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Iran Can Supply Itself With Nuclear Fuel Without Russia’s Help – Atomic Energy Body

Sputnik – 28.05.2020

TEHRAN – Iran is capable of supplying itself with nuclear fuel even without Russia’s assistance, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI) spokesman, Behruz Kamalvandi, said on Thursday.

“Fuel is delivered from Russia each time we need it, without any problems. If we run out of fuel, we will be capable of producing it, without resting on any other country,” Kamalvandi told the ISNA news agency.

His comment came soon after the United States announced ending sanction waivers covering Iran’s nuclear projects.

In late April, Russia delivered a fresh batch of nuclear fuel to Iran’s Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, necessary for efficient functioning of the reactor.

May 28, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

Did Trump Just Cancel a Potential Double-War?

The Saker • Unz Review • May 27, 2020

At this time of writing, it is too early to declare the danger over, but at least three out of five Iranian tankers have made it safely to Venezuela (confirmation from TeleSur and PressTV). Furthermore, while we should never say “never”, it appears exceedingly unlikely that the US would let three tankers pass only to then try to impede the arrival of the other two. So it ain’t over until its over, but as of right now things look way better than last week.

Besides, this is mostly a symbolic issue. While these 5 tankers will make a difference, it won’t be a huge one, especially considering the devastating consequences which the US sanctions, sabotage and subversion have inflicted on Venezuela.

Still, symbols are important, if only because they create a precedent. In fact, I would argue that the latest climbdown by Trump is no different than all his other climbdowns: Trump has had a very consistent record of threatening fire and brimstone before quietly deflating and walking away. And since he did that many times now, we have to wonder whether this strategy is effective or not?

One could argue that this strategy could be described by saying that you put the maximum pressure on the other side in the hope that the bluff will entice the adversary to fold. This could be a semi-credible argument were it not for a very simple but crucial problem: so far the other guys have never folded. In other words, Trump’s bluff has been called over and over again, and each time Trump had to quietly deflate.

Some will say that this only proves that Trump is truly a peace-loving President who, unlike his predecessors, does not want to go to war. But then, what about the cruise missile strikes on Syria? What about the murder of Soleimani?

Truth be told, the kindest thing we can say about this strategy (assuming that it is a strategy to begin with, not the evidence of a total lack of one) is that it is tantamount to yelling “fire!” in a crowded movie theater: the fact that Trump did not set any movie theater ablaze hardly justifies his yelling “fire” in such a dangerous environment. The perfect example of this kind of irresponsible behavior is the murder of General Soleimani which truly brought the US and Iran a millimeter away from a real, full-scale war.

Furthermore, while I salute Trump’s climbing down following the Iranian strikes, I also believe that in doing so he hurt the international image of the US. Why? Think about this: this is the first time ever (if I am not mistaken) that the US was the object of a major military strike coming from another state-actor and did not retaliate. In the past and until this Spring, the US always held the view that if anybody dares to mess with it this would result in very serious consequences. Thus the US upheld a world order in which some where a lot more equal than others. Specifically, “others” had to meekly accept US strikes and shut up whereas Uncle Shmuel could strike left and right and expect no retaliation.

By “accepting” the Iranian counter-strike, Trump did essentially place an “equal” sign between Iran and the US. He probably never understood that, but in the region this was understood by all.

Just as Hezbollah destroyed the myth of Israeli impunity, Iran destroyed the myth of US impunity.

Still, I will always prefer the politician who does not start a war (for whatever reason) to one who would. I also have no doubt whatsoever that Hillary would have started one, or even several, wars. But the fact that Hillary would have been even worse than Trump is hardly a reason to start fawning about Trump’s brilliant “5D chess” genius or peace-loving policies…

Trump reminds of a guy pointing a gun a people in the street only to later say “but it was a toy gun, I never meant to really shoot anybody.” This is definitely better than shooting people with a real gun, but this is hardly a sign of maturity or intelligence.

The other problem with this “strategy” (let’s assume for argument’s sake that this is a strategy of some kind): each time the “indispensable nation” and “sole hyperpower” has to climb down, it increasingly looks like a paper tiger. Not looking like such a paper tiger is probably the main reason behind Michael Ledeen’s famous words “Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.” In a strictly evil and imperialistic sense, Ledeen’s strategy makes a lot more sense than what Trump has been doing.

As Marx famously said, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” The outcome of what some now call the “Battle of Macuto Bay” is a perfect example of this: if the Bay of Pigs was the “root case” then the disaster in Grenada was the tragedy and the Battle of Macuto Bay the real farce.

Humor can be a devastating weapon and anybody who has studied the late Soviet Union (in the late Brezhnev years and after) knows how the Russian people ridiculed the Soviet leaders with literally thousands of jokes.

A real imperialist would much rather be hated than ridiculed, and while Trump himself probably does not realize that he is the laughingstock of the planet, his aides and deep state bosses most definitely do and that is very, very dangerous.

Why?

Because the pressure to, once again, “pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall” increases with each climbdown (see my article “Each “Click” Brings Us One Step Closer to the “Bang!” for a fuller discussion of this).

Besides, finding an even smaller and weaker country than Venezuela will be hard (maybe the Island of Saba? or Grenada again? who knows?). And potentially very dangerous.

The other problem is predictability. Any international system requires that its most powerful actors be predictable. In contrast, when a major international actors acts in what appears to be unpredictable, irrational or irresponsible manner, this puts the entire stability of the system at risk.

This, by the way, is also why it is so disastrous that the US has withdrawn from so many international organizations or treaties: the participation in international organizations and treaties indicate that the US is willing to play by the same rules as everybody else. The fact that the US is ditching so many of its former international obligations only shows that the US has gone rogue and is from now on totally unpredictable.

Finally, there are also lessons for Moscow here, the main one being that when confronted with a determined adversary, the Empire tries to bluff, but eventually folds. True, Moscow has to be much more careful than Tehran simply because the consequences of a US-Russian war would be dramatically worse than even a major conflict in the Middle-East. Yet it is also true that over the past years the Russian armed forces did have the time to prepare for such a conflict and that now Russia is ready for pretty much anything the US could try to throw at her, at least in purely military terms.

In contrast to the military posture of Russia, the political environment in Russia has changed for the worse: there is now a potentially very dangerous “hardline” opposition to Putin which I have christened the “6th column”, as opposed to the liberal and pro-western 5th column. What these two “columns” have in common is that they both will categorically oppose pretty much anything and everything Putin does. The 6th column, in particular, has a seething hatred for Putin which is even more rabid than what the liberal 5th column usually express. Check out this excellent video by Ruslan Ostashko, who prefers the term “emo-Marxists” and who very accurately describes these folks. Whether we think of them as 6th-columnists or emo-Marxists does not matter, what matters is that these folks are eager to act like a soundboard for any and all anti-Putin rumors and fakes. While Putin certainly has his flaws, and while the economic policies of the Medvedev, and now Mishustin, government are a far cry from what most Russians would want, it is also true that these two “columns” are objectively doing the bidding of the Empire, which could present a real problem if the current pandemic-induced economic crisis in Russia is not tackled more effectively by the government.

I have always said that Iran, while being much weaker than Russia, has consistently shown much more courage in its dealings with the Empire than Russia. Furthermore, Iran’s policies are primarily dictated by moral and spiritual considerations (as in the case of Iran’s principled stance on occupied Palestine) while Russian policies are much more “pragmatic” (which is really a euphemism for self-serving). But then, Iran is an Islamic Republic whereas Russia still has to develop some kind of unifying and original worldview.

Conclusion:

For all his innumerable negative character traits and other flaws, it remains true that Trump has not launched a major war (so far). Yes, he has brought the world to the brink several times, but so far he has not plunged the world into a major conflict. How much of the credit for this truly should go personally to him is very debatable (maybe cooler heads in the military prevailed, I think of folks like General Mattis who, reportedly, was the one who stopped the US from seriously attacking Syria and settled for a symbolic strike). Some Russian analysts (Andrei Sidorov) even believe that the US is in no condition to fight any war, no matter how small. Furthermore, most (all?) Russian analysts also believe that the US is fully committed to a full-spectrum information and economic war to try to economically strangle both Russia and China. I think that it would be fair to say that nobody in Russia believes that the relationship with Trump’s US can, or will, improve. The tone in China is also changing, especially since the US has now launched a major anti-China strategic PSYOP. In other words, the US is merrily continuing down its current road which leads it to a simultaneous confrontation with not one, or even two, countries, but with a list of countries which seems to grow every day. So while it is true that in this case Trump appears to have canceled two wars, we should not assume that he won’t soon start one, if only to deflect the blame for his total mismanagement of the COVID19 crisis. Should that happen, we can only hope that all the “resistance countries” and movement will provide as much support as possible to whomever the Empire attacks next.

May 27, 2020 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 4 Comments

NATO rejects Russia’s offer to MUTUALLY freeze military drills amid Covid-19 pandemic

RT | May 26, 2020

NATO has ignored Moscow’s proposal to jointly put military exercises on hold while the world is dealing with the deadly Covid-19 pandemic. Russia said it can’t afford “unilateral concessions” to the Western bloc.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had addressed NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, proposing to mutually halt military drills as a “constructive and positive step” towards restraint amid the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak, Russian business newspaper Kommersant reported. NATO promptly rejected this idea.

The US-led military bloc’s spokesperson, Oana Lungescu, told the paper that NATO’s exercises are purely defensive and proportionate, while the enhanced posturing near Russia’s western borders is a response to Moscow ramping up its military potential in the Baltic Sea region.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Rybakov called NATO’s response “disappointing.” The Western bloc has “withdrawn to their close-minded positions, which they have been traditionally holding, and are adhering to regardless to the pandemic or Russia’s [new] proposals,” he noted.

The raging pandemic forced many countries to drastically alter their war games schedule, reducing the scope of many planned drills or cancelling them.

Last week, Lavrov announced that the nation’s military is “scaling down their exercises, and does not plan any exercises near the NATO’s borders.”

NATO, meanwhile, has significantly scaled down – but not stopped – its US-led Defender-Europe 20 war games, which were designed to be the alliance’s biggest joint exercise on the European continent since World War II, originally involving more than 37,000 troops.

Moscow has long been saying that the foreign military buildup along its borders is a threat to its security and undermines stability in Europe. NATO, in turn, has been calling on Moscow to revise the Vienna Document 2011 – an agreement that outlines the confidence-building measures, transparency, and third-party monitoring of military drills. Russia insists that minor changes will not resolve the current tensions but rather “legitimize” them.

Ryabkov stressed that if the Western bloc wants to improve the security situation in Europe, it should not only issue demands but also offer something “interesting to Russia in terms of maintaining its own national security.”

May 26, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , | 1 Comment

US prepares to withdraw the Treaty on Open Skies

By Lucas Leiroz | May 26, 2020

On Thursday, May 21, American President Donald Trump announced the decision to withdraw the United States from the Treaty on Open Skies, signed with Russia and ratified by 35 other countries in 1992. Trump says the reason for withdrawing from the agreement is the alleged violation of the terms of the treaty by the Russian Federation. In Trump’s words: “Russia did not adhere to the treaty. (…) Until they adhere, we will pull out”.

This is the third international arms control treaty from which Donald Trump has withdrawn since the beginning of his government. Two years ago, the United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as a nuclear agreement or Iranian agreement. Last year, the United States left the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF). Now, US withdraws the Treaty on Open Skies after accusing Russia of violating the treaty.

The Treaty on Open Skies was signed with the clear intention of contributing to world peace and a balance in the power game between nations, allowing signatories to freely fly their non-military and unarmed aircraft over the spaces of other member states. The agreement aims, above all, to improve mutual trust between nations through collection of information from each other during unarmed flights.

Despite Trump’s claims that the U.S. is withdrawing from the deal because of its violation by Russia, the evidence points to an entirely different response. American strategists have for years criticized the agreement and its strategic importance for the United States, stating that Washington gains greater advantage from the use of modern satellite systems, and does not need to comply with the rules and conditions of an international treaty for the safe collection of information. This means that the reason for leaving may be that Washington, not Moscow, has a much greater capacity to violate the treaty in many different ways.

The allegations against Russia – which relate to major recent events in regions of dispute and tension, especially on the border with Ukraine – are unfounded and somewhat distorted, clearly manipulated in order to justify a unilateral decision by the Trump administration. However, this is not the merit of the issue. The most worrying fact is how much the risks of world war increase with this US exit – which, in practice, means the end of this treaty that in recent years represented a great step in the history of diplomacy between Washington and Moscow.

Upon leaving the agreement, the US no longer has international rules concerning the use of aircraft – mainly espionage – in any country in the world, including the signatories to the treaty. In addition, there is the issue of spy satellites, which are not under discussion at the moment and are permitted under international space law. Thus, the risks of creating tensions with intelligence activities and unregulated collection of information are high, generating a global atmosphere of constant uncertainty, resuming the typical scenario of the Cold War years.

Still, the biggest losers from Trump’s decision will be his European allies, considering that these countries do not have the same military and intelligence capabilities as Washington, needing the Treaty completely to obtain information on Russian activities. If Russia comes out of the agreement, Europe will be completely vulnerable and once again American and European interests will be in deep shock.

It is also curious how tensions of this nature are created in the midst of a period of global emergency and collective concern about the advancement of the pandemic of the novel coronavirus. International organizations try to create the myth of the “union” of states and of global cooperation for the victory over the virus, which, as can be seen, is a big lie, especially when we take into account the American praxis.

The United States recently financed the invasion of Venezuela by Colombian mercenaries in an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the government of Nicolás Maduro; subsequently, they sent warships to the Caribbean Sea to surround Iranian ships reaching the Venezuelan coast; the American government has repeatedly accused China of creating and spreading the virus; now, unilaterally, the country withdraws from one of the most important treaties of military balance and peacekeeping, “justifying” its departure with alarmist accusations against Russia. After all, what is the American role in the current world power game? What is the interest behind so many aggressive maneuvers on the international stage while the world is distracted fighting the pandemic?

In fact, the stance of American foreign policy during the pandemic is being more aggressive than it was before the virus. It remains to be seen what the intention behind all these violent actions is. As for the Treaty, Washington is not leaving it for “Russian violations”, but because it no longer needs it.

Lucas Leiroz is a research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

May 26, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

EU admitted “American-led system” nears its end

By Paul Antonopoulos | May 26, 2020

European Union foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell told a gathering of German ambassadors on Monday that “analysts have long talked about the end of an American-led system and the arrival of an Asian century. This is now happening in front of our eyes.” He said that the coronavirus pandemic could be the catalyst to shift power from West to East and that “pressure to choose sides is growing”  for the EU, before adding that the 27-nation bloc “should follow our own interests and values and avoid being instrumentalised by one or the other.”

Borrell said “we only have a chance if we deal with China with collective discipline,” noting that an upcoming EU-China summit this autumn could be an opportunity to do so. “We need a more robust strategy for China, which also requires better relations with the rest of democratic Asia.”

As China, India, Japan, Indonesia and Russia will become some of the world’s biggest economies by 2030, according to Standard Chartered Plc, the 21st century is known as the “Asian Century.” So, the EU has a serious decision to make on whether to continue its hostile approach towards Russia if it wishes to have more straight forward trade access to Asia. Putin has made incentives for colonists to populate the Far East of Russia to boost its small population of under seven million people who live close to China to fully and better engage in the “Asian Century.”

European trade with Asia could be done through the Russian Far East port of Vladivostok and the Trans-Siberian transportation routes, and this would also bypass China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Macron last year made a Facebook post where he said “progress on many political and economic issues is evident, for we’re trying to develop Franco-Russian relations. I’m convinced that, in this multilateral restructuring, we must develop a security and trust architecture between the European Union and Russia.” With Macron emphasizing a European-Russian rapprochement, he then expanded on General de Gaulle’s famous quote that Europe stretches “from Lisbon to the Urals,” by saying that Europe reaches Vladivostok which is near the Chinese and North Korean border.

According to experts China’s foreign investment in the advanced development zone accounts for about 59.1% of all foreign investments in the region. The Russian Far East has a huge investment potential, especially with materials, natural resources, fisheries, and tourism, and China aims to take advantage of the mostly underdeveloped region. The region is not only resource rich, but is strategically located as it borders China, Mongolia and North Korea, and has a maritime border with Japan.

With France’s recognition of Vladivostok and Borrell now acknowledging that the power centers of the world are shifting to the East, the EU has little choice but to make a rapprochement with Russia and end its sanctions regime. In addition, it would be in the EU’s interests not to engage in anti-China actions on behalf of the U.S.

China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has meant that it has not only recovered and restarted its economy, but that it engages in large-scale soft power projections by delivering tons upon tons of medical aid to every region in the world and has sent doctors and nurses to the most affected countries. This comes as the U.S. is approaching 2 million cases of coronavirus and over 100,000 deaths. Earlier this month, the unemployment rate in the U.S. reached 14.7% with the Federal Reserve estimating it could reach a high of 25%. Pre-coronavirus data found that 29.9% of Americans live close to poverty while 5.3% of the population live in deep poverty and 11.1% of American households, were food insecure, meaning they had difficulty providing enough food for all people within the house. Despite the growing social and domestic problems in the U.S., it is unlikely that Washington will give up its global hegemony so easily.

But Borrell seems to have little confidence that the U.S. will maintain its global leadership and is now eyeing China and the East as the EU’s new main trading partner. Effectively, as the Anglo World attempts to maintain the Atlanticist dominance, the EU is recognizing that its future lies with Eurasia.

May 26, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , | 1 Comment

China, Russia can initiate probe of US bio-labs

Washington urged to be transparent with bio-weapons program

Drills for Radiological, Biological and Chemical Defence Troops

By Yang Sheng – Global Times – 2020/5/14

In order to hide the fact that the US is researching on biological weapons, the US will not respond to an international query on its bio-labs, Chinese military experts said, adding that China and Russia could initiate an investigation of bio-labs worldwide at the UN to pressure the US.

The US can’t just claim all reasonable inquiries to its bio-labs as “conspiracy theories,” and when US politicians keep accusing China’s lab in Wuhan as the origin of COVID-19 without providing any evidence, they should respond to the questions on US bio-labs, including the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, analysts said.

China and Russia can initiate an international investigation of all P3 and P4 labs worldwide, including the ones run by the US, at the UN Security Council, and US antiwar groups and media can also pressure Washington to be transparent on the question of its bio-labs, Chinese analysts suggested.

Washington’s unwillingness to support the idea of a protocol to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons in order to create a verification mechanism makes one wonder what goals the US seeks to achieve through its overseas bio-labs, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters on Wednesday, TASS reported.

Lavrov said at a news conference following an online meeting of foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on Wednesday that “These [US] laboratories are densely formed along the perimeter of the borders of the Russian Federation, and, accordingly, next to the borders of the People’s Republic of China,” the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Reasonable concerns

Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Thursday that “Russia has repeatedly voiced its concerns to the US about the labs in its neighbors like Ukraine and Georgia, but the US has ignored these concerns. The reason is simple – the US is hiding its bio-weapons program.”

The US has had a very advanced capability to develop chemical and biological weapons since the Cold War, and it had used them in Vietnam, like Agent Orange, which caused serious casualties and harm to Vietnamese civilians and even US soldiers, so it is reasonable for other countries to worry what the US is doing in those overseas bio-labs, said a military expert at a Beijing-based military academy who requested anonymity.

Jin Canrong, associate dean of School of International Studies, Renmin University in Beijing, said the questions that China and Russia raised about US labs are reasonable queries, which are totally different from the groundless accusations and conspiracy theories about the origin of COVID-19 made by some US congressmen and politicians. The US accusations were dismissed by US scientists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, and intelligence agencies.

“The US must be transparent and respond to international concerns over its bio-labs,” Jin noted.

US self-isolation

In response to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s previous groundless accusation of the Wuhan lab, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a press conference on May 8 that “According to open records we have access to, China has only two P4 labs, the highest bio-safety level lab, while the US has 13 that are either in operation, under expansion or in planning, according to a February report by the Federation of American Scientists.”

“The US also has 1,495 P3 labs, not including many other labs it built in territories of the former Soviet Union, like in Ukraine and Kazakhstan, and in many other places around the world… the US has been the only country that has blocked the resumption of negotiations on a verification protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention,” she remarked.

Song said “biological weapons research needs to be carried out in the environment and the people that the weapons might be used for. So, Russia and China, as the major strategic competitors of the US, are the targets, and that’s why the US built these labs in countries neighboring its two major rivals.”

“Additionally, building bio-labs overseas can avoid (impact on US territory) in a potential leak accident, and to avoid the legal problems and pressure from US media and antiwar groups,” Song noted.

Song said “if the US wants to launch an international investigation into Wuhan P4 lab, China and Russia can also initiate an investigation at the UN Security Council on all labs capable of researching bio-weapons. Not surprisingly, the US will refuse as it knows it is the one who is really developing bio-weapons.”

If China and Russia, the two influential UN Security Council permanent members, propose the investigation at the UN of all P4 and P3 labs worldwide, most member states will vote for it except the US, and this will embarrass Washington, Chinese observers said.

The Russian foreign minister said at the conference that “For almost 20 years, Russia and most other countries, including China, have been calling for a protocol on the convention that would establish a mechanism to verify and check states’ commitment not to create biological weapons.”

“The US stands almost alone against this initiative. Tensions around the issue have escalated and Washington’s unwillingness to ensure transparency of its military biological activities in various parts of the world raises questions about what is really going on there and what the actual goals are,” The Russian Foreign Minister pointed out.

Lavrov said that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is preparing an action plan to ensure sanitary and epidemiological safety – specifically bio-safety – with a summit to be held this year in St. Petersburg.

Song noted that “apart from putting pressure on the US, US civilian antiwar organizations and media can also contribute to pressuring Washington to be transparent on its bio-labs.”

May 24, 2020 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

‘Don’t complain, toe the line’: US envoy snaps at Germany for criticizing Open Skies Treaty pullout

RT | May 24, 2020

Berlin should pile pressure on Moscow instead of criticizing America’s withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty, a US envoy told the German foreign minister, as the two NATO allies clashed over Washington’s move to ditch the accord.

The US announced its intention to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty (OST) earlier this week, unnerving its NATO allies in Europe.

Among those calling for the preservation of the 2002 multilateral deal, which allows for surveillance flights over the territories of its signatories, was German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

Germany’s top diplomat sounded the alarm that the looming US withdrawal would “significantly reduce” the scope of the treaty, adding that Berlin would “work intensively” with “like-minded partners” to talk the US out of leaving the treaty in the following six months.

The rhetoric from the European powerhouse did not sit well with the US ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, who has courted controversy in the past over his repeated attempts to lecture Berlin on a range of domestic issues, from its military spending to the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

“Instead of complaining about the US reaction, Heiko Maas should have ramped up pressure on Russia in recent years so that it meets its obligations [under the Open Skies Treaty],” Grenell said in an interview with Rheinische Post on Saturday.

The ambassador reiterated Washington’s mantra that “Russia has not adhered to the Open Skies agreement for a long time,” lamenting that Germany still plans to abide by the OST despite the US concerns.

Germany is not the only country to have voiced its objections to the US move. In a joint statement, the foreign ministers of 10 EU countries, including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands, called the pact “a crucial element of the confidence-building framework.”

Maas’ call was echoed by Brussels, with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell pointing out that the treaty, which has allowed for more than 1,500 observation flights over various countries since 2002, “provides transparency and predictability.”

“Withdrawing from a treaty is not the solution to address difficulties in its implementation and compliance by another party,” Borrell said in a statement.

Russia has repeatedly denied the US accusations of not fulfilling its obligations under the OST, insisting that it has restricted flights over its territory only as a tit-for-tat response to similar moves by the US and its allies.

Despite being dissatisfied with the United States’ own compliance, Moscow expressed readiness to negotiate with Washington and to “do everything possible to keep the treaty intact.”

May 24, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

Russia, China won’t accept US nuclear superiority

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | May 23, 2020

Geopolitics has returned with a bang although Covid-19 is still very much around and a ‘second wave’ is also expected. The US President Donald Trump’s arms control negotiator, Special Presidential Envoy Marshall Billingslea said in an online presentation to a Washington think tank on Thursday that the United States is prepared to spend Russia and China “into oblivion” in order to win a new nuclear arms race.

As he put it, “The president has made clear that we have a tried and true practice here. We know how to win these races and we know how to spend the adversary into oblivion. If we have to, we will, but we sure would like to avoid it.”

We are back to the era of the Manhattan Project. The US is rebooting its 75-year old moribund chase of nuclear superiority over its adversaries. Its corollary also appeared on Thursday when the Trump administration announced that it will withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty of 1992 (which was first proposed by US President Dwight Eisenhower in 1955 and was ultimately pushed forward by President George H.W. Bush as a way of promoting stability in Europe after the Cold War ended.)

The Open Skies Treaty came into effect in 2002 with some 34 countries joining it, including Russia of course, which permits each party state to conduct unarmed reconnaissance flights over the others’ entire territories to collect data on military forces and activities under clearly defined rules of conduct as regards the type of monitoring equipment to be used, the procedures and so on.

The reconnaissance / surveillance flights could often be at short-notice so that the spying missions could be mounted faster than a satellite can be moved into position. Equally, the aircraft used are highly specialised and would have on-board observers of the states spied upon. The treaty retained many benefits for all sides and has a wider context insofar as it was a unique confidence-building measure that doubled up as critical underpinning to arms control agreements.

Washington is resorting to the by-now-familiar plea that it is withdrawing from the treaty due to repeated Russian violations of its terms, an argument the Trump administration had advanced last year also while scuttling the INF Treaty of 1987, which banned all of the US and Russia’s land-based ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and missile launchers with ranges of 500–1,000 kilometers (short medium-range) and 1,000–5,500 km (intermediate-range).

The US will formally withdraw from the Open Skies accord in six months, American officials have said. The news was confirmed by Trump himself midday, followed by a special briefing by the US State Department, kicking off a six-month clock before a formal exit occurs. The move was not a surprise, as Washington had signalled to its European allies toward the end of last year that the US would consider withdrawing.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has reacted that it had not violated the treaty and that a US withdrawal would be “very regrettable”, adding that the Trump administration was working to “derail all agreements on arms control”. The statement said,

“This decision is a deplorable development for European security. This US-initiated treaty is a major component of European security… US security concerns will not improve either and its international prestige is bound to be hurt. The policy to discard the Open Skies Treaty calls into question Washington’s negotiability and consistency. This is a source of serious concern even for US allies. Russia’s policy on the treaty will be based on its national security interests and in close cooperation with its allies and partners.”

Indeed, this is not the first arms control agreement that the Trump administration has abandoned. What we are witnessing is the Trump administration dismantling systematically the entire fabric of arms control inherited from the Cold War era. The keystone of arms control, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty or START agreement, expires in 2021, and there is little enthusiasm in the US for its extension.

The US’ dreams of attaining nuclear superiority over the former Soviet Union proved a chimera. The Trump administration’s enterprise can only meet a similar fate. In the Russian defence doctrine, global stability is riveted on strategic balance and there is no question of Moscow conceding nuclear superiority to the US, no matter what it takes.

A new dimension has now appeared in the pointed reference in the Russian statement to Moscow formulating its policy apropos the US decision on the Open Skies Treaty “in close cooperation with its allies and partners”. It hints at a Russian policy response in coordination with China. If so, the Russian-Chinese entente is being elevated to a qualitatively new level. It may be recalled that on the sidelines of an international affairs conference in Moscow last year, President Vladimir Putin had revealed that Russia is helping China build a system to warn of ballistic missile launches.

Putin added that “this is a very serious thing that will radically enhance China’s defence capability.” The seemingly inadvertent remark was calibrated to signal a new degree of defence cooperation between Russia and China at a juncture when Washington branded both as revisionist powers that challenge US interests globally and must be countered.

The period since October is characterised by growing belligerence in the US force projection toward Russia and China. The Chief of Staff of Russia’s North-Eastern Joint Command Mikhail Bilichenko said in December that US was boosting its activity near the Chukotka Peninsula, “increasing the grouping and practicing, among other things, the landing of an amphibious assault force.”

Earlier this month, a US Navy strike force of the 6th Fleet began operating in the Barents Sea, north of Russia, for the first time since the Cold War, further expanding its portfolio of Arctic operations by aircraft carriers and surface combatants in the past two years. Three Arleigh Burke-class Aegis destroyers – USS Donald Cook, USS Porter and USS Roosevelt along with fast combat support ship USNS Supply (T-AOE-6) are in the Barents Sea to “assert freedom of navigation and demonstrate seamless integration among allies,” according to a U.S. Navy news release.

Similarly, a longer-term struggle between the US and China is at a turning point, as the former rolls out new weapons and strategy in a bid to close a wide missile gap with China. Having got rid of the constraints under the INF Treaty, the Trump administration is planning to deploy long-range, ground-launched cruise missiles in the Asia-Pacific region. According to the White House budget requests for 2021 and Congressional testimony in March of senior U.S. military commanders, the Pentagon intends to arm its Marines with versions of the Tomahawk cruise missile now carried on US warships, It is also accelerating deliveries of its first new long-range anti-ship missiles in decades.

And, in a radical shift in tactics, the U.S. moves are aimed at countering China’s overwhelming advantage in land-based cruise and ballistic missiles. The US Navy maintains a powerful presence off the Chinese coast. The guided-missile destroyer USS Barry passed through the Taiwan Strait twice in April. And the amphibious assault ship USS America last month exercised in the East China Sea and South China Sea. A Reuters Special Report this month quoted a former senior Australian government defense official as estimating, “The Americans are coming back strongly. By 2024 or 2025 there is a serious risk for the PLA that their military developments will be obsolete.”

Beijing has been repeatedly warning that it will not stand by idly if the provocative US force projections continued. In an article last week in the Chinese Communist Party tabloid Global Times, the daily’s editor-in-chief Hu Xijin wrote that China should increase its nuclear warheads to 1,000 “in a relatively short time span”, and to procure at least 100 DF-41 strategic missiles, the country’s fourth-generation and latest solid-fuelled road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile with an operation range up to 15,000 kilometres.

Hu, a hugely influential opinion maker, argued that it is not sufficient for China to develop adequate nuclear deterrent, since the US government has identified China as its largest strategic competitor, and Washington is “more likely to exert all its power at its disposal to suppress and intimidate China… it is highly likely that it could even take similar risks that led to the Cuban missile crisis.” Therefore, China needs to possess such power that prevents the US politicians from “gambling with its nuclear armament and harming China.”

In plain terms, Hu said, if the US tries to subdue China in the Taiwan Straits or the South China Sea, which are its core interests, to considerations that defeating China is necessary for perpetuation of its global hegemony, then “China must fix its nuclear gap with the US.” At a time when Washington sharply increases its investment in nuclear arsenal armament as the “cornerstone of American politics and psychology,” China needs a bigger depot of nuclear weapons.

The post-Covid era is destined to see an acceleration of strategic competition between the big powers. The existing strategic conventions are being jettisoned and new weapons systems are being developed, such as very high-speed, hypersonic missiles. Also undermining deterrence is Artificial Intelligence. To tamp down the intensifying geopolitical contestation, a bolstering of the old arms control order would have helped but the opposite is happening.

May 23, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Plan to spend Russia & China ‘into oblivion’ in arms race will bankrupt only America

By Scott Ritter | RT | May 22, 2020

In a stunning display of arrogance, ignorance, and hubris, President Trump’s new arms control czar threatens to spend America’s adversaries into “oblivion” in any new arms race. But the joke is on him.

Trump’s newly appointed Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea has breathed new life into an historical interpretation that holds the United States won the Cold War with the Soviet Union by escalating an arms race that turned out to be unsustainable for Moscow, bankrupting the Soviet economy and accelerating the collapse of the Soviet Union as a political entity.

In remarks made to the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank, Billingslea noted that the threat of a new arms race would be enough to bring both China and Russia to the negotiating table for the purpose of crafting a new trilateral arms control treaty that would replace the current bilateral New START treaty, scheduled to expire in February 2021.

“We intend to establish a new arms control regime now, precisely to prevent a full-blown arms race,” Billingslea said. If, however, either Russia or China (or both) decided to forego negotiations and continue to pursue new strategic nuclear weapons, then President Trump “has made clear that we have a tried and true practice here”.

“We know how to win these races and we know how to spend the adversary into oblivion.”

There are numerous factors that mitigate against Billingslea’s seeming desire to refight the Cold War. First and foremost, the United States, like the rest of the world, exists in a new post-pandemic economic reality. Whether or not the American people or their elected representatives in Congress are prepared to shoulder the costs of an avoidable arms race with Russia and China while on the cusp of an economic depression is very much a debatable point.

Even if the political will for the kind of open-ended spending extravaganza required to “spend the adversary into oblivion” existed (and with 30-plus million Americans currently out of work, and millions more expected to follow, such thinking rests more in the realm of fantasy than reality), it is virtually impossible for the US today to replicate the conditions that existed back in the 1980s. The current Russian and US defense economies of today are a far cry from those that existed during the Cold War, a fact that bodes well for Russia, and less so for the US.

Russian defense industry today is founded on a legacy inherited from Soviet times, when defense industries took precedence over every other aspect of the Soviet economy and attracted the finest scientists and technicians, backed by a virtually unlimited budget. Under former Minister of Defense Dmitry Ustinov, the Soviet ballistic missile production base benefited from a multitude of research and design centers, each connected to its own supporting infrastructure of production facilities responsible for manufacturing diverse components and assembling them into finished products. By 1988, the Soviets had seven different ICBM types deployed. Those were a mix of third-, fourth- and fifth-generation liquid and solid fuel missiles.

While impressive in terms of scope, scale and quality, the Soviet ICBM procurement model was, in the long run, unsustainable. The demands generated by the perestroika reforms initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev beginning in 1985 meant the existing model of multiple design bureaus working in parallel in a virtually competition-free environment had to transition to a missile procurement model driven by cost accounting methods and the limitations imposed by a new era of bilateral strategic arms control agreements.

In the years leading up to the collapse of the Soviet Union, there remained only two missile design bureaus involved in the production of ICBMs. After the fall of the USSR, one of them – Yuzhnoye – fell under the control of Ukraine.

Today, Russia’s JSC Votkinsk Machine Building Plant produces the RS-24 Yars missile, deployed in both a mobile- and silo- based variant, and is developing the RS-26 Rubezh, a modification of the RS-24 capable of deploying the advanced Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle. Votkinsk also produces the solid-fuel RS-56 Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), its first foray outside of the world of ICBM development and manufacturing. In a sign of the times, the Makeyev JSC in Miass, which formerly only produced SLBM’s, is producing the massive RS-28 Sarmat ICBM, intended to replace the aging R-36 Soviet-era heavy silo-based ICBM.

The new Russian ICBMs are the finest in the world—no nation has anything that can compare, even the United States. They are also among the most cost-effective in the world today. The fact that these missiles are produced in a manufacturing environment plagued by shortages of materials needed to produce critical components is a testament to the resilience of the Russian defense industry, which has literally been forced to both adapt and overcome in the course of the three decades of economically difficult times that have passed since the end of the Soviet Union.

For its part, the US defense industry has been the benefactor of virtually limitless largesse, feeding off a bloated defense budget that has expanded from some $300 billion in 1990 to over $740 billion today. However, over the course of the past 30 years, this money has not been spent on modernizing the US strategic nuclear force. The example of the Minuteman III missiles serves as a point of illustration.

The United States currently deploys a force of 400 Minuteman III silo-based ICBM’s. The original Minuteman ICBM was developed at a cost of $17 billion (measured in 2020-equivalent dollars) over the course of five years. The Minuteman III—the version deployed today—is derived from the same 1960’s technology and was initially deployed in 1970. Originally designed for a lifetime of some 10 years, the Minuteman III has been subjected to a series of life-extension upgrades that will keep it viable until 2030. After this time, the missile must be replaced.

The US Air Force is currently developing a new silo-based ICBM, known as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD). The missile will be designed to last until 2075, and in addition to incorporating new technologies, will also involve significant upgrades to the related silos and launch control facilities. Current estimates published by the US Air Force for the cost of the GBSD are some $62 billion (by way of comparison, the total Russian military budget is approximately $65 billion).

Even this high cost is disputed by the Department of Defense’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) office, which projects the actual cost of the GBSD to be between $85 and 100 billion. One of the major reasons for this discrepancy lies in the fact that the United States has not designed a new ICBM since the 1970’s, with the MX Peacekeeper. The final contract for the GBSD is expected to be let in September 2020, although as the only bidder, Northrop Grumman, Inc. is expected to be the awardee. This fact alone makes the CAPE estimate seem overly conservative—Northrop Grumman has developed a well-earned reputation in defense industry circles for projects it is involved in coming in over budget and behind schedule. Based upon current examples of contractual cost overruns, the GBSD costs could skyrocket to $200 billion or so, and this number does not incorporate the negative impact on defense procurement resulting from the failure of Congress to pass a defense budget on time, making long-term procurement decisions impossible and further driving up the cost.

The GBSD is but one of a range of modernization programs being planned by the US, involving every aspect of its strategic nuclear triad. These programs, which include new manned strategic bombers and new missile-carrying submarines, are expected to cost more than $1.2 trillion over the course of the next 30 years—and these are conservative estimates. Given the spectacular budgetary inefficiencies in the US defense procurement system today, it is almost certain that any new strategic nuclear weapons system, whether it be an ICBM, SLBM or manned bomber, will cost the US taxpayer far more than originally planned, and more than likely perform far less than originally designed.

Marshall Billingslea can bluster all he wants about spending an adversary into oblivion. The reality is that the US is not prepared, politically or economically, to engage in any new arms race predicated on open-ended budgetary support.

In the Cold War, it was the Soviet Union playing catch-up to US superiority in the field of ballistic missile technology. Today the tables have been turned.  Any arms race will find the US operating from a disadvantage right out of the gate, with Russia already fielding the kind of fifth-generation missiles the US has yet to design, let alone produce.

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer. He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector. Follow him on Twitter @RealScottRitter

May 22, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

Russsian Foreign Ministry Press release on YouTube removing accounts of Krym 24 TV Channel, Anna News and News-Front

The Saker | May 20, 2020

We learned on May 20 that the US YouTube video hosting site has removed the accounts of Krym 24 Crimean television channel, as well as two Russian-language news agencies, Anna News and News Front.

Krym 24 is one of Crimea’s most popular sources of information. It is part of Crimea’s largest media holding company, Krym Television and Radio Company, operating through five television channels, three radio stations, a news portal and two websites. The Krym 24 team traditionally covers the most important major news in this Russian region.

Now that the Krym 24 account has been removed from YouTube, about 30,000 subscribers have lost access to videos with tens of millions of viewings. This US-owned platform has taken restrictive measures under the clearly far-fetched pretext of a “hosting rules violation.”

The fact that YouTube failed to provide any convincing evidence to clarify its actions, as well as the fact that the channel’s query remains unanswered, is unacceptable.

As you may be aware, on April 17, US-based Google LLC blocked the Federal News Agency’s account and the associated YouTube account, which resulted in removal of tens of thousands of documentaries and news reports posted by the agency. On an earlier occasion, in January 2019, Facebook moderators deleted, over 500 accounts related to Russia, including Sputnik news agency materials, on a far-fetched pretext.

These are just some examples of US online censorship of Russian news portals.

We consider YouTube’s actions as another act of discrimination against Russian-language media resources from US-controlled online platforms that systematically resort to arbitrary censorship of content in the Russian language.

This policy by US authorities represents a gross violation of US international obligations to ensure free and unfettered access to information, freedom of the media and freedom of expression.

We call on the related international agencies and human rights NGOs to respond to these egregious actions.

May 21, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 1 Comment

US nukes in Poland would not be a deterrent, but a MASSIVE provocation for Russia

By Scott Ritter | RT | May 19, 2020

The US has promoted the deployment of US nuclear weapons on Polish soil as part of NATO’s ‘nuclear sharing’ arrangement. Such a move would only increase the chances of the very war such a deployment seeks to deter.

For the second time in little more than a year, the US ambassadors to Germany and Poland have commented on matters of NATO security in a manner which undermines the unity of the alliance while threatening European security by seeking to alter the balance of power in a way that is unduly provocative to Russia.

Richard Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany and the acting director of national intelligence, put matters into motion by writing an OpEd for the German newspaper Die Welt, criticizing politicians from within Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition who were openly calling for the US to withdraw its nuclear weapons from German soil.

Adding fuel to the fire, the US ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher, tweeted out two days later that “If Germany wants to diminish nuclear capability and weaken NATO, perhaps Poland – which pays its fair share, understands the risks, and is on NATO’s eastern flank – could house the capabilities here.”

The action that provoked the Grenell-Mosbacher media blitz were comments made by Rolf Mützenich, the chairman of the Social Democratic Party in Germany’s parliament, calling for Germany to withdraw from its decades-old nuclear-sharing arrangement with NATO, noting that the deal had outlived its utility.

The US currently maintains a force of some 20 B-61 nuclear bombs on German soil, where they are earmarked for delivery by German aircraft during war. Since 1979, Germany has maintained a force of Tornado fighter-bombers dedicated to the nuclear-sharing mission. The decision by Germany to buy 30 US-manufactured F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft to replace the Tornado in its nuclear delivery mission prompted Mützenich’s outburst.

Grenell and Mosbacher last teamed up to shake the foundations of NATO-based European security in September 2019, when Grenell’s comments made during the course of an interview with a German newspaper sparked controversy among German politicians sensitive to US criticism of German defense spending levels. “It is actually offensive to assume that the US taxpayer must continue to pay to have 50,000-plus Americans in Germany,” Grenell said, “but the Germans get to spend their surplus on domestic programs.”

Grenell’s comments were in the context of President Donald Trump’s ongoing insistence that America’s NATO allies pay their fair share of the cost of NATO by increasing their respective defense spending to levels matching two percent of their GDP. Germany’s defense budget in 2019 was approximately €43 billion, representing 1.2 percent of GDP. German lawmakers were quick to criticize Grenell’s comments, noting that while Germany’s defense expenditures were far short of what had been promised, it would not allow itself to be “blackmailed” by the US over matters relating to its national security.

Mosbacher then jumped into the controversy, tweeting“Poland meets its 2% of GDP spending obligation towards NATO. Germany does not. We would welcome American troops in Germany to come to Poland.”

Some left-wing German politicians proposed that Germany take Grenell up on his offer and begin to negotiate the withdrawal of US troops from German soil (there are some 52,000 Americans – 35,000 soldiers and 17,000 civilians – stationed in Germany today).

But these same politicians made a comment that has proved prescient. “If the Americans pull out their troops,” they noted, “then they should take their nuclear weapons with them. Take them home, of course, and not to Poland, which would be a dramatic escalation in relations to Russia.”

This, of course, is precisely what the Grenell-Mosbacher tag team has proposed today.

“NATO’s nuclear sharing,” the current NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, wrote in an OpEd published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, “is a multilateral arrangement that ensures the benefits, responsibilities and risks of nuclear deterrence are shared among allies.”

“Politically,” Stoltenberg said, “this is significant. It means that participating allies, like Germany, make joint decisions on nuclear policy and planning, and maintain appropriate equipment.”

For its part, Russia has declared the US-NATO nuclear-sharing arrangement as operating in violation of relevant provisions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which prohibits the transfer by a nuclear weapons state of nuclear weapons to a non-nuclear weapons state. While the US challenges this Russian interpretation, the point is that the issue of NATO’s nuclear arsenal is an extremely sensitive one to Russia, made even more so when viewed in the context of the expansion of NATO that brought Poland and other eastern European countries into its fold.

Poland, along with the Czech Republic and Hungary, joined NATO in March of 1999, making a mockery of every assurance that had been given to the former Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, that NATO would never expand eastwards if Germany were allowed to unify.

Russian President Vladimir Putin pointedly referred to these guarantees during his speech to the Munich Security Conference in February of 2007, in the context of NATO’s continued expansion. “[W]e have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact? Where are those declarations today? No one even remembers them.”

Russia remembers. For example, on February 6, 1990, when the former West German foreign minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, met with then-British Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd, Genscher told Hurd that “The Russians must have some assurance that if, for example, the Polish Government left the Warsaw Pact one day, they would not join NATO the next.”

These assurances were made by the former US secretary of state, James Baker, to the former Soviet foreign minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, in February 1990, when Baker noted that before Germany could reunify, “There would, of course, have to be iron-clad guarantees that NATO’s jurisdiction or forces would not move eastward.”

These assurances were given, only to be violated during the administration of President Bill Clinton. Today, over 4,500 US troops are stationed on Polish soil, including a reinforced battalion-sized ‘battlegroup’ stationed along the so-called Suwalki Gap separating Poland from the Baltic nations.

“If Russian forces ever established control over the Suwalki region, or even threatened the free movement of NATO personnel and equipment through it, they would effectively cut the Baltic States off from the rest of the Alliance,” a NATO report written in 2018 noted. “Deterring any potential action – or even the threat of action – against Suwalki is therefore essential for NATO’s credibility and Western cohesion.”

For its part, Russia has repeatedly declared that it has no desire to enter a conflict with NATO. However, NATO’s expansion in Poland and other eastern European countries has increasingly placed Russian security interests at risk. The deployment of Aegis Ashore launchers onto Polish soil in an ostensible anti-missile role, while declared by NATO to be exclusively oriented toward protecting Europe from Iranian missiles, is viewed by Russia as a threat to its own strategic missile capability. In response, Russia has deployed nuclear-capable short-range missiles in its Kaliningrad exclave between Poland and Lithuania.

If NATO were to deploy nuclear weapons on Polish soil as part of any upgraded nuclear-sharing agreement, the threat to Russia would be intolerable – every launch of a Polish fighter-bomber would be seen as a potential existential threat, forcing Russia to increase its alert status along its western frontier, as well as its capability to rapidly neutralize such a threat should an actual war break out.

This does not mean that Russia would choose a preemptive nuclear attack – far from it. Instead, Russia would rely on the abilities of the front-line formations of its 1st Guards Tank Army and 20th Combined Arms Army to conduct deep penetration offensive operations designed to capture and/or destroy any forward-deployed nuclear weapons before they could be used. Far from deterring a war with Russia, any deployment of nuclear weapons by the US on Polish soil only increases the likelihood of the very conflict NATO purports to seek to avoid.

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer. He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector. Follow him on Twitter @RealScottRitter

May 19, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Biological Warfare and Covid19

By Gilbert Doctorow | May 17, 2020

In the ‘fake news’ exchanges between China and the USA, the question of whose biological warfare lab may have developed and lost control over the coronavirus has figured prominently, although most intelligence agencies seem to agree that the virus had natural causes and was not manufactured by humans anywhere.

At the same time, it seems to me that no one is talking about how nations having cutting edge experience in biological warfare can apply that knowledge to combatting the virus. In Western media there is one tiny exception that is not properly drawn out and explained: namely the mention that the US Army is contributing to efforts of private pharmaceutical concerns to develop a vaccine.

Meanwhile, the fact that the Russian military is being brought into action on the Covid19 front hardly figures in Western coverage, except as related to the Russian mercy mission to Lombardy, when giant Russian freight aircraft brought in equipment and military medics to assist the vastly overwhelmed Italian medical establishment to cope with the tide of infected, ailing and dying. At that point there were some snide comments to the effect that the Russians were in Italy on an intelligence gathering mission, not truly humanitarian in motivation.

It escaped mention in the media, though surely did not escape notice in our intelligence services that the Russian mission to Italy was a powerful demonstration of what Russia’s military has learned in the domain of biological warfare. Italian journalists expressed their amazement at the specialized motorized equipment that the Russians brought to disinfect the towns, from streets to building by building, often using for interior work not chemicals but oxygen as the sanitizing agent.

If Britain, for example, has any similar insights in combatting biological agents at its Porton Down facility (so well publicized by the Skripal case), then we have heard nothing about these capabilities being harnessed for combatting the ongoing pandemic.

I make the foregoing remarks about Russia’s very special knowledge in the realm of biologicals because it is a possible additional reason why the country so far has an astonishingly low mortality rate compared to most countries in Western Europe and the USA. Perhaps from the same pool of knowledge, it would appear that the Russians are getting much better results with their use of ventilators to treat the worst affected cases of Covid19.

We have heard a lot about ventilators in the past two months everywhere in Europe and the USA. They were said to be in grave shortage in New York as the epidemic approached its peak there. What no one has talked much about is how capable our medical practitioners have been to achieve life-saving results with these devices. If I am not mistaken, there was mention several weeks ago that 88% of those put on ventilators in New York died. Here in Belgium it appears to be more than 50% die.

Does it have to be that way, or is it the lack of know-how in using these sophisticated devices to treat Covid19 that explains these shocking results? A very interesting program on Russian television several weeks ago indicated that they have been experimenting with the gas mixtures used in ventilators, in particular with the volume of helium versus oxygen to find the right balance whereby the oxygen is not blocked by the virus but in turn purges the virus from the lungs and allows the oxygen levels in the blood to return to levels sustaining life. We do not hear a peep about these issues in the Belgian media, for example.

If I may sum up, when the crisis passes and our journalists and civic activists begin their assessment of what has gone wrong in Western Europe to allow the levels of mortality to reach the shocking levels we have seen, let us hope attention will be given to the questions I have raised here, as well as to the issue I discussed yesterday:  why our national governments did not open their checkbooks and order the urgent construction of dedicated state of the art hospitals to treat coronavirus patients well apart from the normal hospital establishments which were overtaken by the virus and ceased to perform their essential services for the non-infected population in oncology, in cardio-vascular medicine and the like. The Russians and the Chinese have done precisely that.

©Gilbert Doctorow, 2020

[If you found value in this article, you should be interested to read my latest collection of essays entitled A Belgian Perspective on International Affairs, published in November 2019 and available in e-book, paperback and hardbound formats from amazon, barnes & noble, bol.com, fnac, Waterstones and other online retailers. Use the “View Inside” tab on the book’s webpages to browse.]

May 17, 2020 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment