Aletho News


UN says that censoring “disinformation” and “hate speech” will protect “free speech”

By Didi Rankovic | Reclaim The Net | February 23, 2023

The UN is openly embracing the agenda of mobilizing to fight against perceived online hate speech and disinformation. The latest was to organize an event called, Internet for Trust.

The unelected and well-funded organization whose purpose primarily is to facilitate conflict resolution in the real world and provide peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance in war-torn areas, is now increasingly following in the footsteps of other unelected, though less formal elite groups, like the WEF.

Now, we have announcements from one of its agencies, UNESCO – that is supposed to promote world peace and security through international education, arts and sciences cooperation, and protection of world heritage in forms of monuments, etc. – crafting its very own “guidelines” to regulate “hate speech” and “misinformation.”

According to an announcement, UNESCO has found a way to explain how (but not when or why) it started to believe it should have this power to regulate online communications by citing its mandate to promote free circulation of ideas through words and images.

“The internet and social media offer many advantages in the world today. But as we know and we have just heard, individuals are increasingly using it for disinformation. And the reality is they also propagate hate speech.

UNESCO’s global mandate includes the promotion of the free circulation of ideas through words and images. UNESCO has therefore decided to develop, through multistakeholder consultations, principles for regulation of digital platforms guidelines whose aim is to support the development and implementation of regulation procedures to guarantee freedom of expression and access to information while managing illegal contents and any contents that can be so harmful to democracy and respect for human rights.

And instead of doing just that – the agency stopping the free circulation of often arbitrarily selected (and sometimes contrary to national law) “unwanted” information, and regulating that, is apparently the way to go.”

The Regulation of Digital Platforms guidelines, which UNESCO is developing does pay what looks like unavoidable lip service to freedom of expression and access to information – but the main goal is to “manage” what the UN deems “illegal contents and any contents that can be so harmful to democracy and respect for human rights.”

That’s a handily broad definition to cover a lot of things – whether truly harmful or not – and the whole idea is sure to make quite a few free speech proponents unhappy.

But those behind it are positively giddy to be work on guidelines to “support the development and implementation of regulation procedures” aimed at “guaranteeing” access to information, and freedom of expression, but primarily, really, to “manage” whatever is labeled as illegal, any content that somebody decides could harm democracy and human rights.

In announcing the Internet for Trust conference, UNESCO mentioned looking for ways to combat hate speech, misogyny, doxxing and conspiracy theories, and even, with a straight face, suppression of free speech.

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said that regulation was necessary online:

“The blurring of boundaries between true and false, the highly-organized denial of scientific facts, the amplification of disinformation and conspiracies – these did not originate on social networks,” the UNESCO head said. “But, in the absence of regulation, they flourish there much better than the truth.

“Only by taking the full measure of this technological revolution can we ensure it does not sacrifice human rights, freedom of expression and democracy. For information to remain a common good, we must reflect and act now, together,” she said.

February 24, 2023 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 2 Comments

Yemen condemns Israeli, Emirati eviction of Socotra island residents

The Cradle | February 24, 2023

The Ministry of Fishing in Yemen’s National Salvation Government in Sanaa has strongly condemned the UAE’s eviction of residents from the Abd al-Kuri Island of the Socotra archipelago off the Yemeni coast, which Abu Dhabi has been carrying out as part of its long-active plan of transforming Socotra into an Israeli-Emirati military and intelligence hub.

The ministry strongly condemned “the forced displacement of fishermen and residents of the island, and [their forced eviction towards the coastal town of] Hadiboh,” a 22 February statement read.

The statement added that the displacement of the island’s residents and fishermen represents a “flagrant violation” of Yemen’s sovereignty, as well as a threat to navigation and the residents of nearby islands.

The ministry also highlighted the “geostrategic importance of Abd al-Kuri Island” and demanded that the UN Security Council call for an immediate cessation of the UAE’s forced eviction of the island’s residents.

According to the Yemeni statement, these forced evictions follow the recent arrival of Israeli officers to Socotra and the construction of new barracks and military facilities on Abd al-Kuri Island.

This is confirmed by Yemeni journalist and activist Anis Mansour, who on 20 February strongly condemned the “bringing in of Israeli and Emirati forces to the island without the knowledge of the leadership or authorities, in a blatant challenge to Yemeni dignity and sovereignty.”

Mansour said that “the invading forces began to expel the Yemeni local armed tribes from the island, and the residents present there are also being expelled to the Qusa’ir area.”

Mansour also claimed that the Saudi-led coalition plans to ‘secure housing’ in Hadhramaut for about 1,000 fishermen from the island in order to limit the island to the presence of Emirati-Israeli military and intelligence officials only.

Israel is interested in the strategic archipelago because it serves as a potential flashpoint for a confrontation with Iran. In 2020, the Washington Institute published an analysis examining how Israeli submarines could potentially strike the Islamic Republic from positions near Yemen.

An Israeli tourist stands on a hilltop in Yemen’s Socotra Island. January 2022. (Photo credit: Twitter)

In January 2022, Socotra made headlines due to controversial photos of Israeli tourists who had visited the islands under a UAE-issued visa.

February 24, 2023 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

In a US-China confrontation, West Asia will bow out

By F.M. Shakil | The Cradle | February 24 2023

The prospect of a US-China war has entered the realm of reality. Increased provocations from US military and political officials regarding the status of Taiwan – which China considers to be part of its historic territory – have heightened the possibility of confrontation in recent years.

With only 13 out of 193 UN member states recognizing the government in Taipei as a separate entity, the global community’s reaction to a Washington-led assault over Taiwan’s status remains highly uncertain.

Today, the reaction of strategic West Asia to a hypothetical conflict between the two superpowers is up for grabs. However, given the region’s reluctance to take sides in the Russian-US stand off, it is likely to be equally hesitant to do so in the event of a US-China conflict.

In a memo released on 27 January, US General Mike Minihan, chief of the Air Mobility Command, wrote: “My instinct tells me we will fight in 2025.” General Minihan’s views align with Taiwanese Minister of National Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng’s statement in 2021 that China will be capable of launching a full-scale invasion of Taiwan by the same year.

In response to General Minihan’s remarks, Mike McCaul, chairman of the US House Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee, told Fox News: “I hope he is mistaken but I believe he is correct.” Adding fuel to the fire, US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on 29 January, “The chances of conflict in the relationship with China over Taiwan are very high.”

A lot of hot air

Days after the US general issued a warning that Washington may engage in combat with Beijing in the next two years, tensions between the two countries were further exacerbated by the spoof-worthy Chinese spy balloon incident.

According to some senior Republicans and US military leaders, there is a growing concern that a full-scale conflict between the two superpowers is imminent, with the Asia-Pacific (AP) and South Asia (SA) regions likely to be the primary theaters of the conflict.

Jan Achakzai, a geopolitical analyst and former adviser to Pakistan’s Balochistan government, tells The Cradle that:

“The possibility of a war between the United States and China puts everyone on edge, especially the regions that are intricately linked with the US or China. Some nations will be compelled to choose between allying with the US in the case of war or keeping the status quo to lessen the possibility of hostilities.”

Russian involvement in West Asia

Despite nominal trade and geopolitical relations with Moscow, West Asian countries did not support Washington’s position in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. However, Russia’s veto power at the UN Security Council does have a positive impact on its relationship with regional states, particularly for its ability to prevent expansionist and anti-Arab policies by other permanent council members.

Security and trade remain the two primary pillars of the relationship between Moscow and West Asia, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s image has played a significant role in shaping these ties.

The UAE serves as a major financial hub for Russia, and Moscow may attempt to leverage its influence in the region to urge the UAE to reconsider US-imposed banking restrictions, if it feels that its interests are being compromised.

In addition, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Lebanon, and Egypt are among the countries that purchase wheat from Russia, which further solidifies economic ties between Russia and the Arab world.

Moreover, since joining the expanded Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC+) in 2016, Russia and Saudi Arabia have worked closely to regulate oil output and price adjustments as part of OPEC+ agreements.

Putin’s public image has, in part, contributed to a surge in support for Russia in the kingdom. In 2018, when Riyadh faced international criticism over the Saudi-orchestrated murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Russian president made headlines by high-fiving and grinning at the then-isolated Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) during the G20 summit in Argentina.

Likewise, his prominent role in thwarting the NATO proxy war in Syria – a geopolitical game changer that, arguably, ushered in global multipolarity – has gained Putin fans across a region that has long suffered from western imperialist designs.

Where will West Asia stand?

Although still a hypothetical scenario, it is worth considering how West Asia would respond to a direct US-China conflict. Many prominent geopolitical analysts have speculated that if West Asia, and particularly the traditionally pro-US Arab states of the Persian Gulf, did not toe the US line against Russia – a significantly smaller regional trading partner than China – its loyalties to Washington in a potential US-China confrontation could be further strained.

Compared to Russia, China has significantly larger investments throughout West Asia. In 2021, bilateral trade between Beijing and the region amounted to $330 billion, with approximately 50 percent of China’s energy supply coming from the energy-abundant Persian Gulf.

China has conducted over $200 billion in trade alone with Saudi Arabia and the UAE. From 2005 to 2021, Beijing invested $43.47 billion in Saudi Arabia, $36.16 billion in the UAE, $30.05 billion in Iraq, $11.75 billion in Kuwait, $7.8 billion in Qatar, $6.62 billion in Oman, and $1.4 billion in Bahrain.

In addition to its investments in trade and energy, China has also invested enormous sums of money in West Asian and North African infrastructure and high-tech development projects via its multi-trillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Beijing has entered into strategic cooperation agreements with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Algeria, Egypt, and Iran, and has enlisted a total of 21 Arab nations in its ambitious, decade-long effort to revive the historic Silk Road and export its goods to markets throughout Europe and Africa. Currently, infrastructure developed by Persian Gulf nations serves as a transit point for two-thirds of Chinese exports to these continents.

Egypt is a crucial hub for the BRI, with the Economic-Technological Development Area in Egypt’s Suez Canal Economic Zone, near Ain Sokhna, representing one of the major projects for which the two nations signed contracts totaling $18 billion in 2018.

Iraq, the third-largest oil supplier to China after Saudi Arabia and Russia, has also received $10.5 billion from Beijing for BRI-related energy projects, and just this week, agreed to replace its dollar trade with Beijing for the Chinese yuan.

In West Asia, the US plays second fiddle to Beijing

Chinese collaboration with West Asia and North Africa is not confined to trade and economy; Beijing also provides defense equipment to several Arab nations. Since 2019, China and Saudi Arabia have reportedly collaborated on the production of ballistic missiles, and China also sells Saudi Arabia its HQ-17AE air defense system.

Chinese Wing Loong drones have been purchased by the UAE, and Iraq has placed an order for CH-4B drones. Jordan purchased CH-4Bs in 2016, while Algeria acquired CH-5s – the next generation of the CH-4B type – to expand its aviation capabilities in 2022. In addition, Saudi Advanced Communications and Electronics Systems Co. and China Electronics Technology Group are partnering to build a drone factory for local UAV production.

While US President Joe Biden’s administration’s relationship with Riyadh has been strained due to disagreements over human rights and energy policy, China is making significant strides in strengthening its ties with the country.

As Beijing draws closer to Saudi Arabia, the message to Washington from Riyadh is unambiguous: “The people in the Middle East [West Asia] are tired of other countries’ interference because they always come with troubles.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping received a royal welcome in Riyadh last December, marking a seismic shift in Sino-Arab relations and boosting China’s image throughout the Arab world. In contrast, US President Joe Biden’s visit to Jeddah in the summer of 2022 received a lukewarm reception. This may suggest that a recalibration of West Asian geopolitical alliances may be on the horizon.

Despite these trends, analyst Achakzai tells The Cradle that West Asia will behave similarly to the way it did during the Russian-Ukrainian conflict – even given China’s increasing business and military presence in the region and the US’s declining control over the oil-rich Arab monarchies.

“Depending on the current situation, the motives of the various states in the region may change and divide into two distinct groups: those who would support the US and those who would support a neutral position.”

China values economy over war

In the Asia-Pacific region, the US and its allies are engaged in a contentious relationship with China regarding maritime boundaries, international trade, human rights, and strategic security issues. Despite signing numerous security pacts with regional players, China appears to prioritize building and strengthening economic ties over military cooperation with Asian-Pacific states.

Due to a history of hostile confrontations and divergent geopolitical objectives, both the US and China seek to increase their military presence in the region. In response to China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, the US has expanded its military footprint by signing commercial and defense agreements with the Asia-Pacific region.

The two nations have also been at odds over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which many viewed as an effort to contain China’s economic and strategic influence in its own backyard. Additionally, tensions have escalated between Beijing and its neighbors, particularly over territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas.

These efforts have been emboldened by the 5-member Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), which is an informal strategic dialogue between the US, India, Japan, and Australia that seeks “to promote a free, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.” According to Achakzai:

“Countries that have extensive defense agreements with the US, such as Japan, South Korea, and Australia, are most likely to help America. These nations, which have long benefited from their close connections to the US, must now contend with Chinese territorial ambitions in the region and the South China Sea. The nations having an informal security partnership with the US, such as the Philippines, are likely to back the United States in a confrontation.”

The analyst explained that Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia are expected to remain neutral during the conflict due to their strong business and investment ties with China.

“Other countries in the Asia-Pacific region may feel obligated to support the US if China initiates the conflict. This may apply to countries like Indonesia and Vietnam, which have recently been under Chinese pressure and may need to choose a side to protect their own security,” he noted.

February 24, 2023 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Court convicts UK firm over cataclysmic 2020 blast in Beirut

Press TV – February 23, 2023

The UK High Court has ruled a London-based company that delivered the explosive ammonium nitrate to Beirut’s port is liable towards the victims of a devastating blast in 2020.

Lebanon’s Beirut Bar Association said on Thursday the high court had ruled the London-registered chemical trading firm, Savaro Ltd., will have to pay compensations now.

The huge Beirut port blast on August 4, 2020 killed more than 200 people, injuring over 6,000 and damaging large parts of the port city.

Friends and families of the blast’s victims saw the legal development as a rare step towards justice and against the political intervention that has obstructed the investigative judge leading a probe in Lebanon for over two years.

The court ruling in London is an unusual judicial success for the victims’ families, some of whom opted to file lawsuits abroad.

The Beirut Bar Association, alongside three of the victims’ family members, filed a lawsuit against the British firm more than a year ago.

The ruling by the High Court of Justice in London means the proceedings now move to a “damages phase” of the case that determines the firm’s compensation for the families, Camille Abousleiman, one of the lawyers involved in the case, told media.

Head of the Bar Association Nader Kaspar considered the ruling a “great achievement,” paving the way to continue the quest for justice and the truth about what caused the devastating explosion in Beirut’s port.

“It’s the first time there is an actual judgment on this matter in reputable courts,” Abu Suleiman, also a former Lebanese labor minister, said. The ruling “certainly will open the door for potential justice in courts overseas.”

Mariana Foudoulian, whose sister Gaia died in the explosion, called the judgment a “very important step.”

“Through this judgment, we can try to access more important details,” Foudoulian told media. “This does give us some hope.”

Court documents showed Savaro chartered a huge shipment of ammonium nitrate in 2013 which eventually ended up in Beirut’s port area.

Documents show officials were aware of the highly inflammable chemical substance docked at the port for years, but did not take decisive action to have it removed.

The lawsuit against Savaro was lodged in August 2021. It remains unclear who own(s) Savaro. Probes into the company’s ownership listed agents from a corporate services firm.

Accountability Now, a Swiss organization, said some of the Beirut blast victims’ families had filed a lawsuit in Texas against US-Norwegian geophysical services group TGS.

The TGS firm owns a company that allegedly sub-chartered the ship carrying the ammonium nitrate in 2012. Accountability Now said it hoped the Texas lawsuit would help disclose communications between TGS and other parties involved in the Beirut blast.

February 24, 2023 Posted by | Aletho News | | Leave a comment

How US’ False Flags Record Prompts Public to Trust Hersh’s Nord Stream Bombshell Even More

Sputnik – 24.02.2023

Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh previously teased about unveiling the mechanism of Nord Stream’s destruction. Despite the media silence surrounding his latest expose, the journalist’s research keeps attracting the public’s attention, as the US and its Nordic allies remain tight-lipped about the incident.

“In my view, Hersh is facing a reality which he has never faced before in his long and distinguished life,” Hans Mahncke, a US investigative journalist and lawyer, told Sputnik. “His life-long audience of traditional leftists has dissolved. Whereas a Hersh expose in the past would immediately cause a big furor both in media and politics, he is now being ignored. That is an entirely new situation for him. But it is not just Hersh. If the entire Edward Snowden story would play out now in 2023 instead of in 2013, no one would report it or care. This is the new reality we live in.”

Mahncke drew attention to “the complete disappearance of the old, anti-war left in the United States,” which he called “an extraordinary event which historians will study long into the future.”

“Some say that hatred of Trump caused this shift in that if Trump wanted peace, the left wanted war just to spite Trump, but the trend started under Obama and also captured Europe, where even the German Green Party, which used to be fervently anti-war, is now extremely hawkish. The exact reasons remain unclear, but there is no question that the Western anti-war movement is largely dead. In turn, the prospect of slithering into World War III is much higher now than at any time during the Cold War.”

Earlier this month, Hersh released a bombshell report on Nord Stream’s destruction on September 26, 2022, claiming that US Navy divers, with assistance from Norway, planted explosive charges at the pipeline under the cover of a NATO military exercise in the Baltic during summer 2022.

Observers warn that the destruction of the Nord Stream could be equated to a declaration of war, and yet it appears that Western leaderships are not interested in getting to the bottom of it.

West Surprisingly Uninterested in Investigating Nord Stream Sabotage

Earlier this week, Russia presented a UN Security Council draft resolution requesting that the secretary-general conduct an independent international investigation to verify the facts brought forward by Hersh. Moscow’s request for an independent investigation was prompted by doubts about the integrity and transparency of Denmark, Germany, and Sweden in their ongoing inquiries.

Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya has repeatedly noted that Moscow hasn’t been allowed to take part in the investigations by any of the three countries. He insisted they were “not only not transparent, but it is quite clear that they seek just to cover the tracks and stick up for their … American brother.”

For its part, the US reiterated its “concerns” with regard to the Nord Stream attack, and, simultaneously, bashed Hersh’s account of events as “false” and “fiction.” Sweden, Denmark, and Germany have yet to complete their separate probes into the blast: they signaled recently that “at this point, it is not possible to say when they will be concluded.”

When asked what they had found so far, the investigators told the UN Security Council on February 21, that they had established “that there has been extensive damage” to the pipelines “and that the damage was caused by powerful explosions due to sabotage.” Actually, this was already known roughly five months ago. Probably, the nations are keeping other findings close to their chests.

Sachs and McGovern: UN Probe is Global Priority

Remarkably, two American experts who testified at the UNSC meeting openly said that they do not buy into the West’s Nord Stream narrative. Jeffrey D. Sachs, a professor at Columbia University and specialist in global economy, stated on February 21 that “the investigation by the UN Security Council of the Nord Stream explosions is a high global priority.”

“There is only one detailed account to date of the Nord Stream destruction, the one recently put forward by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, ostensibly based on information leaked to Hersh by an unnamed source,” stated Sachs. “The White House has described Hersh’s account as ‘completely and utterly false,’ but did not offer any information contradicting Hersh’s account and did not offer any alternative explanation.”

Retired CIA officer and political activist Raymond McGovern, who also participated in the UNSC summit, said that he “associate[d] [himself] completely with Sachs’ comments.”
Sachs was one of the first prominent American figures to suggest in the wake of the blasts that the Biden administration could potentially have been involved in the attack.

Growing Mistrust Towards US Government Machine

In his latest Substack report, Hersh shed some light on US-Norwegian military cooperation which started after the Second World War. He also shed light on the special role played by the CIA during the War in Vietnam and, especially, prior to the Gulf of Tonkin “false flag.”

“The problem of rogue US intelligence agencies has been around for a long time, as even John F. Kennedy noted,” Mahncke said. “After Nixon’s forced resignation, there was an effort to clean up these agencies, but not much changed in the short term and in the long run, we now have a situation where these agencies not only create mischief overseas, but also target domestic groups. That is what might bring real change, as at least half the country no longer trusts these agencies. While claims of Iraqi WMDs might have been readily accepted in the past, people now ask questions. Ironically, had US intelligence agencies not started targeting its own citizens, the fake narrative that Russia bombed its own pipeline might have prevailed.”

Indeed, it seems that Americans’ trust in their security services and federal government has been shattered by the Trump-Russia hoax, Big Tech’s collusion with the feds to censor free speech in the US, and the manhunt for January Sixers, to name but a few.

Earlier this month, extensive research by Jeff Gerth debunked the US media’s journalistic malpractice in covering Russiagate, while the Twitter Files released by Elon Musk last year told the story of information manipulation and machinations by the FBI and other agencies in coordination with Big Tech and Big Media. Apparently, the potential release of 41,000 hours in footage from January 6, 2021 protests would answer the question whether the crackdown against January Sixers was justified.

However, the reported “fakes” and “hoaxes” created and peddled by the feds did not start with Trump’s ascendance to power. Back in 2015, Seymour Hersh played down the “glorious” Obama-era story of the capture and elimination of “Terrorist No 1” Osama bin Laden.

Osama Bin Laden’s Death

According to the US government’s account of events, the US tracked Bin Laden to a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan; conducted a secret Navy Seal raid which resulted in the terrorist’s death; after that, Bin Laden’s body was treated with respect and buried at sea. Still, Hersh suggested, citing his sources, that in reality, Pakistani intelligence services captured Bin Laden in 2006 and kept him in prison.

In 2010, Pakistan agreed to give Bin Laden away to the US under the guise of a staged military raid. US Navy Seals met no resistance at Abbottabad on May 2, 2011 and killed Osama in his bedroom in cold blood. His body was “torn apart with rifle fire” and his remains were “tossed out over the Hindu Kush mountains” by Navy SEALs during their flight home. There was no burial at the sea since “there wouldn’t have been much left of Bin Laden to put into the sea in any case.”

Hersh’s version of Bin Laden’s death looks especially tragic given that 18 years earlier, on December 6, 1993, Osama bin Laden was described as “every inch the mountain warrior of mujahedin legend”; a “shy man” dressed in “his gold-fringed robe”; a man who helped the Afghans win a war against the USSR. This is how Osama was portrayed by The Independent at the time.

Khan Sheykhoun False Flag

In 2017, Hersh challenged the US official narrative about a chemical incident in the town of Khan Sheikhoun that was used by the Trump administration to justify the April 6, 2017 US cruise missile strike on Syrian government forces’ al-Shayat air base.

Hersh’s account of events showed that not only was there no evidence to back Washington’s claims about Syrian government forces’ alleged “chemical attack” on Khan Sheikhoun, but that the US military and intelligence apparatus were not aware of such an “attack” before the cruise missile strike was ordered. In reality, the Khan Sheikhoun chemical incident was staged by al-Nusra* terrorists, according to the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

The aforementioned cases raise the question: what else could the US government and its agencies be hiding?

Meanwhile, Hersh’s latest expose describes a case that appears to be far more dangerous than the My Lai massacre or the Khan Sheykhoun false flag.

“We are now in a far more dangerous situation than at any time in the Cold War,” warned Mahncke. “Western elites claim that Russia in 2023 is akin to Germany in the 1930s. That is nonsense. The situation we are facing is far more akin to the pre-World War One situation in Europe. It’s as if reason has been abandoned and the entire Western establishment is itching for war.”

February 24, 2023 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Germans demand investigation of Nord Stream sabotage, end of US occupation

Free West Media | February 23, 2023

After the sensational revelations by US investigative reporter Seymour Hersh about the perpetrators of the Nord Stream attacks on September 26, 2022, the German government has remained silent. It does not want to comment on Hersh’s research results, according to which the pipelines were blown up by Americans and Norwegians.

The Scholz administration certainly has not drawn any conclusions from the revelations.

The German public obviously sees things very differently – at least if one wants to believe a voting simulation by the Dutch portal “Restart Democracy”. There, the Rudulin Foundation, which by its own admission is committed to more co-determination and a “truly democratically oriented society”, asked 6425 German citizens to vote between February 10 and 17.

Almost 100 percent voted to convene a Nord Stream investigative committee. The question was: “Do you vote for or against the convening of the Nord Stream committee of inquiry?”

Markus Bönig, Director of the Rudulin Foundation, underscored the difference between a survey and a vote: “Voting by voters is an important instrument of the joint declaration of intent. It is used for decision-making and choice, so that power is actually and directly exercised by the people,” explained Bönig.

Surveys, on the other hand, only draw a non-binding opinion of a comparatively small group of registered people, according to Bönig.

Peace demonstrations reflect the mood

In addition to the big peace demo on Friday in Dresden (with HC Strache and Björn Höcke) and on Saturday in Berlin (with Sahra Wagenknecht and Alice Schwarzer), there will be another peace demo in Ramstein on Sunday under the motto “Close Airbase Ramstein – Ami [Americans, ed.] go home!”

The call from the organizers states: “As a broad, non-partisan protest alliance, we have registered a large peace demonstration for February 26, 2023 on the square in front of the train station in Ramstein. We demand the immediate closure of the US airbase, the complete withdrawal of all US troops, taking all weapons stationed here with them.

“The danger that Germany will be drawn into a third world war is growing daily. The recent decision to deliver heavy tanks to Ukraine also ensures that Germany is increasingly becoming a participant in the war. One of the centers for war, suffering and also for crimes against humanity is the US Airbase in Ramstein. Here we would like to send a clear signal for peace on February 26, 2023.”

Their goals include:

  • The closure of the US airbase in Ramstein and the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Germany
  • A sovereign German foreign policy
  • No to arms shipments
  • A return to diplomacy
  • An end to sanctions
  • No to foreign deployments of the Bundeswehr

The peace demonstration will start at 12 pm on the square in front of the station in Ramstein. The square is located opposite the Ramstein Miesenbach train station on Bahnhofstrasse. There will be a pavilion on the site of the opening rally, where initiatives and organizers can display their information material.

In addition to an opening rally, there is a large demonstration in the direction of the airbase, where another rally will be taking place. Participants who cannot complete the route for health reasons will be able to remain at the site where sanitary facilities will be available.

February 24, 2023 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , | 1 Comment

Marketing Ukraine’s Reconstruction to Fuel the War

By Laura Ruggeri | Strategic Culture Foundation | February 23, 2023

Immediately after the start of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, key players in the coalition supporting Ukraine, as well as transatlantic financial institutions and think tanks, were already discussing the governance and financing of Ukraine’s reconstruction. They invariably framed it as a historic opportunity for the country: like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Ukraine would become a beacon of freedom, democracy and rule-of-law, a testimonial for Build Back Better, a “green and digital economy” success story; the country would leapfrog several stages of economic and governmental development and its economic growth would replicate Germany’s post-war boom. Unsurprisingly, the more recent and far less inspiring examples of Western-led ‘reconstruction’ in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan didn’t earn mention.

The speed with which fantastical narratives of recovery and reconstruction were churned out shouldn’t surprise anyone because they had been concocted years earlier as part of several ‘reform plans’ for Ukraine. One could say they are hardwired into the overall strategy of this proxy war against Russia as they are aimed at securing political, military and financial support for Ukraine to prolong the war rather than an incentive to negotiate peace. All those who produce these narratives are directly or indirectly linked to governments that are involved both in the destruction of Ukraine and the Ukrainization of Europe, a process designed to fully control, militarize and loot the Old World.

Paying lip service to the idea of reconstruction is also the best way to distract attention from one’s investment in the business of war. For example, JPMorgan Investment Management owns more than $2.5 billion worth of Raytheon stocks and more than $1.3 billion worth of Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics securities, as of February 15. As long as Ukraine keeps consuming U.S. military products, the rising profits for arms companies – satisfies investment funds. And rich corruption in the U.S., EU and Ukraine. As long as Ukraine is of any interest in terms of consumption of U.S. military products, there will be no peace on its territory.

There is little doubt that Ukraine will need rebuilding once the war eventually ends, but ‘destruction’ and ‘reconstruction’ mean different things to different people.

For instance, there is strong disagreement as to what constitutes ‘destruction’, when the ‘destruction’ of Ukraine started and who should be blamed for it.

Those who have been following Ukrainian affairs without ideological prejudice, and with a modicum of intellectual honesty, know that at the time of the dissolution of the USSR, Ukraine was an economic powerhouse, the third industrial power of the Soviet Union after Russia and Belarus, and its breadbasket. The Soviet republic had aerospace, automobile and machine tool industries, well-developed mining, metallurgical and agricultural sectors, nuclear, oil refining and petrochemical plants, tourism and commercial infrastructures and the largest shipbuilding center in the USSR.

Since its independence in 1991, Ukraine’s GDP has lagged behind the level it reached in Soviet times, industry declined, and the population decreased by about 14.5 million people in 30 years due to emigration and the lowest birth rate in Europe. Ukraine has also become the third largest IMF debtor and Europe’s poorest country. These negative records cannot be blamed solely on Ukraine’s systemic and staggering corruption: the corrupt networks bleeding Ukraine are truly transnational. If the best way to rob a bank is to own one, then the best way to plunder a country is to control its elites. Which is exactly what Western kleptocratic networks have been doing for decades with the help of their local facilitators and enablers.

Ukraine was targeted by two U.S.-funded color revolutions that led to regime change and civil war, was wrestled away from its largest economic partner, Russia; its history was erased and rewritten while an artificial identity was manufactured and imposed on its population; neoliberal prescriptions destroyed its economic and social fabric and led to a neocolonial form of governance.

Though Ukraine joined Europe’s nefarious Eastern Partnership in 2009 and has been teeming with Western NGOs, economic and political advisers since its independence, the country’s indentured servitude and captivity to Western interests was cemented after the last Ukrainian government to object to the IMF’s harsh conditions – including steep budget cuts and a 40-percent increase in natural-gas bills – was overthrown by a U.S.-sponsored coup in 2014.

On 10 December, 2013, Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych stated that the conditions set by the IMF for loan approval were unacceptable: “I had a conversation with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who told me that the issue of the IMF loan has almost been solved, but I told him that if the conditions remained we did not need such loans“. He then broke off negotiations with the IMF and turned to Russia for financial assistance. It was the sensible thing to do, but cost him dearly. You can’t break the shackles of IMF debt with impunity, this lender of last resort not only imposes its usual shock therapy of austerity, deregulation, and privatization so that the vultures can swoop in, it also furthers and protects U.S. interests.

If those who destroyed a country are allowed to be involved in its reconstruction, then reconstruction will inevitably be just a point on the continuum of conquest, occupation and looting, but with better optics. Destruction produces that blank slate that has always been colonialism’s seductive promise, on that slate you can write your own rules: “To plunder, butcher, steal, these things they misname empire: they make a desolation and they call it peace”. Tacitus knew both the reality and the spin of Roman imperialism.

One can only wonder if those who talk about ‘reconstruction’, ‘recovery’, ‘reform’, ‘rules-based order’, ‘reset’ or whatever buzzword is fashionable at the moment are aware of the brutal reality or truly believe their own spin. In any case they promise a future utopia worth killing and dying for.

The capitalist, imperialist West has created its own eschatology, embedded in both the environmental and technological discourses. Thirty years ago, Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, had cautioned an audience in Prague, whose newborn democracy was teeming with promise and perils, about the difference between eschatology – understanding and belief in the “end,” i.e., eternal life – and utopia. Belief in the latter, which he defined simply as “the hope of a better world in the future,” had taken the place of eternal life across the West. Man’s hubris replaces eschatology with a self-made utopia which intends to fulfill man’s hopes. Constantly allured by newer technocratic abilities, the utopians end up sharing Tantalus’ fate, and are condemned to live in Hades, tormented with the sight of something desired but out of reach, teased by arousing expectations that are inevitably disappointed.

The more secular-minded may remember what Karl Marx wrote about the destructive (and self-destructive) tendencies inherent to capitalism. It’s by causing large-scale loss that it enables new wealth to be created. Wars and economic crises serve the purpose as they allow capitalism to start a new cycle of wealth creation for an ever-shrinking class of owners.

But the neoliberal capitalist system is fast running out of creative schemes to forestall its collapse and the old ones no longer deliver the desired results because they are predicated on rules and conditions set by the U.S., and the transnational institutions it controls. As U.S. power wanes, the global oligarchy that depends on it is faced with the choice of defending that power at any cost and against all odds, or seeking an arrangement with emerging powers, an option that would not only reduce its sway and outrageous profits, but also accelerate U.S. decline. Since World War II, U.S. influence over the global economy and military power have been intertwined and losing one would precipitate the loss of the other. The engine of world economic growth has moved to Asia, with China in a leading position, and the U.S. has chosen to tighten the grip on its vassals, double down on its hegemonic ambitions and indulge in grandiose, and dangerous, fantasies rather than accept the emergence of a multipolar reality. Since fantasies cannot deliver real growth, let alone prosperity, the Empire invests a considerable part of its resources in colonizing minds and policing narratives. The job of those who are simultaneously planning ‘destruction’ and ‘reconstruction’ is to reduce the cognitive dissonance between the present misery and picture-perfect manifestos of a bright future.

Selling a war requires all hands on deck, and that’s why think tanks and marketing specialists have been involved from the early stages. They churn out narratives that help shape the discursive space, engineer a perception of global support for Ukraine, provide talking points, and versions of the truth, to both politicians and the media. They have to motivate Ukrainians to keep fighting and European vassals to keep funding the war and arming Ukraine, no matter the cost to their economy.

If those who attended recovery conferences never talked about peace is also because the possibility of peace negotiations with Russia has been performatively and normatively excluded from the Western discourse. The last time Western leaders claimed they wanted peace in Ukraine, they were lying. As we now know, the Minsk Agreements were signed by Angela Merkel and François Holland only to win time for Kiev to prepare for war.

The EU was so committed to peace that in a truly Orwellian fashion, in 2021 established the European Peace Facility (EPF) to bankroll military operations, provide military equipment and training to unnamed “EU partners” – Ukraine couldn’t be openly mentioned yet. The fund, worth €5 billion, was financed outside the budget, for a period of seven years.

When in October 2022 Volodymyr Zelensky signed a bizarre decree prohibiting talks with the current Russian leadership he simply formalized something that had already become a dogma among his allies. Six months earlier, in April, Boris Johnson went to Kiev to pressure Zelensky to cut off peace negotiations with Russia, because the two sides appeared to have made some tenuous progress during talks in Istanbul. In March Denis Kireev, a member of the Ukraine delegation who had taken part in the February peace talks in Belarus, was shot dead by his country’s security service. Israeli PM Naftali Bennet, who had also attempted to mediate a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine, revealed how the Anglo-Americans, with Boris Johnson in the role of chief bully again, blocked his efforts.

Peace advocates, including Roger Waters, Pink Floyd’s former frontman, were added to the infamous Myrotvorets online [assassination] database. Those who profit from war and want to see Russia weakened would stop at nothing to prevent peace talks. While Europeans are grappling with the ever growing cost of an American proxy war in their continent, they need a compensatory fantasy to support the absurd notion that a peace settlement in Ukraine would threaten their security and not be in their best interests. Narratives of reconstruction, seamlessly woven into delusions of Ukraine’s victory from the start, allow the transnational party of war to present itself as a force for good and a driver of future growth.

The reconstruction marketeers have aggressively tried to occupy the moral high ground by evicting the peacemakers and to do so they had to bolster the argument that war couldn’t be prevented nor stopped.

In March 2022, less than a month since Russian troops had crossed the Ukrainian border, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), one of the U.S. military-industrial-intelligence complex’s favorite think tanks, published a bizarre article titled “Rebuilding Ukraine after the War”. Its author compared the destruction of Ukraine’s infrastructure to a “natural” disaster such as the hurricane that destroyed Puerto Rico in 2017 and argued that reconstruction would provide an opportunity “to improve on the past”, paving the way for a radiant future, a techno-utopia as orderly, clean and green as an architectural rendition.

Framing war as a “natural disaster”, as opposed to a man-made one, would allow those who militarized Ukraine and sabotaged all peace agreements, to pre-empt any serious discussion about the causes of, and possible solutions to this conflict. If the war in Ukraine was as sudden and inevitable as a hurricane then it would be pointless to seek an explanation for it other than “Putin is mad/bloodthirsty/evil…” or “Russia is an imperialist country”.

The ensuing devastation was also framed as the result of Russian forces’ congenital appetite for wanton destruction – in the West Nazi tropes are back in fashion and Russian soldiers can be described as “barbaric Asiatic hordes” with total impunity. Western media ensured that their public would never hear about the role played in the destruction of residential districts by Ukrainian nationalists who set up firing positions, deploy armored vehicles, conceal artillery pieces and MLRS in densely populated areas and use civilians as human shields. Hardly natural. Even less natural was the outbreak of this war, unless you consider NATO’s expansion and U.S. geopolitical goals as part of a divine plan. Mind you, some do and call it “manifest destiny”.

CSIS put forward arguments and plans that would later be expanded at conferences about Ukraine reconstruction. “Thinking about recovery means envisioning a post-conflict future, and that links to the twin messages of hope and the necessity to keep fighting.” The twin messages, constantly amplified by Western-controlled media, are mainly addressed to those who need to be reassured that they stand to benefit from the escalation of this conflict, regardless of the huge losses they are currently incurring. And that includes a multitude of stakeholders, both in NATO countries and in Ukraine.

There have been several antecedents to recent conferences in which representatives of Western governments, financial institutions and corporations discussed ways to keep Ukraine fighting “to the last man” while baiting it with promises of reforms and reconstruction, but one stands out as a direct progenitor. It had all the hallmarks of a British influence operation.

On July 6, 2017 the UK Foreign Office headed by Boris Johnson organized and hosted the first Ukraine Reform Conference in London. Ukrainians, notorious “friends of UK/raine” such as Christya Freeland and other rabid Anglophile Russophobes, many hailing from the Baltics, would outnumber less invested participants, expose them to their extremist views in order to facilitate their radicalization and recruitment. The power of conformity, suggestibility and normative social influence would ensure that participants who had previously held moderate views would gravitate towards the extremist opinion of the majority.

The alleged purpose of this conference was to seek political and financial support for Ukraine’s 2020 Reform Plan, a neoliberal roadmap designed to create a more profitable and less unpredictable environment for Western corporate interests while priming the Ukrainian population and army for war. This medium-term Reform Plan defined the main objectives and areas of the Ukrainian Government activity for 2017-2020 and formed the basis for the strategic plans of ministries and other executive bodies. It was predicated on privatization of state-owned enterprises, deregulation, judicial reform, amendments to the labor law, land market reforms, decentralization, forced de-Russification, patriotic education, transformation of the armed forces into a “modern and effective army in line with NATO standards” by increasing its military spending to 6% of GDP, integration into the European political, economic and legal space. In short, this was a roadmap for the complete hijacking of Ukraine’s economic, political, and social institutions, the demolition of what stood in its way, and further militarization of the country.

The conference also served other purposes. The main proponents of Anglo-American eastward expansion, who are deeply invested in Ukraine, after the election of Donald Trump couldn’t fully rely on the U.S. government to further their agenda: Trump’s “America First” foreign policy had strained relations with NATO allies and frozen military aid to Ukraine – arms sales were ok, freebies not so much. London was more than eager to pick up the mantle and ensure Ukraine stayed the course and remained on top of the transatlantic agenda. By taking the lead in coordinating and strategizing support for Ukraine, the UK government also saw an opportunity to strengthen British influence especially at a time when Brexit negotiations had just started and London feared losing its leverage in Europe. British elites were determined to put their country “at the beginning of the line” in the looting of Ukraine’s assets while salivating at the prospect of looting Russian assets too.

The gambit seemed to pay off: the following years attendance at the annual conference grew, including a larger number of representatives from the United States, NATO, OECD, G7 and European countries, OSCE, Council of Europe, IMF, European Investment Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the World Bank.

After Russia’s intervention in 2022, the “Ukraine Reform Conference” (URC) was quickly renamed “Ukraine Recovery Conference (URC). The continuity is striking: acronym, logo and corporate image remained exactly the same when in July 2022, the conference was held in Lugano, Switzerland.

Unsurprisingly, the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Lugano turned out to be little more than a PR stunt, featured a few squabbles among participants competing for their share in any future spoils of war, and provided an opportunity for Ukraine’s prime minister Denys Shmygal, supported by Liz Truss, to advocate the seizure of frozen Russian assets to fund his country’s reconstruction project. Shmygal’s call sent shivers down the spine of Swiss authorities, because not only would the confiscation of these assets violate and thus undermine international legal rules, it would also deal a mortal blow to Switzerland’s banking industry.

Brookings, the U.S. think tank that was deeply involved in the design and implementation of the original Marshall Plan for the post-war redevelopment of Western Europe, had to admit that the Lugano conference “was a missed opportunity because the donor countries did not come prepared with any agreement on coordination mechanisms, a division of labor, or necessary funding levels. In addition, the United States was not represented by officials with seniority commensurate to the European representation.”

A similar criticism was expressed by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, another U.S. think tank. GMF asserted that the European Commission has “neither the necessary political nor the financial heft” to lead reconstruction. And it advised against creating a new agency or centralized trust fund. Instead, it suggested that the G7 and Ukraine together appoint “an American of global stature” as recovery coordinator “because only the United States will be able to bring together the needed global coalition and forge consensus among Ukraine’s partners.”

The Anglo-Americans who need the EU to fund the war and masochistically support their geopolitical plans were disappointed that the richest EU countries would not cough up the amount of money they expected because in this scam Germany, France and Italy are the designated suckers. The con artists invest in the fraudulent scheme to give it an appearance of legitimacy and win the suckers’ confidence.

If Ukraine is the bait, Europe is the big fish and this crime syndicate would stop at nothing to achieve its goals: persuasion tactics can be escalated to involve some serious arm-twisting, as the Nord Stream sabotage clearly showed.

For all their pledges to help Ukraine “recover”, those who took part in “Recovery and Reconstruction” conferences seemed bound by an oath to never advocate for peace negotiations with Russia. Wouldn’t peace be a necessary condition for recovery? Well, it depends on what we mean by recovery. The main purpose of these conferences is to raise funds for Ukraine’s war chest, build a larger consensus on the seizure of Russian frozen assets, and instill enough hopes of a better future to convince Ukrainians and their partners that they should keep fighting regardless of the devastating human and economic losses they are incurring.

The London-based Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) clearly spelled out this strategy in its Macroeconomics Policies for Wartime Ukraine, which outlined policies to “put the Ukrainian economy on a sustainable trajectory for the duration of the war”. The same policy became a dogma in Davos, where the WEF evil wizards agreed and emphasized the need to start reconstruction while the destruction is still ongoing, as that would drive Ukrainian refugees back home, that is to a place described as the “hell of war” in the same paragraph. “We have a moral obligation to nurture hope for these people and to help them stay strong as they go through the hell of war. Doing so will also encourage Ukrainian refugees to return to their homeland.” The cherry on the cake is the cynical reference to “inclusivity”, because no disability should exempt Ukrainians from contributing to war efforts, they too are called upon to fill positions vacated by the dead and those at the front. “Inclusivity is particularly important. Thousands of Ukrainians have already received long-lasting injuries (…) many of them will need to continue their life and work with disabilities.”

People, military and financial aid are all needed to ensure Ukraine retains enough strength not to collapse while it performs its designated role of proxy. That said, broadcasting donors’ pledges and the promise of foreign investments also serve a strategic purpose: it sends a message that Western countries form a compact bloc that will stick together no matter the cost, and to other nations that there are benefits to alignment with this bloc. All wishful thinking, of course.

With Ukrainian GDP expected to fall by more than 45%, budget expenditures doubling due to increased military spending as well as business and humanitarian support, budget deficit projected to reach more than USD 45 billion by the end of 2022 why would international investors be interested in what is de facto a failed state that is still at war?

Disaster capitalism feeds on shock, and war is the ultimate shock treatment. The privatization of profit and socialization of losses is its mantra and a heavily indebted country on its knees can’t prevent the outright sale of its assets. Rebuilding is never the primary purpose, it’s about reshaping everything. If anything, the stories of corruption and incompetence serve to mask a deeper scandal: the rise of a predatory form of disaster capitalism that uses the desperation and fear created by catastrophe to engage in radical social and economic engineering. After all, war-ravaged countries are in a state of limited sovereignty and any aid money that might pour in is often put in a trust fund, managed by foreign entities. The promise of Ukraine’s reconstruction by a parallel government made up of a familiar cast of for-profit consulting firms, engineering companies, mega-NGOs, foreign governments, international aid agencies and financial institutions would certainly make the prospect of Private-Public Partnership (PPP) attractive. But all this is predicated on Ukraine winning the war and remaining under Western control.

Betting on Ukraine’s victory is a high-odds bet, a very risky bet even for the regular gamblers of the vast casino known as the Western financial system. Yes, debt can be repackaged by lenders into creative securities backed by some pie-in-the sky and sold to global investors, a scam that would make the subprime mortgage crisis pale in comparison. Problem is, there isn’t as much liquidity around in Borrel’s European garden, nor in Biden’s land of the free for that matter. Prices and the cost of money have risen sharply, the market sentiment has slumped, recession is looming in Western countries whose financial system is broken beyond repair, but Western leaders, financiers and business moguls delude themselves they can simply talk up the global economy and resort to their old tricks. Their “everything is fine” message, as witnessed in Davos, is nothing more than one of those “confidence-boosting” exercises their minions practice in front of the mirror.

Attracting foreign investments is far from easy, as the Ukrainian Ministry of Finance has candidly admitted, though he believes that a PPP with BlackRock “can help raise capital even against the background of a bad investment reputation in the past (…) Obviously, private investors in the West will show much more trust in projects or a fund in which a world-renowned company plays some role. Even if it is consulting support. (…) Since investors often have a herd instinct, the option of creating a BlackRock investment fund to accumulate funds from private investors and finance Ukrainian projects is considered optimal”.

Officially, BlackRock’s cooperation with the Ukrainian government was formalized in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which was signed in November 2022. Since then other Wall Street banksters have jumped on the bandwagon. This February, JP Morgan, the U.S.’s largest bank, also signed a MoU with Volodymyr Zelensky with the eye on attracting private capital for a new investment fund seeded with $20 billion to $30 billion in private capital. Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan’s CEO, called the consequences of the conflict in Ukraine “an inflection point for the Western world for a hundred years.”

Well, the decline of U.S. hegemony and the financial, corporate elites that feed on it (the “inflection point”, as Dimon called it) started well before February 2022. The end of U.S.-European domination of world capitalism is upon us as the center of gravity of the global economy shifts to China and the world is moving toward political multipolarity. Western elites are aware that the fraudulent, unequal system they owe their power to is cracking up, and the West’s mother-of-all financial bubbles is about to explode. All their hare-brained schemes are designed to increase debt, and therefore the enslavement of an ever-greater portion of humanity and have increased instability in the system. The COVID-19 pandemic and the Green New Deal were supposed to pave the way for “resetting and reshaping” the world, through the application of new digital technologies for a more regimented, technocratic and authoritarian control over the global population. But it has not gone as anticipated. Instead, the pandemic accelerated all the contradictions and crisis tendencies of financial capitalism. Ukraine, the greatest rock’n’roll swindle of all times might prove to be one hare-brained scheme too far.

For years the Fed, the Bank of England, and the European Central Bank have been printing money, but unbacked fiat currency is a Ponzi Scheme built on treachery and lies: its expansion is financed by the transfer of wealth from everyone for the supposed benefit of everyone… till it all ends in tears for most. Those who have made their fortunes by placing bets on the future, buying or selling options and all sorts of other recondite financial inventions might be lured by the promise of high returns, but many investors will join the pyramid scheme simply because their assets are managed by BlackRock, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs etc. When the scheme finally collapses, they will be ruined, just like Ukraine.

February 24, 2023 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Russia expands its partners as special military operation progresses

Contrary to what Westerners predicted, Moscow is gradually looking like an attractive alternative for emerging countries.

By Lucas Leiroz | February 24, 2023

One year after the start of the special military operation, little seems to have changed in the Russian diplomatic landscape. NATO’s members and allies continue to condemn Moscow’s actions, while virtually the rest of the world remains neutral – in addition to a number of states openly supporting the operation. The Russian Federation is not isolated in the global society and all measures aimed at making it a “pariah” have had the reverse effect, making the collective West itself a “bad partner”.

Since the beginning of the special military operation for the demilitarization and de-Nazification of Ukraine, on February 24, 2022, Russia has maintained a team of great partners, guaranteeing strong diplomatic support. Countries with a more openly pro-Russian geopolitical position, such as North Korea, Belarus and Syria, support the operation and vote against anti-Russian resolutions at the UN, while countries with a more neutral position, such as China and India, abstain from voting and demonstrate tacit support for Moscow through economic cooperation.

Throughout 2022, the West tried to coerce emerging countries to adopt hostile policies against Russia, but this proved ineffective. Anti-Russian sanctions have become an exclusive practice of NATO allied countries, with no adherence to such measures among emerging nations. Even governments of emerging countries that act with ambiguity and try to maintain good ties with the West continue to insist on a neutral foreign policy, without actively joining one of the sides in the conflict. This is the case of Brazil, for example, which voted against Moscow in UN resolutions, but continues to refuse to comply with requests from the West to supply weapons to Kiev.

Indeed, this conclusion contrasts with what many Western biased analysts predicted last year. Many experts stated that as the conflict progressed, it was most likely that Russia would naturally become more isolated on the international arena. There was a bet on the propaganda capacity of the Western media to promote the narrative that Moscow would be blamed for the global security crisis, but apparently this type of discourse is no longer able to convince most state officials around the world.

Countries that remained neutral or pro-Russian were able to see over the course of one year what happened to states that, unlike them, adhered to the Western-Ukrainian axis. Among almost all NATO member countries or allies, the scenario arising from observance to the irresponsible policy of sanctions against Moscow was the same: economic crisis, energy instability, food insecurity and government unpopularity.

Europe entered a deep social crisis, with its development rates declining significantly. But the European states did not even consider banning sanctions against Russia, maintaining a posture of subservience to the US. In addition, there were some episodes of direct violence against European countries, such as the sabotage against the Nord Stream gas pipelines, which showed how relations between the US and its allies are maintained through coercion and fear.

Of course, this just made joining the anti-Russian side even less attractive for most countries. It is now evident to the emerging world that the US allied countries have been severely harmed due to their decision to side with Kiev in the conflict, although they continued to be absolutely submissive. This resulted, contrary to what optimistic Westerners predicted, in a growth in the number of neutral and pro-Russian countries.

For example, comparing the vote on the anti-Russian resolution of March 24, 2022, with the resolution of February 23, 2023, it is possible to see that the number of countries voting against the withdrawal of Russian troops increased from five to seven, as well as that abstentions increased from 32 to 38. In practice, this means that, as time passes, more countries are adopting neutral or pro-Russian attitudes.

If this has been the scenario so far, it is unlikely that this will change anytime soon. Countries that chose to maintain friendly ties with Russia at the beginning of the special military operation tend to continue to maintain them, regardless of what happens on the frontlines and of what the West does to try to persuade them. Neutrality has proven to be a more interesting, strategic and pragmatic path for most states, and that will certainly not change.

In fact, with the recent visit of China’s top diplomat to Moscow and the reaffirmation of the unlimited cooperation ties between both countries, this scenario seems increasingly clear to the whole world: Russia friendly countries will continue to cooperate with Moscow. The Western strategy of relying on coercion and propaganda to prevent Russia from having allies has absolutely failed. As the operation continues, Russia gains more allies and deepens ties with the already-existing partners. The best the West can do is to prioritize diplomacy and accept the reality that Russia cannot be isolated.

Lucas Leiroz is a researcher in Social Sciences at the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro; geopolitical consultant.

February 24, 2023 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Why Western Sanctions Against Russia Failed

By Simes Dimitri – Sputnik – February 24, 2023

Sanctions were meant to deliver a swift and devastating blow to the Russian economy, one that would take years to recover from. Much to the dismay of Western politicians, however, not only did Russia survive the sanctions storm, but it has the potential to emerge even stronger than before.

During a speech in Poland last year, US President Joe Biden boasted that sanctions had reduced the Russian ruble to “rubble” and confidently predicted that the Russian economy was on “track to be cut in half.” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire went even further, declaring that the West would bring about Russia’s economic “collapse.”

“We are waging total economic and financial war on Russia,” he told a French broadcaster last March. “The economic and financial balance of power is totally in favor of the European Union, which is in the process of discovering its own economic power.”

Despite these loud promises, the Russian economy contracted by a mere 2.5 % last year – a decline considerably smaller than those experienced during the 1998 financial crisis (5.3%) and the 2008 Great Recession (7.9%). In a report published last month, the International Monetary Fund forecast that Russian economic growth would outpace that of Germany and the United Kingdom in 2023.

Nor did sanctions succeed in turning Russia into a global pariah. A recent report by the University of St.Gallen in Switzerland found that only 8.5% of European and G7 companies had divested from Russia between February and November 2022. At the same time, Russia’s trade turnover with non-Western economic powers such as China, India, Turkey, and Indonesia soared.

Earlier this month, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell was forced to admit that the West’s sanctions strategy was not going according to plan. “It is true that the Russian economy has not collapsed and that the GDP is not what has been forecast, and it is true that last year it got extraordinarily high revenues that came from oil and gas,” he said during a speech at the European Parliament plenary session.

How was Russia able to overcome an unprecedented sanctions blitzkrieg? To answer that question, Sputnik News spoke with economists and Russian businesspeople in industries ranging from agriculture to information technologies. They told us that Western sanctions were headed for failure from the very beginning because they were built on a distorted view of the Russian economy.

Our interlocutors emphasized that although sanctions undoubtedly created economic challenges for Russia in the short and medium term, they also presented a powerful opportunity to revive domestic industry and scientific potential, as well as establish new partnerships with Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American, and African economies.

Failed Strategy

In the weeks and months following the start of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, the US and the EU rolled out some of the most expansive sanctions packages in recent memory. Western governments pressured the SWIFT global payment system into expelling several of Russia’s largest banks, barred Russian ships and airplanes from entering their ports and airspace, and imposed export controls aimed at restricting Russia’s access to various advanced technologies and key production components.

Although this sanctions barrage initially caused the Russian ruble to dip in value and inflation to spike, the shock-effect proved to be short lived. Within weeks, the ruble recovered all of its pre-conflict value and then some. Likewise, inflation reached a peak rate of 17.8% in April 2022 and then began to steadily decline, hitting 11.8% in January 2023 (a rate less than many countries in central and eastern Europe). Contrary to the expectations of many Western economists, Russia’s unemployment rate not only did not increase, but actually hit a post-Soviet record low of 3.7% in December 2022.

Despite the new financial and logistical restrictions against Russian exporters, foreign trade contacts also remained strong. Russia’s current account surplus – which measures the difference between a country’s trade outflows and inflows – reached a record high of $227.4 billion last year, an 86% increase from 2021.

Why did such unprecedented sanctions deliver such unimpressive results? Jacques Sapir, an economist at the Paris-based School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences, told Sputnik that the main reason was because they were based on false premises about the size and resilience of the Russian economy. A large part of the problem, he explained, was that American and European policymakers were looking at the wrong statistics.

The main metric used in the West to measure the Russian economy is nominal gross domestic product (GDP), which is calculated by simply converting its value in rubles into US dollars. Sapir argued that nominal GDP underestimated the strength of the Russian economy because it failed to account for purchasing power parity (PPP), which adjusts for differences in costs across countries. He noted that whereas Russia’s nominal GDP was comparable to Spain’s, its GDP based on PPP was roughly the same level as Germany’s.

Another key factor was the fact that the Russian economy was far less based on services than its Western counterparts. Sapir explained that although services could serve as an important source of economic growth during peacetime, they inevitably took a backseat to the manufacturing and commodities sectors during times of geopolitical turmoil. He noted that Russia still maintained a sizable industrial base and was a leading global supplier of natural gas, oil, rare earth metals, and agricultural products.

“Russia has a very specific place in the world markets and, therefore, attempting to isolate such a country would inevitably lead to an international economic catastrophe,” he said. “Unsurprisingly, a lot of countries would never agree to join efforts aimed at isolating Russia because they need trade with Russia.”

Sapir also said that the West underestimated Russia’s ability to find alternative suppliers for various types of machinery and key components used in production. He noted that although Russian imports fell substantially during the second quarter of 2022, they rebounded during the third and fourth quarters. “Russia is now importing more or less the same quantity of products that it was importing by the end of 2021,” he said.

This relatively quick recovery was due to Russia reorienting its trade flows from Europe to Asia, especially China, Sapir explained. Another important factor was that Russian companies had become fairly adept at circumventing Western sanctions with the help of counterparts in third-party countries. As a result, many European and American goods were still finding their way into the Russian market.

Rebirth of Industry

Sanctions have the potential to become a blessing in disguise for Russia, according to Konstantin Babkin, president of the Rostelmash, one of Russia’s largest agricultural equipment manufacturers.

Decades of economic integration with the West had caused Russia to sacrifice some of the industrial potential it inherited from the Soviet Union, Babkin argued. Instead of manufacturing airplanes and trucks from start to finish as it once did, Russia began to import such complex machinery from the West.

The Western sanctions imposed last year have created an urgent need for Russia to rebuild its industrial base. During a speech before the Federal Assembly on Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin declared that Russia needed to reorient its economy from selling raw materials to the West to developing its own advanced technologies and equipment.

Babkin told Sputnik that Russia possessed all the necessary conditions to support an industrial revival — immense natural resource wealth, vast swathes of available land, a market of 150 million people, and strong scientific institutions capable of training the next generation of innovators.

The main thing needed to translate Russia’s economic potential into reality is strong government support for domestic manufacturers, he said. Some of the policy measures Babkin recommended include lower interest rates and taxes, as well as new tariffs.

“Many countries have already reached the physical or spatial limits of their development – there are no more markets left to conquer, no more fields left to sow, no more opportunities for expansion. That’s why much of the modern world is experiencing such a crisis” he said. “Russia is one of the few countries, perhaps even the only country, that has plenty of room to develop further. We can grow many times over if we rely on our resources, ourselves, and our civilization.”

Sources: Public data,,,

Some Russian companies are already moving to fill newly-created niches in the domestic market. Last November, the Russian manufacturing sector experienced its largest expansion in over five years, according to a business survey by the S&P Global financial analytics firm. A surge in domestic demand was the primary driving force behind the increased output and employment.

Babkin noted that after the West imposed sanctions against Russia in 2014 over the reunification of Crimea, the share of Russian-made agricultural equipment on the domestic market jumped from 25% to 65%. He argued that the current round of sanctions could provide a similar impetus to resurrect Russian aircraft and automobile production.

“Today, the priority task in civil aviation is to launch the serial production of fully Russian-made passenger aircraft, without any foreign components, as quickly as possible” the United Air Corporation, a Russian aerospace company that is part of the Rostec state corporation, told Sputnik. The company explained that the decision of Western airliner giants Boeing and Airbus to exit the Russian market last year was forcing domestic manufacturers to not only step up aircraft production, but also start making their own engines and other key components.

For its part, the United Air Corporation plans on manufacturing 500 aircraft by 2030 to help replace Russia’s existing fleet of foreign planes, which will be gradually retired. One of its most promising projects is the MC-21, a next-generation passenger aircraft that is already in production. The main advantage of the MC-21 is its cutting-edge composite wing, which provides the plane with superior aerodynamics.

Technological Sovereignty

One of the central objectives of Western sanctions is to suffocate Russian technological innovation. When Biden unveiled the first Ukraine-related sanctions package last year, he promised that the US and its allies would impair Russia’s “ability to compete in a high-tech 21st century economy.” The technological aspect of sanctions has only become more important since then. Although Western politicians now admit that sanctions have failed to collapse the Russian economy, they still express hope that technological restrictions will stunt Russia’s progress in the long run.

That is an assumption challenged by many Russian scientists and entrepreneurs. Evgeny Nikolaev is a project manager at Health Test, a Russian company that is working to develop a machine-learning program that will help doctors to diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease in patients during the earliest stages of its development. The technology, which has no foreign analogues, is currently undergoing clinical tests at a Moscow hospital, after which it will be distributed to other medical institutions in the Russian capital.

Nikolaev said that Western sanctions have not had any meaningful impact on the project’s development, noting that all the “necessary reagents and consumables could be replaced with domestic ones or obtained through parallel importation.” At the same time, he emphasized that Russian scientists did not need foreign sponsorships in order to make breakthroughs. He noted that government institutions such as the Moscow Department of Health and the Moscow Innovation Cluster were offering the project significant support in terms of product development and practical application.

A similar argument was advanced by Valentin Makarov, president of the Russian Software Developers Association (RUSSOFT). He told Sputnik that Russia had two advantages it could rely on to keep innovating despite Western sanctions. The first was Russia’s strong scientific education, which has a legacy of excellence dating back to the Czarist-period. Additionally, Makarov argued that Russia was well positioned to build new technological partnerships with non-Western economies such as China and India.

Ironically enough, sanctions had provided Russian software and cybersecurity systems with an opportunity to show their resilience in the face of unprecedented external pressure.

“Following the start of the special military operation, we saw a manifold increase in cyber attacks against Russian systems, a ban on the use of foreign software, and the termination of support licenses for this software,“ he said. “Despite everything that happened, Russian systems continued to work as before. It turned out that giant American corporations, which dominate the global information technologies, cannot destroy the operation of these Russian systems. This showed everybody that Russia has the capacity for technological sovereignty.”

According to Makarov, the world was on the brink of a new technological order – one centered on artificial intelligence and cyber-physical systems. Instead of remaining a junior partner in the Western-led technological ecosystem, Russia needed to seize the initiative and develop its own ambitious, revolutionary projects in coordination with its allies.

One promising idea, Makarov said, was for Russia to spearhead the creation of a new Eurasian digital financial payment system. Such an initiative would not only facilitate greater regional trade, but also shield its members from Western sanctions and other forms of economic pressure.

“We cannot become leaders in the new technological order by continuing to sell oil and gas to the world market and then using those profits to buy technological systems developed by other countries,” he said. “If we do not focus on developing our own systems, in cooperation with partners from friendly countries of course, then that means we will again be dependent on someone else. Russia has a huge number of specialists capable of creating new technologies that will change the world, so we must take advantage of that.”

February 24, 2023 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Biden team has ‘deeply rooted hatred for Russia’ – US congressman

RT February 24, 2023

Senior officials at the US State Department are attempting to get the country “involved in another world war” with Russia, Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar tweeted on Friday. Gosar, Twitter CEO Elon Musk, and former president Donald Trump, have all named Victoria Nuland as the most dangerous among this group in recent days.

Responding to an RT article on Musk accusing Nuland of “pushing this war” in Ukraine, Gosar declared that the billionaire “is correct.”

“Both Nuland and Blinken have a deeply rooted irrational hatred of Russia, and they seek to get the US involved in another world war,” he continued. “These are dangerous fools who can get us all killed.”

In a follow-up tweet, Gosar wrote that “as a non-soldier, Nuland is quite willing to endorse violence and war.” The Republican lawmaker then quoted the article, which stated that Nuland had “endorsed regime change in Russia, celebrated the US’ destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines, and called for the indefinite flow of arms into Ukraine.”

As assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs in 2014, Nuland was largely responsible for orchestrating the pro-Western coup that unseated democratically elected president Viktor Yanukovich. Nuland traveled to Kiev and promised military aid to the rioters, and was recorded plotting to install a successor to Yanukovich.

As Biden’s secretary of state, Blinken has promised to keep weapons flowing into Ukraine “for as long as it takes,” and advised Kiev in December not to seek the kind of negotiated settlement that would liken to a “phony peace.”

Gosar has been a persistent critic of the Biden administration’s Ukraine policy since Russia’s military operation began a year ago on Friday. However, although the Republican Party now controls the House of Representatives, there is little the Arizona congressman can do to change the administration’s course. A significant bipartisan majority supports continued military aid to Ukraine, with only 11 Republicans, Gosar included, sponsoring legislation that would cut funding for Kiev.

These Republicans are all allies of former president Donald Trump. In a campaign video released on Tuesday, Trump blamed the situation in Ukraine on Nuland and “others like her” in the Biden administration. Nuland, he said, was “obsessed with pushing Ukraine towards NATO,” adding that the conflict would have “never happened if I was your president.”

February 24, 2023 Posted by | Militarism, Russophobia | , | 7 Comments

The West severely miscalculated the geopolitical ramifications of the war in Ukraine

The EU, and not Russia, has weakened since the start of the special military operation

By Ahmed Adel | February 24, 2023

Although many remember February 24 as the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine, Russia’s special military operation is actually the next phase of a wider conflict that began in 2014. This is a key point often overlooked because the narrative built in the West is that Russia’s intervention was an unprovoked invasion with the sole purpose of territorial expansionism. The international community, which the West incorrectly refers to itself as, has rejected this narrative. To the disappointment of Western leaders, most of the world has instead deepened their ties with Russia.

However, the “unprovoked invasion” narrative has been exposed in the West also as a fallacy. It is recalled that former German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted in December 2022 that “the 2014 Minsk agreement was an attempt to give time to Ukraine.”

“It also used this time to become stronger as can be seen today. The Ukraine of 2014-2015 is not the modern Ukraine,” she said, adding that “it was clear to everyone” that the conflict had been put on hold, “yet this was what gave Ukraine invaluable time.”

Merkel’s statement confirmed that the Minsk Accords, a series of agreements which sought to end the Donbass war, was only intended to give the Ukrainian state more time to militarily strengthen. It also proves that the Western party of the Minsk Accords never intended to use this mechanism to find peace and address the concerns of local residents.
Therefore, the Russian intervention was not necessarily a surprise, and perhaps the West were even expecting it.

However, what was an absolute surprise for the West was the geopolitical and economic ramifications – all to the detriment of the West and to the advancement of Moscow.
It cannot be denied that sanctions had an impact on the Russian economy, but the European Union has demonstrated that it is nothing more than a political dwarf that has no autonomy from Washington. Sanctions have a limited effect on Russia given that it is a completely self-sustainable country, unlike Syria and Iran (which are also heavily sanctioned but without the capacity for self-sustainability).

Rather, the sanctions have actually accelerated the de-Dollorisation of the global economy and deepened the economic crisis in Europe.

Evidently, there was naivety in the West, as there was a false belief that Russia would capitulate to sanctions pressure. Instead, Europe is experiencing an economic crisis that has crushed the Middle Class through a cost-of-living crisis. Meanwhile, Russia has greater prospects for recovery compared to Germany and the UK.

According to a January forecast by the International Monetary Fund, Russia’s economy will grow faster than Germany’s while Britain’s will contract. This is a far cry from the eminent collapse of the Russian economy that was predicted when hundreds of international companies, such as McDonald’s and Boeing, withdrew from Russia and Russians were blocked from using Western financial institutions.

It is recalled that in March 2022, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen boasted that “the Russian economy will be devastated.” Eleven months after Yellen’s statement, the IMF predicts that the Russian economy will start growing again in 2023, expanding by 0.3% and then 2.1% in 2024. Although 0.3% growth is paltry, it is still surprisingly higher than Germany’s 0.1%, a phenomenal situation considering that it is Berlin imposing the sanctions, not Russia on Germany.
The UK is in an even worse situation. Its economy is expected to contract by 0.6%.

India and China are helping Russia alleviate the stress of decoupling from Western financial institutions and trade exchanges. Many experts believe that the 21st century is the “Asian Century” and expect the world’s major financial centres to shift from the West to the East. In this light, Russia’s exclusion from the West has left it with no choice but to strongly project to the East, something that India, China and other countries have enthusiastically taken advantage of.

The 20th century was dominated by the bipolar system and a short-lived unipolar system. Although the 21st century is multipolar in nature, the overwhelmingly dominant economic and military powers are expected to be the US and China, with a host of other Great Powers, such as Russia and India, fully capable of defending their own interests.

What the West does not realise is that in such a global system, it is Russia that hugely influences whether the US or China will triumph. Russia has effectively been given no choice but to pivot towards China. Future generations in the West will learn that this was a strategic blunder – and all for the illiberal sake of defending a neo-Nazi regime in Kiev.

The war in Ukraine was expected to be another advancement of “liberalism” and Western internationalism. However, what has transpired instead is the weakening of Western hegemony. The US expected most countries to fall in line and impose sanctions against Russia, however, this did not trend in Asia, the Islamic World, Africa, or Latin America.

Although the West is persistently and arrogantly defending the Kiev regime against the reality that Russia will triumph in the war, it continues to ruin its own reputation in the eyes of the actual international community by lambasting countries, such as India, for not following their orders. This will have long-term negative ramifications for the West as its influence is weakening and mistrust is deepening.

Ahmed Adel is a Cairo-based geopolitics and political economy researcher.

February 24, 2023 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Time for US Pull-Out: GOP Congressman Warns About Risk of Kinetic Conflict With Russia in Syria

By Ekaterina Blinova – Sputnik – 23.02.2023

GOP Representative Matt Gaetz has introduced a resolution seeking to direct President Joe Biden to remove all US troops from Syria. The House must vote on Gaetz’s proposal within 18 days of its introduction due to the bill’s war powers status.

“[T]he purpose of my legislation is to force members of Congress to vote on record regarding whether they think we ought to continue Obama’s war in Syria. President Obama kicked off our involvement (…) and now we still find ourselves in the middle of a Syrian civil war with Russia and Turkey and Iran, all present in a very confined neighborhood,” Congressman Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., told the US press earlier this week.

Gaetz, a House Armed Services Committee member, filed the War Powers Resolution on February 22 after he learned that four US military servicemen and a working dog were wounded in a US and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) helicopter raid in northeastern Syria.

Speaking to the US press, Gaetz shared his concerns with regard to the US president’s ability to handle Syrian matters. The congressman quoted Biden’s August 2021 interview in which the president claimed that the US “[doesn’t] have military in Syria to make sure that we’re going to be protected.” However, according to the American media at the time of Biden’s comment, there were at least 900 troops in Syria who were helping their SDF proxies on the ground.

Gaetz has also drawn attention to reports alleging that Russian and US personnel get into very close proximity with one another. “[T]he risk of an accident or miscalculation or just misuse of authority could lead to direct kinetic conflict between the United States and Russia in Syria,” the lawmaker insisted.

In addition, Congress has never authorized the use of military force in Syria, the congressman argued. “America First means actually putting the people of our country first — not the interests of the military industrial complex,” he said.

Gaetz’s resolution has been filed under the War Powers Act of 1973, which was designed to limit the president’s authority to wage war and reasserted Congress’ authority over foreign wars. Notably, at the time of the 1973 bill’s introduction, then President Richard Nixon tried to veto it. However, Congress overrode his veto, and the resolution became law following the US pullout from Vietnam in early 1973.

If Gaetz’s legislative initiative passes, US military personnel must be removed from the Syrian Arab Republic within 15 days.

Meanwhile, the lawmaker lamented the fact that Democratic progressives who used to be anti-war activists have become “cheerleaders” for the US’s overseas conflicts. “‘The Squad’ used to be anti-war. Now, they’re waving their pom poms for NATO,” he said.

The representative believes that the upcoming vote on his resolution will show who the real patriot of America is and who continues to stick to Middle Eastern adventurism.

Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, was the first who sought to pull US troops out of Syria. Nonetheless, he later insisted that some of the contingent should stay in place to “protect” the Syrian oil fields occupied by the US-backed Kurdish-dominated SDF. Trump was also misled about the actual number of US servicemen in Syria. US Syria envoy Ambassador Jim Jeffrey admitted in November 2020 he was “always playing shell games to not make clear to our leadership how many troops we had there.”

February 24, 2023 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment