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Iraqi parliament demands Baghdad’s procurement of Russia’s S-400 missile system

Press TV – April 18, 2020

The Iraqi parliament’s security and defense committee has submitted an in-depth study to the country’s caretaker prime minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, requesting the procurement of the Russian-built long-range, surface-to-air S-400 missile defense system.

“The committee has presented a comprehensive study to the prime minister, demanding approval for the purchase of the advanced S-400 air defense system. The issue has already been discussed with relevant figures at the General Command of Armed Forces, and now awaits the premier’s agreement,” Badr al-Ziyadi, a member of the committee, told Arabic-language al-Sabaah newspaper.

He emphasized that the purchase of the S-400 missile system, with the aim of boosting the country’s defense capabilities, will be finalized once the next Iraqi government is formed and it ratifies procurement of the system.

“The approval to acquire such a sophisticated system requires large financial allocations and a political decision in order to diversify the sources to get the weapons as we cannot just rely on the Western camp, but rather need to incline towards the Eastern camp as well,” Ziyadi pointed out.

The Iraqi lawmaker went on to say that his parliamentary committee “will support the next Iraqi government’s decisions in this regard, and will present relevant proposals and pieces of advice to it.”

Back on March 18, Ziayadi said US and Israeli arms firms were putting pressure on the Baghdad government not to discuss the purchase of sophisticated military equipment with other states, and sign arms contracts with them.

“There are companies and traders pushing to prevent Iraq from concluding contracts to purchase weapons from developed countries,” he told Arabic-language al-Maalomah news agency in an exclusive interview at the time.

The same Iraqi parliamentarian said on January 20 that the Baghdad government was planning to send delegations to Russia, China and Ukraine to hold negotiations over the acquisition of advanced air defense missile systems to protect its territory from any possible act of aggression.

“The delegations intend to visit countries like Russia, China and Ukraine to negotiate the purchase of modern systems to protect Iraq’s airspace,” he told al-Sabaah daily then.

The lawmaker added, “The Iraqi parliament is right now forming a joint executive and legislative delegation to visit developed countries and sign contracts on procuring advanced weapons.”

The United States has already warned Iraq of the consequences of extending military cooperation with Russia, and striking deals to purchase advanced weaponry, particularly S-400 missile systems.

Former US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on February 22, 2018 that Washington has contacted many countries, including Iraq, to explain the significance of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), and possible consequences that would arise in the wake of defense agreements with Moscow.

On August 2, 2017, US President Donald Trump signed into law the CAATSA that imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia.

April 18, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 1 Comment

US Democrats Call for Sanctions on Russia Over Alleged 2020 Election Meddling – Letter

Sputnik – February 24, 2020

WASHINGTON – US Senators Chuck Schumer and Sherrod Brown are urging the Trump administration to impose sanctions on Russia following reports alleging that the country is meddling in the 2020 presidential election, a letter published on Monday showed.

“We urge you to immediately and forcefully impose sanctions on the government of the Russian Federation, any Russian actors determined to be responsible for such interference, and those acting on their behalf or providing material or financial support for these election interference efforts,” the senators wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The list of Russian officials who the senators said should be designated includes Russian President Vladimir Putin and other government. Schumer and Brown noted that the US Congress has provided the administration with a broad range of sanction tools through the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), a bill signed into law in 2017.

More Claims of “Russian Meddling” to Come?

As the senators demanded new sanctions on Russia, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Facebook has been unable to substantiate claims that Russia is involved in any inauthentic activity in the run up to the 2020 vote.

Facebook spokesman Andy Stone told the newspaper that the company investigated a claim made by an independent researcher over suspicious content in support of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.

But the investigation yielded no evidence to substantiate the researcher’s claims, Stone told the Wall Street Journal.

In a separate development on Thursday, the New York Times reported, citing a senior Intelligence official who warned members of the House of Representatives’ Intelligence Committee of Russia’s alleged meddling in the election process to help Trump win the 2020 presidential race.

Trump hit back the following day, blasting Democrats for launching “another misinformation campaign.”

​Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow was preparing for an inflow of new allegations of Russian interference in the US election, noting that the claims are baseless.

Russian officials have repeatedly said Russia does not interfere in the US political system and have insisted that the allegations of collusion were made up to excuse the election loss of Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton, as well as deflect public attention from instances of election fraud and corruption.

February 24, 2020 Posted by | Russophobia | , | 2 Comments

Genocide, Sanctions and Incirlik: Erdoğan Will Not Kick Out NATO From Its Bases Despite Threats

By Paul Antonopoulos | December 18, 2019

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has dropped a bombshell by announcing that he could shut down the NATO-controlled Incirlik airbase that hosts U.S. nuclear bombs and the U.S. missile warning radar at Kurecik military base, in response to Washington’s threats of sanctions against Turkey. These nuclear bombs are of course placed purposefully close to Russia. The Incirlik air base in the southern Turkish province of Adana is used by the U.S. Air Force while the U.S. military also maintains a missile warning radar in the Kurecik district in Turkey’s southeastern Malatya province, which is part of NATO’s missile defense system in Europe.

“If it is necessary for us to take such a step, of course, we have the authority… We will close down Incirlik if necessary,” Erdoğan said on A Haber TV on Sunday.

Last week, the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Senate of the United States Congress approved the “Promoting American National Security and Preventing the Resurgence of ISIS Act” bill that directly targets Turkey’s military and economic apparatus. According to the draft bill, the Turkish acquisition of the powerful Russian S-400 missile defense system gives grounds to impose sanctions against this country, under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), including against the Minister of National Defense of Turkey, the Chief of the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces, the Commander of the 2nd Army of the Turkish Armed Forces, the Minister of Treasury and Finance of Turkey, the Halkbank and a whole host of other senior officials.

This action could further isolate Turkey from NATO, especially after the latest blow against the Eurasian country came last Thursday when the U.S. Senate finally passed S.Res.150 that recognizes the Turkish perpetrated genocide(1915-1923) against Turkey’s Christian minority that saw millions of Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians exterminated. There is no doubt the long-awaited U.S. recognition of the genocide is politically motivated, and Erdoğan understands this, threatening to recognize the U.S. genocide against Native Americans.

However, there are key differences between a potential Turkish recognition of the U.S. genocide against the Native Americans and the Turkish genocide against the Christians of Anatolia. There are hundreds of thousands, if not over a million, Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians living in the U.S. who have direct ancestry to genocide survivors who lost their entire lives including houses, farms, shops and other associated wealth. These descendants could pressure Washington to seek compensation from Ankara and could intensify sanctions against Turkey if they refuse too. Although the likelihood of compensation is extremely low, it could be used as a justification to strengthen sanctions against Turkey, which in turn will only push Turkey further away from the U.S./NATO and potentially closer to Russia.

On the other side, although Turkey may acknowledge the genocide against Native Americans, I would imagine there are no Native Americans, or maybe just a few, living in Turkey. Ankara could reciprocate sanctions against the U.S., but they would be virtually ineffectual as the world’s monetary system is still overwhelmingly dominated by the U.S. Dollar, despite efforts by Russia and China to de-Dollarize the international economy.

Turkey’s potential closure of the Incirlik and Kurecik bases from the U.S. military would effectively mean freezing relations with NATO. Even a Turkish reclamation of its military bases poses problems however – the obvious being political, but also the military and budgetary costs. However, discussions of Turkey closing the bases are not new. Ankara believes the Incirlik base was a staging point for the 2016 coup attempt against Erdoğan and has already contemplated kicking NATO out of there.

Despite the threat from Erdoğan, Washington will likely not be fazed by the threat for a number of reasons:

1) Washington has already turned Greece into its Plan B option in case Turkey leaves NATO.

2) Turkey leaving NATO could mean the U.S. backing a number of issues that have been frozen because of Washington’s policy of appeasing Turkey for geostrategic reasons, such as the unresolved status of Cyprus.

3) The Incirlik base is also used by other NATO states at times such as the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy, and a Turkish reclamation of the base could see Turkey further souring its relations with the European Union.

Although removing the U.S. military from the Incirlik Airbase would be a huge blow to NATO, Erdoğan is unlikely to do this despite Ankara’s strengthening relations with Moscow. Even if this were the case, the most important question still remains, would U.S. President Donald Trump accept this? It is highly unlikely that Trump will want to surrender the base that is critical for U.S. interests and aggression in the Middle East. Although Greece is a Plan B, it is a Plan B for a reason – it is not as strategically placed as Turkey towards the Middle East, and therefore the U.S. will not surrender such a great advantage it has so easily.

Paul Antonopoulos is a Research Fellow at the Center for Syncretic Studies.

December 18, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Washington’s Proposed New Sanctions Against Turkey also Aimed Against Russia

By Paul Antonopoulos | December 13, 2019

With the world fixated on Turkish actions against Syria, Greece and Libya at the moment, the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Senate of the United States Congress approved a bill, “Promoting American  National Security and Preventing the Resurgence of ISIS Act,” spearheaded and thoroughly promoted by staunch anti-Syria/Venezuela/Iran/Russia Democratic Senator Robert Menendez who celebrated the bills passing on his Twitter. The Republican-led Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 18-4 to send the bill for a vote in the full Senate.

The approval of the bill was widely reported in the mainstream media as an “anti-Turkey bill.” Senator Jim Risch, the panel’s Republican chairman, a fellow endorser of the bill with Menendez, said that the approval of this bill is because of the “drift by this country, Turkey, to go in an entirely different direction than what they have in the past. They’ve thumbed their nose at us, and they’ve thumbed their nose at their other NATO allies.”

According to the draft bill, the Turkish acquisition of the powerful S-400 missile defense system gives grounds to impose sanctions against this country, under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). In particular, the document restricts the sale of U.S. weapons to Turkey and imposes sanctions on Turkish officials responsible for supplying weapons towards their illegal military operation in Syria.

Turkey signed in December 2017 the first contract with Russia for the purchase of the S-400 for a value of $2.5 billion, which caused tension in relations between Ankara and Washington. The U.S. demanded that Ankara renounce that transaction and buy U.S. Patriot systems, and threatened to delay or cancel the sale of the F-35 fighters to Turkey. Ankara refused to make concessions and assured that its purpose of acquiring Russian systems remains firm.

What was missed, perhaps intentionally by the majority of the mainstream media is that this bill has a heavy anti-Russian/Syrian component to it. Although not as detailed and expansive as the Turkish section of the bill, it claims that “the Russian Federation and Iran continue to exploit a security vacuum in Syria and continue to pose a threat to vital United States national security interests,” without explaining what these security interests are, exactly as we have become accustomed to.

According to the bill, there will be a “list of each Russian person that, on or after such date of enactment, knowingly exports, transfers, or otherwise provides to Syria significant financial, material, or technological support that contributes materially to the ability of the Government of Syria to acquire defense articles, defense services, and related information.” Although the bill has not said which specific Russians, the nature of the bill means that there will be inevitable sanctions against Russia as it is a top weapon exporter to Syria, which will unlikely change despite of the new sanctions. Those in the eventual sanction list will face an American blacklist, which means a ban on entry, freezing of assets in the United States, a ban on doing business with this person for American citizens or companies. At the same time, the bill allows that the US President can consider each case separately and refuse to impose sanctions.

These proposed new sanctions that will have to pass the House of Representatives, which passed its own anti-Turkish sanctions bill by an overwhelming 403-16 vote in October, is part of a wider effort for the U.S. to keep pressurizing Russia’s economy. On December 9, the committees of both chambers of the U.S. Congress previously agreed on the military budget for 2020, which includes restrictions against the Nord Stream 2 and Turk Stream pipelines to bring Russian energy to Europe, infrastructures designed to raise Europe’s energy security. The U.S. bill that provides sanctions against companies participating in the laying of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline aims to obtain unilateral advantages in the gas area to the detriment of the interests of the countries of Europe. This prompted the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Russian-German Foreign Chamber of Commerce, Matthias Schepp, to explain that the new measures against Nord Stream 2 affect not only Russia, but, above all, European companies and Germany’s energy interests.

Washington is frustrated that European energy policy is decided in Europe, not in the U.S., which calls into question the cooperation between the U.S. and Europe. It is a very risky measure and Europe would need to have a blunt attitude of rejection of these measures imposed by the U.S., because its own economy is at risk.

Effectively, the “Promoting American National Security and Preventing the Resurgence of ISIS Act,” which strangely targets Russia who had a greater role than the U.S. in defeating ISIS terrorists, is just another way for Washington to warn other countries not to buy the S-400 or Russian military equipment or engage in energy diplomacy with Moscow. It is unlikely that this will deter states from conducting arms and energy deals with Russia as Moscow has been pioneering anti-sanction measures to protect financial transactions without punishment, and rather it demonstrates a Washington that is becoming increasingly desperate in the Era of Multipolarity.

Paul Antonopoulos is a Research Fellow at the Center for Syncretic Studies.

December 13, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 1 Comment

Turkey’s ‘White Elephants’: S-400s Or Patriots?

By Andrew Korybko | November 20, 2019

Turkish President Erdogan’s visit to the US last week didn’t visibly seem to have accomplished much in repairing the unprecedentedly damaged relationship between these two nominal NATO “allies”, although the very fact that it occurred despite Washington’s CAATSA sanctions threats, their earlier sharp disagreements over Ankara’s latest military operation in Northeastern Syria, and Congress’ provocative passing of a motion recognizing what some countries including Russia regard as the “Armenian Genocide” showed that there’s the political will on both sides to improve their ties even if only at the leadership level at this moment in time. As it stands, the main stumbling block is Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400s, seeing as how the two countries have more or less reached a pragmatic understanding on Northern Syria and Ankara realizes that Trump’s “deep state” foes are politicizing historical events from a century ago in order in order to undermine his foreign policy in an attempt to weaken him ahead of next year’s elections.

President Erdogan reaffirmed to his American counterpart that his country won’t completely abandon its military deal with Russia like Washington wants but that Ankara would buy the US’ Patriots as well if an offer was made “under suitable conditions”, suggesting that one or the other air-defense system would become a ‘white elephant’ under that scenario. The odds, however, are likely that it would be the Patriots which would fulfill this expensive but useless role and not the S-400s. This is because the very intent in diversifying from NATO defense systems in the first place was to ensure that they couldn’t be sabotaged in the event of an intra-NATO conflict such as one between Turkey and Greece or between Turkey and the US. These concerns have been at the forefront of Turkish strategic military thought following the US’ indirect role in orchestrating the failed coup attempt against President Erdogan in 2016, during which time rogue pilots even attempted to assassinate the country’s leader. The S-400s give Turkey the reassurance that it could confidently thwart such scenarios in the future, while the Patriots would always leave it wary that they might prove “unreliable” at the worst moment.

The question then becomes one of why Turkey would even want to fork over what might potentially amount to billions of dollars for an air-defense system that it doesn’t even really plan to use, but the answer rests in the global geostrategic trend of “balancing” that’s increasingly come to define the emerging Multipolar World Order. Turkey acknowledges the threat that the Obama-era “deep state” that Trump inherited poses to it, but it also wisely understands that strategies can always change, hence why it’s important not to do anything that could make a more permanent enemy out of the US. The S-400 purchase is a strong step in the direction of increasing Turkey’s sovereignty at the expense of the US’ proxy control over this rising Great Power, but it’s precisely because of this outcome that even the pro-Trump factions of the US “deep state” are opposed to it. So as to not unnecessarily “provoke” America even more than it already has in recent years through its independent policies, the decision evidently has been made to seek some sort of a “compromise” with it through the potential purchase of Patriots “under suitable conditions”.

The aforesaid likely refer to these systems being offered at a competitive price and not made conditional on Turkey abandoning the S-400s. For as much as the US’ “deep state” factions are uniting in their perception of Turkey as a so-called “threat” to American interests in the Mideast and elsewhere, they also don’t want to completely cut it off and risk the country enacting a full-fledged pivot towards Russia and China in response, hence why they might be interested in reaching a deal that could avoid the imposition of CAATSA sanctions. That same pragmatic logic holds true for India as well, which plans to begin receiving S-400s next year after also signing a deal with Russia to this effect. A formula is therefore being formed for how countries that purchase the S-400s could potentially avoid CAATSA sanctions without abandoning those systems wherein they’d simply purchase some Patriots to complement their air defenses instead, though only so long as the US agrees to allow this to happen by “compromising” on its previously maximalist position that they don’t buy the S-400s at all.

The US might have an interest in making some extra money for its military-industrial complex in parallel with keeping those countries’ multipolar-friendly policies in check by not completely cutting them off from the Western orbit by imposing sanctions against them. From the Indian perspective, its armed forces could still find a use for the Patriots since it’s extremely unlikely that the US would ever sabotage them in the event that the South Asian state enters into a conventional conflict with either China or Pakistan, though the Turks would probably have to be content with accepting that they’re basically paying “protection money” to America by purchasing those “white elephants”. That said, Turkey might possibly find some minor use for these systems such as along the Syrian border for instance, though it’s unlikely that they’ll ever occupy any premier position of strategic importance in defending the country since they can’t ever be relied upon in that respect like the S-400s could. All told, if there’s any positive outcome of President Erdogan’s latest trip to Washington, it’s that Turkey and the US might be coming closer to a deal for avoiding CAATSA sanctions, though lots of work still remains to be done before that happens.

November 20, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Washington threatens Egypt with Sanctions over Russian Su-35 fighter jet purchase

By Sarah Abed | November 18, 2019

Washington’s latest attempt to dissuade an ally from making arms deals with Russia came in the form of a letter sent on last Wednesday to Egyptian officials warning them that they could face sanctions if they continued with their $2 billion dollar Su-35 fighter jets contract.

In addition to sanctions, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper warned Egyptian Defense Minister Mohamed Ahmed Zaki in Wednesday’s letter that “Major new arms deals with Russia would — at a minimum — complicate future U.S. defense transactions with and security assistance to Egypt.” The United States sends Egypt $1.3 billion annually in military assistance.

Russia has become one of Egypt’s major arms suppliers. This particular arms between Egypt and Russia for ten fighter jets was signed at the end of 2018, with delivery of the Su-35 Flanker-E air superiority fighter aircraft as well as weapons for the planes starting in 2020-2021.

In order to counter Russia’s expanding military influence in the Middle East and dissuade countries from buying Russian-made arms, the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) was signed by President Donald Trump in August 2017. Countries that are trading with Russia’s defense or intelligence sectors could face secondary sanctions.

Russia estimates that since 2014 it has lost $760 million dollars in potential weapons sales due to the international sanctions sealing off the U.S. market.

However, the CAATSA is not limited to sanctioning Russia and those who purchase Russian-made weapons, this U.S. Federal law also imposes economic sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

The first case for secondary sanctions under CAATSA took place in September 2018 when sanctions were imposed by the Trump administration on the Chinese military for purchasing 10 Su-35 aircraft and S-400’s from Russia, also 33 people and entities were blacklisted due to links to Russian military and intelligence.

The second case would be Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense system with the first delivery of its components having taken place in July of this year. As a result of going through with their purchase and delivery, Turkey was also suspended from participating in the F-35 program and the F-35 air systems it had already purchased are now under U.S. control.

Although requirements have been met for CAATSA to be enforced there is a gray area as to how, and to what extent the sanctions should be applied. A waiver is also in place that the president can use. Also, both the U.S. executive and legislative branches play a role in determining the action that would be taken against Turkey for doing business with Russian personnel targeted by sanctions.

India is paying close attention to how the US is reacting to Turkey’s purchase as they too have purchased Russia’s S-400 SAMS system which would put them in conflict with the CAATSA as well. However, relations between India and the United States are strong and the likelihood that a waiver will be used to avoid making India suffer collateral damage is likely.

For the past decade Russia has been expanding its military influence in the Middle East, much to the dissatisfaction of the United States. Russia and Egypt’s military and technical cooperation has been deepening and expanding for years. Both nations have repeatedly held joint naval and airborne counterterrorism exercises since 2015. From October 27th till November 7th of this year the Egyptian air force’s tactical training center near Cairo hosted joint Russian/Egyptian military drills dubbed Arrow of Friendship-1.

There’s even been speculation about the prospect of Russia setting up a military base in Egypt, due to the increase of Russian activity on Egyptian grounds. Just two years ago a draft agreement which would “allow each side to use the other’s airspace and air bases” was approved by Moscow and Cairo. Even though it didn’t specify setting up a military base it did set the ground for significant expansion in military cooperation between the two countries.

While the US fumbles around in the Middle East leaving death and destruction in its tracks, Russia has become the main peace broker. While maintaining good relations with all the major players in the region, Russia intervened militarily in Syria at the request of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to fight terrorism and derail a strong regime-change plan by the Obama administration. Relations and business with Iran and Turkey have also increased.

Moscow knows that security in neighboring countries directly impacts its own and standing by allies will only help grow its influence and positive image in the Middle East and beyond.

November 18, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 8 Comments

US Lawmakers Urge More Pressure, Full CAATSA Sanctions Against Russia, Iran

Sputnik – 21.05.2019

WASHINGTON US President Donald Trump should fully implement sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act as a result of the activities of Iran and Russia in Syria, 400 US lawmakers said in a letter to the US president.

“Increase pressure on Iran and Russia with respect to activities in Syria”, the letter said. “America must continue economic and diplomatic efforts to counter Iran’s support for Hezbollah and other terrorist groups as well as Russia’s support for the brutal Assad regime. We encourage full implementation of sanctions authorized in the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), a broadly supported bipartisan bill that you signed into law”.

The lawmakers expressed concern by the threat posed by terrorists and US adversaries in Syria and recommended steps the United States can take to limit the terrorists’ presence, counter adversaries as well as strengthen Israel’s security and continue to oppose international efforts to isolate and weaken the Jewish state.

“With the region in flux, it remains critical that we reiterate to both friend and foe in the region that we continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself”, the letter said. “We must also look for ways to augment our support in the context of the current ten-year Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Israel and to ensure that Israel has access to the resources and materiel it needs to defend itself against the threats it faces on its northern border”.

The lawmakers also urged increasing pressure on Hezbollah by fully implementing the 2015 and 2018 sanctions against the organization and those who fund it.

“Additionally, we must continue to press UNIFIL to carry out its UN Security Council mandate, including investigating and reporting the presence of arms and tunnels on Israel’s border”, the letter said.

On 29 January 2018, the United States began imposing sanctions on foreign companies under CAATSA Section 231 on all major transactions made with the Russian defence or intelligence sector.

The US Congress passed CAATSA in response to allegations that Russia attempted to influence the 2016 US presidential election.

Russia has repeatedly denied involvement in the US political system.

May 20, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 1 Comment

If US sanctions Turkey, can India be far behind?

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | March 9, 2019

Turkish-American relations are at a crossroads. Unlike the past history of their troubled relationship which saw hiccups but the two NATO allies moved on eventually, this time around, they are barreling toward a clash.

From an Indian perspective, it is of interest that the clash is over the Turkish decision to buy the S-400 Triumf missile defence system from Russia, which violates the US’ sanctions regime against Russia known as the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

In September last year, Washington invoked CAATSA for the first time and sanctioned China over its purchase of Russian military jets and surface-to-air missiles — 10 Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 missiles. Will it be Turkey’s turn now? And if Turkey gets sanctioned, can India be far behind?

The US had explicitly warned India against going ahead with the S-400 Triumf deal with Russia. But India went ahead, nonetheless, last October. (The deal is estimated to be worth at least $5.4 billion.) But while Delhi went about its decision tactfully, Ankara is openly defiant. The Turkish President Recep Erdogan stated on Wednesday in a TV interview,

“We signed a deal with Russia for the purchase of S-400, and will start co-production. It’s done. There can never be a turning back. This would not be ethical, it would be immoral. Nobody should ask us to lick up what we spat. Later, we may perhaps go for the S-500s as well, after the S-400.”

The US probably never ever heard such spiteful words from a key NATO ally. Erdogan also warned that the U.S. should not try to “discipline” Turkey through trade measures. If it did, he emphasised, Turkey has its own measures prepared. One of the trade measures he alluded to is the US’ intention to exclude Turkey from the generalised system of preferences (GSP).

Interestingly, while notifying the US Congress last week regarding his intention to remove the GSP benefits to them in trade, President Trump bracketed India with Turkey. India downplayed Trump’s move, saying the GSP benefits are only marginally affecting India’s exports to the US. But Erdogan apparently plans to retaliate.

The Pentagon has sharply reacted to Erdogan’s remarks, warning Turkey of “grave consequence in terms of our military relationship.” Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the senior US general for operations in Europe and NATO’s top officer, warned in congressional testimony on Tuesday that Turkey’s pursuit of the S-400 deal would jeopardise American plans to sell to Ankara the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for both policy and security reasons.

“My best military advice would be that we don’t then follow through with the F-35, flying it or working with an ally that’s working with Russian systems,” Scaparrotti told the Senate Armed Services Committee in testimony. According to a Reuter report, he hinted at concerns that Turkey’s using both the S-400s and the F-35 could provide Russia with valuable information on how to defeat the tech-heavy jet slated to become a signature fighter for NATO countries and their partners.

However, Turkey is not backing down. The Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has disclosed that the S-400 missile system will reach Turkey in July and deployment will go ahead as planned in October. The space for diplomatic manoeuvring is shrinking and, clearly, the chances for imposition of US sanctions against Turkey under CAATSA are increasing.

Of course, if Washington imposes sanctions against its key NATO ally, it is going to be highly problematic to exempt India from similar punitive measures for committing the very same offence. Interestingly, like Erdogan, Modi is also getting a very bad press in the US lately. They are the kind of ultra-nationalists that the US regards as hindrances to its regional strategies.

The Turks harbour the suspicion that the failed coup in July 2016, which was masterminded by the Turkish Islamist preacher Fetullah Gulen living in Pennsylvania in exile for the past two decades, had covert American support.

Last week, incidentally, US First Lady Melania Trump visited a pre-kindergarten class in Oklahoma, which Ankara believes is linked to supporters of Gulen. Turks believe that the White House was taunting Erdogan.

President Trump’s detractors in the US and in Europe used to berate him for empathising with “strong men” like Erdogan or Vladimir Putin. But as it turns out, the US finds such world leaders irksome in their zeal to uphold strategic autonomy in their foreign and security policies. The US media has been highly critical of Modi too in the recent months.

But US attempts to undermine these nationalist leaderships have run into headwinds since leaders like Erdogan and Putin happen to enjoy mass support in their respective countries. For sure, Washington will be keenly watching the outcome of the upcoming parliamentary election in India in April-May where Modi is seeking a renewed mandate.

As for India, what emerges at the end of the 5-year term of the Modi government is that under his watch India’s relations with the US have been pragmatic and based on limited common interests — shared notions of countering the rise of China and Islamism — and that too, without undermining India’s strategic autonomy. The US seems disappointed that Modi failed to fulfil their high expectations of him as a strategic partner. A sense of frustration is palpable among the US’ lobbyists in India as well.

At any rate, the Modi government continues to negotiate big weapons deals with Russia, disregarding the CAATSA. Last week, PM Modi inaugurated a massive Russian-Indian joint venture, which will reportedly produce about 7,50,000 AK-203 rifles, the most recent version of the famous AK-47 rifles for the use of the Indian armed forces as the standard assault rifle for decades to come. Again, on Friday, Delhi inked a defence deal worth over $3 billion with Moscow for the lease  of a nuclear-powered attack submarine from Russia. It cannot be lost on Washington that the Modi government expedited these mega deals with Russia even as its term in office is ending, while US arms vendors have been kept waiting.

All in all, the S-400 which is one of the world’s most advanced AMB systems, is fast acquiring the reputation of a Russian “geopolitical missile” targeted at the US. If the US proceeds with sanctions against Turkey on account of the S-400 deal, it will have deleterious downstream impact on many geo-strategic templates.

The very cohesion of the NATO and the alliance’s overall effectiveness in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East could be affected. Similarly, the US also eyes India as a potentially big customer for American weaponry and will be shooting at its own feet if it were to sanction India. Suffice to say, paradoxically, any US sanctions may only increase Turkey or India’s dependence on Russia for sourcing advanced weaponry, which of course would defeat the very purpose of the CAATSA.

March 9, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

India-Russia relations go way beyond defence deals

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | October 9, 2018

Amidst the welter of commentaries on the Indian-Russian annual summit last week in New Delhi, what stands out is that the government has outstripped our strategic analysts. The latter viewed the Russian summit last week exclusively through the prism of the $6 billion S-400 missile defence deal. Now, that turned out to be like missing the wood for the trees.

The United States’ Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) stipulates secondary sanctions against countries that enter into “significant transactions” with the Russian defence industry. Our S-400 deal became a celebrated test case. So, when in the face of threats held out by the American side relentlessly, when PM Modi went ahead with the S-400 deal, it stunned onlookers.

The ensuing confusion will take time to wither away. It will take time before it sinks in that US bluster aside, there is no way US will sanction India. The CAATSA is a legislation that the US Congress imposed on a reluctant president in the civil war conditions in US politics to stop him from improving relations with Russia (on which there is bipartisan consensus.) True, secondary sanctions have been imposed on China, but US does not intend to export arms to that country anyway!

But that is not the case with India or Turkey. Despite Turkey’s decision to not only fast track its S-400 deal with Russia and to make advance payments to the Russian manufacturer, US still intends to go ahead with its sale of F-35 stealth fighters. Turks nonchalantly told Washington that if the latter wanted to impose sanctions and annul the F-35 business deal, that’s fine with them, and they’d simply source stealth aircraft from some other country (read Russia). But, no, US still wants the F-35 deal to go through, because F-35 is a highly lucrative super business deal for Lockheed Martin, which hopes to sell to Turkey 100-120 aircraft at over $80 million per piece! In effect, Turkey called the American bluff.

Americans have keen business acumen and will not let go a honeypot like the Indian market. In fact, Modi has taken an even tougher decision to go ahead with oil imports from Iran and to sign up contracts for the month of November, although Trump warned that November 4 would be the cutoff date.

Alas, there is a lack of awareness as to what is happening. Our think tankers weaned on American folklore have been programmed to estimate that Russia is a spent force in global politics. They don’t realize that Americans themselves had no doubts already by the start of the millennium that Russia was on the comeback trail. The high oil prices in 2010-2011 proved a game changer for Russia. It was no coincidence that the first American sanctions against Russia was imposed in 2012 – Magnitsky Act – on human rights issues!

The knowledge of Russian politics and the raison d’etre of India-Russia relations is abysmally poor among Indian analysts. Modi’s strategic decision to revive India-Russia relationship as an anchor sheet of foreign policy is yet to sink in. What Americans know and Modi knows but our think tankers do not yet know is that Russia has not only returned to the global stage as a great power but with renewed capabilities in military technology and with an economy that has survived the western sanctions. The high oil prices in the period ahead will only add to Russia’s income significantly.

If the Americans sanction against India’s use of dollars for its transactions with Russia, make no mistake, Indian and Russian ingenuity will find a way to put in place a clearing system that altogether obviates the use of dollar. Arguably, it will be a blessing in disguise if the US forces India and Russia to revive their old Cold War era payment system, because if that happens, the economic content of the relationship will increase exponentially. Will the US want a major global economy like India to jettison the use of dollar and get accustomed to local currency payments?

Again, the US-Russia-China triangle is today splendidly working for Moscow and Beijing to counter the US, while both capitals retain strategic autonomy and neither seeks a military alliance. India can also be a beneficiary here if the available platforms are optimally used – BRICS, RIC and SCO, in particular. Modi made it clear at last week’s summit that India stands with Russia in strengthening multipolarity. It is a clear rejection of the US’ characterization of Russia as a “revisionist power.” Earlier, at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore in June, Modi underscored that India does not regard Indo-Pacific to be a strategy. The import of all this should be very clear except if one insists on holding the American brief on Russia and China. Simply put, India has a lot in common with Russia and China in regard of the emerging world order. Modi’s Wuhan initiative and his visit to Sochi soon afterward suggest that he is open to the idea of India’s Eurasian integration.

Things are looking up for India-Russia relations after the long winter of the UPA rule. For the first time in the post-Cold war era, there are signs that trade and investment between India and Russia is gaining traction. Energy sector is poised to generate massive business volume in a conceivable future. The defence cooperation still remains appreciable – at 62% of India’s arms procurement – despite the atrophy during the UPA rule.

It is sound realism that in a multipolar world, India strengthens relationships with Russia with whom it has common interests in regard of the emerging world order. The army chief Gen. Bipin Rawat’s remarks in the weekend asserting that the S-400 deal is a manifestation of India’s independent foreign policy must be viewed in that light. Last week’s summit averted a real risk of India ending up in America’s “Indo-Pacific” stable as a domesticated milch cow.

October 9, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 1 Comment

Stakes Rise in Browder-Gate – EU Threatens Cyprus with Article 7

By Tom Luango | September 15, 2018

It’s been quite a week for Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty. First Hungary and now Cyprus. And all because of some guy named Bill Browder?

Despite numerous warnings and obstacles, Cyprus continues to assist Russia in investigating the finances of Bill Browder. This has resulted in letters of warning to Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades as well as lawsuits by Browder citing the investigation violates his human rights.

Like everything else in this world, just ask Browder.

Last fall Browder and 17 MEP’s launched a two-pronged assault on Cyprus to end their assisting Russia’s investigation into Browder. Browder with the lawsuit. The MEP’s with a letter of warning.

The lawsuit has failed, however. The Nicosia District Court handed down a ruling recently which allowed for Browder to sue for damages to his reputation but not putting an injunction on the investigation.

More than a month ago the Nicosia District Court said that the cooperation with Russia in its politically motivated probe would violate the human rights of Bill Browder and his associate Ivan Cherkasov and the two would have good prospects in claiming damages from the government. Still, the court rejected Browder’s application for an order preventing Cypriot authorities from cooperating with Russia in its proceedings against him on the grounds that any damage would not be irreparable.

And this is where this gets interesting.

Because now in light of this ruling the stakes have been raised. Four of those original 17 MEP’s, many of whom are on the infamous “Soros List” as being in the pay of Open Society Foundation, sent a more serious letter of warning to Anastasaides threatening Cyprus with censure via Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty for not upholding the European Union’s standards on human rights.

Now this is a dangerous escalation in service of an investigation into someone who, agree or not, Russia has a legitimate interest in pursuing. Dismissing all of Russia’s concerns about Browder as ‘politically motivated’ is pure grandstanding. It carries no weight of law and stinks of a far deeper and more serious corruption.

Because if Browder was as pure as the driven snow as he presents himself to the world then he would have no issue whatsoever in Cyprus opening up his books to Russia and put his question of guilt to rest once and for all.

The ruling from the court stated that Cypriot officials are not barred from helping Russia get to the bottom of Browder’s web of offshore accounts, all of which, according to Russian lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya, run through Cyprus.

From RT last year:

“He [Browder] is afraid of the Russian probe that has conclusive evidence of his financial crimes and proof that his theory of Magnitsky’s death is an absolute fake. That’s why Browder is ready to stage any provocation,” Veselnitskaya said. She went on to say that the investor’s decision to intervene was particularly “influenced by the fact that the entire network of offshore companies that make up his organized criminal group is located on the territory of Cyprus.”

The incident that Veselnitskaya was referring to took place in late October 2017. At that time, 17 members of the European Parliament appealed to Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades in an open letter, in which they called on him to stop assisting Russia in its investigation against Browder.

Remember, Veselnitskaya was the woman who met with Donald Trump Jr. during the 2016 campaign. She was adamant she had information that was pertinent to them.  The Mueller probe and the media tried to spin that meeting as her giving Trump access to Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.

But what she was really trying to give them was the low-down on Browder, the Magnitsky Act and the whole rotten, sordid history of him, Edmund Safra of Republic National Bank and the raping of Russia by them and others in the 1990’s.

And to show Trump that the Magnitsky Act was built on a lie and the sanctions against Russia should be lifted because of this.

Some of this I covered in an earlier article.

The Real Browder Story

And this is the whole point.  Browder’s story is fiction.

Magnitsky was his accountant and not his lawyer, who knew all about his dealings and could convict Browder of a raft of crimes far greater than the ones Russia already has in absentia.

Putin had no interest in having Magnitsky executed or beaten to death in prison. If anyone had an incentive to keep Magnitsky alive it was Vladimir Putin. If anyone had incentive to have Magnitsky die in prison it was Browder. And so, the whole story that Browder has woven, the myth around himself is so insane that it bears repeating over and over.

Browder’s story is fiction.

Because when you stop and put all the pieces together you realize a number of things and none of them are good.

First, Browder was deeply enmeshed in the plot to frame Yeltsin for stealing $7 billion in IMF money which created the conditions for bringing Putin to power.

Second, he, Mihail Khordokovsky and others have systematically lobbied Congress and the European Parliament to peddle this false story of the brave freedom fighter Magnitsky against the evil Putin to get revenge, in Khordokovsky’s case, on Putin for deposing him from power in Russia and stealing back the wealth Khordokovsky stole during the Yelstin years, namely Yukos.

And for Browder it was the culmination of years of work to destroy Russia from within and stay one step ahead of the hangman’s noose. His 2015 book Red Notice is a work of near fiction as outlined by Alex Krainer in his book The Grand Deception: The Truth About Bill Browder, The Magnitsky Act and Anti-Russia Sanctions.

And the Magnitsky Act was the way everyone interested who can prove this could be silenced through sanctions.

But, it’s bigger than that.

This was policy.

The Magnitsky Act is a lynchpin of American and European foreign policy to destroy Russia and subjugate the world.

It was enacted alongside other legislation to take back control of the political narrative of the world; rein in free speech on the internet by tying any activity not approved of by The Davos Crowd to be subject to sanctions on the nebulous basis of ‘human rights violations.’

The Magnitsky Act has weaponized virtue-signaling and, in my mind it was intentionally done to open up another path to protect the most vile and venal people in the world to arrogate power to themselves without consequence.

Today we stand on the brink of an open hot war between the U.S. and Russia because of the lies which have been stacked on top of each other in service of this monstrous piece of legislation.

With each day it and its follow-up, last year’s Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), are used as immense hammers to bring untold misery to millions around the world.

People like Browder are nothing by petty thieves. It is obvious to me he started out as a willing pawn because he was young, hungry and vaguely psychopathic. The deeper he got in it the more erratic his behavior became.

Browder is being protected by powerful people in the U.S. and EU not because he’s so important but because exposing him exposes them.

This is why another country is being threatened with the stripping of what few rights sovereign nations have within the EU, Cyprus, over his books.

Poland stood up for Hungary the other day over ideological reasons. No one seems ready to stand up to the conspiracy surrounding Browder, Khordokovsky and the Magnitsky Act.

But, if someone in power finally does, it could change everything we think we know about geopolitics.

September 16, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Leave a comment

Washington Freezes Open Sky Treaty With Moscow in New Defense Bill

Sputnik – 13.08.2018

US President Donald Trump signed the $716 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the fiscal year 2019 at Fort Drum, New York on Monday.

The bill funds the Department of Defense as well as funding to accelerate US efforts to field a conventional prompt strike capability before 2022, $6.3 billion for the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI), and will obligate Defense Secretary James Mattis to submit a plan to Congress that would stop Turkey from getting F-35 aircraft if it purchases the Russian S-400 air defense system.

“An assessment of the potential purchase by the Government of the Republic of Turkey of the S-400 air and missile defense system from the Russian Federation and the potential effects of such purchase on the United States-Turkey bilateral relationship, including an assessment of impacts on other United States weapon systems and platforms operated jointly with the Republic of Turkey,” the legislation said.

The measure also includes $250 million in lethal defensive items for Ukraine.

Moreover, according to the NDAA, Trump must submit a report to the US Congress by January 2019 regarding whether Russia is in breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

“Not later than January 15, 2019, the President shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a determination whether — (1) the Russian federation is in material breach of its obligations under the INF Treaty; and (2) the prohibitions set forth in Article VI of the INF Treaty remain binding on the United States as a matter of United States law,” the NDAA said.

In addition, the United States will discuss with Russia if the latter’s new strategic weapon systems are in compliance with the New Strategic Arms Reduction (START) Treaty.

“Not later than December 31, 2018, the President shall… submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report as to whether… the President has raised the issue of covered Russian systems in the appropriate fora with the Russian Federation under Article V of the New START Treaty or otherwise,” the legislation said.

The NDAA also notes that the Russian systems of concern include the heavy intercontinental missile system Sarmat, the air-launched nuclear-powered cruise missile X-101, the unmanned underwater vehicle the US government calls “Status 6,” and the long-distance guided flight hypersonic glide vehicle Avangard.

Trump must report if Russia will agree to declare the covered systems as strategic offensive arms or otherwise pursuant to the New START Treaty, the legislation said.

The White House will notify the appropriate congressional committees as to whether the position of Russia threatens the viability of the New START Treaty or requires appropriate US political, economic or military responses, the legislation also said.

Moreover, the 2019 US National Defense Authorization Act revealed that Trump must present to Congress within 90 days a report on persons involved in transactions with Russia’s intelligence or military sectors.

“Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report that describes those persons that the President has determined under section 231 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act [CAATSA]… have knowingly engaged, on or after August 2, 2017, in a significant transaction with a person that is part of, or operates for or on behalf of, the defense or intelligence sectors of the Government of the Russian Federation, the NDAA showed on Monday.

The NDAA also requires the US President to update such a report every 90 days following the first submission for the next five years.

Meanwhile, the bill also reinforces US partnership with Israel and authorizes co-production of missile defense systems as well as enhances US support for European partners against Russia by funding the European Deterrence Initiative.

Particularly, the Department of Defense must submit a report to Congress by next March on the feasibility of permanent deployment of US troops in Poland.

“Not later than March 1, 2019, the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, shall submit to the congressional defense committees a report on the feasibility and advisability of permanently stationing United States forces in the Republic of Poland,” the document said.

“The report required by subsection (a) shall include the following: An assessment of the types of permanently stationed United States forces in Poland required to deter aggression by the Russian Federation and execute Department of Defense contingency plans, including combat enabler units in capability areas such as (A) combat engineering; (B) logistics and sustainment; (C) warfighting headquarters elements; (D) long-range fires; (E) air and missile defense; (F) intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and (G) electronic warfare,” the NDAA said.

The NDAA also explained that an assessment of the permanent deployment feasibility should include an evaluation whether a US permanent deployment would increase deterrence against Russian as well as an assessment of Russia’s possible response.

In addition, the report should consist of an “assessment of the international political considerations of permanently stationing such a brigade combat team in Poland, including within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO),” the NDAA said.

Notably, the United States will also accelerate its hypersonic missile defense program and provide a report within 90 days to congressional defense committees.

“Subject to the availability of appropriations, the Director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) shall accelerate the hypersonic missile defense program of the Missile Defense Agency,” the document said.

The NDAA requires head of the Missile Defense Agency to “deploy such program in conjunction with a persistent space-based missile defense sensor program.”

NDAA provides 90 days for Missile Defense Agency to submit a report on the hypersonic missile defense program to the US Senate and House of Representatives defense committees.

The report, which may include classified annex along with unclassified content, should provide an estimate of the cost, technical requirements and acquisition plan, the NDAA said.

August 13, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

US Senators Introduce Sanctions Bill, Targeting Russia’s Sovereign Debt, Energy

Sputnik – 5 02.08.2018

New legislation introduced in the US Senate would require Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to determine whether Russia should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism.

A bipartisan group of US senators on Thursday introduced a new package of punitive measures aimed at Russia. A proposed bill includes new sanctions against Russia’s political figures, restrictions on energy investments and limitations connected with uranium imports.

The harshest part of the new bill calls for the sanctioning of Russian sovereign debt.

Six US Senators said in a press release that the legislation “will increase economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on the Russian Federation in response to Russia’s continued interference in our elections, malign influence in Syria, aggression in Crimea, and other activities.”

According to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, “the current sanctions regime has failed to deter Russia from meddling in the upcoming 2018 mid-term elections.”

“Our goal is to change the status quo and impose crushing sanctions and other measures against Putin’s Russia until he ceases and desists meddling in the US electoral process, halts cyberattacks on US infrastructure, removes Russia from Ukraine, and ceases efforts to create chaos in Syria,” he added.

Congress passed the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) in July 2017 in response to allegations that Russia sought to influence the 2016 US presidential election. The Trump administration has been widely criticized for not doing enough in response to Moscow’s alleged activities in 2016; however, the White House claimed otherwise, saying that Trump has been tougher on Russia than any previous administration.

Relations between Russia and the United States rapidly deteriorated following the crisis in Ukraine in 2014. Washington introduced several rounds of anti-Russia sanctions after Crimea’s reunification with Russia and the latter’s alleged involvement in the ongoing Ukraine conflict. Russia has refuted all the accusations and issued retaliatory economic restrictions.

August 2, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia | , | 1 Comment