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German opposition MPs bash Merkel government over refusal to disclose information on Navalny case

By Jonny Tickle – RT – January 21, 2021

MPs from Germany’s left-wing Die Linke party have accused the country’s government of acting suspiciously after it refused to answer most of their questions about legal assistance requested by Russia over the Navalny case.

In recent months, on multiple occasions, the Kremlin has demanded information from Germany about the alleged poisoning of Alexey Navalny. The opposition figure arrived in Berlin in a coma on August 22 and spent the next five months convalescing in the city. According to Moscow, its requests for details have been rejected, preventing a thorough investigation into the events surrounding the alleged attack.

A letter, written by parliamentarians Amira Mohamed Ali and Dr. Dietmar Bartsch on behalf of the party’s entire Bundestag representation, asked the federal authorities for information on what exactly Russia had asked for and how Berlin had responded. The questions came after Moscow accused the Germans of failing to fulfill their obligations under the 1959 European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters.

The government revealed that Russia had requested legal assistance on four separate occasions, but “essentially did not reply,” according to MPs Gregor Gysi and Alexander Neu. Ten out of a total of 16 questions were answered with “no comment.”

The answer received by the left-wing politicians cited the need to protect “state secrets” and “cooperation with foreign partners,” noting that these aspects are more important than keeping elected officials in the loop.

“Disclosure of the information requested would be particularly detrimental to the welfare of the state because there is a risk that details will become known that are particularly worthy of protection in the context of cooperation with foreign partners,” the government noted, pointing to the fact that the MPs’ right to ask questions is limited by interests deemed to be constitutionally protected.

“[By refusing to answer], the federal government exposes itself to suspicion,” Gysi and Neu wrote, highlighting that the government has no obligation to protect Russian state secrets. “What are Germany’s state secrets regarding the government’s handling of Russia’s requests for legal assistance? … The failure of the Federal Government to answer these questions is neither constitutional nor democratic.”

On Monday, Gysi condemned the imprisonment of Navalny, noting his hope that the anti-corruption activist would be released.

January 21, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

Massive new gas field discovered in Russia’s Far East

RT | January 13, 2021

Russian energy giant Rosneft has announced the discovery of a huge gas condensate field in the Far Eastern republic of Yakutia. It contains over 75 billion cubic meters of natural gas and 1.4 million tons of condensate.

The new deposit is part of the company’s drilling campaign to explore the region’s oil and gas potential.

The discovery was made by Rosneft’s subsidiary Taas-Yuryakh Neftegazodobycha. A joint venture between Rosneft (50.1 percent), BP and a consortium of Indian companies, Taas-Yuryakh Neftegazodobycha operates in 10 license areas. Among those is the Srednebotuobinskoye oil and gas condensate field, which is one of the largest assets of Rosneft in Eastern Siberia.

Rosneft recently announced discoveries of large oil and gas fields in the Kara Sea, saying that overall, more than 30 “prospective structures” were identified there. The results of the drilling prove “the discovery of a new Kara offshore oil province,” the energy giant said.

January 13, 2021 Posted by | Economics | | 4 Comments

Whatever is Wrong with Mike Morell?

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By Steve Brown | Ron Paul Institute | January 7, 2021

Obama – er, Biden – pushed hard for the removal of Syria’s Assad and engineered US destabilization of Syria partly at the behest of Israel in 2011 and 2014 , in part to allow Israel free reign to annex the Jordan Valley and West Bank, in tandem with Israel’s long-standing annexation of the Golan. Yes, the Israeli Nile-to-Euphrates agenda is alive and quite well, not just among Israel’s 3rd templars, but within Biden’s proto-expansionist regime in the DC wings, too. Now, what’s that again about Russia Russia? Biden’s Russia, Russia? There’s just one problem for the Axis of Evil’s plan going forward: Russia’s continued opposition to the US plan in Syria.

Russia likely anticipated the complete destabilization of the Middle East by the US and its Israeli ally by design in 2014, where Takfiri malign infestation of the region not only threatened Europe, but Russia too, with a further militarist threat to Iran and West Asia. Russia stands in the way of that Imperial agenda, and that’s a big deal for Washington’s elite donor class. Russia also provided succor to Ed Snowden, when the DC shark pit would have crucified him alive; just as the same bloodthirsty pack will crucify Julian Assange too should they ever get their bloody incisors into him.

Now, rather than risk world war, the former US regime chose to tread a fine line with Russia in Syria, although outright war was much closer than the public realized or knew at the time. The current shape-of-things-to-come will test that envelope once more, and in a very big way. By definition, the reappearance of war-criminal and dinosaur Madeliene Albright, to re-blight a thoroughly blighted major media proves that intent. Albright’s abysmal record and advanced years have evidently not prevented her from seeking a new term within the putrefying endless expanse of DC’s Neoliberal cesspool.

Lately the voluble Albright has graced the CIA-corporate-led media to tout all subjects great and small, whether the contagion and failed US foreign policy, to the Balkans  and somewhat erratic behavior of others. Apparently the non-apologetic self-acknowledged child-killer is safe for the time being for the DC establishment to trot out again — after all these years — and Albright holds her CIA-surveillance state brief well, even at the tidy age of 83.

Along with Albright and other foreign policy wonks littering the Biden-Harris space (Jen Psaki, Sam Power, and Wendy Sherman etc) Mike Morell’s reappearance has been as inspired and imaginative as his call to murder Russians (with Iranians thrown in for good measure, of course). Which apparently posed no problem for the incorporated CIA-run major media at the time; and whether Morell’s twitter account was ever suspended then for publicly threatening violence, remains unknown.

Notably the recent storming of the US bastille on January 6th caused our dear Mike to lament this failed example of democracy-in-action via a televised CBS news interview on that day, Mike posing that such brazen acts could be an inspiration for anti-American propaganda to be exploited by none other than… er, well, ahem… the Russians and RT! When a not-so-incredulous but mainly pandering CBS co-host pressed Mike about how Russia could possibly be running the Proud Boys to storm the capitol?? … our dear Mike back-pedaled a bit to say, well, like always (but never proven) the Russians definitely did hack Hillary in 2016 and cost her the election. Leaving hosts and viewers alike somewhat baffled, but fortunately the CBS ‘analyst’s’ cum CIA guy’s conversation moved on, saving further embarrassment.

If public consciousness were not just a few milliseconds, the irony of media claims that Trump’s allegations about voter fraud are baseless since proof has not yet been provided, would not be lost on the public, when compared to US intelligence claims that Russian collusion in 2015 cost Hillary the election when no proof or evidential record of that has ever been provided, either. But then again, Morell is a former CIA spy guy and CBS anchor, so that’s just how he rolls…

In closing we are left with one final perplexing and inevitable question: which CIA-led news network will pick up Gina Haspel and Mike Pompeo as news analysts going forward? CBS too? And who is the next Clinton-Obama dinosaur and war criminal to re-appear and pollute the new regime in DC?

For certain, we shall see.

Steve is an antiwar activist and a published scholar on the US monetary system.

Twitter: @newsypaperz

January 13, 2021 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sergey Lavrov’s Reality Check

By Stephen Lendman | January 4, 2020

Lavrov and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are the preeminent diplomats of our time.

Respected for their straight talk candor and support for the rule of law and cooperative relations with other countries, their agendas are polar opposite how their Western counterparts operate.

Lavrov stressed that Russia “has a peaceful and predictable foreign policy,” adding:

“We remain open to joint efforts, based on mutual respect, with anyone who is willing to reciprocate.”

“We are not playing zero sum geopolitical games, and we are not acting in the spirit of an archaic concept of spheres of influence.”

“Quite the contrary. We are taking practical action to implement the idea that large-scale trans-border problems can only be settled through joint efforts based on the principle of solidarity.”

The above is worlds apart from politicized actions by the US and its imperial partners in pursuing their interests at the expense of nations they seek dominance over.

Russia’s higher standard based on the rule of law and multi-world polarity rejects their war on humanity, their diabolical hegemonic aims.

Russia is open to dialogue with all nations, including the US if it ceases “lecturing and the policy of blackmail and ultimatums,” said Lavrov.

Clearly it’s not in the cards. Notably it won’t happen when [or if] Biden/Harris replace Trump.

Russia strongly favors extending New START to halt Washington’s reckless arms race that threatens world peace and stability.

Trump regime hardliners rejected what the vast majority of nations support.

Despite Biden’s rhetorical support for extending New START, it’s unclear if he’ll pursue it responsibly when taking office.

Little time remains. New START expires on February 5 if not renewed.

Lavrov explained that Republicans and Dems are hellbent for ensuring military superiority over other nations — no matter the cost and risk to world peace and stability.

“The arms control system has fallen victim to (Washington’s) destructive policy,” Lavrov stressed, adding:

“The Americans have destroyed a number of vital agreements and are doing their best to promote initiatives that would benefit them alone.”

“At the same time, they have shown complete disregard for the security interests of other countries.”

New START is the last remaining Russia/US arms control agreement.

It limits “the nuclear missile potential of the world’s two largest nuclear powers and ensures predictability and verifiability of their activities in this sphere,” said Lavrov.

Russia responsibly addresses vital geopolitical issues in stark contrast to Washington’s hegemonic aim for unchallenged global dominance by whatever it takes to achieve it.

Notably it includes transforming sovereign independent nations into pro-Western vassal states — wars, sanctions, color revolutions, and old-fashioned coups its favored strategies.

The US in cahoots with its imperial partners use “the divide-and-conquer approach,” said Lavrov.

“Russia will continue to promote peace, security and stability” in stark contrast to how imperial USA operates.

Commenting separately on US and other Western sanctions, Lavrov said the following:

Russia rejects “aggressive, unfriendly actions or whims” in pursuit of national interests at the expense of targeted nations and the rule of law.

On Libya, Lavrov explained that after US-led NATO raped and destroyed the country in 2011, Russia has gone all-out to restore its peace and stability diplomatically.

In late December, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova slammed EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell’s unacceptable comparison “between Russia’s efforts to combat (covid… aka seasonal flu) and the unwarranted terrorist activities of” (US-created-and-supported) ISIS.

“Spreading ‘fake information,’ ” Borrell unacceptably “demonise(d) the Russian media and journalists.”

“By calling for fighting media manipulation, he himself appears to be showing clear symptoms of the infodemic infection.”

He’s an imperial tool for the diabolical interests that Washington and its hegemonic EU partners in high crimes pursue.

January 4, 2021 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

Russia ready to ‘fight off’ Western attempts to seize its assets in $50bn battle with oligarchs over collapsed Yukos oil empire

RT | December 29, 2020

Any hope of a quiet 2021 for Russia has been dashed as one of the country’s top officials warns it faces a series of court battles that risk confrontation with the West, including a fight over the world’s largest legal bill.

In an interview published by Moscow news agency Interfax on Tuesday, Deputy Justice Minister Mikhail Galperin said that litigation over the collapsed Yukos oil empire and fallout from Russia’s 2014 reabsorption of Crimea means that “a tough year” is on the cards.

The long-running dispute over Yukos, once among Russia’s leading energy firms and one of the most valuable companies in the world, has been raging for years. However, it now appears to be coming to a head as the Supreme Court of the Netherlands, which claims it has jurisdiction in the case, prepares to hear an appeal from Russia’s lawyers. A legal settlement of more than $50 billion, thought to be the largest in history, hangs in the balance.

“Of course, we’re not sitting idly, waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision,” said Galperin. “Every day, we’re defending our national interests in this case in different ways. Legal battles related to the Yukos case are taking place not only in the Netherlands, but in other jurisdictions as well.”

Those who lost money in the collapse of the Yukos empire insist that the arrest of its CEO on fraud charges and a colossal bill in back-taxes amounted to state appropriation.

Russian authorities argue that previous rulings in foreign courts on the side of the claimants failed to take into account Russia’s anti-corruption laws, and claim that the investors weren’t “bona fide.” Moscow also insists that only Russia’s courts have jurisdiction, as the Energy Charter Treaty under which the case is being brought was signed but never ratified.

Galperin added that the country’s “main legal argument is that Russia never agreed for the case to be heard by an international court of arbitration, which means that the judges had no mandate to consider the lawsuit Yukos ex-shareholders filed against Russia.”

Last week, one of Russia’s highest judicial authorities ruled that the country should disregard any judgement coming from overseas tribunals. They state that, while the government of the day took steps to join the Energy Charter Treaty in 1994, they did not have the authority to make national laws subject to international agreements, or to “challenge the competence” of Russian courts. Therefore, the jurists conclude, adhering to the Dutch court’s demands would be “unconstitutional.”

However, if the verdict goes in favor of Yukos’ former shareholders, refusing to pay the bill could have substantial repercussions for Russia, with the claimants already calling for the confiscation of the country’s assets overseas as collateral.

Galperin, however, is confident that Russia could avoid cash and property falling into the hands of the oligarchs who have brought the case. “Since 2014,” he said, “they have made multiple unscrupulous attempts to seize not only state property, but also assets that belong to Russian companies in Western Europe. We have successfully repelled all these assaults.”

“While we can’t rule out that in 2021 YUKOS ex-shareholders will continue their legal battle in a number of countries, I can tell you without unnecessary bravado that we are fully prepared to fight off any attempts to seize our property in any country of the world.”

The Supreme Court of the Netherlands is expected to hear the case in February next year, while simultaneous battles have also been fought in US and British courts. The row comes at a time when tensions between Russia and the West are growing, with Moscow’s diplomats arguing that verdicts against the country have been “politically motivated.” In December, Justice Minister Konstantin Chuychenko told journalists that the case is part of a “legal war that has been declared on Russia.”

As well as the Yukos case potentially reaching a dramatic climax, Galperin expects that his ministry will have their hands full next year with at least two other international disputes. As early as January, the European Court of Human Rights is expected to announce a decision on a legal fight between Moscow and Kiev over disputed Crimea. There is a further $8 billion claim from a Ukrainian energy firm that insists it lost its assets when the peninsula was reabsorbed into Russia. The same court will also rule on a case brought by Georgia over events in South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008.

December 29, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , | Leave a comment

Russia can refuse to pay $50 billion bill to Yukos oligarchs, country’s top court rules, as foreign legal battle rages

RT | December 27, 2020

Moscow is set for a showdown with Western judges and 1990s Russian oligarchs, over a new ruling enabling the country to refuse to pay what is considered to be the biggest legal settlement in history, over a collapsed oil empire.

The Constitutional Court, one of Russia’s highest judicial authorities, ruled on Friday that the decision of an international tribunal in the long-running dispute over the now-dissolved energy giant Yukos is incompatible with Russian law. The case has been heard by a court in The Hague, which claims jurisdiction under the terms of the Energy Charter Treaty, and awarded the company’s former shareholders a $50-billion payout from the Russian government earlier this year. Moscow claimed a win in November on the other side of the Atlantic, when a US court, which had been hearing the case simultaneously, decided to throw it out.

However, as Russia signed but never ratified the Treaty, which hands powers to international tribunals, the Constitutional Court has now determined it is not bound by the terms of The Hague judgement. The ruling states that, while the country’s government of the day began the process of signing up to the pact in 1994, they did not have the authority to make national laws inferior to international agreements, or to “challenge the competence” of Russian courts. Therefore, the jurists conclude, adhering to the Dutch court’s demands would be “unconstitutional.”

The claimants in the case are oligarchs who lost cash when Yukos, once among Europe’s largest firms, collapsed. They say that a multi-billion dollar tax bill and the arrest of its CEO and founder, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, on fraud charges amounted to state ‘appropriation’ of its assets. However, Russian authorities insist that the shareholders cannot be considered “legitimate,” and that the Dutch judges had steamrolled over the country’s laws against corruption and fraud when ruling in their favour.

As far back as July 2014, The Hague ordered Moscow to cough up $50 billion to compensate the plaintiffs. After exhausting the appeals process in February this year, Russia’s lawyers asked the Dutch Supreme Court to consider the case and overrule the decision. However, at the start of December, it similarly backed the oligarchs.

Russia has insisted that the judgements are “politically motivated,” and in December the country’s Justice Minister, Konstantin Chuychenko, told journalists that the case was part of a “legal war that has been declared on Russia.” He added that “Russia must adequately defend itself and, sometimes, even attack back.”

Now standing at around $50 billion, around the same ballpark as Russia’s annual military budget, the colossal settlement is thought to be the largest award in history. If the country now rejects the bill, it would spark one of the most serious impasses in international legal history, and leave Western states deciding whether to respect Russia’s constitutional ruling, or to enforce the demands by confiscating assets.

Yukos’ former shareholders have already sought to have Western governments take control of Russian property overseas as an insurance policy in case Moscow refuses to pay up. However, in November, a judge in the simultaneous hearing in the US refused that request, saying that “the Russian Federation is a sovereign country with economic tendrils that cross the globe, not an insecure potential debtor that must be required to post security lest there be no assets to seize at a later date.”

Not all countries have taken the same approach, however, and in 2015 Russia’s diplomats slammed France and Belgium for confiscating state cash in overseas banks, and even buildings, to be held as collateral in the case. Moscow again rejected the court’s authority and said their move was “an openly hostile act.” Tim Osborne, a British lawyer representing the former shareholders, said at the time that such seizures were necessary because Russia “has no regard for international law or the rule of law.”

At its height, Yukos produced 20 per cent of Russia’s oil, placing it firmly among the ranks of the world’s most valuable enterprises. It had been formed by the privatization of former state assets after the fall of the Soviet Union, with Khodorkovsky acquiring the assets for a fraction of their worth at an auction that one economist, Andrey Illarionov, called “the swindle of the century.”

Khodorkovsky claims his arrest on fraud charges and the subsequent collapse of Yukos was tied to his political activism and his personal animosity towards Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin, however, claims that the oligarch, once said to be Russia’s wealthiest man, had admitted his guilt to him privately in exchange for a pardon in 2013.

Khodorkovsky insists that he has renounced any claims to his former empire and that, should a settlement be reached in the Yukos case, he would not stand to benefit. However, Russian authorities are said to suspect that a number of claimants have close financial ties to the former oil magnate.

December 27, 2020 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Russophobia | , | 1 Comment

China to strengthen military coordination with Russia

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | December 24, 2020

The joint aerial strategic patrol held by the air forces of Russia and China on December 22 over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea makes a big statement in the geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific region. Chinese experts have hinted that such events could become “routine” in future.

The Chinese and Russian defence ministries made a joint announcement on the occasion Tuesday. China sent four nuclear-capable H-6K strategic bombers “to form a joint formation” with two of Russia’s famous Tu-95 bombers (NATO reporting name: “Bear”) to conduct the joint patrol as “part of annual military cooperation plan” between the two countries.

The announcement said the joint patrol “aims to further develop the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination in the new era, and enhance the level of the two militaries’ strategic coordination and joint operational capability to jointly safeguard global strategic stability.”

Curiously, only a month ago, on November 6, two Tupolev Tu-95MS strategic missile-carrying bombers of Russia’s Aerospace Force had performed a scheduled 8-hour flight over the neutral waters of the Sea of Japan and the north-western Pacific. Russia’s Defense Ministry said “At some sections of the route, the strategic missile-carrying bombers were escorted by Su-35S fighters.”

Russia’s Tu-95MS Strategic Bomber (Filephoto)

Clearly, the joint patrol with China was not an absolute must from the perspective of Russia’s national defence. But its optics and messaging mattered. This has everything to do with the regional setting with the US and its partners stepping up.

On Dec. 19, USS Mustin conducted a transit through the Taiwan Strait; on Dec. 20, Taiwan conducted a live-fire drill in the Pratas Islands (approx. 300 kms from mainland China) and plans to conduct another on Dec. 27. Pratas Islands are strategically located near the gateway to the South China Sea and are a waypoint for oil tankers and Chinese vessels en route to the Pacific Ocean.

Last week, Taiwan launched its first missile corvette, which the Taiwanese press described as an “aircraft carrier killer”, even as PLA Navy’s first Chinese-made aircraft carrier, the Shandong, completed its third sea trial in a 23-day transit in the Bohai Sea.

Also this month, a US Navy Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) consisting of the USS Makin Island and USS Somerset (LPD 25) patrolled the South China Sea and conducted “unscripted” live-fire drills. The Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times angrily called the ARG “US muscle-flexing actions” that “could damage regional stability,” and commented that “China should be prepared to confront the US in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Straits no matter who sits in the White House.”

Japan has bestirred itself lately, inviting like-minded Western countries to send military units to the Far East signalling that they are united in seeking a free and open Indo-Pacific region. The US, French and Japanese navies conducted integrated exercises in the Philippine Sea in December focusing on anti-submarine warfare; another joint military exercise is planned for May on an outlying Japanese island; the UK plans to send an aircraft carrier strike group to conduct joint exercises with the US Navy and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) early next year.

The Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi held talks last week with his German counterpart Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer where he “expressed hope that a German vessel” would join exercises with the JMSDF in 2021 and “suggested it would assist the international community’s efforts to ensure the right of passage of vessels through the South China Sea if the German warship would traverse waters” over which Beijing claims jurisdiction.

Taiwan Navy’s first stealth ‘carrier killer’ corvette Tuo Jiang

Amidst all this, the US’ Naval Service released an integrated maritime strategy designed to take a “more assertive (approach) to prevail in day-to-day competition (with China) as we uphold the rules-based order and deter our competitors from pursuing armed aggression.” Also, the US secretary of the Navy has called for the reestablishment of the 1st Fleet, a numbered Navy fleet, “in the crossroads between the Indian and the Pacific oceans.”

On Dec. 18, the US began building on the second Quad Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in October by organising a virtual “Quad” meeting of senior diplomatic officials from the US, Australia, India and Japan. The US State Department readout said the four countries discussed “practical ways … to coordinate efforts to support countries vulnerable to malign and coercive economic actions in the Indo-Pacific region.”

There is much speculation about how the [prospective] Biden administration will approach the Indo-Pacific. So far, Biden has not mentioned Quad, but he uses the phrase “Indo-Pacific.” But instead of discussing a “free and open” Indo-Pacific (as Trump does), Biden uses the phrase “secure and prosperous.”

To be sure, given the high stakes involved, China and Russia will not take chances. Their joint aerial patrol Tuesday reflects common concern over the region’s strategic stability. Both countries take note of growing interference by extra-regional powers inciting frictions, potentially posing a major threat to regional peace. Meanwhile, the US is deploying anti-missile systems and keeps talking about a NATO-like military alliance in Asia.

In sum, the joint patrol signals that China and Russia are “the linchpins of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and Eurasia. They have no intention to challenge the regional order. They are propelled to respond to external powers which threaten regional security”, as a prominent think tanker at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Yang Jin, put it.

Chinese pundits have discussed the pros and cons of a Sino-Russian military alliance, the consensus opinion being that in the prevailing security environment, the existing format of strategic partnership serves the purpose of meeting common challenges while giving flexibility to serve the self-interests each side. Having said that, military alliance also remains “a last option for the worst situation – when the US or another country launches a war that forces China and Russia to fight side by side” — to quote Yang.

An editorial in the Chinese Communist Party daily Global Times noted, “China and Russia have no intention of forming a military alliance because it cannot resolve the comprehensive challenges the two countries have to face” but the pressure from the US and its allies have “provided an important external impetus” to the strengthening of the comprehensive strategic cooperation as such, including military cooperation.

“As long as they cooperate strategically and jointly deal with challenges, they can generate effective deterrent, form a joint force to deal with specific problems, resist the attempts to suppress the two countries and curb the US’ international misconduct,” the editorial said.

The US-Russia-China triangle is sure to transform under the [prospective] Biden presidency if Washington sets sights on Moscow as the biggest threat to the US national security. Unsurprisingly, Beijing is signalling that the China-Russia strategic partnership should remain close and continue to be strengthened to handle increasing pressure from the US, even if Biden might ease tensions with Beijing.

This strategic emphasis is the leitmotif of an unusually lengthy report by Xinhua in the People’s Daily on the phone conversation between the State Councilor and Foreign minister Wang Yi with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on December 22.

December 24, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | 2 Comments

Escalation in Cyberspace Raises Risk of Nuclear Attacks, Russia’s General Staff Chief Says

Sputnik – 24.12.2020

MOSCOW – The expansion of military confrontation to cyberspace and space increases risks of interference into control systems and use of nuclear weapons, Valery Gerasimov, the chief of Russia’s armed force’s general staff, said on Thursday.

“Military confrontation is spreading to cyberspace and outer space. As a result, we see increasing risks of incidents due to interference into the functioning of systems of control and nuclear weapons use,” Gerasimov said at a meeting with foreign diplomats.

Nuclear deterrence remains the key element of Russia’s military security, the official stressed.

“Nuclear weapons are seen as means to force potential enemies to abstain from launching aggression against our country. Statements about the ‘escalation for de-escalation’ concept, allegedly adopted by the armed forces, are fake. There is nothing similar to that in the Russian documents,” Gerasimov stressed.

Russia prioritises obligations under international arms control deals in its nuclear deterrence policies, the general staff chief said.

December 24, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | | Leave a comment

Dream of Greater Europe dies: German efforts to create a Europe without Russia forged a Europe against Russia

By Glenn Diesen | RT | December 21, 2020

German-Russian friendship is over with ‘Ostpolitik’ dead and buried. Future relations will largely be based on confrontation, as Moscow no longer cares what Berlin thinks and Germany has lost its unique leverage with Russia.

Many observers believe the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) needs an overhaul. With countries such as Brazil, Germany, India and even Japan suggested as potential permanent members. Reaction to Berlin’s recent two-year stint on the body suggests the present five (China, France, Russia, the UK and the US) will be keeping the gate locked for a while.

Instead of the customary pleasantries and recognition for Germany’s contributions on its way out, Russia and China scolded the German Permanent Representative to the United Nations Christoph Heusgen. Russian Deputy Permanent Representative Dmitri Polyansky lambasted Germany’s “hypocritical behavior” and in no uncertain terms stated that “we will not miss you.” China also denounced Germany for its behavior and asserted Germany’s path toward a permanent seat at the UNSC “will be difficult.”

Disputes over Syria

The heated rhetoric derived primarily from Germany’s criticism of Russia and China over developments in Syria. For Heusgen, the fault for the crisis in Syria was simple: “Russia has been undermining the OPCW” by questioning its findings and supporting the Syrian government. Complex geopolitical rivalries in a strategic region are clothed in the language of values as liberal democracies versus authoritarians.

Since 2006, it has been widely reported and confirmed that the US has been preparing proxies in Syria for regime change. Since the fighting erupted in 2011, Western states have violated international law by funding and training militant groups and directly attacking Syrian targets.

Leaks from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) indicate that findings were deliberately misrepresented, and the chief of cabinet at the OPCW ordered officials to “remove all traces” of documents that found the gas cylinders in Douma had been planted there. The US, UK and France, blocked the testimony of Jose Bustani, the first director-general of the OPCW, who accused Washington of high-jacking the institution to control the narrative.

Russia’s denunciation of Germany’s role in the UNSC represents a wider rejection of Berlin’s self-professed moral authority. The post-Cold War era of liberal hegemony is increasingly seen by Moscow as an era of political radicalism. The West professed that its global hegemony would advance liberal values, yet Moscow perceives that liberal values have been used to assert global hegemony.

The West is accused of developing security strategies based on dominance rather than multilateralism, while relentlessly expanding a military bloc, invading and destroying other countries with increasing frequency, and pursuing coups – all the while claiming moral authority as defenders of human rights, democracy and peace.

The German-Russian split: Redefining Ostpolitik

The German-Russian relationship has historically swung between partnership and competition. In 1917, James Fairgrieve described Eastern Europe as a “crush zone” due to the power competition between Germany and Russia. Third parties such as the UK and US have historically defined their security interest as maintaining this division in Europe, as a German-Russian partnership would shift the balance of power on the continent and possibly become a threat.

Even today, the likes of ‘Stratfor’ founder George Friedman assert that the primary foreign policy goal of the US is to prevent any sort of alliance between Moscow and Berlin, because of the fear that it would offer a desirable alternative to US hegemony.

Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik during the Cold War sought to normalize relations with the Soviet Union and its East European satellites. Moscow interpreted this as a German effort to resolve the historical zero-sum rivalry in Eastern Europe as opposed to merely regaining a foothold in Soviet satellite states. From Gorbachev’s aspiration of a Common European Home to the post-Cold War aspirations of a Greater Europe, Moscow recognized a partnership with Germany was necessary to unify the continent.

Today, Germany interprets Ostpolitik as leadership in Eastern Europe, which depends on pushing Russia out of Europe. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced this month the legacy of Ostpolitik: “Unlike Brandt, we no longer have to go via Moscow to talk to our eastern neighbours nowadays. Many partners in Eastern and Central Europe now view Russia very critically – and German foreign policy must take our neighbours’ concerns seriously. In addition to offers of dialogue, clear German positions vis-à-vis Moscow are therefore important for maintaining trust in Eastern Europe.”

Fairgrieve’s “crush zone” description of German-Russian relations remains, although expressed in Berlin’s value-based “Euro-speak.”

From Greater Europe to Greater Eurasia

Berlin’s efforts to create a Europe without Russia unavoidably became a Europe against Russia. The German-supported unconstitutional coup against Ukraine’s democratically elected government in 2014, or “democratic revolution” as Berlin frames it, resulted in the death of Moscow’s Greater Europe initiative.

While the West condemned Russia for how it reacted to the Maidan, less focus was devoted to the sense of betrayal in Moscow. The remaining Russian illusions of gradual integration into a Greater Europe collapsed as the EU compelled Ukraine to choose between East and West. Subsequently, the nature and utility of the special partnership with Germany also ended.

The German-Russian partnership for Greater Europe was replaced with the Chinese-Russian partnership for Greater Eurasia. Russia has been busy the past years diversifying its economy away from Germany and toward China and Asia. The growing success of the Greater Eurasia initiative is largely the result of Russian-Chinese efforts to harmonise interests in their shared regions, which is contrasted with German efforts to “peel away” Russia’s neighbours – or “European integration” as Berlin frames it.

German-Russian relations in the age of Greater Eurasia

Under the Greater Europe initiative, Russia implicitly accepted German interference in its domestic affairs. As the eternal aspirant aiming to be included in Europe based on common values manifested itself in a subject-object or teacher-student organization of relations, Berlin was bestowed with the assumed moral authority to socialize or civilize Moscow in domestic and international affairs.

In the age of Greater Eurasia, relations between Russia and Germany are changing rapidly.

The emergence of a multipolar world implies pluralism of morals and values. Moscow is charting a distinctive conservative path and will no longer accept that liberal democratic universalism legitimizes sovereign inequality. Moscow subsequently rejects that its domestic politics is an issue for international discussion, and likewise dismisses Berlin’s effort to frame competing national interests in a Manichean prism as good versus bad values.

The unfriendly farewell by Moscow and Beijing as Germany exits the Security Council is a manifestation of a recalibrating relationship. Rather than attempting to reset relations, Moscow and Berlin should organize an amicable divorce and establish clear expectations toward each other.

Glenn Diesen is an Associate Professor at the University of South-Eastern Norway and an editor at the Russia in Global Affairs journal. Follow him on Twitter @glenndiesen

December 21, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

America analysts downbeat as Washington opts to withdraw Siberia & remote Far East diplomatic presence

RT | December 19, 2020

As Russia moves to liberalize its Visa system for most Western visitors, the US has said it will close its last consulates outside Moscow. This step is certain to reduce person-to-person contacts between Americans and Russians.

The decision, which has echoes of the Cold War, albeit with roles reversed in terms of the paranoia at play, will see diplomatic offices close in the Far Eastern capital Vladivostok, and in Ekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth largest city, located east of the Ural Mountains. President Donald Trump’s administration notified Congress of the plans over a week ago, but the news received little coverage until Saturday.

While the exact timings of the closures have not yet been made clear, it is understood that American officials will be transferred to the country’s embassy in Moscow, while local Russian support staff will be laid off. In news that will satisfy Washington’s deficit hawks, the State Department predicts that the move, if made permanent, would save $3.2 million each year.

In a written communiqué, the administration claims that its actions are “in response to ongoing staffing challenges of the US Mission in Russia in the wake of the 2017 Russian-imposed personnel cap on the US Mission and resultant impasse with Russia over diplomatic visas.” The presence of state representatives first became an issue in 2016, when Washington expelled 35 of Moscow’s diplomats, limiting its mission’s numbers, over alleged attempts to interfere with that year’s Presidential elections, which Russia strenuously denies.

The decision leaves the US without formal representation anywhere apart from the capital, in a country that bridges two continents. As well as providing consular services to the more than a quarter of a million Americans who visit Russia each year, the offices are charged with issuing visas to Russians wishing to travel stateside.

Residents of Russia’s Far East who wish to visit the US will now have to fly for up to nine hours to Moscow for a Visa, with no guarantees that their application will be approved. Likewise, Americans needing to access consular services will face days of travel if they need support in Siberia or the Far East. The move, and the restrictive Visa regime, flies in the face of Russia’s recent policy towards liberalizing the process, with the introduction of a digital system offering tourists stays of up to 16-days for no more than $50 to be rolled out in January 2021. Americans are excluded from the scheme, but citizens of most NATO states are eligible.

Many analysts took to Twitter to criticize the American decision, even those usually supportive of a more confrontational approach to relations with Russia. One-time US Ambassador Michael McFaul, who has frequently become the target of ridicule over his bellicose and often inaccurate claims about the country, said that he was “saddened” by the decision, adding that “the US should be seeking ways to engage more directly with Russian society.”

A senior national security adviser to the University of Denver’s Biden Institute, Sam Vinograd, was similarly concerned over the impact of the closures, adding that “there’s a reason we have embassies and consulates in countries. Closing consulates could harm Americans and our interests.”

While ties between Moscow and Washington have been consistently under strain over a number of issues in recent months, it is unclear how the decision to shutter diplomatic offices is expected to relieve tensions. In most cases, consulates fulfil a purely administrative role, but they often also act as hubs for cultural and political exchanges, hosting events and enabling diplomats to get a better understanding of a country beyond its capital. Shuttering them also deprives the US of a useful vantage point in Vladivostok, in close range of China, North Korea and Japan.

In 2018, US officials forced Moscow to shut its consulate in Seattle, leaving it without any representation on America’s West Coast. In retaliation, the Kremlin told Washington to shut down its equivalent operations in the city of St Petersburg, one of Russia’s most popular tourist destinations. The spat saw around 60 diplomats expelled from the country, with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov saying at the time that they had been ”declared ‘persona non grata’ for activities incompatible with diplomatic status.”

These decisions have widely been interpreted as attempts to restrict the kind of human-to-human contact that helps challenge established narratives about countries. In the Soviet-era, access to the country for foreign visitors was tightly restricted. But now, it would appear that the situation has reversed and, if a new Cold War is indeed underway, the US has chosen to close its doors to many Russians.

December 19, 2020 Posted by | Russophobia | , | 1 Comment

Russia may benefit from trade rift between China and Australia

RT | December 16, 2020

Russian coal suppliers could boost their exports to China, as the world’s largest coal buyer is reportedly curbing shipments of the commodity from Australia amid escalating tensions between the two countries.

The developer of the largest Russian coal deposit, Elga, announced on Tuesday that it created a joint venture with a Chinese shipping company to promote Russian coal on the massive Chinese market. The project between Elgaugol and GH-Shipping is set to satisfy China’s growing demand for high-quality coking coal.

The deal is set to help boost Russian coal supplies to China from one million tons this year to 30 million tons in 2023, and the developer could potentially further increase annual imports to 50 million tons. The joint venture is also expected to contribute to the ambitious goal of the Russian and Chinese governments to significantly increase bilateral trade turnover, as it would increase the volume of trade between the two countries by $5 billion per year.

“The supplies of coking coal from Elga will replace a significant amount of Australian and American coal of similar quality,” Elgaugol Director-General Aleksandr Isaev said.

Another Russian producer, Mechel, previously said that it was planning to increase exports of coal to China amid Beijing’s restrictions on Australian imports. In November, the shipments rose by 13 percent, and are set to jump by 25-30 percent in December, Mechel CEO Oleg Korzhov said as cited by Russian media.

Tensions between the two countries have been growing for around three years, after the Australian government began limiting Chinese investments in the country. In 2018, Canberra added fuel to the fire when it banned China’s Huawei and ZTE from its 5G rollout. The most recent escalation occurred when Australia pushed in April for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus outbreak.

Earlier this week, Chinese state-linked media reported that the nation’s top economic planner gave domestic power plants the greenlight to import coal without clearance restrictions from several countries “except for Australia.” While Beijing has not officially confirmed the restrictions, Canberra has already urged the Chinese government to clarify the reports.

This week’s reports are not the first to allege that China is quietly banning coal imports from Australia. Last month, several million tons of Australian coal worth more than $500 million were reportedly stuck in Chinese ports.

December 16, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 4 Comments

Russia’s massive offshore Arctic oil & gas discovery could dwarf Gulf of Mexico & Middle East’s energy reserves

RT | December 15, 2020

Russian energy giant Rosneft has announced the discovery of a “unique” gas deposit in the Kara Sea containing an estimated 514 billion cubic meters of natural gas.

The company says the discovery could establish a new cluster for oil and gas production in the area.

The field, which has been named after Soviet Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky, is Rosneft’s third discovery in the Arctic. It is part of the company’s drilling campaign to develop the region’s oil and gas potential.

The project was started by President Vladimir Putin in 2014. It has resulted in the discovery of one of the world’s largest oil and gas fields, the Pobeda field. Its total recoverable reserves stand at some 130 million tons of oil and 422 billion cubic meters of gas.

The second discovered field, with an estimated 800 billion cubic meters of gas deposits, was named after Marshal Georgy Zhukov.

Overall, more than 30 “prospective structures” were identified in the three areas of the Kara Sea, according to Rosneft.

It said the results of the drilling prove “the discovery of a new Kara offshore oil province,” adding that “In terms of resources, it could surpass such oil and gas-bearing provinces as the Gulf of Mexico, the Brazilian shelf, the Arctic shelf of Alaska and Canada, and the major provinces of the Middle East.”

December 15, 2020 Posted by | Economics | | Leave a comment