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Saturday, June 30, 2018

Preliminary Peace

June 28, 2018
By Rostislav Ishchenko
Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard

Ollie's MacBook:Users:O-RICH:Downloads:trump-russia-mafia.jpg
The world press is being filled with noise about a meeting on the 15th of July between Putin and Trump in Vienna. The Kremlin neither confirms nor denies whether there is a meeting [at the time of writing this was true, however the Kremlin has since confirmed the there will be a meeting on July 16th – ed], and diplomats from both sides allegedly coordinate their positions.
July 15th is a date that is inconvenient for the Russian president. On this day, the closing of the FIFA World Cup is supposed to take place at 18:00, which the president of Russia will have to be present at. Of course, it is possible to fly early in the morning to Vienna, talk to Trump before midday, and to be already in Moscow by 18:00. But why makes things so tight? Especially as the Americans can deliberately try to prolong the meeting. Anyway, it is difficult to count on any arrangements. But if Putin is late for the closure of the 2018 World Cup because of a meeting with Trump, then this delay will emphasise the importance of the event for which all other major affairs were postponed.
But Trump manages to come to Vienna without hurrying after the NATO summit that has to take place on July 11th-12th in Brussels. He will even have the time for several bilateral meetings with allies after the summit.
If indeed the meeting has to take place in general, then in order not to give the impudent Yankees any excess tactical/information advantage it would be logical to move it to either the 14th or the July 16th [the 16th was later confirmed as the actual date of the meeting – ed]. After all, if the Americans can’t meet during these days, then Russia can still wait – there is no place to hurry to. The positions of Washington become weaker, so even if Russia will have to meet with the next US president, it will only be better for Moscow.
The entire course of the events preceding the current rumours about the emergency preparation of a meeting between the two leaders testifies that for the Americans the decision to hold a meeting between the two presidents was forced. It should be remembered that originally Trump stated that he is ready to accept Putin in Washington. Generally it is the newly elected head of State that usually makes a visit to their more experienced colleague. But the Americans got used to everyone considering it as an honor to come and bow before them. Indeed, if Putin came on a visit to Washington, the US could show at the symbolical level to their allies that their superiority in world politics doesn’t raise doubts. Even leaders that oppose them come to Washington to reach an agreement about peace.
Putin ignored Trump’s hints. After this Washington’s rhetoric sharply changed and US officials started claiming that there can’t be any meetings at the highest level until Russia makes concessions in Syria and in Ukraine. In the last month Washington again changed the narrative. Now it was found out that already for one and a half years Trump wakes up to the question: “When will my meeting with Putin take place?”. But the artful environment deceived the trustful President and boycotted his instructions. But, supposedly, Trump has now taken matters into his own hands and the meeting will take place very soon. Further, it was supported by semi-confirmed, at least not disproved, hearings about the preparation of a historical bilateral meeting in Vienna.
As a matter of fact Russia won a diplomatic campaign both already before the meeting and irrespective of the meeting. During one and a half years the US tried to impose a meeting from a position of force: in Washington and on preliminary conditions. Today it is about the preparation of a meeting on a neutral platform and without any conditions. Washington conceded on all points.
However, it doesn’t mean that the meeting will surely take place. Firstly, the Kremlin has no unambiguous conviction that it is worth agreeing to negotiations, foreknowing that there won’t be any compromise solutions, that the US all the same will push through their agenda, and that Washington will surely use the fact of the negotiations itself to strengthen their information positions. On the other hand Putin already repeatedly showed his ability to fascinate foreign leaders, which subsequently facilitated contact with them. Besides this, Russia can also use the meeting for information and propaganda purposes. Moreover, at present the position of the Kremlin is stronger because it is the US who pushed for compelled concessions and showed that this meeting is more needed by them.
The question consists in whether it is worth speaking with people who aren’t yet ready to make a constructive proposal. It is possible to suggest to them to go and think about it, but they can take offense and the general situation will worsen. It is possible to begin negotiations, recognising that in the course of communication it will be possible to come to a mutually acceptable compromise. Both options of behavior have their strengths and weaknesses. In recent years Russia preferred to be involved in negotiations… well, and then we’ll see – we will always have the time to quarrel, but we can reach an agreement anyway.
It is certainly clear that one shouldn’t expect a breakthrough in Vienna. Even if negotiations will be completed in the best way, the heads of States will only declare their intention to remove bilateral contradictions and to live in peace and friendship, while the process of reach a concrete agreement after this can last years and end with nothing.
Trump can’t make a compromise right now, because he’s just severely fallen out with practically all the civilised world, from China to Canada. He has a trade war and personal hostility towards everyone. If in these conditions he makes concessions to Russia, then it will mean that the US abandoned the fight for world leadership and tried to preserve a part of its former weight in the union with Russia. But then all their former allies competing in race each other to Moscow with offers of friendship, brotherhood, and eternal loyalty. And this will additionally weaken the positions of the US.
That’s why it is necessary for Trump at the NATO summit in Brussels to receive at least some unity (at least on minor questions) in order to speak with Putin in Vienna on behalf of the united West, which is still agrees with American primacy. So then his position will look at least in equilibrium with the position of Russia.
In turn Putin can’t concede to Trump in Ukraine or Syria, and he can’t refuse an informal, but very effective union with China. Each of these points is an important knot, connecting together the network of global coordination created in recent years by Russia for the purpose of ensuring security. The loss of one link in the chain will affect in the most fatal way the efficiency of the others. In the worst case scenario – the domino effect is possible, and in the best one – a considerable decrease in the effectiveness of the system and a disbalance in the actions of allies is possible.
But, taking into account the sharp weakening of the American global positions in the first half of 2018, Russia doesn’t see any sense in general in discussing the possibility of any concessions. Only a compromise solution of problems, assuming that the US will leave the foreign countries that closely border Russia, as an exclusive sphere of Russian interests in which they impudently intruded about 20 years ago. It is after this that it will be possible to discuss trade and economic interests of Washington. Finally, the balancing of the American budget is impossible without balancing trade and the termination of the expensive aggressive foreign policy is in the common interests of the whole world.
The world is interested in helping the US overcome the most severe crisis in which they herded themselves into and reform the American economy, but only in exchange for the abandonment of an active military policy, a sharp decrease in the military budget, a reduction in the number of mobile expedition forces – including aircraft carrier groups, the re-organisation of the structure of the American Armed Forces in favour of an exclusively defensive position that allows to reliably protect the US from an invasion, but doesn’t allow to perform large-scale overseas operations.
As we understand, today the US still hasn’t ripened for such radical compromises. That’s why a possible meeting in Vienna is only the first step. The US already agreed to speak on the conditions of others, but still doesn’t agree to form a constructive agenda. And they will come to this decision. The main thing is that it isn’t too late for the American economy.

The Two Superpowers: Who Really Controls the Two Countries?

June 30, 2018
by Paul Craig Roberts (cross-posted with PCR’s website with his special agreement)
Among the ruling interests in the US, one interest even more powerful than the Israel Lobby—the Deep State of the military/security complex— there is enormous fear that an uncontrollable President Trump at the upcoming Putin/Trump summit will make an agreement that will bring to an end the demonizing of Russia that serves to protect the enormous budget and power of the military-security complex.
You can see the Deep State’s fear in the editorials that the Deep State handed to the Washington Post (June 29) and New York Times (June 29), two of the Deep State’s megaphones, but no longer believed by the vast majority of the American people.  The two editorials share the same points and phrases.  They repeat the disproven lies about Russia as if blatant, obvious lies are hard facts.
Both accuse President Trump of “kowtowing to the Kremlin.”  Kowtowing, of course, is not a Donald Trump characteristic.  But once again fact doesn’t get in the way of the propaganda spewed by the WaPo and NYT, two megaphones of Deep State lies.
The Deep State editorial handed to the WaPo reads: “THE REASONS for the tension between the United States and Russia are well-established. Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine, instigated a war in eastern Ukraine, intervened to save the dictatorship of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, interfered in the U.S. presidential election campaign to harm Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump, poisoned a former intelligence officer on British soil and continues to meddle in the elections of other democracies.”
The WaPo’s opening paragraph is a collection of all the blatant lies assembled by the Deep State for its Propaganda Ministry.  There have been many books written about the CIA’s infiltration of the US media.  There is no doubt about it.  I remember my orientation as Staff Associate, House Defense Appropriation Subcommittee, when I was informed that the Washington Post is a CIA asset.  This was in 1975. Today the Post is owned by a person with government contracts that many believe sustain his front business.
And don’t forget Udo Ulfkotte, an editor of the  Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, who wrote in his best seller, Bought Journalism, that there was not a significant journalist in Europe who was not on the CIA’s payroll. The English language edition of Ulfkotte’s book has been suppressed and prevented from publication.
The New York Times, which last told the truth in the 1970s when it published the leaked Pentagon Papers and had the fortitude to stand up for its First Amendment rights, repeats the lies about Putin’s “seizure of Crimea and attack on Ukraine” along with all the totally unstantiated BS about Russia interferring in the US president election and electing Trump, who now kowtows to Putin in order to serve Russia instead of the US. The editorial handed to the NYT insinuates that Trump is a threat to the national security of America and its allies (vassals). The problem, the NYT declares, is that Trump is not listening to his advisors.
Shades of President John F. Kennedy, who did not listen to the CIA and Joint Chiefs of Staff about invading Cuba, nuking the Soviet Union, and using the false flag attack on America of the Joint Chiefs’ Northwoods Project (look it up online).  Is the New York Times setting up Trump for assassination on the grounds that he is lovely-dovey with Russia and sacrificing US national interests?
I would bet on it.
While the Washington Post and New York Times are telling us that if Trump meets with Putin, Trump will sell out US national security, The Saker says that Putin finds himself in a similar box, only it doesn’t come from the national security interest, but from the Russian Fifth Column, the Atlanticist Integrationists whose front man is the Russian Prime Minister Medvedev, who represents the rich Russian elite whose wealth is based on stolen assets during the Yeltsin years enabled by Washington.  These elites, The Saker concludes, impose constraints on Putin that put Russian sovereignty at risk. Economically, it is more important to these elites for financial reasons to be part of Washington’s empire than to be a sovereign country.  http://thesaker.is/no-5th-column-in-the-kremlin-think-again/ 
I find The Saker’s explanation the best I have read of the constraints on Putin that limit his ability to represent Russian national interests.
I have often wondered why Putin didn’t have the security force round up these Russian traitors and execute them.  The answer is that Putin believes in the rule of law, and he knows that Russia’s US financed and supported Fifth Column cannot be eliminated without bloodshed that is inconsistent with the rule of law.  For Putin, the rule of law is as important as Russia.  So, Russia hangs in the balance.  It is my view that the Russian Fifth Column could care less about the rule of law.  They only care about money.
As challenged as Putin might be, Chris Hedges, one of the surviving great American journalists, who is not always right but when he is he is incisive, explains the situation faced by the American people.  It is beyond correction.  American civil liberties and prosperity appear to be lost.   https://russia-insider.com/en/politics/america-shows-many-signs-impending-catastrophic-collapse-pulitzer-prize-winner-explains 
In my opinion, Hedges leftwing leanings caused him to focus on Reagan’s rhetoric rather that on Reagan’s achievements—the two greatest of our time—the end of stagflation, which benefited the American people, and the end of the Cold War, which removed the theat of nuclear war.  I think Hedges also does not appreciate Trump’s sincerety about normalizing relations with Russia, relations destroyed by the Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama regimes, and Trump’s sincerety about bringing offshored jobs home to American workers. Trump’s agenda puts him up against the two most powerful interest groups in the United States.  A president willing to take on these powerful groups should be appreciated and supported, as Hedges acknowledges the dispossessed majority do.  If I might point out to Chris, whom I admire, it is not like Chris Hedges to align against the choice of the people.  How can democracy work if people don’t rule?
Hedges writes, correctly, “The problem is not Trump. It is a political system, dominated by corporate power and the mandarins of the two major political parties, in which we [the American people] don’t count.”
Hedges is absolutely correct.
It is impossible not to admire a journalist like Hedges who can describe our plight with such succinctness:
“We now live in a nation where doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, universities destroy knowlege, the press destroys information, religion destroys morals, and banks destroy the economy.”
Read The Saker’s explanation of Russian politics.  Possibly Putin will collapse under pressure from the powerful Fifth Column in his government.  Read Chris Hedges analysis of American collapse. There is much truth in it.  What happens if the Russian people rise up against the Russian Fifth Column and if the oppressed American people rise up against the extractions of the military/security complex? What happens if neither population rises up?
Who sets off the first nuclear weapon?
Our time on earth is not just limited by our threescore and ten years, but also humanity’s time on earth, and that of every other species, is limited by the use of nuclear weapons.
It is long past the time when governments, and if not them, humanity, should ask why nuclear weapons exist when they cannot be used without destroying life on earth.
Why isn’t this the question of our time, instead of, for example, transgender toilet facilities, and the large variety of fake issues on which the presstitute media focuses?
The articles by The Saker and Chris Hedges, two astute people, report that neither superpower is capable of making good decisions, decisions that are determined by democracy instead of by oligarchs, against whom neither elected government can stand.
If this is the case, humanity is finished.
Here are the Washington Post and New York Times editorials:
Washington Post
June 29, 2018
Editorial
Trump is kowtowing to the Kremlin again. Why?
Ahead of a summit with Putin, Trump is siding with the Russian leader, with dangerous results.
THE REASONS for the tension between the United States and Russia are well-established. Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine, instigated a war in eastern Ukraine, intervened to save the dictatorship of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, interfered in the U.S. presidential election campaign to harm Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump, poisoned a former intelligence officer on British soil and continues to meddle in the elections of other democracies. Yet on Wednesday in the Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin brushed it all aside and delivered the Russian “maskirovka,” or camouflage, answer that it is all America’s fault.
Meeting with John Bolton, the president’s national security adviser, Mr. Putin declared that the tensions are “in large part the result of an intense domestic political battle inside the U.S.” Then Mr. Putin’s aide Yuri Ushakov insisted that Russia “most certainly did not interfere in the 2016 election” in the United States. On Thursday morning, Mr. Trump echoed them both on Twitter: “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!”
Why is Mr. Trump kowtowing again? The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia did attempt to tilt the election using multiple campaigns, including cyberintrusions and insidious social media fakery. Would it be so difficult to challenge Mr. Putin about this offensive behavior? A full accounting has yet to be made of the impact on the election, but Mr. Bolton did not mince words last year when he described Russian interference as “a true act of war” and said, “We negotiate with Russia at our peril.” And now?
Summits can be productive, even – maybe especially – when nations are at odds. In theory, a meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin, now scheduled for next month in Helsinki, could be useful. But a meeting aimed at pleasing Mr. Putin is naive and foolhardy. A meeting aimed at pleasing Mr. Putin at the expense of traditional, democratic U.S. allies would be dangerous and damaging.
Just as Mr. Bolton was flattering Mr. Putin, Russia was engaging in subterfuge on the ground in Syria. The United States, Russia and Jordan last year negotiated cease-fire agreements in southwestern Syria, along the border with Jordan and the Golan Heights. In recent days, the United States has warned Russia and its Syrian allies not to launch an offensive in the area, where the rebel forces hold parts of the city of Daraa and areas along the border. The State Department vowed there would be “serious repercussions” and demanded that Russia restrain its client Syrian forces. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, saying an offensive would be unacceptable. All to no avail; Syria is bombing the area.
This is what happens when Mr. Trump signals, repeatedly, that he is unwilling or unable to stand up to Russian misbehavior. We are on dangerous ground. Either Mr. Trump has lost touch with essential U.S. interests or there is some other explanation for his kowtowing that is yet unknown.
New York Times
June 29, 2018
Editorial
Trump and Putin’s Too-Friendly Summit
It’s good to meet with adversaries. But when Mr. Trump sits down with Mr. Putin, it will be a meeting of kindred spirits. That’s a problem.
It’s good for American presidents to meet with adversaries, to clarify differences and resolve disputes. But when President Trump sits down with President Vladimir Putin of Russia in Finland next month, it will be a meeting of kindred spirits, and that’s a problem.
One would think that at a tête-à-tête with the Russian autocrat, the president of the United States would take on some of the major concerns of America and its closest allies. Say, for instance, Mr. Putin’s seizure of Crimea and attack on Ukraine, which led to punishing international sanctions. But at the Group of 7 meeting in Quebec this month, Mr. Trump reportedly told his fellow heads of state that Crimea is Russian because everyone there speaks that language. And, of course, Trump aides talked to Russian officials about lifting some sanctions even before he took office.
One would hope that the president of the United States would let Mr. Putin know that he faces a united front of Mr. Trump and his fellow NATO leaders, with whom he would have met days before the summit in Helsinki. But Axios reported that during the meeting in Quebec, Mr. Trump said, “NATO is as bad as Nafta,” the North American Free Trade Agreement, which is one of Mr. Trump’s favorite boogeymen.
Certainly the president would mention that even the people he appointed to run America’s intelligence services believe unequivocally that Mr. Putin interfered in the 2016 election to put him in office and is continuing to undermine American democracy. Right? But on Thursday morning, Mr. Trump tweeted, “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!”
More likely, Mr. Trump will congratulate Mr. Putin, once again, for winning another term in a sham election, as he did in March, even though his aides explicitly warned him not to. And he has already proposed readmitting Russia to the Group of 7, from which it was ousted after the Ukraine invasion.
Summits once tended to be carefully scripted, and presidents were attended by senior advisers and American interpreters. At dinner during a Group of 20 meeting last July, Mr. Trump walked over to Mr. Putin and had a casual conversation with no other American representative present. He later said they discussed adoptions – the same issue that he falsely claimed was the subject of a meeting at Trump Tower in 2016 between his representatives and Russian operatives who said they had dirt on Hillary Clinton.
It’s clear that Mr. Trump isn’t a conventional president, but instead one intent on eroding institutions that undergird democracy and peace. Mr. Trump “doesn’t believe that the U.S. should be part of any alliance at all” and believes that “permanent destabilization creates American advantage,” according to unnamed administration officials quoted by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic.
Such thinking goes further than most Americans have been led to believe were Mr. Trump’s views on issues central to allied security. He has often given grudging lip service to supporting NATO, even while complaining frequently about allies’ military spending and unfair trade policies.
The tensions Mr. Trump has sharpened with our allies should please Mr. Putin, whose goal is to fracture the West and assert Russian influence in places where the Americans and Europeans have played big roles, like the Middle East, the Balkans and the Baltic States.
Yet despite growing anxieties among European allies, Mr. Trump is relying on his advisers less than ever because, “He now thinks he’s mastered this,” one senior member of Congress said in an interview. That’s a chilling thought given his inability, so far, to show serious progress on any major security issue. Despite Mr. Trump’s talk of quick denuclearization after his headline-grabbing meeting with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, experts say satellite imagery shows the North is actually improving its nuclear capability.
While the White House hasn’t disclosed an agenda for the Putin meeting, there’s a lot the two leaders should be discussing, starting with Russian cyberintrusions. Mr. Trump, though, has implied that Mr. Putin could help the United States guard against election hacking. And although Congress last year mandated sweeping sanctions against Russia to deter such behavior, Mr. Trump has failed to implement many of them.
In a similar vein, should Mr. Trump agree to unilaterally lift sanctions imposed after Moscow invaded Ukraine and started a war, it would further upset alliance members, which joined the United States in imposing sanctions at some cost to themselves. Moreover, what would deter Mr. Putin from pursuing future land grabs?
Mr. Trump could compound that by canceling military exercises, as he did with South Korea after the meeting with Mr. Kim, and by withdrawing American troops that are intended to keep Russia from aggressive action in the Baltics.
Another fraught topic is Syria. Mr. Trump has signaled his desire to withdraw American troops from Syria, a move that would leave the country more firmly in the hands of President Bashar al-Assad and his two allies, Russia and Iran. Russia, in particular, is calling the shots on the battlefield and in drafting a political settlement that could end the fighting, presumably after opposition forces are routed.
What progress could be made at this summit, then? Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin may find it easier to cooperate in preventing a new nuclear arms race by extending New Start, a treaty limiting strategic nuclear weapons that expires in 2021.
Another priority: bringing Russia back into compliance with the I.N.F. treaty, which eliminated all U.S. and Soviet ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, until Russia tested and deployed a prohibited cruise missile.
Mr. Trump’s top national security advisers are more cleareyed about the Russian threat than he is. So are the Republicans who control the Senate. They have more responsibility than ever to try to persuade Mr. Trump that the country’s security is at stake when he meets Mr. Putin, and that he should prepare carefully for the encounter

Foreign Minister S.Lavrov’s interview with Channel 4, Moscow, June 29, 2018

June 29, 2018
Foreign Minister S.Lavrov’s interview with Channel 4, Moscow, June 29, 2018

Question: Foreign Minister, the summit is happening in Helsinki. Russian President V.Putin and US President D.Trump together. Is this the post-West world order that you have talked of in the past? Has it now arrived?
S.Lavrov: Well, I think that we are in the post-West world order, but this order is being shaped and it will take a long time. It is a historical epoch, if you want. Certainly, after five or so centuries of domination of the collective West, as it were, it is not very easy to adjust to new realities that there are other powerhouses economically, financially and politically, China, India, Brazil. African countries are going to be very much on the rise, as soon as they resolve at least some of the conflicts, which are there on the continent. Well, Russia certainly would like to be an independent world player. Independent in the sense that we do not want to violate and international law and norms, but the decisions, which we would be taking on the basis of international law, would not be influenced by pressure, money, sanctions, threats or anything else.
Question: Russia is shaping this world order that is clear.
S.Lavrov: It is not Russia is shaping this world order, its history. It’s the development itself. You cannot really hope to contain this new powerful, economically and financially, countries. You cannot really ignore their role in world trade and world economy. Attempts are being made to slow down this process by new tariffs, new sanctions for good or bad reasons in violation of the WTO principles and so on. But I think it is a logical reaction: trying to slow down something, which is objective and does not depend on any single administration in any country.
Question: But Europe has something to fear from that world order that you have just mapped out there.
S.Lavrov: What was that?
Question: Well the world order that you have mapped out involved all sorts of countries. You did not mention whether the EU fits into that. Do they need to worry about that new world order?
S.Lavrov: Well, the EU is of course part of the collective West with the addition of new members from Eastern Europe. But the European Union is certainly a very important pillar of any world order. As for the Russian Federation, it is our biggest trade partner in spite of the fact that after the unfortunate developments and the wrongly understood interpretation of what the coup d’état is. The volume of trade since 2014 between Russia and the European Union went down 50%, but it is still more than $250bn and it is our number one trading partner, as a collective, as a Union. But the European Union certainly is now fighting to make sure that it is not lost in this new world order that is being shaped. It is not easy, because the reliance on the United States is something, which quite a number of the EU members want to keep. There are some other EU members, who believe that they should be a bit more self-sufficient in military matters for example. The initiative of President F.Macron and Germany to consider some kind of European defence capabilities being beefed up is a manifestation of this case.
I am watching the EU summit, which is going on right now, and the discussion on migration brought an interesting thought to my head, namely it is about the relations between NATO and EU. NATO bombed Libya, turned Libya into a black hole through which waves of migrants, illegal migrants, rushed to Europe. Now EU is cleaning the broken china for NATO.
Question: You talk about NATO’s involvement in Libya, but then there is Russia’s involvement in Syria and that has also created millions of refugees.
S.Lavrov: Yes, but I would challenge you that the Russian involvement in Syria on the basis of legitimate request from the legitimate government, recognized by all as the representative of Syria in the United Nations, took place in September 2015, four years and a half into the Arab spring embracing Syria. The bulk of the refugees already was outside Syria by the time that we came to the rescue of the legitimate government.
Question: Well you talk of the legitimate government that is also the government responsible for killing of hundreds of thousands of its own citizens, making millions homeless. “A gas killing animal”, as President D.Trump, your ally, puts it. Do you rest easy being allied with that kind of government?
S.Lavrov: Well, I would not go into the names, which President D.Trump used to describe some of the world leaders. It is not something done in concrete, it might change. What I want to say is: it is a war. It is the war, which was started by mistakes made on the part of everyone, including the Syrian government. I believe these disturbances could have been handled politically at an earlier stage. But we have now on our hands what is the result of outside forces having tried to use the situation in order to reshape the map of the Middle East and Northern Africa by trying to get into Syria without any invitation and trying to promote their own agenda there. So, the efforts, which we are now undertaking together with Turkey and Iran, and both of them are present on the ground, Turkey without invitation, Iran with the invitation from the government, but we managed pragmatically to create what we call Astana Process, Astana Format. The Syrian government, given the fact that Russia, Iran cooperate with Turkey on the basis of decisions, which lead to de-escalation, accepted Astana Process as such. It is part of the process together with the armed opposition, they regularly meet, and try to create conditions for the resolution of UN Security Council 2254 to be implemented.
Question: Let me ask again about Syrian President B.Assad. A lot of people would like to know what is there to like about President B.Assad?
S.Lavrov: We do not like anybody. The diplomacy and politics are not about liking or disliking, it is for human beings as individuals to use this terminology. President Assad is protecting the sovereignty of his country. He is protecting his country and in a broader sense the region from terrorism, which was really about a couple of weeks from taking over Damascus in September 2015.
We did not want the repetition of tragedies, which happened during last couple of decades through the “adventures”. Maybe even more than a couple of decades. It started closer to the end last century in Afghanistan, when the US decided to support militarily, financially and otherwise mujahedeen, who were fighting the Soviet troops. I would not dwell upon why the Soviet troops were there. By the way USSR was also invited legally by the government, which was recognized legitimate. The US decided to use the mujahedeen to fight the Soviet troops, hoping that after the job is done, they could handle those mujahedeen. That is how Al Qaeda appeared and the US lost total control of this beast, whom they had created basically. Then there was an adventure in Iraq on the very false pretence. Now everybody knows this, even Tony Blair admitted that this was a mistake. But the fact of the matter is just like Al Qaeda was born in Afghanistan, ISIL/Daesh was born after the intervention in Iraq. After Libya was invaded in gross violation of the Security Council Resolution, and Syria is now, there is another beast that was born – Jabhat al Nusra, which changes names, but is another terrorist organization. Whatever the civilized West is trying to bring to the Middle East and North Africa turns out to be in favour of terrorists.
Question: That is a very impressive whistle-stop tour of history, but I want to ask about the present though and about President Assad. You said that it is not about liking President Assad. Does that mean that Russia would be prepared to see him go? Do the job, finish the war and then he goes?
S.Lavrov: It is the position, which is not Russian position, it is the position of the Security Council, endorsed by each and every country on Earth, that the future of Syria must be decided by the Syrian people themselves. That there must be a new constitution.  On the basis of the new constitution there must be elections. Elections should be free, fair, monitored by the UN and all Syrian citizens, wherever they are, should be eligible to vote.
Question: So, it is irrelevant to you whether he stays or goes, that is for the Syrian people?
S.Lavrov: Yes, that is for them to decide. I believe that this view, which was rejected for quite some time after the Syrian crisis began, is now shared by more and more countries.
Question: When Russia withdraws from Syria? President V.Putin first raised the prospect in March 2016, he said that Russia had largely achieved her objectives there. Again, December 2017. By the end of this year can we expect Russia to be out of Syria?
S.Lavrov: No. I do not think that this is something, which we can intelligently discuss. We do not like artificial deadlines, but we have been consistently reducing our military presence in Syria. The last reduction took place a few of days ago. More than 1,000 troops have come back to Russia, some aircraft and other equipment as well. It depends on what is the actual situation on the ground. Yes, we managed together with our colleagues, with Syrian Army, with the help of opposition, which I would call “patriotic opposition” not to allow plans to create a caliphate by ISIL happen. But some remnants of ISIL are very much there. Jabhat al Nusra is still there. They are now preventing the deal on the southern Syrian de-escalation area to be implemented fully. So there are some leftovers. Besides, we do have, not actually full-fledged bases, but two places where our naval ships and our aircraft are located in Syria and they might be usefully kept for quite some time.
Question: Clearly, Syria will be on the agenda at the summit. Just want to talk about some other things that might be. For example, you have mentioned sanctions. Do you think that sanctions will be lifted, given that the EU has just talked about extending them? Do you think you can get President D.Trump to commit to that?
S.Lavrov: Actually, I have mentioned sanctions only in the context of the deterioration of relations. We are not pleading to remove them. It is not our business, it is for those, who introduced sanction, to decide whether they want to continue or whether common sense would prevail.
Question: Well, your President has very recently said that he would like them lifted.
S.Lavrov: Yes, absolutely. We would not mind them lifted, but we would not mind also using the spirit to build up our own capacity in key sectors of economy, security and other areas on which an independent state depends. In the recent years, we have learned a lot, including the fact that in these issues you cannot rely on the West. You cannot rely on Western technologies, because they can be abruptly stopped at any moment. You cannot rely on the items, which are essential for the day-to-day living of the population, coming from the West, because this could also be stopped. So we are certainly drawing lessons. But we certainly would not be against sanctions being lifted and we would reciprocate, because we do have some countermeasures in place.
Question: What are you prepared to give in this Summit? For example, if D.Trump says he wants NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden back in the US, is that something that you would consider? Is this something that you can put on the table?
S.Lavrov: I have never discussed Edward Snowden with this Administration.  President V.Putin addressed the issue some years ago. When he was asked the question, he said this is for Edward Snowden do decide. We respect his rights, as an individual. That is why we were not in the position to expel him against his will, because he found himself in Russia even without the US passport, which was discontinued as he was flying from Hong Kong.
Question: So that is not going to be up for discussion?
S.Lavrov: I do not know why people would start asking this particular question in relation to the Summit. Edward Snowden is the master of his own destiny.
Question: Given that the US intelligence believes that the presidential elections were meddled with, can Russian President V.Putin give D.Trump any assurances that the upcoming mid-term elections in a few months’ time would not be meddled with by Russia?
S.Lavrov: We would prefer some facts. We cannot intelligently discuss something, which is based on “highly likely”.
Question: Well, it is more than highly likely, is not it?
S.Lavrov: No. The investigation in the US has been going on for how long? A year and a half now?
Question: Well, Robert Mueller indicted the Internet Research Agency, the Russian “troll factory”.
S.Lavrov: Indictment is something, which requires a trial and I understand that they have submitted their own case and they have challenged quite a number of things, which were used for the indictment. So let’s not jump the gun. I love Lewis Carrol, but I do not think that the logic of the queen, who said “sentence first, verdict later”, is going to prevail. So far, you take the presidential election in the US, take Brexit, take the Salisbury case, take the tragedy with the Malaysian Boeing MH17 flight, it is all based on “investigation continues, but you are guilty already”. It cannot work this way.
Question: But is Russia frightened of the truth? Because it just seems whenever the authority whether it is the UN or the chemical weapons watch dog OPCW, whenever they try to get to the facts, Russia objects.
S.Lavrov: No, I believe that the public and respected journalists like you have been misinformed. The OPCW must operate on the basis of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which says bluntly that there is only one procedure when you want to establish facts. First, experts of the OPCW must themselves without delegating this authority to anyone go to the place of the alleged incident. They must themselves with their own hands and with their own equipment take samples. They must continue holding the substances in their hands until they have reached a certified laboratory. In the recent cases, especially in the infamous case of Khan Shaykhun April last year, when the Syrian government was accused of using aerial bombs to deliver chemical weapons to Khan Shaykhun, the OPCW never visited the place, they never took samples themselves. When we asked where did they get samples they said: “the Brits and the French gave it to us”. We asked why do not you go there?
Question: Have you lost faith in the OPCW?
S.Lavrov: Wait a second, that is important information. Let’s not speak slogans, let’s speak facts. So they did not go there. But they said that “we got the samples”. We asked “where from?”. They said “well the British and the French got it for us”. “Why do not you go?”, we asked. “Why it is not very safe.” We told them if the Brits and the French made it there or rather they know people who can get there safely, why do not you ask Paris and London to ensure safety for your own inspectors to get there. We told the same to the French and to the British, they said: “no, it is something, which we cannot share with you, how we got hold of this”. So, no procedures, regarding the taking of the samples, and the chain of custody, meaning that the inspectors themselves cannot delegate to anyone the delivery of samples to laboratory. These procedures, embodied and enshrined in the Convention, were violated. The Report on this Khan Shaykhun case, submitted by this Joint Investigating Mechanism last fall was full of “highly likely”, “by all probability”, “we have good reasons to believe” and so on and so forth. We invited the authors of the Report to the Security Council, trying to get some credible information from them. Impossible, they were stonewalled, they refused to talk. We said: “guys, if you want to work on the basis of violation of the Convention’s procedures, this cannot continue”. We did not extend their mandate, but we suggested a new mechanism, insisting that this new mechanism must not violate the procedures embodied in the Convention.
Question: Do you still have faith in the OPCW?
S.Lavrov: Until recently we did. But the organization was grossly manipulated a couple of days ago, when the Brits and others convened the special sessions of the state parties to the Convention. They passed a decision by vote, which basically violates the Convention in all its provisions, giving the Technical Secretariat the right to establish guilt. I think that this is a step, which was not thought through very thoroughly, because it is very dangerous.
Question: Well, it is dangerous potentially for Russia, because now the chemical weapons watchdog can apportion blame to the likes of Russia. Are you fearful of the truth?
S.Lavrov: No, I am fearful of the future of the OPCW and the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Question: Will you withdraw from the OPCW?
S.Lavrov: Well, if people prefer to violate the Convention, if they say that this is the “will of the majority”. When they convened this conference, all kinds of tricks were used, including mobilizing small countries, who do not have any representation in the Hague, paying for their travel expenses, paying for their hotel bills. We know all this and they know all this. So, when the Convention is grossly violated, I do not think that you can really avoid raising concern. We will try to repair the situation, because this decision will go to the regular conference of the state parties. But if this is not repaired, I believe that the days of the OPCW will be counted, at least it would not remain as a universal organization.
Question: The OPCW has also investigated the case of the Skripals. I wanted to ask you, do you think that using a nerve agent to poison a former spy and his child, a policeman on the streets of a cathedral city in Britain is an act of a rational state?
S.Lavrov: Rational state? Not at all. It is an act of crime. We from the very beginning suggested that we investigate this together, because it is our citizen. At least the daughter is our citizen. The father, I think, has a dual citizenship, he is a Russian citizen and a British subject. From the very beginning we suggested a joint investigation. We asked so many questions, including the questions related to the Chemical Weapons Convention’s procedures. In response, we were told that the British side does not want to listen, because we have to tell them only one thing. “Did V.Putin order this or did V.Putin lose control over the people who did?”. That’s all that the Brits wanted to discuss. The inconsistences in the situation with the Skripals are very troubling. We never managed to get consular access to our citizen in violation of all international conventions on diplomatic and consular relations. We never got any credible explanation why the cousin of Yulia Skripal has not been given visa, she wants to visit the UK and see her cousin. And many other things related to the act itself.
Question: But why would Britain give consular access to the country suspected of being behind this attack?
S.Lavrov: You know that the investigation continues. The Scotland Yard said that it would take a few more months. UK Foreign Secretary B.Johnson recently mentioned that the place is being disinfected four months after the incident. The policeman became miraculously fine. The Skripals became miraculously fine. People now talk about levelling the house, where they lived, levelling the house of the policeman. It all looks like a consistent physical extermination of the evidence, like the benches of the park were removed immediately and, of course, the video images, when the policemen or special forces in special attire go to take a look at this bench, while people without any protection are moving around. It looks very weird.
S.Lavrov: Mr. Lavrov are accusing the British state of a cover-up of this whole incident?
S.Lavrov: I do not exclude this, as long as they do not give us information. You know that about 10 Russian citizens have died in London during the past years. All 10 cases have been investigated in the secret format. We do not understand why. One of the wise guys said: “who is to benefit?” Certainly, the UK benefited politically from what is going. Come to think of it, it is an interesting situation, thereby the country, which is leaving the European Union, is determining the EU policy on Russia. When they were running through all capitals of the European Union, saying “you must expel the Russian diplomats, you must expel them”. So they did. Most of them, some did not. Then we privately asked those, who decided to join Britain in this action whether any proof was given in addition to what was said publicly. They said no. But they said that “we were promised that later, as investigation proceeds, we would be given more facts”. Do you think it is ok?
Question: But you ask who benefits and there are many in the West, who say that the chaos whether it is Brexit, whether it is the Skripals, whether it is D.Trump in the White House…
S.Lavrov: You forgot Catalonia and you forgot the forthcoming elections in Sweden, as the Prime Minister said. Macedonia, Montenegro…
Question: Ok, we will include that later. But answer me this: does the chaos benefit Russia, as some in the West say?
S.Lavrov: You have to be within the historical and chronological framework. You mean the chaos benefits Russia couple of weeks before the presidential elections and months before the World Cup. What do you think?
Question: I am asking you. Does chaos benefit Russia?
S.Lavrov: I want to clarify the issue. Does chaos benefit Russia couple of days before the presidential elections and couple of days before the World Cup? Is it the question?
Question: Well you talked about the new world order that you are hoping that Russia will help shape. Much easier to shape that world order if the EU is in chaos, you are holding the ring in the Middle East, if you are calling the shots in Syria. Russia potentially benefits.
S.Lavrov: No, this is absolutely wrong. It is misreading what I have said. I did not say that Russia wants to shape the new order. I said that Russia must be one of the players on the equal basis, discussing how the objective reality of multipolarity, being developed in front of our eyes, could be managed the way, which would be acceptable to all. That is what I have said. The interests of those, who determine the Russophobic policy in the West, are absolutely diametrically different. Their interest is to punish Russia, to downgrade Russia.
Question: Why, do you think?
S.Lavrov: Because it is very painful to lose half millennium of domination in the world affairs. In a nutshell this is the answer. This is not the criticism, this is a statement of fact. I understand when people used to call the shots in India, Africa, Asia, elsewhere and now they understand that this time has passed.
Question: Is Brexit good for Britain? Is it good for Russia?
S.Lavrov: This is for the UK subjects to discuss.
Question: Good for Russia, though?
S.Lavrov: I do not understand why we should be thinking in this way. It is something that the Brits decided. It is something, which they still discuss with the EU: the divorce, the problems inside the country. We also know, of course we follow the news, that the Parliament has one position, some public activists want rethinking.
Question: Does it look like chaos to you in Theresa May’s Britain?
S.Lavrov: Look, it is something, which happened by developments inside the UK. We only want clarity. What will be the basis on which we continue to work with the European Union. What will be the basis on which we might someday restore the relations with the UK, when they take some reasonable course and not overly ideologised, “highly likely” attitude. I believe that this must be must be very much understood by those in the West, especially by the liberals, who keep saying that the “rule of law must prevail”. In my view, rule of law means that unless proven guilty you cannot sentence people. That is what is happening with Skripal, MH17, with the OPCW being an instrument of those, who would like to make this “highly likely” the order of the day in Syria.
Question: Just returning to the Summit for a couple of final questions. Does it help Russia in her dealings with D.Trump that so many people think that you have compromising materials,  so-called “kompromat”, on him?
S.Lavrov: Look, I hear this for the first time that we have the compromising material on D.Trump. That’s what the Special Counsel R.Mueller is trying to dig. Actually, I stopped reading the news from this investigation. You know that when R. Tillerson was Secretary of State, he once stated publicly that they have an “undeniable proof”. Then, during our contact, I said: “Rex, can you give this undeniable proof to us? Because we want to understand what is going on. Maybe this is something that we can explain”. He said: “well, we cannot give it to you, we cannot compromise our sources and besides, your special services, your security people know everything – ask them”. Is it the way to handle serious things? It is a matter, which is used to ruin the Russian-American relations. To answer the way, in which he did, I believe that it is not mature. It is very childish, I think. I think that the people, who are trying to dig something to prove that we have decided the future of the greatest country on Earth through some Internet agency, are ridiculous. I understand that the Democrats in the US are really quite nervous. I understand that the UK is nervous. There were leaks in the Times, saying that the Cabinet members are nervous that D.Trump and V.Putin might get along.
Question: So you do read the papers?
S.Lavrov: I read the extracts, which my people give me. I love reading papers with a cup of coffee, but do not always have time.
Question: Finally, on that point of kompromat. The ex-FBI Director J.Comey has said and I quote “it is possible that the current President of the United States was with prostitutes, peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013”. Do you think that this is possible?
S.Lavrov: Well, he said that this is possible, ask him.
Question: Do you think that this is possible? It has happened in Moscow allegedly.
S.Lavrov: I do not know what people can invent again. I think that I have read this story a couple of years ago, when all this started. Again, if people base the real policies vis-à-vis a country, state-to-state policies on the basis of “it is “possible”, on the basis of “highly likely”, this is shameful. I believe that what is being done in the context of the Russiagate in the US, as President V.Putin has repeatedly said, is the manifestation of deep domestic controversy, because the losers do not have the guts to accept that they have lost the elections.
Question: Foreign Minister, thank you very much.
S.Lavrov: Thank you.

Imam Khamenei: The Revolution Is Lasting & Promising, US Desperately Seeks To Divide Iranians

30-06-2018 | 13:46

Leader of the Islamic Revolution His Eminence Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei attended the graduation ceremony of new cadets of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps [IRGC] at Imam Hussein University in Tehran.
 
Sayyed Ali Khamenei

In a speech he addressed at the celebration, Imam Khamenei stressed that:
“As a result of patience and piety, the hostile enemies, despite all their prepared cunning, won’t be able to do a thing.”

He further advised all the nation, in particular officials and managers of the Islamic society that “patience means keeping to aims and continuing involvement and active presence; it means considering far future goals.”

The Imam told the attendees that:
“Because you are resisting today, future generations will reach the climax of success; they will reach the climax, but dignity and resistance are yours.”

“The revolution is lasting and promising in case of patience and piety,” the Imam stressed.

“If patience and piety are practiced by our dear youth, government officials and all the people, the enemy will by no means be able to damage you.”

Commenting on the US economic pressure on Iran, the Imam considered that they are in a bid to sow discord among the nation and the government, but such efforts will be futile.

“The enemy’s plan is to create gaps and separations between the establishment and the people, and this design reflects their stupidity because they do not know that the Islamic Republic is nothing but the Iranian nation and these two cannot be separated,” the Imam said Saturday.

“The purpose of the current economic pressures is to make people fed up, but with divine power, we will increase our bond with the people day by day, and by preserving our coherence, we will strengthen the faithful, proactive and proactive youth,” Imam Khamenei said.

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team


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THE SAKER: “NO 5TH COLUMN IN THE KREMLIN? THINK AGAIN!”

29.06.2018
Written by The Saker; Originally appeared at The Unz Review
Following the re-appointment of Medvedev and his more or less reshuffled government, the public opinion in Russia and abroad was split on whether this was a good sign of continuity and unity amongst the Russian leadership or whether this was a confirmation that there was a 5th column inside the Kremlin working against President Putin and trying to impose neo-liberal and pro-western policies on the Russian people. Today I want to take a quick look at what is taking place inside Russia because I believe that the Russian foreign policy is still predominantly controlled by what I call the “Eurasian Sovereignists” and that to detect the activities of the “Atlantic Integrationist” types we need to look at what is taking place inside Russia.
The Russian 5th column and its typical operations
First, I want to begin by sharing with you a short video translated by the Saker Community of one of the most astute Russian analysts, Ruslan Ostashko, who wonders how it is that a rabidly pro-western and vociferously anti-Putin radio station named “Ekho Moskvy” manages not only to elude normal Russian legislation, but even gets money from the gaz giant Gazprom, which is majority owned by the Russian state. Ekho Moskvy is also so pro-Israeli that it has earned the nickname “Ekho Matsy” (Ekho Moskvy means “Echo of Moscow” whereas “Ekho Matsy” means “Echo of the Matzo”). Needless to say, that radio has the unwavering and total support of the US Embassy. It would not be an exaggeration to say Ekho Moskvy serves as an incubator for russophobic journalists and that most of the liberal pro-western reporters in the Russian media have been, at one time or another, associated with this propaganda outfit. In spite of this or, more accurately, because of this, Ekho Moskvy has been bankrupt for quite a while already, and yet – it continues to exist. Just listen to Ostashko’s explanations (and make sure to press the ‘cc’ button to see the English language captions):
Interesting, no? The state giant Gazprom is doing all it can to keep Ekho Moskvy afloat and above the law. In fact, Gazprom has been financing Ekho Moskvy for years! According to the hyper-politically-correct Wikipedia: “As of 2005 Echo of Moscow was majority owned by Gazprom Media which holds 66% of its shares”. If Gazprom is majority owned by the Russian state, and Ekho Moskvy is majority owned by Gazprom, then does that not mean that Ekho Moskvy is basically financed by the Kremlin? The reality is even worse, as Ostashko points out, Ekho Moskvy is the most visible case, but there are quite a few pro-western media outlets in Russia which are financed, directly and indirectly, by the Russian state.
So let me ask you a simple question: do you really think that Ostashko is better informed than the Russian authorities, including Putin himself?
Of course not! So what is going on here?
Before attempting to answer this question, let’s look at another interesting news item from Russia, the recent article “Pension reform as a fifth column tool to overthrow Putin” (original title “About a fair pension system”) by Mikhail Khazin translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard from the Stalker Zone blog (and cross-posted here and here). Please read the full article as it sheds a very interesting light on what the Medvedev government has been up to since it was reappointed. What I want to quote here are Mikhail Khazin’s conclusions: (emphasis added)
In other words, all of this reform is frank poppycock, a political joke aimed at destroying relations between the People (society) and the Authorities. The specific aim of this is to overthrow Putin, as our liberals are commanded to do by their senior partners from the “Western” global project. And it is precisely like this that we should treat this reform. It has no relation to economic reforms – neither good, nor bad. It not an economic reform, but a political plot! And it is from here that we have to proceed.
Having explained what is really going on, Khazin then goes on to openly state how such an operation is even possible:
Now concerning the media. It should be understood that at the end of the 90’s-beginning of the 2000’s practically all non-liberal media died. Completely. And of course, practically all non-liberal journalists definitely died (only a few dozen mastodons from the times of socialism remain). And the youth that grew from the faculty of journalism are in general totally liberal. They were a little bit suppressed in the middle of the 2000’s, but after Medvedev’s arrival to the president’s post they again blossomed. But then the attack of the State on everything that doesn’t reflect “the policies of the party and the government” began.
And then it so happened that now there are many “patriotic” publications in Russia that employ mainly liberal journalists. An enchanting sight. These journalists (in full accordance with the ideas of Lenin that they didn’t read) see their main task as supporting “theirs” – i.e., liberal-financiers, Nemtsov, Navalny and, so on, and to sully the “bloody KayGeeBee”! And it is this that they are involved in, meaning that, propagandising as much as possible the policies of the government, they optimally irritate the population by using Putin personally. There is just a need every time to act out some disgusting story (how an elderly man died on the way to the polyclinic or hospital, how children were taken away from a large family, how an official or a priest hit a pregnant woman and/or juvenile children with their chic car), to explain that this isn’t just the result of the policies of the liberal power, but the concrete fault of the President, who put on their posts the very ministers and law enforcement officers who encourage all of this.
Amazing, no? This is an attempt to overthrow Putin and it is covered-up by the (pseudo) patriotic press. What about Putin himself? Why does he not take action? Khazin even explains that:
Of course, the President is guilty, first of all, because he understands that if he starts to cleanse this “Augean stable”, then he will be obliged to shed blood, because they won’t voluntarily give back their privileges. But the most important thing, and this is the essence: the liberal Russian elite today set for itself the political task of removing Putin. Why it decided to do this is an interesting question: if Putin himself and a liberal are flesh from flesh, then this task is stupid and senseless. Not to mention suicidal. But if he isn’t a liberal (it is probably correct to say not a political liberal) then, of course, this activity makes sense. But at the same time, for purely propaganda reasons – because people hate liberals, there is a need to hang the label of political liberal on him.
Now let’s connect all the dots: there is a pro-western (in realty, western-controlled) faction inside the government which is financing those who are attempting to overthrow Putin by making him unpopular with the Russian general public (which overwhelmingly opposes “liberal” economic policies and which despises the Russian liberal elites) by constantly forcing him into liberal economic policies which he clearly does not like (he declared himself categorically opposed to such policies in 2005) and the so-called “patriotic media” is covering it all up. And Putin cannot change this without shedding blood.
But let us assume, for argument’s sake, that Putin is really a liberal at heart and he believes in “Washington Consensus” type of economics. Even if this was the case, surely he must be aware that 92% of Russians oppose this so-called “reform”. And while the President’s spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, declared that Putin himself was not associated with this plan, the truth is that this process does also hurt his political image with the Russian people and political movements. As a direct result from these plans, the Communist Party of Russia is launching a referendum against this project while the “Just Russia” Party is now collecting signatures to dismiss the entire government. Clearly, a political struggle of monumental proportions is in the making and the traditionally rather lame internal opposition to Putin (I am talking about the major political movements and parties, not tiny CIA-supported and/or Soros-funded “NGOs”) is now transforming itself into a much more determined kind of opposition. I predicted thatabout a month ago when I wrote that:
“it is quite clear to me that a new type of Russian opposition is slowly forming. Well, it always existed, really – I am talking about people who supported Putin and the Russian foreign policy and who disliked Medvedev and the Russian internal policies. Now the voice of those who say that Putin is way too soft in his stance towards the Empire will only get stronger. As will the voices of those who speak of a truly toxic degree of nepotism and patronage in the Kremlin (again, Mutko being the perfect example). When such accusations came from rabid pro-western liberals, they had very little traction, but when they come from patriotic and even nationalist politicians (Nikolai Starikov for example) they start taking on a different dimension. For example, while the court jester Zhirinovskii and his LDPR party loyally supported Medvedev, the Communist and the Just Russia parties did not. Unless the political tension around figures like Kudrin and Medvedev is somehow resolved (maybe a timely scandal?), we might witness the growth of a real opposition movement in Russia, and not one run by the Empire. It will be interesting to see if Putin’s personal ratings will begin to go down and what he will have to do in order to react to the emergence of such a real opposition”
Those who vehemently denied that there as a real 5th column problem inside the Kremlin are going to have a painful wake-up call when they realize that thanks to the actions of these “liberals” a patriotic opposition is gradually emerging, not so much against Putin himself as against the policies of the Medvedev government. Why not against Putin?
Because most Russian instinctively feel what is going on and understand not only the anti-Putin dynamics at work, but also how and why this situation was created. Furthermore, unlike most westerners, most Russians remember what took place in the crucial and formative 1990s.
The historical roots of the problem (very rough summary)
It all began in the late 1980s when the Soviet elites realized that they were losing control of the situation and that something had to be done. To really summarize what they did, I would say that these elites first broke up the country into 15 individual fiefdoms each run by gang/clan composed of these Soviet elites, then they mercilessly grabbed everything of any value, became overnight billionaires and concealed their money in the West. Being fabulously rich in a completely ruined country gave them fantastic political power and influence to further exploit and rob the country of all its resources. Russia herself (and the other 14 ex-Soviet republics) suffered an unspeakable nightmare comparable to a major war and by the 1990s Russia almost broke-up into many more even smaller pieces (Chechnia, Tatarstan, etc.). By then, Russia was subserviently executing all the economic policies recommended by a myriad of US ‘advisors’ (hundreds of them with offices inside the offices of many key ministries and various state agencies, just like today in the Ukraine), she adopted a Constitution drafted by pro-US elements, and all the key positions in the state were occupied by what I can only call western agents. At the very top, President Eltsin was mostly drunk while the country was run by 7 bankers, the so-called “oligarchs” (6 of which were Jews): the “Semibankirshchina”.
This is the time when the Russian security services successfully tricked these oligarchs into believing that Putin, who has a law degree and who had worked for the (very liberal) Mayor of Saint Petersburg (Anatolii Sobchack) was just a petty bureaucrat who would restore a semblance of order while not presenting any real threat to the oligarchs. The ploy worked, but the business elites demanded that “their” guy, Medvedev, be put in charge of the government so as to preserve their interests. What they overlooked was two things: Putin was a truly brilliant officer of the very elite First Chief Directorate (Foreign Intelligence) of the KGB and a real patriot. Furthermore, the Constitution, which was passed to support the Eltsin regime could now be used by Putin. But more than anything else, they never predicted that a little guy in an ill-fitting suit would transform himself into one of the most popular leaders on the planet. As I have written many times, while the initial power base of Putin was in the security services and the armed forces and while his legal authority stems from the Constitution, his *real* power comes from the immense support he has from the Russian people who, for the first time in very long time felt that the man at the top truly represented their interests.
Putin then did what Donald Trump could have done as soon as he entered the White House: he cleaned house. He began by immediately tackling the oligarchs, he put an end to the Semibankirshchina, and he stopped the massive export of money and resources out of Russia. The then proceeded to rebuild the “vertical of power” (the Kremlin’s control over the country) and began rebuilding all of Russia from the foundations (regions) up. But while Putin was tremendously successful, he simply could not fight on all fronts at the same time and win.
Truth be told, he did eventually win most of the battles which he chose to fight, but some battles he simply could not wage, not because of a lack of courage or will on his part, but because the objective reality is that Putin inherited an extremely bad system fully controlled by some extremely dangerous foes. Remember the words of Khazin above: “if he starts to cleanse this “Augean stable”, then he will be obliged to shed blood, because they won’t voluntarily give back their privileges”. So, in a typically Putin fashion, he made a number of deals.
For example, those oligarchs who agreed to stop meddling in Russian politics and who would, from now on, pay taxes and generally abide by the law were not jailed or expropriated: those who got the message were allowed to continue to work as normal businessmen (Oleg Deripaska) and those who did not were either jailed or exiled (Khodorkovski, Berezovski). But if we look just below the level of these well-known and notorious oligarchs, what we find as a much deeper “swamp” (to use the US expression): an entire class of people who made their fortunes in the 1990s, who are now extremely influential and control most of the key positions in the economy, finance and business and who absolutely hate and fear Putin. They even have their agents inside the armed forces and security services because their weapon of choice is, of course, corruption and influence. And, of course, they have people representing their interests inside the Russian government: pretty much the entire “economic block” of the Medvedev government.
Is it really any surprise at all that these people also have their paid representatives inside the Russian media, including the so-called “pro-Russian” or “patriotic” media? (I have been warning about this since at least 2015)
Just like in the West, in Russia the media depends first and foremost on money. Big financial interests are very good at using the media to promote their agenda, deny or obfuscate some topics while pushing others. This is why you often see the Russian media backing WTO/WB/IMF/etc policies to the hilt while never criticizing Israel or, God forbid, rabidly pro-Israel propagandists on mainstream TV (guys like Vladimir Soloviev, Evgenii Satanovsky, Iakov Kedmi, Avigdor Eskin and many others). This is the same media which will gladly criticize Iran and Hezbollah but never wonder why the Russian main TV stations are spewing pro-Israeli propaganda on a daily basis.
And, of course, they will all mantrically repeat the same chant: “there is no 5th column in Russia!! None!! Never!!”
This is no different than the paid for corporate media in the USA which denies the existence of a “deep state” or the US “Israel Lobby”.
And yet, many (most?) people in the USA and Russia realize at an almost gut-level that they are being lied to and that, in reality, a hostile power is ruling over them.
Putin’s options and possible outcomes
Sadly, in the USA, Trump proved to be a disaster who totally caved in to the Neocons and their demands. In Russia, the situation is far more complex. So far, Putin has very skillfully avoided associating himself with the Atlantic Integrationists. Furthermore, the biggest crises of the past decade or so were all associated with foreign policy issues and those are still controlled by the Eurasian Sovereignists. Finally, while the Russian government clearly committed some mistakes or promoted some unpopular policies (such has healthcare reform for example), they also had their undeniable successes. As for Putin, he continued to consolidate his power and he gradually removed some of the most notorious individuals from their positions. In theory, Putin could probably have most top Atlantic Integrationists arrested on corruption charges, but short of engaging in a massive and bloody purge, he cannot get rid of an entire social class which is not only large but powerful.
Some of my contacts in Russia expected a purge of Atlantic Integrationists right after the election. The logic here was “enough is enough” and that once Putin got a strong mandate from the people, he would finally kick Medvedev and his gang out of the Kremlin and replace them with popular patriots. That obviously did not happen. But if this pension reform program continues to further trigger protests or if a major war blows up in the Middle-East or in the Ukraine, then the pro-western forces inside the Kremlin will come under great pressure to further yield control of the country to Eurasian Sovereignists.
Putin is an exceedingly patient man and, at least so far, he has won most, if not all, of his battles. I don’t believe that anybody can predict for sure how things will play out, but what is certain is that trying to understand Russia without being aware of the internal conflicts and the interests groups fighting for power is futile. In her 1000 year long history, internal enemies have always been far more dangerous for Russia than external ones. This is unlikely to change in the future.