Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

‘Where is the evidence?’ Malaysian PM says attempts to pin MH17 downing on Russia lack proof

RT | May 30, 2019

Malaysia has accepted the Dutch report that a ‘Russian-made’ missile shot down its civilian airliner MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, but has yet to see evidence it was fired by Russia, said Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

“They are accusing Russia but where is the evidence?” Mahathir told reporters at the Japanese Foreign Correspondents Club (FCCJ) in Tokyo on Thursday.

“You need strong evidence to show it was fired by the Russians,” the prime minister went on, according to the Malaysian state news agency Bernama. “It could be by the rebels in Ukraine; it could be Ukrainian government because they too have the same missile.”

Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014 – amid heavy fighting between residents of two eastern regions who rejected the February coup in Kiev and troops dispatched by the Western-backed government to suppress them.

All 283 passengers and 15 crew members on board the Boeing-777 were killed. Kiev immediately blamed Russia for the incident, and most Western media uncritically agreed.

Mahathir was skeptical that anyone involved with the Russian military could have launched the missile that struck the plane, however, arguing that it would have been clear to professionals that the target was a civilian airliner.

“I don’t think a very highly disciplined party is responsible for launching the missile,” he said.

The Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT), whose report last year blamed Moscow for shooting down MH17, barred Russia from participating in the investigation, but involved the government of Ukraine. Although Malaysia is also a member of JIT, Mahathir revealed that his country’s officials have been blocked from examining the plane’s flight recorders.

“For some reason, Malaysia was not allowed to check the black box to see what happened,” he said. “We don’t know why we are excluded from the examination but from the very beginning, we see too much politics in it.”

“The idea was not to find out how this happened but seems to be concentrated on trying to pin it on the Russians.”

“This is not a neutral kind of examination,” Mahathir added.

Rejecting the JIT accusations, Russia made public the evidence the Dutch-led researchers refused to look into, including the serial number of the missile that allegedly struck MH17, showing that it was manufactured in the Soviet Union in 1986 and was in the arsenal of the Ukrainian army at the time of the tragedy.

May 31, 2019 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism | | 1 Comment

Global Elites Started The Russia Nonsense

Ted Eytan (Flickr/CC)
By Thomas Farnan | Human Events | May 24, 2019

Attorney General William Barr has turned the attention of the Russia probe to its origin: who started this and why? The answer, as in all the best crime dramas, is probably hiding in plain sight.

On July 13, 2016, British academic Dr. Andrew Foxall penned an op-ed in the New York Times, “Why Putin Loves Brexit.” He blamed Russia for the previous month’s Brexit vote, adding in a little noted aside:

The United States is so concerned over Moscow’s determination to exploit European disunity that in January, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, began a review of Russia’s clandestine funding of European parties.

The British aristocracy has a condescending view of the hoi polloi who voted for Brexit, regarding them as easily manipulated Pygmalion-like by smarter people.

Bingo! The Obama administration was spying on conservative European political parties. Which means, almost necessarily under the Five Eyes Agreement, foreign agents were returning the favor and spying on the Trump campaign.

On August 11, 2018, I wrote:

The British aristocracy has a condescending view of the hoi polloi who voted for Brexit, regarding them as easily manipulated Pygmalion-like by smarter people. They assumed Vladimir Putin was somehow playing Professor Henry Higgins to the flower girls who voted to reject the EU, because that’s how they see the world. Among the Cambridge class, this simple prejudice renders Russian collusion a first principle with no need for supporting evidence….

Without supporting evidence to prove their fantastical worldview, the global elite set out to manufacture some.

First up was Christopher Steele, who hasn’t set foot in Russia since 2009. He wears as a badge the claim that Putin hates him which, if true, means he has no real Russian sources. Maybe because of that, Steele’s farcical dossier on Trump was not enough for the FBI to open an investigation, and these international men of mystery needed something more.

They invited George Papadopoulos to London, used a Maltese asset disguised as a Russian agent – Joseph Mifsud – to feed him a whopper about Hillary Clinton’s emails, then claimed he repeated the lie to Andrew Downer, an Australian diplomat with ties to the Clinton Foundation.

That was the final straw that caused lovestruck counterintelligence specialist Peter Strzok to open an FBI investigation into the Trump campaign which he called “Crossfire Hurricane.” Apropos, because when MI6 was joined on its flank by an FBI investigation, it was officially a crossfire: two rogue intelligence services raining fire upon Trump.

Conspiracies are mere abstractions unless they do something criminal. The Russian interference fantasy needed a crime. The DNC sold a doozy of an actus reus to the FBI after John Podesta’s negligent disclosure of damaging Clinton campaign emails: Putin did it.

Conveniently, the FBI delegated the inspection of the computer servers to CrowdStrike, an insider paid by the DNC. James Comey testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee in January 2017 that CrowdStrike was “a highly respected private company.”

What he failed to mention was that a month before his testimony, CrowdStrike had been caught falsely blaming Russia for a hack into a Ukrainian artillery computer app.

In other words, at the same time this “highly respected private company” was blaming the Russians for stealing the Clinton campaign’s emails, it was fabricating a different Russian hack to serve Ukrainian misinformation.

Why all the fuss about Russia? Liberal elites – who tended to love the Soviet Union – hate present day Russia, which dares to assert nationality and culture against the pieties of the one-world-order crowd.

The Patriarch of the Orthodox Church passes on all legislation in the country. Putin put the girl rock band Pussy Riot in prison for desecrating an altar, a crime that has not been punished since the 13th century. President Obama sent gay representatives to the Sochi Olympics on his behalf, in protest.

That explains the leftists, but how about Republican elites? Mitch McConnell recently took to the floor of the U.S. Senate to declare the “case closed” on collusion, urging republicans and democrats to unite against Putin’s election interference.

That’s a problem. If Trump was a product of KGB-esque intrigue, then Hillary is a victim of meddling. Trump is merely an un-indicted hapless beneficiary. The deplorables are not only racist, stupid losers, they are also Putin’s unwitting stooges.

The same non-evidence cited to show collusion, though, undergirds the “but Russia interfered” stupidity. It is a three-legged stool that teetered for a while upon Christopher Steele, Joseph Mifsud, and CrowdStrike, and has now crashed to the ground.

President Eisenhower – the furthest thing from a conspiracy theorist America has ever produced – famously warned in his farewell address to beware “the military industrial complex.”

The great funding pipeline that makes Washington D.C. the wealthiest region in America feeds mostly on military spending which still, nearly thirty years removed from the Cold War, requires a Russian enemy.

Unconventional candidate Donald Trump rattled Washington to its core in March 2016 when he wondered about NATO’s continued relevance and questioned America’s foreign policy in Ukraine.

That’s when this “Putin’s candidate” stuff started among both Republicans and Democrats, egged on by Ukrainians – who almost certainly fed Steele the fake kompromat in the dossier.

Russia may be a convenient boogeyman that serves as a necessary foil to both sides in the Washington establishment. But, for once, let’s fight the real enemy: the global elites who started this nonsense.

May 26, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , , , , | Leave a comment

West-backed think tanks threaten new Ukrainian president with disturbing list of ‘RED LINES’

By Danielle Ryan | RT | May, 2019

When President Volodymyr Zelensky won a landslide victory in the free and undisputed April elections, most accepted that he was given a fairly strong mandate to lead Ukraine. But it seems not everyone is so democratically-minded.

Particularly unmoved by the democratic process are a collection of Ukrainian ‘civil society’ groups, who have just issued a lengthy list of “red lines not to be crossed” by the new president, lest he risk provoking a new wave of political instability – that they would presumably instigate.

Issuing their catalog of demands on Thursday, the groups claim to be “politically neutral” but “deeply concerned” about the first actions taken by the comedian-turned-politician Zelensky, including his decision to appoint members of former President Viktor Yanukovych’s government to positions within his own government.

A scan of the undersigned reveals that many of these “civil society groups” are anything but politically neutral. In fact, quite a few of them are partly funded by the US government, various EU governments (including the UK), the European Commission itself – and, of course, the omnipresent liberal billionaire George Soros.

The list includes the notorious Euromaidan Press, Stop Fake and Ukrainian Crisis Media Center, to name just a few. In their heyday, many of these groups acted as propaganda tools of the Western-backed government of Petro Poroshenko, rather than the watchdogs they claim to be. They now confirm that a pesky election isn’t going to stand in the way of their agenda, reaffirming that their own “principles and positions” on issues remain unchanged and warning:

Should [Zelensky] cross these red lines, such actions will inevitably lead to political instability in our country…

This statement, which precedes the wide-ranging list of red lines, reads like a threat: Do what we say, or there will be trouble. Isn’t that a strange, almost dictatorial approach for groups purporting to be interested in “democracy,” “freedom,” and “dignity”? Did we all miss the part where a group of think tanks were collectively elected president of Ukraine?

Of course, these groups do indeed represent various factions of Ukrainian society and many of them no doubt have worthy aims, and they should continue their work unimpeded. But they do not represent all of Ukrainian society and they certainly do not have the authority to set the political agenda and lay down the law to the incoming government – and that, quite literally, is what they are trying to do.

It’s such a gobsmackingly odd list of demands that even Western journalists who had a broadly friendly relationship with the Poroshenko government are aghast at their audacity. The list is broken down into issues of security, foreign policy, economy, national identity (language, education and culture), media and government functioning.

On security, the groups want to forbid Zelensky from “achieving compromise” with Russia in any manner that would be “to the detriment” of the national interest, presumably as defined by themselves. Inhibiting the implementation of security and defense policies outlined in a 2016 decree signed by Poroshenko is also forbidden, they say.

In the foreign policy realm, these audacious activists warn that democratically-elected Zelensky may not initiate any actions that could lead to the “reduction or lifting” of sanctions on Russia by Western powers. He may not take any action “delaying, sabotaging, or rejecting” the course for EU and NATO membership for Ukraine. Where the economy is concerned, he may not implement any policy that goes against existing agreements with “the IMF and other foreign partners.”

It’s on the national identity front that things get really sketchy, though. The groups would like to forbid any attempt whatsoever to even “review” multiple controversial laws signed by Poroshenko, including an anti-Russia language law (which effectively alienates the 30 percent of Ukrainians who speak Russian as their native tongue) and laws on contentious “de-communization” which banned Soviet symbols in the country.

Ironically, this push for de-communization coincided with a renewed glorification of Nazism that went almost unnoticed by Western media and officials, who have supported Poroshenko’s virulently anti-Russian government as it implemented laws better suited to George Orwell’s 1984 than a modern democracy. The “NGOs” insist that Zelensky may not implement any action to support the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, another ‘red line’ among their national identity demands.

Remember when Russian television channels and social networks like VKontakte were banned in Ukraine simply for the crime of being Russian? Well, Zelensky will also be in big trouble if he tries to restore them, the “civil society groups” say.

The most vague red line of all comes near the end of the list, when the new president is warned against “ignoring dialogue with civil society” – a command so vague that “almost anything” Zelensky does going forward could be interpreted as ignoring their wishes, France 24 correspondent Gulliver Cragg wrote on Twitter.

BBC correspondent Jonah Fisher tweeted that the groups themselves may have crossed a red line –  the red line of “what civil society groups can legitimately demand of a freshly elected government.”

Zelensky was elected to office with 73 percent of the vote – and let’s not forget, he won that election having campaigned against many of the policies these ‘civil society’ groups are aggressively demanding be kept in place.

He has been in office only a matter of days, and these Western-backed groups are threatening to instigate political unrest should he take any action that they don’t find acceptable to their political agenda. So who, exactly, poses the real threat to democracy?

Danielle Ryan is an Irish freelance writer based in Dublin. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleRyanJ

May 24, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | | Leave a comment

Two scenarios on Trump-Russia investigators — and neither is comforting

By Sharyl Attkisson – The Hill – 05/21/19

As the investigations into the Trump-Russia investigation proceed, it’s not too difficult to figure out a few of the theoretical starting points.

The first and most obvious theory is the one largely promulgated in the media for the better part of two years. It goes something like this: The sharp, super-sleuth investigative skills of top officials within the Justice Department and our intel community enabled them to identify Donald Trump and his campaign as treacherous conduits to Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.

That theory was summarily dismissed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s conclusion that there wasn’t so much as even coordination between Russia and Trump, or any American. So that leaves several other possibilities … and none of them is good:

They knew

One possibility to be considered is that top Obama administration officials knew all along there never was any real collusion or crime at play, but they manufactured the false Russia premise in order to justify their political spying.

Under this hypothetical scenario, they wanted to get inside information on the Trump campaign and, perhaps, gather dirt against the competition for blackmail or political purposes.

This effort included surveillance using paid spies and wiretaps on multiple Trump associates, as reported in the press.

The Obama officials had lots of help from foreign players such as the United Kingdom and Russia’s nemesis, Ukraine. Ukrainian-linked Democrats assisted with an early effort to gin up negative press coverage about key players, such as Trump associate Paul Manafort, who had been hired by the pro-Russian Ukrainian government prior to the anti-Russian Ukrainian government taking over in 2014. There were other Ukraine entanglements, such as the lucrative position earning millions of dollars that then-Vice President Joe Biden’s son got in 2015 to serve on the board of a Ukrainian energy company under the anti-Russia Ukraine regime.

Anyhow, under this scenario, after Trump defied all predictions and won the election, those who had conspired against him went into panic mode. They rightly worried that Trump, his national security adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, and others outside the “establishment” would be able to see what Justice Department and intel officials had been up to in secret.

They were worried that not only would their furtive activities in 2016 be exposed but that their behavior during the past decade-plus, when there were many other documented surveillance and intel abuses. These abuses include improper surveillance of American citizens, political figures, journalists and other targets.

One can only imagine all the things they did that never became public. Whose communications did they pretend to capture accidentally? Whose bank records, photos, emails, text messages, internet history and keystrokes were monitored? What unverified or false evidence did intel officials present to the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to get wiretaps on political enemies? Who improperly “unmasked” whom?

Hypothetically, these government officials — desperate to keep their deeds in the dark — rushed to amplify the Trump-Russia collusion narrative. Putting Trump under investigation, even if under false pretenses, would accomplish the goal of keeping him from poking around into their business and practices. Any attempts he’d make to find out what was going on inside his own Justice Department or intel agencies would automatically be declared “Obstruction!”

However, they were sloppy.

First, they were sloppy in the improper actions they undertook over a decade or more. They never imagined outsiders would ever really get a look at the evidence of their alleged wrongdoing. Then, they became sloppier in their panic-stricken attempts to cover up after Trump got elected.

As you can see, this scenario presumes a level of corruption.

For those who aren’t prepared to accept the possibility that some within our Justice Department and intel community would frame Trump and his associates to keep their own alleged crimes secret, there is at least one other possibility. But it may not be much more palatable.

They didn’t know

If Mueller is correct and there was no collusion or even coordination between Russia and Trump, or any American, and if the Obama administration officials who insisted that was the case are not corrupt, then they collectively suffered from one of the most historically monumental cases of poor judgment in U.S. intelligence history.

Under this scenario, the seasoned experts entrusted to protect our national security committed the kind of bush-league mistakes that few novice investigators would make. They jumped to conclusions with no evidence. They let their own biases lead them down trails in the wrong direction. They misinterpreted evidence, misread people’s actions and barked up the wrong trees. They misconstrued exceedingly common business and political contacts with Russians as deep, dark, dastardly plots. They wasted energy and resources chasing specters, ghosts and conspiracies where none existed.

Under this scenario, the misguided obsession over nonexistent treachery and enemies of the state caused the officials to underestimate or ignore the real threats that were right under their noses.

We do know this much: Only after Trump was elected did these officials ring major alarm bells about the Russians. It’s as if they are utterly unaware that the election interference they suspected and detected happened while they were in charge.

Or maybe they just hope to convince us to look the other way.

Instead of looking the other way, we might be well advised to open the books and examine how these officials were running their shops well before 2016. What does either scenario imply about how these operators behaved behind closed doors? How did they use their power and the powerful tools at their disposal? How well did they guard the nation’s interests and our deepest secrets?

Whether they were corrupt or inept, whether they knew or whether they didn’t know, the questions seem important to answer.

Sharyl Attkisson (@SharylAttkisson) is an Emmy Award-winning investigative journalist, author of best-sellers “The Smear” and “Stonewalled,” and host of Sinclair’s Sunday TV program, “Full Measure.”

May 21, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception | , , , , , | Leave a comment

US, Russia engage on Venezuela

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | May 12, 2019

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov remarked last Thursday in Moscow that no contacts between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump are expected at the G20 summit in Japan on June 28-29. “An encounter is not planned so far and there is no talk about a meeting,” Peskov said.

This remark was made in the run-up to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s forthcoming visit to Russia on April 12-14. There has been much speculation in the US media that a summit meeting between Trump and Putin was likely among Pompeo’s talking points with the Russian leadership.

The ‘pull asides’ that Trump has been resorting to on the sidelines of international events to have a quick word with Putin have fallen into a pattern. Firstly, things remained strictly between the two statesmen at a personal level and secondly, Trump had to take care no feathers were ruffled back home while the Robert Mueller inquiry on ‘Russia collusion’ was going on. The arrangement left the Russian side unhappy, since the unstructured informal conversations eventually led to nothing. Russian-American relations continued to deteriorate.

Unsurprisingly, it has taken over one year for Pompeo to schedule his first visit to Moscow after he took over as state secretary in April 2018. (No US secretary of defence has yet visited Russia during the Trump presidency, either.) The proposal on Pompeo’s visit was hurriedly mooted by Washington just a few days ago, earlier this month. Therefore, if Pompeo’s visit is being treated on a low key, it could be that Moscow doesn’t expect anything much to come out of it.

The point is, although the Mueller inquiry could not prove any ‘collusion’ between Trump and the Kremlin, Russia still remains a toxic subject domestically in the US. For Trump’s detractors, he and Russia are often synonymous. The narrative that Trump and people around him were engaged in improper activities with Russia is not about to wither away and there are further moves likely in the Washington Beltway to find out about any other possible links between the Trump organisation and even his family and Russian entities or oligarchs.

Then, there is the vexed issue of the US sanctions against Russia, which inherently curb the scope for any meaningful expansion of ties. The post-2016 sanctions do not stem from executive orders but emanate out of laws passed by the US Congress, which takes away from Trump’s hands the powers to remove them — and, equally, they  are not even tied to specific Russian behaviours. The Russians understand well enough that the sanctions won’t be lifted for a long time.

Within such constraints, what is it that Pompeo’s visit hopes to achieve? At a state department briefing on May 10, an unnamed senior US official disclosed that arms control will top Pompeo’s agenda during the Russia visit. He said Trump seeks new agreements with Russia “that reflect modern reality. These agreements must include a broader range of countries and account for a broader range of weapon systems than our current bilateral treaties with Russia.” Besides, he said, “There will be a full range of global challenges to discuss, including Ukraine, Venezuela, Iran, Syria, and North Korea.”

However, there are enough signs that the main thing to watch could be whether a US-Russia deal on Venezuela becomes possible. Three weeks back, Fiona Hill, senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council in the White House, had visited Moscow for consultations. Amongst others, she met Putin’s foreign policy advisor Yuri Ushakov. According to media reports, Hill prioritised Venezuela as the most important topic in the US-Russia relations at the moment.

Arguably, more than oil or the Monroe Doctrine, what motivates Trump could be the impact of a regime change in Venezuela on the Hispanic voters in the 2020 presidential race in Florida. This impression would only have been reinforced last week when Pompeo met Lavrov on the sidelines of the Arctic Council meeting in Helsinki when, again, Venezuela figured prominently in their discussion.

With the recent US-backed coup attempt in Venezuela on April 30 having failed spectacularly, the probability of an outright US intervention is low — almost non-existent.  Trump would be reaching out for Russian help for a constitutional transition in Caracas that he could project as a ‘win’. Both Washington and Moscow are highly experienced in adopting a transactional approach to their relationship.

For Russia, on the other hand, its support for the Maduro government in Caracas is driven as much by financial and energy interests as by Moscow’s vision of a multipolar world order that is based on international law. As the Moscow-based analyst Fred Weir wrote recently, “while it may look and sound like a Cold War standoff, for Russia it is really about the simpler issue of establishing rules for competing big powers in a post-Cold War world. In Venezuela, and between the US and Russia generally, there is no sharp ideological divide over world-shaping doctrines like communism versus capitalism.”

Simply put, the Russian-American discord over Venezuela boils down to this: Washington wants Russia to stop ‘meddling’ in the Western Hemisphere, while Moscow would expect that the US also should stop fomenting anti-Moscow revolutions in Russia’s backyard. Otherwise, Russian experts acknowledge, it matters little to Moscow who rules in Caracas.

The influential strategic thinker in Moscow Fyodor Lukyanov told Weir, “The relationship that emerged between Russia and Venezuela was an accident. It was mainly the initiative of Hugo Chávez, who was seeking counterbalances to his country’s dependence on the US. Of course this was enthusiastically supported in Moscow. But it should be pointed out that at that time, the early 2000s, Chávez was rich and could pay for Russian arms and advice. Since Chávez died, and his successor has not proven so adept or popular, many in Moscow have been worried about our heavy investments in a potentially unstable regime.”

It is entirely conceivable that this complicated Russian-American tango of ‘meddling’ in the other side’s region could be in the first instance what prompted Washington to schedule Pompeo’s hurried visit to Russia to meet Lavrov and Putin in Sochi on April 14. Evidently, the Trump administration’s resuscitation of the Monroe Doctrine provides a diplomatic opening to Moscow, which of course continues to cherish the territories of the former Soviet republics as its own ‘sphere of influence’, too.

To quote Lukyanov again, “This citing of the Monroe Doctrine is something quite intriguing, and it would be warmly welcomed in Moscow if we thought the Americans took it seriously.” Indeed, some reports on Fiona Hill’s talks in Moscow last month hinted that she made a proposal to what roughly involved Russia letting up on Venezuela in exchange for some US concessions on Ukraine.

Be that as it may, significantly, Russian and Venezuelan foreign ministers met in Moscow on the eve of Lavrov’s meeting with Pompeo in Helsinki last week. What needs to be factored in is that although the coup attempt of April 30 failed, the situation in Venezuela is fluid. According to the Russian media, President Maduro has expelled dozens of army officers for their involvement in the coup, including high ranking officers.

To be sure, Moscow would know that a political solution is needed. The good part is that regime change is off the table as of now, which gives the respite to negotiate. After the meeting with Pompeo in Helsinki, Lavrov told the media that he’d rule out any foreign military intervention in Venezuela.

But the problem is that trust is lacking between Washington and Moscow. Russia cannot be sure that the American side will keep its side of the bargain — that is, assuming there is a will to negotiate at all. Again, there is the issue of US sanctions, which has crippled the Venezuelan economy over recent years. This is important because Russia’s exposure to Venezuela is huge. At the very least, Russian investments (loans) to Venezuela since 2005 amount to $17 billion.

May 12, 2019 Posted by | Russophobia | , , , | Leave a comment

Ukraine Tapped By Obama Admin To Hurt Trump, Help Clinton And Protect Bidens

By Tyler Durden – Zero Hedge – 04/27/2019

In January, 2016, the Obama White House summoned Ukrainian authorities to Washington to discuss several ongoing matters under the guise of coordinating “anti-corruption efforts,” reports The Hill’s John Solomon.

The January 2016 gathering, confirmed by multiple participants and contemporaneous memos, brought some of Ukraine’s top corruption prosecutors and investigators face to face with members of former President Obama’s National Security Council (NSC), FBI, State Department and Department of Justice (DOJ).

The agenda suggested the purpose was training and coordination. But Ukrainian participants said it didn’t take long — during the meetings and afterward — to realize the Americans’ objectives included two politically hot investigations: one that touched Vice President Joe Biden’s family and one that involved a lobbying firm linked closely to then-candidate Trump. –The Hill

The Obama officials – likely knowing that lobbyist Paul Manafort was about to join President Trump’s campaign soon (he joined that March), were interested in reviving a closed investigation into payments to US figures from Ukraine’s pro-Russia Party of Regions – which both Paul Manafort and Tony Podesta did unregistered work for, according to former Ukrainian Embassy political officer Andrii Telizhenko.

The 2014 investigation focused heavily on Manafort, whose firm was tied to Trump through his longtime partner and Trump adviser, Roger Stone.

Agents interviewed Manafort in 2014 about whether he received undeclared payments from the party of ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and whether he engaged in improper foreign lobbying.

The FBI shut down the case without charging Manafort

Telizhenko and other attendees of the January, 2016 meeting recall DOJ employees asking Ukrainian investigators from their National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) if they could locate new evidence about the Party of Regions’ payments to Americans.

“It was definitely the case that led to the charges against Manafort and the leak to U.S. media during the 2016 election,” said Telizhenko – which makes the January 2016 gathering in DC one of the earliest documented efforts to compile a case against Trump and those in his orbit.

Nazar Kholodnytskyy, Ukraine’s chief anti-corruption prosecutor, told me he attended some but not all of the January 2016 Washington meetings and couldn’t remember the specific cases, if any, that were discussed.

But he said he soon saw evidence in Ukraine of political meddling in the U.S. election. Kholodnytskyy said the key evidence against Manafort — a ledger showing payments from the Party of Regions — was known to Ukrainian authorities since 2014 but was suddenly released in May 2016 by the U.S.-friendly NABU, after Manafort was named Trump’s campaign chairman.

“Somebody kept this black ledger secret for two years and then showed it to the public and the U.S. media. It was extremely suspicious,” said Kholodnytskyy – who specifically instructed NABU not to share the “black ledger” with the media.

“I ordered the detectives to give nothing to the mass media considering this case. Instead, they had broken my order and published themselves these one or two pages of this black ledger regarding Paul Manafort,” he added. “For me it was the first call that something was going wrong and that there is some external influence in this case. And there is some other interests in this case not in the interest of the investigation and a fair trial.”

Manafort joined Trump’s campaign on March 29, 2016 and became campaign manager on May 19, 2016. The ledger’s existence leaked on May 29, 2016, while Manafort would be fired from the Trump campaign that August.

NABU leaked the existence of the ledgers on May 29, 2016. Later that summer, it told U.S. media the ledgers showed payments to Manafort, a revelation that forced him to resign from the campaign in August 2016.

A Ukrainian court in December concluded NABU’s release of the ledger was an illegal attempt to influence the U.S. election. And a member of Ukraine’s parliament has released a recording of a NABU official saying the agency released the ledger to help Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Ignoring others, protecting Bidens

Kostiantyn Kulyk – deputy head of the Ukraine prosecutor general’s international affairs office, said that Ukraine also had evidence of other Western figures receiving money from Yanukovych’s party – such as former Obama White House counsel Gregory Craig – but the Americans weren’t interested.

“They just discussed Manafort. This was all and only what they wanted. Nobody else,” said Kulyk.

Another case raised at the January 2016 meeting involved the Bidens – specifically Burisma Holdings; a Ukrainian energy company which was under investigation at the time for improper foreign transfers of money. Burisma allegedly paid then-Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter more than $3 million in 2014-15 as both a board member and a consultant, according to bank records.

According to Telizhenko, U.S. officials told the Ukrainians they would prefer that Kiev drop the Burisma probe and allow the FBI to take it over. The Ukrainians did not agree. But then Joe Biden pressured Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to fire Ukraine’s chief prosecutor in March 2016, as I previously reported. The Burisma case was transferred to NABU, then shut down.

The Ukrainian Embassy in Washington on Thursday confirmed the Obama administration requested the meetings in January 2016, but embassy representatives attended only some of the sessions.

Last Wednesday on Fox and Friends, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said “I ask you to keep your eye on Ukraine,” referring to collusion to help Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

What’s more, DOJ documents support Telizhenko’s claim that the DOJ reopened its Manafort case as the 2016 election ramped up – including communications between Associate Attorney General Bruce Ohr, his wife, Nellie, and ex-British spy Christopher Steele, as Solomon writes.

Nellie Ohr and Steele worked in 2016 for the research firm, Fusion GPS, that was hired by Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to find Russia dirt on Trump. Steele wrote the famous dossier for Fusion that the FBI used to gain a warrant to spy on the Trump campaign. Nellie Ohr admitted to Congress that she routed Russia dirt on Trump from Fusion to the DOJ through her husband during the election.

DOJ emails show Nellie Ohr on May 30, 2016, directly alerted her husband and two DOJ prosecutors specializing in international crimes to the discovery of the “black ledger” documents that led to Manafort’s prosecution.

“Reported Trove of documents on Ukrainian Party of Regions’ Black Cashbox,” Nellie Ohr wrote to her husband and federal prosecutors Lisa Holtyn and Joseph Wheatley, attaching a news article on the announcement of NABU’s release of the documents.

Politico reported previously that the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington assisted the Hillary Clinton campaign through a DNC contractor, while the Ukrainian Embassy acknowledges that it got requests from a DNC staffer to find dirt on Manafort (though it denies providing any improper assistance.”

As Solomon concludes: “what is already confirmed by Ukrainians looks a lot more like assertive collusion with a foreign power than anything detailed in the Mueller report.”

April 27, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Russophobia | , , , | 1 Comment

Putin Open to Provocation-Free Dialogue With Ukraine’s Zelenskiy – Kremlin

Sputnik – 08.04.2019

MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready to discuss any pressing issues with the Ukrainian presidential hopeful, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, if such a dialogue is free of provocations, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday.

“In general, Putin is always open for dialogue, except for the situations when [Kiev] is trying to couple this dialogue with various provocations, sabotage and so on. In such cases, Putin’s reaction is very clear, unequivocal and decisive,” Peskov said.

Ukrainian frontrunner Zelenskiy said Sunday he was ready for talks with Putin on the Donbass conflict in the presence of Western powers.

Ukrainian presidential hopeful Zelensky has won first election round with 30.24 percent of votes, final results of the ballot count revealed, while Poroshenko has gained 15.95 percent of votes.

April 8, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

US Ambassador to NATO: We Will Guarantee Passage of Ukrainian Warships Through Crimea Waters

If you want a war with Russia, that’s how you start one

By Marko Marjanović | Check Point Asia | April 4, 2019

The not-very-smart lady who last October put Russians “on notice” that US was looking at “taking out” Russian intermediate-range missiles in a pre-emptive strike, is at it again. This time she is promising NATO will guarantee Ukrainian Navy ships can pass through the Kerch Strait between mainland Russia and Crimea, which since 2014 Russia considers along with Crimea its own territory.

It is as much as saying NATO will guarantee Ukrainian army can return to Crimea. There isn’t any doubt either than Hutchinson is talking about Ukrainian warships (Russians do not interfere with the passage of merchant ships) seeing she says this is specifically in response to the November crisis where Russians prevented Ukrainian Navy vessels from making the passage:

“I think that we have been working on a package to present to the foreign ministers, and it is a package that beefs up the surveillance, both air surveillance as well as more of the NATO country ships going into the Black Sea to assure that there is safe passage from Ukrainian vessels through the Kerch Straits, the Sea of Azov,” she said.

The US representative commented that at present “more attention is needed to guarantee that these waters are liberated” and that the countries in the region are “free from Russian interference”.

Russia has been deploying defensive weapons in Crimea, but Crimea is part of Ukraine,” Hutchison remarked.

“It is very important that the inhabitants of Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Georgia feel at home in the Black Sea zone, both in the water and on land,” she said, adding that the package of measures is a response to November’s Kerch Strait incident.

It is unacceptable that Ukrainian sailors are being held in prison in Moscow. We must ensure that we have the ability to restrain Russia’s aggression,” she remarked.

The truth is that NATO can guarantee no such thing, if the Kiev government organizes another attempt to force the entry without filing a request with the Russians, the Russians will fire once again. But it is reckless to talk as if NATO intends to organize or back such an attempt.

The Russian reaction was sheer disbelief somebody could be so saying something so stupid and inflammatory:

“In a negative light,” he [Putin’s spokesman Peskov] said when asked how Kremlin viewed such statements. “We do not understand what that means.”

It is worrying that Americans have some many people in important positions who do not comprehend the consequences of what they are proposing.

April 4, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | 3 Comments

Joe Biden’s past strong-arming in Ukraine is coming back to haunt him

RT | April 2, 2019

It isn’t just unwanted kissing threatening Joe Biden’s bid for presidency, his past strong-arming of Ukraine to fire a prosecutor probing a company his son sits on the board of is also rearing its head again, the Hill reports.

The former vice president boasted at a January 2018 Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) meeting that he had threatened Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk into firing prosecutor Viktor Shokin in March 2016. Biden said he gave them a six-hour deadline to fire him or he would pull $1 billion in US loan guarantees. “Well, son of a bitch, he got fired,” he said.

While Biden’s boast implied the US threatened the Ukrainian government in a single day, Ukrainian officials say the pressure was applied over months, starting in 2015.

The Hill reports that Ukrainian officials revealed that Shokin had been conducting a wide-ranging corruption probe into natural gas firm Burisma Holdings at the time. Biden’s son Hunter, a lawyer, former hedge fund president and Washington lobbyist, was a member of the board and, it has since been revealed, appeared to receive a series of payments from the gas company.

Shokin confirmed to the Hill that he had plans to conduct “interrogations and other crime-investigation procedures into all members of the executive board, including Hunter Biden,” before he was fired.

The investigation into Burisma largely stopped when Shorkin was fired, but in 2018, after Biden had made his comments at the CFR, the current general prosecutor, Yury Lutsenko, started to look into the Burisma case again. He discovered members of the board and Rosemont Seneca Partners had obtained funds for “consulting services,” he told the Hill.

Lutsenko said some of the evidence he has could interest US authorities.

Burisma paid over $3 million to an account linked to Hunter Biden’s investment firm, Rosemont Seneca Partners, between April 2014 and October 2015, financial records filed in an unrelated Manhattan federal court file revealed.

Rosemont Seneca Partners usually received two transfers of $83,333 a month (amounting to $166,000) from Burisma, and on the same days, the account then paid Hunter one or more payments ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.

The Ukrainian probe into Burisma had identified Hunter and his business partner Devon Archer, who had also been appointed to Burisma’s board, as potential recipients of the money Burisma sent to Rosemont Seneca.

When Hunter was appointed to the board in 2014, some raised concerns of a conflict of interest, in light of Biden’s previous comments urging Ukraine to not be as dependent on Russia for gas. Burisma is a private company headed by former Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch banker Alan Apter. Former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski sits on the board.

April 2, 2019 Posted by | Corruption | , | 2 Comments

The Many Reasons to Believe Vasily Prozorov’s Testimony About Ukraine’s Role in Downing MH-17

Former Ukrainian intelligence officer Vasily Prozorov’s testimony will likely be dismissed by Western governments supporting Kiev, but there is plenty of evidence to back his claims.

By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | March 27, 2019

KIEV, UKRAINE — A former top official in Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU), who recently fled the country, has given explosive testimony regarding the involvement of the Ukrainian government in the 2014 downing of the MH-17 passenger plane. The incident, which killed all 283 passengers and 15 flight crew members on board, had been blamed on Russia by Ukraine’s government, the United States and much of Western media.

In addition, the former official, Vasily Prozorov, told a group of international reporters that Ukraine’s controversial Azov Battalion, known for its Neo-Nazi ideology and symbolism, ran and maintained secret prisons in contested areas of Eastern Ukraine where there is fighting between pro-government forces and pro-Russian separatists. Prozorov, who has sought asylum in Russia, also accused the United States and the United Kingdom of training an SBU division that returned to Ukraine to conduct terrorist attacks in the Donbass region, which has been the site of a civil war since the overthrow of Ukraine’s government in 2014 in a U.S.-backed coup.

Prozorov’s identity was kept secret until the press conference began, in breaking with standard protocol. Prozorov then introduced himself, stating that he had been employed by the SBU from 1999 to 2018, but — after the U.S.-backed coup in 2014 — had contacted Russian intelligence and began working undercover in the central office of the SBU. He does not describe himself as a defector, as he stated that his allegiance remains with the Ukrainian people while the allegiance of those who came to power with U.S. assistance in 2014 has long been suspect.

Prozorov then noted that, soon after the coup and before the civil war between Western and Eastern Ukraine had begun, the SBU — at Kiev’s behest — had begun to plan combat operations in the East and that the government had requested that plans be made that would result in mass civilian deaths among ethnic Russian populations, who were to be labeled as “accomplices to terrorists.”

The former SBU officer also detailed how the post-coup SBU had established secret prisons where prominent dissidents of the U.S.-backed government were interrogated, tortured and even killed. One of those prisons, located at an airstrip in Mariupol, was nicknamed “the Library” and Prozorov compared it to a “concentration camp” and showed images of severely beaten detainees he claimed had been imprisoned at the site. The former SBU officer also stated that SBU’s decisions, in regards to the black-site prisons and other areas, were often “led” by foreign advisers from the United States and the United Kingdom. The SBU’s use of torture in Ukraine’s civil war has been well-documented even though the SBU blocked UN efforts to probe its extent.

In addition, Prozorov asserted that the Neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, a militia that was incorporated into Ukraine’s Interior Ministry as a component of the country’s National Guard, also operates its own prisons in the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) zones in Eastern Ukraine. The Azov Battalion receives funding from the government of Ukraine as well as from the U.S. government and has also received weapons from the Israeli government.

Insights into the MH-17 downing

Prozorov’s most shocking statements were related to the 2014 downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, or MH-17, which was promptly blamed on Russia by the post-coup Ukrainian government, the United States and much of the Western world. Prozorov stated, noting first that it was his personal opinion based on his experiences, that the Ukrainian government had been an “accomplice to the Malaysian MH-17 flight disaster.”

He continued, stating:

The amazingly prompt reaction of the Ukrainian leadership was the first thing that made me feel suspicious. My unequivocal opinion was President Pyotr Poroshenko and his press-service had prior knowledge of the affair. Secondly, hostilities had been underway for several months by then, but the airspace over the area was not closed.”

He also noted that his efforts to learn more about the circumstances of the disaster within the SBU from a senior officer were met with the following reply: “Don’t poke your nose into this business, if you don’t wish to have problems.” However, Prozorov noted that “some information has leaked out in the end, though.”

He then concluded:

On the basis of my own analysis I can speculate who was an accomplice in the crime and who was involved in concealing evidence. In my opinion, there were two men involved – the current deputy chief of the Ukrainian presidential staff Valery Kondratyuk and chief of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s intelligence directorate, Vasyl Burba.”

Valery Kondratyuk, left and Vasily Burba, right

Prozorov’s full conference can be watched here (in Russian). A summary with English subtitles can be watched here.

Claims well-supported by independent reporting

Though some may be quick to dismiss Prozorov’s testimony as “Russian propaganda,” many of his claims fit with independent reporting on the Ukrainian conflict. For instance, in regard to Prozorov’s claim of “black site” prisons, the SBU denied the UN access in 2016 to many detention centers in Mariupol — where Prozorov says “the Library” prison is located — and Kramatorsk. The SBU claimed that it blocked the UN inspectors access in order to protect “government secrets.” The UN had first tried to access the areas after several human-rights groups had found credible evidence of torture taking place at facilities in the area.

Prozorov’s claims that the post-coup SBU had made plans to murder ethnic Russians in the Donbass are also supported by publicly available evidence. For instance, when the civil war began, the Kiev-based government stated its intention to specifically target civilians in order “to clean the cities.” In 2016, then-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who has been called “Washington’s man in Ukraine,” called pro-Russian civilians in the region “subhumans.” In an interview aired by the U.S.-funded, pro-government Ukrainian news channel Hromadske TV, a Ukrainian journalist aligned with the government asserted that the contested region was home to 1.5 million people “who are superfluous” and “must be exterminated.” With such sentiments having been openly stated by prominent politicians and journalists aligned with the current government in Kiev, Prozorov’s assertions seem hardly unreasonable.

US Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Robert Ashley, right, meets with Vasyl Burba, Chief of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine. Photo | Defence Intelligence of Ukraine

In regard to Ukraine’s alleged role in the downing of MH-17, it is worth noting that past reports by late American investigative journalist Robert Parry described in detail how the “independent” MH-17 investigation was almost completely dependent on information from Ukraine’s SBU in piecing together the event. According to Parry:

[This control by the SBU, combined with its past obstruction of the UN torture probe],suggests that the SBU also would steer the JIT away from any evidence that might implicate a unit of the Ukrainian military in the shoot-down, a situation that would be regarded as a state secret which could severely undermine international support for the U.S.-backed regime in Kiev. Among the SBU’s official duties is the protection of Ukrainian government secrets.”

In addition, one of Parry’s sources maintained that the CIA had, like Prozorov, found evidence that Ukraine’s government had indeed been “an accomplice” to the MH-17 incident:

A source who was briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts told me that the CIA’s conclusion pointed toward a rogue Ukrainian operation involving a hard-line oligarch with the possible motive of shooting down Russian President Vladimir Putin’s official plane returning from South America that day, with similar markings as MH-17. The source said a Ukrainian warplane ascertained that the plane was not Putin’s but the attack went ahead anyway, with the assumption that the tragedy would be blamed on the pro-Russian rebels or on Russia directly.”

Another reason Prozorov’s testimony should not be outright dismissed as propaganda is the fact that he pushed back on previous Russian media reports involving U.S. infiltration of the SBU. When asked by a reporter if he could confirm reports that foreign military officials, including Americans, occupied their own floor at SBU headquarters, Prozorov adamantly denied those claims, stating that after 2005 there were CIA officials present in SBU headquarters but that the practice had been discontinued. He stated that U.S. intelligence officials regularly visited SBU headquarters after the 2014 coup but were not based in the building.

Thus, while Prozorov’s testimony will likely be dismissed by mainstream Western media outlets and Western governments that support Kiev, there is plenty of evidence suggesting that many of his claims — including his most shocking — deserve careful consideration, not outright dismissal. Indeed, were Prozorov a defector from a country currently at odds with the U.S. — be it Russia, Venezuela or Iran — it is highly likely that mainstream media would repeat and his promote his claims regardless of their veracity. However, because he has sought asylum in Russia, his recent statements are unlikely to gain international traction merely because of where he is now located, in spite of the evidence supporting many of those statements.

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism

March 27, 2019 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | | Leave a comment

Washington told Ukraine to end probe into George Soros-funded group during 2016 US election – report

RT | March 27, 2019

An NGO co-funded by George Soros was spared prosecution in 2016 after the US urged Ukraine to drop a corruption probe targeting the group, the Hill reported, pointing to potential shenanigans during the US presidential election.

Bankrolled by the Obama administration and Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros, the Anti-Corruption Action Centre (AntAC) was under investigation as part of a larger probe by Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office into the misallocation of $4.4 million in US funds to fight corruption in the eastern European country.

As the 2016 presidential race heated up back in the United States, the US Embassy in Kiev gave Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko “a list of people whom we should not prosecute” as part of the probe, the Hill reported. Ultimately, no action was taken against AntAC.

Lutsenko told the paper that he believes the embassy wanted the probe nixed because it could have exposed the Democrats to a potential scandal during the 2016 election.

A State Department official who spoke with the Hill said that while the request to nix the probe was unusual, Washington feared that AntAC was being targeted as retribution for the group’s advocacy for anti-corruption reforms in Ukraine.

AntAC wasn’t just the benefactor of well-connected patrons – at the time it was also collaborating with FBI agents to uncover then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s business dealings in Ukraine. Manafort later became a high-profile target of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged Russian collusion, and was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison for tax fraud and other financial crimes.

Lutsenko divulged in an interview with the Hill last week that he has opened an investigation into whether Ukrainian officials leaked financial records during the 2016 US presidential campaign in an effort to sway the election in favor of Hillary Clinton.

While AntAC may have failed to help the FBI find the Russia collusion smoking gun, the group’s activities constitute yet another link between the anti-climactic Russiagate probe and Soros, a Democrat mega-donor who bet big on Hillary Clinton taking the White House in 2016.

In 2017, the billionaire philanthropist siphoned money into a new group, the Democracy Integrity Project, which later partnered with Fusion GPS to create the now-infamous Steele dossier.

Spokespersons for AntAC and the Soros umbrella group Open Society Foundations declined to comment on the Hill’s scoop.

Ironically, the prosecutor general who had preceded Lutsenko, Viktor Shokin, resigned under pressure from Washington – which accused Shokin of corruption.

Virtuous US officials continue to make similar demands of Ukraine’s justice system. Earlier this month, Washington urged the Ukrainian government to fire its special anti-corruption prosecutor, again over accusations of administrative abuse.

March 27, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Russophobia | , , , , , | Leave a comment

REFLECTIONS ON PUTIN AS A LEADER AND ON THE WORLD SITUATION IN WHICH HE WORKS

By John Chuckman | Aletho News | March 6, 2019

There is an immense amount of criticism of Putin, especially coming from America, most of it empty criticism which ignores realities and genuine analysis. For the more thoughtful, it represents only the stink and noise of propaganda, and not honest criticism in its true sense at all.

In politics, and especially in the direction of a country’s foreign affairs, there are certain behaviors, ideas, and attitudes which mark out a person as exceptional. I think there can be no doubt, Putin is just such a person, and I am very much inclined to say, the preeminent one of our time. Frankly, compared with Putin’s skills, Donald Trump comes off as a noisy circus act, a sideshow carnival barker, and not an appealing one. He has an outsized impact in the world only because he represents the most powerful country on earth and has embraced all the prejudices and desires of its power establishment, not because of the skillfulness of his actions or the insight of his mind. Obama made a better public impression, but if you analyze his actions, you see a man of immense and unwarranted ego, a very secretive and unethical man, and a man who held no worthy ideals he promoted. He was superficial in many things. And he was completely compliant to the power establishment, leaving no mark of his own to speak of.

Putin is a man who advocates cooperation among states, who argues against exceptionalism, who wants his country to have peace so that it can grow and advance, a man lacking any frightening or tyrannical ideologies, a man who invariably refers to other countries abroad, even when they are being uncooperative, in respectful terms as “our partners,” a man who knows how to prioritize, as in defense spending, a man with a keen eye for talent who has some other exceptional people assisting him – men of the caliber of Lavrov or Shoygu, a man who supports worthy international organizations like the UN, a man who only reluctantly uses force but uses it effectively when required, a highly restrained man in almost everything he does, a man who loves his country and culture but does not try foisting them off on everyone else as we see almost continuously from American presidents, a man with a keen eye for developing trends and patterns in the world, a man with an eye, too, for the main chance, a man whose decisions are made calmly and in light of lot of understanding. That’s quite a list.

The differences between recent American leaders, all truly mediocre, and Putin probably has something to do with the two counties’ relative situations over the last few decades. After all, if the support isn’t there for someone like Putin, you won’t get him. Russia’s huge Soviet empire collapsed in humiliation in 1991. The country was put through desperate straits, literally its own great depression with people begging or selling pathetic trinkets on the streets. And America made no real effort to assist. Indeed, quite the opposite, it kicked someone who was down and tried to shake all the loose change from his pockets. Out of Russia’s desperation came a man of remarkable skills, a rather obscure figure, but one who proved extremely popular and was obviously supported by enough powerful and important people to employ his skills for the county’s recovery and advance.

Putin showed no weakness or flinching when dealing with some of the extremely wealthy men who in fact became wealthy by stripping assets from the dying Soviet Union, men who then also used their wealth to challenge the country’s much-needed new leadership. He was, of course, excoriated by the United States, but to the best of my understanding, he did what was necessary for progress. The results are to be seen in a remarkably revitalized Russia. Everywhere, important projects are underway. New highways, new airports, major new bridges, new rail lines and subways, a new spaceport, new projects and cooperative efforts with a whole list of countries, new efforts in technology and science, and Russia has become the world’s largest exporter of wheat. Putin also has committed Russia to offering the world grain crops free of all GMOs and other contaminants, a very insightful effort to lock-in what have been growing premium markets for such products, even among Americans.

The military, which badly declined after the fall of the USSR, has been receiving new and remarkable weapons, the products of focused research efforts. New high-tech tanks, artillery, ships, and planes. In strategic weapons, Russia now produces several unprecedented ones, a great achievement which was done without spending unholy amounts of money, Russia’s military budget being less than a tenth that of the United States. Putin’s caution and pragmatism dictate that Russia’s first priority is to become as healthy as possibly, so it needs peace, for decades. Few Westerners appreciate the devastating impact of the USSR’s collapse, but even before that, the Soviet empire had its own slow debilitating impact. Russia’s economic system was not efficient and competitive. The effects of that accumulated over many years. The USSR always did maintain the ability to produce big engineering projects such as dams and space flight, but it was always sorely lacking in the small and refined things of life that an efficient economy automatically sees are provided.

The new strategic weapons are an unfortunate necessity, but the United States threatens Russia as perhaps never before with the expansion of NATO membership right to the Russian border, something breaking specific American promises of years back. And it has been running tanks all over Europe and then digging them in them right at the frontier just to make a point. It has deployed multiple-use covered missile launchers not far from the border which may as easily contain offensive intermediate-range ground-to-ground nuclear missiles as the defensive anti-missile missiles claimed to be their purpose. And it has torn up one of the most important nuclear-weapons treaties we had, the INF Treaty, pertaining to intermediate-range missiles. Intermediate-range nuclear missiles based in Europe give the United States the ability to strike Russia with little warning, their ten-minute flight path compares to a roughly thirty-minute flight path for an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) coming from America. These are extremely de-stabilizing, as are the counter-measures Russia felt it must take, Russian intermediate-range nuclear missile aimed at European centers. Everyone eventually recognized that, and that’s why the treaty was successfully completed. Europeans appreciated no longer becoming the immediate battlefield in a nuclear war.

But relations with the United States have now entered a new world, and it is not a brave one. America’s power establishment has assumed new goals and priorities, and in those, Russia is not viewed well, despite its new identity as a nation ready to participate and peacefully compete with everyone, a nation without the kind of extreme ideology communism was, a kind of secular religious faith. Despite its readiness to participate in all Western organizations, forums, and discussions, it is viewed with a new hostility by America. It is arbitrarily regarded as an opponent, as an ongoing threat. As I discuss below, America, too, has been kind of in a decline, and the response of its leadership to that fact involves flexing its muscles and extracting concessions and privileges and exerting a new dominance in the world, a response not based in economic competition and diplomatic leadership, a response carrying a great deal of danger.

And, very importantly, its response is one that involves not only bypassing international organizations, but, in many cases, working hard to bend them to its purposes. There are many examples, but America’s treatment of the UN has been foremost. It has in the recent past refused for considerable periods to pay its treaty-obliged dues until it saw changes it unilaterally demanded. It has dropped out of some important agencies completely, most notably UNESCO. In general, it has intimidated an international organization into better accommodating American priorities, including very much imperial ones opposed to what the UN is supposed to be about. And it has used this intimidation and non-cooperativeness to influence the nature of leadership at the UN, the last few Secretaries-General being timid on very important matters and ineffective in general. That’s just the way America likes them to be now. A harsh Neocon like Madeleine Albright won her government-service spurs at the UN by engineering the departure of an unwanted Secretary-General.

Promoting coups is not a new activity for the United States. There is a long postwar record, including Iran’s democratic government in the 1950s, Guatemala’s democratic government in the 1950s, and Chile’s democratic government in 1973. But the recent coup in Ukraine represented something rather new, a very provocative activity right on a major Russian border. It was also against an elected government and in a country which shares with Russia a history and culture going back more than a thousand years to the predecessor state of Kievan Rus. Yes, there are resentments in Ukraine from the Soviet era, and those are what the United States exploited, but the country was democratically governed. In any event, staging a coup in a large bordering country is a very serious provocation. You can just imagine the violent American reaction to one in Mexico or Canada.

The new, post-coup government in Ukraine also made many provocative and plainly untrue statements. The ineffective, and frequently ridiculous, President Poroshenko kept telling Europeans that Russian troops and armor were invading his country. Only his brave army was holding the hordes back. He was literally that silly at times. Of course, none of it was ever true. American spy satellites would quickly detect any Russian movement, and they never did. In an effort to put the wild claims into perspective, treating them with the contempt they deserved, Putin once said that if he wanted to, he could be in Kiev in two weeks. Undoubtedly true, too. Well, the statement was taken completely out of context, treated as a threat by America’s always-faithful-to-the-narrative press. Journalism in the service of government policy – all of it, from the most elevated newspapers and broadcasters to the humblest. And I think that nicely illustrates the absurdity of events in Ukraine and the way they have been used.

The United States paid for the coup in Ukraine. We even know how much money it spent, five billion dollars, thanks to the overheard words of one of America’s most unpleasant former diplomats, Victoria Nuland. The idea was to threaten Russia with the long Ukrainian border being put into genuinely hostile hands. Never mind that the government driven from office with gunfire in the streets from paid thugs was democratically elected. Never mind that many of the groups with which the United States cooperated in this effort were right-wing extremists, a few of them resembling outright Nazis, complete with armbands, symbols, and torchlight parades. And never mind that the government America installed was incompetent, not only sending Ukraine’s economy into a tailspin but promptly igniting a completely unnecessary civil war.

The large native, Russian-speaking population (roughly 30% of the country) is completely dominant in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea. Those two regions partly turned the tables by seceding from Ukraine with its government which early-on worked to suppress historic Russian-language rights and carried on a lot of activities to make those with any Russian associations feel very unwelcome. It’s a deliberately provocative environment, and, as we all know from our press, not a day goes by in Washington without anti-Russian rhetoric and unsupported charges. While Washington greatly failed in this effort, it nevertheless succeeded in generating instability and hostility along a major Russian border. It also gained talking points with which to pressure NATO into some new arrangements.

In the case of Crimea, it is important to remember that it has been Russian since the time of Catherine the Great. It only was in recent history that Crimea became part of Ukraine, and that happened with the stroke of a pen, an administrative adjustment during the days of the USSR, the very USSR the people now running Ukraine so despise, rejecting almost everything ever done, except for the administrative transfer of Crimea apparently. Just one of those little ironies of history. The people who live in Crimea speak Russian, and they did not welcome the new Ukrainian government’s heavy-handed, nationalist, anti-Russian drive around Ukrainian language and culture, necessarily a narrow, claustrophobic effort since the late USSR was a multi-national and multi-lingual state, and given Crimea’s much longer-term history as part of Russia. Even during Crimea’s recent past as part of Ukraine, Russia continued to maintain, under lease, its major naval base at Sevastopol on the Black Sea, so the connections with Russia have been continuous.

In virtually every newspaper story you read and in places like Wikipedia on the Internet, you will see the word “annexation” used to describe Crimea’s relationship with Russia. It simply is not an accurate description, but its constant use is a very good measure of America’s ability to saturate media with its desired version of events. The people of Crimea voted overwhelmingly to secede from an unfriendly new Ukraine, and they voted to petition Russia’s admitting them as part of the country. How can you call the results of free and open votes annexation? Well, only the same way you can tell the twice-elected President of Venezuela that he is not President and that another man, who did not even run in the election and administered the oath of office to himself, is the President. This is the kind of Alice-in-Wonderland stuff that comes as part of America’s new drive for dominance. It simply paints the roses red. What is claimed to have happened in Crimea provides the only support for charges of Russian aggression, the laying on of all kinds of sanctions, and running around all over Europe tearing up road surfaces with tanks. This is the atmosphere within which Putin must work, trying to maintain as many sound relationships with Europe as he can, and he actually has been quite successful. A number of prominent European politicians, especially retired ones who aren’t under the immediate pressures of politics and relations with America, have voiced support for Russia. Some have even visited Crimea by invitation and toured. And Russia’s major new gas pipeline into Europe, Nord Stream 2, proceeds despite constant American pressure against it. It is at this writing 70% complete. The Europeans cannot just abandon their long-term ally, the United States, even though I’m sure they understand the illusions and false claims of the current situation. The United States also retains considerable capacity to hurt Europe financially, so they rush into nothing, but I believe there can be no doubt that American words and actions have significantly weakened old and important relationships. No one likes being lied to, and they like even less having to pretend lies are truth.

Putin has been more cautious in the case of the secession of another Russian-speaking portion of Ukraine, an even larger one in population and in economic importance, the Eastern portion called Donbass. The people there declared two republics, Donetsk and Luhansk, and they petitioned to be admitted as part of Russia. But Russia does not officially recognize them although it has sent large volumes of aid as they were besieged by the new Ukrainian government. The government of Ukraine started a small civil war in the region. Russia supports the Minsk Accords, which it helped to write, accords to reunite the region with Ukraine but which require Ukraine to grant a degree of constitutional autonomy to the region. This is a reasonable approach to ending the conflict, but it is not easy to implement. It is not something looked favorably upon by Ukraine’s right-wing extremists who push the government hard, having even threatened it at times. The entire business has been mired in difficulties from the start. Ukraine displayed remarkable military incompetence in this civil war against a much smaller opponent. It tried to increase the size of its forces with conscription in the West of Ukraine, but the number of no-shows and run-aways grew embarrassingly large. And, of course, none of this even needed to happen had the new government’s policies been sensible and fair in the first place. But you got no pressure from the United States over fairness. It is merely content to have caused a lot of difficulties on Russia’s border. And there is the matter of the shoot-down of Malaysian Airlines’ Flight MH-17, which my study of the circumstances suggests unequivocally was an act by Ukraine, whether accidental or deliberate. The United States has pushed hard to have this blamed on Russia, so as to not discredit its installed Ukrainian government, but the facts, as we know them, simply do not support that conclusion. The United States has shamefully pressured a NATO member, Holland, not even a central party to the event, to conduct a long and tortoise-paced investigation of the crash. It has ignored key evidence, and all of its interim conclusions can readily be seen as couched in the kind of suggestive but inexact language criminal lawyers advise their clients to use in court. What we see in Ukraine, is government incompetence, almost uniformly in all its activities, and again there is no concern expressed by the United States about all the difficulties – economic, military, and social – its efforts have caused for the Ukrainian people.

Putin’s adroit handling of the coup in Ukraine, frustrating many of America’s aims without getting Russia involved in conflict, determined Washington to further stoke-up anti-Russian feeling in Europe. You must always remember that NATO does represent a vehicle for the peaceful American occupation of Europe, Europe being an important economic competitor and potentially a major world power. The obsolescence of the original arguments for NATO – the threat of the USSR and the massive Red Army, now both long passed into history – had the potential to see America eventually lose its occupying perch in Europe.

Russian-threat hype added force to recent efforts over the last decade and a half to have inconsequential new states admitted to NATO, some of them having the attraction of borders with Russia and lots of simmering old anti-Soviet hostilities. Certainly, countries like Estonia or Latvia bring neither military nor economic strength to the organization. Other small states, such as Slovenia or Slovakia or Montenegro just fill holes in the map of Europe, so NATO is a contiguous mass. The small states are in fact potentially a serious drag. But for America, they were attractive new members because they are so grateful about being asked “to play with the big boys.” Their votes as part of the organization effectively dilute the influence of the larger, older states, such as France or Germany, who sometimes disagree with the United States, and some of whom have been developing new relationships with modern Russia. The entire series of American activities in Europe after the disappearance of the USSR represents absolutely nothing constructive, indeed, quite the opposite.

As I mentioned, America, too, has been in a kind of decline, but absolutely nothing resembling what Russia experienced. America’s establishment has come to realize that over the last couple of decades it is in a relative decline. It went from producing, after WWII, about forty percent of what the world used to twenty-something percent, and all signs point to the trend continuing. America was waking-up from an extended fantasy – a period when fluffy notions like “the American Dream” were embraced as real, a period explained by the simple fact that, after the war, all of America’s serious competitors had been flattened. America was waking to a time when those competitors were coming back and a time when fierce new competitors were rising. The “Dream” part of the advertising slogan, “the American Dream,” became all too apparent.

During that period of unique prosperity and power following WWII, a good deal of America’s leadership became what people who have been given too much often tend to become, spoiled and corrupt, unable to make good decisions in many cases, indulging in god-like notions of the planet being run for their benefit, and always, steadily leaving behind their own people’s welfare for imperial concerns abroad. The entire ethic of the New Deal period evaporated, and by the 1990s, a Democratic President like Clinton could actually make a speech bragging about “ending welfare as we know it.”

The people who really run the country, its power establishment, fixed on a new strategy to address uncomfortable realities. That strategy involves using America’s still great military and financial power to dominate international affairs in a more obvious and palpable way than ever. Dominance became an openly-discussed theme, as it rarely was before, in the hope, over time, of squeezing concessions and advantages from others to regain or at least hold on to its global position. This is an openly aggressive posture that has been assumed. No more pretense of being a nice guy. And it was actively promoted by a new political faction in Washington, the Neocons, a group who share certain interests and see America’s use of power as serving those interests. They have been open advocates of using military force to get things you want, and they hold many important and influential posts. Perhaps their greatest common interest is the welfare of Israel, and they see an America perceived as aggressive best serving Israel’s security.

It is important to note that while Russia maintains excellent relations with Israel – Putin has been visited often by Israel’s Prime Minister – nevertheless, by virtue of its sheer size and geographical location and military power, Russia is seen as a barrier to America’s more unrestrained use of power. “Russia” is almost a dirty word for many of America’s Neocon faction and for many Israelis. Russia’s recent decisive assistance to Syria in fighting gangs of terrorists introduced and supported from outside was viewed about as negatively as is possible. That is a war Israel wanted President Assad to lose, and it secretly gave a great deal of assistance to the terrorists. It was hoping to secure a permanent hold on the Golan, grab even another slice of Syria as a buffer for its illegal residents in Golan, all while seeing one of the region’s leaders it most dislikes eliminated. It worked closely in the effort with Saudi Arabia’s murderous Crown Prince, and America oversaw and encouraged all aspects of a dirty war to topple a legitimate government which has remained fairly popular with its people despite years of agonizing conflict and endless dishonest American claims about such matters as chemical weapons. Assad is seen as a defender of the rights of Syria’s diverse religious groups, including its many Christians.

So, there is a built-in powerful negative towards Russia in Washington power circles for which there is no clear possible remedy or correction, and, indeed, no matter how reasonably Putin behaves, his country faces this opposition. For some American politicians, and very notably Hillary Clinton, this has proved a handy tool, Clinton long having been a close-to fanatical supporter of Israeli interests. The fact has earned her a great deal of campaign funding and other support over the years. Clinton’s ego also just could not take the fact that she lost the election to the leader of “the deplorables,” as she once called Trump’s supporters, so in dark claims of Russian interference, supported by absolutely no proof whatsoever, she protects her ego. And long before election day, Clinton had a hand in exploiting attitudes about Russia in another way. She is known to have paid, at least in part, for the fraudulent Steele Dossier commissioned from an ex-British spy. It was used to try to discredit Trump over Russian connections.

This dislike for Russia by the Neocons and other boosters of resurgent American power really is what is at the heart of America’s current Russophobia obsession, not any threatening actions by Russia. It becomes a kind of vicious circle with new accusations piled on all the time by various actors each with their own motives, and it is clearly quite dangerous.

So, these are the positions of the two countries today, Russia having risen quite impressively from the depths under a remarkably able leader, extremely popular and well-supported by powerful elements of its society, versus America, now in a much different kind of decline than what Russia experienced, led by an establishment group with rather less-than-honorable intentions and with a political system virtually designed to produce no real leaders who might interfere with establishment plans.

Putin is further supported from the outside by the rising colossus of China, one of the great miracle stories of our time. In the past, the two countries have not always been friends, and America, in the time of Nixon, actually worked at playing one off against the other. But that is no more. The American establishment’s intentions for China are too clear. It is virtually reneging on many old promises such as those around Taiwan being an integral part of China, it is treating China as an unwanted competitor, accusing it of every nefarious activity you can think of to impede its economic progress and demanding trade concessions as though China had been an unfair competitor rather than just a new, more successful one. America is now attacking in every way possible – from questioning motives and methods to trying to generate opposition by participants – China’s unprecedented and magnificent global enterprise, the Silk Road Project, a project dwarfing the great canals of the past and destined to bring new prosperity to all participants through trade. It hardly represents a positive attitude to oppose and impede it.

Putin is exactly the kind of man to quickly recognize and embrace a project like that. Russia is also rushing to help China greatly increase its supply of natural gas from Siberia’s immense reserves in order to decrease its dependence on coal. The first great new pipeline is almost finished.

So, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, both highly intelligent leaders, have a great many weighty common interests in working together as never before. America’s new policies have been a driving force in bringing them together, and there is no reason to expect any diminution in that force. Recent American international behavior requires others to accept what Putin likes to call America’s “exceptionalism,” its position first and above all other nations, its self-granted privilege of not having to play by the same rules as everyone else – its status of “the indispensable nation” as one of America’s more arrogant diplomats put it not very long ago – and it requires that from two major, proud, and ancient societies which cannot possibly grant it.

America’s dependence on its gigantic military and security establishment represents a serious long-term weakness in many ways, even though it provides the very foundation of the American establishment’s new strategy for dominance. Empires, after all, while benefiting the privileged segments of a society, are a drag on most of their citizens, depriving them of many benefits, including the simple, important benefit of good and caring national government. America spends more than ten times as much as Russia on its military. China, compared to not many years ago, has increased its military spending greatly, but for a country with such a huge economy, second only to the United States and likely to overtake it before long, it still spends less than a quarter of what the United States does. And America does not even have the money to pay for its atrociously large military. It borrows the money, and who do you think pays the stream of interest payments for those massive borrowings? You’d be right if you said all of its ordinary, tax-paying citizens without privileges. They also are “on the hook” for the ultimate negative economic consequences of all this debt and borrowing.

Of course, from a world perspective, America’s military represents an ongoing threat to peace and security, much the opposite of what is claimed for it inside the United States. Great standing armies have always represented threats, and here is the greatest standing army in history. Many historical analyses hold them largely responsible for such terrible conflicts as WWI (a war whose outcome made WWII inevitable also). When such power is at hand, the temptation to use it is constant, and its very presence distorts all attitudes and decisions. Many of America’s own Founders understood that, but it has been forgotten by the contemporary American establishment in its relentless pursuit of empire and influence.

Security expenses are hard to compare, so much is secretive, but the United States with its 17 separate national security agencies and such a vast enterprise as the NSA’s new archipelago of facilities stuffed with hi-tech gear and supercomputers which spy on and record every American plus others would put any other country out of the competition. Again, the demands of the American establishment utterly compromise the interests of the country’s own citizens at large. Indeed, now in security matters, ordinary Americans have been pretty much reduced to a herd, each with an identifying tag stapled to his ear.

Russia’s democracy may be quite imperfect, but America’s – what it had of one, it never from the beginning identified itself actually as a democracy – has been transformed into plutocracy with an elaborate window-dressing simulation of democracy, an arrangement in which the state’s resources are committed to its privileged class and the advance of empire. And, as I’ve written many times, you can have a decent country or you can have an empire, but you cannot have both.

March 6, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment