Category Archives: Russia

How America Double-Crossed Russia and Shamed the West

Edward Snowden gains temporary asylum in Russia

Report: Russia to Send Marines to Syria

By Vladimir Isachenkov
The Associated Press
June 18, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “AP” — MOSCOW — Two Russian navy ships are completing preparations to sail to Syria with a unit of marines on a mission to protect Russian citizens and the nation’s base there, a news report said Monday. The deployment appears to reflect Moscow’s growing concern about Syrian President Bashar Assad’s future.
The Interfax news agency quoted an unidentified Russian navy official as saying that the two amphibious landing vessels, Nikolai Filchenkov and Caesar Kunikov, will be heading shortly to the Syrian port of Tartus, but didn’t give a precise date.
The official said the ships will carry an unspecified number of marines to protect Russians in Syria and evacuate some equipment from Tartus, if necessary.
Each ship is capable of carrying up to 300 marines and a dozen tanks, according to Russian media reports. That would make it the largest known Russian troop deployment to Syria, signaling that Moscow is becoming increasingly uneasy about Syria’s slide toward civil war.
Interfax also quoted a deputy Russian air force chief as saying that Russia will give the necessary protection to its citizens in Syria.
“We must protect our citizens,” Maj.-Gen. Vladimir Gradusov was quoted as saying. “We won’t abandon the Russians and will evacuate them from the conflict zone, if necessary.”
Asked whether the air force would provide air support for the navy squadron, Gradusov said they will act on orders.
The Defense Ministry had no immediate comment, and an official at the Black Sea fleet declined to comment.
Asked if the Pentagon is concerned about the plan, officials in Washington said it depends on the mission. They had no comment on the stated goal of protecting Russian citizens and the Russian military position there, something the U.S. would do in a foreign country if in a similar situation.
“I think we’d leave it to the Russian Ministry of Defense to speak to their naval movements and their national security decision-making process,” said Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, adding that it’s not the business of the U.S. Defense Department to “endorse or disapprove of an internal mission like that.”
What would greatly concern the U.S., he said, is if the Russian naval ships were taking weapons or sending people to support the Assad regime in its crackdown.
“The secretary of defense (Leon Panetta) remains concerned about any efforts by external countries or external organizations to supply lethal arms to the Syrian regime so that they can turn around and use those to kill their own people,” Kirby said.
Tartus is Russia’s only naval base outside the former Soviet Union, serving Russian navy ships on missions to the Mediterranean and hosting an unspecified number of military personnel.
Russian officials have said that other Russian navy ships that have called at Tartus this year also had marines on board, but it has remained unclear whether they rotated the troops at Tartus or simply protected the ships during their mission and returned home.
Russia also has an unspecified number of military advisers teaching Syrians how to use Russian weapons, which make up the bulk of Syrian arsenals.
Syria is Russia’s last remaining ally in the Middle East, and has been a major customer of Soviet and Russian weapons industries for the last four decades, acquiring billions of dollars worth of combat jets, helicopters, missiles, armored vehicles and other military gear.
Russia has shielded Assad’s regime from international sanctions over its violent crackdown on protests. Moscow also has continued to provide Syria with arms, despite Western calls for a halt in supplies.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton issued a harsh reprimand of Russia last week, when she said that Moscow “dramatically” escalated the crisis in Syria by sending attack helicopters there. The State Department acknowledged later the helicopters she accused Moscow of sending were actually refurbished ones already owned by the Assad regime, but Russia was clearly annoyed, and the spat further fueled tensions ahead of President Barack Obama’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Mexico on Monday.
Opposition groups say more than 14,000 people have been killed since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011 with mostly peaceful protests against Assad’s autocratic regime. But a ferocious government crackdown led many to take up arms, and the conflict is now an armed insurgency.
Russia has criticized Assad for slow reforms and heavy-handed use of force, but has strongly opposed any sanctions or foreign interference in Syrian affairs.
Pauline Jelinek contributed to this report from Washington

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Russia Bars Bush-Era Torture Lawyers

By Robert Parry
April 15, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“Consortium News” – The U.S. government views itself as the global arbiter of human rights, righteously throwing stones at other nations for their misbehavior and most recently imposing sanctions on a group of Russians accused of human rights crimes. That move prompted a tit-for-tat response from Moscow, barring 18 current and former U.S. officials from entering Russia.
The predictable responsefrom the U.S. news media to the Russian retaliation was to liken it to the Cold War days when the United States would catch a Soviet spy and Moscow would retaliate by grabbing an American and arranging a swap.
But several of the Americans targeted by Moscow this time were clearly guilty of human rights crimes. John Yoo and David Addington were former legal advisers to President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, respectively. The two lawyers were famous for inventing new excuses for torture. Two other Americans on Moscow’s list – Major General Geoffrey D. Miller and Rear Admiral Jeffrey Harbeson – commanded the extralegal detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In particular, Yoo and Addington stand out as smug apologists for torture who twisted law and logic to justify waterboarding, painful stress positions, forced nudity, sleep deprivation and other techniques that have been historically defined as torture. In a society that truly respected human rights, they would have been held accountable – along with other practitioners of the “dark side” – but instead have been allowed to walk free and carry on their professional lives almost as if nothing had happened.
The Russians were polite enough only to include on the list these mid-level torture advocates and enablers (as well as some prosecutors who have led legal cases against Russian nationals). They left off the list many culpable former senior officials, such as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, CIA Director George Tenet, Cheney and Bush. Obviously, the Russian government didn’t want an escalation.
It’s also undeniably true that Moscow does not come to the human rights issue with clean hands. But neither does the United States, a country that for generations has taken pride in its role as the supposed beacon of human rights, the rule of law, and democratic principles.
Acting as a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Tribunals after World War II, Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson famously denied that punishing the Nazi leaders as war criminals was simply victor’s justice. He insisted that the same principles would apply to the nations sitting in judgment, including the United States and the Soviet Union. However, that has turned out not to be the case.
The real principles of today’s international law could be described as dragging petty warlords from Africa or Eastern Europe off to The Hague for prosecution by the International Criminal Court, while letting leaders of the Big Powers – with far more blood on their hands – off the hook. Jackson’s “universal principles” of human rights now only apply to the relatively weak.
A History of Double Standards
Of course, one could argue that double and triple standards have always been the way of the world. What often seems to really matter is who has the most powerful friends, the best P.R. team, and the greatest number of “news” organizations in their pocket. Plus, lots of cognitive dissonance helps, too.
For instance, you must forget the role of the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman, the Washington Post’s Fred Hiatt and other mainstream media stars in rallying the American people to get behind the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2002-2003 – when the same pundits now fold their arms in disgust at some other nation’s violation of international law.
It’s also handy if you can forget much of American history. You can fondly recall the stirring words about liberty from the Founding Fathers, but it’s best to forget that many owned African-Americans as slaves and that their lust for territorial expansion led them and their descendants to wage a cruel genocide against Native Americans.
There also were the repeated military interventions in Latin America and the brutal counterinsurgency campaign in the Philippines (which applied some of the same tactics that the U.S. military had perfected in crushing uprisings by Native Americans). Then, there were the militarily unnecessary atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the mass slaughters in Indochina in the 1960s and 1970s; and the “death squad” operations in South and Central America in the 1970s and 1980s.
One can trace a direct correlation from American sayings like “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” in the 19th Century to “kill them all and let God sort them out” in the 20th Century. And U.S. respect for human rights hasn’t improved much in the new century with George W. Bush’s “war on terror” and his invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and with Barack Obama’s extrajudicial killings by drone attacks.
So, when the United States strides from its glass house to hurl stones at Russians over repression in Chechnya, it’s not at all surprising that the Russians would return the volley by singling out some of the Americans clearly implicated in war crimes under George W. Bush. The only real question is why did the Russians stop with a handful of apparatchiks? Probably they didn’t want to escalate this exchange of Big Power hypocrisies.
The hard truth is that if the United States had a functioning criminal justice system for the powerful – not just for run-of-the-mill offenders – former Vice President Cheney and ex-President Bush would have convicted themselves with their own public comments defending their use of torture.
For instance, in February 2010, on ABC’s “This Week,” Cheney pronounced himself “a big supporter of waterboarding,” a near-drowning technique that has been regarded as torture back to the Spanish Inquisition and that has long been treated by U.S. authorities as a serious war crime, such as when Japanese commanders were prosecuted for using it on American prisoners during World War II.
Cheney was unrepentant about his support for the technique. He answered with an emphatic “yes” when asked if he had opposed the Bush administration’s decision to suspend the use of waterboarding. He added that waterboarding should still be “on the table” today.
Admitting the Sham
But Cheney went further. Speaking with a sense of legal impunity, he casually negated a key line of defense that senior Bush officials had hidden behind for years – that the brutal interrogations were okayed by independent Justice Department legal experts who gave the administration a legitimate reason to believe the actions were within the law.
However, in the interview, Cheney acknowledged that the White House had told the Justice Department lawyers what legal opinions to render. In other words, the opinions amounted to ordered-up lawyering to permit the administration to do whatever it wanted.
In responding to a question about why he had so harshly attacked President Obama’s counterterrorism policies, Cheney explained that he was concerned about the new administration prosecuting some CIA operatives who had handled the interrogations and “disbarring lawyers with the Justice Department who had helped us put those policies together. … I thought it was important for some senior person in the administration to stand up and defend those people who’d done what we asked them to do.”
Cheney’s comment about the Justice lawyers who had “done what we asked them to do” was an apparent reference to John Yoo and his boss, Jay Bybee, at the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), a powerful Justice Department agency that advises the President on the limits of his power.
In 2002, Yoo – while working closely with White House officials – drafted legal memos that permitted waterboarding and other brutal techniques by narrowly defining torture. He also authored legal opinions that asserted virtual dictatorial powers for a President during war, even one as vaguely defined as the “war on terror.” Yoo’s key memos were then signed by Bybee.
In 2003, after Yoo left to be a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley and Bybee was elevated to a federal appeals court judgeship in San Francisco, their successors withdrew the memos because of the sloppy scholarship. However, in 2005, President George W. Bush appointed a new acting chief of the OLC, Steven Bradbury, who restored many of the Yoo-Bybee opinions.
In the years that followed, Bush administration officials repeatedly cited the Yoo-Bybee-Bradbury legal guidance when insisting that the “enhanced interrogation” of “war on terror” detainees – as well as prisoners from the Iraq and Afghan wars – did not cross the line into torture.
In essence, the Bush-Cheney defense was that the OLC lawyers offered honest opinions and that everyone from the President and Vice President, who approved use of the interrogation techniques, down to the CIA interrogators, who conducted the torture, operated in good faith.
If, however, that narrative is indeed false – if the lawyers had colluded with the policymakers to create legal excuses for criminal acts – then the Bush-Cheney defense would collapse. Rather than diligent lawyers providing professional advice, the picture would be of Mob consiglieres counseling crime bosses how to skirt the law.
Hand in Glove
Though Bush administration defenders have long denied that the legal opinions were cooked, the evidence has long supported the conspiratorial interpretation. For instance, in his 2006 book War by Other Means, Yoo himself described his involvement in frequent White House meetings regarding what “other means” should receive a legal stamp of approval. Yoo wrote:
“As the White House held its procession of Christmas parties and receptions in December 2001, senior lawyers from the Attorney General’s office, the White House counsel’s office, the Departments of State and Defense and the NSC [National Security Council] met a few floors away to discuss the work on our opinion. … This group of lawyers would meet repeatedly over the next months to develop policy on the war on terrorism.”
Yoo said meetings were usually chaired by Alberto Gonzales, who was then White House counsel and later became Bush’s second Attorney General. Yoo identified other key players as Timothy Flanigan, Gonzales’s deputy; William Howard Taft IV from State; John Bellinger from the NSC; William “Jim” Haynes from the Pentagon; and David Addington, counsel to Cheney.
In his book, Yoo described his work swatting down objections from the State Department’s lawyer and the Pentagon’s judge advocate generals – who feared that waiving the Geneva Conventions in the “war on terror” would endanger U.S. soldiers – Yoo stressed policy concerns, not legal logic.
“It was far from obvious that following the Geneva Conventions in the war against al-Qaeda would be wise,” Yoo wrote. “Our policy makers had to ask whether [compliance] would yield any benefit or act as a hindrance.”
What Yoo’s book and other evidence make clear is that the lawyers from the Justice Department’s OLC weren’t just legal scholars handing down opinions from an ivory tower; they were participants in how to make Bush’s desired actions “legal.” They were the lawyerly equivalents of those U.S. intelligence officials, who – in the words of the British “Downing Street Memo” – “fixed” the facts around Bush’s desire to invade Iraq.
Redefining Torture
In the case of waterboarding and other abusive interrogation tactics, Yoo and Bybee generated a memo, dated Aug. 1, 2002, that came up with a novel and narrow definition of torture, essentially lifting the language from an unrelated law regarding health benefits.
The Yoo-Bybee legal opinion stated that unless the amount of pain administered to a detainee led to injuries that might result in “death, organ failure, or serious impairment of body functions” then the interrogation technique could not be defined as torture. Since waterboarding is not intended to cause death or organ failure – only the panicked gag reflex associated with drowning – it was deemed not to be torture.
The “torture memo” and related legal opinions were considered so unprofessional that Bybee’s replacement to head the OLC, Jack Goldsmith, himself a conservative Republican, took the extraordinary step of withdrawing them after he was appointed in October 2003. However, Goldsmith was pushed out of his job after a confrontation with Cheney’s counsel Addington. Bradbury then enabled the Bush White House to reinstate many of the Yoo-Bybee opinions.
Cheney’s frank comments on “This Week” in 2010 – corroborating that Yoo and Bybee “had done what we asked them to do” – reflected the confidence that former Bush administration officials felt by then that they would face no accountability from the Obama administration for war crimes.
Surely, if a leader of another country had called himself “a big supporter of waterboarding,” there would have been a clamor for his immediate arrest and trial at The Hague. That Cheney felt he could speak so openly and with such impunity was a damning commentary on the rule of law in the United States, at least when it comes to the nation’s elites.
John Yoo apparently shares Cheney’s nonchalance about facing accountability. This weekend, when Yoo was asked about the Russians banning him as a human rights violator, he joked about the athletic skills of Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Darn,” Yoo wrote in an e-mail, “there goes my judo match with Putin.”
Perhaps the ultimate measure of America’s current standing as a promoter of human rights is that it’s difficult to judge which government is the bigger hypocrite: the one in Moscow or the one in Washington.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

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Russian War Games Send a Strong Message Against NATO Intervention in Syria?

By Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
April 03, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“RT” – Is there a connection between events in Syria (maybe even US tension with North Korea) and Russia’s impromptu Black Sea war games that started on March 28, 2013?
While on his way from Durban in South Africa, where the BRICS — Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa —announced they were forming a new development bank to challenge the IMF and World Bank, Russia’s Vladimir Putin gave the go ahead for unscheduled war games in the Black Sea. By themselves the games mean little, but in a global context they mean a lot.
According to the Kremlin, the war games involved about 7,000 Russian servicemen, Russian Special Forces, Russian Marines, and airborne rapid deployment troops. All of Russia’s different services were involved and used the exercises to test their interoperability. Over thirty Russian warships based out of the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol in the Crimean Peninsula and the Russian port of Novorossiysk in Krasnodar Krai will be participating. The objective of the games are to show that Russia could mobilize for any event at a moments notice.
The war games surprised the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Who even complained the Russian war games started in the Black Sea without prior notice. In fact, NATO asked Russia to be more open about its moves and give NATO Headquarters in Brussels notice of its military movements in the future. Alexander Vershbow, the American Deputy Secretary General of NATO, even demanded “maximum transparency” from Russia. One may ask, why the rattled bones?
Russian response to war plans against the Syrians?
Is it mere coincidence that Russia is flexing its muscles after NATO revealed it was developing contingency plans for a Libya-style intervention in Syria on March 20? Two days later, Israel and Turkey ended their diplomatic row through a timely agreement that was supposedly brokered by US President Barack Obama in twenty minutes while he was visiting Israel. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that with Obama’s help a deal was made with Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Erdogan to end the diplomatic rift over the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara in 2010.
Days later, this event was followed by the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) — a phoney opposition organization constructed by the US, UK, France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey — being ceremoniously given Syria’s seat at the Arab League. In what appears to be an attempt at repeating the Libya scenario, the SNC is being recognized as the government of Syria. At the Arab League summit, the SNC’s leader Moaz Al-Khatib immediately called for NATO military intervention in coordination with Qatar’s call for regime change and military intervention in Damascus on March 26.
Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib.(AFP Photo / Karim Sahib)
In a stage-managed move, the puppet SNC has asked the US, UK, France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and NATO to enforce a no-fly zone with the aim of creating a SNC-controlled emirate or enclave in northern Syria. Al-Khatib has announced that he has talked to US Secretary of State John Kerry to use the NATO Patriot Missiles stationed in Turkey to create the no-fly zone over northern Syria. Effectively what he is talking about is the balkanization of Syria. Kerry seems to be on top of it. Victoria Nuland, the spokeswoman of the US Department of State, said the US is considering the request about imposing a no-fly zone. Even earlier, Kerry made a surprise visit to Baghdad and threatened the federal government in Iraq to fall into line with Washington’s regime change plans against Syria. He said he wanted the Iraqis to check Iranian passenger planes heading to Syria for weapons, but much more was said.
The American Empire’s satraps are all on the move. Qatar and Saudi Arabia no longer hide the fact that they are arming and funding the insurgents in Syria. In February, the UK and France lobbied the rest of the European Union to lift its Syrian arms embargo, so that they can openly arm the anti-government foreign fighters and militias that are trying to topple the Syrian government. Israel and Turkey have been forced to mend fences for the sake of the Empires war on the Syrians.
Obama realigns Israel and Turkey against Syria
The Israeli and Turkish rapprochement conveniently fits the aligning chessboard. Obama’s visit to Israel was about imperial politics to maintain the American Empire. As two hostile neighbours of Syria, Tel Aviv and Ankara will have deeper cooperation in the Empire’s objectives to topple the Syrian government. All of a sudden, the governments in both countries started complaining in line with one another about how the humanitarian situation in Syria was threatening them. In reality, Israel is not hosting any Syrian refugees (and oppresses Syrians under its occupation in the Golan) whereas Turkey has actually neglected many of its legal and financial obligations to the Syrian refugees it hosts on its territory and has tried to whitewash this by labeling them as foreign “guests.”
A child watches a woman washing a bassin at the Syrian refugee camp 5km from Diyarbakir, on the the way between Diyarbakir and Mardin, after snowfall, on January 9, 2013.(AFP Photo / Stringer)
According to Agence France-Presse, the Israelis have even opened a military field hospital to help the insurgents topple the Syrian government. The military facility is located in an area named Fortification 105 in Syria’s Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (originally referred to as the Syrian Heights in Israel). It is essentially a support base for anti-government forces and only the tip of the iceberg in regards to Israeli involvement in Syria. Israel’s January strikes on Syria were the fruits of the cooperation between the Israelis and insurgent militias.
Sensing the suspicious eyes gazing at the Turkish government and perhaps getting unnerved by the Kremlin’s muscle flexing, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has rejected he claims that Tel Aviv and Ankara were closing ranks against Syria. Davutoglu must have been unaware of what was said in Israel about their rapprochement. Even though Netanyahu vowed never to apologize for the killing of Turkey’s citizens on the Mavi Marmara, Tel Aviv’s apology to Turkey was publicly justified by the Israeli government on the basis of addressing Syria through coordination with Turkey. Many of the suspicious eyes that turned to look at the Erdogan’s government over the deal with Israel are Turkish. Davutoglu actually lied for domestic consumption, knowing full well that the Turkish public would be outraged to know that Prime Minister Erdogan was really normalizing ties with Israel to topple the Syrian government.
The message(s) of the Russian war games
The American Empire is arranging the geopolitical chessboard with is satraps in its ongoing war on Syria. Perhaps it plans on using Israel to do a re-play of the Suez Crisis. In 1956, after Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal, the UK and France drew a plan with Israel to annex the Suez Canal by getting Israel to attack Egypt and then claiming to intervene militarily as concerned parties who wanted to keep the Suez Canal safe and open for international maritime traffic. A new assault against Syria under the banners of the Israelis is possible and could be used as an excuse for a Turkish and NATO “humanitarian invasion” that could result in the creation of a northern humanitarian buffer zone (or a broader war).
A pattern can be depicted from all these events. At the start of 2013, Russia held major naval drills in the Eastern Mediterranean against a backdrop of tension between Moscow and the US-led NATO and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) coalition that has been destabilizing Syria. After the US and its anti-Syrian coalition threatened to intervene militarily and deployed Patriot missiles on Turkey’s southern border with Syria, a Russian naval flotilla was dispatched off the Syrian coast to send a strong message to Washington not to have any ideas of starting another war. In turn, the US and its allies tried to save face by spreading rumours that the Kremlin was preparing to evacuate Russian citizens from Syria, because the Syrian government was going to collapse and the situation was going to get critical.
A ship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet during large-scale military exercises Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered while flying back from the South African Republic to Moscow. (Screen shot of a video of Zvezda TV channel).(RIA Novosti)
A ship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet during large-scale military exercises Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered while flying back from the South African Republic to Moscow. (Screen shot of a video of Zvezda TV channel).(RIA Novosti)

 

Paralleling the Russian war games in the Black Sea, the Russian Air Force held long-range flights across Russia. This included flights by Russian nuclear strategic bombers. On the other end of Eurasia, China also conducted its own surprise naval war games in the South China Sea. While the US and its allies portrayed the Chinese moves as a threat to Vietnam over disputed territory in the South China Sea, the timing of the naval deployment could be linked to either Syria (or North Korea) and coordinated with Russia to warn the US to keep the international peace.
In a sign of the decline of the American Empire, just before the Russian war games in the Black Sea, all the increasingly assertive BRICS leaders warned the US against any adventurism in Syria and other countries. The Russian and Chinese muscle flexing are messages that tell Washington that Beijing and Moscow are serious and mean what they say. At the same time, these events can be read as signs that the world-system is coming under new management.
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is sociologist, award-winning author, and noted geopolitical analyst.

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"Russia Must Be Ready To Counter Threat Using Military Force": Deputy Prime Minister

By Interfax 
March 21, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“Interfax” – MOSCOW. March 20 (Interfax-AVN) – Military force is always in demand in the modern world, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said at the Military and Industrial Conference in Moscow on Wednesday.
“We cannot fail to see what is happening in the world. Military force is still in demand, and the threat of using it is a key factor of interaction on the solution of global political and economic issues,” Rogozin said.
“Shaking hands with its partners with a steel hand in a child’s glove, Russia must show the world its firm resoluteness to defend the world and its place in it,” he said.
“The Cold War rudiments, both in their organization, such as NATO, or propaganda, such as Russophobia, forms have not disappeared,” Rogozin said.
“Western civilization is a condition of exhausting resources and is not going to give up the level of consumption which they got have been used to for a long time. This means the struggle for the access to these resources will become even more severe,” he said.
“Meanwhile, new giants with gigantic ambitions are entering the world arena. The 21st century will not be just a promenade on an avenue,” Rogozin said.
Russia’s Rogozin Asks ‘Who’s the Enemy?’
March 21, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“RIA Novosti” – MOSCOW: Russia needs to determine exactly who its enemies are and develop its Armed Forces accordingly, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on Wednesday.
“We really need to understand what our strategic threats are, clearly define who our adversary is, what kind of adversary, and configure our Armed Forces and military-technical systems to counter those threats,” he told a military-industrial conference in Moscow. Rogozin oversees the country’s military-industrial complex.
Rogozin, Russia’s former envoy to NATO, also said it was essential to develop standard scenarios for the use of the Armed Forces based on a common vision of future armed conflicts.
New weapon systems should be designed to accommodate those scenarios and meet specific hypothetical threats, he said.
Addressing the conference earlier in the day, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev urged the further consolidation of the defense industry, calling it key to the country’s economic development.
As of today there are 61 integrated structures in the defense industry, comprising 771 large enterprises, which account for over 74 percent of defense industry output. By 2020, a new-look defense industry is to be formed with about 40 large science and production associations.
Russia’s ambitious 2011-2020 arms procurement program stipulates the upgrade of up to 11 percent of military equipment annually and will allow the country to increase the share of modern weaponry in the Armed Forces to 70 percent by 2020. Russia allocated about 908 billion rubles (about $30 bln) to state defense order spending in 2012.

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Putin Calls for Drastic Upgrade of Russian Army Within 3 Years

By Associated Press
March 02, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – “AP” – February 27 – MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin told the country’s top brass on Wednesday to drastically upgrade the armed forces in the next few years as part of response to attempts by the United States and NATO to “tip the strategic balance” in the world.
In his address to Russia’s defense ministry and top military officials, Putin said Russia is witnessing “insistent attempts” to change that balance and complained about U.S. plans to create a new missile defense system in Europe and the potential expansion of NATO to former Soviet republics.
“Geopolitical developments call for our response to be well-calculated and quick,” Putin said, according to a transcript of his speech on the Kremlin’s website. “The Russian armed forces must move to a dramatically new level of capabilities as soon as in the next three to five years.”
The stated goal of the multibillion-dollar missile defense system planned for Europe is to protect the U.S. from Iranian missiles. But Russia has repeatedly criticized the plan, claiming it really is intended to counter its own missiles.
Putin blasted the legacy of former Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov who was dismissed in November 2012 amid a corruption scandal involving billions of rubles reportedly embezzled by the ministry and affiliated firms.
While Putin linked the ouster to the corruption probe, most experts believe that Serdyukov was sacked because of an intensifying behind-the-scenes battle for the distribution of 23 trillion rubles ($750 billion) that the Kremlin plans to spend on buying new weapons through 2020.
Serdyukov demanded higher quality and cheaper prices from the military industry, often refusing to sign new contracts for months. He criticized arms makers for continuing to produce Soviet-era designs instead of developing new weapons, angering industry leaders with strong Kremlin connections. Under Serdyukov, the military purchased amphibious assault vessels from France, bought Israeli drones, Italian armored vehicles and other foreign weapons.
The current defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, has confirmed plans to form a new naval squadron that would patrol the Mediterranean Sea.
A small maintenance and supply base in Syria’s Tartus, Russia’s only naval outpost outside the former Soviet Union, is under threat because of the civil war there.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Be Careful: Russia is Back to Stay in the Middle East

By Felix Imonti
March 01, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – “OilPrice” – Russia is back. President Vladimir Putin wants the world to acknowledge that Russia remains a global power. He is making his stand in Syria.
The Soviet Union acquired the Tardus Naval Port in Syria in 1971 without any real purpose for it. With their ships welcomed in Algeria, Cuba or Vietnam, Tardus was too insignificant to be developed. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia lacked the funds to spend on the base and no reason to invest in it.
The Russian return to the Middle East brought them first to where the Soviet Union had had its closest ties. Libya had been a major buyer of arms and many of the military officers had studied in the Soviet Union. Russia was no longer a global power, but it could be used by the Libyans as a counter force to block domination by the United States and Europeans.
When Gaddafi fell, Tardus became Russia’s only presence in the region. That and the discovery of vast gas deposits just offshore have transformed the once insignificant port into a strategic necessity. 
Earlier at the United Nations, Russia had failed to realize that Security Council Resolution 1973 that was to implement a new policy of “responsibility to protect” cloaked a hidden agenda. It was to be turned from a no-fly zone into a free-fire zone for NATO. That strategic blunder of not vetoing the resolution led to the destruction of Gaddafi’s regime and cost Russia construction contracts and its investments in Libyan gas and oil to the tune of 10 billion dollars.
That was one more in a series of humiliating defeats; and something that Putin will not allow to happen again while he is president. Since his time as an officer in the KGB, he has seen the Soviet Empire lose half of its population, a quarter of its land mass, and most of its global influence. He has described the collapse of the Soviet Union as a “geopolitical catastrophe.”
In spite of all of the pressure from Washington and elsewhere to have him persuade Bashar Al-Assad to relinquish power, Putin is staying loyal to the isolated regime. He is calculating that Russia can afford to lose among the Arabs what little prestige that it has remaining and gain a major political and economic advantage in Southern Europe and in the Eastern Mediterranean.
What Russia lost through the anti-Al-Assad alliance was the possibility to control the natural gas market across Europe and the means to shape events on the continent. In July 2011, Iran, Iraq, and Syria agreed to build a gas pipeline from the South Pars gas field in Iran to Lebanon and across the Mediterranean to Europe. The pipeline that would have been managed by Gazprom would have carried 110 million cubic meters of gas. About a quarter of the gas would be consumed by the transit countries, leaving seventy or so million cubic meters to be sold to Europe.
Violence in Iraq and the Syrian civil war has ended any hope that the pipeline will be built, but not all hope is lost. One possibility is for Al-Assad to withdraw to the traditional Aliwite coastal enclave to begin the partitioning of Syria into three or more separate zones, Aliwite, Kurdish, and Sunni. Al-Assad’s grandfather in 1936 had asked the French administrators of the Syrian mandate to create a separate Aliwite territory in order to avoid just this type of ethnic violence.
What the French would not do circumstance may force the grandson to accept as his only choice to survive. His one hundred thousand heavily armed troops would be able to defend the enclave. 
The four or five million Aliwites, Christians, and Druze would have agricultural land, water, a deep water port and an international airport. Very importantly, they would have the still undeveloped natural gas offshore fields that extend from Israel, Lebanon, and Cyprus. The Aliwite Republic could be energy self-sufficient and even an exporter. Of course, Russia’s Gazprom in which Putin has a vital interest would get a privileged position in the development of the resource.
In an last effort to bring the nearly two year long civil war to an end, Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov urged Syrian president Bashar al-Assad at the end of December to start talks with the Syrian opposition in line with the agreements for a cease fire that was reached in Geneva on 30 June. The Russians have also extended the invitation to the Syrian opposition National Coalition head, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib. The National Coalition refuses to negotiate with Al-Assad and Al-Assad will not relinquish power voluntarily.
The hardened positions of both sides leaves little hope for a negotiated settlement; and foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has made it clear that only by an agreement among the Syrians will Russia accept the removal of Al-Assad. Neither do they see a settlement through a battlefield victory which leaves only a partitioning that will allow the civil war to just wind down as all sides are exhausted.
The Russians are troubled by what they see as a growing trend among the Western Powers to remove disapproved administrations in other sovereign countries and a program to isolate Russia. They saw the U.S involvement in the Ukraine and Georgia. There was the separation of Kosovo from Serbia over Russian objections. There was the extending of NATO to the Baltic States after pledging not to expand the organization to Russia’s frontier.
Again, Russia is seeing Washington’s hand in Syria in the conflict with Iran. The United States is directing military operations in Syria with Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia at a control center in Adana about 60 miles from the Syrian border, which is also home to the American air base in Incirlik. The Program by President Obama to have the CIA acquire heavy weapons at a facility in Benghazi to be sent to Turkey and onward to Syria is the newest challenge that Putin cannot allow to go unanswered. It was the involvement of Ambassador Chris Stevens in the arms trade that may have contributed to his murder; and the Russians are not hesitating to remind the United States and Europeans that their dealings with the various Moslem extremists is a very dangerous game.
The Russians are backing their determination to block another regime change by positioning and manning an advanced air defense system in what is becoming the Middle East casino. Putin is betting that NATO will not risk in Syria the cost that an air operation similar to what was employed over Libya will impose. Just in case Russia’s determination is disregarded and Putin’s bluff is called, Surface to surface Iskander missiles have been positioned along the Jordanian and Turkish frontiers. They are aimed at a base in Jordan operated by the United States to train rebels and at Patriot Missile sites and other military facilities in Turkey.
Putin is certain that he is holding the winning hand in this very high stakes poker game. An offshore naval task force, the presence of Russian air defense forces, an electronic intelligence center in latakia, and the port facilities at Tardus will guarantee the independence of the enclave. As the supplier of sixty percent of Turkey’s natural gas, Moscow does have leverage that Ankara will not be able to ignore; and Ankara well knows that gas is one of Putin’s diplomatic weapons.
When the Turks and U.S see that there is little chance of removing Al-Assad, they will have no option other than to negotiate a settlement with him; and that would involve Russia as the protector and the mediator. That would establish Russia’s revived standing as a Mediterranean power; and Putin could declare confidently that “Russia is back.” After that, the Russians will be free to focus upon their real interests in the region.
And what is Russia’s real interest? Of course, it is oil and gas and the power that control of them can bring.
Felix Imonti is the retired director of a private equity firm and currently lives in Japan. He has recently published a history book, Violent Justice, and currently writes articles in the fields of economics and international politics. You can reach Felix at: feliximonti@gmail.com
© 2013 OilPrice.com
See also – Russia Plans to Keep 10 Warships in Mediterranean: A source in the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces confirmed on Thursday that the deployment of Russian warships in the Mediterranean had been a subject of planning for some time.

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American NGOs pull out of Russia

By David Levine 
26 February 2013
A series of events over the past two months point to a marked deterioration in US-Russian relations. The much-hyped “reset” in relations, declared jointly by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in March 2009, has proved to be ephemeral.
Late last year, President Barack Obama signed the Magnitsky Act into law, legislation titled in honor of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer for Hermitage Capital Management, an international financial company based on the English Channel island of Guernsey. As part of a falling-out between Hermitage executives and Russian government officials, the former were accused of tax evasion and tax fraud. Magnitsky was held in jail in Russia without trial for nearly a year, during which time he became sick and died in late 2009 as a result of being denied proper medical care.
Although Magnitsky’s treatment at the hands of the Russian criminal justice system violated his basic rights, it was not extraordinary under the prison conditions prevalent in Russia, or the United States for that matter, where detainees are regularly brutalized through neglect, overcrowding and outright violence. Despite this, Magnitsky’s death was made into a cause célèbre by the international press and has been the subject of denunciations by leading politicians both in the United States and countries aligned with US policy. The Magnitsky Act blocks Russian officials involved in Magnitsky’s arrest, prosecution and detention from entry into the United States.
In retaliation for the Magnitsky Act’s targeting of Russian officials, on December 28 President Putin signed the Dima Yakovlev law, in honor of Dmitry Yakovlev, a Russian orphan who died in Virginia in 2008 at the age of 20 months after his American adoptive father left him for several hours in a closed car on a hot day. The law prohibits the entry onto Russian territory of US citizens implicated in human rights abuses, as well as US citizens implicated in crimes against Russian citizens outside of Russia. In recent weeks, Russian authorities have added dozens of US citizens to the official blacklist created by the Dima Yakovlev law, which is administered by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The law also provides for the seizure of assets held in Russia by persons on that list. It further allows the Ministry of Justice to suspend the operations on Russian territory of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) involved in political activity that receive monetary support from US citizens or US organizations, or that otherwise threaten the interests of the Russian Federation.
The adoption of the Dima Yakovlev law was preceded by the enactment last fall of a package of legal rules that restrict the activities of nongovernmental organizations in Russia. A decree of the Ministry of Justice requires all NGOs that function as “foreign agents” to register in a special registry that the Ministry of Justice administers itself. Accompanying laws specify that NGOs involved in political activities that receive financing from abroad are to be considered “foreign agents.” They impose administrative fines and criminal penalties on such organizations that fail to register. One of those laws also expands the definition of treason to include illegal reception of state secrets and illegal disclosure of state secrets to international NGOs.
The curtailment of foreign-controlled NGOs in Russia is widely understood as the official response to the role those NGOs played in providing assistance to liberal oppositionist groups, which began organizing mass protests in Russia following parliamentary elections in December 2011 that were widely believed to be falsified. The liberal opposition has sought, under the banner of defense of democratic rights, to promote a right-wing agenda aimed at further opening up the country to foreign investment, instituting austerity measures, and building closer ties with Washington.
Friction between NGOs and the Russian government has been building for some time. It reached new heights last October with the official expulsion from Russia of USAID, the United States Agency for International Development. USAID had provided funding for Golos, an election monitoring group that criticized the 2011 elections.
In November, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) evacuated its senior staff from Russia to Lithuania after it was threatened with criminal prosecution by Russian officials. The International Republican Institute (IRI) likewise evacuated its entire staff to Lithuania in December.
It is no secret that these so-called “nongovernmental” organizations are, in fact, funded by the United States government (in the case of the NDI, via the National Endowment for Democracy). Furthermore, many ostensibly independent NGOs operating in Russia receive indirect support from the US government through thousands of circuitous channels. Given the central role that US-backed organizations played in the “color revolutions” of the mid 2000s, which saw the installment of political figures with close ties to Washington in a series of countries in Russia’s traditional sphere of influence, the Kremlin’s fears of US meddling in its internal affairs are by no means groundless.
In addition to the passage of the Sergei Magnitsky and Dima Yakovlev laws, there have been numerous other signs of mounting friction between the two countries. In October, Moscow backed out of the Nunn-Lugar program, under which the US provided assistance in the destruction and safe storage of Russian nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Russian authorities have also canceled an intergovernmental agreement with the United States under which the US provided assistance to Russian law enforcement projects.
The US, for its part, has withdrawn from the joint Civil Society Working Group of the US-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission.
What lies behind the deteriorating relations are more fundamental geo-political conflicts. The two countries are at loggerheads over Washington’s promotion of Islamist forces in the Middle East and North Africa, its drive for regime-change in Syria, and its participation in the new imperialist scramble for Africa, all of which threaten Russian political and commercial interests.
At the same time, although the Dima Yakovlev and other “foreign agent” laws were enacted in Russia in an immediate sense to take aim at the United States, they are fundamentally intended to target the democratic rights of the working class. The definition of “foreign agents” in the new laws is broad enough to apply to nearly any contact with foreign citizens or organizations.
The widespread popular discontent that exists within Russia over extraordinary levels of social inequality will only grow as the world economic crisis deepens. As the Russian working class increasingly comes into conflict with the super-rich oligarchy that rules the country, the Kremlin fears the prospect that workers’ struggles will intersect politically and organizationally with those of others around the world on the basis of an internationalist program. The Putin regime, like bourgeois governments around the world, seeks to prevent this by inciting nationalist hysteria against “foreign agents” and building up a legal framework for mass repression.
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Russia Must Beware of West Chicanery Over Bahrain, Syria

By Finian Cunningham 
February 19, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – Moscow should be careful not to buy into recent cosmetic efforts by the West to revamp its Persian Gulf client monarchy – and to sell the Bahraini people short for the sake of saving its ally in Syria.
As Bahrain marked the second anniversary of its popular uprising on 14 February, the embattled Western-backed monarchy has renewed attempts apparently to seek a negotiated political settlement with various opposition groups to its two-year crisis. 
However, many analysts both within and outside the Persian Gulf kingdom see the new push for “national dialogue” as nothing more than a cynical political maneuver by the Sunni regime to buy off a popular, mainly Shia, challenge to its unelected rule. The ulterior agenda of the talks process, which opened on 10 February, is not to produce a genuine democratic political solution, but rather to revamp the corrupt status quo with a sticking-plaster appearance of reform. 
This is where Russia’s recent engagement in Bahrain’s political affairs should tread carefully. 
Ahead of the kingdom’s political dialogue, the Russian foreign ministry hosted a delegation from Bahrain’s main extant opposition group, Al Wefaq, in Moscow. The word “extant” is used advisedly here because most of Bahrain’s more critical opposition to the regime is in prison, some of whom are serving life sentences on trumped-up charges of subversion. 
The Wefaq delegation to Moscow earlier this month was led by Sheikh Ali Salman, the top figure in the mainly Shia political organization, who held talks with Russia’s deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov. 
Bogdanov also met on 8 February with Bahrain’s ambassador to Russia, Hashim Hasan Al Bash. Following the series of meetings, the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement: “Russia will continue to hold contacts with the kingdom’s leaders as well as representatives of opposition groups in firm support of efforts to resolve internal problems through a national consensus in the interests of all Bahrainis.” 
If we give Russian diplomats the benefit of doubt, one could see their belated efforts as a well-meaning attempt to help resolve the conflict in Bahrain, where over the past two years some 100 people have been killed in clashes with state forces and thousands have been injured and imprisoned – huge numbers relative to the tiny national population of less than 600,000.
From this seemingly benevolent Russian intervention, Moscow stands to gain some kudos in the strategic Persian Gulf Arab region where the Sunni monarchies ruling over the oil-rich sheikhdoms of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates are staunch allies of the Al Khalifa regime in Bahrain. Some 30 per cent of all of the world’s shipped oil trade passes every day out the Persian Gulf, and Saudi Arabia is the world’s top oil exporter, producing 10 million barrels per day. 
This strategic factor points to a connection with Syria. Russia’s engagement in Bahrain – an established British and American sphere of influence – comes at the same time that Moscow is stepping up diplomatic efforts with its Soviet-era Syrian ally to find a political solution in that country. 
Syria has also been racked by two years of relentless violence, where an armed insurgency against the government of President Bashar Al Assad has been equipped and funded by the Persian Gulf monarchies, as well as by the US, Britain, France and other NATO powers, including Turkey and Germany. 
The Russian foreign ministry alluded to Moscow’s joined-up diplomacy when it said: “We are certain that it’s possible, with enough political will, to ease the tensions and resolve the causes of the conflict in Bahrain as well as in other countries in the region.” 
Somewhat surprisingly, recent moves towards political negotiations in Syria appear to be bearing fruit. After months of intransigence towards the government in Damascus, Moaz Al Khatib, the leader of the exile opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, suddenly announced that the SNC is ready to negotiate a political transition with President Assad. The Syrian government has reciprocated with senior members meeting opposition groups and saying that it is ready for talks with “no preconditions”. 
This rapid change in political gear is best understood in the light of punishing setbacks inflicted by the formidable Syrian national army on the Syrian insurgents and their foreign mercenary networks. It therefore seems now that the West’s military option of removing Assad by force is spent. 
After two years of futile skirmishing and some 70-80,000 deaths, the Western powers and their regional Sunni Arab and Turk allies have come to the realization that their desired goal of regime change in Syria is not going to happen under Plan A, namely armed subversion. Plan B – a political process – now seems to be more a feasible route.
An integral part of this trade-off is Bahrain. If Russia can help bolster the Bahraini opposition and inveigle it into accepting political terms with the Western and Saudi-backed Al Khalifa regime, then the West and the Persian Gulf monarchs will reciprocate by easing the pressure on the Assad government in Syria by: a) reducing the supply of arms to the militants in Syria, which recent reports indicate is the case; and b) pushing the SNC group into accepting negotiations with Assad, which up until recently was a non-starter but now appears to be underway.
Despite its relatively small size, Bahrain has huge strategic value. It provides the base for the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and a Western military projection point across the entire Middle East. Moreover, the democratic uprising in Bahrain threatens the entire Sunni monarchial realm that presides over the Persian Gulf and which is the lynchpin of the American petrodollar global economy. Ongoing political unrest in Bahrain is a mortal threat to these vital Western interests. Therefore, it is imperative that Washington, London and the Sunni oil sheikhdoms find a way of “restoring order” in Bahrain. An implicit deal with Russia over Syria would be more than a worthwhile trade-off. 
The question is: does the Bahraini pro-democracy movement stand to lose out in any grubby political quid pro quo? Or as a member of the 14th February Coalition – a revolutionary opposition group that has repudiated dialogue with the regime – put it disdainfully: “Are we being sacrificed in the bigger picture of regional geopolitics?” 
For a start, the supposed “Arab Spring” comparisons between Syria and Bahrain are invalid. In Syria, the Assad government has a democratic mandate and retains popular support. The so-called uprising, championed by Western governments and news media with romantic, heroic prose, is in reality an externally driven terrorist insurgency that has no legitimacy among the mass of Syrians. This systematic violence has been fomented covertly and criminally by foreign powers. 
While there is cause for political reforms in Syria – in what country is there not? – it is completely fallacious to ascribe the turmoil over the past two years to an Arab-Spring-style popular uprising for democracy. The upheavals in Syria are the manifestation of an illegal policy of regime change by Western powers and their Sunni Arab and Turk allies – all of which see the removal of Assad as an opportune blow against Shia Iran. 
By contrast, for the past two years Bahrain has indeed witnessed a genuine popular uprising that conforms to the normative meaning of the Arab Spring pro-democracy movement, which swept the Middle East and North African region from Tunisia to Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and Yemen in early 2011 and continues to reverberate. (Libya is another anomaly of the Arab Spring, as with Syria, which was less about genuine popular uprising and more about opportunistic NATO regime change.) 
The majority of Bahrainis are demanding the right to have an elected government. The people, who are mainly Shia, want an end to the autocratic rule of the Sunni Al Khalifa monarchy that was imposed on them when the old colonial power, Britain, granted nominal independence in 1971. Tellingly, the Western governments and their subservient news media have largely ignored the plight of the Bahraini people, which by normal reasoning is a righteous cause deserving full support and media coverage. 
Saudi Arabia and the other Persian Gulf absolute monarchs have sat nervously and parlously throughout these seismic regional shocks. Popular protests and any signs of incipient dissent within the Persian Gulf enclave have been ruthlessly suppressed in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. These monarchs’ fears of a pro-democracy contagion is why they supported the invasion of Bahrain in March 2011 by the Saudi-led Peninsula Shield Defence Force to try to crush the Bahraini uprising. Yet, ironically and somewhat hilariously, these same Arab despots have lent copious diplomatic and material support to alleged pro-democracy uprisings in Libya and Syria. 
Despite the ruthless repression in Bahrain, with Western acquiescence, the pro-democracy movement continues unabated. Indeed this past week, which marked the second anniversary of the uprising, has seen even greater numbers of demonstrations across the island. A 16-year-old youth, Hussein Al Jaziri, was shot dead in the village of Daih by regime forces, bringing even more protesters on to the streets. The previous week saw the deaths of 87-year-old Habib Ebrahim and eight-year-old Qassim Habib who both died after Al Khalifa uniformed police thugs saturated the villages of Malikiya and Karbabad with toxic chemical gas. 
Popular outrage and demand for the downfall of the Khalifa regime has thus become even more determined and strident. The majority of the people do not want negotiations with the despised regime nor a “constitutional monarchy” – the people want the Khalifa dynasty to simply get the hell out of their lives and to make way for an elected government. “Freedom with dignity” is one of the people’s chants. 
Saeed Shehabi of the Bahrain Freedom Movement said there should be no political dialogue with the Bahraini regime because it has shown itself to be illegitimate over years of systematic brutal repression and corruption at the expense of the majority of the Bahraini people. Shehabi said that the Bahraini people are well aware of the congenital Al Khalifa political maneuvers and sham political processes down through the decades in order to preserve its hold on power and privilege. He said: “It is clear from the insistence of the people of Bahrain that they believe that reform is not possible with this regime.” 
American Middle East political analyst Dr Colin Cavell, who formerly taught at the University of Bahrain, shared this assessment. He said: “I agree with Saeed Shehabi that the people of Bahrain should not engage in political talks with the Al Khalifa junta, as their offer of dialogue is disingenuous and merely a show for the international media and a complete ruse.” 
As already noted, Bahrain’s more radical opposition leadership has been imprisoned. They include redoubtable figures like Hasan Mushaima, Abduljalil Al Singace, Adbulhadi Al Khawaja and Nabeel Rajab, who have the respect and loyalty of the wider population. Some of these leaders are serving sentences of life imprisonment simply because they called for the unelected Khalifa regime to stand down and to be replaced by a republican form of government. This viewpoint resonates with the majority of the people who are continuing to protest on the streets calling for the downfall of the regime despite the recent opening of dialogue. 
It is highly significant that the Wefaq opposition bloc, which met with the Russian foreign ministry, has given notice that it is willing to accept a political settlement with the Khalifa regime that would involve the coexistence of “constitutional monarchy” alongside an elected government. This is not what the majority of Bahrainis want. For the majority of Bahrainis, the continuance of the Khalifa regime in any shape or form in the public life of Bahrain is unacceptable. The violence and violations that the regime has committed makes any tolerance of a remnant anathema to the vast majority of the people. 
It is also significant that Washington and London, the primary sponsors of the Khalifa rulers, have assiduously courted the participation of Wefaq in the latest political dialogue with the regime. 
Writing in the Washington-based publication, The Hill, on 12 February, former director of US National Intelligence Dennis C Blair said that the US goal “should encourage moderate leaders within the Bahraini government and moderate leaders in the opposition… a gradual transition to a constitutional democratic monarchy is in Bahrain’s best long-term interest.” 
Blair was, of course, too coy and cynical to say that this arrangement was also in Washington’s best interest. And, mischievously, he went on to describe Bahraini opponents of the Khalifa regime and its dialogue process as “hardliners”. That is a deft way of delegitimizing political voices that are outside the realm of tolerance to those in power and their patrons. 
This is typical top-down political engineering. Washington, London and the Saudi patrons of the completely unacceptable regime in Bahrain are trying to force a political “compromise” on the Bahraini people – a compromise that leaves the regime intact and is far short of what the people want or deserve. By way of making this squalid solution palatable, the Western powers are trying to bestow legitimacy on any such ostensible “deal” by involving the participation of the Wefaq opposition bloc, thus providing a veneer of popular participation and consent. 
But this is the politics of expedience and deception, not the politics of democratic freedom, rights and principle. It is the politics of extending cover to the selfish geopolitical interests of Washington, London and the Persian Gulf monarchs, not the politics of supporting the Bahraini people who have been denied their natural rights for more than four decades. 
It would be a grave mistake for the Russian government to adopt the premise of Syria and Bahrain as being somehow equivalent and reciprocal. The former is a case of outright criminal aggression by cynical foreign powers; while Bahrain is a clear case of a people genuinely demanding democratic rights. They are separate and non-negotiable. 
In the long term, Russia’s foreign policy would be more sustainable, ethical and rewarding if it was based on defending, absolutely, the national sovereign rights of Syrians, that is, without any contingent quid pro quo; while at the same time supporting, separately, the sovereign aspirations of the Bahraini people – and not on affording political cover to self-serving Western imperialist intrigues and collusion with Arab despots. 
Finian Cunningham, originally from Belfast, Ireland, was born in 1963. He is a prominent expert in international affairs. The author and media commentator was expelled from Bahrain in June 2011 for his critical journalism in which he highlighted human rights violations by the Western-backed regime. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England.
This article was originally posted at Press TV

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Russia To West: We Told You Not To Overthrow Qaddafi!

By Michael Kelley 
January 24, 2013 “Business Insider” – – On Wednesday Russia blamed Western countries for creating the current turmoil in Africa by arming Libyan rebels, Timothy Heritage and Gabriela Baczynska of Reuters report
“Those whom the French and Africans are fighting now in Mali are the [same] people who … our Western partners armed so that they would overthrow the Gaddafi regime,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a news conference.
The toppling of Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi led to “perhaps the greatest proliferation of weapons of war from any modern conflict,” Emergency Director of Human Rights Watch Peter Bouckaert told The Telegraph.
Those weapons stockpiles were raided by both sides, and both sides had connections with radical militants.
In 2011 Pepe Escobar of the Asia Times noted that the main rebel group, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), had formed a “merger” with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM) in 2007. 
And the well-armed Tuareg rebels who fought on Qaddafi’s side subsequently returned to northern Mali where they, along with jihadist groups including AQIM, declared the Texas-sized area an independent country in April 2012.
Now France has 2,300 troops on the ground in Mali to retake northern Mali, and several Western countries (including the U.S.) are providing logistical and intelligence support for an offensive that looks like it will take a while.
“The situation in Mali feels the consequence of events in Libya,” Lavrov said. “The seizure of hostages in Algeria was a wake-up call.”
A senior Algerian official told The New York Times that the militants who seized an oil field in Algeria last week bought their weapons in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.
Russia has also accused the West of arming Syrian rebels in an attempt to topple the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and there is evidence that theallegations hold some truth.
Lavrov noted that the unrest across the Middle East could play into the hands of radical militants.
“This will be a time bomb for decades ahead,” he said.
See also – How US Ambassador Chris Stevens May Have Been Linked To Jihadist Rebels In Syria: if the new Libyan government was sending seasoned Islamic fighters and 400 tons of heavy weapons to Syria through a port in southern Turkey—a deal brokered by Stevens’ primary Libyan contact during the Libyan revolution—then the governments of Turkey and the U.S. surely knew about it.
Copyright © 2013 Business Insider, Inc.

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‘We Are Not in the Business of Regime Change’ Russian Foreign Minister

Video & Transcript- Interview With Sergey Lavrov
Western governments have begun distinguishing between “bad terrorists and acceptable terrorists” on the ground in Syria, refusing to condemn acts of terror there.

December 24, 2012 “RT” — Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov tells RT that Western powers’ habit of dividing terrorists between “bad and acceptable” could have lasting consequences for the whole world.
Syria’s chemical arsenal has become a central point of international concern since the country’s civil conflict flared up in March 2011. Syria is reportedly in possession of nerve agents including mustard gas, while NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen has already accused the country’s government of deploying the Scud missiles needed to deliver it.
The worst-case scenario, as acknowledged by many governments including the US, would be for the weapons to fall into the hands of Syria’s various opposition groups – some of whom are affiliated with al-Qaeda. But to date Syria’s chemical arsenal is secure, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told RT in an exclusive interview.
“Every time we hear rumors, or pieces of information come to the surface that the Syrians are doing something with the chemical weapons, we double-check, we triple-check,” says Lavrov, adding that the latest move concerning the chemical weapons was related to the Syrian government’s intent to gather and consolidate the dispersed arsenal in order to make sure that it is “absolutely” protected.
However, Lavrov says it shows a “strange logic” when the Western powers involved in solving the Syrian crisis pin the full responsibility for the arsenal on the sitting Syrian government – “even if the rebels take hold of it” – and at the same time, continue to encourage the conflict by supplying the rebels with arms and money.
Meanwhile, Western governments have begun distinguishing between “bad terrorists and acceptable terrorists” on the ground in Syria, refusing to condemn acts of terror there, saying the overall context should be taken into account to explain why people choose terror – an “absolutely unacceptable,” route, the FM continues.
No war can last forever, and all wars finish in the same way: parties sit down to talks. This is what will happen in Syria – and it should happen as soon as possible, Lavrov concluded.
But RT had more questions for him. What to make of NATO sending Patriot missile systems to protect Turkey from a spill-over of the Syrian violence? Why did US President Barack Obama sign the Magnitsky Act amid the so-called “relations reset” with Russia? And should the UN Security Council be reformed? For more on all these issues, read RT’s firsthand interview with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov:
Should India get a permanent UN Security Council seat?
RT: You’re ending your year with a visit to India. Russia has been clear in its support for India in its aspiration to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council. How do you think the much-criticized UN Security Council will benefit from India’s participation?
SL: First of all, I would say that criticism is not always warranted. The latest wave of criticism was related to the fact that the Security Council allegedly cannot act on Syria. By the desire to see some action on the part of the Security Council the critics wanted to pass a resolution under Chapter 7 which provides for the use of sanctions and the use of force eventually. And Russia and China are convinced 100 percent that this would be a disaster and that this would be the beginning of a very slippery slope and would bring us to the Libyan scenario which we cannot afford anymore, and the region cannot afford. So those who say that the Council is ineffective should recall that this Charter of the United Nations provided for the veto right not just for the sake of being nice to the permanent members but because the founding fathers of the United Nations, having digested the unhappy experience of the League of Nations decided in their wisdom that unless five great powers see eye to eye on some world issue decisions would not be efficient. That’s why the right of veto was included in the UN Charter on the very strong insistence of the United States.
Now of course the time passed since 1945, the Security Council was once expanded only in the category of non-permanent members, and now after several decades of the Council functioning in the unchanged composition, there is a very strong movement towards expanding its membership to better reflect pluralism of the world community. We’re strongly in favor of this, we’re convinced that the developing countries and first of all the new economic and financial leaders in the third world countries, like India and Brazil, for example, must be represented in the Security Council. And we would be in favor of making them new permanent members, provided of course a decision is taken to create new permanent seats, because this is the biggest split in the United Nations. One group of countries absolutely believes that there must be new permanent members; another group of countries which are also quite respectful members of the United Nations, categorically believes that there must be no new permanent seat and only non-permanent seats could be added. 
Russia is convinced this type of division cannot be resolved by an arithmetic vote, that there must be consensus searching, especially since it was decided some time ago that the reform of the Security Council should be subject to broad agreement of member states. So any format of the reform which would be commanding general agreement of the member states would be supported by Russia. It would be very unfortunate if the reform of the Security Council is voted through because this would split the membership. And those who would vote against an imposed reform, in their eyes the expanded Security Council would lose legitimacy, not gain legitimacy. And more legitimacy is what we all want, and that’s why the Council should be more representative. But in any case, while we are working very thoroughly to reach this general agreement on a reform we believe that India certainly deserves to be a permanent member of the Security Council.
Syria: Bad terrorists vs. Acceptable terrorists?
RT: Like you said, Russia is permanently blocking attempts of some of UN Security Council members to pass a resolution that would allow a foreign intervention to Syria. But do you think a military action could still take place going around the UN like it happened in case of Iraq?
SL: Well not only in case of Iraq but also in case of the former Yugoslavia – yes, it is possible, and you just cited one example, there are some others. But I also feel that those who would like to interfere in the Syrian crisis don’t want to do this without some kind of legitimacy, or at least without some kind of an action in the United Nations which could be used to justify this as being legitimate. And we can only stick to the interpretation of the Charter which is absolutely without any alternative and which says the Security Council is engaged in matters related to international peace and security, not to supporting one party in an internal conflict. And that’s what is going on in Syria. Some people would like very much to internationalize this situation and to expand violence beyond the Syrian borders, attempts are being made, especially in cases when the refugees have to flee Syria because of the disproportionate actions by the government forces.
But on the other side, several armed groups of the opposition which are not united under a single command also resort to unacceptable methods absolutely contrary to international humanitarian law: taking hostages, staging terrorist attacks. And it is very disheartening that our Western colleagues in the Security Council started to refuse condemning terrorist attacks in Syria saying that yes, terrorism is bad but you must take into account the overall context of what is going on in Syria and why people resort to terrorist attacks. It’s absolutely unacceptable, and if we follow this logic it might lead us to a very dangerous situation not only in the Middle East but in other parts of the world, if our partners in the West would begin to qualify terrorists as bad terroristsand acceptable terrorists.
Damascus to Moscow: Chemical weapons not to be used ‘under any circumstances’
RT: One more reason that arises time to time that could actually okay the foreign intervention is Syria’s possession of chemical weapons. Do you believe that Syrian will use chemical weapons, or is this another pretext for an invasion?
SL: I don’t believe Syria would use chemical weapons. It would be a political suicide for the government if it does. Every time we hear rumors, or pieces of information come to surface that the Syrians are doing something with the chemical weapons we double-check, we triple-check, we go directly to the government and all the time we get very firm assurances that this is not going to be used under any circumstances. Our information is, which correlates with the information the Americans have, as I understand, that the latest reports about some movement of the chemical weapons were related to the steps undertaken by the government to concentrate the chemical stuff which has been dispersed in various locations into two sites, to make sure that it is absolutely protected. And it is also accepted by everyone including our Western colleagues (the Europeans and the Americans) that the biggest threat in this situation is the probability that the rebels might take hold of chemical weapons. And therefore, while recognizing this – when our Western friends say, ‘But still the responsibility is entirely with the Syrian government, even if the rebels take hold of it’ – it’s a very strange logic, because at the same time those very people encourage rebels not to negotiate with the government but to continue fighting and giving them arms, money, and moral and political support.
So, it’s a very controversial position. In general, the logic of those who say, ‘No negotiations with Assad’ is really very controversial and very dangerous. We are not justifying what the government is doing, they have been making a lot of mistakes, have been using force disproportionately; the security forces clearly were, and are, unprepared to face the public protests and armed protests in the cities and in the villages. They’ve been trained to counter a foreign aggression, not to keep law and order in a civilised manner. 
But the opposition is provoking the government, as I said – resorting to terrorist attacks, taking hostages, and also introducing into this conflict the sectarian dimension which is very dangerous. It is already reverberating in the Muslim world – Sunni, Shia, Arabs, Kurds and ethnic and confessional sectarian composition of Syria is so complex that if chaos is established there, it would reverberate all over the region. But coming back to the present situation – if people who say “no negotiations with Assad”, if they believe that his departure in whatever form is number one priority, then they must understand that for this geopolitical goal of theirs they would have to pay the price, but the price in the lives of the Syrians, of the Syrian civilians. 
Our priority number one is not somebody’s head. It’s the cessation of violence and of the bloodshed. If they say that they want to save Syria and to save Syrians, then they should join us and should lean on all those who are fighting inside Syria to stop doing this and sit down to negotiate without any preconditions. And the fate of Assad must be decided by the Syrian people, not by the outsiders and by part of the Syrian opposition. 
RT: But different fractions of Syrian people are at war with each other, which started as an uprising and has turned into a full-fledged civil war at this point. The chances of these different fractions sitting down at the same negotiations table are equal to zero.
SL: Well, the history teaches us that every war ends with peace and this is done through negotiations. It’s inevitable. I don’t think it is conceivable that the Sunnis, who are the backbone of the Free Syrian Army and many other opposition groups who are fighting on the same side as the Free Syrian Army, would be realistically thinking of taking hold of entire Syria and throwing away all other confession groups – Alawites, other Shia, Druzes, Christians, Curds. In any case, even if somebody in his emotional dreams thinks of such an eventuality, this would not materialize. It would not last, would not be sustainable.
‘We are not in the business of regime change’
RT: Do you know how from the very beginning of this conflict Russia has been heavily criticized in the West for blocking the attempts of the United States and its allies to get things right in Syria. Do you think that if Russia has handled it differently from the very beginning, let’s say, a year ago convinced Assad to step down, then things would be different in Syria?
SL: We are not in the business of regime change. Some of the regional players were suggesting to us: “Why don’t you tell president Assad to leave? We will arrange for some safe haven for him.” My answer is very simple – if indeed those who suggested this to us have this in mind, they should take it directly to president Assad. Why shall they use us as a postman? If president Assad is interested – this must be discussed directly with him. 
He went public for many times, including on the Arab version of your channel, saying that he is not going to leave Syria, that he was born there and he would die there with his people, that he is caring about his country and so forth. Under no circumstances we would be entering the business of suggesting something to him, because, as I said, this is up to Syrian people to decide. 
Number two – our policy on Syria is not determined by what and who is saying about it, critical or otherwise. We hear not only criticism but a lot of encouragement from countries who understand the importance of this issue not only for the region, but also for the world politics, for the way in which the world politics is being made and followed. 
When the crisis started in 2011 in August – a few months after the crisis started – it was Russia who suggested that the Security Council react. And there was a statement adopted by consensus which contained all the right things: that everyone must stop fighting and that the dialogue must begin. 
Then in September 2011 Russia and China proposed a draft resolution which would solidify the elements, the components of the settlement, spelled out in that statement. Western countries said that it was not to their liking because the opposition was asked to stop as well as the government was asked to stop. So it didn’t work. 
Then we supported the Arab League plan. We persuaded the Syrian government, and that was not very easy, to accept the Arab League plan. We endorsed the Arab League observers to be sent to Syria and worked very thoroughly with Damascus to accept them. Unfortunately, their mission was aborted for no good reason. It was aborted exactly at the time when in December 2011 they submitted their first report to the Security Council which was rather on the objective side and which was not putting all the blame on the government only, but also describing the atrocities and wrongdoings by the opposition groups. Then the Arab League aborted their mission. 
Then Kofi Annan’s plan appeared, and again we spent some time explaining to the government that it was in their interest to accept this plan, which was done. Then the UN observers were deployed. And as the relative calm started to be seen, not sustainable, but still some signs of stabilization were brought with the UN observers, then there was an upsurge of provocations in the areas where the UN observers were working and the purpose was very obvious to us. The purpose was to create situation which would be unbearable for them to continue, and that was achieved. So they left as well. 
But I want to highlight that when Kofi Annan’s plan was endorsed, when UN observers were deployed, the Security Council adopted, by consensus, two resolutions: 2042 and 2043, which spelled out the common position of the Security Council. Which was nothing new compared to what I told you: violence must stop, dialogue must start. So the Security Council was not paralyzed. The Security Council did have a position, which was embraced by these two resolutions.
Geneva Communiqué still the plan for Syria
And then, of course, in June this year in Geneva, there was an Action Group initiated by Kofi Annan with our very strong support, because we had been suggesting for quite some time that the key outside players meet and try to see whether they can reach a common approach to creating the conditions in which the Syrian parties could negotiate their own future, without outside interference. 
But the external players can play an important role in creating the necessary conditions for this. First of all, from the point of view of encouraging, of sending synchronized signals in the same direction: to the government and to all opposition groups, saying, for example, “You must, on Day X, hour Z, stop fighting, delegate your negotiators”, and start negotiating the composition of what we call a ‘transitional governing organ,’ to enjoy full authority during the transitional period, and make sure that government institutions do not disappear, like it happened in Iraq – and we still feel the consequences now. And then prepare for elections, a new constitution, and so on, and so forth. 
And we managed, in Geneva: all the P5, (all the permanent members of the Security Council), plus the European Union, the Arab League, Turkey, the United Nations – we managed to agree on this sequence.
We managed to agree on this sequence: stop the fighting, appoint interlocutors, let them negotiate the composition of a transitional governing organ. This organ, while keeping state institutions, should prepare for elections, and draft a new constitution.
And we say, “Fine. This is a consensus, let’s stick to it. Let’s send this message, very strongly, in synch and to all of those who are fighting.”
Our Western friends, who had just signed this document, said, “No, this is not enough. We need to have a Security Council Chapter 7 resolution, and we need to have an addition to the scheme saying that Assad must be gone”. But this is not what we had agreed on.
In our tradition, when we negotiate something and when we agree on something, we respect the agreement. Unfortunately, those of our partners who negotiated with us in Geneva probably have different habits. And we still feel the negative effect of this.
So, the Geneva scheme is absolutely actual today. 
L.Brahimi, who was appointed to replace Kofi Annan, reiterated that it is the basis of his activities. He attempted an initiative inviting the Russians and the Americans to discuss how the Geneva Agreement could be implemented. We have been satisfied to hear an American representative say that they want a ‘peaceful solution.’
Syrian National Coalition’s goals ‘unachievable,’ principles ‘ruinous for the country’
But we still cannot get any answer to a very important question. The West and several regional countries – Turkey, the Persian Gulf states – have supported and recognized the Syrian National Coalition, which was formed at a meeting in Doha, and was praised as a very important step to unify the opposition. We are in favour of unifying the opposition, and since the Geneva meeting we have been insisting that all those who have influence over opposition groups should help unify the opposition on the platform of the Geneva Communiqué. And that is the message that we are sending not only to the government but to all opposition groups. And we meet with all of them: just last week, there was one visiting us, and before the end of the year there might be some others coming from the opposition.
So, we have been sending the same message to the government and to the opposition: “Guys, this is the basis. Do what the Geneva Communiqué suggests, it’s in your interests. Sit down and negotiate.”
But the Doha meeting, which endorsed the Syrian National Coalition, and which was supported by the West and by important regional players, also adopted a declaration that says the main goal of the opposition is to dismantle, or rather, to topple the regime and dismantle its institutions – a direct opposite to what the Geneva Communiqué says.
And then they also said in that declaration, “No negotiations with the regime.” Which is also against the Geneva principles.
When we asked our American colleagues (I talked to Hillary CLINTON on the margins of an OSCE meeting in Dublin) how they can explain their support of something that is absolutely against the principles of Geneva, she said, “Well, at this stage it is important to unite them. And the substance of what they want to achieve we can correct.”
One month passed. Almost every week we have been enquiring what efforts are being undertaken to modify the substance: the absolute rejection of any negotiation, and absolute emphasis on the use of force. And there is no answer. I understand that no one is talking to the opposition regarding the need to be a bit more realistic, and regarding the need to avoid positions which are basically ruining the country.
Patriot missiles in Turkey: Say Syria, think Iran?
RT: NATO’s deployment of Patriot missiles on Turkish-Syrian border – is it a part of solution? And who are they really targeted at?
SL: First, we understand of course the concern of Turkey and of all other countries that are continuing to receive Syrian refugees; it’s a burden under any circumstances. And of course, the situation is quite tense. The opposition in the region, in the Syrian regions bordering Turkey is quite active, probably trying to trigger some cross-border activities and then having the international community revolt against the border violations. Incidents happen, and the cross-border fire which took place several times – we immediately were raising this issue with the Syrians, and we believe that what they explained to us is credible. This was not intentional, they were chasing the opposition groups who were attacking them and then fleeing. And we immediately suggested to the Turks and the Syrians that we might help to create a direct communication line so that in real time they can check whenever an incident takes place. The Syrians were ready, the Turks said that they do have their own channels of communication. And then this issue of Patriots was raised. 
We recognize the right for Turkey to think about its own security and the right of Turkey to use, for this purpose, the international arrangements which Turkey has in that particular case, NATO membership, and we accepted this as a given. On the other hand, the more military hardware you accumulate in one place the more risk you have that this hardware one day would be used. As for the purpose of this deployment, yes, I read and hear that some experts believe that if it is intended to prevent any Syrian crossfire then it could be positioned a bit differently. And as it is envisaged to be positioned, some people say it is quite useful to protect the American radar which is part of the American missile defense system they are building quoting, ‘the threat from Iran’. If this is the case then it is even more risky, I would say, because this multiple purpose deployment could create additional temptations. 
RT: It’s more about Iran rather than Syria, right? 
SL: Well, that’s what some people say. And the configuration as it is being presented in the media really looks like it could be used against Iran. 
Magnitsky Act is a ‘Catch 22’ for Obama administration
RT: Syria is not the only issue between America and Russia. The first thing Obama did when he got re-elected was sign the so-called Magnitsky Act, that would sanction Russian citizens and some Russian officials. What does it tell you about the state of Russia-US relations with Putin and Obama at the helm? 
SL: I don’t think this was the first thing Obama did when he was re-elected. This was inevitable. When the senators – Senator Cardin and some others – introduced this idea, it was clearly done to create a Catch 22 for the administration. Because the administration was promoting a repeal of the Jackson-Vanick amendment with the support of quite a number of people on the Hill. And it was absolutely obvious that the Americans want it, because with Russia having acceded to the WTO, keeping Jackson-Vanick would mean depriving American companies of the benefits of the Russian Federation’s membership in the WTO. So they had to do it anyway. And then, I think, the Republicans decided to have this trick and hinge the removal of Jackson-Vanick to the Magnitsky Act. Which, at that moment, was most likely done against President Obama. As for the Russian citizens who have been included in that list (I haven’t seen it, it still hasn’t been published), if they wanted to prevent Russian citizens they don’t like from entering the United States, they could do it without a adopting a law, and without making a show. 
If they wanted to freeze anyone’s assets, they could do it simply by going to court and presenting evidence – again, without any show or any public relations campaigns. But they believed that one of the achievements that the administration had prided itself upon for the last four years was the ‘reset’ with the Russian Federation. And they wanted to hit Obama exactly on this ‘reset’ thing. It’s unfortunate, because it lets domestic politics dominate the international agenda, and in the minds of many, also dominate almost everything that’s happening between Russia and the United States. And that is much, much more comprehensive and complex than human rights as interpreted by American senators. 
RT: We all remember the off-record conversation that Obama and Medvedev had, and Obama promised to be more flexible right after the elections. But from what you are saying, how much flexible can he really be or allow himself to be with this Republican opposition in Congress?
SL: Well, I think that’s the peculiarities of the American system. And any congressman can freeze consideration of very important issues – just because the beef from his particular state is not being admitted to one country or another for phytosanitary reasons. And the issues of global importance could be just frozen because of the interest of one single state in the US, and the interest having nothing to do with the substance of the issue in question. 
You know that Jackson-Vanik itself was extended repeatedly after all the emigration problems had been resolved in the former Soviet Union and of course in the Russian Federation, but the Jackson-Vanik amendment was extended repeatedly under numerous pretexts, including the lack of enthusiasm on the part of our country to import those chicken legs and all sorts of thing. Natan Sharansky, a famous former Soviet dissident, who has been in the Israeli government, said when he learned about that thing: It is not for the chicken legs that I spent seven years in the Soviet camp, a labor camp. But this shows how the Hill can really be out of synch with logic and with realistic interpretation of the American national interests. 
So sometimes the issues of huge importance, like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the need to settle it, are being kept hostage for years and years because of the peculiarity of the American electoral cycles. Domestic considerations, the need to be reelected prevent the American administration from doing some things which the rest of the world believes must be done. Every two years they have elections. And this certainly influences the international agenda, but it’s very unfortunate. We would prefer to approach international issues on the basis of their merit and on the basis of the crying need to do something together without looking back at your domestic politicking interests.
Adoption ban on US threatens losing already-adopted kids out of sight
RT: As an answer to the Magnitsky law, Russian parliament is right now discussing the law that would ban Russian children adoption for the US citizens. Many have criticized this law and said that it is somewhat inadequate and disproportional, and were saying that bringing orphan children into politics is not exactly correct. You have also spoken against this draft law. Why?
SL: It is a complex issue. For many years we have been appalled by the way some of the Russian kids were treated in the families who adopted them in the United States. True, the number of cases which have been made public of maltreatment of the Russian kids is not so arithmetically huge – it’s nineteen. And those who criticize our position say that dozens of thousands of kids have been adopted and absolute majority of them are happy, and I agree with this. 
But I can’t accept when people say “why do you raise hell about nineteen cases only”. Any situation in which a Russian kid was humiliated, maltreated, not to mention murdered or raped – and those were the cases with some of these nineteen children – this must be approached very firmly, I would even say aggressively, to establish the channels which would allow us to influence the situation.
That’s why some time ago we suggested to the Americans to negotiate an agreement on cooperation in the field of adoption. And they were not very enthusiastic about it from the very beginning. And it is then that we – and also the ombudsman for kids, Pavel Astakhov, were seriously thinking about approaching the Russian courts through the appropriate channels and suggesting a freeze on the adoption of the Russian kids by Americans, until and unless we get this agreement.
Eventually the agreement was signed. It entered into force in September this year and it for the first time provides for very important things. First, until this agreement was negotiated, the federal authorities in Washington were saying that each state has its own legislation as regards the adoption, so we cannot influence them. And so that’s it. This agreement obliges the federal authorities to take measures to ensure that the states, first, earmark a focal point, which must be addressed, and second, allow for the consular access for the Russian kids – which was not allowed before. And third, they consider them until the age of sixteen Russian citizens, which was also not the practice. 
This agreement is now in force, and only for two months or three months. And we want to make sure that it is functioning properly. Unfortunately, the first pilot case, so to say, in Florida, when a boy called Maxim Babayev was part of the issue when his parents were maltreating him – and they were deprived of the adoption rights by the American court, and the boy was given temporarily to some foster family …. And we are still trying to get access. The court ruled against it, but the State Department is now working with the Florida authorities, with the court, explaining that this is an international obligation. And this is something that gives us a legal right to insist on getting to the heart of the problem, to the kids themselves. 
So while understanding the position in favor of prohibiting the adoption of the Russian kids by the American families, I still believe that we have to try to keep the agreement itself. Because to get out of this agreement would not allow us to attend to those boys and girls who have already been adopted and who live in their adopted families in the United States. In other words, the future adoptions might be frozen. This is the decision of the parliament, as far as I understand. But I would really ask the lawmakers before they adopt the law in the third reading to keep the agreement. Because this would allow us to attend to kids who have already been adopted and who live in their American families. Otherwise we would lose this access.
[RT’s note: After the interview with Sergey Lavrov was recorded, the State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian Parliament, approved the act banning US adoption of Russian kids, with 420 votes in favor and only seven against.]

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Putin opens Benghazi door for Obama

By M K Bhadrakumar 

At a time when the United States-Russia “reset” lies in limbo, it should come as no surprise that President Vladimir Putin has made one of the most important statements of his four-month-old presidency, drawing attention to the commonality of interests between the two major world powers and indeed between Russia and the West on one of the hottest issues of current world politics – the Middle Eastern question. 
Putin’s statement on Thursday came in the nature of his reaction to the terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and the killing of the American ambassador. Without doubt, it was a structured statement – albeit couched as ex tempore remarks to the media – that amounts to a dramatic call for Russia and the West to jointly mould the Arab Spring in the right direction. 
The Kremlin statement stands apart from harsh Chinese comments, which have been more in the nature of critical finger-pointing and “I-told-you-so” homilies. To be sure, Moscow sees a window of opportunity to bridge the dangerous hiatus that has appeared in the respective positions of Russia and the West over such contentious issues as Syria and Afghanistan – and Iran. 
Putin spoke at some length. He “condemned” the Libyan attack in exceptionally strong terms, calling it a “terrible crime” that lies “outside modern civilization”. The vehemence of the condemnation made it clear that Moscow will not strive to take advantage of the US’ predicament in Libya, although the two countries have profound differences over the NATO’s intervention in that country. 
Interestingly, Putin completely ignored the ground reality that it was only the Western intervention that spawned the radical Islamist groups in Libya, which have now come to hit at US interests. Obviously, Moscow estimates that this tragic moment is inopportune to say harsh things or even aim subtle barbs. 
‘We’re all Americans’ 
Putin then went on to speak at length about the “many differences of opinion” that Moscow has had in the recent years with Washington over the “ways of resolving problems in troubled countries.” He said Russia too shares with the US the principles of democracy and freedom and would agree with the US that there is a deficit of democracy in “numerous political regimes”. 
But the difference lies in the respective Russian and US approaches to creating a better world. Moscow believes that these problems need to be solved through peaceful negotiations so that the authoritarian regimes can evolve in a positive direction that ensures social harmony at the level of faiths, religions and ethnicity. Admittedly, this may be a “difficult, painstaking process that requires patience and professionalism”, but there is no real alternative. 
The nearest that Putin came to obliquely touch on the Syrian crisis was when he said Moscow cannot support the alternative course of regime change through force and external intervention. If armed groups labeled as “freedom fighters” are supported from the outside, “an absolute deadlock” may result and the “region could descend into chaos, which indeed, is what is already happening”. 
Putin also had an indirect message for Egypt. Without mentioning President Mohammed Morsi by name, Putin underscored that leaders like Morsi who led the successor regimes bore “personal responsibility” for “what is happening”. Putin seemed to echo the sense of disquiet in Washington that Morsi took well over 24 hours to make his first reaction – and that too, via Facebook – on the mob attacks on the American embassy in Cairo. 
In historical terms, Putin has once again stood up and is allowing himself to be counted as a friend – and potential ally – of the US at a time of distress and emotional trauma in Washington. The previous such occasion was 11 years ago in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. This trains the searchlight once again on Putin’s political agenda, which is to integrate Russia with the West but as an equal partner with mutual respect and acknowledging its legitimate interests as a great power – and the failure of successive US administrations to recognize the raison d’etre of the Russian leader’s policies. 
In fact, Putin summed up Thursday’s statement in a spirit of total solidarity with President Barack Obama:
I really expect that this tragedy – this certainly is a tragedy, one that, I want to stress, concerns all of us, as we and our Western partners, including US partners, are combating terrorism together – I really expect that this tragedy will motivate us all to intensify our joint – I should emphasize the word joint – struggle against terrorism and terrorist threats.Clearly, Moscow has put out an important signal to the Western world and to Obama in particular. What needs to be noted is that Putin has certainly factored in the attack on Obama by his Republican opponent Mitt Romney over the crisis of the Benghazi incident and has desisted from any sort of direct criticism of US policies in the Middle East. 
Putin’s statement naturally becomes the final word on the Russian position on the issue of the setback to the US in the Middle East, no matter what the media organs in Moscow may say. Equally, the salience that cannot escape attention is that Moscow has taken a strikingly different approach in comparison with the reaction from Beijing on the Libyan terrorist attack. 
The Chinese foreign ministry has given a formal reaction expressing shock and condemnation of the “violent deeds” and underscoring the imperative to observe the norms of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. It was brief, crisply worded and very correct but devoid of any empathy. 
A new stakeholder … 
On the other hand, the leading Chinese dailies opened a virtual broadside on the US policies in the Middle East, holding them responsible for the tragedy on Monday. A signed article in the Global Times said:
The assassination of the ambassador and his colleagues underscores the bankruptcy of US foreign policy in the region. Washington’s policy of regime change in the region may well lead to an “Arab Winter” … and the so-called pivot to Asia may stumble in the Middle East quagmire. 
Looking at the overall situation in the Middle East and North Africa, it is becoming clear that the political trend is Islamist rather than secular … There are sharp contradictions in Washington’s Middle East policy. The policy of regime change in Syria aligned the US with extremist Salafist and Wahhabi political and terrorist groups in the region … Some of these groups have links with Al Qaeda. 
Calm and searching reflection are [sic] needed by Washington on its Middle East policy … Americans are reaping the tragic whirlwind and it is time for a serious and searching reappraisal agonizing as it may be.In another commentary, Global Times pointed out:
Arabs demand the US respect their culture. But the cannon-loaded warships will not serve that purpose. … US warships can only generate more hatred from the Islamic world … Americans hold a deep sense of cultural superiority. They see many other cultures as being marginal with an exotic value. If other cultures stand against the West, they would be labeled as bizarre and harmful. 
Islamic culture is sensitive due to its relatively disadvantageous position in the world. The world should respect their sentiments … Provocations against the Islamic faith have occurred repeatedly in the West … Americans must sincerely learn about other cultures. They should be able to find the merits of other cultures, which have helped many emerging countries develop rapidly … Many people in the world are restraining their discontent toward the US. Washington also needs to exercise restraint to better communicate with other parts of the world.The Chinese reaction is partly at least motivated by its growing anger at the US’ containment strategy in the Asia-Pacific. Having said that, the stunning geopolitical reality is also that China is steadily becoming a stakeholder in the epochal changes taking place in the Middle East, including the region’s steady gravitation toward Islamism as the dominant ideology. 
The dramatic choice made by Morsi to make first state visit to China brought out that Beijing is meeting with success in positioning itself on the “right side of history”. The Chinese oil companies are gaining a presence in Iraq’s oil industry; China is mulling over the prospects for making investments in Egypt (BP has just announced a US$10 billion investment to exploit Egypt’s gas reserves); China has wide-ranging relations with the Persian Gulf countries (both the Gulf Cooperation Council states and Iran). Even the relations with Israel and Turkey are on upward swing. 
… and a status quo-ist 
The competitive tone of the Chinese criticism of the US’ Middle East policies stands out. Russian regional policies, on the other hand, are struggling uphill. Russia has to clear the backlog of ties with the Hosni Mubarak regime in Egypt; its ties with Iran are complex and inchoate and would have to disentangle forever from a painful past history; contradictions exist in Russia-Israel ties (especially with Israel’s thrusts against Russian interests in the Caucasus and the Caspian and Russia’s alliance with Syria); its ties with the Gulf Cooperation Council states, especially Saudi Arabia, are in doldrums. Suffice to say, Russia is far from engaged in a competition with the US for creating a “level playing field” for the future expansion of its regional influence in the Middle East. 
Russia’s concerns are principally as a status quo power. The Middle Eastern revolutions do not suit Russian interests, even if they may, arguably, lead to further weakening of the US’ regional influence. The Russian frustration is that the US does not realize that in actuality in a long-term perspective the two countries could have shared interests and concerns in the Middle East. 
Again, by no means can Russia view the rise of Islamism with the same equanimity with which China is apparently addressing the historical processes in the Middle East. Russia’s “soft underbelly” lies adjacent to the Middle East and is highly vulnerable to the winds of radical Islamism. 
Also, China is willing to see the rise of Islamism in countries such as Egypt in a broader cultural context of Arabism imbued with “anti-Western sentiment” (to quote Global Times), which could even provide a conducive setting for the future expansion of its influence in the Middle East. 
Of course, both Russia and China abhor the ascendancy of the Salafist fighters in the volatile situation in Libya or Syria. Both resent Western intervention to force “regime change” in Middle East countries. And for both, the sovereignty of independent states and the observance of international law and respect for the territorial integrity become sacrosanct principles that are intertwined with their national interests. 
But what ultimately differentiates Putin’s reaction from the Chinese comments is that Moscow is probing for new thinking in Washington. Moscow would visualize that the Obama administration has received a traumatic shock in the past 72 hours and that may prompt a rethink if not a hard appraisal of US policies. Specifically, in the current situation, Moscow would hope for a new US approach on the Syrian crisis, where Russia has high stakes. 
The Obama administration’s policy on Syria is highly calibrated, stopping short of intervention but relentlessly creating the momentum for regime change in Damascus. Moscow would seek a fundamental course correction on the part of the Obama administration. Moscow expects that Washington would sit up, finally, and begin to comprehend that if Syria unravels, it will be manifold more catastrophic than what the Libyan “revolution” turned out to be in its aftermath. 
It is this expectation that Putin’s statement has sought to convey to Obama. The statement is intended as a signal to Obama at a moment when he is most receptive to fresh thinking on the Middle East question. It signals that if a window of opportunity arises for Russia to work together with the US on a political transformation in Syria, that would open up a new vista of possibilities in the UN Security Council, and, in turn, even the flame of the Russia-US “reset” may begin to shine again. 
The big question is whether the Obama administration will see things that way. In 2001, George W Bush took Putin’s support and then forgot about it for the next seven years. 
Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey. 
(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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Putin: Assange case exposes UK double standards (Exclusive Interview)

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US State Department whitewashes Russian NGOs before Russian laws

03.09.2012

 
US State Department whitewashes Russian NGOs before Russian laws. 47895.jpeg
The Moscow Helsinki Group and the movementFor Human Rights declared the impossibility of applying the status of a “foreign agent” to them. As evidence, they cite a letter from the U.S. State Department, which supposedly confirms their rightness.
The bill adopted by the Russian Parliament in July of this year grants the status of a “foreign agent” to Russian non-commercial organizations engaged in political activities and financed from abroad. The amendments adopted by the absolute majority of deputies have raised a number of complaints on the part of human rights organizations. The latter claimed that they would have no other choice but to stop working, if called so. Allegedly, the status of a “foreign agent” is an insult to them and would discredit their work in the eyes of the Russian society.
The head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Lyudmila Alexeyeva, threatened to address the authorities of foreign states to include the authors of the bill in the “Magnitsky List.” Alexeyeva also requested the names of the deputies, who voted for the bill, should be published on the Internet. To crown it all, Lyudmila Alexeyeva put forward an idea to defiantly refuse from foreign grants and go begging.
The U.S. State Department did not remain indifferent to the cry of the Russian human rights “elite.” Patrick Ventrella, an official spokesman for the State Department, expressed “concerns” about this fact. A little bit earlier, during the discussion of the bill in the State Duma, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton set out her concerns as well. She promised to find another way to support the Russian NCOs not to put them in jeopardy because of the foreign funding.
A solution to the problem was found. In late July, L. Alexeyeva and L. Ponomarev addressed U.S. President Barack Obama with a request to answer whether Russian human rights organization were “U.S. agents.” The letter particularly said that “the organizations are run by the grants from U.S. foundations almost entirely, including the NED Foundation, which is funded by U.S. taxpayers.” That is why, the human rights activists asked the president to answer the question whether they were agents of the USA in the standard sense of the word – i.e. “whether the Moscow Helsinki Group and the Movement For Human Rights were authorized to execute the instructions from the U.S. government, and whether the U.S. government, directly or indirectly, influenced the work of the organizations.”
It goes without saying that a written response signed by Hillary Clinton did not take long to arrive. She wrote that President Obama asked her to answer in response to the specific question as to whether non-governmental organizations that receive U.S. grants, can be regarded as “agents” of the U.S. government, that the US government does not either impose the goals for the organizations or control their actions, nor does it have a desire to do so. The priorities and activities of non-governmental organizations that receive support from the United States, including the Moscow Helsinki Group and the Movement For Human Rights, are determined by the administrations of these organizations, their employees and activists, but not donors, the message from Ms. Clinton said.
Certainly, it would be surprising to expect something else, but the trick, as it turned out, was different. Being eager to condemn human rights activists and environmentalists, Russian deputies did not take the trouble to look into the Civil Code. Article 1005 of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation “Agency Agreement” states: “1. Under the agency agreement, one party (the agent) undertakes for compensation to perform on behalf of the other party (the principal) legal and other actions in its own name, but at the expense of the principal, or on behalf and at the expense of the principal.” If there is no customer (principal) – there is no agent. An agent is only the one who executes principal’s order,” Lev Ponomarev wrote. Mr. Ponomarev offered the Ministry of Justice to “either publicly state that Obama and Clinton are lying, or decree that the Civil Code does not apply to human rights defenders.”
“It is clear that this is a conflict and a truggle for some truth, which the Moscow Helsinki Group advocates. It is clear they will support this view of the situation by evidence or written documents that have no relation to the substance of the amendments passed, – one of the authors of the law about “foreign agents,” Alexander Sidyakin told Pravda.Ru. – That is, both the response from the State Department and the references to the articles of the Civil Code – it’s a completely different story. The amendments adopted in the spring session of the State Duma, had two criteria in them: the engagement in political activities and receiving the funding from foreign sources. The above-mentioned human rights organizations do not deny that. If one or another non-commercial organization meets both criteria, it automatically falls into the register of legal entities that perform the functions of a foreign agent. Everything else is demagoguery and argumentation from related spheres that are associated with the functioning of a particular legal entity related to the law enforcement practice under the new amendments,” said Mr. Sidyakin.
“It is very good that the Moscow Helsinki Group is actively involved in forming an opinion about themselves in the eyes of the civil society. But to say that the rules of law can not be applied to them on the basis of these statements is absurd,” said the MP.
This is a matter of jurisprudence only. Returning to sublime lyricism of the honest human rights activists, we would like to note that the amount of official financial assistance, which the MHG receives from abroad (what the organization is accountable for to tax authorities), made up 48.190 million rubles in 2010, or more than $1.5 million. In 2011, the MHG received 34.972 million rubles from foreign sponsors, which was only about 1.1 million dollars.
All in all, as Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon stated in March of this year, the United States had spent $200 million since 2009 to promote democracy and human rights in Russia.” The official confirmed that the administration, with the assistance of the Congress, created a separate fund of 50 million dollars to specifically support Russian non-governmental organizations.
It should be remembered that it goes about the U.S. taxpayers’ money, and grantors should report the effectiveness of such investments to the Congress. In other words, a recipient organization in Russia provides relevant reports about the execution of the programs, for which the grants were provided, to the U.S. grantors in the face of U.S. non-governmental organizations (USAID, NED, IRI, NDI, etc.). The latter in turn are accountable to the Department of State, etc.
In general, the U.S. State Department does not (at least officially) point to the Russian NGOs what to do. However, it reserves the right to fund only the projects that meet its goals, objectives and needs.
By and large, it seems that the status of the organizations that receive foreign funding is not the problem. The problem is that these organizations do their best to conceal this very fact. They are willing to account for the funding to regulatory authorities, but they are not willing to expose the details of their work to the general public. It would seem that it does not matter how good things can be done: either on behalf of a human rights organization, or a “foreign agent.” Especially if there is only a very narrow circle of people aware of those “good things.” 
For example, if we judge by the report of the Moscow Helsinki Group in 2011, they were engaged in monitoring the state of affairs with human rights in Russia, conducted several seminars on human rights with the total audience of some 100 people, a number of conferences and produced some printed materials that were distributed either among the “friends”, or were left to gather dust somewhere in a warehouse.
Igor Kulagin

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Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan promise Russia Republican hell

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan promise Russia Republican hell. 47857.jpeg

 

Former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney and Congressman Paul Ryan – the official Republican candidates for president and vice-presidents of the U.S. – support the radicalization of the country’s foreign policies, particularly about the relations with Russia. They both stated that during the primaries and say the same in the electoral program of the party.
The Republicans approved the party program during their convention in Tampa, Florida. The program paid special attention to the US-Russian relations. According to the Republican Party, the Russian administration is authoritarian and does not respect human rights. The platform urged the Russian leaders to “reconsider the path they have been following: suppression of opposition parties, the press, and institutions of civil society; unprovoked invasion of the Republic of Georgia, alignment with tyrants in the Middle East; and bullying their neighbors while protecting the last Stalinist regime in Belarus.” 
The Republicans see the Russian Federation as a foe of the United States. They refer to Russia as a traditional rival of the United States along with North Korea, Iran and China. According to Republicans, the USA struggles with such threats as nuclear proliferation and terrorism against the background of North Korea’s and Iran’s attempts to acquire nuclear weapons. China’s growing hegemony in Asia and Russia’s activity, the threat of cyber espionage and terrorism are also extremely dangerous, the platform said.
Having signed the START-3 Treaty and rejected the plans for missile defense bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, having reduced the number of interceptors to be deployed in Alaska, having cut the budget, the administration considerably undermined the opportunities of the US missile defense … President Barack Obama announced his intention to be “more flexible” in the relations with Russia after the election … A Republican president, by contrast, will be honest and frank with Americans about his policies and plans, the document also said.
The Republicans agree, though, that Russia deserved the normalization of trade relations with the U.S. However, they add, this should not be done without approving visa sanctions against the Russian officials who violate human rights. “We support the enactment of the law about “Magnitsky list” as a condition for the normalization of trade relations with Russia,” says the program. At the same time, the party notes that the U.S. and Russia have common interests – the struggle against terrorism and nuclear proliferation, as well as the development of trade.
The criticism of Russia has been a keynote in Mitt Romney’s speeches during the recent months. He released his first statements on the subject prior to the pre-election campaign. Romney’s website published his election program in which he promised to curb Moscow in case he took office as president.
First off, Romney is going to revise the plans connected with the deployment of the missile defense system in Europe and other regions, taking account of U.S. interests. The Republican also intends to support European countries to reduce their dependence on the Russian oil and gas. He will also conduct serious work to strengthen the ties between the U.S. and Central Asian republics, according to Romney’s website. To crown it all, Mitt Romney expressed his willingness to be the godfather of the Russian opposition and organize the training for opposition activists at American educational centers.
In late January, in one of his interviews, the Republican called then-presidential candidate Vladimir Putin a “tyrant” and a “threat to global security.” Romney made one of his most controversial statements in March, when he was talking about the prospects of the deployment of the missile defense system in Europe. The politician called Russia “a geopolitical foe number one.”
It is worthy of note that potential vice president Paul Ryan has also repeatedly expressed his distrust and dissatisfaction with Russia. In particular, he called the “reset” between the U.S. and Russia a “failure.” “Our relationship with Russia is weaker not stronger,” Ryan was quoted on democracyarsenal.org.
Ryan also pointed out the lack of political experience that Barack Obama had, noting that he had been a congressman long before Obama. In 2002, Ryan voted for the invasion of Iraq.
Having said the above, we may ask only one question. Will America ever wake up? Most likely, America will hibernate again in a few months. 

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America’s Long-standing Campaign to Destabilize Russia

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By Eric Draitser

Global Research
The shootings and bombings in Ingushetia and Dagestan this week rekindled a long-standing, brutal campaign of violence and terrorism in Russia’s Caucasus region – one that has seen more than its share of terror stretching back to the Chechen “rebellion” of the 1990s. However, in examining the recent attacks, it becomes clear that there are political and geopolitical interests behind the scenes that are actively working to destabilize Russia, with violence as their most potent weapon. The attacks are not simply isolated terrorist actions, but rather, cynically orchestrated events carried out by well-connected criminal networks whose goal is to foment conflict and carry out the agenda of the US intelligence establishment in its subversion of Russia.
Terrorists, Propagandists and Handlers
The complex network of terrorist organizations that operate under the banners of “separatism” and “independence” for the Caucasus region, has been at the center of the destabilization of Russia for the last two decades. Within hours of the deadly attacks, the Kavkaz Center – an organization known to be the propaganda mouthpiece of terrorist leader Doku Umarov – released an article characterizing the attacks as heroic acts and referring to the dead as “Russian puppets.” Though this would seem to be not in keeping with the Center’s stated mission “to provide reporting of events… and assistance of journalistic work in the Caucasus,” this is, in fact, very much par for the course for an organization that is funded by the US State Department and Finland’s Foreign Ministry.
Kavkaz Center has a long track record of supporting and legitimizing terrorist actions throughout the region, rationalizing atrocities committed in the name of “resistance.” In fact, Kavkaz engages in perpetual upside-down logic, referring to Russians as “terrorists” and terrorists as “heroes.” This type of Goebbles-esque propaganda is the hallmark of Western imperialist projects; most recently in the conflict in Syria, in which the Syrian National Council, Western corporate media and the like refer to terrorism and subversion as “rebellion and freedom-fighting”. Additionally, it is essential to note that Emarat Kavkaz (Umarov’s terrorist organization translated as “Caucasus Emirate”) has been listed by the United Nations as an organization associated with Al-Qaida. Kavkaz Center has been described by Umarov himself as “the official information organ of the Emarat Kavkaz.” This, of course, supports the claims made repeatedly by Moscow of the connection between Chechen and other extremists in the region and Al Qaida, a claim which, until recently, Kavkaz Center continued to deny.
Despite the fact that organs such as Kavkaz Center operate in the service of terrorists who advocate the destruction of Russia, their activity alone is not altogether significant if seen in a vacuum. Rather, it is the association of these types of individuals and organizations with the US State Department and US intelligence that makes them particularly insidious. One such entity that bears scrutiny is the American Committee for Peace in the Caucasus (ACPC), previously known as the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya. As reported by Right Web at the Institute for Policy Studies, “The ACPC was founded in 1999 by Freedom House, a neoconservative organization that has worked closely with the U.S. government, receiving funds from the National Endowment for Democracy and other U.S. democratization initiatives.” This intimate relationship between the ACPC and the US State Department indicates not merely a confluence of interests, but rather a direct relationship wherein the former is an organ of the latter.
The paternalistic role of the US intelligence establishment in the ACPC is made all the more evident when one examines some of the more well known members of the ACPC including former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, former Pentagon advisor Richard Perle and other top neocons such as William Kristol, Elliott Abrams, Kenneth Adelman, and Robert Kagan – the last two being closely associated with the inner circle of the Romney campaign. What becomes apparent in even a cursory analysis of these figures is that, despite the preponderance of neoconservatives, the top members of the ACPC are pulled from both the liberal and conservative establishments. Therefore, one can see how the ACPC represents a bipartisan consensus within the US imperialist ruling class – a consensus of aggression against Russia. What should be even more concerning to political observers is that, given the very real possibility of a Romney victory in November, Russia may see a surge in separatism and violence supported overtly or covertly by the ACPC and a future Romney administration.
The ACPC has taken the lead in championing the cause of separatism and terrorism directed toward Russia, both tacitly and overtly. After having championed the cause of former Chechen Foreign Minister Ilyas Akhmadov in his quest for asylum in the United States – subsequently granted along with a generous taxpayer-funded stipend – ACPC member Zbigniew Brzezinski went so far as to write the foreward to Akhmadov’s book The Chechen Struggle. The alliance between political figures such as Akhmadov and terrorist leaders in the region demonstrates conclusively the partnership between the various terror networks and the imperialist ruling class in the West. Moreover, it shows that, along with oligarchs such as Boris Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich, the US and UK are still the favorite safe havens for criminals fleeing Russian justice.

The Political Context
Although the attacks of this week are tragic, their real significance is political in nature. There has been a sustained destabilization campaign waged by the West, particularly the United States, and aimed at President Putin going back to last December and the beginning of the so-called protest movement. The attempt by the Western imperialists has been to isolate Putin, demonize him, and erode his support within the country in hopes of toppling his government, thereby removing the biggest obstacle they face in implementing their hegemonic agenda. However, despite the financial backing, political demagoguery and media inundation, the attempts have entirely failed.
Once it became clear that Vladimir Putin would be reelected to a third term, the US State Department began its campaign against him. Organized and implemented by US Ambassador Michael McFaul in Moscow, the protest movement led by figures such as Alexei Navalny and Boris Nemtsov as well as US-funded NGOs such as GOLOS and the Moscow Helsinki Group, the movement essentially sought to instigate a “color revolution” in Russia using the same tactics that had been successful in Ukraine, Georgia and elsewhere. However, it was soon quite obvious to political observers in Russia and around the world that this movement was nothing more than a superficial destabilization attempt that had no real traction among the Russian people.
Because of the failure of this manufactured protest movement, the tactics of subversion had to change. The imperialists had to incorporate new tactics that would either revive and grow the protest movement or inspire an international outcry. And so, we get the controversy surrounding the feminist punk band Pussy Riot. The Western media has attempted to hold up the band, which engaged in obscene and lewd acts inside a Russian church, as crusaders and martyrs for the cause of free speech. Naturally, this utterly transparent and vacuous attempt to whip up anti-Putin sentiment has, like the protest movement before it, sputtered and stalled. And so, as every covert attempt at subversion through the use of “soft power” has failed, the Western imperialists now activate their terror networks in the Caucasus to do by force what their intelligence networks failed to do by stealth: destabilize Russia.
The Geopolitical Calculus
The seemingly endless attempts to subvert the Putin government are cynically designed operations whose overarching goal is geopolitical in nature. To the US and its allies, partners, and clients, Putin represents a block that is difficult, if not impossible, to maneuver around. As demonstrated clearly in Syria, President Putin is able to successfully lead an opposition to the United States: an empire attempting to impose its hegemonic designs on the region. By using international law, the principle of national sovereignty, counter-propaganda, and countless other diplomatic weapons, Putin, along with his allies in China, has prevented the wider war that the US has tried to foment. Moreover, Putin has presented a major roadblock on the path to war with Iran, another mortal sin in the eyes of Western imperialist warmongers.
Putin’s “crimes” do not stop there. He has managed to successfully assert the right of national sovereignty over state resources, jailing or otherwise diminishing the power of the oligarchs who enriched themselves in the 1990s at the expense of the Russian people. He has successfully established the legitimacy of international institutions such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and BRICS that exist outside the dominance of the United States and have begun to emerge as a counter-weight to NATO and other similar arms of US imperialism. Putin has also led the economic resurgence of Russia and maintained its dominance in the energy market with pipelines, exploration, and myriad deals with multinational corporations.
The common thread that unites the above mentioned achievements of President Putin is an unwillingness to be subservient to the United States. Putin has become, in the eyes of the Western imperialist ruling class, the unruly little brother who must be taught a lesson by force. And so, innocent Russians must pay with their lives for the hubris of these imperialists. As has been clearly demonstrated in Syria, Iran, Pakistan and countless other places around the world, terrorism remains the favorite weapon in the arsenal of the ruling class in the West. The attacks in Ingushetia and Dagestan are merely the latest example of this. Surely, they will not be the last.

Pussy Riot, The Unfortunate Dupes of Amerikan Hegemony

By Paul Craig Roberts
August 20, 2012 “Information Clearing House” —- My heart goes out to the three Russian women who comprise the Russian rock band, Pussy Riot. They were brutally deceived and used by the Washington-financed NGOs that have infiltrated Russia. Pussy Riot was sent on a mission that was clearly illegal under statutory law.
You have to admire and to appreciate the spunk of the young women. But you have to bemoan their gullibility. Washington needed a popular issue with which to demonize the Russian government for standing up to Washington’s intention to destroy Syria, just as Washington destroyed Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, and as Washington intends to destroy Lebanon and Iran. 
By intentionally offending religious worshipers–which would be a hate crime in the US and its European and British puppet states–the talented young women violated a statutory Russian law. 
Prior to the women’s trial, Russian President Putin expressed his opinion that the women should not be harshly punished. Taking the cue from Putin, the judge gave the women, deceived and betrayed by the amerikan-financed NGOs, two years instead of seven years. 
I am advised that after six months, Putin will see that the women are released. But, of course, that would not serve the propaganda of the Amerikan Empire. The instructions to the Washington-financed fifth column in Russia will be to make any government leniency for Pussy Riot impossible. 
Washington-organized protests, riots, property damage, assaults on state and religious images by Washington’s Russian dupes will make it impossible for Putin to stand up to nationalist opinion and commute the sentences of the Pussy Riot women.
This is what Washington wants. As Washington continues to murder vast numbers of people around the globe, it will point its finger at the fate of Pussy Riot. The western bought-and-paid-for presstitute media will focus on Russia’s evil, not on the evil of Washington, London, and the EU puppet states who are slaughtering Muslims by the bucket-full.
The disparity between human rights in the west and in the east is astonishing. When a Chinese trouble-maker sought protection from Washington, the Chinese “authoritarian” government allowed the person to leave for America. But when Julian Assange, who, unlike the presstitute western media, actually provides truthful information for the western peoples, was granted political asylum by Ecuador, Great (sic) Britain, bowing to the country’s amerikan master, refused the obligatory free passage from the UK.
The UK government, unlike the Chinese government, doesn’t mind violating international law, because it will be paid buckets of money by Washington for being a pariah state.
As Karl Marx said, money turns everything into a commodity that can be bought and sold: government, honor, morality, the writing of history, legality. Nothing is immune to purchase. This development of capitalism has reached the highest stage in the US and its puppet states, the governments of which sell out the interest of their peoples in order to please Washington and be made rich, like Tony Blair’s $35 million. Sending their citizens to fight for Washington’s empire in distant parts of the world is the service for which the utterly corrupt European politicians are paid. Despite the wondrous entity known as European Democracy, the European peoples and the British are unable to do anything about their misuse in Washington’s interest. This is a new form of slavery. If a country is an amerikan ally, its people are amerikan slaves.
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. www.paulcraigroberts.org/

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Russian punk rock group Pussy Riot jailed for singing anti-Putin song

By Vladimir Volkov 
18 August 2012
Three members of the Russian punk rock group Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in jail yesterday for singing songs critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
They have been on trial in Moscow since July 30. They were charged with disorderly conduct and “disparaging the venerable traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church,” for an unauthorized performance by Pussy Riot at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior (CCS) in Moscow on February 21 of this year. The group has a large number of members, who all wear masks when performing and try to keep their identities secret.
The three on trial, who have been in jail for half a year already, were Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, two of whom who have small children.
A video of both this performance and another one two days earlier at another Moscow church led to the current case. The women, who had come to the other church with electric guitars and amplifiers, were escorted out by security guards when they attempted to play.
The video, which soon appeared online, shows that Pussy Riot viewed its act as a political statement. The chorus to the song goes, “Mother of God, make Putin go away!” Shaped by postmodernist and feminist theories, the group’s outlook aligned it with many of the middle-class organizations active in the protest movement that began last December over the rigging of Russia’s parliamentary elections.
Two of the three women were arrested on March 3, the day before the presidential elections in which Vladimir Putin was elected to a third presidential term.
The procedures of the court trial of the three members of the punk group were marked by crude violations. During the hearings, the accused sat in a glassed-in “aquarium,” as if they were a danger to society; communication with their lawyers was impeded. Almost all the witnesses for the defense were denied permission to attend the trial, while people who were not even present during the event were admitted as witnesses for the prosecution. The court tried to forbid journalists from reporting witnesses’ testimony.
The prosecutor demanded that the women be sentenced to three years in prison. Justifying the court’s decision to impose a two-year term, Judge Marina Syrova said, “The girls’ actions were sacrilegious, blasphemous, and broke the church’s rules.” She added the three were guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, aiming to offend Russian Orthodox believers.
Defense attorneys plan to appeal the verdict.
The trial is a deliberate attempt by Russian authorities to silence public opposition by imposing draconian punishments in trumped-up trials for public criticism of Putin or of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Many famous singers and performers—including Sting, Madonna, John Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono, and the groups Faith No More, Franz Ferdinand, and Red Hot Chili Peppers—have announced their support for Pussy Riot.
Under Russian law, the actions of Pussy Riot are not subject to criminal prosecution. The Cathedral of Christ the Savior (CCS) in actual fact does not belong to the Orthodox Church, but to the Moscow government. Each year, several hundred million rubles of public funds are devoted to its maintenance; the Orthodox Church only rents the building.
The trial gave various Western imperialist politicians the opportunity to hypocritically posture as friends of democracy while criticizing Putin. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose government has repeatedly insisted that Greece must impose unpopular austerity policies whatever the opinion of the Greek electorate and parliament, denounced the verdict. She called it “not in harmony with the European values of democracy and the rule of law, to which Russia has pledged itself as a member of the Council of Europe.”
The Kremlin’s actions are not merely a signal to the protest movement that the authorities are prepared to resort to harsh repression against it, but have a broader political and ideological context as well. They are preparations for suppression of opposition in the working class, and a further turn to the right on the part of Russia’s ruling gangster oligarchy.
Incapable of fashioning any coherent argument for its legitimacy, the oligarchy that emerged from the liquidation of the USSR and the plundering of Soviet public assets is now moving towards an explicitly religious basis for its rule.
The pro-Kremlin mass media openly call for elimination of the separation of church and state. Larisa Pavlova, the church’s lawyer in the Pussy Riot trial, asserted that “the patriarch is not a mere citizen; he’s a person with sacred qualities.”
This position echoes that of the Church itself. Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, acting as chief representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, recently insisted that the courts should try cases “following moral law, which sometimes supersedes [secular] law.”
In a July 19 article on the Vzglyad web site, Alexander Razuvayev writes: “After the collapse of communism, an ideological vacuum formed in Russia. To a large extent, the collapse of communism itself was a result of the aggressive atheism that communism demanded. … Some pygmy European state might be able to get by without any ideology, but a large, complex social system like Russia cannot exist without ideology. Therefore, the Church in Russia must not be separate from the state. It must play approximately the same role as before 1917.”
The Kremlin’s embrace of clericalism also seeks to obscure the immense wealth that has come into the hands of the Church as a result of its close ties with the state, under conditions in which the vast majority of the population struggle to make ends meet. This spring, for example, a scandal broke out when it became known that Russian patriarch Kirill was wearing on his wrist a Breguet watch valued at €30,000.
More broadly, the Kremlin systematically appeals to the most unenlightened instincts and reactionary and nationalistic prejudices, trying to maintain the appearance of popular support for the ruling clique of business oligarchs and ex-KGB thugs.
President Vladimir Putin personally approved the arrest and trial of the young women, combining it with appeals to anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
When he arrived in London for the summer Olympics at the beginning of August, he declared that “if the girls had come to Israel and defiled something there… or had gone to the Caucasus and defiled some kind of sacred shrine of the Muslims, we could not have protected them.” After this statement, he hypocritically claimed that the girls need not be tried “so harshly.”

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Russia in the Middle East: Return of a Superpower?

By Eric Walberg 
August 16, 2012 “Information Clearing House” The world is living through a veritable slow-motion earthquake. If things go according to plan, the US obsession with Afghanistan and Iraq will soon be one of those ugly historical disfigurements that — at least for most Americans — will disappear into the memory hole.
Like Nixon and Vietnam, US President Barack Obama will be remembered as the president who “brought the troops home”. But one cannot help but notice the careful calibration of these moves to fit the US domestic political machine — the Iraqi move to show Americans that things on the international front are improving (just don’t mention Guantanamo), the Afghan move put off conveniently till President Barack Obama’s second term, when he doesn’t need to worry about the fallout electorally if things unravel (which they surely will).
Of course, Russia lost big time geopolitically when the US invaded Afghanistan, and thus gains as regional geopolitical hegemon by the withdrawal of US troops from Central Asia. Just look at any map. But American tentacles will remain: Central Asia has no real alternative economically or politically anymore to the neoliberal global economy, as Russia no longer claims to represent a socialist alternative to imperialism. The departure of US troops and planes from remote Kyrgyzstan will not be missed — except for the hole it leaves in the already penurious Kyrgyz government’s budget and foreign currency reserves. Russia is a far weaker entity than the Soviet Union, both economically and politically. Thus, Russia’s gain from US weakness is not great.
Besides, both Russia and the US support the current Afghan government against the Taliban — as does Iran. In fact, in case US state department and pentagon officials haven’t noticed the obvious, the main beneficiary of the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq has been Iran, again by definition. The invasion brought to power the ethnic Persian Tajiks in Afghanistan, and the invasion of Iraq set up a Shia-dominated government there.
Similarly, when the US invaded Iraq, Russia lost politically and economically. The US cancelled Saddam Hussein’s state debts, which hurt the Russians and Europeans but not the US. The US just happened to be boycotting Iraq for the previous decade and took pleasure from shafting its sometime allies for ignoring US wishes. However, once Iraqi politicians begin to reassert some control over their foreign policy, Russia will be seen as a much more sympathetic partner internationally.
Ironically, on many fronts, Iran now holds the key to readjusting the political playing field and establishing rules that can lead away from the deadly game being played by the US, including in Afghanistan, Iraq, with broader implications for broader nuclear disarmament, EU-US relations, but above all, for the continued role of the dollar as world reserve currency. This encourages Russia to maintain its alliance with Iran over vague (and empty) promises of US-Russian world hegemony as envisioned by the now-discredited Medvedev Atlantists in Moscow.
Russia’s relations with both Central Asia and the Middle East since the collapse of the Soviet Union have been low key. In the Middle East, it maintains relations with Palestine’s Hamas, and, as a member of the so-called quartet of Middle East negotiators (along with the EU, the US and the UN), insists that Israel freeze expansion of settlements in the Occupied Territories as a condition of further talks. It appears to be trying to regain some of the goodwill that existed between the Soviet Union and Arab states, supporting the UN Goldstone Report which accused Israel of war crimes in its 2008 invasion of Gaza.
It embarked on a diplomatic offensive with Arab states in 2008, offering Syria and Egypt nuclear power stations, and is re-establishing a military presence in the Mediterranean at the Syrian port, Tartus, though Syria’s current civil war, with Russia and Iran lined up against the West and the Arab states could leave Russia on the losing side. Western attempts to portray Russia as the power-hungry bad guy in Syria do not hold water. Russia is concerned about heightened civil war in an evenly divided population, with rebel groups openly armed by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s Arab and Western foes. The hypocrisy in the Arab world is appalling: Gulf monarchies and Saudi Arabia loudly demand that Egypt’s new government swear off any attempt to “interfere” in their internal politics, but brazenly arm Syrian rebels.
Russia is still struggling to leave its own tragic civil war in Chechnya behind, and to make sure there’s a place at the table for its Muslims. With its 16 million Muslims (about 12 per cent of the population), it has expressed interest in joining the Organization of Islamic Conference. Its unwillingness to let Syria slide into civil war does not gain it any brownie points among its own separatist Muslims in the Caucasus and elsewhere, but it is not willing to carve up either Syria or the Russian federation in the interests of some fleeting peace.
The importance of Jewish financial and economic interests in post-Soviet Russia — both the banking and industrial oligarchs and the Kosher Nostra mafia — ensures that Israel gets a sympathetic hearing from Russian leaders. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is a Russian Jew who emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1978.
Israel is also able to take advantage of the persistence of Muslim unrest and dreams of independence in the Caucasus within Russia to prevent Moscow from taking any strong position to pressure Israel. Russia’s prickly neighbor Georgia harbors Chechen rebels and Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, uses Israeli and US military advisers. Of course, the US benefits from Israeli pressures on Russia. This is a key feature of the current Great Game, where the US and Israel act as the new imperial “centre”.
It is popular to call this era a new Cold War. However, history never repeats itself. There certainly is a new tension in world politics following 9/11, and the failure of the newly aggressive US to successfully assert its hegemony around the world, including Russia, keeps the fires of chauvinism hot in the US. On the US right, Russia is seen merely as the Soviet Union reborn, a ruse to hide the KGB’s agenda of world communist control. For the saner Obamites, it is a more diffused Cold War, dominated by a new US-Israeli imperial centre, the “empire-and-a-half”, with shifting alliances of convenience, though with a strong, new opposition player on the horizon — a savvier, more articulate Islamic world, with Iran, Turkey and Egypt in the first rank.
The desire by both the US and Israel to overthrow the Iranian government is now the only common goal left in this “empire-and-a-half”, but it is a common goal only because Israel is in the driver’s seat. Israel resents Iran as an existential threat not to Israel itself, but to Greater Israel and regional domination. Iran serves as a powerful example, a third way for Muslim countries, and is most definitely a rival to Israel as Middle East hegemon.
Among the new Arab Spring governments, it is only Egypt’s that worries Israel. Just imagine if Egypt and Iran start to cooperate. Add in Shia-dominated Iraq, Turkey and Russia, as Russia has good relations with all four, and common objects on the international scene. Suddenly the Middle East playing field takes on a totally different appearance.
A rational US policy to join with Russia and China to accommodate Iran could save the teetering dollar, or at least give the US a chance to prepare for an orderly transition to a new international currency. If Russia, China and Iran defuse the current nuclear crisis between the US and Iran peacefully, with a nod to Turkey and a resolve to make Israel join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, this could pave the way for a new Eurasian playing field. If, and when, the US withdraws from Afghanistan, Pakistan and India will be drawn in as well.
This would set off a chain of events that could change the whole nature of the current Great Game leading to a Russia-India-Iran-China axis (Russia-India-China summits have already been held yearly since 2001), leaving Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Israel to sort out their regional conflicts outside of a new, very different great game. US interests would be considered but without US diktat, forcing, or rather allowing the US to put its own house in order. Iran would finally be accepted as the legitimate regional player that it is. If the US cannot bring itself to make a graceful exit from its self-imposed crisis in the region, this will only accelerate its decline.
Russia inherits fond memories across the Middle East region as the anti-Zionist Soviet Union’s successor. It now has the chance to gain long term credibility as a principled partner not only in the Middle East but to non-aligned countries everywhere, and should hold the fort, the anti-imperial one, against what’s left of empire.
Eric Walberg is a journalist who worked in Uzbekistan and is now writing for Al-Ahram Weekly in Cairo.

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Russia romps with USA and Europe after another veto at UN

20.07.2012
Russia romps with USA and Europe after another veto at UN. 47585.jpeg
As soon as Russia blocked the Western variant of the resolution on Syria, which indirectly stipulated a possibility for a military intervention, Russia became the target of the Western rage. Representatives of Western countries cracked down on Russia with furious accusations. The U.S. threatened to bypass the UN Security Council, which, as US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said “had completely ruined the most important task on its agenda this year.”
AP photo


Moscow immediately returned its own angry remarks. Russia accused the U.S. and its partners of cynicism and hypocrisy. Russian officials also stated that their Western counterparts were not doing anything about the problem of the “militant opposition” in Syria. Unlike the West, Russia, “has not weakened its efforts to find a political solution, not even for a moment”, Russian diplomats stated Friday.
Syria itself is now facing chaos and decay. In these conditions, the stock of chemical weapons may fall into the hands of the groups linked to al-Qaeda terrorist network. If it happens, the terrible consequences will threaten not only Syria, but the whole region and perhaps the world.
It has become Russia’s third veto in the UN Security Council in nine months. Susan Rice described the move as something “very unfortunate and dangerous.” According to her, it is the terrible regime and the members of the UN Security Council, who do not take firm actions against the regime, that made such an unacceptable situation possible.
Rice and other members of the U.S. administration gave to understand that they would now be confronting the regime of Bashar al-Assad bypassing the UN. “We will strengthen the work with a wide range of partners outside the Security Council to exert pressure on the Assad regime and to provide assistance to those in need,” Rice said.
An official spokesman for the State Department Peter Ventrell confirmed that the US would be taking measures bypassing the UN. Russia and China have blocked the resolution three times, he said. The US was hoping that Russia and China would change their position, but it did not happen. Since there is no chance for new opportunities, then the US will count on its own strategy. The United States does not intend to give up just because there is no resolution, Ventrell said.
Mark Lyall Grant, a spokesman for Britain – the country that initiated the submission of the resolution – said that his country was “appalled” with the Russian-Chinese veto. “The effect of their actions is to protect a brutal regime. They have chosen to put their national interests ahead of the lives of millions of Syrians,” he said.
French Ambassador to the UN Gerard Araud said: “I think that it is now absolutely clear that Russia and China have decided to unconditionally support the Syrian regime. They just want to win time for it, so that the opposition is crushed.” Araud also accused Russia of obstructing the direct mission of Annan, because Russia did not accept the means of pressure which he had requested.
Moscow speaks about the cynicism and hypocrisy of the West. Russia is ready to begin the evacuation of its citizens from Syria.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich stated that the attempts of the West to make Russia responsible for the growth of violence in Syria were “absolutely unacceptable coarse insinuations.” “Our Western partners should have tried to do at least something to induce the militant opposition to stand on the path of the political regulation of the conflict,” the diplomat said.
According to him, European officials were being cynical when they said that the recent unprecedented terrorist attack in Damascus could only confirm the need to put pressure on the Assad regime single-handedly. 
Commenting the intention of the U.S. representatives to bypass the UN, Lukashevich said: “If this kind of statements and plans are elements of real politics, it is quite a signal to all of us to think about how the international community is going to respond to international conflicts.”
According to him, Russia had plans to evacuate its citizens from Syria in case the situation continued to aggravate. He assured that the Russian Embassy in Damascus was in close contact with the majority of Russians in this country, including those living in remote areas.
Lukashevich also condemned the sanctions against Rosoboronexport (Russia’s defense export company). The House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress approved the sanctions after the vote on Syria at the UN. The diplomat said that Moscow saw it as revenge. “In general, referring to sanctions for any reason – this, of course, evokes rejection,” he added.
In turn, Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov called the U.S. position on Syria’s hypocritical. “They have done nothing to encourage the opposition to engage in contacts with the government,” – he tweeted Friday.

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Russian warships in Syria: Any guesses?

11.07.2012
 
Russian warships in Syria: Any guesses?. 47530.jpeg
Source: Itar-Tass
The departure of a large group of ships of the Russian Navy to the coast of Syria is pursuing two well-defined goals, experts believe. The first one of them is to reinforce Russia’s stance on Syria with real arguments. The second one is to evacuate Russian citizens from the country, if necessary.
However, they suspect in the West that the training and combat mission of the Russian warships is being carried out to cover up the delivery of arms to the troops of Bashar al-Assad. Many in the West also think that the mission manifests Russia’s claim for a piece of the Syrian coast, on which there is an army base in Tartus. Traditionally, the Defense Ministry does not share much information on the subject. Russian defense officials do not hurry to confirm the information saying that the Russian ships will call at a Syrian port.
Landing ship “Caesar Kunikov” of the Black Sea Fleet went to the Mediterranean Sea on Wednesday,Interfax said. “On Sunday, the ship was ordered to follow in the Mediterranean Sea … The ship will be solving the tasks of military service. The plan of the mission stipulates a stop at the Syrian port of Tartus to replenish stocks. A Marine Corps detachment in on board the ship,” said the source. It was also said that that rescue tug “Miner” took the course in the Mediterranean Sea. Earlier, rescue tug SB-5 entered the Mediterranean Sea too.
The first official reaction of the U.S. authorities was diplomatic and calm. “We have received information about the mission of the ships, we’ve also heard the Russian authorities saying that the ships would call at Tartus for refueling and that their mission was not connected with the Syrian conflict. We hope it’s true … We are in touch with the Russian side on this issue,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.
Erin Pelton, a spokeswoman of the U.S. National Security Council reminded reporters that Russia had is a point of technical servicing in Tartus. “We do not see any reason to believe this campaign is something extraordinary. But I’d recommend asking details from the Russian authorities,” Al Arabia quoted Pelton.
Russia’s Defense Ministry is being careful with its comments about sending the warships to the Mediterranean Sea. Thus, the press-service of the ministry announced that “the group of the ships of the Northern and Baltic fleets will conduct a training combat mission in the Mediterranean and in the Black Seas, in collaboration with a group of Black Sea Fleet – large landing warships “Nikolay Filchenkov, ” “Caesar Kunikov “and escort ship “Smetliviy.” The officials also explained that the group included Northern Fleet ships “Admiral Chabanenko”, “Aleksandr Otrakovsky,” “George the Victorious” and “Kondopoga”, as well as support vessels “Nicholai Chiker” and “Sergey Osipov”. Later, the Baltic Fleet patrol ship “Yaroslav Mudry” and “Lena” tanker joined them.
However, the Defense Ministry did not specify how close the ships would approach the Syrian coast and whether they planned to call in Tartus. “Since there is a Russian base at the Syrian port of Tartus, it is possible that the ships will enter the port to replenish stocks,” Andrei Taraman, the Head of Information said Wednesday.
Back in mid-June, military sources reported that a group of two large amphibious ships from the Black Sea Fleet with “black berets” on board and a rescue tug accompanying them would travel to Tartus to evacuate the personnel of the Russian base and other Russian citizens staying in Syria. The Defense Ministry remained silent for a long time, neither confirming nor denying the information.
There were several official statements released, though. For example, the Defense Ministry denied the rumors saying that “Kaliningrad”, a ship of the Baltic Fleet, would join the Black Sea Fleet squadron. However, the ministry did not deny the fact that the Black Sea Fleet ships were getting ready for the mission. The officials accused foreign media of spreading disinformation: the Western media reported that Russia was working to organize joint Syrian-Iranian-Chinese-Russian maneuvers.
The last statement from the Defense Ministry about the departure of the Russian vessels to Syria’s Tartus was made in late June, but it did not clarify the situation in general. “The armed forces are not taking any emergency measures… It’s too early to think of something bad,” said the chief of staff Gen. Nikolai Makarov.
While the Defense Ministry continues to remain silent about the plans of the Russian Navy to visit Tartus, the West speculates on the Mediterranean campaign of the Russian ships. There are two main objectives, journalists and analysts believe – to demonstrate force and prepare for a possible evacuation of Russians.
Western diplomats are convinced that Russia wants to show its support for Assad, and thus warn the West against the military operation in the region, The Telegraph writes. It is worthy of note that Moscow canceled the delivery of Yak-30 planes to Damascus, the newspaper said.
Earlier, Russia would send warships from time to time for maneuvers in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea, but the extraordinary scale of the forces sent to the region is seen as a message not only for the region but for the United States and other countries that support the rebels and try to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, writes The New York Times.
There is also an opinion saying that Russia hopes to get hold of a strategically important piece of coast in Tartus. The Kremlin supposedly makes it clear for America and other powers that the preservation of the Russian military base in Tartus is a priority, Foreign Policy said.
Probably, Moscow hopes that the deployment of marines will help Assad’s regime defeat his opponents, or preserve Russia’s access to Tartus, if the regime falls, the authors of the article wrote. One or more of these groups may conclude that an attack on the Russian forces in Syria is a great way to increase their popularity and legitimacy in comparison with others, says Foreign Policy. 

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Russia and China vow to protect Syria from becoming another Libya

By Farooq Yousaf


 

Russia and China vow to protect Syria from becoming another Libya. 47402.jpeg
It is now widely known that the Obama administration, with the help of its allies, is planning to launch an offensive against the Assad regime in Syria. The attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, with the help Israel, also seems to be on the cards. In such a situation, where Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have proven to be clear fiascos, the dwindling world economic scene can least afford another major conflict. 
Such interventions would not only induce wide scale human loss but would also bring with them adverse economic effects for the world states. And with the recent announcement of joint war games, and one of the biggest, among China, Russia, Iran and Syria, the signal is going strong for forces that wish to intervene in either Syria or Iran.
Iran’s Fars news agency reported that more than 90,000 soldiers from the aforementioned 4 countries would take part in the military exercises, making it the largest in regional history. Theses war games will include air defense and missile units as well as ground, air and naval forces and are scheduled for early July.
A total of 400 planes and 1,000 tanks are said to be taking part, among them 12 Chinese warships, Russian atomic submarines and warships, aircraft carriers and mine-clearing destroyers as well as Iranian battleships and submarines are included. It is said that all the arms and ammunition used for the exercise would be stocked in Syria from where they will begin.
This exercise also means that it would be the first time that Russia and China have deployed such a large army in Syria. This army would also send out the right message for Syria, that is, it is not the right time to bomb or attack the country. And the presence of armies of both these states would at least make sure that till their presence, Syria would be safe from foreign interventions. But would this be enough to send a strong message to Obama as well? The answer would most probably be a big YES, as USA can least afford to enter in to a conflict with China, on whom it relies majorly for financial cooperation, both for its own finances as well as NATO’s.
With greater resilience from both Russia and China against any action on Syria, the situation in Middle East has become like gunpowder. Any offensive from either side may even trigger the possible beginning of a World War. 
It is being reported that the US administration is planning a military campaign in Syria similar to what happened in Libya in terms of execution. The U.S. would institute a no-fly zone, bomb the Syrian government and the Syrian military, and provide heavy military hardware for the rebel forces on the ground.
A recent report by Debka stated regarding the US plans of attack on Syria,
As the violence in Syria continued to go from bad to worse in scope and intensity, US official sources had this to say Saturday, June 16, about planned US military operations in the war-torn country:
“The intervention will happen. It is not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when.'”
A Syrian Free Army rebel delegation is now in Washington to talk about their requests for heavy weapons from the Obama administration. In their meetings with US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford and the State Department’s expert on Syria Fred Hof, the rebel leaders handed in two lists for approval: types of heavy weapons capable of challenging Bashar Assad’s armed forces and selected targets of attack to destabilize his regime.
The basic error that US and its allies are making in calculating the Syrian situation is that the country is very unlike Libya. Libya had far less friends compared to Syria. Assad’s government is one of the chief buyer of Russian arms and a strong economic partner of China. That is why, the western media is trying to drag Russia in to the mess by alleging it of supporting the human rights abuse carried out by Assad regime.
Moscow seems to be affected very little by the media propaganda as it still advocates a no-war policy on Syria along with its ally China. Both the countries have vetoed all UN resolutions against the Arab state. This has made the relations of both the countries with the US really tensed.
In the recent G-20 summit in Mexico, both Putin and Obama showed the tension with their expression as the media reported “The two men barely looked at each other. You could just feel, sort of, the tension between them. And the body language really represented how far apart the two leaders remain on the issue of Syria.” In fact, Putin reportedly was very direct with Obama…. “Apparently President Obama got a bit of a lecture from Putin about some other failed transitions that are going on around the world.”
Although it is very clear that Russia and China are saying No to Syrian intervention, President Obama clearly seems to defy this intention. If this happens, the situation would certainly move towards a conflict, a conflict for which the Chinese and Russian militaries have now long been preparing for whereas the US military is already stuck in major failed campaigns such as Iraq and Afghanistan. And with proxy engagements in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan, it would be daunting task for the US forces to face Chinese and Russian militaries.
Farooq Yousaf

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Internal crisis shapes Putin’s foreign policy

By Pavel Felgenhauer 
The Moscow Center of Strategic Studies (CSS) – an influential think tank led by well-known economist, former parliamentarian and first deputy economics minister in Vladimir Putin’s first government, Mikhail Dmitriev – has recently published a report about the ongoing political and economic crisis in Russia. According to sociological research conducted via focus groups, the vast majority of urban-based populations in all regions of Russia demand change. 
The emerging middle class in Moscow and several other major cities is demanding an independent and non-corrupt judiciary and law enforcement, free speech, and political rights, while the less educated and lower earning masses are more concerned with economic issues, as well as the availability of social services. 
Still, the protest agendas of the middle class and the broader Russian masses largely coincide: the corrupt police force and crony judicial system cause overall revulsion. Russians are fed up with Putin and his cohorts monopolizing political and economic power. There is a growing urge to see new actors with new ideas in power. The number of loyal “Putinites” in Russia is dramatically dwindling, while a critical mass of devoted anti-Putin activists has emerged primarily in Moscow. 
The CSS report predicts that the internal political, social and economic crisis will increasingly influence Putin’s foreign policy, foreseeing attempts to “compensate internal political failures with populist foreign policy actions.” Russian foreign policy may turn into an appendix of internal political troubles, becoming “less realistic and increasingly indoctrinated”. 
Instead of pragmatically pursuing Russia’s long-term national interests, Putin’s Kremlin seems bent on pigheadedly confronting the United States on almost any global or regional issue, guessing that the Russian public will approve. The Kremlin is attempting to paint the pro-democracy movement in Russia as a Western (American) plot and part of a global anti-Russian conspiracy. 
Riot police officers from a special anti-riot OMON unit from Voronezh (a city south of Moscow) were deployed in Moscow last month and brutally attacked pro-democracy protesters. They later told journalists that their own commanders and special “anti-extremist” Interior Ministry agents briefed them in advance about Western spies financing the opposition. The officers believe that Western-paid agents were deployed in the streets of Moscow to provoke trouble. It is possible Putin himself believes this narrative. 
Putin’s return to the Kremlin early this year could have been expected to make Russian foreign policy more aggressive and assertive. But what is happening at present seems to be more than anyone predicted, as demonstrated by the increasingly erratic, aggressive and irrational stand on Syria. Reports have been circulating for some time about a possible deployment of Russian combat troops in Syria. In recent days, rumors originating in Russia and abroad have alleged Russian marines and warships were already sailing to Syria or were imminently ready to sail. The reports were denied by authorities, then partially or unofficially confirmed, and then denied again. 
The semi-official Iranian Fars news agency reported that joint military exercises involving some 90,000 troops, 400 warplanes and 1,000 tanks from Iran, Russia, China and Syria would be held on Syrian territory and in coastal waters. An armada of Chinese, Russian and Iranian warships, including nuclear submarines and an “aircraft carrier,” would be deployed. 
The Russian semi-official news agency Interfax immediately reprinted the report and without questioning its validity added, quoting sources in the Russian navy, that a major landing ship, Kaliningrad, from the Baltic Fleet together with similar vessels, Nikolai Filchenkov and the Tsezar Kunikov, from the Black Sea Fleet were prepared to imminently sail with marines on board to the Russian naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus to “defend Russian citizens and infrastructure”. 
After some hesitation, the Russian Navy denied entirely the report of the planned exercises or that the landing ships with marines were on their way to Syria. An advisor of the Iranian president, who was visiting Moscow, Bouthaina Shabaan, told journalists the reports of joint military exercises were “false and provocative”. The official Russian government daily accused the West of waging an “information war” against Russia and China by spreading false rumors about an imminent military deployment in Syria to prepare grounds for a Western military intervention. A day passed and another seemingly reliable daily, quoting “two sources in Russia’s power ministries,” reported that the Navy and “other power departments” were preparing for “a campaign in Syria”. 
Plans were being prepared for a possible deployment of troops to help evacuate Russian military personnel and citizens from the naval base in Tartus and from Syria in general. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is quoted as putting the number of Russian citizens and members of families of Russian women married to Syrians at some 100,000. 
Russia’s only aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, is not ready for action, and the landing ships, Nikolai Filchenkov and Tsezar Kunikov, cannot carry more that several hundred marines and a handful of pieces of armor. The deputy chief of the Russian Air Force, General Vladimir Gradusov, told journalists that “if ordered by Putin” the Air Force would provide cover for the Russian ships sent to Syria and help to evacuate Russians. However, the mission may turn out to be difficult, since Russia lacks air bases in the region or a deployable aircraft or helicopter carrier. North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations, including Turkey, may decide to close their air space to Russian military flights, making things worse. 
Russia’s stubborn defense of the crumbling and bloody Bashar al-Assad regime has long been puzzling observers as irrational and damaging to Russia’s long-term interests in the Arab and Muslim world, while infuriating the West. A deployment of a limited military contingent alongside Assad’s forces under the pretext of defending Russian citizens (the same pretext was used to invade Georgia in 2008) could surely further worsen the situation. 
Of course, the rationale of such actions may indeed be internal: to boost nationalistic passions by openly confronting the West and, possibly, splitting the opposition protest movement’s leftist, nationalistic and liberal wings. Such a foreign policy, based primarily on internal political considerations, is highly risky; it could easily drag Russia into an overseas conflict that it is not prepared to fight or win. 
The prospect of bringing into Russia some 100,000 refuges from Syria (if Lavrov’s figures are true) could cause insurmountable political, social and economic problems. Russian leaders may be in deep doubt as to how to proceed, which may explain the on again, off again nature of the presumed Syrian deployment. 
Pavel Felgenhauer is a defense analyst . 
(This article first appeared in The Jamestown Foundation. Used with permission.) 
(Copyright 2012 The Jamestown Foundation.)

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On the Right Side of History

Russia’s Syria Policy

By Sergei Lavrov
June 21, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — Over the last year or a year and a half, the events unfolding in North Africa and the Middle East have come to the forefront of the global political agenda. They are frequently referred to as the most remarkable episode in the international life of the new 21st century. Experts have long spoken about the fragility of authoritarian regimes in Arab countries and possible social and political shocks. 
However, it was difficult to predict the scale and pace with which the wave of change would sweep over the region. Alongside the manifestations of crisis in the world economy, these events have clearly proved that the process leading to the emergence of a new international system has entered a zone of turbulence.
The more large-scale social movements appeared in the countries of the region, the more urgent became the issue of what policy should be pursued by external actors and the entire international community. Numerous expert discussions on that matter and subsequent practical actions of States and international organizations have outlined two main approaches: either to help the Arab peoples determine their own future by themselves, or to try to shape a new political reality to one’s taste while taking advantage of the softening of state structures that had long been too rigid. The situation continues to evolve rapidly, which makes it important for those who have the biggest say in the matters of the region to finally consolidate their efforts rather than continue to pull in different directions like the characters of a fable by Ivan Krylov.
Let me sum up the points that I have repeatedly made in relation to the evolving situation in the Middle East. First of all, Russia, in common with the majority of countries in the world, encourages the aspirations of the Arab peoples for a better life, democracy and prosperity, and stands ready to support these efforts. This is why we welcomed the Deauville Partnership initiative at the G8 summit in France. We firmly oppose the use of violence in the course of current transformations in Arab States, especially against civilians. We are well aware of the fact that the transformation of a society is a complex and generally long process which rarely goes smoothly.
Russia probably knows the true cost of revolutions better than most other countries. We are fully aware that revolutionary changes are always accompanied by social and economic setbacks as well as by loss of human life and suffering. This is exactly why we support an evolutionary and peaceful way of enacting long-awaited changes in the Middle East and North Africa.
The point is, what should be done if the showdown between the authorities and the opposition does assume the form of violent, armed confrontation? The answer seems obvious -external actors should do their best to stop the bloodshed and support a compromise involving all parties to the conflict. When deciding to support UN Security Council Resolution 1970 and making no objection to Resolution 1973 on Libya, we believed that these decisions would help limit the excessive use of force and pave the way for a political settlement. Unfortunately, the actions undertaken by NATO countries under these resolutions led to their grave violation and support for one of the parties to the civil war, with the goal of ousting the existing regime – damaging in the process the authority of the Security Council.
People versed in politics need not be told that the devil is in the detail, and tough solutions implying the use of force cannot produce a lasting long-term settlement. And in the current circumstances, when the complexity of international relations has increased manifold, it becomes obvious that using force to resolve conflicts has no chance of success. Examples are abundant. They include the complicated situation in Iraq and the crisis in Afghanistan, which is far from being over. There are many indications that things are far from being good in Libya after the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi. Instability has spread further to the Sahara and Sahel region, and the situation in Mali was dramatically aggravated.
Another example is Egypt, which is still far from the safe shore even though regime change was not accompanied by large outbreaks of violence and Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled the country for more than thirty years, left the presidential palace voluntarily shortly after public protests began. We cannot but be concerned, among other issues, with the reports of growing religious clashes and abuse of the rights of the Christian minority.
Thus, there are more than enough reasons for taking the most balanced approach to the Syrian crisis that represents the most acute situation in the region today. It is clear that after what had happened in Libya it was impossible to go along with the UN Security Council taking decisions that would not be adequately explicit and would allow those responsible for their implementation to act at their own discretion. Any mandate given on behalf of the entire international community should be as clear and precise as possible in order to avoid ambiguity. It is therefore important to understand what is really happening in Syria and how to help that country to pass though this painful stage of its history.
Unfortunately, qualified and honest analysis of developments in Syria and their potential consequences is still in short supply. Quite often it is replaced by primitive images and black-and-white propaganda clichés. For several months major international media outlets have been reproducing reports about the corrupt dictatorial regime ruthlessly suppressing the aspiration of its own people to freedom and democracy.
It seems, however, that the authors of those reports did not bother asking themselves how the government could manage to stay in power without public support for more than a year, despite the extensive sanctions imposed by its main economic partners. Why did the majority of people vote for the draft constitution proposed by the authorities? Why, after all, have most Syrian soldiers remained loyal to their commanders? If fear is the only explanation, then why did it fail to help other authoritarian rulers?
We have stated many times that Russia is not a defender of the current regime in Damascus and has no political, economic or other reasons for becoming one. We have never been a major trade and economic partner of that country, the government of which has communicated mostly with the capitals of Western European countries.
It is no less clear to us than to others that the main responsibility for the crisis that has swept over the country lies with the Syrian government, that has failed to take the course of reform in due time or draw conclusions from the deep changes unfolding in international relations. This is all true. Yet, there are other facts as well. Syria is a multi-confessional state: in addition to Sunni and Shia Muslims there are Alawites, Orthodox and other Christian confessions, Druzes, and Kurds. Over the last few decades of the secular rule of the Ba’ath party, freedom of conscience has been practiced in Syria, and religious minorities fear that if the regime is broken down this tradition may be interrupted.
When we say that these concerns should be heard and addressed, we are sometimes accused of taking positions amounting to an anti-Sunni and, more generally, anti-Islamic stance. Nothing could be further from the truth. In Russia, people of various confessions, most numerous among them being Orthodox Christians and Muslims, have lived together peacefully for centuries. Our country has never waged colonial wars in the Arab world but has on the contrary continuously supported the independence of Arab nations and their right to independent development. And Russia bears no responsibility for the consequences of colonial rule marked by the changes in social structures that brought about the tensions which still persist.
The point I want to make is different. If some members of society are concerned about potential discrimination on the grounds of religion and national origin, then necessary guarantees should be provided to those people in accordance with generally accepted international humanitarian standards.
Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms has traditionally been, and continues to be, a major problem for the States of the Middle East, and was one of the main causes of the “Arab revolutions”.
However, Syria has never ranked low on that list, with its level of civil freedoms immeasurably higher than that of some of the countries who are now trying to give lessons in democracy to Damascus. In one of its recent issues, the French magazine Le Monde Diplomatique presented a chronology of human rights abuses by a big State in the Middle East, which contained, inter alia, the execution of 76 death sentences in 2011 alone, including for those accused of witchcraft. If we truly wish to promote respect for human rights in the Middle East, we must state this goal openly. If we proclaim ending the bloodshed as our primary concern, we should focus precisely on that; in other words, we must press for a ceasefire in the first place, and promote the start of an inclusive all-Syrian dialogue aimed at negotiating a peaceful crisis settlement formula by the Syrians themselves.
Russia has been sending these messages since the first days of unrest in Syria. It was quite clear to us and, I guess, to everyone who has sufficient information on that country, that pressing for an immediate ousting of Bashar al-Assad, contrary to the aspirations of a considerable segment of Syrian society that still relies on this regime for its security and well-being, would mean plunging Syria into a protracted and bloody civil war. Responsible external actors should help Syrians avoid that scenario and bring about evolutionary rather than revolutionary reform of the Syrian political system through a national dialogue rather than by means of coercion from the outside.
Taking into account today’s realities in Syria, reliance on one-sided support for the opposition, particularly for its most belligerent part, will not lead to peace in that country anytime soon and will therefore run counter to the goal of protecting the civilian population. What seems to prevail in that option are attempts to bring about regime change in Damascus as an element of a larger regional geopolitical game. These schemes are undoubtedly targeting Iran, since a large group of States including the USA and NATO countries, Israel, Turkey and some States of the region appear to be interested in weakening that country’s regional positions.
The possibility of a military strike against Iran is a much-debated topic today. I have repeatedly stressed that such an option would lead to grave, catastrophic consequences. An attempt to cut the Gordian knot of long-standing problems is doomed to failure. We may recall in this regard that the US military invasion in Iraq was once considered to be a “golden chance” to change the political and economic realities of the “greater Middle East” in a quick and decisive manner, thus turning it into a region which would follow the “European pattern” of development.
Irrespective of the situation concerning Iran, however, it is evident that fuelling intra-Syrian strife may trigger processes that would affect the situation in the vast territory surrounding Syria in the most negative way, having a devastating impact on both regional and international security. Risk factors include loss of control over the Syrian-Israeli border, a worsening of the situation in Lebanon and other countries in the region, weapons falling into the “wrong hands,” including those of terrorist organizations, and, perhaps the most dangerous of all, an aggravation of inter-faith tensions and contradictions inside the Islamic world.
* * *
Back in the 1990s in his book “The Clash of Civilisations,” Samuel Huntington outlined the trend of the increasing importance of identity based on civilisation and religion in the age of globalization; he also convincingly demonstrated the relative reduction in the abilities of the historic West to spread its influence. It would definitely be an overstatement if we tried to build a model of the modern international relations solely on the basis of such assumptions. However, today it is impossible to ignore such a trend. It is caused by an array of different factors, including more transparent national borders, the information revolution which has highlighted blatant socio-economic inequality, and the growing desire of people to preserve their identity in such circumstances and to avoid falling into the endangered species list of history.
The Arab revolutions clearly show a willingness to go back to the roots of civilisation that reveals itself in broad public support for the parties and movements acting under the flag of Islam. This trend is apparent not only in the Arab world. Let us mention Turkey, which is more actively positioning itself as a major player in the Islamic space and the surrounding region. Asian states, including Japan, are more boldly declaring their identity.
Such a situation is further proof that the simple (if not simplistic) binary construction of the Cold War period, described in the paradigms of East-West, capitalism-socialism, North-South, is being replaced by a multidimensional geopolitical reality that does not allow for the identification of a single dominating factor. The global financial and economic crisis drew a line under discussions on whether one system can dominate in any area whatsoever, be it economy, politics or ideology.
There is no doubt left that within the broad framework that defines the development of most States and is characterized by democratic governance and a market economy, each country will independently choose its own political and economic model with due regard to its own traditions, culture and history. This is likely to result in a greater impact on international affairs of the factor of identity based on civilisation.
In terms of practical politics, these conclusions can only suggest one thing: attempts to impose one’s own set of values are totally futile and may only lead to a dangerous aggravation of tensions between civilisations. This certainly does not imply that we must completely renounce influencing each other and promoting the right image of our country in the international arena.
However, this should be done employing honest, transparent methods that will foster the export of national culture, education and science while showing full respect for the values of other peoples’ civilisations as a safeguard for the world’s diversity and esteem for pluralism in international affairs.
It seems evident that hopes to apply cutting edge information dissemination and communications technologies, including social networks, in order to change the mentality of other peoples, thus creating a new political reality, are bound to fail in the long run. The current market for ideas is far too manifold, and virtual methods would only bring about a virtual reality – provided, of course, that we do not resort to George Orwell’s Big Brother mentality, in which case we can give up on the whole idea of democracy, not only in countries that are subjected to such influence but also in those that are exercising it.
Developing a universal scale of values and morals becomes a big political issue. Such a scale could serve as the foundation for a respectful and fruitful dialogue between civilisations based on a common interest in reducing the instability which accompanies the creation of a new international system and aimed at eventually establishing a solid, efficient, polycentric world order. And here, we can only ensure success if we rule out black-and-white approaches, whether we tackle exaggerated concern for the rights of sexual minorities or, on the contrary, attempts to elevate to the political level narrow concepts of morale that would satisfy one group and violate the natural rights of other citizens, particularly of those who belong to other confessions.
* * *
There is a certain limit reached by crises in international relations that cannot be overstepped without causing damage to global stability. That is why work aimed at putting out regional fires, including intrastate conflicts, should be carried out as considerately as possible, with no double standards applied. Using a ‘sanctions bat’ leads to dead-end at all times. All parties involved in internal conflicts should be convinced that the international community will form a united front and act in accordance with strict principles in order to stop violence as soon as possible and to reach a mutually acceptable solution through comprehensive dialogue.
Russia is guided only by such principles with regard to intrastate crises, which explains our position on what is happening in Syria. That is why we have offered full and sincere support for the mission of the UN/Arab League Special Envoy Kofi Annan, aimed at finding a mutually acceptable compromise as soon as possible. UN Security Council Presidential Statements and UN Security Council Resolutions in this regard reflect the approaches that we have promoted from the very beginning of the unrest in Syria; these ideas are also reflected in our joint statement with the League of Arab States adopted on March 10, 2012.
If we were successful in making these approaches work in Syria, they could become a model for international assistance in resolving future crises.
The essence of Kofi Annan’s “six principles” is to ensure an end to violence regardless of where it comes from and to start a Syrian-led political dialogue which should address the legitimate concerns and aspirations of the Syrian people. It should result in a new political configuration in Syria that will take into account the interests of all groups in its multi-confessional society.
It is necessary to encourage the preparation and implementation of agreements aimed at settling the conflict without taking sides, to reward those who respect them and to clearly name those who oppose the peace process. To achieve this, an unbiased monitoring mechanism is needed, and such a mechanism was set up in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions 2042 and 2043. Russian military observers are part of the international monitoring team.
Unfortunately, the process of implementing Kofi Annan’s plan in Syria is proceeding with great difficulty. The world was appalled by massacres of unarmed civilians, including the tragedy that happened in the village of Houla on May 25, 2012 and the subsequent bloody violence in the vicinity of Hama. It is necessary to clarify who is responsible for this and to punish the perpetrators. No one has the right to usurp the role of judge and to use these tragic events to achieve their own geopolitical goals. Abandoning such attempts will make it possible to stop the spiral of violence in Syria.
Those who say that Russia “is saving” Bashar al-Assad are wrong. I would like to reiterate that it is the Syrian people themselves who choose the political system and leadership of their country. We are not trying to whitewash the multiple mistakes and miscalculations made by Damascus, including the use of force against peaceful demonstrations at the beginning of the crisis.
For us, the issue of who is in power in Syria is not the major one; it is important to put an end to civilian deaths and to start a political dialogue in a situation where the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the country will be respected by all external actors. No violence can be justified. The shelling of residential areas by government troops is unacceptable, but it cannot be viewed as an indulgence for terrorist acts in Syrian cities, for murders conducted by insurgents opposed to the regime, including those of Al-Qaida.
The logic that dictates the need to break the vicious circle of violence has manifested itself in the unilateral support that members of the UN Security Council have given to the Annan Plan. We are upset by the claims and actions of some actors involved in the Syrian situation that manifest their stake on the failure of the Special Envoy’s efforts. Among them, are the calls of the Syrian National Council (SNC) leadership for foreign intervention. It is unclear how such claims would help SNC sponsors to unite the Syrian opposition under its umbrella. We stand for the integration of the Syrian opposition only on the platform of preparedness for political dialogue with the government – in exact accordance with the Annan Plan.
Russia keeps working with the Syrian authorities almost every day urging them to fully comply with the six points proposed by Kofi Annan and to resolutely abandon their delusion that the internal political crisis in Syria will somehow go away. We also work with representatives of almost all branches of the Syrian opposition. We are sure that if all our partners work in the same concentrated manner without any hidden motives or double standards, there is a chance for a peaceful settlement of the situation in Syria. We need to bring all the weight to bear on both the regime and the opposition and make them cease fighting and meet at the negotiating table. We consider it important to urgently take collective effort to this end and to convene an international conference of the States directly involved in the crisis in Syria. With that goal in mind, we maintain close contacts with Kofi Annan and other partners.
Only by acting in this way we can keep the Middle East from sliding into the abyss of wars and anarchy and thus stay, as it has become fashionable to say, on the right side of history. We are sure that other formulas that involve external intervention in Syria – ranging from blocking TV channels that do not satisfy someone, to increasing arms supplies to opposition groups, to airstrikes – will not bring peace either to that country or to the region as a whole. And that means that those formulas will not be justified by history.
Sergei Lavrov – Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation since 2004
This this article was first published at Huffington Post

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Iran, Russia, China, Syria to Stage Biggest Joint Wargames in Middle-East

By Fars News Agency
June 19, 2012 — TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iranian, Russian, Chinese and Syrian armies are due to stage joint amphibious exercises along the Syrian costs in coming weeks, informed sources revealed on Monday. 
According to informed sources, 90,000 forces from the four countries will take part in the land and sea wargames due to be held in Syria.
Ground, air and sea forces as well as air defense and missile units of the four countries will take part in the exercises.
Sources also said that Egypt has acceded to grant passage to 12 Chinese warships to sail through the Suez Canal, adding that the military convoy is due to dock at the Syrian harbors in the next two weeks.
Russian atomic submarines and warships, aircraft carriers and mine-clearing destroyers as well as Iranian battleships and submarines will also arrive in Syria at around the same date.
Syria plans to test its coast-to-sea and air defense missiles in the wargames.
A sum of 400 warplanes and 1,000 tanks will also be used in the exercises.
A Syrian official, who asked to remain anonymous, had informed two weeks ago that the drills would be conducted in Syria soon.
Unofficial sources also said the four countries are now busy with taking swift preparatory measures for these biggest-ever wargames in the Middle-East.
Sham Life reported that the maneuvers will be stage in less than one month from now, that is early June.
©2006 Fars News Agency. All rights reserved
See also – Russia, Syria deny war games with China and Iran: Russia and Syria on Tuesday denied an Iranian media report that Syria would host Russian, Chinese and Iranian military forces for joint exercises.

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Russia Sending Air, Sea Defenses to Syria

By Andrew E. Kramer
June 16, 2012 “Pioneer Press” — MOSCOW — Russia’s chief arms exporter said Friday, June 15, that his company was shipping advanced defensive missile systems to Syria that could be used to shoot down airplanes or sink ships if the United States or other Western nations try to intervene to halt the country’s spiral of violence. 
“I would like to say these mechanisms are really a good means of defense, a reliable defense against attacks from the air or sea,” Anatoly Isaykin, the general director of company, Rosoboronexport, said Friday. “This is not a threat, but whoever is planning an attack should think about this.”
As the weapons systems are not considered cutting edge, Isaykin’s disclosures carried greater symbolic import than military significance. They contributed to a cold war chill that has been settling over relations between Washington and Moscow ahead a meeting between President Barack Obama and President Vladimir Putin, their first, on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit meeting in the Mexican resort of Los Cabos next week.
His remarks come just days after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton raised diplomatic pressure on Russia, Syria’s patron, by criticizing the Kremlin for sending attack helicopters to Damascus, and amid reports that Moscow was sending an amphibious landing vessel and a small company of marines to the Syrian port of Tartus, to provide security for military installations and infrastructure.
George Little, a Defense Department spokesman, declined to comment on Isaykin’s remarks.
Alexander Golts, an independent military analyst in Moscow, said the Russians’ discussion of weapons shipments “undoubtedly” serves as a warning to Western countries contemplating an intervention.
“Russia uses these statements as a form of deterrence in Syria,” he said. “They show other countries that they are more likely to suffer losses.”
Throughout the Syrian crisis, Russia has insisted that all its arms sales to the isolated government of Bashar Assad have been defensive in nature and were not being used in the Syrian leader’s vicious campaign to suppress the opposition.
Isaykin underlined the point, but in a way that could also be interpreted as a warning to the West against undertaking the military action of the sort that ousted Moammar Gadhafi from power in Libya, something that Putin viewed as a breach of sovereignty that he does not want repeated.
Yet, as news reports of government massacres emerge almost daily from Syria, the prospect of the United States or NATO acting unilaterally has become a more frequently discussed option, particularly given Russia’s adamant refusal to authorize more aggressive U.N. action.
Isaykin, a powerful figure in Russia’s military industry, openly discussed the weapons being shipped to Syria: the Pantsyr-S1, a radar-guided missile and artillery system capable of hitting warplanes at altitudes well above those typically flown during bombing sorties, and up to 12 miles away; Buk-M2 anti-aircraft missiles, capable of striking airplanes at even higher altitudes, up to 82,000 feet, and at longer ranges; and land-based Bastion anti-ship missiles that can fire at targets 180 miles from the coast.
Military analysts immediately questioned the effectiveness of the air defenses Russia has made available to the Middle East, including Syria, none of which have offered even token resistance to Western forces.
Ruslan Aliyev, an authority on military affairs at the Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies in Moscow, said that statements by Isaykin and others were issued principally for political effect. Moscow has declined to supply Syria with its most lethal air defense, the S-300 long-range missile system.
See also – US believes Russia has ship with weapons, troops en route to Syria: The United States says it is tracking a Russian military cargo ship as it makes its way to Syria carrying weapons, ammunition and a small number of Russian troops. + More

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Russia Accuses U.S. of Supplying Arms to Syria Rebels to Fight Assad

By Al Arabiya 

June 13, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday accused the United States of supplying weapons to Syria’s rebels, worsening the conflict engulfing Moscow’s allied regime in Damascus.

“They (the United States) are providing arms and weapons to the Syrian opposition that can be used in fighting against the Damascus government,” he said, speaking through an interpreter in response to a question about arms sales to Syria at a news conference in Tehran shown on Iranian state television.
But it was revealed that Russia is supplying “anti-air defense systems” to Damascus in a deal that “in no way violates international laws,” Lavrov told a news conference during a brief visit to Iran.
“We are not violating any international law in performing these contracts … [it] contrasts with what the United States is doing … which is providing arms to the Syrian opposition,” he said.
Meanwhile, France will propose making United Nations envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan for Syria obligatory by invoking the U.N.’s “Chapter 7” provision, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Wednesday, describing the conflict there as a “civil war.”
Fabius said he hoped Russia would agree to using Chapter 7, a measures which can authorize the use of force, and he said that a no-fly zone was another option under discussion.
“We propose making the implementation of the Annan plan compulsory,” he told a news conference. “We need to pass to the next speed at the Security Council and place the Annan plan under Chapter 7 – that is to say make it compulsory under pain of very heavy sanctions.”
France would propose toughening sanctions on Syria at the next meeting of EU foreign ministers, he said.
He said the international community would prepare a list of second-ranking military officials who would be pursued by international justice, alongside President Bashar al-Assad and his immediate entourage.
“They must understand that the only future is in resisting oppression. The time for taking a decision has arrived. They have to jump ship,” Fabius said.
Al Arabiya News

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Russia prepares army for Syrian deployment

By Clara Weiss 
June 12, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — Given the worsening crisis in Syria, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper reported that the Russian army is apparently being prepared for a mission in Syria. Citing anonymous sources in the military leadership, the newspaper said that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the general staff to work out a plan for military operations outside Russia, including in Syria.
The units being prepared for an intervention are the 76th Division of airborne forces (an especially experienced unit of the Russian army), the 15th Army Division, as well as special forces from a brigade of the Black Sea fleet, which has a base in the Syrian port of Tartus.
The details of the operational plan are being prepared by the working parties of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, to which most of the post-Soviet states belong, as well as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, to which China and Russia belong.
According to the newspaper report, deployment depends on the decision of the Russian government and the UN. However, the plans also foresee that the troops might intervene without UN approval. The Russian government has so far not confirmed the report.
On Monday last week, three Russian warships were sighted off the Syrian coast. An anonymous source from the Russian government told the Iranian newspaper Tehran Times that Moscow wants to show NATO that it will not allow any military operation against Damascus under the guise of a humanitarian mission.
Earlier, the secretary-general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, Nikolai Bordjusha, had held out the possibility of using “peacekeepers” in Syria. “The task in Syria is likely to be to impose peace—primarily against the insurgents, who use weapons to solve political problems.”
Russia and China strongly oppose a military intervention by NATO in Syria, and have already blocked two UN resolutions on the issue. The US and its allies, especially Turkey, Saudi Arabia and France, have stoked up a civil war in Syria and are systematically arming the so-called rebels, who consist mainly of Islamists, ex-members of the government, or Al Qaeda terrorists. Turkey is increasingly in the leadership of the US proxy war in Syria.
In recent weeks calls for a military intervention in Syria have increased. After the massacre in Houla, French President Francois Hollande spoke out in favour of military intervention. The West blamed the government of Bashar al-Assad for this massacre without any clear evidence. The German elite is also openly discussing a possible military intervention; Berlin has tried unsuccessfully to push Russia to make concessions on the issue.
Russia has not excluded a “political solution”, i.e., the slow transition from the Assad regime to another government. At all costs, however, the Kremlin wants to avoid the violent overthrow of Assad by the West for several reasons, whether it is through direct military intervention by NATO or is brought about by the rebels armed by the West. Two weeks ago, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned that a military intervention in Syria could quickly escalate and lead to the use of nuclear weapons.
Since Soviet times, Moscow and Syria have maintained close ties, especially in military and economic matters. More importantly, however, a war against Syria means a ramping up of US aggression in the Middle East. The US has already significantly extended its influence in the region through the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. They also have military bases in almost every country in the area: Pakistan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Turkmenistan, as well as some in other smaller states. Meanwhile, Syria and Iran, which are virtually surrounded by US military bases, have become the last bastions of Russia and China in the Middle East against the encroachment of the United States.
A regime change in Damascus would probably bring a Sunni government to power, which would work closely with Saudi Arabia and the United States against Russia and China. Moreover, an escalation of the civil war in Syria—which is already well underway—and a military intervention would set the entire Middle East ablaze. A NATO-led war against Syria would be an immediate prelude to a war against Iran. An attack on Iran would mean another step toward a military escalation of tensions between Washington and Beijing.
While China obtains a significant portion of its raw material imports from Iran, Tehran is Russia’s most important ally in the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea to counter the influence of the US and Israel. Both Moscow and Tehran oppose the construction of a trans-Caspian pipeline by the West. They also reject the massive military rearmament of Azerbaijan, which is promoted by the United States, Israel and Turkey. The Caspian region is of key geopolitical importance because it links resource-rich Central Asia with Europe, and because it also has extensive oil and gas reserves.
The growing threat of war in the Middle East—and the fact that the European countries, including Germany and France, are siding with the United States—is increasingly driving Russia into a military alliance with China.
It is significant that Vladimir Putin’s first foreign visit since taking office was to Belarus, and that he then only spent a few hours in Berlin and Paris before going on to Central Asia. The highlight of his visit abroad was in China, where he met with the Chinese president, and then took part at the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on June 6 and 7. In addition to Russia and China, the Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan also belong to this organization; Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have “observer” status.
As was the case at the previous meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, discussion at the SCO summit centred on military and economic cooperation. The summit adopted a declaration on the “establishment of a region of lasting peace and common prosperity”. Military intervention against Syria or Iran was explicitly rejected.
The declaration also condemns the establishment of the NATO missile defence system in Europe, which is directed primarily against Russia and has led to severe tensions between Washington and both Europe and Moscow. In future, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is planning to cooperate militarily more closely on issues of “regional security”.
During his two-day visit to Beijing, Putin had previously agreed with Chinese President Hu Jintao to jointly strengthen “security in the Asia-Pacific region”. Both countries intend to hold frequent joint military exercises in the Pacific, after holding joint naval exercises in the Yellow Sea in the spring. The United States is increasingly focussing its military build-up in the Asian Pacific region in preparation for a military confrontation with China.
This this article was first published at World Socialist Web Site

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The D-Word and Russia’s foreign policy

The D-Word and Russia's foreign policy. 47307.jpeg 
The external policy followed by Russia is based upon dialogue, debate and discussion, while in contrast that which is apparently the mainstay of western policy is puerile, partisan and petulant, behaviour more befitting of a grade school playground than the international arena. The D-word, one which is not in their vocabulary, is Diplomacy.
When people are in a position of power to make decisions, with this position comes responsibility yet the foreign policy pursued by the west is ever-more irresponsible and dangerous, pandering to the whims of the business community which gravitates around the corridors where decisions are made.
This is not diplomacy, it is skulduggery, involving a cynical manipulation of people and events, resulting in murderous policies of intrusion into the internal affairs of sovereign States, wars based upon fabrications of the truth or barefaced lies and recently, humanitarian terrorism.
The approach is as sinister as it is ingenious. First the target is identified by the business lobby which controls policy and in whose pocket the policy-maker resides (close to NATO, and the nearer one gets to the epicentre of the FUKUS Axis – France-UK-US – the closer). The target will be a strategically important powerful nation with porous borders, a powerless nation with resources and certainly, one that has been convinced to destroy its WMD. A coward does not attack those who have the capacity to fight back.
Secondly, an internal figure with a potential support base is identified inside the target state, even if he or she is a murderer with a proven record. This figure is corrupted over time, in numerous meetings with FUKUS Axis figures/agencies, has access to joint bank accounts with French, British or American political figures or entities from the security services and is manoeuvred into place.
Thirdly, a colour is chosen for the country where the humanitarian terrorist strike is to take place: orange, violet, green, white while at the same time the “Opposition” is shaped, be this a mob paid to shout slogans in the streets while photographic images in the media are manipulated, or else as we saw/see in Libya and Syria, marauding gangs of murderers, terrorists, rapists, racists, arsonists, thieves, looters…
And finally, the colour revolution is launched. UN Resolutions are stretched to breaking point or simply breached, lies are told to the fellow members of the world community in an “act now, we’ll fill you in on the details later” policy after a false flag attack is made in a mail-order massacre. This is humanitarian terrorism, creating a casus belli where none existed. It matters not who the victims are. The more children, the better because of the effect on public opinion and images of screaming kids in hospitals provide a carte blanche for the worst type of atrocities preceding or to follow.
This is not diplomacy – it is following self-interests and turning vested interests into assets and that is anti-diplomatic, it is criminal and it is fundamentally wrong. On the other hand, we have, thankfully, a counterweight provided more and more by the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China, with at least the moral support of the BRICs even if the carrot and stick continue to hold too much sway over Brasilia and New Delhi.
This counterweight respects the norms and customs of Diplomacy, following the principles established under the agreements signed, following an approach based upon debate, dialogue and discussion, inviting all the players to the same round table to find a global solution involving all the parties. What a contrast it is to the petulant, puerile and partisan approach favoured by the FUKUS Axis in particular and by the West in general, adopting a position of exclusion of parts, more befitting a grade school playground than the international stage.
The problem is that to get into the corridors of power in western countries, you have to play the game and that game means you do not speak to HAMAS, you do not speak to Iran and you do not speak to those you have isolated through interference and who your Foreign Affairs Ministers have claimed “have to go”.
Ladies and gentlemen, this approach is dangerous and it has all the hallmarks of following an inexorable path towards war. Nobody wants that, now, do they? And is it not by now crystal clear who is right and who is in the wrong?
Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

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Why Putin is being so helpful to the US

By Brian M Downing 

The United States is now sending almost all its supplies for the Afghan war through Russia or countries obedient to Moscow. Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan would not allow US convoys had Russian President Vladimir Putin not sanctioned it. This route has taken away the leverage that Pakistani generals had over the US by virtue of the importance of the southern convoy routes. 
In world affairs, one power only rarely helps another without incurring a debt, financial or otherwise. Even during World War II, the US leaned on Britain to open its empire to US commerce. Today, Putin has been exceptionally helpful to the US, despite having to endure disappointments and annoyances over the missile shield, Libya, and Syria. 
He even faced an uninformed and worrisome statement from presidential contender Mitt Romney about Russia being the US’s chief foe in the world. 
The Russian president might obligingly inform his potential counterpart – in the interest of greater international understanding, of course – that if he were a foe, or treated as one in the future, he could maroon an American-European expeditionary force in the foreboding mountains and deserts of Central Asia. 
Accommodating foreign powers and forbearance on the world stage have not been hallmarks of Russian or Soviet foreign policy over the years. 
Nor are they readily discernible in the outlooks of former KGB officers. So why is Putin being so helpful to the US? The answer lies in common interests in Afghanistan, but perhaps more importantly in common concerns over the emerging geopolitics of Central Asia. 
Russia and the US share an interest in countering Islamist militancy in Afghanistan and elsewhere. In recent years Russia has faced such militants in the Caucasus (Chechnya, Dagestan, and Ossetia) and does not wish to see their likes regain control of Afghanistan from which militancy might readily spread into Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Russia sees these former Soviet republics as in its sphere and it has worried of pan-Islamic movements there since the days of the communists – if not those of the tsars. 
The importance of US supply lines into Afghanistan, in the eyes of the Kremlin, is not limited to the war and a show of cooperation. Putin is an avid student of state power and economics and knows that during the American Civil War (1861-65), the army built up the rail and telegraphic infrastructure which contributed mightily to the nation’s subsequent economic boom; during World War II, the US built ports and air bases around the world that later expanded global commerce; and the port facilities and logistical hubs of the Vietnam war have proved useful to the Hanoi government long after the US departed in 1975. 
Putin is also knowledgeable in judo, a martial art in which the expert uses his opponents’ strengths to his advantage. In the Central Asian case, however, both partners will benefit though not equally. As the limitations of the roads, depots, and rail lines running from the Black Sea and Baltic Sea into Central Asia become clear to NATO logistics experts, it will be necessary to improve, expand and modernize them. 
The US will build an infrastructure system that Russia and other countries in the region will benefit from for many decades. Corporations that today see Afghanistan as tempting but inaccessible will look again at those promising geological surveys that found great riches. 
The US will be bringing in war material and development supplies; the enterprises of various countries will be taking out Afghan copper, iron, and rare earths. Extraction will be confined for the near term to the north where the insurgency is weak but with a settlement someday, southern resources too can head north, especially if Pakistan becomes more unstable and Iran remains under international sanctions. 
Russia sees this economic potential as stabilizing the region, enriching its coffers and influence, and limiting or balancing the already considerable Chinese presence in Central Asia. China is ascendant, Russia is not. China has been booming and its leadership and people look about them with a sense of limitlessness. Russia is comparatively stagnant and demoralized. Both powers know that they have vied over many centuries for power in Central Asia and that Russia usually won out, appropriating large swathes of the region. 
From Moscow’s perspective, China’s economic expansion into Central Asia may be the basis for greater influence – perhaps a neo-colonial arrangement that from Beijing’s perspective rights the wrongs of centuries past and helps restore its place as the center of the world. 
Russia’s goal is not to forge an anti-Chinese alliance with the US. Neither power wants that just now. The goal is to provide the basis for non-Chinese-centered development of the region and to strengthen a triangular power relationship among Russia, China, and the US – one with potential for each power’s shifting over from side to side as circumstances warrant. Undoubtedly, circumstances will change. 
The US, however, will be the weakest power in the Central Asian triangle. Geography guarantees that. Crucially, Russia can limit US influence in the region through its influence in several of the former Soviet republics, where old communist personnel and political arrangements have persisted. And of course should the US weary of the region or be expelled by Russia, the roads, depots, and other infrastructure it built over the years cannot very well be taken out. 
Brian M Downing is a political/military analyst and author of The Military Revolution and Political Change and The Paths of Glory: War and Social Change in America from the Great War to Vietnam. He can be reached at brianmdowning@gmail.com. 
(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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Putin won’t let Arab Spring in

Putin won't let Arab Spring in. 47303.jpeg 
Vladimir Putin has started implementing his plan to establish the Euroasian Union. His visit to China and the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) that took place on June 4 – 7 were very important. The countries also agreed on action to ensure regional security with regards to the new “defensive” strategy of U.S. and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan.
China that has 4.5 thousand kilometers long land border which Russia, last year became Russia’s chief trading partner, surpassing the volume of turnover with Germany (85 billion). The priorities of the Russian government aimed at economic development of Siberia and the Far East, and in this process, it is logical to expect investments of an economically powerful China. In addition, Russia is looking for ways to diversify their supplies of raw materials to the east, especially when the demand for them of the main consumers in Europe falls.
Now let us look at China’s position. Russia is only on the tenth place among its trading partners and minimum as the energy supplier. China, until recently, despite the bravura statement of its leadership on a strategic partnership de facto distanced itself from Russia. China voted in the UN Security Council on Syria (and not only) in a similar way to Russia, but not for allied reasons. Beijing seeks to prevent a dangerous precedent that could potentially be repeated in its troubled western territories – in Tibet and Xinjiang, and it is not interested in the problems of Russia in the Middle East. Beijing has always stressed its extreme displeasure with the fact that Russia is selling arms to Vietnam and India. Until recently, the Chinese government stuck to its favorite shadow position, filling up the Russian market (as well as others) with cheap consumer goods.
However, the situation has changed dramatically after the publication of President Barack Obama’s new U.S. defense strategy in which the Asia-Pacific region was declared a “major area of ​​focus of national interest.” Last week, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has announced that 60 percent of the U.S. Navy will be focused in the region. When in mid-April China was on the brink of war in a conflict with the Philippines around the island Huanyan, the Chinese government appealed to Russia for help.
Assistance was provided in the form of joint naval exercises in the Yellow Sea, held in parallel with the opposition of the U.S. Navy and the Philippines in the East China Sea. At a meeting with President Hu Jintao, Putin said that such support will continue. If we consider that in addition to Russia Beijing has territorial claims to all the neighbors, many of which have mutual defense treaties with the U.S., a deterrent factor in the form of Russian assistance could be crucial.
“Both countries are undergoing a critical stage of development, they face problems against a background of increasing uncertainty in the world. And we need to support each other in regional and world affairs, providing for a peaceful global processes,” said President Hu. Vladimir Putin, for whom this is the eighth in 12 years visit to China, said that China is not only a “good friend” of Russia, but “a good partner at the global level” – the newspaper China Daily quoted both politicians. If Putin can implement a plan for the integration of the Eurasian space, the global balance in the world will change dramatically. Joint projects – BRICS and the SCO are working towards the same goal.
The summit of the SCO (Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan), was held after the bilateral meeting. It is significant that for the first time Afghanistan that was granted an observer status was invited as a guest. The countries are preparing for withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan in 2013 and it is clear that they will have to solve the issues associated with threats from “Taliban” and drug-related crime together.
“All of the SCO countries note the importance of combating the drug menace. The success in this direction can be achieved by creating a SCO-stop center to combat terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime. The SCO already has an organization for anti-terrorism, it is possible to make this a universal organization,” said Putin. The parties signed an important document at the meeting – “The mechanisms of response to situations that threaten stability in the region.” Russian TV channel “Vesti” reported that the leaders agreed on the ways to act in a case of a hypothetical threat of “Arab spring” in Central Asia. It was suggested to accept Iran as the SCO permanent member after the change of statutory provisions that preclude membership of countries that are subject to UN sanctions.
At the bilateral level, China and Russia signed over a dozen of major commercial contracts, including the creation of billions of dollars of investment funds. The goal is to increase bilateral trade to 100 billion dollars by 2015. Among the projects that Putin has described as “important” is construction of two nuclear power plants in China.
Of course, there are differences between the two strongest players in the world. Moscow is unhappy with the desire of the Chinese to copy Russian military equipment. Beijing is not satisfied with the investment climate in Russia, and it is not alone in this regard. There are disputes about the price of gas that Russia wants to sell to China. Gazprom links the gas price to oil prices as it does in Europe, while China insists on lower prices – same as what it pays its Central Asian suppliers. However, a compromise will be found, because it is a long-term project. If the “Gazprom” and the China National Petroleum Corp. agree, the supplies will start in 2015 after completion of construction of “Altai” pipeline.
Some differences are invented in the West, and stubbornly regurgitated by some Russian media. This applies above all to the myth that all of Primorye was sold to the Chinese and that the Far East has more Chinese than Russians residents. Indeed, Chinese businesses invest in the Far East, lease the building (instead of buying them), but why are the Chinese businesses unlike any other? The Chinese are working in the Maritime region, but they have a quota, and there are fewer of them than migrants from the CIS countries. In addition, in Primorye many residents in the age of 20 have never been in distant Moscow, but visited the neighboring China three or four times. The Russian diaspora in China over the past 15 years has grown 12-fold, and most of this growth was provided by residents of Primorye. This is a natural and mutually beneficial process.
Lyuba Lulko

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Post-Soviet states help NATO crawl closer to Russia


 

Post-Soviet states help NATO crawl closer to Russia. 47302.jpeg
NATO agreed with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan on the use of land routes passing through their territory for the export of machinery and military equipment from Afghanistan. In the second half of 2012, tens of thousands of military combat equipment will march through the territory of the former Soviet Central Asia, and … go to Russia?
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen reported on the agreements reached. The current number of the international coalition in Afghanistan is 130 thousand people. It is clear that they will withdraw in stages, but the movement of even a couple of thousands of trained and armed foreign troops on the territory of a country should cause a normal government a great deal of concerns.
There will be no complete withdrawal from Afghanistan. A few days ago, Russian President Envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov said that Moscow did not see anything dangerous in the strategic agreement between Washington and Kabul on the presence of the U.S. forces on Afghan territory after 2014.
It is important to note an explicit order for the relocation via the Central Asian land routes. Last November, Pakistan, the eternal ally of Britain and the United States in the region, has demanded to stop the transit through its territory. The reason was an “erroneous” U.S. airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani border guards.
At the same time there are options of airlifting the troops using an air bridge between the former Soviet airbase at Bagram with a Turkish NATO base Indzherlik. The airports of the American satellites in the Middle East – Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, are also located in the area. However, the timely “blockade” of the transit by Pakistan has closed the logistics in that direction.
Thus, NATO is now able to travel with its armed formations on the territory of Central Asia – a region immediately adjacent to the Caspian Sea. Naturally, this will cause anxiety of Iran, which will be surrounded by American troops from all sides, and is unlikely to cause optimism in China.
Although in December of 2011 the CSTO leaders have agreed not to deploy military bases of third-countries on their territory, clever wordings help to ignore the fact of the presence of foreign armed forces on its territory.
Sequential steps by Washington will be strengthening of its positions in the Central Asian region. Naturally, the states rely not only on the “transit”, but also bonuses, including those in the form of weapons and special forces.
“All Central Asian countries are preparing for 2014. And everyone wants to use this opportunity, mainly for additional financial assistance from NATO countries,” leader of the Islamic Renaissance Party Kabiri told “NG”.
In particular, Tajikistan would like to receive military equipment for the border and technology for military operations in the mountains. Kyrgyzstan is hoping for drones. In addition, the Central Asian countries will have drugs export accompanied by Islamic extremism on its territory.
This type of activity is the brand name and dynastic “profession” for the Afghan Mujahideen, and chaos in Central Asia will allow NATO to settle there permanently. Mysterious events in the dead Kazakh frontier are the grim backdrop of the reached transit agreements.
Under the refrain of the fight against drugs, the U.S., during whose operations in Afghanistan the export of heavy drugs in the country has increased 44 times, is building a loyal force apparatus in Central Asia, said Georgy Borodin, an expert of the Institute for Foreign Policy Studies and Initiatives.
One of the mechanisms of this process is the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre for Combating Drugs (CARICC).
Today it has seven members: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Russia. The Center creation was funded by NATO member countries: USA, UK, Italy, Turkey, France, Czech Republic, as well as Finland and Luxembourg. These same states plus Afghanistan and Pakistan have observer status at CARICC, while China and Iran are not on the lists.
“Countries with observer status use the access to the entire volume of information collected and analyzed by the Centre,” said the expert. U.S. actions in Central Asia largely repeat their policy in Central and South America: it concerns the integration process, the “fight against drugs,” and the counterinsurgency war.
Meanwhile, as it became known in March, Moscow is in talks with NATO on the establishment of a commercial Transit Alliance in Ulyanovsk. The willingness of Central Asian states, including Kazakhstan that is a member of the Customs Union, to provide its infrastructure for the needs of NATO in this context it is not surprising.
According to Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, in the case of the Ulyanovsk base, we are talking about a “multimodal transit of non-lethal cargo for the purposes of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.” He said that the goods will be reloaded from trains to planes and continue their way to Afghanistan. “The annual turnover of the carriers is estimated at one billion dollars.
“Volga-Dnepr” company will be used to solve logistical problems. However, it would be too narrow of an approach to limit the essence of this company only to commerce. The main question now is whether or not this base will be involved in the movement of NATO troops and weapons.
Anatoly Miranovsky

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Russia needs missile defense system in Latin American states

A meeting on the deployment of U.S. missile defense system in Europe organized by Russia has ended in failure. NATO officials watched the videos about their defense knocking out Russian missiles, the Defense Ministry once again explained that the European missile defense is a threat to Russia, and promised to attack preemptively should the need arise. Is it time we move from a dull hopeless defense to offense?
The meeting held in early May in Moscow was doomed to failure because of the reluctance of NATO to cancel their plans of deploying mobile missile defense system in Europe. At the summit to be held in Chicago on May 21-24, NATO will announce that the first of four planned stages has reached its operational capability. This means the involvement of naval combat information and multi-function control system Aegis in the Mediterranean Sea. The system is equipped with a radar range of 400 kilometers and interceptor missiles SM-3 (Block 1). This system will interact with the early-warning radar system in Turkey.
At the second stage, according to Assistant U.S. Secretary of Defense Madeleine Kridon, Washington will set the interceptor missiles in Romania (Block IIA), at the third – in Poland (Block IIB) while building the Aegis group in the Mediterranean and northern seas. These missiles are estimated to not be able to reach Russia, the zone of destruction is 250 kilometers, and their purpose, indeed, is the compensation of threats from Iran.
But at the fourth stage after 2018, as expected, the system will be modified (SM-3 Block IIB), and the zone of destruction would include intercontinental missiles “Topol” and heavy missiles deployed between Moscow and the Urals. It is these rockets of new generation that will bring down Russian “Topol” in the case of a retaliatory nuclear strike against the United States. Therefore, the Chief of General Staff Nikolai Makarov in the presence of representatives of 50 countries threatened that “in the event of a crisis Russia would deal preemptive strikes against targets in Poland and other Eastern European countries.” This is an excellent statement, but too hypothetical, since there is no crisis or missiles yet.
Both sides are waiting for new approaches. Thus, a political analyst Sergei Markov told The Christian Science Monitor: “We believe that the U.S. could implement its plan, but it will lead to a new arms race, so they must return to the table with fresh approaches.” What are these approaches for Russia? This would be the acceptance of proposals for a joint participation in the U.S. missile defense system and the admission of the Russian command to the “trigger” or separation of the tracking zones, which would prevent the United States or NATO from scanning the territory of Russia. But these approaches are unacceptable and will never be allowed by the Americans because Russia is not their ally, and it cannot be given a veto power. Indeed, missiles fired from Iran or Korea would probably cross the Russian territory, but they cannot rely on the Russians in this case.
The second Russian request for a legally binding treaty on the European missile defense not directed against Russia is also unrealistic. How would the Americans agree to this if they really are afraid of the restoration of the “evil empire”? Iran’s horror story and al-Qaeda have been “arranged” by them after the collapse of the Soviet Union to justify the existence of a giant military-industrial complex of the U.S., ensuring their strategic interests in the world, and above all – the access to oil and gas. But Russia is still perceived as the enemy number one – this was recently stated by a Republican Mitt Romney.
What are the new approaches of the Americans? They are not more realistic. Richard Weitz, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, places high hopes on the return of Putin to presidency. According to him, in 2001 (after September 11) he made a “realistic choice” and “supported” the proposal of President Bush to waive the provisions of the ABM Treaty of 1972 to avoid the destruction of perceived new partnerships in Russia and the United States in combating international terrorism. Putin, who suspended the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe of 1990, is very different today. The hope for a return of the “realistic” Putin is as utopian as a joint missile defense system.
Incidentally, this issue was discussed a decade ago. “Creation of a strategically significant missile defense system with NATO is utopian. To prevent the missile strike on the territory of Russia, we, whether we like it or not, in the future will have to create while simplistic, but a duplicate of our own national missile defense system,” Andrei Shmygin wrote in his article American defense: attack on Russia. Judging by the agitation in the Russian military circles, these days it is economically realistic, but then, in 2001, the Americans, offering a joint missile defense system, were not completely honest, knowing that a weak Russia did not have the money for it.
Of course, the U.S. will deploy a defense system in Europe without any guarantees for Russia. In this sense, the statement by the Chief of General Staff Makarov that Moscow “did not trust Washington on missile defense” is naive. When can the United States generally be trusted in the matters of military confrontation? But the Americans have their own issues. According to U.S. analysts, even the first unit has functional problems, particularly in the identification and tracking of warheads. Second, the NATO is no longer an alliance. There were problems in Afghanistan, Libya, and they exist on the issue of European defense both politically, and financially.
The situation is also unfavorable for the United States. The public debt and unemployment are on the rise, the Republican Congress often does not support the Democratic president. Many innovations at the fourth stage are frozen, for example, the program that would create a space interceptors and Airborne Laser. Therefore, the embodiment of plans for the implementation of a dangerous step for Russia is delayed for ten years.
Then, if we run the hypothetical situation, why the Russian side does not adopt a new one? Having read the American press that considers the “trump card” of the Russian Defense Ministry – a film about choking of the Russian nuclear attack on the U.S. – as a manifestation of fear, one realizes the urgency of the need to change the strategy.
This brings to mind a demarche of Khrushchev, who, in response to the deployment of U.S. missiles in Turkey, secretly ferried Soviet missiles in Cuba. Of course, the world has experienced unpleasant moments, but the Americans have to respect Russia as a full partner. Today, the world will not be on the brink of a war if Russia develops a plan for a missile defense of its allies in Latin America, for example, from the consequences of a possible conflict between Britain and Argentina. Who are Russia’s allies if not Chavez and Ortega, who, without hesitation, acknowledged the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia? Now is the opportune moment to seek an ally in Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. The idea is not as absurd as it may seem at first.
Find another option, but change the tactics of negotiations with the defense on the offensive and start creating Russian defense near the borders of the United States, especially since we are talking about ship systems. In addition, the U.S. spends three times more to protect its advanced bases and allies than their own territory. This is stated, for example, by Baker Spring in The Cutting Edge. The Americans must be forced to pay attention to their borders.
In this sense, articulated responses to the placement of the latest Russian air-defense (radar, “Iskander,” ships in the waters of the Baltic Sea and Mediterranean Sea) are a good and appropriate response, but temporary and presenting no threat to NATO. “Space” project of Rogozin is also unrealistic and prohibitive.
Lyuba Lulko
Pravda.Ru 

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‘No biting the bear’s sensitive parts’

By John Helmer 

MOSCOW – In the Kremlin corridors under the new management, it is generally acknowledged that one of the stupidest things former president (now premier) Dmitry Medvedev ever did was to order Russia’s representative on the United Nations Security Council to abstain from the vote and veto of the no-fly zone resolution aimed at the Muammar Gaddafi regime in Libya. 

That was on March 17, 2010. Russian intelligence services already knew that United States and British submarines were in place under the surface of the Mediterranean, ready to fire missiles to start a war that was intended to end in Gaddafi’s death. It did. 


A year later in 2011, when the campaign for Russia’s parliamentary elections and the presidential succession was underway, that abstention almost ended in the death of Medvedev’s chances to stay under now President Vladimir Putin’s protection. 


He didn’t get the nod for a second term as president, but as prime minister he has survived in more lively shape than Gaddafi. 


However, Russian officials are now unanimous that the ill-fated effort by a Russian leader to allow a war of military intervention and regime change by the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance, funded by Arab sheikhdoms, should never be repeated. 


No matter what Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad does, Russian policy is not so much to protect him, his family, the Alawite community, or his army, as to prevent rival European and Arab powers, plus Turkey, from overthrowing the Syrian regime under camouflage of a humanitarian crusade. 


Accordingly, Russian sand-bagging is protecting the maritime traffic moving civil and military cargoes into Syrian ports. But at the Ministry of Transport in Moscow, as well as among sources in the Black and Azov Sea ports loading vessels bound for Syria, there is reluctance to discuss the shipping movements, as well as refusal publicly to acknowledge efforts by the Turks and the Syrian opposition to intercept the Russian cargoes at sea. 


The case of the light cargo carrier Atlantic Cruiser indicates how closely the Turks are working with Western intelligence agencies to harass Syria-bound ship movements. 


The German-owned, Antigua-flagged vessel was reported as having been intercepted on April 18 by Turkish navy vessels off the port of Iskenderun (in Turkey), possibly in Cypriot, Syrian or international waters. 


It was then escorted into Iskenderun, where the cargo hatches were opened and inspected. The publicity that followed claimed Syrian opposition groups had detected Iranian arms being loaded aboard the Atlantic Cruiser in Djibouti. 


This remarkable piece of detection was not substantiated by the Turkish inspectors. Instead, according to Saudi and Turkish press reports, they found general cargo, including explosives consigned to Turkish coal-mining companies, and Indian-made parts for a Syrian electricity plant. 


To Yevgeny Satanovsky, president of the academic Institute of the Middle East in Moscow, the Kremlin strategy is not knee-jerk reaction:


Russian policy in the Middle East is not always reacting to that of the US, while Syria does not necessarily face an American threat. Turkey and Saudi Arabia are more likely to intervene. However, despite all the difficulty of Bashar Assad’s relationship with the people of Syria, everyone should just leave it as it is, for the safety of the whole region. Israel is really skeptical of Assad, but it doesn’t want to destabilize the situation by toppling his government, as it realizes the possible outcome. Nobody wants another Al-Qaeda-like outrage. Russia should not perform any military activities there, unlike the USSR, which wasted dozens of billions of dollars and still had to withdraw. It’s good that today’s Russia, run by businessmen, is clear of ideology, and it is pragmatic about its expenditures.

The latest Russian customs data on Moscow’s trade with Damascus indicate that the biggest Russian exports are diesel, gas oil and other petroleum products, followed by grain. Most of these cargoes are loaded at Novorossiysk or Tuapse ports on the Black Sea. A source at Tuapse told Fairplay, “If there are any restrictions, they are not in the port.” 


United States and European Union sanctions now prevent Syria from buying fuel from many of the neighboring states for domestic heating and for operating motorized military equipment. That still leaves Russia, Iraq and Iran to supply Syria with what it needs. 


Western media claim that Russia is doing no more than protecting commercial interests in Syria are missing the point. Trade turnover between the two countries is small, and was dwindling before the recent troubles began over a year ago. 


In 2008, Russia’s two-way turnover amounted to US$1.94 billion; in 2009, $1.14 billion; in 2010, $1.12 billion. In order of magnitude, exporters to Syria start with Saudi Arabia, with 12% of the market; China with 9%; Russia with 7.5%; and Italy, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates with around 5% each. But these numbers don’t include the arms and defense trade. 


During the Soviet period, Syria ran up a debt to Moscow for arms of more than $13 billion. In 2005, $10 billion of that was written off on condition Damascus kept buying new arms from Moscow. The current arms order book is generally reported as worth about $3.5 billion. With enemies of long standing on each one of Syria’s land borders, it is perfectly obvious that Syria must now depend on the sea for its lifeline. It is obvious too that the Kremlin intends to remind everyone that it should stay open. 


Promised deliveries from Russia include the Bastion coastal missile system equipped with the Yakhont supersonic cruise missile for attacking ships as large as aircraft carriers. The range of the Yakhont is 300 kilometers. 


According to a presentation a year ago by Igor Korotchenko, editor of National Defense magazine in Moscow, one of the operational purposes of the Bastion system is to protect the Russian navy squadron at Tartus (in Syria), the base itself, and the coastline 300 kilometers to north and south – that’s the entire Syrian waterfront. 


Russia’s naval commander Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky said in August of 2010 that by this year the Tartus naval base would be able to accommodate cruisers and aircraft carriers for as long as the Kremlin wanted to deploy them there. According to Korotchenko, “To speak plainly, modern shipborne air defenses cannot intercept such missiles.” 


The Russian Association of Shipowners declines to comment on what they know of interference by the Turks or others with Russian cargoes bound for Syria. Novorossiysk Commercial Seaport Company also prefers to stay mum. 


Georgy Polyakov, spokesman for the Russian-Syrian Business Council, told Asia Times Online, “Taking into account the current situation in Syria, more detailed information on the bilateral Russian-Syrian relations should be given by the Ministry of Economic Development of Russia, as the responsible agency.” The ministry refuses to respond to questions. 


Satanovsky, the leading academic expert on Syria in Moscow, calls the situation in the country senseless. “Russian-Syrian relations are the prerogative of the Russian leadership. Any pressure [on them] is perceived as interference in internal affairs. Russia is resisting very hard. All this is at the level of conversations and press reports, to which the Russian side pays no attention. But that’s like the bear who pays no attention to the hamster trying to attack him, unless he bites the bear’s sensitive parts. Remember what happened to [Georgian president Mikheil] Saakashvili.” 


John Helmer has been a Moscow-based correspondent since 1989, specializing in the coverage of Russian business. 


(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)



Stop the Pointless Demonization of Putin

By Stephen F. Cohen
American media coverage of Vladimir Putin, who today began his third term as Russia’s president and 13th year as its leader, has so demonized him that the result may be to endanger U.S. national security.
For nearly 10 years, mainstream press reporting, editorials and op-ed articles have increasingly portrayed Putin as a czar-like “autocrat,” or alternatively a “KGB thug,” who imposed a “rollback of democratic reforms” under way in Russia when he succeeded Boris Yeltsin as president in 2000. He installed instead a “venal regime” that has permitted “corruptionism,” encouraged the assassination of a “growing number” of journalists and carried out the “killing of political opponents.” Not infrequently, Putin is compared to Saddam Hussein and even Stalin.
Well-informed opinions, in the West and in Russia, differ considerably as to the pluses and minuses of Putin’s leadership over the years – my own evaluation is somewhere in the middle – but there is no evidence that any of these allegations against him are true, or at least entirely true. Most seem to have originated with Putin’s personal enemies, particularly Yeltsin-era oligarchs who found themselves in foreign exile as a result of his policies – or, in the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in prison. Nonetheless, U.S. media, with little investigation of their own, have woven the allegations into a near-consensus narrative of “Putin’s Russia.”
Even the epithet commonly applied to Putin is incorrect. The dictionary and political science definition of “autocrat” is a ruler with absolute power, and Putin has hardly been that. There are many examples of his need to mediate, sometimes unsuccessfully, among powerful groups in the ruling political establishment and of his policies being thwarted by Moscow and regional bureaucracies. Moreover, if Putin really were a “cold-blooded, ruthless” autocrat, tens of thousands of protesters would not have appeared in Moscow streets, not far from the Kremlin, following the December presidential election. Nor would they have been officially sanctioned – as were the thousands who gathered yesterday before a small group breached the sanctioned lines and violence ensued – or shown on state television.
But consider the largest, and historically most damning, accusation against Putin. Russian democratization began in Soviet Russia, under Mikhail Gorbachev, in 1989-91. “De-democratization,” as it is often called, began not under Putin but under Yeltsin, in the period from 1993 to 1996, when the first Russian president used armed force to destroy a popularly elected parliament; enacted a super-presidential constitution; “privatized” the former Soviet state’s richest assets on behalf of a small group of rapacious insiders; turned the national media over to that emerging financial oligarchy; launched a murderous war in the breakaway province of Chechnya; and rigged his own re-election. (On February 20, outgoing president Dmitri Medvedev shocked a small group of visitors by finally admitting that Yeltsin had not actually won that election against the Communist leader Gennadi Zyuganov.) Putin may have only moderated those fateful policies, but he certainly did not initiate them.
The catastrophic Yeltsin 1990s, which have been largely deleted from the U.S. media narrative, also put other anti-Putin allegations in a different perspective. The corruption rampant in Russia today, from seizures of major private investments to bribes demanded by officials, is a direct outgrowth of the violent and other illicit measures that accompanied “privatization” under Yeltsin. It was then that the “swindlers and thieves” denounced by today’s opposition actually emerged.
The shadowy practices of that still-only-partially reformed economic system, not Kremlin politics, has led to the assassination of so many Russian journalists, most of them investigative reporters. The numbers, rarely cited by era, are indicative. According to the American Committee to Protect Journalists, 77 Russian journalists have been murdered since 1992 – 41 during Yeltsin’s 8 years in power, 36 during Putin’s 12 years.
The exceptionally vilifying charge that Putin has been behind the killing of political opponents focuses mainly on two victims – the investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was shot to death in Moscow in 2006; and a reputed KGB defector, Aleksandr Litvinenko, who died of radiation poisoning in London, also in 2006.
Not a shred of evidence or an element of logic points to Putin in either case. The editors of Politkovskaya’s newspaper, the devoutly anti-Putin Novaya Gazeta, believe her killing was ordered by Chechen leaders, whose human-rights abuses were one of her special subjects. And there is no conclusive proof even as to whether Litvinenko’s poisoning, despite the media frenzy and rupture in British-Russian relations it caused, was intentional or accidental. (Significantly, Scotland Yard still has not released the necessary autopsy report.)
In other circumstances, all of this ritualistic Putin-bashing would be merely a cautionary example of media malpractice, an anti-textbook for journalism schools. But it has made Putin’s Russia toxic in Washington, in both political parties and especially in Congress, at a time when U.S. national security requires long-term cooperation with Moscow on vital fronts: from countries and regions such as Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran and the entire Middle East to issues such as nuclear weapons reduction, stopping nuclear proliferation, and preventing terrorism.
In all of these regards, the relentless demonizing of Putin makes rational U.S. policymaking all the more difficult. Mitt Romney’s recent assertions that Russia is America’s “number one geopolitical foe” and that Moscow has made no “meaningful concessions” seem to reflect widespread ignorance or amnesia. Are U.S. policymakers aware of Putin’s extraordinary assistance to the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan after 9/11, his crucial help in supplying NATO troops now there or his support for harsher sanctions against Iran? Do they know that for these and other “pro-American” concessions he is viewed by many Russian national security officials as an “appeaser?”
Many years ago, Will Rogers quipped: “Russia is a country that no matter what you say about it, it’s true.” Evidently, it is still true, but it’s no longer funny.
This article originally appeared at Reuters.

March of the Millions as a carefully planned provocation

08.05.2012

March of the Millions as a carefully planned provocation. 47049.jpeg
At least 27 victims, mass riots, beaten journalists, criminal investigation into the use of force against police officers – these are the results of another “nonviolent” protest organized by non-systemic opposition in the Russian capital. “March of the Millions” that the opposition has been preparing since March, ended with a massacre where police officers were hospitalized, including those with stab wounds.

What happened on Sunday in Moscow was a carefully planned provocation. This leaves no doubt, given that the leaders of the march did not go to the Bolotnaya Square agreed upon with the authorities. They stopped at the Maly Kamenny Bridge, directly at the police cordon, and announced that they will not leave.

People who have already arrived to Bolotnaya square announced from the stage that the leaders were not allowed into the Square. They called for all to return to the bridge to support Navalny, Tutukin-Udaltsov and other “offended”. Interestingly, the crowd that poured from the square back to the bridge marched there unobstructed.
By that time, the opposition leaders have already declared that they began a political sit-down strike. Navalny said that he would sit there until the police frees the passage to the square (which in reality was free), and Udaltsov said he would sit there until the inauguration of President-elect Putin. Later Udaltsov formulated the requirements of the “strikers” – the immediate availability of a live broadcast on federal television channels, the abolition of the inauguration and the new elections – presidential and parliamentary.
Thus, it is obvious that the opposition leaders did not initially plan to go to the rally. The main objective was to gather people in front of the riot police cordon. Further it was simply a matter of technique – in the crowd “by accident” there were plenty of militant-spirited young people. They were “accidentally” armed with smoke bombs, cans of pepper gas, firebombs and knives.
Rocks and bottles filled with gasoline were thrown at the riot police. One bottle broke and covered with burning spray a man standing behind the cordon. Fortunately, his clothing was extinguished almost instantly. The results of the first attempts to break through the cordon – a police officer hospitalized with knife wounds.
Later, while trying to break through in the direction of the Kremlin, the crowd used poles of the flags against the officers and took helmets off the riot police. Research Affairs of the Russian city of Moscow 15 minutes after the start of the collision indicated that medical care was needed by four law enforcement officers. “All of them sought medical treatment from bruises and cut wounds,” said the press service.
The results of the march include 27 injured, seven of them – participants of the march, 20 – the police.
As a rule, people do not go to peace rallies armed to the teeth. Consequently, the “battle groups” – those who were in the crowd with knives and threw bottles filled with gasoline – prepared in advance. They counted on this development. This means that they were using the 8,000-strong march that had people with children in it as the extras to have an encounter with the riot police.
Alexei Navalny, even when detained by police, was twitting: “Do not go away. We have to stand. If you are driven away – leave and then come back,” “Even if they detain at a maximum, there will be 20 thousand people in the street, and tomorrow morning we will come again. Do not break away,” “All those who did not go to Bolotnaya and wanted to go to Manezhnaya – go. Open a second front,” and so on.
 The supporters of Navalny tweeted: “The guys already have trophy riot police helmets! Chanting “We will not leave,” “Now the most important thing is to keep the area until the inauguration. Tomorrow the entire world press will be at this very place. Ruin Putin’s holiday,” “Do not throw OMON helmets in the river, wear them. They are armor, they will protect you from police batons. “
The march and subsequent clashes with police in the so-called “March of the Millions” was not a peaceful or “nonviolent” protest. Suffice it to say that the protesters beat up NTV journalists who were covering the rally.
Riots on the Maly Kamenny Bridge and Bolotnaya Square continued for several hours. As a result, over 400 people were detained. The investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the city of Moscow said that in connection with Sunday’s events criminal cases were initiated.”
At present, the persons involved in illegal activities are being investigated. We will seek the arrest of persons who caused the damage to the police,” the statement of the authorities said.
Anton Ponomarev

The US Quest for Encircling Russia

03.05.2012

By: Farooq Yousaf
The US Quest for Encircling Russia. 47018.jpeg
The activities carried out by the West, especially the USA and Britain, in South as well as the Central Asia are not a mere coincidence. Historical events coinciding with the September 11 attacks and the War in Afghanistan depict as if this all was a part of a pre planned strategy formulated decades ago on West’s strategy tables. This also tends to emphasize to real sense of what really is happening when it comes to pro-active NATO and US forces activity in Central Asia. This activity took its peak soon after the USSR disintegration and the ending of the cold war era. The activity also saw an active part played by the US in the 80′s era against the then USSR funding Pakistan for breeding guerrilla fighters to fight in Afghanistan.
The moves and activities by West in the post soviet era came into the limelight when in 1993, a transport treaty was signed between the European Union, the Caucasus and the CIS(Commonwealth of Independent States), to link China with Europe. The deal was known as TRACECA, or Transport Corridor Europe Caucasus Asia, and was generally given the term of the New Silk Way of the Great Silk Way. The major objective of this Silk Way was to connect China and South East Asia with Europe by passing non independent CIS countries and avoiding important regional actors mainly Russia, Turkey and Iran. Ignoring these three states, especially Russia, means that this corridor may well have an implicit agenda that may well be to surround Russia and marginalize its influence in the region.
Ignoring all three states may well have their solid reasons. If Iran is ignored in the agreement, it may well be because of its Anti West policies and orientation. If Turkey is ignored, it be attributed to its membership in NATO, that may well mean political reasons. But ignoring Russia, who is neither in NATO, nor the policies go against the well being of Europe, may clearly indicate that the whole process is initiated to check the growing Russian might. The route, if seen on the map, suggests that such a long route may have been chalked for some other reasons rather than mere trade development.
The whole operational map of this transit route can be described as follows. The main starting points of the route from the western site harbors Odessa(Ukraine) as well as two other harbors. Through these harbors, ferrying is used till Georgian harbors, Poti and Batumi. Further, railways and highways goes through Kutaisi and Tbilisi, through Baku. The other hose of the route goes to Baku lengthwise of Turkish and Iranian borders, over the whole territory of Azerbaijan. Though, to transport goods from Istanbul to Gyumri(Armenia), a direct way could be used, passing through Turkey. Although a ferry is used en route to Georgia and Armenia, but to  carry goods from the ferry, over two days are required to reach the target, compared to a 24-hour way through Caucasus, to Baku, while another shorter way passes through Rostov-on-Don and Makhachkala (Russia). Explaining the whole route, even a lay man’s mind would conclude that using a longer route compared to a shorter one means that West’s sole agenda may be to give Moscow a strategic as well as an economic blow.
Many project have been completed and others are under way under the TRACECA agreement. The projects were mainly related to development but again Russia was ignored from the whole process. The governments of Georgia and Azerbaijan, for long, have surrendered to the western policies and demands, as a result of which the countries have western military bases, and in turn play a major part in smooth sailing of the Great Silk Way. That is why NATO is inclined towards these two states for their strong military presence in the region.
The southern line of TRACECA passing through Central Asia also gives a strange look: After Bukhara and Samarkand it goes to Tashkent and joints to Kazakh line passing through Bishkek and Almaty to Chinese border. This makes it and extremely long route. The question arises, Why should China and other countries using Russian harbors, prefer the more expensive way? The Great Silk Way always gives an upper hand to Uzbekistan that is in a good position to control the route. Uzbekistan, being close to the Western policies, creates a tricky situation for Russia as has counter it before countering any move from the West.
The landing of NATO troops in Central Asia was a major drive for initiating the Great Silk Way or the New Silk Way. The current presence is also a major factor in reenergizing the Islamist movements in countries such as Tajikistan, which could be a strong factor is destabilizing the region. Such a scenario could prove to be detrimental for social and economic structure of Russia, meaning one the western objectives would be achieved. Though the Great Silk Way may not be as beneficial to Europe as it seems to be, yet it may have enough to wage a war in the region that would ensure a long stay for the western forces.
Farooq Yousaf

Russia prepares for a US-Israeli military strike against Iran

By Clara Weiss 

28 April 2012
Russia has undertaken intensive preparations during the past few months for a possible military strike by Israel and the United States on Iran. According to recent reports, the Russian General Staff expects a war against Iran this summer, with enormous repercussions for not only the Middle East but also the Caucasus.
Russian troops in the Caucasus have been technically upgraded, and a missile division situated on the Caspian Sea has been placed in readiness. The missile cruisers of the Caspian flotilla are now anchored off the coast of Dagestan. The only Russian military base in the South Caucasus, located in Armenia, is also on alert for military intervention. Last autumn, Russia sent its aircraft carrier Kuznetsov to the Syrian port Tartous following the escalation of the conflict in Syria. Experts believe that Russia would support Tehran in the event of war, at least on a military-technical level.
In a commentary in April, General Leonid Ivashov, president of the Academy of Geopolitical Science, wrote that “a war against Iran would be a war against Russia” and he called for a “political-diplomatic alliance” with China and India. Operations were being undertaken throughout the Middle East in order to destabilise the region and proceed against China, Russia and Europe. The war against Iran, Ivashov wrote, would “end up at our borders, destabilise the situation in the North Caucasus and weaken our position in the Caspian region.”
Of central concern for Moscow are the consequences for the South Caucasus in the event of a war against Iran. Armenia is the only ally of the Kremlin in the region and has close economic links with Iran, while neighbouring Georgia and Azerbaijan maintain military and economic ties with the United States and Israel.
The Kremlin fears above all that Azerbaijan could participate in a military alliance alongside Israel and the United States against Iran. Azerbaijan borders Iran, Russia, Armenia and the Caspian Sea, and since the mid-1990s has been an important military and economic ally of the US in the South Caucasus, housing several American military bases.
Relations between Iran and Azerbaijan are already very tense. Tehran has repeatedly accused Baku of participating in terrorist attacks and acts of sabotage, most probably in collaboration with the Israeli and American intelligence agencies. In recent years, Azerbaijan has doubled its military spending and in February completed a weapons deal with Israel worth US$1.6 billion involving the supply of drones and missile defence systems.
Citing senior sources in the Obama administration, Mark Perry told the American journal Foreign Policy in late March that Baku had allowed Israel access to several air bases on the border to northern Iran that could be used for an air strike on Tehran. The magazine quotes a senior government official saying, “The Israelis have bought an airport and this airport is Azerbaijan.” Perry warned, “Military strategists must now take into account a war scenario, which includes not only the Persian Gulf, but also the Caucasus.”
The Baku government immediately denied the report, but the editor of the Azerbaijani newspaper Neue Zeit, Shakir Gablikogly, warned that Azerbaijan could be drawn into a war against Iran.
Even if Azerbaijan should not prove to be the starting point for an Israeli attack on Iran, there is the danger that war will lead to a military escalation of other territorial conflicts such as the dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. The region has been independent since the end of the civil war in 1994, but the government in Baku, the US and the European Council insist it be regarded as part of Azerbaijan. There have been repeated border conflicts between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the past two years, and commentators have warned that the dispute could escalate into a war involving Russia, the United States and Iran.
In a recent interview with Russia’s Komsomolskaya Pravda, military expert Mikhail Barabanov said that conflicts in the post-Soviet region could lead to military intervention in Russia. Any intervention in the region by the US or other NATO power would bring with it “the inevitable risk of the use of nuclear weapons.” Russia has the second largest nuclear arsenal in the world after the US.
Due to its geostrategic importance, Eurasia has become the epicentre for economic and political rivalries and military conflicts between the US and Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia form a bridge between resource-rich Central Asia and the Caspian Sea on one side, and Europe and the Black Sea on the other.
The US has sought to win influence in the region via economic alliances since the 1990s. In 1998, the then US vice president Richard Cheney declared, “I can not remember a time when a region so suddenly gained such huge strategic importance as the Caspian.”
In his book The Grand Chessboard (1998), Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to US president Jimmy Carter, wrote: “A power that dominates Eurasia would control two thirds of the most advanced and economically productive regions of the world. In Eurasia, there are about three-quarters of the known energy resources in the world.”
The central importance of the region is its role as a transit area for energy supplies to Europe from Asia, which bypasses Russia. By supporting alternative pipeline projects, Washington has sought to weaken Russian links to Europe, which depends heavily on Russian oil and gas.
So far, Georgia is the key country for the transit of gas and oil supplies and has been at the heart of conflicts in the region. Georgia’s “Rose Revolution” in 2003 was instigated by Washington to push Mikhail Saakashvili into power as president in order to safeguard US economic and strategic interests in the region. It led to an intensification of tensions with Moscow for geostrategic supremacy. The war between Georgia and Russia in the summer of 2008 represented a further ratcheting up of the rivalry between the two countries with the potential to expand into a Russian-American war. Relations between Russia and Georgia remain very tense.
US influence in the Caucasus and Central Asia has declined significantly in recent years. In addition to Russia, China has emerged as a major force in the area, establishing significant economic and military ties with Central Asian states such as Kazakhstan. Although Russia and China remain rivals, they have struck a strategic alliance in their competition with the United States. For the US, war against Iran represents a further stage in its growing confrontation with China and Russia for control of the energy resources of Central Asia and the Middle East.

Giants and Pygmies in the Mirror of History

*by Mario Maestri

The leaders of the so-called western Christian world received the piece of news as the present expected for the last 74 years. On Christmas Eve, 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev sadly announced his resignation as president of the Soviet Union and its dissolution. 
At the time, the government of the Republic of Russia found itself in the hands of his opponent, Boris Yeltsin, champion of unfettered capitalist restoration, strongly supported by world capital. The year 1992 would see the rebuilding of the capitalist order in the former socialist republics.
Begun in 1917, with the victory of the workers, the construction of the USSR took place in the most difficult conditions due to enormous destruction from civil war and the terrible international military intervention. The revolution was led and conducted under the direction of dozens of giants such as Lenin, Trotsky, Kamenev, Zinoviev, Krupskaya, etc. Men and women who have marked and still mark humanity for what they did, for what they said and the way they lived, even when swallowed by the advances and setbacks of that memorable historic event.
It was not a mere irony of history that the destruction of the USSR took place under the direction of literally ghostly characters such as Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, who, after providing the services for which they were posted, were inexorably eclipsed, forgotten and rejected by the Russian population and the world, much as the world media and the intelligentsia have attempted to turn them into forceful protagonists in historical references. Also, in these cases, the real extent and nature of the work performed is mirrored in the quality of life for workers.
Of rural origin, Mikhail Gorbachev, the main proponent and driving force of capitalist restoration in the USSR, was raised to maximum power in 1985-91, after a long term of militancy in the Communist Party, which he joined when he was very young.
After his government was ousted in 1991, he was hopelessly rejected by the Russian population in their attempt to move on in political life. In 1996, he obtained a shameful 0.5% of the vote in the elections for the presidency of the Russian Federation.
Always paid handsomely, Gorbachev created a foundation, wrote memoirs; lectured, participated in films; created parties, etc., all without results or impact. A recent survey named him one of the most rejected characters of the 20th century by the Russian population. In undisputed metaphor between what they promised and built with millionaire sums in 1997, he served as the poster boy of Pizza Hut, an American multinational corporation.
Boris Yeltsin, of blue-collar roots, presided over Russia from 1991 to 1999, while the country was bleeding under the action of privatizing national and global resources. His tenure was marked by populism, opportunism, by violence and unbridled corruption. 
During his government, under the guidance of the IMF, industrial production fell by half, inflation shot through the roof, and the flesh of the rights and social achievements once achieved under socialism was cut to shreds. Huge portions of the population foundered in unemployment, poverty and literal destitution, while the new millionaires canibalized public goods.
The mainstream media has undertaken a huge effort so that the world’s population retains the memory of the image of Boris Yeltsin as a fearless leader, perched on military tank, on 20 October 1991, the scammer boldly haranguing the troops who, in fact, had already registered their neutrality in the face of successes. However, the dominant undisputed memory about Yeltsin is the clownish, depressed and drunk world leader.
Like Gorbachev, his great rival, Boris Yeltsin resigned ingloriously from the government on December 31, 1999, leaving as his heir, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. This assured him that he and his family would not be taken to court for theft of public property and wealth. 
Boris Yeltsin died on April 23, 2007, aged 76. The funeral rites of the president addicted to drink was held by the new state. While Russia’s population recorded a huge lack of concern with his death, world leaders like George Bush, Bill Clinton, Lech Walesa, John Major and Giulio Andreotti rushed to the funeral. As the saying goes, “Tell me who weeps for thee, and that’ll tell me who you are!”
*Mario Maestri, 63, is a professor of a course in the graduate program in History at the UPF
Translated from the Portuguese version by:
Lisa Karpova

Russia Planning Troops Deployment On Iran’s Northern Border And Waiting For A Western Attack

By F. Michael Maloof

April 12, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — WASHINGTON – The Russian military anticipates that an attack will occur on Iran by the summer and has developed an action plan to move Russian troops through neighboring Georgia to stage in Armenia, which borders on the Islamic republic, according to informed Russian sources.
Russian Security Council head Viktor Ozerov said that Russian General Military Headquarters has prepared an action plan in the event of an attack on Iran.
Dmitry Rogozin, who recently was the Russian ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, warned against an attack on Iran.
“Iran is our neighbor,” Rogozin said. “If Iran is involved in any military action, it’s a direct threat to our security.” Rogozin now is the deputy Russian prime minister and is regarded as anti-Western. He oversees Russia’s defense sector.
Russian Defense Ministry sources say that the Russian military doesn’t believe that Israel has sufficient military assets to defeat Iranian defenses and further believes that U.S. military action will be necessary.
The implication of preparing to move Russian troops not only is to protect its own vital regional interests but possibly to assist Iran in the event of such an attack. Sources add that a Russian military buildup in the region could result in the Russian military potentially engaging Israeli forces, U.S. forces, or both.
Informed sources say that the Russians have warned of “unpredictable consequences” in the event Iran is attacked, with some Russians saying that the Russian military will take part in the possible war because it would threaten its vital interests in the region.
The influential Russian Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper has quoted a Russian military source as saying that the situation forming around Syria and Iran “causes Russia to expedite the course of improvement of its military groups in the South Caucasus, the Caspian, Mediterranean and Black Sea regions.”
This latest information comes from a series of reports and leaks from official Russian spokesmen and government news agencies who say that an Israeli attack is all but certain by the summer.
Because of the impact on Russian vital interests in the region, sources say that Russian preparations for such an attack began two years ago when Russian Military Base 102 in Gyumri, Armenia, was modernized. It is said to occupy a major geopolitical position in the region.
Families of Russian servicemen from the Russian base at Gyumri in Armenia close to the borders of Georgia and Turkey already have been evacuated, Russian sources say.
“Military Base 102 is a key point, Russia’s outpost in the South Caucasus,” a Russian military source told the newspaper. “It occupies a very important geopolitical position, but the Kremlin fears lest it should lose this situation.”
With Vladimir Putin returning to the Russian presidency, the prospect that he again would order an attack on Georgia as he did in August 2008 also has become a possibility, these informed sources say.
The Russians believe that Georgia would cooperate with the United States in blocking any supplies from reaching Military Base 102, which now is supplied primarily by air. Right now, Georgia blocks the only land transportation route through which Russian military supplies could travel.
Fuel for the Russian base in Armenia comes from Iran. Russian officials believe this border crossing may be closed in the event of a war.
“Possibly, it will be necessary to use military means to breach the Georgian transport blockade and establish transport corridors leading into Armenia,” according to Yury Netkachev, former deputy commander of Russian forces in Transcaucasia. Geography of the region suggests that any such supply corridor would have to go through the middle of Georgia approaching Georgia’s capital of Tbilisi given the roads and topography of the country.
In September, the Russian military plans to hold its annual military exercises called Kavkaz 2012. However, informed Russian sources say that preparations and deployments of military equipment and personnel already have begun in anticipation of a possible war with Iran.
These sources report that new command and control equipment has been deployed in the region capable of using the Russian GPS system, GLONASS for targeting information.
“The air force in the South Military District is reported to have been rearmed almost 100 percent with new jets and helicopters,” according to regional expert Pavel Felgenhauer of the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation.
In 2008, Felgenhauer pointed out, Kavkaz 2008 maneuvers allowed the Russian military to covertly deploy forces that successfully invaded Georgia in August of that year.
Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov already has announced that new Spetznaz, or Special Forces units, will be deployed in Stavropol and Kislovodsk, which are located in the North Caucasian regions.
Russian sources say that the Russian military believes that if the U.S. goes to war with Iran, it may deploy forces into Georgia and warships in the Caspian Sea with the possible help of Azerbaijan, which since has stated that it will not allow its territory to be used by Israel to launch an attack on neighboring Iran.
There had been speculation that given the improved relations between Israel and Azerbaijan, the Jewish state may use bases from which to launch air attacks on neighboring Iran’s nuclear sites. Israel recently agreed to sell Azerbaijan $1.6 billion in military equipment.
A further irritant to Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakashvili is the prospect that Russian assault airborne troops, or VDV units, with helicopters could be moved into Georgia’s two breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. These two provinces were taken by the Russian military during the August 2008 Russian-Georgian war. Initially they were declared by Moscow to be independent countries, but now the Kremlin is indicating they may be annexed to Russia.
Similarly, Lt. General Vladimir Shamanov, commander of the VDV, has announced that Russian troops in Armenia will be reinforced by paratroopers, along with attack and transport helicopters.
“The Russian spearhead (from the Transcaucasia region) may be ordered to strike south to prevent the presumed deployment of U.S. bases in Transcaucasia, to link up with the troops in Armenia and take over the South Caucasus energy corridor along which Azeri, Turkmen and other Caspian natural gas and oil may reach European markets,” Felgenhauer said.
“By one swift military strike, Russia may ensure control of all the Caucasus and the Caspian states that were its former realm, establishing a fiat accompli the West, too preoccupied with Iran, would not reverse,” he said.
“At the same time, a small victorious war would unite the Russian nation behind the Kremlin, allowing it to crush the remnants of the prodemocracy movement ‘for fair elections,’ and as a final bonus, Russia’s military action could perhaps finally destroy the Saakashvili regime.”
Putin has made no secret that he despises Saakashvili and with his return to the presidency, he may consider taking out the Georgian president as unfinished business. Just as in 2008, Putin will not have much to worry about if he sends Russian troops into Georgia, since there was muted reaction from the U.S. and the European countries to the Russian invasion and subsequent occupation.


F. Michael Maloof, staff writer for WND’s G2Bulletin, is a former senior security policy analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He can be contacted at mmaloof@wnd.com.
This post originally appeared at G2 Bulletin.
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