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Rapprochement with Russia?

By Gilbert Doctorow | September 16, 2019

Starting in July and running to the present day, there have been repeated calls from mainstream media, from leading statesmen and from diplomats, in the United States and in Europe, for some kind of rapprochement with Russia to be put in place. This is remarkable given the continually escalating informational, economic, military confrontation between Russia and the US-led West over the past five years. That confrontation has emerged in two waves of anti-Russian hysteria: the first, after the daring (or brazen) Russian reunification with (or annexation of) Crimea in March 2014, and the second, with still greater momentum towards war, following the November 2016 election of Donald Trump to the presidency, which was accompanied by allegations of Russian collusion with candidate Trump and other meddling in the U.S. election processes.

Since the United States initiated the New Cold War, it is only fitting that the first steps towards its resolution are coming from there. And it is not in the least surprising that these steps were taken in the aftermath of the April 2019 release of the Mueller Report, which showed that the allegations of Russiagate were without merit or not actionable. Trump’s political enemies were compelled to move on to other issues of contention that would serve better in the next presidential campaign, which is quickly approaching.

That is the context in which I place the fairly amazing editorial of The New York Times dated 21 July 2019 entitled “What’s America’s Winning Hand if Russia Plays the China Card?” The NYT, which along with The Washington Post, had been among the most fervent disseminators of Russiagate theories and of poisonous characterizations of the “Putin regime” now was calling for… re-establishing civilized relations with Russia in order to draw the country back from its growing alliance with China.

While the editorial opens by citing a recent Defense Department report on the serious security threat to the U.S. from any Sino-Russian alliance, the fact of such alliance in formation has been obvious to anyone following the growing cooperation between these two countries in energy, aviation, military exercises, common positions taken in the UN Security Council and much more. It was also obvious for years that a major factor encouraging the Russian-Chinese embrace was the political, military and economic pressure each was receiving from the United States going back to the administration of George W. Bush and running through the Obama and Trump administrations. What is new is only the Times’ using this impending geopolitical tectonic shift to justify an extensive reversal of U.S. policy towards Russia. Now we read that “… President Trump is correct to try to establish a sounder relationship with Russia and peel it away from China.”

This is not to say that the NYT raised the white flag and abandoned its identification of Russia as a malevolent rival: “America can’t seek warmer relations with a rival power at the price of ignoring its interference in American democracy.” Nor did it abandon its identification of Russia as a “declining power” which it very inaccurately ranks as “not even in the top 10” economies, when in fact Russia is close to taking the fifth largest economy slot when purchasing power parity is applied.

Specifically, The Times called for cherry-picking topics for cooperation with Russia such as space travel, managing the Arctic and arms control “especially by extending the New Start Treaty.”

I have taken time with this editorial because the reasoning did not come from nowhere. Moreover, the same logic underlies most, though not all of the calls for rapprochement with Russia that  have punctuated the past two months on both sides of the Atlantic.

As for where it came from, I would put forward the name of Henry Kissinger, who exerted considerable influence on candidate Trump in 2016 and continued to have his ear in the early days of the new administration. There can be little doubt that Kissinger urged Trump to reach out to Putin precisely to halt the dangerous drift of Moscow towards Beijing under pressure from successive US administrations. After all Kissinger was Nixon’s man who drew China into an informal alliance with the United States, implementing the policy whereby Washington was closer to both Moscow and Beijing than either was to the other.  He did not need to wait for Pentagon white papers in 2019 to know what was afoot and what had to be done to avert the worst, which spelled the destruction of his single greatest achievement during his time in power.

At the same time, Kissinger would have been advising only selective cooperation with Moscow, not full-blown détente. This is precisely the position that he and other ‘wise men’ from the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations urged upon both candidate Barack Obama and candidate John McCain during the electoral campaign of 2008, when relations between Russia and the United States were fraught with danger relating to the August 2008 war in Georgia. Their recommendations eventually became the “re-set” policy approved by Obama and implemented by Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton early in 2009.

“Re-set” achieved progress on the various select issues for cooperation chosen by the Americans, in particular on arms control, resulting in the New START that today faces expiration. However, the ‘’re-set,’’ like what the New York Times editors now call for, did not begin to address the overriding issue driving the Russian foreign and military policy which the U.S. finds so unacceptable: Russia’s exclusion from the security arrangements that the Europeans have put in place together with the U.S., an architecture that is in fact directed against them. That very issue was the subject of the single most important diplomatic initiative of Russia’s President in 2008, Dmitry Medvedev: his call for negotiations to establish new security arrangements for Europe, outside of NATO, where Russia could be an equal member. That initiative met with no response whatsoever from either the United States or its European allies, and so the days of ‘’re-set’’ were numbered.

* * * *

In the period just before, during and after the G7 meeting in Biarritz on 24—26 August 2019 there have been several widely noted remarks from senior Euro-Atlantic statesmen on the need to improve relations with Russia.

A week before the summit, French President Emanuel Macron received Vladimir Putin for talks at his summer residence on the Côte d’Azur. Macron “played up efforts ‘to tie Russia and Europe back together’ and underscored his belief that ‘Europe stretches from Lisbon to Vladivostok.’…. In his Facebook post [after the meeting] Macron said …. ’I’m convinced that, in this multilateral restructuring, we must develop a security and trust architecture between the European Union and Russia…” (The Moscow Times, 20 August 2019).

Before and during the G7, Donald Trump told reporters that Russia should be there with them. At the summit’s conclusion, he indicated he was thinking of inviting Russia to the meeting when he hosts the group in Florida next year. Implicitly this means reviving full lines of communications with Russia which were cut at the insistence of Obama to punish Moscow for its misbehavior in Ukraine.

On 27 August, the day after the G7 closed, in the course of a speech to the assembled ambassadors of France in the Elysée palace, President Macron spoke at some length about the need to ‘reconsider’ ties with Russia within the context of facing up to the major challenges of a world in which the West had lost its hegemony. He called the exclusion of Russia from the New Europe following the fall of the Berlin wall a ‘’profound mistake.” He insisted that “if we do not know how to do something useful with Russia, then we will remain with a profoundly sterile tension, we will continue to have frozen conflicts everywhere in Europe, to have a Europe which is the theater of a strategic struggle between the United States and Russia, thus to have the consequences of the Cold War on our soil.” (http://www.liberation.fr ).

Several days later, on 4 September, in an interview with the Financial Times,  Finnish Foreign Minister, Pekka Haavisto used his country’s current position as rotating president of the EU to make a similar point, saying “It’s very difficult to imagine a solution [to global crises] without Russia – or a solution that Russia is not somehow an active partner on.”

The FT deemed it worthwhile to quote him extensively:

“Mr Haavisto also said that the uncertainties created by Brexit and statements by US president

Donald Trump’s administration ‘distancing themselves from European affairs” meant EU states

needed to do more themselves to maintain stability in Europe. ‘It creates a space where

European countries need to think … ’how can we guarantee security here and what can we

do… together?’ he said.”

It went on to note: “Finland’s thinking is significant both because of its EU presidency and its unique relationship with Russia.”

Finally, in this listing of statements by public figures advocating better relations with Russia, I call attention to another article in the Financial Times, dated 15 September setting out the contents of an internal diplomatic note written by EU ambassador to Russia Dr. Markus Ederer. Dated 3 September, the addressees of the report were Ederer’s senior colleagues, the managing director for Asia Pacific at the EU’s External Action Service, and the acting managing director for Europe and Central Asia. The paper sets out arguments and options for engaging with Russia ‘taking into account the political environment, but also Russia’s natural relevance for EU-Asia connectivity.” It was drafted in preparation for the forthcoming 27 September meetings in Brussels on EU-Asia links to which Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been invited and in which European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker is expected to take part.

Among the choice quotations from the report which the FT shares with its readers we find:

“[The EU] would have everything to lose by ignoring the tectonic strategic shifts in Eurasia.”

“Engaging not only with China but with Russia, selectively, is a necessary condition to be part of the game and play our cards where we have comparative advantage.”

The FT article calls attention to five areas for prospective cooperation with Russia: the Arctic, digital, the Eurasian Economic Union, regional infrastructure and the ‘Northern Dimension’ joint policy between the EU, Russia, Norway and Iceland. In these areas, the EU could ‘’engage effectively, on concrete, technical matters’’ with Russia. The paper concludes that ‘’[t]he aim would be to set up a ‘framework of exchanges with Russia on longstanding issues in the EU interest’ involving European business and commission officials.”

* * * *

Considering where we stand today in relations with Russia, at a low point more dangerous than any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, all of the aforementioned calls for improving relations made by very prominent and influential heads of state, public officials and media deserve a round of applause. The wise saying “jaw–jaw is always better than war–war” attributed to Winston Churchill applies with equal relevance today.

Looking at all the calls for better relations cited above, I believe the leitmotiv of them all is geopolitical considerations rather than fear of war, particularly nuclear war between the major world powers. Arms control is cited as only one of several objectives for cooperation. Concerns about the future alignment of those powers around the global board of governors are predominant. If humankind is said to be driven by the contradictory emotions of fear and greed, it would seem that our global leaders are presently acting in the spirit of greed rather than fear.

In his 27 August speech to the French diplomatic corps, President Macron called for an “audacious” foreign policy, effectively one that would move outside the box of conventional thinking. Correspondingly, thus far he is the only advocate of improved relations with Russia from among world leaders who had broached the subject of a comprehensive détente with Russia rather than cooperation in selective areas of greatest convenience to us. He is the only leader to have raised the question of revising the architecture of security in Europe to accommodate the fellow Europeans to the East.

Those who follow closely the political démarches of President Macron will object that his thinking about Russia has been all over the place since taking office. And I am among the first to consider him a shallow opportunist rather than the tower of intellect that he styles himself. The summit meetings he called with both Presidents Putin and Trump soon after moving into the Elysée palace had only one objective: to position himself as a prospective power broker in resolving the New Cold War in formation; they had no material content.

In the two years that have passed since he assumed power in France, Macron has been unlucky in domestic politics when his ill-considered fuel tax sparked the Gilets Jaunes movement. But he has been very lucky in foreign policy, because the dominant personality in European politics for the past decade or more, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, entered into the twilight period of her reign and the path opened for Macron to take the lead of EU politics with what he now calls an audacious roadmap.

The specific concept that emerges from Macron’s recent statements is an entente between Russia and the European Union based on shared values and creating a third force in global affairs alongside the United States and China. The alternative, which is looming absent any initiative such as Macron is proposing, will be for the EU to remain a junior partner to the USA and for Russia to be a junior partner to China while their two principals square off. Let us hope that in the days and months ahead Macron can muster the consistency of purpose and powers of successful execution to see through to conclusion what he has begun.

Gilbert Doctorow is an independent political analyst based in Brussels. His latest book, “Does the United States Have a Future?” was published on 12 October 2017.

©Gilbert Doctorow, 2019

September 16, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

World sleepwalking into total nuclear war as callous elites fear no bloodshed – Russian scholar

RT | September 16, 2019

Limiting nuclear arsenals doesn’t make the world safer – not while the elites, who have never seen a big war, complacently believe they never will. This dangerous illusion invites apocalyptic conflict, a renowned scholar believes.

Humankind’s history might be a history of wars, but for several decades there was a sort of lull, with no really big armed conflict affecting leading world powers. That is, in part, thanks to nuclear weapons. Fear of their power kept the Cold War from becoming a hot one and restricted the actual fighting to proxy conflicts.

And that, in turn, has led to a situation where many of those currently in power don’t take the threat of war with the gravity it deserves, says Sergey Karaganov, a researcher of international relations and a dean at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics.

Complacency breeds danger

“The previous generations had a gut fear of war because their fathers or they themselves experienced World War II. But modern generations think of war very lightly,” he told RT.

This attitude is a major reason why the world now is in fact a more dangerous place than it was at the height of the US-Soviet confrontation, he believes. Some powers believe they are entitled to live in peace and cannot imagine that a smaller conflict elsewhere may escalate into a nuclear Armageddon. Meanwhile old mechanisms meant to prevent such a disaster are rapidly deteriorating, he said.

This year Washington scrapped one of the key Cold War agreements restricting nuclear weapons – the INF Treaty – and indicated that another one – New START – would not be extended beyond 2021. The US changed its nuclear posture and now doesn’t rule out responding with nukes to a cyberattack. The Pentagon’s generals want a larger toolbox of smaller nuclear weapons and are weighing up options on how to use them in regular conflicts.

These days, it’s more complicated than just nukes

That said, those old mechanisms are also failing for purely technological reasons. In the 1970s there was a reasonably clear distinction between strategic weapons and everything else, so ensuring parity was relatively simple. Basically the US and the USSR settled on numbers of missiles, long-range bombers, submarines and warheads they were comfortable with and agreed ways to verify that each party sticks to the limits.

“There are people in our country, as well as in other countries, who are stressing that we should go as we have been going in the 1960s and the ‘70s and the ‘80s. I must say I am very skeptical, because even in the ‘70s and the ‘80s we were basing our analysis on the very, very strange presumption of what was called parity,” Karaganov says.

But the distinction between “nuclear and non-nuclear, conventional and non-conventional” is blurred today. How does one take into the equation, for example, a conventional precision missile that can be fired across the border and take out the other nation’s military headquarters? Or a satellite that can blind an ICBM early warning spacecraft? Or a hypersonic glider? Or a computer virus that can shut down the power grid?

“Now strategic parity is almost impossible to count.”

Stop trying to limit nukes – change the thinking

Karaganov recently co-authored a report on this persistent danger. He admits it doesn’t have all the right answers, but offers some ideas where to begin – and philosophy is at least as important as politics or technicalities.

For example, nations should acknowledge that geopolitical rivalry was not an aberration of the ideologically-divided past but rather a natural order of things. Strong players have great appetites and will use any means to impose their will on weaker ones. Unfair, but such is life.

The next step would be to embrace a new multilateral deterrence arrangement that would include additional players, first and foremost China, and somehow incorporate non-nuclear things like cyber weapons into the calculation.

“The aim of the strategic policy of all responsible nuclear powers should not be doing away or even reducing their nuclear weapons, but strengthening mutual deterrence, and that is a completely different philosophy,” Karaganov suggests.

Essentially, he and his colleagues suggest ditching the old idea of nuclear stability – achieved through the reduction and capping of the two largest superpowers’ arsenals. Instead, any new treaties should focus on transparency – as well as developing protocols to wind down a nuclear conflict once it does start, which is much more likely to happen by accident than by intention.

The result may be somewhat of a Mexican standoff, but the alternative is far more dangerous, the scholars argue. An armed conflict involving nuclear-capable powers has the potential to spiral out of control, with sides trading increasingly serious blows and hoping the other one will chicken out.

A few decades ago the fear of nuclear weapons put a reasonably low cap on such games of nerves, but it is no longer the case and the risks are rising by the year. The solution would be for the great powers to put de-escalation as the paramount goal whenever a clash brews and treat any potential war between them as a doomsday in the making.

September 16, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

Russia prevented Israeli airstrikes in Syria, Putin warned Netanyahu: Report

Press TV – September 14, 2019

Moscow has reportedly moved to prevent Israeli airstrikes in Syria, with Russian President Vladimir Putin warning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against the strikes.

Putin told Netanyahu that allowing Israeli strikes on Syrian military assets would undermine Moscow’s relations with Damascus, the Arabic edition of the UK-based Independent newspaper reported on Friday.

The report comes after Netanyahu met with Putin in the resort city of Sochi on Thursday to discuss “security coordination” in Syria.

According to an unnamed Russian source cited in the report, Moscow has also threatened to use its “fighter jets or the S-400 air defense system” in order to counter any Israeli aircraft striking Syria.

In August, Moscow stopped an airstrike on the strategic Qasioun region near Damascus, where a Syrian S-300 missile battery is said to be placed, according to the report.

Moscow allegedly prevented another airstrike later on a Syrian outpost in the southwestern province of Quneitra and a third in the western coastal province of Latakia.

The report comes as Syria has intercepted several Israeli missile attacks in the past month, casting doubt on the extent of Russian commitment to counter Israeli ambitions.

The Israeli regime has acknowledged repeatedly launching attacks against Syria in recent years, some of which have been carried out from Lebanese airspace.

Such aggressive moves have been viewed by observers as attempts to weaken the Damascus government as it increasingly gains the upper hand fighting terrorist groups which have plagued the country since 2011.

‘A failed meeting’

The Independent report also cited unnamed Israeli sources who described Netanyahu’s meeting with Putin as “a failure”, falling short of reducing any Syria policy disagreements with Moscow.

Israeli sources added that Israel airstrikes on Syria had “embarrassed” the Russians from failing to protect its allies.

During the “failed” meeting, Netanyahu had also called for Tel Aviv to be given “freedom of action” against Iran by Russia.

The Israeli prime minister had even sought to use the meeting to “present positive message of the cooperation between the two countries” for his election campaign but failed, the report wrote.

According to the Russian source, Putin’s disagreements with Netanyahu also went as far as Putin condemning Tel Aviv’s recent actions in Lebanon, with the Russian president saying that he “rejects the aggression towards Lebanon’s sovereignty.”

Israel launched a number of drone attacks into Lebanon last month.

Following the drone raids, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary general, vowed in a televised speech that fighters of the movement would counter any further violation of the Lebanese airspace by Israeli drones, warning the Tel Aviv regime to immediately halt such breaches.

Last week, Hezbollah fired two anti-tank guided missiles at a moving Israeli armored vehicle at the Avivim base north of the occupied territories, killing and wounding its occupants.

September 14, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , | 2 Comments

Security, terrorism & Iran: What Netanyahu talked to Putin about, days ahead of Israeli election

RT | September 12, 2019

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is in Russia meeting President Vladimir Putin and top ministers. The little we know from the talks suggests Netanyahu may be trying to drag Moscow into his fight against Iran-linked “destabilization.”

The two leaders met in the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi late on Thursday. Officially, the talks were outlined as a discussion on bilateral relations and various security issues – international terrorism and the situation in Syria. Putin said that both Russia and Israel are “well aware” of what terrorism is and said that cooperation is particularly important to combat it.

Netanyahu, for his part, singled out the issue of Iran, stating that Tel Aviv “won’t tolerate Tehran’s threats,” yet again accusing it of using Syria’s territory to wage “aggression” against Israel. The Israeli PM would like Moscow to share such a stance and ultimately see Iranian presence eliminated in Syria, Netanyahu’s spokesman Evan Gary Cohen suggested.

“I think that the Iranian presence in Syria is something that the Russians and the Israelis both would like to end. It’s not something that they desire,” Cohen told RT.

This opinion appears to be in stark contrast with that of Moscow, which has been engaged in military and economic cooperation with Tehran, while repeatedly criticizing the attempts to paint Iran as the sole source of troubles in the Middle East. Russia has condemned Israeli attacks on the supposedly “Iranian-linked” targets in Syria. One such raid resulted in the loss of a Russian reconnaissance plane and the deaths of all 15 onboard, after it was accidentally shot down by Syrian air defenses.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, both Putin and Netanyahu stressed the importance of cooperation between the militaries of the two countries, needed to prevent any potential run-ins between them as well as to fight terrorism. Ahead of the meeting with Putin, the Israeli PM – who has also been the country’s defense minister since the resignation of Avigdor Lieberman – met his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu.

Netanyahu lauded the “natural connection” and a “human bridge between Israel and Russian-speaking countries,” and called the talks with Shoigu “important.” He, however, said that the Israeli military must maintain “freedom of action,” which is essential to prevent Iran from entrenching in “our region.”

Putin and Netanyahu touched upon another hot topic – the upcoming September 17 parliamentary elections in Israel. Critics of the Israeli PM have claimed that Netanyahu’s visit was a PR stunt in a bid to secure his re-election.

Netanyahu’s spokesman vehemently denied to RT any alleged links between the elections and the talks, insisting that they were all about security.

Putin said that Moscow closely watches the elections, since Israel is home for over 1.5 million people, who came from the former Soviet Union.

“We’ve always regarded them as our people, we call them our compatriots,” Putin said. He didn’t voice any explicit support for Netanyahu, however, instead saying he hoped “responsible politicians” would end up in charge of the Knesset.

September 12, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , | 5 Comments

Moscow condemns Netanyahu’s annexation bid on eve of his visit to Russia

Press TV – September 11, 2019

Russia has strongly condemned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election pledge to annex north of the Dead Sea and Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank on the eve of his visit to the Russian city of Sochi.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry warned that the implementation of Netanyahu’s plan may result in a “sharp escalation of tension in the region”.

It may also “undermine hopes for a long-awaited peace” in the region, the statement added, urging Tel Aviv to return to direct negotiations based on “relevant UN Security Council resolutions, the Madrid Principle and the Arab Peace Initiative.”

The condemnation came on the eve of Netanyahu’s visit to the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, where he is scheduled to hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.

The visit, announced on Tuesday, will be held just five days before the Israeli snap legislative elections. The last time Putin and Netanyahu met was in Moscow on April 4, again five days before the last Israeli election.

Netanyahu has promised to go ahead with the annexation plan in case he emerges victorious in the forthcoming votes.

“Today I announce my intention to apply with the formation of the next government Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea,” Netanyahu said in a speech broadcast live on Israeli TV channels on Tuesday evening.

The 69-year-old Chairman of the Likud-National Liberal Movement also reiterated his intention to annex Israeli settlements throughout the occupied West Bank if re-elected, and in coordination with US President Donald Trump.

The plan has drawn sharp criticism from countries in the Middle East, including Jordan and Turkey, and international bodies like the UN and the Arab League.

Iran on Wednesday said the Israeli prime minister seeks to stay in power through annexations and anti-Iran accusations.

“Netanyahu is after votes to stay in power and continue with expansionist policies and aggression one day through making accusations against the Islamic Republic of Iran and one day by announcing his malicious intention to annex certain parts of Palestine,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi said.

Ironically enough, Saudi Arabia that has been seeking to normalize ties with Israel also criticized Netanyahu for this “dangerous escalation against the Palestinian people” and called for an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The OIC later announced on Wednesday it will call an emergency meeting soon at the level of foreign ministers to review the Israeli premier’s plan.

The OIC Secretary General Yousef bin Al-Othaimeen strongly condemned Netanyahu’s intention, emphasizing that the “dangerous announcement is another aggression against the Palestinian people’s rights.”

He said the OIC meeting will discuss the possible political and legal measures that could be taken to confront Israel’s new aggression.

September 11, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Are India and Japan Challenging the BRI in Russia’s Far East?

By Paul Antonopoulos | September 11, 2019

Although the Russian Far East has huge investment potential in the fields of raw materials, mineral resources, fisheries, forestry’s and tourism, it still remains a sparely populated area of only around 7 million people. With China, India, Japan, Indonesia and Russia projected to be some of the world’s biggest economies by 2030 according to many experts, the 21st Century has been dubbed as the “Asian Century,” and it is for this reason that Russian President Vladimir Putin has prioritized the rapid development of the Russian Far East.

The region is not only resource rich, but is also conveniently located in northeast Asia, bordering Mongolia, China and North Korea, while sharing a maritime border with Japan. It is so strategic and rich that only weeks ago French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his belief that Europe stretches from Lisbon on the Atlantic Coast to the Russian Pacific port of Vladivostok. Vladivostok has hosted the Eastern Economic Forum annually ever since its establishment 2015, in part to attract foreign investors to diversify from only Chinese investments in the Russian Far East. China has invested tens of billions into the region, making it easily the biggest foreign investor in the region.

However, with Indian Prime Minister Modi on the eve of Vladivostok’s 5th Eastern Economic Forum proposing a trilateral cooperation between India, Russia and Japan by jointly developing the Russian Far East, it appears that China’s economic influence in the region will be challenged. Although China emphasizes peaceful relations through mutual economic development and prosperity, it still has frosty relations with Japan and India. It is therefore unsurprising that India and Japan have opted to invest in the Russian Far East to challenge China’s economic might in a region that also shares a vast border with China.

India, Japan and Sri Lanka signed an agreement to build a new container terminal in the port of Colombo, demonstrating that New Delhi and Tokyo have experience in cooperating in a trilateral format. With India opting to be the only South Asian country not involved in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), India continues to show coldness to China as the latter continues to rapidly develop neighboring countries, especially with Nepal and rival Pakistan. With the BRI developing Sri Lanka, it appears India and Japan are creating a new economic duo to match China’s economic strength, and are now prepared to take this to a new front away from Sri Lanka and to the Russian Far East.

Japan’s investments in the Russian Far East’s economy already exceeds $15 billion and will continue to develop, according to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. And with India also expressing its interest, the Russian Far East has become a promising place for all prospectors. With Russian President Vladimir Putin offering free land handouts in the Far East to Russians and naturalized citizens in May 2016, it demonstrates that Russia has identified that if it wants to benefit from Asia’s rapid development and economic dominance in the 21st century, it needs to develop its regions in Asia.

With the development of the region naturally meaning increased trade and cultural exchanges with China, tens of thousands of Chinese citizens have now migrated to the region in search of opportunities and establish themselves as merchants and entrepreneurs. Whether we begin seeing Indian and Japanese merchants in the Russian Far East remains to be seen.

With India and China competing in Nepal and border issues on the Indian-Chinese frontier remaining unresolved in New Delhi’s eyes, it appears that India is now wanting to compete against China in a region that has had connections with China for millennia. Russia has been encouraging more and diversified investments in the Far East and Japan and India will take every opportunity to do this.

Russia and China remain strategic partners and are also pragmatic international players that continue to pursue a policy of non-interference. Therefore, although China has frosty relations with Japan and India, it can respect Russia’s ties with both countries. This pragmatism has now allowed India and Japan to engage in a friendly competition for economic influence over Russia’s resource rich region. Although both Japan and China invest in raw material and energy projects in the Far East, India will be a new player to this sector with Indian Oil and Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan expressing his long-term interest in the Russian coal and steel sector during his visit to Russia last week.

With India becoming increasingly energy hungry because of its enormous and growing population, alongside its economic development, it is easily seen why the resource rich Russian region is of critical importance to it. For Japan, the region presents unmatched economic opportunities. Most interestingly to observe is whether India and Japan will continue to work in trilateral formats to continue expanding their economic interests and challenge the BRI in other regions. It appears now that after their cooperation in Sri Lanka, their second step is to challenge the expansion of the BRI in Russia’s Far East by competing for lucrative contracts and opportunities that the region can offer.

Paul Antonopoulos is the director of the Multipolar research centre.

September 11, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 1 Comment

‘Pulp fiction’: Kremlin says alleged CIA mole was a minor official with no access to Putin

RT | September 10, 2019

A former official identified in media reports as a CIA asset in Russia worked in the presidential administration but never had access to Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin has claimed, adding that the man was fired several years ago.

US media reported on Monday that US intelligence carried out an operation in 2017 to extract a high-level Russian official who had worked as an informant for the CIA.

The incendiary claim has triggered a race to identify the alleged spy. Kommersant, a Russian daily, reported on Tuesday that the official may have been a man named Oleg Smolenkov.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Smolenkov worked in the government, but said he did not hold a senior position and was fired in 2016 or 2017.

“Indeed, Smolenkov used to work in the presidential administration, but was fired several years ago,” Peskov said. He added that the alleged spy was not a high-ranking official personally appointed by Putin.

He said that the Kremlin was unaware of Smolenkov’s whereabouts, and that the government could only confirm that a man by that name once worked for the administration but was later laid off.

Peskov was openly critical of the US media’s faith in the evidence-deficient story, describing their breathless reports as resembling something more suitable for Hollywood.

“All this speculation in the US media about who urgently extracted who and who saved who from who, that’s all, as you understand, more of a pulp fiction kind of genre.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also weighed in on the sensational story, stating that he had never met Smolenkov or followed his career or movements. Western media reports portray the alleged mole as a senior official who enjoyed direct access to Putin.

Earlier, both the White House and the CIA denied the media reports.

The CNN exclusive claims that the CIA asset was secretly ferried out of Russia amid fears that his identity could be compromised by US President Donald Trump’s alleged chummy relationship with Moscow. Some have speculated that the story was manufactured to smear the American president.

September 10, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | | 4 Comments

We refuse to be a ‘normal country’ if it means US-style bombings & invasions, Moscow tells Pentagon

RT | September 9, 2019

It’s better not to be a “more normal country” if that means being as prone to invasions and coups as the United States, top Russian ministers have said, firing back at bizarre remarks by a new Pentagon chief.

It would be “great” if the West “could get Russia to behave like a more normal country,” Mark Esper, the newly appointed defense secretary, was reported to have claimed while visiting Paris this week.

That remark did not go down well with Moscow, however.

“If he said so, he called upon us to act as a normal country [as such] and not like the United States,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a press briefing in the Russian capital, where he and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu had a face-to-face meeting with French counterparts.

“Otherwise, we should have been acting like the US, bombing Iraq and Libya in blatant violation of international law… We should have supported coups, violent and anti-constitutional, like the US and its closest allies did in February 2014 [in Ukraine].”

What’s more, if Russia followed Washington’s instructions, then “we would have spent millions on intervening in the affairs of other countries as Congress has done by authorizing $20 million for supporting democracy in Russia,” Lavrov stated.

On his part, Shoigu also said that normalcy has a different meaning for Moscow then.

“We will probably remain [an] abnormal [country].”

Meanwhile, the visiting French officials advocated coming to terms with Russia.

“The time has come, the time is right, to work towards reducing distrust,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

Defense Minister Florence Parly added that “it is important to talk to each other, to avoid misunderstanding and friction.”
Also on rt.com ‘Russia will never be our friend, we’ll slap them when needed’ – US envoy to UN

The meeting comes weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in late August at Bregancon, in an attempt to defuse tension and break the ice in Russia-West relations.

On that occasion, Macron vowed to create a “new architecture of security and confidence” between the EU and Russia. He pointed out that Moscow’s contribution is “essential” in helping to solve the crises in and around Iran, Ukraine, and Syria, and to work on nuclear non-proliferation.

September 9, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, War Crimes | , | 3 Comments

It’s Necessary to Find Way to Counter US, Otherwise Nuclear Deal Won’t Be Only Loss: Zarif

Sputnik – September 3, 2019

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on Monday that Washington’s actions regarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action are a blow to international law, and if the accord is not preserved, the nuclear deal “will not be the only loss”.

On Sunday, Tehran said it would make a third reduction of commitments agreed to under the deal and that this round would be the harshest yet. A spokesman for the Iranian government, Ali Rabiei, said on Monday that Iran would wait until Thursday for the deal’s signatories to take steps toward implementing the accord and make a decision on whether to further scrap its commitments depending on these actions.

“America’s actions are not only a blow to the JCPOA, but to the whole framework of international law. That is why, if we do not find a way to counteract the United States, the JCPOA will not be the only loss. Therefore, we share the same views with Russia on this issue”, Zarif told the Rossiya 24 broadcaster.

Earlier in the day, Zarif said that Tehran would return to full implementation of the deal, if there was progress in negotiations on the implementation by Europeans of their part of the agreement.

The JCPOA was signed in 2015 by Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union. It required Iran to scale back its nuclear programme and severely downgrade its uranium reserves in exchange for sanctions relief. In 2018, the United States abandoned its conciliatory policy on Iran, withdrawing from the JCPOA and hitting Iranian petroleum industries with sanctions.

September 3, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Moscow Concerned, Puzzled Over US Airstrike in Syria’s Idlib

Smoke billows above buildings near the town of Hish in Syria’s Idlib province © AFP 2019 / Omar Haj Kadour
Sputnik – September 2, 2019

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday that it was concerned and puzzled by Washington’s recent airstrike in Syria’s Idlib, slamming the move as “inconsistent” and “contradictory.”

“Inconsistent and contradictory steps that the United States makes in Idlib cannot but cause bewilderment and concern. On the one hand, US representatives … call for halting escalations in Idlib … On the other hand, they conduct an airstrike, which results in large-scale damage and victims”, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Moscow added it expected the United Nations to take the consequences of the airstrike into consideration when preparing reports on the situation in Syria, and also to brief members of the UN Security Council on “the consequences for civilians and civilian infrastructure” and to check the airstrike’s compliance with international humanitarian law.

Although the strike has put the ceasefire under threat, a moratorium on military campaigns is still in place, the ministry emphasised.

US forces struck on Saturday what they said were positions of leaders of the al-Qaeda terrorist group in the north of Idlib.

The strike came on the same day when a new ceasefire entered into force in the rebel-held province. According to the Russian Defence Ministry, Washington violated the ceasefire agreement in Syrian de-escalation zone by launching an attack on it without informing the ceasefire guarantors, namely Russia and Turkey.

The attack resulted in an unspecified number of casualties and damage to surrounding structures.

September 2, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

Moratorium on US oil sanctions to open talks with Iran

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | September 2, 2019

The diplomatic manoeuvrings over the situation around Iran are entering a crucial phase with an Iranian delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi leaving from Tehran for Paris today to pick up the threads of the 3-way discussions involving France, Iran and the United States at Biarritz a week ago on the sidelines of the G7 summit.

Araqchi is Iran’s chief negotiator with the E3 — France, UK and Germany — on the nuclear issue. Interestingly, Araqchi openly acknowledged on Saturday that the US has “shown some flexibility on the licensing of Iranian oil sales.”

The formula that was tossed around in Biarritz that the US will not oppose income being generated for Iran through oil sales is being finessed and linked to the working of the European Union’s trade mechanism for legitimate trade with Iran known as INSTEX. In essence, the formula is based on the French proposal of “freeze for freeze” — US freezing oil sanctions against Iran while Iran will freeze its steady pullback from the JCPOA commitments.

Araqchi said Iran and its European partners in the nuclear deal faced “difficult and complex” talks towards salvaging the pact. But a note of cautious optimism is apparent in Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s remark in Tehran following a meeting of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee at the Iranian parliament on Sunday afternoon that Iran may review the decision to further reduce JCPOA commitments if the European countries take action on INSTEX to live up to their own obligations. Tehran expects the Europeans to take a final decision by Thursday.

In the above backdrop, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani telephoned French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday to convey Tehran’s interest in resuming the discussions under the latter’s mediation. Macron welcomed the move. Rouhani also assured Macron that Iran is supportive of a political settlement in Yemen and is willing to guarantee the security of the shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.

Perhaps, in an indirect alert to the US President Trump, Rouhani conveyed to Macron Iran’s misgivings that Israel is pulling all stops to derail the current negotiations which are at a delicate stage. Rouhani specifically referred to the Israeli attempt to provoke a flare-up involving Iran somehow, as evident in its recent air attacks on Lebanon, Syria and Iraq successively. The Hezbollah retaliated on Sunday by attacking Israel’s military vehicles, leaving a number of Israeli forces reportedly dead or injured.

In a sure sign that a broad settlement of the situation around Iran is under discussion, Zarif has travelled to Moscow with a high-level delegation aimed at coordinating the Iranian and Russian positions. Iran’s special envoys for Afghanistan, Yemen, and Syria are accompanying him. (Interestingly, Zarif referred to “serious developments” in Afghanistan, hinting at imminent US-Taliban deal this week.) Indeed, Iran is across the board addressing the western disquiet over Iran’s role in the conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan. Tehran’s diplomatic priority will be to underscore that it can be a factor of regional security and stability.

From all appearance, Macron is steering the negotiations along three parallel tracks: a) forestall any precipitate crisis in the implementation of the 2015 nuclear deal by enabling Tehran to generate income out of oil sales that helps alleviate the hardships in the Iranian economy; b) persuade the Trump administration to concede Iran’s prerogative to resume trade relations with Europe and generate income through oil sales; and, c) defuse and de-escalate the various ‘hotspots’ in the Middle East where Iran’s role is regarded as critical — principally, Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan.

A convergence of the three tracks can be expected to lead to a new understanding between Tehran and Washington, possibly even a near-future summit involving the US and Iranian presidents. The clock is ticking and there is urgency to generate momentum for Macron’s efforts, as Trump and Rouhani are due to attend the UN General Assembly in September. A meeting is entirely conceivable as things stand.

Indeed, a deeply troubled relationship such as the Iranian-American is bedeviled with a lot of signalling and grandstanding, especially on the part of Tehran where Rouhani has to overcome significant resistance to the very idea of engaging with the US. The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has not said a word so far on Zarif’s visit to Biarritz or the 3-way France-Iran-US discussions under way. Tehran keeps repeating the demand on the lifting of the US sanctions as a pre-requisite for a face-to-face meeting between Rouhani and Trump.

However, it is possible to discern that Tehran is open to negotiations without preconditions and to strive for a meaningful breakthrough by optimally resorting to creative and flexible diplomacy. This flexibility factors in the assessment that Washington too is in a chastened mood.

Trump will not brook disruption by “hardliners”. Several Israeli attempts to have a phone conversation between PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump at Biarritz failed to materialise. Trump understands that all attempts by the US to create an international coalition against Iran have failed.

The law of diminishing returns is at work. The maximum pressure strategy against Iran is opening the window for an unprecedented expansion of Russian and Chinese influence in Tehran which may damage American regional interests in the long-term. The planned first-ever naval exercises between Iran and Russia in the Persian Gulf has rattled the US.

All in all, we may expect a moratorium on US oil sanctions in exchange for Iran’s compliance with its JCPOA obligations, which would be followed by direct negotiations for a historic thaw in the US-Iran relations.

September 1, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Undeclared US airstrike on Syria’s Idlib leaves multiple casualties, puts truce at risk – MoD

RT | September 1, 2019

Sending no warning to Russia or Turkey, the US bombed an array of targets within Idlib, Syria, killing numerous civilians and threatening the hard-earned truce across the province, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The air raid led to “multiple casualties and destruction” around two villages in the Idlib province, where a fragile ceasefire between government forces and militants is still in place, the Russian Reconciliation Center said on Sunday. The airstrike, carried out on Saturday, “endangered the truce” and “violated all previous arrangements.”

Earlier, US Central Command (CENTCOM) said it targeted leaders of a group it calls al-Qaeda in Syria. The strike “will further degrade their ability to conduct future attacks and destabilize the region,” it claimed.

But it hit shortly after Syrian government forces began a unilateral truce in the rebel-held province, Russia’s Defense Ministry noted. The Syrian Army is still sticking to the ceasefire despite militant attacks provoked by the US bombing.

Simultaneously, all combat sorties inside Syria were brought to a halt, the ministry said, rebuking US accusations about Russian “indiscriminate airstrikes” in Idlib.

Forces loyal to the government launched a major offensive on Idlib back in April and made significant advances last month. After days of fierce battles, they managed to liberate strategic locations, including Khan Sheikhoun, a town which had remained a rebel stronghold for years.

Still, a part of the province remains in the hands of a host of jihadist groups that continue to fight against the Damascus government. Hostilities between the Syrian army and the militants were mitigated through a joint diplomatic effort by Russia, Turkey and Iran to create a lasting peace in north-eastern Syria.

In September last year, the three nations agreed to create a 30km buffer zone dividing opposing forces, as part of an extended ceasefire.

September 1, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | 2 Comments