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Kremlin Reveals Details About Putin-Biden Phone Call

By Ilya Tsukanov – Sputnik – 14.04.2021

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Joe Biden held a telephone conversation on Tuesday. According to the White House account of the discussion, issues raised included strategic stability, Russia’s alleged ‘cyber intrusions’ and election meddling, and America’s “unwavering commitment” to Ukraine. A summit meeting was proposed.

Tuesday’s phone call between Presidents Putin and Biden was “businesslike” and of considerable duration, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov indicated.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Peskov said the two men had agreed that the possibility of their meeting would be discussed through diplomatic channels. Moscow, he said, is only now starting to receive information about organisational and other aspects related to a possible summit.

“Before now there was simply a dearth of information about how it would take place, in what order, who would speak, who would chair it, what the outcome is expected to be, whether a final document would be issued, etc. We are just starting to get answers to all these questions; we are still studying them,” the presidential spokesman said. He added that it was “too early” to discuss the proposed meeting’s possible place and time.

Earlier Wednesday, Finnish media reported that Finland had offered to facilitate the meeting of the Russian and US presidents, and that Austria and Iceland had similarly offered their diplomatic services.

Commenting on the escalation of Russia-US tensions surrounding Ukraine, Peskov stressed that a de-escalation of the situation in the civil war-torn Eastern European nation would only be possible if the Ukrainian army indicated that it wouldn’t engage in any provocative behaviour.

“We consider the ‘expression of any concerns’ from any side, including the United States, in connection with the movements of Russia’s armed forces inside Russia, to be groundless. On the territory of Ukraine, de-escalation can only occur if the Ukrainian armed forces reject provocative actions,” he said.

Earlier, the White House readout of Tuesday’s telephone conversation between Putin and Biden said that the US president had “voiced” Washington’s “concerns over the sudden Russian military buildup in occupied Crimea and on Ukraine’s borders, and called on Russia to de-escalate tensions”.

Recent weeks have seen a major deterioration of the security situation in eastern Ukraine, with officials from the breakaway Donbass republics accusing Kiev of preparing for a new military offensive. Moscow has urged both sides to stick to the terms of the Minsk ceasefire. Washington, its NATO allies and Kiev have instead accused Russia of “aggression”.

In his remarks Wednesday, Peskov also indicated that he would not comment on whether the Russian side would ask Biden to apologise over last month’s remarks, in which he agreed with a journalist’s characterisation of the Russian president as a “killer” and threatened to make him “pay a price” over alleged meddling in America’s elections.

“I will leave this issue without comment,” the spokesman said.

Finally, asked to comment on whether Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition vlogger whom the US and its allies accused Moscow of poisoning, was brought up in the Putin-Biden telephone talks, Peskov said his name was not mentioned.

The United States and the European Union slapped Russia with new sanctions last month over the Navalny case. The opposition vlogger and anti-corruption activist collapsed on a domestic flight in Siberia last August, and was rushed for emergency treatment in the Siberian city of Omsk. At the request of his family, he was then transferred out of the country for further treatment at a hospital in Germany. German authorities then claimed that doctors had found traces of a deadly nerve agent in his system, going on to accuse the Kremlin of poisoning him. Moscow denied the allegations, saying no toxic substances had been found in his system at the time of his treatment in Russia. Washington sought to use the Navalny situation to poison Russian-European relations, and called on Western European nations to cancel construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Navalny returned to Russia in January and was jailed over multiple breaches of his probation in a 2014 fraud case.

April 14, 2021 Posted by | Russophobia | , , , | Leave a comment

Mandatory vaccines are ‘necessary in democratic society,’ don’t infringe human rights, EU court rules

European Court of Human Rights, in Strasbourg, France. (FILE PHOTO) © Reuters / Vincent Kessler
RT | April 8, 2021

Making children get jabs for common diseases is ‘necessary in democratic society’ and is in their best interests, the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Thursday in a landmark decision against anti-vaxxers.

It’s the first time the ECHR has ruled on mandatory vaccinations for children against common diseases. While the case dealt with the Czech Republic’s laws that require schoolchildren to have jabs against diseases like whooping cough, tetanus and measles, it has implications when it comes to compulsory Covid jabs.

Nicolas Hervieu, a legal expert specializing in the ECHR, said the ruling reinforces the possibility of compulsory vaccination under the current coronavirus pandemic conditions.

A panel of judges ruled 16-1 that the Czech health policy that prevented unvaccinated children from attending nurseries or schools was consistent with “the best interests” of children.

“The… measures could be regarded as being ‘necessary in a democratic society,” the court ruled.

“The objective has to be that every child is protected against serious diseases, through vaccination or by virtue of herd immunity.”

The judges dismissed the appeal brought by six Czech nationals who were fined for failing to comply with mandatory vaccination rules or whose children were denied admission to nursery school for the same reason. The parents had claimed that the mandatory jab rules violated their human rights.

“The objective had to be to protect every child against serious diseases,” the court ruled.

It said that the need for compulsory vaccination in the Czech Republic represented the national authorities’ answer to the pressing social need to protect individual and public health against diseases and “to guard against any downward trend in the rate of vaccination among children.”

The court said that while mandatory vaccinations raised sensitive issues, the value of social solidarity to protect the health of all members of society, particularly those who were especially vulnerable, required everyone to assume a minimum risk by having jabs.

There was no immediate reaction from the six who appealed the case to the ECHR.

April 8, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , , | 2 Comments

Russian senator slams Europe’s silence on Donbass attack as green light to Kiev

Press TV – April 5, 2021 

Deputy speaker of Russia’s upper house Federation Council has slammed European silence over a recent attack by Ukrainian forces on a Russian-speaking eastern area as a green light for a renewed military operation in the pro-independence region.

Kiev will interpret Europe’s silent position “as carte blanche for a military operation in Donbass and restoring territorial integrity by force,” said Konstantin Kosachev on Sunday, reacting to a joint statement by German and French foreign ministers on the Donbass attack, Russia’s official TASS news agency reported.

Top French diplomat Jean-Yves Le Drian and his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, have expressed concerns over the deteriorating situation on the contact line in Donbass but then voiced support for Kiev’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The joint statement issued on Sunday further said the two countries were carefully monitoring the situation, particularly Russian troop movements in the region, while urging restraint and abrupt defusing of tensions.

The Russian senator, however, reminded the two European diplomats that a child was killed by a Ukrainian drone strike on Saturday in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).

“Yesterday, for the first time since July 2020 a Ukrainian shelling of the DPR was conducted and a six-year-old child died, but there is no word about this” in the European statement, Kosachev said. Instead, he noted, the West accused Russia of troop movements.

“Russia says there must be no force, but only a direct dialogue between the conflicting states. The statement of the two ministers does not include this, and in this sense, it has no added value and only adds fuel to the flame of the conflict,” he added.

The development came as Moscow on Sunday urged the European Union to demand an explanation from Kiev following the drone attack on Donbass, amid an escalation of armed clashes between the pro-Russian forces and Ukrainian troops in the restive region.

Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin also called on the Parliamentary Assemblies of the Council of Europe (PACE) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE PA) to demand an explanation from Kiev about the incident.

Also on Sunday, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky enforced sanctions against Russian humanitarian cooperation agency, Volga Dnepr Co as well as 77 more companies.

Reacting to the news, Volodin said, “We will discuss with the Russian foreign ministry’s and the agency’s senior officials measures that are to be taken in this situation in order not to leave our compatriots and Ukrainian nationals who want to preserve relations with Russia without support.”

Ukraine’s sanctions are an “example of defiance of international law and common sense,” Volodin wrote on his Telegram channel, adding, “Ukraine is seeking to mock its patrons as much as it can. Sanctions against a state institution – Rossotrudnichestvo, with its mission of developing international humanitarian cooperation – constitute an unprecedented case.”

Meanwhile, the EU vowed its “unwavering” support for the Western-backed Ukrainian government on Sunday, with its foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, voicing major worries about what he called Russian troop movements.

“Following with severe concern the Russian military activity surrounding Ukraine,” Borrell wrote online after a phone call with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. “Unwavering EU support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Borrell said he would hold further talks on the issue with Kiev’s top diplomat and foreign ministers from the EU’s 27 nations at a meeting later this month.

Other Western leaders, including US President Joe Biden, have also stated that they are standing by Ukraine, which has blamed Russia for amassing thousands of troops on its northern and eastern borders.

While Moscow has not denied the troop movements amid the increasing military activities near its borders by the US-led NATO alliance, it has insisted that the move was “not threatening anyone.”

Donbass has been the scene of a conflict between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian forces since 2014. It has so far claimed more than 13,000 lives, according to the UN.

The armed confrontations began when a wave of protests in Ukraine overthrew a democratically-elected pro-Russia government and replaced it with a pro-West administration. The majority in those areas refused to endorse the new administration.

That new government then began a crackdown on the mainly ethnic Russians in the east, who in turn took up arms and turned the two regions of Donetsk and Lugansk — collectively known as the Donbass — into self-proclaimed republics.

April 5, 2021 Posted by | War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

[“Sustainable”] Uranium Prices Poised To Rally

Oilprice.com | April 3, 2021

The uranium market is emerging from years in the doldrums as the overhang from the nuclear disaster in Japan is cleared and global demand picks up steam.

The spot price for U3O8 moved above $30 per pound for the first time this year as uranium producers and mine developers hoover up above-ground inventories and reactor construction continues apace.

Two new research notes from BMO Capital Markets and Morgan Stanley say today’s price marks a floor and predict a rally in prices over the next few years to the ~$50 level by 2024.

The stars seem to be aligning for a new phase of nuclear energy investment with the US, China and Europe bolstering the bull case for the fuel this month.

Although nuclear energy was not mentioned explicitly in the $2 trillion Biden infrastructure proposal released today, its federally mandated “energy efficiency and clean electricity standard” is hardly achievable without it.

Source: Cameco

Over the weekend leaked documents showed a panel of experts advising the EU is set to designate nuclear as a sustainable source of electricity which opens the door for new investment under the continent’s ambitious green energy program.

China’s 14th five-year plan released a fortnight ago also buoyed the uranium market with Beijing planning to up the country’s nuclear energy capacity by 46% – from 48GW in 2020 to 70GW by 2025.

There are several factors working in uranium’s favour, not least the fact that annual uranium demand is now above the level that existed before the 2011 Fukushima disaster when Japan shut off all its reactors:

  • Uranium miners, developers and investment funds like Yellow Cake (13m lbs inventory build up so far) are buying material on the spot market bringing to more normal levels government and utility inventories built up over the last decade
  • Major mines are idled including Cameco’s Cigar Lake (due to covid-19) which accounts for 18m lbs or 13% of annual mine supply. The world’s largest uranium operation McArthur River was suspended in July 2018 taking 25m lbs off the market
  • Permanent closures so far this year include Rio Tinto’s Ranger operation in Australia (3m lbs) and Niger’s Cominak mine (2.6m lbs) which had been in operation since 1978. Rio is exiting the market entirely following the sale of Rössing Uranium in Namibia
  • Like Cameco, top producer Kazatomprom, which mined 15% less material last year due to covid restrictions has committed to below capacity production (–20% for the state-owned Kazakh miner) for the foreseeable future
  • Price reporting agency and research company UxC estimates that utilities’ uncovered requirements would balloon to some 500m lbs by 2026 and 1.4 billion lbs by 2035
  • Roughly 390m lbs are already locked up in the long term market while 815m lbs have been consumed in reactors over the last five years, according to UxC
  • There are 444 nuclear reactors in operation worldwide and another 50 under construction – 2 new connections to the grid and one construction start so far in  2021
  • Much cheaper and safer, small modular nuclear power reactors which can readily slot into brownfield sites like decommissioned coal-fired plants (or even underground or underwater) are expected to become a significant source of additional demand.

There are caveats to this rosy scenario, however.

Morgan Stanley warns that “the opacity of the inventory situation remains a key uncertainty to price – see for example palladium, which needed almost 7 years of deficit before the price really took off.”

BMO says given the still high levels of inventories “acute shortages and price squeezes are extremely unlikely, both for this year and the foreseeable future,” adding that “there is no obvious need for new mine supply in the near future.”

April 4, 2021 Posted by | Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Progressive Hypocrite | , | 4 Comments

Stoltenberg Comes Clean on China ‘Opportunity’ for NATO

By Finian Cunningham | Strategic Culture Foundation | March 28, 2021

In an unguarded moment, NATO’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg let the cat out of the bag when he described the rise of China as both a challenge and “an opportunity”. What he was admitting unintentionally is that a confrontational policy toward China gives the military alliance some badly needed new purpose.

Stoltenberg was giving an exclusive interview to Deutsche Welle to mark the first ministerial NATO summit attended by the Biden administration. The two-day summit held on March 23-24 at NATO headquarters in Brussels involved in-person participation of U.S. secretary of state Antony Blinken as well as other foreign ministers of the 30-nation military alliance.

The NATO meeting comes as the United States and its European allies are ramping up a coordinated policy of sanctions against China and Russia over alleged human rights issues. This week saw an unprecedented coordination by the U.S., Canada, Britain and the European Union in implementing new sanctions against Beijing and Moscow. It is no coincidence that this provocative development comes after high-profile international meetings, both in-person and via videoconferencing, by the Biden administration calling for allies to adopt a more adversarial and unified position toward China and Russia.

The Biden administration has changed tack from the predecessor Trump “America First” policy to vigorously advocate for a “revitalized” transatlantic relationship. Washington views a more unified U.S.-Europe axis as a more effective strategic way to challenge China and Russia. And NATO is providing a renewed coordinating vehicle.

But in seeking unity, the Biden administration is by necessity having to push a much more aggressive policy toward China and Russia, portraying them as greater threats. This means the American military alliance takes on greater responsibility for spearheading Washington’s policy. A NATO joint statement this week affirmed the alliance’s unity in the face of Russian “aggression”. Moscow slammed the statement, saying that Russia threatened no nation, and that NATO was trying to justify its existence.

Senior Russian lawmaker Leonid Slutsky said that NATO’s claims about being a defensive alliance are a “blatant lie”, pointing to wars and interventions it has launched in former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.

America’s top diplomat Antony Blinken this week claimed that China’s rise and Russia’s attempts to destabilize the West were “threats” that required NATO to come together. Blinken added disingenuously that the U.S. won’t force its allies into making an “us or them choice” with China. That’s exactly what the U.S. is doing.

Jens Stoltenberg and other European leaders have been swooning over the “new chapter” in transatlantic relations under the Biden administration. After four years of dealing with vulgar-mouth Donald Trump and his relentless hectoring over military budgets, some European leaders are sighing with relief at Biden’s seemingly dulcet assurances that “America is back”.

Of course people like Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister who has been the civilian head of NATO since 2014, are reliant on pushing a stronger alliance for their comfy livelihoods and no doubt for future sinecures at corporate-funded think-tanks. Stoltenberg is constantly striving to find a new vision and mission for NATO, an organization founded over 70 years ago at the start of the Cold War, and which has been expanding ever since despite the official end of the Cold War three decades ago. The buzz phrase he uses is to make the alliance “future-proof” – that is to find a permanent pretext for the U.S.-led military organization to continue its existence regardless of real-world security needs.

In his interview with Deutsche Welle this week, Stoltenberg commented on the rise of China. He said, inferring something menacing: “China is coming closer to us, investing in our critical infrastructure.”

Well maybe that’s because China is the world’s biggest trading partner with the European Union and a major foreign direct investor in European nations which have become bankrupt from decades of neoliberal capitalism and austerity.

Stoltenberg went on: “There’s no way we can avoid addressing the security consequences for our regional alliance of the rise of China and the shift in the global balance of power.”

And then the usually cautious, wooden Stoltenberg let it slip: China, he said, provided “a unique opportunity to open a new chapter in the relationship between North America — the United States — and Europe.”

Voila! So the real strategic value of China being presented as a “threat” or an “adversary” is to give a new purpose to the U.S.-led NATO bloc which subordinates Europe to Washington’s geopolitical objective of hegemony. The emphasis here is on China “being presented as a threat” and not what the real relationship actually is, that is, one of a vital economic partner. (Same for Russia and its vast energy partnership with Europe.)

The United States in pursuit of global dominance by its corporations and its capitalist order must, by definition, thwart a multipolar global political economy which the rise of China and Russia embody.

The fiendish political problem, however, is that Washington and its European surrogates cannot justify such a stance based on the normal and natural relations that exist. For in doing that, they would be seen as obnoxious, unwarranted aggressors. It is imperative therefore to conflate China and Russia as “security threats” to the presumed Western “rules-based order”.

Never mind that the Western “rules-based order” has seen NATO powers trashing rules and order by invading countries all around the world, waging criminal wars and subversions, killing millions of people and unleashing terrorism and other security threats stemming from collapsing nations and mass migration.

Forget about China, or Russia, being an alleged threat. They are in actual fact an “opportunity” for NATO and U.S. imperialism, which the alliance ultimately serves, to find an excuse for their criminal existence and conduct. Just ask the secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg (who, as the jokes goes, is more secretary than he is general).

March 28, 2021 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , , | 4 Comments

US/EU Russia Bashing

By Stephen Lendman | March 26, 2021

On Wednesday after talks with interventionist Blinken, EU foreign policy chief Borrell said the following:

“We agreed to coordinate our efforts in addressing Russia’s confrontational behavior (sic) and encourage Russia to abandon this path (sic).”

No Russian “confrontational behavior” exists — how the US-dominated West operates, not Moscow.

A hostile joint statement by Blinken and Borrell said the following:

They’re “determin(ed) to further address, in a coordinated manner, Russia’s challenging behavior (sic), including its ongoing aggression against Ukraine and Georgia (sic); hybrid threats, such as disinformation (sic); interference in electoral processes (sic); malicious cyber activities (sic; and military posturing (sic).

All of the above reflect US/EU war on Russia by other means — for its freedom from Western control, unrelated to alleged threats that don’t exist.

The above misinformation, disinformation, fake news, and bald-faced Big Lies also aim to distract attention from US-led Western war on humanity internally against their own people and abroad against nations free from their control.

Blinken and Borrell continued their war of words on Russia as follows:

They “decided to coordinate their response to the shrinking space in Russia for independent political voices (sic), civil society (sic), media freedom (sic), and the dwindling respect for human rights and the rule of law (sic).

All of the above reflect how the hostile to peace and stability US and EU operate.

Russia pursues higher standards, according to the rule of law — what the US-dominated West long ago abandoned.

If global war 3.0 is launched, it’ll be made-in-the-USA, a major threat to humanity that could happen by willful design.

The US-dominated West poses an unparalleled threat to everyone everywhere.

On all things related to Russia, China, and other nations free from its control, Borrell operates as a US imperial tool, bending to its will.

Along with the Biden regime, he threatened more illegal EU sanctions on Russia.

In response to hostile US/EU actions, head of Russia’s Delegation to the Vienna Negotiations on Military Security and Arms Control Konstantin Gavrilov said the following:

US-dominated NATO can’t “have its cake and eat it too.”

The alliance must choose between cooperative dialogue with Russia or confrontation, adding:

“It is obvious to us that it is impossible to build trust in the military field when the North Atlantic Alliance goes ahead with its activity and builds up presence along Russia’s borders.”

“In these conditions, collective persuasions to support the ‘package’ of proposals put forward by 34 OSCE member states to modernize the VD (Vienna Document 2011) are futile and will have no effect.”

Separately, head of Russia’s UN Human Rights Council in Geneva delegation Dmitry Vorobyov slammed the UNHRC’s resolution on Syria.

As US-led aggression enters its 11th year — resolution unattainable because its hardline belligerents reject restoration of peace and stability to the war-torn country — Russia called the UNHRC resolution “utterly biased, based on unproven stories and false thinking, distorts reality and can be characterized as blatantly politicized.”

Syria’s representative in Geneva Hussam al-Din Ala, said that states sponsoring terrorism, occupying parts of the country and impose unilateral measures that rise to the level of crimes against humanity, have no political or moral legitimacy to submit resolutions about the human rights status in Syria, adding:

US imperial partner Britain, “the main sponsor of the (UNHRC) resolution… fabricat(ed) allegations and circulat(ed) political and media campaigns against the Syrian government (in support of the pro-Western) commission of Inquiry on Syria whose reports” falsely blame its ruling authorities for US-led aggression.

US pressure, bullying, threats and bribes got 27 of 47 UNHRC member states to support what demanded opposition.

“Russia, Armenia, Bolivia, China, Cuba and Venezuela resolutely denounced it, 14 countries abstained.

The Biden regime upped the stakes further in Syria by sending a convoy of around 80 trucks carrying weapons, humvee armored vehicles and supplies to the country’s northeast.

Jihadists armed with Western weapons accompanied what was sent to continue endless US-led aggression on Syria and its people.

Much the same is ongoing in Afghanistan, Yemen, and intermittently in Iraq — part of endless US war on humanity.

March 27, 2021 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Blinken’s Pièce de Théâtre Failed; Its Script Was Passé

By Alastair Crooke | Strategic Culture Foundation | March 26, 2021

Global Times editorial assessed that the China-U.S. Anchorage talks would come to be seen as “a landmark in history”. For the first time, U.S. hegemony was treated disdainfully; for the first time, the U.S. ‘right’ to claim its values – its ‘style’ of democracy – as universally applicable, was publicly and flatly contradicted. Even the posture of ‘speaking from strength’ was dismissed, and the U.S.’ pressure of an alliance ‘bloc’ system ‘despised’. All spoken with an air of impunity (you need us, more than we need you). Strong stuff; no wonder Blinken looked shell-shocked.

Yet, this was not ‘it’. Anchorage was, in practice, a play of several acts. Well before ‘Opening Night’, a supportive cast was being mobilised as chorus to the play’s anticipated moment of climax: The Quad (U.S., Japan, Australia, and India) were warmed up; NATO activated, and the Europeans co-opted.

Even before the audience could take their seats, a small early drama was enacted in Moscow. It set in place the scenery to the climactic Act that was expected at Anchorage. The EU High Representative who had travelled purposively to read the ‘Riot Act’ to Moscow for its treatment of demonstrators, and of Alexei Navalny himself, was completely nonplussed to find the tables entirely turned – it was the EU that was led to the Moscow dock, chastised for criminalising Catalonian leaders as seditionists, and presented with videos of European police heavy-handedness in dealing with demonstrators. The first crack to the mould appeared.

FM Lavrov later made it unmistakably clear that Moscow was more than a little browned-off with Europe. The EU, he said, had “destroyed” Russia’s ability to have relations with Brussels: “There are no relations with the EU as an organization. The entire infrastructure of these relations has been destroyed by unilateral decisions made from Brussels”.

As the day approached for the main theatrical ‘piece’, even before the curtain rose, one actor (playing Uncle Sam), strolled the forestage to ‘warm up’ the audience with a recitation of the villainy perpetuated by the anti-hero (China). That was the mood-setter – the crux to the pièce de théâtre. A rolled document was in his hand, but not shown to the audience. It was just possible to glimpse its title: The Longer Telegram.

Aahh! The audience took the hint; it made the connection – The Longer Telegram was a ‘play’ on an earlier 1946 work by George Kanaan, excoriating the USSR, and warning that Russia must never be allowed to side with China. The Longer Telegram however, identified China as chief villain, and assailed President Xi and the CCP precisely as fault-lines who should be reviled, and if possible, wedged and broken apart. Though the conclusion to both Telegrams at least remained unchanged: Russia and China must never be allowed to join forces with each other.

What made this work so tantalising was that no one knew who wrote it – his/her identity was concealed by the Atlantic Council. “The author of this work has requested to remain anonymous, and the Atlantic Council has honoured this for reasons we consider legitimate but that will remain confidential. The Council has not taken such a measure before, but it made the decision to do so given the extraordinary significance of the author’s insights and recommendations as the United States confronts the signature geopolitical challenge of the era” [i.e. China – does the phrasing sound familiar?].

Almost certainly, it was thought, a member of the Biden Administration was the author. But might it have been Blinken himself? No one knows, but The Longer Telegram was read in Beijing too.

So, as the night arrived, and the curtain started to rise, the actor-narrator prepared the seated audience for the key dénouement saying that the anticipated clash with the anti-hero Yang, would be a “once-off” climactic duel, rather than the ‘start of something’, adding that the prospective duel also would be opportunity for an “airing of grievances” about China’s terrible behaviour.

But, when it came to the main scene, it all went wrong. Blinken, having duly read out the prepared ‘grievances’ indictment, found that the anti-hero, Yang Jiechi, instead of being chastened and reproved, hit back. (He had read the Theatre promo, and was prepared). It was a disaster. The End of Act. The mould was broken. An editor at the U.S. Spectator surmises: “The United States, said Yang, in one of the most dismissive diplomatic rejoinders I have ever heard, does not have the ‘qualifications’ to address China ‘from a position of strength’. F, my dear Blinken, you”.

Then we come to a further scene, where the play’s two anti-heroes turn out not to be ‘anti-heroes’, but brothers-in-arms. It turns out that the Russian anti-hero’s patron had been earlier impugned as a soulless ‘killer’. Lavrov and Li seal a pact in Beijing after the talks. And China warns any regional actor who sides with Uncle Sam – against either of the brothers-in-arms – ‘would not succeed in standing alone’ against either brother, but to face them jointly would be unimaginable. “Anyone putting their faith in the U.S. would be disappointed. The U.S. is weakening”.

The mould is in pieces – and Russia and China have come together.

Last Act opens (a thunderstorm is heard in the background): The ‘Bloc’ strikes: The U.S., Canada, the UK and EU act in a co-ordinated strike on the ‘brothers’, for infringing Muslin human rights in Xinjiang Province (a fiercely contested claim). Within minutes of the EU sanctions being imposed on party officials in Xinjiang, Beijing retaliates with sanctions on European parliamentarians, the EU Council political and security committee, scholars and the human rights sub-committee. (It is the EU’s turn to be shell-shocked now).

Dismissing the EU’s move “as based on nothing but lies and disinformation”, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said, “the Chinese side urges the EU side to reflect on itself, face squarely the severity of its mistake and redress it. It must stop lecturing others on human rights and interfering in their internal affairs. It must end the hypocritical practice of double standards and stop going further down the wrong path. Otherwise, China will resolutely make further reactions”. Ouch … another convention lies shattered.

The U.S. and EU are unused to being treated with disdain; and their sanctions ignored and brushed aside, with a curt ‘China doesn’t care for your pressures’. Even more perplexing to the EU’s unremittingly mercantilist mindset, China is evidently reconciled to losing the January Investment Pact (CAI) signed with the EU, but not ratified by parliament, and now almost certainly lost to both parties. And Moscow too, seems not to care that Nordstream 2 might also be at greater risk now. EU leaders will be disturbed that its’ ‘400 million market’ may not be the ‘ace’ which it imagined it to be.

The EU faces a dilemma: It had been crying out for a return to so-called ‘multilateralism.’ It got it – the Bloc sanctioning of Xinjiang officials, Putin impugned, and Russia sanctioned, and paradoxically, the EU is now sanctioned itself – its foreign relations with the great powers of Eurasia lie mired in the mud. It faces economic losses in respect to the China Investment Pact, and in trade with Russia.

The scene then changes one final time: It has Brussels’ NATO HQ as its backdrop now. The actor-narrator steps again onto the theatre forestage to say that whilst a collective response to China’s coercive behaviour “which threatens our collective security and prosperity” was indeed the thrust of our script, the latter “doesn’t mean countries can’t work with China, where possible. The United States will. We can’t afford not to … The United States won’t force our allies into an ‘us-or-them’ choice with China”.

The Bloc cannot hold – the crystal snapped, emitting a sharp crack. The theatre play was all about re-legitimising (a ritual, one-off re-enactment) of the American myth of its innate moral quality for holding leadership of the world, and its right to mobilise allies against those (here the tone is of a man – Blinken – shocked at what he is about to say) that don’t share our values: “They actually try and undermine the international rules-based order”.

The curtain is down. The script didn’t gel. The play is critiqued and it revealed paradoxically, that the ‘the myth’ that it precisely intended to re-validate, in a post-Trump, ritual exorcism, is indeed date-expired – it is passé. It is a very different world, four years on.

March 27, 2021 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

The ‘Rules-based international order’ is dead

Unless West finds new way to accommodate Russia & China, it will reap a whirlwind

By Glenn Diesen | RT | March 23, 2021

The gloves are off? The hostile exchanges at the China-US meeting in Alaska last week had striking similarities with the combative recent meeting between the EU’s foreign policy chief and the Russian foreign minister in Moscow.

Both disastrous encounters have demonstrated that after years of animosity it is not possible to return to the previous format for cooperation. Rudyard Kipling famously once wrote “east is east, and west is west, and never the twain shall meet.” That doesn’t have to be true, but it’s a fair summation of where we are now.

Returning to a bygone era?

If you believe the preliminary messaging, the new US government sought a more pragmatic relationship with China as its diplomats went to Alaska, while the EU endeavoured to improve relations with Russia on the trip to Moscow. What was on the agenda to restore more friendly relations?

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced before the talks that the US would “discuss our deep concerns with actions by China, including in Xinjian, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyber attacks on the United States, economic coercion of our allies.” In Moscow, the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell similarly sought to lecture Russia about its domestic affairs and various perceived bad behaviours in international affairs.

As both the meetings predictably ended in spectacular failure, China was accused of having “arrived intent on grandstanding” and Russia was charged with having prepared the “humiliation” of the EU.

But why did Washington and Brussels believe it was appropriate to set an agenda that interfered in the domestic affairs of the other and focusing solely on transgressions by one side? The West also has mounting domestic challenges and is hardly innocent in military adventurism, cyber attacks or economic coercion. However, the meetings were not intended to be between equals and cooperation was not meant to establish common rules for mutual constraints.

A liberal international system becomes synonymous with liberal hegemony, and relations are organised between a political subject and a political object, between a teacher and a student, between police and a suspect. Cooperation is defined in pedagogic terms as the one side correcting the “bad behaviour” of the other side.

Liberal hegemony or a rules-based order?

From the Western perspective, a rules-based order requires the West to uphold liberal values and thus become a “force for good”. Blinken cautioned that “the alternative to a rules-based order is a world in which might makes right and winners take all”. For China and Russia, the unipolar era has been one where might makes right and liberal values has merely legitimised unilateralism. For example, witness how Moscow’s concerns about Western military adventures in Iraq, Syria and Libya, all of questionable legality under international law, to various degrees, were ignored.

Liberal hegemony as a value-based international order contradicts the concept of a rules-based order. A rules-based system infers the consistent application of international law, while a values-based system endows the liberal hegemon with the prerogative of selective and inconsistent application of international laws and rules.

The system of liberal hegemony demonstrates that values and power cannot be decoupled. Western states, like all other nations, formulate and pursue foreign policies based on national interests, and values are adjusted accordingly. In Kosovo it was decided that self-determination was more important than territorial integrity, and in Crimea it was decided that territorial integrity was more important than self-determination.

The same rules don’t apply to everybody, equally. It’s “asymmetrical,” not symmetrical. So, when Russia intervened in Syria at Damascus’ request and the US entered Syria, without Syrian or UN permission, Moscow was judged to have broken the rules.

While democracy and human rights should ideally have a place in international relations, the application of these values are always aligned with power interests. Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny is nominated for the Nobel peace price, while Julian Assange rots away in a British cell without such accolades. Washington’s abandonment of a four-decade long One-China Policy in terms of Taiwan, claims of “genocide” in Xinjian and support for the Hong Kong riots are also evidently motivated by geoeconomic rivalry. A rules-based system does not entail mutual constraints, but a system where the West as the political subject will police China and Russia as political objects.

Accommodated or contained?

Were Russia and China accommodated in the post-Cold War international order? This question is rarely asked, yet it should be considered the most important question in contemporary international relations.

Since Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger “opened China” in the 1970s, every American administration believed that China has been accommodated in the international political and economic order. Likewise, both the EU and the US believe that they have sought to include Russia in Europe since it emerged as an independent state in 1991.

Yet, both Russia and China consider themselves to have consistently been contained. Answering the aforementioned question should be of the greatest importance. When the Cold War ended, the West enjoyed abundant political legitimacy and the leading foreign policy objective of both Moscow and Beijing was to cultivate friendly relations with Washington – two and a half decades later the two Eurasian giants formed a strategic partnership to construct a Greater Eurasia to reduce reliance on the US.

After the Cold War, both Russia and China were confronted with the dilemma of accepting the role as political objects and perpetual students in the Western-led order, or be contained as enemies of the liberal international order.

In the absence of a common European security architecture, an expansionist NATO and EU filled the vacuum. But Russia’s reaction to Western expansionism and unilateralism subsequently returned Moscow from the role as a compliant, civilising object to an enemy of the liberal international system that had to be contained.

China was in a much more favourable position as it did not face the same revisionism along its borders. China thus implicitly accepted temporarily foregoing a significant role in the international system. Deng Xiaoping famously defined China’s “peaceful rise” as entailing “[to] bide our time and hide our capabilities” by focusing on internal development whilst avoiding provoking the great powers. This approach was always temporary, as China would one day outgrow the US-dominated system. In 2010, China had become too powerful and Barack Obama announced its “pivot to Asia” to contain China, which escalated to an economic war under Donald Trump.

Between unipolarity and multipolarity

The current international disorder is caused by an interregnum – the world is currently stuck between a unipolar and a multipolar format. The West is pushing for a return to the unipolar era that existed before sanctions on Russia and the economic war against China. However, the two Eurasian giants, Russia and China, have spent the past years adjusting to a multipolar system.

The West will insist that on maintaining liberal hegemony due to a commitment and belief in liberal values, among elites (although that is no longer uniform), while Russia and China will reject a value-based system that is instrumental to impose an untenable unipolar order. There is no going back as the world has moved on, although the West is not yet ready to move forward.

Glenn Diesen is a Professor at the University of South-Eastern Norway, and an editor at the Russia in Global Affairs journal. 

March 23, 2021 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

We Are All Europeans Now

By Tom Luongo | Gold Goats ‘N Guns | March 4, 2021

The U.S. ceased to be any kind of representative government in 2020.

And that’s just the way the totalitarians in Europe want it.

The moment the Supreme Court abdicated its responsibility to even recognize Texas’ complaint against Pennsylvania was the moment the veneer of Constitutional authority in D.C. was removed.

With the Court cowed into political subservience and the presidency and the legislature secured there is nothing left of any Constitutional ‘checks and balances’ in D.C.

Now that the Democrat-controlled House is done embarrassing themselves with a sham impeachment of Donald Trump they can get serious about consolidating power such that they never relinquish it.

It’s called H.R. 1 and, in the words of John Fund, “It is the worst piece of legislation I have even seen in my 40 years reporting from Washington.”

I’m not going into the details of it here, Fund does a fine job of outlining them, along with Zerohedge. And whether this abortion of a bill passes through a filibuster in the Senate is irrelevant.

What is relevant is that this bill is a laundry list of changes to the electoral system of the U.S. to ensure single party rule for what’s left of the lifespan of the United States as a 50 entity compact among equals.

Oh, I’m sorry, that isn’t correct because not one of the current members of the Supreme Court believes that’s what the U.S. is anymore, a compact of equals.

If any of them did they would have argued for Texas’ right to sue Pennsylvania for its election law changes and heard the case under the court’s original jurisdiction.

Even if they’d thrown the case out on its merit that would have been somewhat acceptable, but to refuse to hear it was an insult to anyone with a passing acquaintance with the Constitution.

What Speaker Nancy Pelosi has done with this bill is to make manifest for the world to see that D.C. is ruled and operated by a mafia. And that mafia works for its own betterment, not those it rules over.

That’s been the very clear message since the election. Because election outcomes not controlled by the D.C. mafia are verboten.

Especially now that the plan to tear down and ‘Build Back Better’ the global economy is in process. Nothing as tawdry and plebian as democracy and civilian input can be tolerated when such plans are afoot.

Americans are just now getting the memo that Europeans got repeatedly over the past two generations. The words of former European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker echo through the corridors of the fabulously ugly EU headquarters in Brussels.

“There can be no democratic choice against the European treaties.”

So it was in November and so it will be in 2022 and 2024. If we learned anything from 2020 it is that nothing is off the table in the pursuit of legitimizing a naked grab for power.

The pols in D.C. can tell themselves that Trump was a delusional crackpot all they want. They can have their quislings in the media repeat that lie endlessly in the hope someone would actually believe it. They can issue endless dire warnings about domestic terrorism from those who know in their hearts their voice was stolen from them.

They can convince those too cowardly or naïve to admit the truth of what happened, but they cannot ignore the consequences of their actions.

Ruling through force is a self-negation of the legitimacy of the rule itself. Forcing people to accept your vision of the future literally invalidates the vision. Because if your ideas had any merit you wouldn’t have to force people to abide by them.

This is why the European Union is set up the way it is. There is no power vested in the democratic part of the Union. The EU parliament has no real power, only advisory power.

The real power lies with the unelected EU Commission and the leadership of the European Central Bank. Their decisions are rubber-stamped by the European Court of Justice whose name is, at best, a sick joke.

We have a president taking office under sincere doubts about the election. Steadfast refusals by those who support him to even entertain the idea that there was anything at all wrong with the election results.

If that’s the case, why do we even need these changes? If Pelosi and company won this election fair and square (which they didn’t) then what’s the rush to put forth H.R. 1 in the first place?

I ask these questions knowing full well that H.R.1 will never pass a Senate where the filibuster was recently defended by the controlled opposition known colloquially as the GOP.

But Pelosi’s anchor baby of a bill isn’t intended to pass in its current form. It’s meant to begin the obligatory Straussian Two Step every bad idea in D.C. goes through.

Repeat after me: Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis.

This bill is the Thesis. The GOP will filibuster for the Antithesis and they will eventually agree on something that looks like a compromise but will be fundamentally worse.

If you ever wondered why we get such abysmal legislation on just about every issue, you now know the mechanism.

And it further doesn’t matter that states are passing election law changes to harden their elections against what happened last fall. Eventually D.C. will mandate this is how Federal elections are handled.

And if any state doesn’t comport with these changes there will be asymmetric punishments handed out by withholding funding.

This is the same thing that Hungary fought tooth and nail to stop in the COVID relief agreement in the EU, to keep separate national sovereignty and national laws and funding.

The point, ultimately, is that the Biden administration and the Democrats are moving very quickly to remake this country in Europe’s autocratic image.

Because the Straussian Two Step is too inefficient for The Davos Crowd. The European way is a so much more efficient form of control.

They have to do so through different means, with different language, “protecting voter disenfranchisement,” but the end result is exactly the same — a central government that issues edicts that the vassal states must comply with ignoring the desires or voices of the people it rules over.

A few weeks ago I asked you, “What happens after The Churn? What happens when the rules of the game of survival change so rapidly that we have no framework left to make sense of the world we live in.

H.R. 1 represents one of those post-Churn building blocks of a world we will soon barely recognize. The worst part is so many will cheer for it rather than return to the chaos of the old world.

March 6, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , | Leave a comment

Macron said Covid-19 jabs would be optional… so a Europe-wide vaccine passport should be a reason to leave the EU

By Rachel Marsden | RT | March 5, 2021

It’s unacceptable that the EU is pushing big brother authoritarianism on its member states via vaccine passports. French President Emmanuel Macron should stay true to his word and take a stand against this nanny statism.

After all, Macron couldn’t have been more clear when he said in a national address last November that Covid-19 vaccines would not be mandatory. And that’s exactly as it should be.

No one should have the right to dictate what substances you inject into your body – and especially not the state. The rights of the collective end where the rights of the individual begin, and that’s precisely with one’s own physical being. If someone is worried about catching Covid-19, then they have every right to get vaccinated in the interests of self-protection, but no one should have any ability to impose it on anyone else.

Given the debate over the duration of any Covid-19 antibodies, it’s unclear exactly how often people are going to have to pump any vaccine into their body. Will it be every few months? Once a year?

Nor is it clear exactly how the virus will mutate in future, or how fast Covid-19 could become just another banal seasonal virus floating around out there. For those who are in good health, with no pre-existing medical issues, they may consider the injection of a vaccine to be worse than contending with the virus itself. And they should have every right to make that choice.

Yet we’re now being told that the European Commission will table a vaccine passport concept this month, effectively suppressing individual choice over inoculation. It would be required for travel within the European Union or to avoid quarantine upon arrival.

Some countries have already adapted the concept for use on their own territory in the form of a ‘green pass’ required for access to venues such as gyms, theaters, concert venues, movie theaters, and restaurants. The idea seems to have initially taken hold in Israel, where people have to flash a digital pass showing proof of vaccination everywhere they go in order to have any semblance of a normal life.

Now everywhere from Paris to New York, authorities are considering the idea of people having to show that they’ve taken either the vaccine or, alternatively, proof that they’ve had a giant Q-Tip shoved up their nose within the last three days, and have tested negative for Covid.

Any such banalization of Covid PCR testing as a prerequisite for daily living means that every few days, people would have to line up at a testing facility – possibly for hours, given how relatively few PCR testing facilities exist in some countries – all just to prove that they don’t carry this particular virus. The idea is absolutely absurd. Because what about the next virus that overwhelms hospitals, as French newspaper titles suggested already occurred here in France in 2018, in 2017, in 2016 and in 2015? In fact, it seems like there’s barely a flu season that goes by during which French hospitals aren’t overwhelmed.

And yet, the flu shot has always been optional. Every year here in France and in North America, there’s a massive annual push for everyone to run out and get the seasonal flu shot regardless of personal circumstance or susceptibility. The notion of sacrificing domain over one’s own body – which is about the only thing that we ultimately control in our time on this planet – under the pretext of the greater collective has long been the propaganda imposed on society annually for years, even as some doctors privately advise patients who aren’t at risk not to bother with it.

Once freedom is taken away, it’s rarely ever restored – particularly if the populace has grown resigned, complacent, or indifferent. Covid-19 vaccine passports or territorial green passes could very well lead to more impositions that hijack personal autonomy. Because what exactly is stopping any creeping authoritarianism once states accept that they can force individuals into a system whereby everyday life is impossible unless they jump the hoops and tick the boxes dictated by the state?

Covid-19 is just one virus. But what about next year’s flu? Is that going to be added to the vaccine passport, as well, given that every year it seems to overwhelm hospitals? It’s just too tempting for governments not to throw more bricks onto a foundation like a passport or pass that they’ve already created and that citizens have already accepted, lest they find themselves effectively banned from everything that they used to take for granted in their daily life.

In the extreme, such access passes could slide toward something like China’s digital social credit system, introduced in 2014, that pegs everyday access to things like travel and public sector employment to points earned or lost in relation to professional and personal interactions, court records, financial and physical health.

If the European Commission insists on Covid vaccination passes, then it’s up to Macron to keep his promise to voters and safeguard individual French citizens’ right of personal autonomy. Even if that means pulling France out of the European Union.

Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and host of an independently produced French-language program that airs on Sputnik France. Her website can be found at rachelmarsden.com

March 5, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , , | Leave a comment

Western Powers Can Save Iran Nuclear Deal – By Honoring It

Strategic Culture Foundation | February 26, 2021

The international signatories to the nuclear accord with Iran have now a three-month window to salvage that landmark deal. The onus is on the United States to return to the Joint Comprehension Plan of Action (JCPOA) – as the accord is formally titled. Washington must do this unconditionally, beginning with lifting its economic sanctions from Iran. The European states have a duty to advocate Washington to meet its obligations. And all of the Western powers have a duty to honor a treaty which bears their signatures. Castigating Iran for alleged breaches is a cowardly distraction from the real problem.

This week Iran averted a further serious breakdown in the JCPOA after negotiating an interim inspection compromise with the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Iran has suspended so-called short-notice inspections at nuclear and military sites for three months, but will continue recording video footage at the sites which it will then provide to the IAEA for monitoring and verification purposes as required under the JCPOA. If, however, the United States does not cancel its sanctions on Iran by this period then the surveillance videos will be destroyed, and one can assume that the JCPOA will be finally doomed.

Let’s recap on how we arrived at this impasse. The JCPOA was signed in July 2015 by the United States, Britain, France, Germany (the E3), Russia, China and Iran. It was subsequently ratified by the UN Security Council. The accord took several years of painstaking negotiations to complete and was widely seen as a landmark in diplomacy and an important achievement towards improving peace and security in the Middle East – Israel’s continued possession of nuclear weapons notwithstanding.

In exchange for Iran taking the unprecedented step of severely curtailing its civilian nuclear program (a program it is entitled to pursue as a signatory of the 1970 Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty), the other international powers were mandated to cancel a raft of Western and UN sanctions imposed on Iran.

Then Donald Trump got elected as US president in 2016 and set about sabotaging the JCPOA which he disparaged as the “worst deal ever”. Trump walked the US away from the accord unilaterally in May 2018 and promptly re-imposed crippling sanctions on Iran. This was part of a “maximum pressure” policy of aggression towards Iran by the Trump administration which was rationalized by citing baseless allegations that the Iranians were secretly building nuclear weapons and conducting malign operations in the region.

Not only that but the Trump administration threatened all other signatories to the JCPOA with extraterritorial “secondary sanctions” if they continued doing business with Iran. Russia and China have ignored those American threats, but lamentably the European Union has feebly caved in to Washington’s demands. Billions of euro-worth of investment and trade deals with Iran were scrapped by the Europeans in deference to Washington’s bullying diktat. In effect, as far as relations between Iran and the Western powers are concerned the JCPOA has delivered nothing of benefit to the Iranian people despite Tehran’s erstwhile full compliance with the accord.

The combination of the United States unilaterally abrogating an international treaty, and the Europeans complying with unlawful punitive measures against Iran, then resulted in Tehran taking subsequent steps to gradually wind down – but not revoking – its commitments to the JCPOA. Those steps include surpassing limits on enrichment of uranium and stockpiles of the enriched nuclear material. Iran is within its right to carry out these “remedial actions” under the provisions of the JCPOA if other signatories do not meet their obligations. And the US and EU have clearly not met their obligations.

The latest suspension by Iran of inspections from the IAEA must be seen in the wider context of responding to the Western powers reneging on the implementation of an international treaty to which they are signatories.

Newly inaugurated President Joe Biden has stated his intention to return the United States to the JCPOA. Biden has also dismissed the “maximum pressure” policy of his predecessor as a failure.

However, the Biden administration is insisting that it is Iran which must first return to full compliance with the nuclear accord.

It is somewhat disconcerting that the European trio of Britain, France and Germany issued a joint statement this week censoring Iran for halting inspections from the IAEA. The E3 urged Iran to resume “full compliance” of the JCPOA.

The Europeans would have more credibility and authority if they showed some backbone in censoring the United States for its egregious failure to honor the nuclear accord. The Europeans say little if nothing when it comes to holding the US to account. It is the Europeans who have aided and abetted Washington in its backsliding and abuse of sanctions.

Russia and China have, however, rightly kept the focus on the priority thing to do, which is for the US to return immediately and unconditionally to abiding by the JCPOA, including lifting all sanctions from Iran.

At a time of global pandemic and particular hardship for Iran it is morally imperative for the United States to end its unlawful and barbaric sanctions regime. The only way to build trust is for the Biden administration to reverse the violations. If the United States does not take the morally and legally honorable steps then the suspicion of an ulterior agenda will be fatal for resolving the impasse. The Biden team talks about “lengthening and strengthening” the accord. It sounds suspiciously like Washington is trying to extricate further concessions from Iran beyond the concessions that it had originally agreed to when the JCPOA was signed in 2015. Is the Biden administration pandering to its regional allies Israel and Saudi Arabia who are implacably opposed to the accord? Biden and his Secretary of State Antony Blinken have both stated publicly that this US administration will consult closely with Israel on all regional policies.

It is being reported that Europe is trying to facilitate “informal” talks between Iran and the United States. There should be no need for such cloak and dagger shenanigans. The Western powers can salvage the nuclear deal in a much more straightforward way – by honoring it.

February 26, 2021 Posted by | Deception, Wars for Israel | , , | 1 Comment

After ban on Russian TV news Latvia now will criminalize watching ‘illegal’ cross border channels

RT | February 18, 2021

Tens of thousands of Russian-speaking Latvians will be turning down the volume and listening out for neighborhood snoopers after a new law came into force that will see viewers of unlicensed satellite TV fined just for tuning in.

Earlier this month, local media reported that the Seimas, the Baltic nation’s parliament, had adopted a bill in its final reading that will criminalize people for watching unauthorized broadcasts.

The networks that will be affected are said to include dozens of Russian television channels for which signals can be picked up from across the border. More than one in three Latvians speaks Russian at home, but dozens of broadcasters showing programs in the language have had their licenses revoked and been banned from the country’s airwaves since earlier this month.

Ivars Abolins, the chairman of Latvia’s National Council for Electronic Media (NEPLP), issued a statement backing the ban. “We have protected, are protecting, and will protect our information space,” he said. Regulators claim that talk show guests on the Russian-speaking channels have incited hatred and called for war in Europe.

The Russian Embassy in Riga issued a stern protest in response. In a post to its Facebook page it said that the policy was “in the best traditions of dictatorship.”

Riga’s move has likely been inspired by the fact that “Harmony,” the country’s main opposition party, is led by Russian speakers and has close links to the leftist Russian grouping, “Fair Russia.” Harmony won 23 of the 100 seats in the Seimas in the 2018 election.

“Violation of free speech? That’s just the start of it,” it added. “Apparently, in a free market environment, Latvian television channels cannot compete, even in the information space of their own country.”

However, under the old rules, while the channels themselves were prohibited, plucky viewers intent on getting a fix of their favorite shows in their native language did not fall foul of the law. Now though, consumers themselves are likely to face financial penalties if they are caught watching illicit programming. Lawmakers note that 62,000 households tuned into illegal satellite broadcasts in 2018, the most recent year for which figures were given.

The Reporters Without Borders NGO issued a warning last summer after a number of Baltic nations moved to ban several separate RT channels. The free speech watchdog said that “While it is legitimate to defend and promote independent and reliable news reporting,” it “regards these closures as a misuse of the EU sanctions policy.”

“Rather than banning media outlets on loose grounds and on a flimsy legal basis,” it argued, “countries can require all media to guarantee editorial independence and can then impose legitimate sanctions, subject to judicial control, when it is established that media outlets have not complied with their obligations.”

Ukraine has also recently come under fire from both Russian and European politicians for its decision to block and ban a series of Russian-language outlets, run and produced by Russian-speaking Ukrainians from within the country. One in three Ukrainians speaks Russian at home as a first language, but Kiev has claimed the channels amount to pro-Kremlin propaganda.

February 18, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Russophobia | , , , | Leave a comment