart of a new plea agreement by Cohen, who led the negotiations to bring a gleaming, 100-story building to the Russian capital. Cohen acknowledged in court that he had lied to Congress about the plan in order to protect Trump and his presidential campaign.

The revelation that representatives of the Trump Organization planned to forge direct financial links with the leader of a hostile nation at the height of the campaign raises fresh questions about President Trump’s relationship with the Kremlin. The plan never went anywhere because the tower deal ultimately fizzled, and it is not clear whether Trump knew of the intention to give away the penthouse. But Cohen said in court documents that he regularly briefed Trump and his family on the Moscow negotiations.

BuzzFeed News first reported in May on the secret dealings of Cohen and his business associate Felix Sater with political and business figures in Moscow.

The two men worked furiously behind the scenes into the summer of 2016 to get the Moscow deal finished — despite public claims that the development was canned in January, before Trump won the Republican nomination. Sater told BuzzFeed News today that he and Cohen thought giving the Trump Tower’s most luxurious apartment, a $50 million penthouse, to Putin would entice other wealthy buyers to purchase their own. “In Russia, the oligarchs would bend over backwards to live in the same building as Vladimir Putin,” Sater told BuzzFeed News. “My idea was to give a $50 million penthouse to Putin and charge $250 million more for the rest of the units. All the oligarchs would line up to live in the same building as Putin.” A second source confirmed the plan.

Sater, a brash real estate promoter who pleaded guilty to racketeering in 1998 and became a longtime asset to US law enforcement and intelligence agencies, had worked with the Trump Organization on deals in the past and said he came up with the idea. Cohen, Sater recalled, said, “Great idea.”

sub-buzz-6156-1543533857-13

Provided to BuzzFeed News

Texts between Michael Cohen and Felix Sater.

Cohen would not comment. Cohen’s attorney, Guy Petrillo, did not return a detailed message. The Trump Organization also did not return a message seeking comment. A spokesperson for the Kremlin declined to answer questions about the project.

Trump had personally signed the letter of intent to move forward on the Trump Tower Moscow plan on Oct. 28, 2015, the day of the third Republican primary debate.

On Thursday, shortly after news broke about Cohen’s guilty plea, Trump told reporters, “There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won” the presidential election, “in which case I would have gotten back into the business, and why should I lose lots of opportunities?”

According to the criminal information filed against Cohen Thursday, on Jan. 20, 2016, he spoke with a Russian government official, referred to only as Assistant 1, about the Trump Tower Moscow plan for 20 minutes. This person appears to be an assistant to Peskov, a top Kremlin official whom Cohen had attempted to reach by email.

Cohen “requested assistance in moving the project forward, both in securing land to build the proposed tower and financing the construction,” the court document states.

Cohen had previously maintained that he never got a response from the official, but in court on Thursday he acknowledged that was a lie.

Two FBI agents with direct knowledge of the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations told BuzzFeed News earlier this year that Cohen was in frequent contact with foreign individuals about the real estate venture — and that some of these individuals had knowledge of or played a role in 2016 election meddling. The identity of those individuals remains unknown.

Developing a tower in Russia had long been a dream of the Trump Organization, which pursued a deal there for three decades. After Trump announced his candidacy in the summer of 2015, Sater saw an opportunity to revive the development.

“I figured, he’s in the news, his name is generating a lot of good press,” Sater told BuzzFeed News earlier this year. “A lot of Russians weren’t willing to pay a premium licensing fee to put Donald’s name on their building. Now maybe they would be.”

So he turned to his old friend, Cohen, to get it off the ground. They arranged a licensing deal, by which Trump would lend his name to the project and collect a part of the profits. Sater lined up a Russian development company to build the project and said that VTB, a Russian financial institution that faced US sanctions at the time, would finance it. VTB officials have denied taking part in any negotiations about the project.

The back-and-forth carried into the summer, when Sater said that top bankers and government officials wanted to meet with Cohen and Trump in Russia.

Cohen said that Trump planned to go after the Republican convention in July. Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about this, and has acknowledged that he did so to protect the president.

Anthony Cormier is an investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. While working for the Tampa Bay Times, Cormier won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting.

Jason Leopold is a senior investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. He is a 2018 Pulitzer finalist for international reporting, recipient of the IRE 2016 FOI award and a 2016 Newseum Institute National Freedom of Information Hall of Fame inductee.

This article was originally published by Buzzfeed” 

Do you agree or disagree? Post your comment here

==See Also==

Trump Moscow: The Definitive Story Of How Trump’s Team Worked The Russian Deal During The Campaign

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/50690.htm

 

Crisis in the Sea of Azov, Confronting Russia, “Dangerous Madness… The Risk of War is Real

L’Antidiplomatico Interview with Andre Vltchek

Global Research, November 29, 2018

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Alessandro Bianchi: Let’s start from today’s crisis in the Sea of Azov. The European Union and NATO have given full support to Ukraine after the violation of Russian sovereignty by two Ukrainian vessels. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gave his full support to Poroshenko, who declared martial law. What does a country like Italy risk in continuing its accession to NATO?

Andre Vltchek: Russia intercepted three Ukrainian ships in the Kerch Strait. The ships had, even according to Ukrainian authorities, several intelligence officers on board, as well as a number of light arms and machine guns. It was clear provocation, as the ships refused to inform Russian authorities about their intentions, and behaved in an aggressive manner. They were passing through Russian territorial waters. Ukrainian intelligence officers were obviously in charge of the entire operation. So, what is really so ‘alarming’ for the West? The ships were stopped, some crew members detained, and there is a serious investigation underway.

The ‘incident’ took place just days before the G20 meeting in Argentina, where Presidents Trump and Putin were supposed to meet. Also, it is only 4 months before the Ukrainian Presidential elections (March 2019), and Poroshenko is trailing behind the two leading candidates with only 8% of support. Ukraine under his leadership is so messed up that many flats in the capital city of Kiev will not be heated during this winter. Logically, Poroshenko provoked the crises, so he could pose as a strongman, hoping to at least gain some popularity. He has imposed martial law, for 30 days, although originally, he wanted it to last for 2 months. What does it mean? The press will be censored and criticism of the government, limited. Good for the grotesquely unpopular president? Definitely.

Also, it is obvious that the West, particularly the EU and NATO, are behind this new wave of dangerous madness.

Italy is part of both EU and NATO. As I am writing in my new essay, it is a nonsense to believe that “Europeans are brainwashed; that they do not know what the West is doing all over the world”. They know, or they at least suspect – most of them. But they pretend that they don’t know. In Europe, there is a shadowy deal between the government, corporations and the people. People want more benefits, and they do not care that the benefits come from plundering the world. If they get their benefits, they shut up. If they think they are getting too little, they protest, like recently in Paris. But do they care if tens of millions of ‘un-people’ die for those benefits? Of course not!

The same when it comes to Russia, China or Iran. Europeans in general and Italians in particular, know that there is some sort of vicious propaganda against those countries that refuse to yield to the Western diktat. But they will do nothing to stop it. It is sweet, isn’t it, to feel superior, ‘democratic’, and ‘free’. And it is horrible to admit that one lives in a place that is spreading terror to all corners of the world, robbing even the poor of all they have. These six weeks vacations could turn sour, if Italians were to decide to see who is really paying for them. So, they shut up, and will shut up, until it is ‘too late’.

Remember, countries like Russia and China have their own ‘democracies’ (rule of the people). It is not the Western system. Rulers and the masses communicate and interact in a direct way, in a very distinctive manner. And in both Russia and China, the people have ‘had enough’ of being bullied and brutalized by the West, for decades and centuries. Just a little bit more, and things will explode. If pushed further, Russia and China will respond. If provoked militarily, they will defend themselves. The same goes for Iran. Being part of the grouping that is terrorizing the world, Italy will have to pay the price, too.

AB: Russian Minister Sergei Lavrov asked the Western allies in Kiev to “intervene” and “calm down” the Ukrainian authorities, warning about the potential crossing of a “point of no return” between Russia and the West. Is the risk of war real even in light of the great gathering of NATO troops at the border?

AV: Yes of course it is real. Just turn the tables around: if Iran or China or Russia or Venezuela or Syria or Cuba did to the West what West is doing to them, would there be real risk of war?

This impunity and racist belief in total superiority, which is so prevalent in the West, has to stop. And soon it will stop. As they say in Chile: ‘By reason or by force’.

AB: You were recently in Syria, a country that thanks to the Russian intervention and the resistance of the Syrian people supported by the regional allies – Iran and Hezbollah above all – is slowly trying to return to normal. What country did you find?

AV: I found a beautiful, confident and proud country. I am also writing a long report about my visit there.

I met many victims, common people, but also a General, and a Minister of Education, who is also an accomplished novelist. His motto is: “Ministry of Education is like Ministry of Defense”. Correct: education without ideology and passion is just a waste of time.

Syria won. And there, the entire Arab world won together with it. Arabs were, for decades, thoroughly humiliated – by the West, by Israel, by their own leaders who were put on the throne by London, Paris and Washington.

As I have written many times, Aleppo is the Stalingrad of the Middle East. The losses were terrible, all over Syria. But the victory is tremendous, too. Pan-Arabism will blossom again. People in all countries of the region are watching and now they know: it is possible to defeat Western imperialism and its spooks, its terrorist implants.

Russia stood by its Arab sister with determination, but also very wisely. It used diplomacy whenever it could, and it used force only when there was no other way. In Syria, the Russians won people’s hearts. ‘Thank you, Russia!’, is everywhere, even engraved on traditional wooden boxes. The Russian language being my native tongue, opened so many doors, as it opened thousands of doors to me in Afghanistan (I never expected it there).

Syria has to finalize its victory, soon. And I will be back, to cover events there. At the front if needed.

It is tremendously optimistic and beautiful to be in a country which did not prostitute itself; a country that stood tall, fought hard, for its own people and for the entire region. There is great confidence and kindness on the faces of people. Celebration is not loud, because, after all, so many people died. But people are out, till the morning, men and women, boys and girls. Cafes are packed; the streets of Damascus are bustling. But even in Homs and the destroyed suburbs of Damascus, life is defiantly returning to normal.

What a nation! Yes, they say ‘Thank you Russia!”. As an internationalist, I say: “Thank you Syria!”

AB: The chemical attack by the “rebels” in Aleppo yesterday unmasks the lies in the mainstream of these years. What role did the media play in allowing the terrorist gangs supported and funded by the West and Gulf allies to destroy Syria?

AV: A tremendous role. In Syria, the Western mass media finally ceased to exist. It became a prostitution force for the Empire, nothing else. But we all know that both the media and education are basically used for indoctrinating people, at least in the West and in its ‘client’ states.

There was so much provocation. The Gulf and the Western broadcasting companies were literally igniting the conflict, spreading lies, pushing people into rebellion against the government. They have blood on their hands, the same as Pashtun Service of the BBC has blood on their hands, as the VOA, Radio Free Europe and ‘free whatever’ have blood up to their armpits.

AB: Before Syria you did two important reports in Argentina and Mexico telling about the mutations under way in Latin America. Bolsonaro has won in Brazil, while in the next few days Lopez Obrador is preparing to settle in a Mexico that has turned left. At what stage is the dispute in Latin America, and what are the prospects for the left in the continent?

AV: Well, I worked for three weeks all over Mexico, before going to Syria. My big work in both Argentina and Brazil, had been done earlier.

Look, Ale, you and I know; are very well familiar with Latin America. I used to live in Mexico, Chile, Peru (during the so-called Dirty War) and Costa Rica. I have worked all over the continent.

What happened in Mexico is great, although one could say ‘overdue’. Now let us hope that President-Elect Obrador will be able to turn his magnificent country around, towards socialism. It will not be easy. There is plenty of terrible inertia. There are horrible ‘elites’ of European stock. And there is the United States, right next door, always ready to ‘intervene’. But I think he can do it. I trust him. I travelled all over this huge country, I spoke to people. It was all summarized by a gangster in Tijuana, a man who became a criminal out of desperation. He said, and I paraphrase: “I think it is close to impossible for Obrador to change things, but if he will do what he is promising, I will drop everything, and support him. This is the last chance for Mexico to change things peacefully. If he fails, we will take up the arms.”

Brazil, this is so difficult to explain. But essentially, there, in Latin America, more than anywhere else, the mass media which is in the hands of the right-wing, played an extremely significant and thoroughly destructive role. When I visited Amazonia, around Manaus and Belem, or Salvador Bahia, people would tell me: “Our life improved significantly. Now we have this and this and that. But Dilma has to go!” My God, I thought, am I dreaming? No, I was not. Basically, somehow, the elites hammered into people’s brains that if they are better off now, then it is because of their own personal success. But if some things are not going too well, it is the fault of the government.

“Corruption” is always used in the combat against left-wing governments in Latin America. Microscopes are used, to encounter any wrongdoing. It was used against Kristina Kirschner, against Lula, even against poor Dilma who was not corrupt at all, but suffered from the right-wing and West-backed ‘constitutional’ coup. But just imagine that stupidity, that absurdity: right-wing dictatorships in the Southern Cone but also in Brazil used dogs to rape women; they tortured prisoners, killed, ‘disappeared’ people, robbing everything they could put their hands on. And that is not ‘corruption’, right? Then some company offers to renovate an apartment of Lula’s, and he is in prison! Suddenly those fascists are playing the moral card. Do you know what Bolsonaro will do now? He will screw the entire Amazonia; do it almost ‘Indonesia-style’. He will allow that horrid deal with the Western corporations, the privatization of the aquifer shared with Paraguay, to go through. The third biggest passenger airplane manufacturer on earth – Embraer – will be sold to Boeing, for petty cash. Brazil will lose its rainforest, its industry, and its poor will lose their lifeline – government support. And this is not called corruption! Argentina under Macri is allowing the US to operate in Tierra de Fuego. The entire country is screaming from pain: electricity prices have gone up, the famous film industry is losing support, and the middle class is again going down the drain.

But I am optimistic. Latin American people have a great desire for socialist, in some places, communist societies. Whenever they are left alone, they fight for it, or vote for it. Then they get smashed. The West has overthrown, basically, all the truly left-wing governments of the continent, from the Dominican Republic, to Chile. But the process never stops. It begins all over again.

I only hope that one thing changes: you know, the West was very successful in implanting the idea in the heads of Latin Americans, that after all that has happened, Europe and even the US are somehow superior nations. And so, people look down on the truly great nations like China and Russia, in places like Brazil. It appalls me. I speak the language, and I clearly see what is happening. In Argentina, there is not much of a real left: the intellectuals there are connected to those defunct theories in Europe and North America, like ‘anarcho-syndicalism’. And there is nothing really revolutionary about those ideas. There are too many Westerners influencing Latin American revolutionary movements. They lost at home, became irrelevant, but still they insist on judging the world from a Western perspective. Still, somehow, many of them are admired in Latin America. And it always backfires: Westerners dilute revolutionary spirit. They also kidnap the South-South narrative. I would love to see Russian, Chinese, Venezuelan, Cuban, Syrian, Iranian or South African comrades running the state media in countries where the true left is winning. It would make a great difference!

AB: Argentina continues to sink under the weight of Mauricio Macri’s neoliberal austerity but the mainstream media are silent. Meanwhile, Evo Morales’ Bolivia continues, to the contrary, to record the highest growth rates in the region in a climate of stability. So, socialism works contrary to what they try to make us believe?

AV: Yes of course socialism works, Ale. If left alone, if it is not bathed in pus and blood, it prospers. Unfortunately, so far, whenever any country decides to go socialist, the West unleashes its campaign of terror, lies and economic banditry. Socialism is not some extreme utopia, but the most logical goal. The majority of people want to live in an egalitarian society, where they feel secure and safe, and where when sick they get treated, when they are thirsty for knowledge, they get educated for free. They want the state to work for them, not against them. They want their government to control companies, instead of companies controlling their governments.

AB: Meanwhile, in Venezuela, the economic, psychological and media war goes on. Will the Bolivarian government succeed in resisting this unprecedented attack?

AV: Yes, it will. But again, look how fragmented Latin America has become. People in Chile or Argentina watch CNN and FOX and they know much more about Miami or Paris, than about Caracas. The Brazilian President-Elect said that he would murder Maduro – still, people voted for him.

Latin America is mostly run by European elites. They robbed the continent, turned it into the part of the world with the greatest disparities. For any revolution to succeed here, it has to be radical and decisive. Democracy should be direct, not that multi-party idiotism implanted from the West – that is so easy to pervert and divert from outside, or with the use of social and mass media. Latin America cannot try to ape Europe and hope that it will prosper. Europe is based on the plunder of other parts of the world. Latin American countries do not have colonies, and the plunder is internal – the rich of European stock are plundering both the land and the native people.

AB: In one of his last articles Fidel wrote how “The alliance between Russia and China is a powerful peace shield able to guarantee the survival of the human race”. What is the legacy of Fidel Castro today two years after his death?

AV: Just tremendous! Even when the entire Latin America betrayed Cuba, Fidel and his people never surrendered. This is the spirit I admire. Cuba has a big heart – it fought for the independence of several African nations, it helps so many places on earth with their doctors, teachers, and rescue teams during natural disasters. Cuban art is some of the greatest on the planet. That is why, Cuba has had a tremendous impact on me personally, and on my work as well. I proudly call myself a ‘Cuban-style internationalist’. I am endlessly grateful to Fidel, to the Cuban revolution and to Cuban people. In many ways, it is perhaps the greatest country in the world. A country I would never hesitate to fight for, or even to die for.

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Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Three of his latest books are Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism, a revolutionary novel “Aurora” and a bestselling work of political non-fiction: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire”. View his other books here. Watch Rwanda Gambit, his groundbreaking documentary about Rwanda and DRCongo and his film/dialogue with Noam Chomsky “On Western Terrorism”. Vltchek presently resides in East Asia and the Middle East, and continues to work around the world. He can be reached through his website and his Twitter.

Crisis in the Sea of Azov, Confronting Russia, “Dangerous Madness… The Risk of War is Real

US, Europe & NATO Risk All-out War By Backing Unhinged Kiev Regime

crimea-russia-ukraaine-ships

By Finian Cunningham

November 27, 2018 Information Clearing House    With the US, EU and NATO all bolstering claims of “Russian aggression” – in face of contrary evidence – the real danger is that the Kiev regime will be emboldened to carry out more reckless provocations leading to all-out war.

It seems indisputable that the three Ukrainian Navy vessels were dispatched last Sunday in order to instigate a security response from Russian maritime border forces. In contrast to normal procedures for passage clearance through the Kerch Strait, the Ukrainian warships refused to communicate with Russian controls and acted menacingly inside Russia’s Black Sea territorial limits.

At a United Nations Security Council emergency meeting on Monday, the US, Britain and France pointedly refused to take on board Russia’s legal argument for why it felt obliged to detain the Ukrainian boats and 24 crew. The Western powers automatically sided with the version of events claimed by President Petro Poroshenko – that the Ukrainian Navy was attacked unlawfully by Russia.

The US, EU and NATO denounced Russia’s “aggression” and demanded that the Ukrainian vessels and crew be repatriated immediately, even though under Russian law there is a case for prosecution.
So, the problem here is a refusal by Western supporters of the dubious Kiev regime to accept the legal, historic reality that Crimea is part of Russia’s territory. Ships passing through the Kerch Strait between Russia’s mainland and Crimea are obliged to notify Russian maritime controls of passage. Russia has since reopened the strait to civilian cargo transport following the naval skirmish at the weekend.It is the West’s refusal to acknowledge facts that is part of the problem. Russia is continually accused of “annexing” Crimea in 2014 instead of the Western powers recognizing that the Black Sea peninsula voted in a constitutionally held referendum to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Crimea was prompted to take that historic step because the US, EU and NATO had only the month before backed an illegal coup in Kiev against the elected Ukrainian government. That coup brought to power the present Kiev regime led by Poroshenko and a parliament dominated by neo-Nazi parties.

When the Ukrainian Navy vessels violated legal procedures and entered Russian territorial limits, their action was aggressive, not Russia’s response.

Furthermore, there are already emerging signs that the Ukrainian naval transport was orchestrated for the purpose of inciting an incident.

Some of the detained crew members have admitted carrying out orders which they knew would be seen by Russia as provocative.

It has also been reported by US government-owned Radio Free Europe that the Ukrainian secret services (SBU) have confirmed that its officers were among the crew on the boats. The vessels were also armed. If the transfer was an innocent passage, why were secret services involved?

Recall that Ukrainian secret services have previously been caught staging sabotage operations in Crimea.

Another major background factor is the increasing NATO military buildup in eastern Ukraine and the Black Sea.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin officially opened the 19km bridge linking Russia’s mainland with Crimea in May earlier this year, there were calls in US and Ukrainian media for the structure to be sabotaged. Moscow has understandably stepped up security controls around the vital infrastructure, which cost $3.7 billion and is the longest bridge in Europe.

In recent months, the US and Britain have ordered increasing military deployment to the region under the guise of “training” and “assistance” to the Kiev regime forces.

Earlier this year, in July, the NATO alliance held naval drills, Sea Breeze, along with Ukrainian forces in the Black Sea. That’s in spite of the fact that Ukraine is not a member of NATO, although it is aspiring to join the 29-member US-led bloc at some time in the future.

It was the following month, in August, that Russia began stepping up its controls and searches of vessels through the Kerch Strait linking the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov. The latter leads to ports under the control of the Kiev regime such as Mariupol, which is adjacent to the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic. The DPR and Luhansk People’s Republic broke away following the coup in Kiev in 2014 and have been under military attack for the past four years despite the so-called Minsk peace treaties. These are more facts that the Western backers of the Kiev regime refuse to deal with.

More NATO buildup continued in September with the supply of two gunboats by the US to the Ukrainian Navy for deployment in the Sea of Azov. Pentagon-linked publication Defense One described that supply as part of efforts by Washington and Kiev to develop a “mosquito navy” in order to skirmish with Russian forces.

Only four days before the latest naval clash, Britain’s Defense Minister Gavin Williamson announced the Royal Navy was to send HMS ‘Echo’ to patrol with Ukrainian special forces to “defend freedom and democracy.” Williamson said: “As long as Ukraine faces Russian hostilities, the United Kingdom will be a steadfast partner.

This is background to the simmering tensions in the Black Sea between Ukraine and Russia. The situation has arisen because of Western interference in Ukraine – primarily the coup in Kiev in February 2014. Yet, in all discussions about events since then, the Western powers are in denial of facts and their culpability. The recent militarization of the Black Sea by the NATO alliance is a stark provocation to Russia’s national security, but again the Western powers bury their collective heads in the sand.

Given the reckless indulgence by the US, Europe and NATO of the Kiev regime amid its ongoing violations against the populace in eastern Ukraine, its refusal to abide by the Minsk agreements, and its continual inflammatory and unhinged rhetoric against Russia, it should not be surprising if this same regime feels emboldened to provoke an armed confrontation with Moscow.

Arguably, the Kiev regime and its adulation of World War II Nazi collaborators never had any legitimacy in the first place. It continues to demonstrate its lack of legitimacy from the immense social problems in Ukraine of poverty, corruption, human rights violations, neo-Nazi paramilitaries running amok, and now martial law being imposed.

It remains to be seen if the recent naval provocation was carried out with the tacit approval of Washington and other NATO powers as a pretext for further militarization against Russia. The initial misplaced condemnations of Russia have subsided to more measured calls from US President Donald Trump and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian for “restraint” and “dialogue.”

That might suggest Kiev’s failing President Poroshenko and his security services acted alone to order the naval confrontation as a desperate throw of the dice to escalate NATO and EU support for his shaky regime against Russia.

Trump’s comments hoping that Kiev and Russia would “straighten things out” sound like Washington is not behind the provocation and has no desire for a wider conflict. Just as well, because such a development is a gateway to all-out war.

Nevertheless, such a catastrophe is always a serious risk when Western powers indulge this unhinged Kiev regime.

Finian Cunningham has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent.

This article was originally published by RT” 

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/50672.htm

With Tensions Mounting over Kerch Strait Incident, Will Ukraine Replace Syria as Focus for US’ Russia Containment Strategy?

Global Research, November 27, 2018
MintPress News 26 November 2018
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Seemingly out of nowhere, Ukraine nearly declared war on Russia over the weekend after a confrontation in the Kerch Strait, which straddles Crimea and the Russian mainland, between Ukrainian naval boats and Russian authorities that resulted in Russia seizing three Ukrainian navy vessels and 24 Ukrainian sailors.

Ukraine has accused Russian ships — with no provocation — of ramming a Ukrainian tugboat and opening fire on Ukrainian gunships, injuring six Ukrainian sailors. Russian authorities have justified those acts by claiming that the ships were illegally in Russian waters at the time, did not follow normal protocols for passing the strait, and made “dangerous maneuvers” in close proximity to Russian vessels. Russia has claimed to have evidence that the incident was a “prepared and orchestrated” provocation on the part of the Ukrainian government and also stated that it would make this evidence public in the near future.

As a result of the incident, an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council was announced by the U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, which took place early Monday and saw Haley slam Russia for its actions in the Kerch Strait. During the meeting, Haley called Russia’s actions “arrogant” and “outrageous” and said that the event makes the normalization of U.S./Russia ties “impossible.”

In contrast, the European Union called for “restraint” on both sides and urged both Ukraine and Russia to take all steps necessary to “de-escalate” the tense situation. Yet, like the U.S., the EU accused Russia of violating Ukraine’s sovereignty through its recent actions in the Kerch Strait.

In response, Ukraine’s government – which has been supported by the West since it came to power in a 2014 coup – has taken extreme measures and has moved to declare martial law in areas of Ukraine bordering Russia, which will take effect on November 28 and is expected to continue through late January.

The declaration of martial law has been criticized, given that Ukrainian elections are expected to take place this coming March. Current Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is widely expected to lose that election, given his failed economic policies and burgeoning corruption scandals, leading his critics to suggest that the declaration of martial law is a thinly disguised attempt to maintain his hold on power.

This is likely part of the motivation given that Poroshenko is lagging in the polls and several mainstream analysts have noted that the pretext for martial law – the alleged ramming of a tugboat –does not warrant the implementation of such a drastic policy. Furthermore, the text of the decree declaring martial law states that the people’s right to “elect or be elected” could be suspended under martial law if it is still in effect at the time of elections.

The push for martial law in Ukraine was preceded by calls by Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council to declare war on Russia. That council is headed by Oleksandr Turchynov, who played a significant role in the 2014 coup and is closely linked to disgraced former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. He has claimed that Russia is “at war” with Ukraine on several occasions since 2014.

Though Ukraine’s declaration of war on Russia has not yet materialized, it still remains a strong possibility. Indeed, Poroshenko – in his televised address stating his approval of martial law nationwide – said that Ukrainian intelligence services provided him information showing that Russia is preparing a major ground attack targeting Ukraine and that martial law was necessary to ensure security. Poroshenko did not make this intel public or elaborate on it in any way other than waving a small stack of papers he claimed contained written proof of the alleged planned “invasion.”

Ukraine unlikely to be freelancing

This is both important and troubling for several reasons. First, it is widely recognized that Ukraine’s military is poorly equipped to fight a major war against Russia. Ukraine’s government would not declare war over the alleged ramming of a tugboat, particularly if it was widely expected to lose. Thus, if and when Ukraine declares war against Russia, it seems certain that it is counting on other countries to come to its aid and join the fight.

In that event, it is almost certain that the U.S. would aid Ukraine in a future war with Russia, given that the U.S. is largely responsible for putting the current Ukrainian government in power and has poured millions of dollars into funding and training the Ukrainian military and even controversial Neo-Nazi militias that compose part of Ukraine’s National Guard. In addition, Ukrainian politicians have stated in the past that they would expect U.S. military support if Ukraine and Russia ever went to war.

NATO’s involvement in such a war seems likely as well, given that NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg recently warned that “Russia has to understand that its actions have consequences.” Though he did not elaborate specifically on what those consequences would be, his comments come amid NATO’s unprecedented military buildup along Russia’s Western border that followed Crimea’s decision to become part of Russia in 2014.

Furthermore, it has been noted for years that the U.S. and NATO have been preparing for a large-scale war with Russia, a fact supported by the U.S.’ current National Defense Strategy. The U.S./Russia proxy conflicts in both Syria and Ukraine have been cited in the past as likely catalysts for such a war.

U.S. moves its proxy war around

That last point makes the timing of this incident and the ensuing tensions between Ukraine and Russia particularly noteworthy. Indeed, past incidents that have seen tensions surge between Ukraine and Russia over Crimea have been preceded by developments that negatively affected the U.S.’ involvement in its other proxy conflict with Russia in Syria.

For instance, as MintPress reported last August, the Trump administration’s decision to stop arming radical Wahhabist militants in Syria was soon followed by the administration’s decision to provide lethal arms to the Ukrainian government — after it became clear that the U.S.’ likelihood of winning its proxy war in Syria by overthrowing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had become very slim.

MintPress noted at the time:

With the curtain closing in Syria, Washington needs a new proxy war. Given that containing Russia is the ultimate goal –as it is with China– what better way to step up the pressure than by sending lethal arms to a rabidly anti-Russian, U.S.-backed government in Kiev that is determined to ethnically cleanse Russians? Ukraine, after all, is right on Russia’s border; and the Crimea region, which Poroshenko is determined to return to his control, is now a part of Russia.”

Now, we are seeing a repeat of those same circumstances. In Syria, the U.S. has failed in its efforts to prevent a Syrian military operation against the Idlib province, which is now undeniably ruled by Syria’s al Qaeda branch, currently operating under the name Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). With HTS having launched a chemical-weapons attack against Syrian civilians in government-controlled Aleppo this past Saturday, any future U.S. call to threaten the Syrian government over military action in Idlib would stand on even shakier ground.

With the Syrian government now preparing to launch a major assault against the terrorist-controlled province, the U.S. is likely desperate for international attention to be focused on another conflict, particularly one it can use to advance its broader geopolitical goal of “containing” Russia.

Conveniently for the U.S., the recent tensions in Ukraine have taken media attention away from the al Qaeda-launched chemical-weapons attack and allowed the U.S. government to avoid commenting on the issue entirely, as Ukrainian concerns have dominated the UN Security Council’s attention. As has been the case in the past, it seems that the U.S.’ botched proxy war in Syria will see Washington seek to revive the proxy war in Ukraine, given that countering Russia is the focus of the U.S. military’s current National Defense Strategy.

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Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile. She is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from The Moscow Times


 

 

With Tensions Mounting over Kerch Strait Incident, Will Ukraine Replace Syria as Focus for US’ Russia Containment Strategy?

 

Strategic Waterways and “The Kerch Strait Incident”: Towards Military Escalation?

Global Research, November 26, 2018

tchernobyl-ukraine-map

On November 25, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) reported that 

“three Ukrainian warships had illegally crossed Russia’s state border in the Black Sea and entered Russia’s territorial waters performing dangerous maneuvers…

All three Ukrainian Navy vessels … were detained in the Black Sea” (TASS, November 25). 

The incident took place in proximity of the Kerch Straits, the narrow maritime entry from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov.

Since the union of Crimea with Russia in March 2014, the entry into the sea of Azov is fully controlled by Russia. (see image below). 

Since May 2018, a new bridge links Eastern Crimea to  Russia’s Krasnodar region. (image right)

Are we gearing towards a Kerch Strait Incident, namely a “Pretext” which could potentially lead to armed conflict?
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In response to these events, the Ukrainian armed forces have been put on full combat alert, in consultation with NATO. The adoption of martial law was put forth by President Poroshenko (to be debated in the Kiev parliament)

Meanwhile Moscow has called for the convening of an emergency UN Security council meeting. According to the Guardian

“Russia’s foreign ministry has accused Ukraine of coordinating with the US and the EU in a “planned provocation” aimed at securing further sanctions against Moscow, as tensions mount after a dangerous clash between the two countries. (Guardian, 26, November 2018)

Will the Kerch Straits Incident lead to a process of military escalation? In recent developments (November 26), Russia has reopened the Kerch Strait to maritime navigation.

To understand these unfolding events, it is important to analyse the strategic role of the Kerch strait. The naval access from Ukraine Odessa’s port the sea of Azov transits through the Kerch Strait (see map below)

Strategic Waterways and the Kerch Strait 

The following section is an edited version  from an earlier 2014 GR article by Michel Chossudovsky 

The union of Crimea in 2014 with Russia redefines both the geography as well as the geopolitical chessboard in the Black Sea basin. 

It constitutes a major setback for US-NATO, whose longstanding objective has been to integrate Ukraine into NATO with a view to undermining Russia, while extending Western military presence in the Black Sea basin.

With the March 18, 2014 Treaty signed between Russia and Crimea, the Russian Federation has extended its control over the Black Sea as well over the Sea of Azov, the West coastline of which borders on Eastern Ukraine and the Donesk region. (see map below)

Under the agreement between Russia and Crimea announced by president Putin, two “constituent regions” of Crimea joined the Russian Federation: the “Republic of Crimea” and the “City of Sevastopol”. Both have the status of “autonomous regions”. The status of Sevastopol as an autonomous entity separate from Crimea is related to the location of Russia’s Naval base in Sevastopol.

Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russia retained its naval base in Sevastopol under a bilateral agreement with Ukraine. With the signing of the March 18th 2014 Treaty, that agreement is null and void. Sevastopol including the Russian naval base become part of an autonomous region within the Russian Federation. The naval base is no within Ukraine under a lease agreement. Moreover, Crimea’s territorial waters now belong to the Russian Federation.

Following the union of Crimea to Russia now controls a much larger portion of the Black Sea, which includes the entire coastline of the Crimean peninsula. The Eastern part of Crimea –including the Kerch straits– are under Russia’s jurisdiction control.  On the Eastern side of the Kerch straits is Russia’s Krasnodar region and extending  southwards are the port cities of Novorossiysk and Sochi.

Novorossiysk is also strategic. It is Russia’s largest commercial port on the Black Sea, at the cross-roads of major oil and gas pipelines between the Black Sea and Caspian sea.


Historically, the Kerch strait has played a strategic role. It constitutes a gateway from the Black Sea to Russia’s major waterways including the Don and the Volga.

During World War II, the Kerch peninsula occupied by Nazi Germany (taken back by the Red Army) was an important point of transit by land and water. In the coldest months of Winter, it became an ice bridge linking Crimea to the Krasnodar region.

The Kerch strait is about 5 kilometers in length and 4.5 km. wide at the narrowest point between the tip of Eastern Crimea and the peninsula of Taman. Kerch is a major commercial port linked to railway, ferry and river routes.

[image right: Kerch straits, photo taken from Crimean side, (prior to the construction of the bridge) narrow width, below aerial view of straits]

The Sea of Azov: New Geopolitical Hub

Of significance, the integration of Crimea into the Russian Federation means that Moscow is now in full control of the Kerch Straits linking the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov. The Ukrainian authorities are no longer in control of the port of Kerch in Eastern Ukraine. The bilateral agreement between Russia and Ukraine governing the maritime route through the Kerch straights was scrapped.

Kerch Straits prior to construction of bridge

The straits also constitute an entry point into Russia’s major river waterways. The Sea of Azov connects with the Don River and the Volga, through the Volga Don Canal. In turn, the Volga flows into the Caspian sea.

The Kerch straits are strategic.  The Kerch-Yenikalskiy Canal allows large (ocean) vessels to transit from the Black sea to the Sea of Azov.

Moreoever, the Kerch Strait links the Black Sea to the Volga which in turn connects to the Moscow river through the Volga-Moskva canal.

Full control of the narrow Kerch strait by Russia ensures unimpeded maritime transit from the Black Sea to Russia’s capital as well as the maritime route to the Caspian Sea. (Black Sea- Sea of Azov -Don- Volga Don Canal -Volga -Caspian Sea)

In December 2013 Moscow signed a bilateral agreement with the Yanukovych government in Kiev pertaining to the construction of a bridge across the Kerch Strait, connecting Eastern Crimea (which was part of Ukraine) with Russia’s Krasnodar region. This agreement was a followup to an initial agreement signed in April 2010 between the two governments.

The Russia-Ukraine 2013 agreement pertaining to the construction of the bridge had, for all purposes already been scrapped before March 16, 2014.

Crimea’s union to Russia was already in the pipeline prior to the referendum, it was a fait accompli. Less than two weeks before the March 16 Referendum, at the height of the crisis in Ukraine, Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ordered the state-road building corporation Avtodor, or “Russian Highways” “to create a subsidiary company that will oversee the building of a bridge across the Kerch Strait”.

This bridge would largely be geared towards train transport routes linking Western and Eastern Europe to the Caspian Sea basin, Kazakhstan and China. It is therefore an integral part of the Eurasian Project (linking up with China’s Belt and Road initiative)

The Kerch bridge inaugurated in May 2018 is under Russian ownership and control. The Kerch strait is within Russian territorial waters on both sides of the strait.

Strategic Waterways and “The Kerch Strait Incident”: Towards Military Escalation?

Russia says Nusra terrorists seek to wreck buffer zone deal in Syria’s Idlib

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Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova (file photo)

 

Russia says Takfiri terrorists in Syria’s Idlib province are striving to wreck a Russian-Turkish initiative to establish a demilitarized zone in the flashpoint militant-held region.

“There are still Nusra terrorists in Idlib who are not stopping their attempts to wreck the implementation of the memorandum that was agreed between Russia and Turkey,” Interfax news agency quoted Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying during a news briefing in the capital Moscow on Thursday.

Some 60 percent of the northwestern province, home to three million people, is said to be controlled by members of the so-called Hayat Tahrir al-Sham Takfiri terrorist group, which is a coalition of different factions of terror outfits, largely composed of the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham Takfiri terrorist group, formerly known as al-Nusra Front.

Zakharova added that terrorists were continuing to shell Syrian government troops in the south of the province and to the northwest of Hama province.

Under the deal, which was forged in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi in September following a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, all armed opposition groups in the demilitarized zone, which surrounds Idlib and also parts of the adjacent provinces of Aleppo and Hama, were supposed to pull out heavy arms by October 10, and Takfiri groups had to withdraw by October 15.

The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham Takfiri terrorist group has yet to announce its stance on the buffer zone deal.

Russia, which has been carrying out anti-terror airstrikes in Syria since 2015, says a buffer zone would help stop attacks from Idlib-based militants on Syrian army positions and Russia’s military bases in the flashpoint region.

Last month, Russia said that almost 88,000 foreign-sponsored Takfiri terrorists had been killed in the Syria ever since Moscow launched its counter-terrorism airstrikes against militant redoubts in the Arab country.

Separately, a US-led military coalition has also been conducting airstrikes against what are said to be Daesh targets inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.

The military alliance has repeatedly been accused of targeting and killing civilians. It has also been largely incapable of achieving its declared goal of destroying Daesh.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday that as many as 3,222 civilians had been killed ever since the so-called US-led anti-Daesh coalition launched its aerial bombardment campaign in Syria.

 

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/11/01/578759/Syria-Russia-Idlib-Nusra-terrorists-buffer-zone-US

Constitution, Victory, Return, Vote: Syria Summit Highlights

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The leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Turkey met Saturday in Istanbul to discuss the current situation in Syria. The discussion has been followed by a joint communique. The leaders also commented on key points discussed during the meeting.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and French President Emmanuel Macron met Saturday at Vahdettin pavilion in Istanbul to discuss recent developments in Syria. Following the discussion, the four presented a joint statement, which was read by Erdogan.

Business Atmosphere

“The negotiations went in a business atmosphere,” Putin commented after the meeting. “The joint communique reflects the intention of Russia, Turkey, Germany and France to further extend cooperation in order to normalize the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, to launch an intra-Syrian dialogue and to conduct the necessary reforms and changes.”

© SPUTNIK / SERGEI GUNEEV

Leaders of Russia, Turkey, Germany, France Establish Commitment to ‘Syrian-Owned’ Political Process

Chancellor Merkel also praised the productiveness of the meeting.

“We might have our differences but we have made an agreement and we have released a joint declaration, pointing out the fact that we have a strong and a common will,” she told reporters.

Future of Syria is in the Hands of the People

“Syrians must determine the future of their country themselves,” Putin said. He underscored that the summit participants have not discussed the future of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“We have not discussed any personalities,” Putin said. “This is counterproductive if we want to reach a positive result in the end of our way.”

Erdogan made a similar, if slightly different, statement.

“The fate of President Assad should be decided by the Syrian people. We want the Syrian people to answer the question of how to carry on in the world,” he said.

Merkel called for the Syrian people to decide their fate.

“We must advance with the political process at the end of which there must be free elections open to all Syrians — including those in the diaspora,” Merkel said.

© SPUTNIK / MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV

Putin: Russia Reserves Right to Help Damascus Contain Terror Threat in Idlib

In the meantime, the four leaders reaffirmed their commitment to Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Total Defeat of Terrorists

In a joint statement adopted at the end of the talks in Istanbul, the four nations “stressed the importance of a lasting ceasefire, while underlining the necessity to continue to fight against terrorism.”

Following the press conference, Macron urged Russia to “pressure” the Syrian government to bring about a “stable and lasting ceasefire in Idlib.”

“We rely on Russia to exercise very clear pressure on the regime which depends on it for survival,” Macron said.

The Russian president said that Syria’s liberation from terrorists is almost complete. He underscored that the terrorists’ defeat must be total and final and that Russia reserves its right to help Assad destroy the terrorist threat should armed provocations continue.

“We cannot let the bandits with battle experience continue their criminal activity, create ‘sleeper cells’ in our countries, to recruit new members and to propagate extremist ideology and terror,” Putin said.

“Should radical elements try to prevent the solution of this task by conducting armed provocations from the Idlib zone, Russia reserves its right to offer active support to Syrian government actions aimed to eliminate this terror threat source,” he added.

© REUTERS / FAISAL AL NASSER

Merkel: EU May Make Joint Decision to Halt Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia Over Khashoggi Case

Putin praised the creation of a demilitarized zone in Idlib, but underscored that this is a temporary measure.

“We expect the Turkish side to ensure the withdrawal of the opposition, heavy weapons and the military from the DMZ,” he said, adding that Ankara is fulfilling their obligations.

“This work is underway. Turkish partners are fulfilling their obligations, although not everything has been done in full. We see that this is a difficult job and we intend to continue to cooperate with Turkey in this area,” he said.

Constitutional Committee

The joint statement also called for a committee to be established to draft Syria’s post-war constitution before the end of the year, “paving the way for free and fair elections” in the war-torn country.

All four leaders stated that they believe the new Syrian Constitutional Committee must meet for the first time before the end of this year.

“We expect that before the end of this year, if corresponding conditions are met, the Constitutional Committee would be completely agreed upon and functioning,” Putin said.

“The Committee must be acknowledged as legitimate by all Syrian sides and enjoy their respect,” Putin said.

The Refugees

© REUTERS / AMMAR ABDULLAH

Germany Sees Buffer Zone in Syria’s Idlib as First Step to Ceasefire – Spokesman

Turkish President Erdogan outlined the issue of Syrian refugees, noting that Turkey alone accommodated an estimated 3.5 million Syrians, spending the equivalent of some $33 million to do so. Erdogan called upon the European Union to fulfill its obligations on financial aid to Ankara and to increase that aid, in view of the upcoming winter.

Putin offered to discuss the refugees issue at an international conference.

“We offered our partners [the opportunity] to support the Russian initiative to call an international conference on Syrian refugees,” he said.

“We understand everything connected to this, all the problems, but if we don’t work together, we won’t achieve any results,” he added.

“In order to significantly improve the situation in the country, remove sharp social issues, restore the economy, collective efforts of the entire international community are needed,” the Russian president added.

Chancellor Merkel outlined a precondition for the return of Syrian refugees, that being a guarantee that refugees will not be prosecuted by Ankara.

“From our point of view, it is necessary that there be assurances that there will not be persecution or arrests, that certain fundamental humanitarian conditions are fulfilled — that a certain humanitarian infrastructure is there,” she said.

“The Syrian government has provided hard guarantees of safety and non-discriminatory attitude to all who want to return to their homely hearths,” Putin commented.

CC BY 2.0 / ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES / BROTHER’S KEEPER OPERATION IN JUDEA & SAMARIA

Israeli Defense Forces Blame Syria, Iran for Gaza Shelling

According to Putin, Syria now can accommodate up to 1.5 million refugees.

The joint statement also spoke of “the need to ensure humanitarian organizations’ rapid, safe and unhindered access throughout Syria and immediate humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need.”

Next Meeting

While this was the first time that the four leaders have met in this format, it is unclear whether such meetings will become regular.

“We have not discussed it, but everything is possible,” Putin said.

Putin added that he may see fit to increase the number of parties in the format, offering to call for Tehran to join.

“I believe that increasing the number of participants of the peaceful settlement process is beneficial,” Putin said. “We, undeniably, should conduct full-fledged consultations with the Syrian government, as well as with other partners in Iran, who is, as we know, a guarantor nation of the peace process.”

 

https://sputniknews.com/world/201810281069281909-istanbul-syria-summit-highlights/

Putin: Syria peace process a priority, but remaining terrorists must be destroyed

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©  Reuters
Setting up the committee to draft a new Syrian constitution is a priority, but eliminating the remaining “radical elements” in the country remains an important objective, Russia’s Vladimir Putin said at the Istanbul summit.
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“While the degree of violence in Syria has been greatly reduced, elimination of all the radical elements is still an important task,”President Vladimir Putin said, speaking after the four-way Syria summit with leaders of Turkey, France and Germany. “We cannot allow the battle-hardened bandits to carry on with their illicit activities, to create “sleeper cells” in our countries, recruit supporters and spread extremist ideology and terror.”

Turkey is sticking to its commitments over the Idlib ceasefire deal, Putin said, but added that Ankara has not yet been able to force all the radicals in the region to comply with the agreement. Russia’s leader expressed hopes that the ceasefire will be fully implemented in the future.

If the terrorists continue to launch attacks from Idlib, Moscow reserves the right to provide armed support to the Syrian government to clear the region by force, Putin stated.

While the Idlib agreement is very important, it still is a “temporary measure,” he said. Lasting peace can be only brought through a political solution, the Russian president stressed, adding that the committee to draft a new Syrian constitution is expected to begin its work before the end of the year.

“The fate of the country must be ultimately decided by the Syrian people,” he added.

 

 

https://www.rt.com/news/442444-istanbul-summit-press-conference/

A new arms race has begun – Gorbachev on Trump’s INF pullout plan

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FILE PHOTO: A Yars ballistic missile launcher © Sputnik / Evgeny Biyatov

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has lashed out at American plans to withdraw from the crucial INF Treaty that he signed with Ronald Reagan 30 years ago. It means a new arms race is on, he says, and Russia must not give up.

READ MORE: Trump threatens to build up US nuclear arsenal until Russia, China ‘come to their senses’

Gorbachev criticized the planned US withdrawal from the milestone Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which was announced last week. On Thursday, the retired leader offered his take on what is currently happening between the US and Russia, and what is likely to come next in an op-ed published in the New York Times.

A new arms race has been announced. The INF Treaty is not the first victim of the militarization of world affairs.

The first and only president of the USSR warned that Donald Trump’s decision further dismantles the security system forged after World War II. The Republican president is keen to “release the United States from any obligations, any constraints, and not just regarding nuclear missiles,” Gorbachev wrote. And that, in turn, would see the demise of all accords that helped secure peace since the defeat of the Axis.

READ MORE: Gorbachev: Trump’s move to quit INF is ‘narrow-minded’, a clear ‘mistake’

It’s a path to war with no victory possible. “There will be no winner in a ‘war of all against all’ – particularly if it ends in a nuclear war. And that is a possibility that cannot be ruled out.” But Russia will not and should not sit idle and let this happen, Gorbachev said.

Faced with this dire threat to peace, we are not helpless. We must not resign, we must not surrender.

Russia should “take a firm but balanced stand” and reach out to international partners. “I hope that America’s allies will, upon sober reflection, refuse to be launch pads for new American missiles,” Gorbachev wrote.

The INF Treaty banned the development and deployment of land-based missiles with ranges of between 500km and 5,500km by the USSR and the USA. This allowed for a radical denuclearization of the European continent and reduced the risk of an accidental nuclear conflict. It also paved the way for the reduction of longer-range strategic nuclear missiles, the last round of which came in 2010.

Washington and Moscow have been accusing each other of violating the terms of the INF Treaty in various ways. As the US withdraws from the accord, denuclearization will be reversed, Gorbachev predicts.

“I am being asked whether I feel bitter watching the demise of what I worked so hard to achieve,” he writes. “But this is not a personal matter. Much more is at stake.”

 

https://www.rt.com/news/442405-gorbachev-arms-race-trump/