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A Coming Russia-Ukraine War?

By Gilbert Doctorow | Consortium News | January 21, 2018

While much of America’s – and the world’s – attention focused this weekend reflecting on Donald Trump’s first year in the Oval Office, holding one-year anniversary events for the historic Women’s March and drawing up balance sheets of his promises and achievements, Russia has had a rather different issue on the front-burner: a possible war with Ukraine.

The situation in the Donbass region of south-eastern Ukraine has been a feature of Russia’s political talk shows for the past couple years, along with the military campaign in Syria and more recently the stages in the preparation for presidential elections on March 18.

Focus on the Donbass conflict increased in the closing weeks of 2017 as military action on the front lines separating the forces of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk enjoying Russian support from Ukrainian militias and armed forces reached an intensity not seen for more than a year. This is despite the heralded exchange of military prisoners by both sides before New Year’s under talks supervised by the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Kirill.

Then, this past Thursday came a wholly new development – a draft law passed by the Ukrainian Parliament that could effectively end Kiev’s participation in the conflict resolution process known as the Minsk Accords. Although observers in the United States and Western Europe may have missed it, many Russians believe this development amounts to a declaration of war.

Dmitri Kiselyov, head of all Russian television and radio news services, offered a sober analysis of the emotionally charged development on his Sunday evening news wrap-up today.

According to Kiselyov, the new law, which awaits Poroshenko’s signature, makes preparations for war and includes language indicating a bellicose new approach to the conflict. The mission in Donbass is no longer described as an “anti-terrorist operation.” Rather, the mission now is to send armed forces against “military formations of the Russian Federation” in Donbass.

Military headquarters are established to coordinate the operation to be waged in Donbass. While up until now the self-declared republics of Donetsk and Lugansk were considered under the Minsk Accords as negotiating parties, now there are only “occupation administrations” of the Russian Federation on these territories, with Russia identified as an “aggressor.”

“This makes it all the more convenient for Ukraine to start a war,” Kiselyov says, noting that it could have the added benefit of enabling Ukraine not to pay its foreign debts and to ensure Poroshenko’s continued grip on power.

A Vesti reporter on the ground in Donetsk confirmed with local residents their view that the law means war. They see the current moment on the front line as “the calm before the storm.” Donetsk soldiers at their trenches say they are fully ready to engage with the enemy.

While Kiselyov acknowledges that the draft law might not ultimately be implemented, it nevertheless reveals a growing mood in the Ukrainian capital in favor of escalation. The facts speak for themselves, Kiselyov says, with Poroshenko failing to adhere to the Minsk Accords – for example by organizing local elections in Donbass – or to observe ceasefires along the lines of contact. There are attacks and deaths every day and only counter force has pushed back recent Ukrainian attempts to gain territory.

Kiev has seemingly written off the population of the two self-proclaimed republics – cutting off all transport and telecoms links and failing to pay pensions and assistance to the needy. It closed the banking system and there are no commercial ties. For Kiev the two provinces are merely territory to take back from the occupiers, with the wellbeing of the local populations at best a secondary concern.

On the economic front, the European Union has refused to extend 600 million euros of credit to Ukraine due to corruption. The International Monetary Fund recently refused a tranche of $800 million over failure to introduce reforms. Meanwhile, in 2019 Ukraine is due to start repaying earlier loans. This will come to $14 billion a year, which amounts to half the state budget of Ukraine.

Due to dire economic conditions, Poroshenko and other government officials in Kiev have become deeply unpopular, and with diminished chances for electoral success may see war as politically advantageous.

And although there are indications that some Western leaders are fed up with Kiev, the United States has doubled down in its support for a military solution to the conflict. With military trainers now on the ground and the U.S. budgeting $350 million for security assistance to Ukraine, Washington has also recently started delivering lethal weapons including the Javelin anti-tank missile system free of charge to Kiev.

In contrast to the image of Trump administration policies being dictated by Moscow, as portrayed by proponents of Russia-gate conspiracy theories, the United States is instead moving towards deeper confrontation with the Kremlin in the geopolitical hotspot of Ukraine.

For its part, the Kremlin has very little to gain and a great deal to lose economically and diplomatically from a campaign now against Kiev. If successful, as likely would be the case given the vast disparity in military potential of the two sides, it could easily become a Pyrrhic victory.

But notwithstanding Kiselyov’s reassuring words on his Sunday evening news wrap-up, it may well be the case that Moscow feels it has no choice. Moves by Kiev to exacerbate the conflict must be quickly countered to prevent deeper intervention by the United States and its NATO allies and prevent the conditions for WWIII from taking hold.

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

January 22, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

US Attempts to Blame Syrian Gov’t for Chemical Attacks Unfounded – Russian MoD

Sputnik – 20.01.2018

The Russian Defense Ministry stated that the United States was ignoring the objective evidence of chemical weapons’ use by terrorists in Syria, targeted against the civilian population and the country’s government troops.

The ministry went on by saying that the US attempts to blame the Syrian government for the use of chemical weapons have never been grounded by any hard evidence.

“The US administration is at best not showing any interest and often ignores the objective factors of terrorists using poisonous substances while fighting against government forces and civilians,” the ministry said in a statement.

According to the Russian military, Washington has failed to fulfill their obligations on the destruction of chemical weapons, preserving at least 10% of their arsenal operational.

“Following our commitments under the Chemical Weapons Convention, Russia has eliminated its entire chemical warfare agents arsenal early, while the United States, using false pretexts, has at first halted and then completely stopped fulfilling its commitments due to a ‘lack of financing,’ still keeping around 10 percent of its arsenal in a combat ready condition,” the ministry added.

The statement was made after on Friday the US State Department said that Russia does everything to protect the government in Damascus despite the fact that the latter allegedly continues using chemical weapons.

January 20, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 1 Comment

Washington and Allies Go Orwellian on Korea Peace Talks

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 19.01.2018

Just as North and South Korea achieve important peaceful exchanges, Washington and its NATO allies appear to be moving with determination to sabotage the initiative for averting war on the East Asian peninsula.

Further, the reckless, gratuitous provocations beg the conclusion that the United States is indeed trying to start a war.

Meanwhile, unprecedented accusations this week by US President Donald Trump that Russia is supporting North Korea to evade United Nations sanctions also point to the danger that any conflict could spiral out of control to engulf world nuclear powers.

Moscow rejected the unsubstantiated claims leveled by Trump, saying that Russia is abiding by UN trade restrictions over North Korea, and that the American president’s allegations were “entirely unfounded”.

Trump’s verbal broadside suggests that Washington is trying to undermine the nascent talks between the two Koreas, talks which Russia and China have both applauded as a long-overdue diplomatic effort to resolve the Korean conflict.

Separately, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov deplored a summit held in Vancouver, Canada, earlier this week in which the US and 19 other nations – most of them NATO members – called for sharper sanctions on North Korea that go beyond the remit of the United Nations. The conference, co-hosted by Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, issued a stridently bellicose statement, calling in effect for North Korea to surrender its nuclear weapons or face US-led military action.

Significantly, and pointedly, China and Russia were not invited to the Canadian summit.

Most of the attending states were part of the original US-led military force which fought against North Korea during the 1950-53 war. A war which killed as many as two million North Koreans.

Russia admonished that the conference was “harmful” to current peace talks between North and South Korea. China rebuked the Canadian event as being stuck in “Cold War thinking”.

The anachronism of countries like Britain, Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Netherlands and Norway attending a conference on the Korean crisis while Asia-Pacific powers Russia and China being excluded was noted by Russia’s Sergei Lavrov. The anachronism is not only absurd, he said, it reprises a provocative “war summit” message.

Disturbingly, what the Vancouver gathering demonstrated was the willingness by the US and its allies to circumvent the United Nations Security Council and the previously established regional Six-Party forum involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the US.

At the Vancouver event, Tillerson laid out a belligerent agenda that was endorsed by the other attendees. The agenda included the precondition of North Korea giving up its nuclear program unilaterally; and it also flatly rejected the proposal made by Russia and China for a “freeze” in all military activities on the Korean Peninsula as a step to get comprehensive settlement talks going.

Tillerson made the following sinister ultimatum: “We have to recognize that that threat [of North Korea’s nuclear weapons] is growing. And if North Korea does not choose the path of engagement, discussion, negotiation, [that is, surrender] then they themselves will trigger an option [US military action].”

The US diplomat also warned that the American public must be “sober” about the possibility of war breaking out. Tillerson said the risk of such a war on the Korean Peninsula “continues to grow”. This was echoed by President Trump a day later in an interview with the Reuters news agency in which he also warned of possible war. It was the same interview in which Trump blamed Russia for aiding and abetting North Korea.

This sounds like US leaders are intensifying the conditioning of the American public to accept use of the military option, which they have been threatening for the past year in a pre-emptive attack on North Korea.

The Vancouver summit also called for proactive interdiction of international ships suspected of breaching UN sanctions on North Korea. That raises the danger of the US and its allies interfering with Russian and Chinese vessels – which would further escalate tensions.

These reprehensible developments are a reflection of the increasingly Orwellian worldview held by Washington and its partners, whereby “war is presented as peace” and “peace is perceived as war”.

Just this week, North and South Korea held a third round of peace negotiations in as many weeks. Even Western news media hailed “Olympic breakthrough” after the two adversaries agreed to participate in the opening ceremony of the forthcoming winter games next month as a unified nation under a neutral flag.

After two years of no inter-Korean talks and mounting war tensions on the peninsula, surely the quickening pace of peace overtures this month should be welcomed and encouraged. Russia, China and the UN have indeed endorsed the bilateral Korean exchange. Even President Trump said he welcomed it.

Nevertheless, as the Vancouver summit this week shows, the US and its NATO allies appear to be doing everything to torpedo the inter-Korean dialogue. Issuing ultimatums and warning of “military options” seems intended to blow up the delicate dynamic towards confidence and trust.

Two reports this week in the New York Times conveyed the contorted Orwellian mindset gripping Washington and its allies.

First, there was the report: “Military quietly prepares for a last resort: War with North Korea”. The NY Times actually reported extensive Pentagon plans for a preemptive air assault on North Korea involving a “deep attack” manned by 82nd Airborne paratroopers and special forces. The paper spun the provocative war plans as a “last resort”. In other words, war is sold here as peace.

Which raises the question of who is trying to wreck the Olympic Games being held in South Korea in February. For months, Western media have been warning that North Korea was intending to carry out some kind of sabotage. Now, it looks like the sabotage is actually coming from the US, albeit sanitized by the NY Times.

The second report in the NY Times had the telling headline: “Olympic détente upends US strategy on North Korea”.

So, let’s get our head around that display of dubious logic. A peaceful development of détente between two adversaries is somehow presented as a pernicious “upending of US strategy on North Korea”. In other words, peace is sold here as war.

Take for example this choice editorial comment from the NY Times in the second report: “This latest gesture of unity, the most dramatic in a decade, could add to fears in Washington that Pyongyang is making progress on a more far-reaching agenda.”

And what, one wonders, would that “far-reaching agenda” entail?

Again the NY Times elaborates: “White House officials warn that the ultimate goal of [North Korean leader] Mr Kim is to evict American troops from the Korean Peninsula and to reunify the two Koreas under a single flag… For the United States, the fear has been that North Korea’s gestures will drive a wedge between it and its ally, South Korea.”

Only in a perverse Orwellian worldview would an initiative to calm tensions and build peaceful relations be construed as something to “fear” and be opposed to.

Only in a perverse Orwellian worldview would peaceful dialogue provoke plans for pre-emptive war.

But that is precisely the kind of dystopian world that Washington and its lackeys inhabit.

January 19, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Russia Doesn’t Plan to Join Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons – Lavrov

Sputnik – 19.01.2018

UNITED NATIONS – Russia does not plan to join the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday, stressing that Moscow shared a common interest in building a nuclear-weapon-free world but not using the methods, on which the treaty is based.

“Russia is not going to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. We proceed from the fact that the total elimination of nuclear weapons is possible only in the context of general and complete disarmament, in conditions of ensuring equal and indivisible security for all, including those who possess nuclear weapons, as stipulated in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons [NPT],” Lavrov said speaking at a UN Security Council meeting.

According to the Russian minister, the provisions of the TPNW are “far from these principles.”

“It [the treaty] also provokes deep disagreements among members of the international community and can have a destabilizing effect on the proliferation regime. I want to emphasize that we share the goal of building a nuclear-weapon-free world but it should not be achieved with such one-sided methods, on which the TPNW is based,” Lavrov underlined.

The TPNW was adopted on July 7 at a UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons. It contains a set of prohibitions, including an obligation not to develop, test, produce, acquire, possess, stockpile, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons. So far, the TPNW has been signed by 50 states, and ratified only by three — Guyana, the Holy See and Thailand. The US, Britain and China haven’t also joined the treaty.

In September, Mikhail Ulyanov, the director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, said that the TPNW was contrary to Russia’s national interests and Moscow’s vision of how to move toward nuclear disarmament.

January 19, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

Vancouver summit on N. Korea failed to provide alternative to Russian & Chinese proposals – Moscow

RT | January 17, 2018

The joint US-Canada summit is just a “heavy-handed attempt” to undermine the decisions of the UNSC, Russia’s Foreign Ministry has said. It added that the meeting failed to provide an alternative to the Russian-Chinese initiative.

Participants at the Vancouver summit failed to provide any alternative to the existing Chinese-Russian roadmap for easing the Korean knot, the ministry said in statement. It noted that instead of coming up with any “constructive” results, the gathering demonstrated “absolute disrespect” for the authority of the UN Security Council (UNSC).

What’s more, the decision to consider imposing unilateral sanctions against North Korea that overstep the demands outlined by the UNSC resolutions are “absolutely unacceptable and counterproductive,” the statement added. The ministry said further that a situation, in which some countries adopt roles as interpreters of UNSC resolutions without any permission or mandate – thus undermining the role of the UN – is “absolutely inadmissible.”

Back in July 2017, Moscow and Beijing put forward a proposal known as the ‘double-freeze’ initiative that envisaged the US and its allies halting all major military exercises in the region in exchange for Pyongyang suspending its nuclear and ballistic missile program. The initiative was, however, turned down by Washington – which was reiterated on Tuesday during the Vancouver summit.

The same day, the Russian Foreign Ministry again drew attention to the fact that the initiative is aimed at “resolving the entire range of problems [around the Korean Peninsula] solely through the political and diplomatic means.”

The Vancouver meeting, on the contrary, did not contribute to the normalization of the situation on the peninsula and only exacerbated existing tensions, the ministry said. Notably, neither Russia nor China was invited to the gathering despite being major players in the region as well as immediate neighbors of North Korea.

Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that he was told Russia and China would only be “briefed” on the results of the meeting, calling such an attitude “unacceptable.” He also said that it would be a “great result already” if the meeting merely avoided leading to anything “counterproductive.”

Beijing also slammed the summit by saying that it had “not the slightest legality and representativeness.” It also accused the meeting participants of evoking Cold War ghosts. Pyongyang denounced the Vancouver summit as a “provocation” which is not helping the talks between North and South Korea.

In the meantime, US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard noted that it was the US regime change policy that prompted Pyongyang to develop its nuclear and missile arsenal in the first place. She turned to Twitter to call on Washington to put an end to such practices as well as to cast away “unrealistic preconditions” that the US government has been setting for decades to negotiate with North Korea.

January 17, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

CIA False Flag Likely in Drone Attack on Russia’s Syrian Bases

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 17.01.2018

The audacious multiple-drone attack on Russia’s military bases in Syria is increasingly looking like a false flag carried out by the American Central Intelligence Agency. Sophisticated technology and a Ukrainian connection indicate that the swarm attack with 13 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) was not the work solely of Syrian anti-government militants.

What’s more the Russian government appears to have the incriminating evidence on who sanctioned the drone attacks against the Russian air base at Hmeimim and its naval port at Tartus on January 6.

The weapons failed to execute their deadly mission. Of the 13 drones used, seven were shot down by Russian Pantsir S-1 air defenses and six were safely landed by Russian electronic jamming technology. Those captured intact UAVs will have provided forensic information about what agency authored the plot.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said coyly, “We know who did it”, without as of yet specifying the culprit.

Images of the UAVs released by the Russian Ministry of Defense showed rudimentary construction from what appeared to be plywood.

However, the navigation technology and explosives onboard were sophisticated and professionally made. This was no amateurish mission, as might have been expected if militants alone had carried it out.

Furthermore, the drones were unlikely to have been made by Syrian militants. Russian analysis of the explosive PENT substance indicates that Ukraine was the source. That points to the Americans as the bridging agency between Ukraine and Syria.

Another key factor is that at the time of the attacks, Russian military detected a US Poseidon surveillance aircraft in proximity over the Syrian coastal area. The Poseidon would have the ability to guide the drones to the precise location of the Russian bases. Although the plane is commonly thought of as part of the US Navy fleet, that does not preclude the CIA having their own Poseidon aircraft.

It is also significant that Crimean lawmaker Ruslan Balbek has recently claimed that American Poseidon aircraft are being used to mount drone attacks by the US-backed Kiev regime. Balbek went further and said be believes the objective is to conduct a false flag attack on the minority Tatar community in Crimea. The “atrocity” would then be pinned on the Crimean authorities which the Western media would in turn amplify as condemnation of Russia.

On the Syrian attack, Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week at a meeting with senior Russian media executives that the culprit was not Turkey even though the drones were initiated from the northern Syrian province of Idlib where Turkish military forces are associated with militant groups.

“The attacks were provocations to destroy relations between Russia, Turkey and Iran. They were provocateurs, but they were not Turks,” said Putin.

Russia has yet to publicly attribute explicit blame for who was behind the drone operation. But the Kremlin appears to be confident in its incriminating information.

“Those aircraft were only camouflaged – I want to emphasize this – to look like handicraft production. In fact, it is quite obvious that there were elements of high-tech nature there,” Putin said.

The Russian president appeared to address the culprit with a cryptic remark: “You know that I know,” he said.

For its part, the Pentagon has categorically denied US involvement in the drone incidents. At a press conference in Washington DC last week, Marine Corps Lieutenant General Kenneth F McKenzie Jr said: “The United States was not involved in any way with the drone attack on Russian bases at any time.”

Another Pentagon spokesmen said accusations of American complicity were “ridiculous” and “reckless”.

The US military chiefs may be genuinely speaking honestly – as far as they know about the circumstances. In other words, it is plausible that the Pentagon was not involved in the drone attacks.

If so then that points to the other candidate being the CIA. After all, as US-based political analyst Randy Martin commented for this column, it is the CIA which has been the main driver behind the entire American drone weapon and surveillance program around the world, from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and Ukraine to a swathe of African countries.

Given the routine clandestine and autonomous nature of the CIA, it is conceivable that neither the Pentagon nor even the Trump White House would be aware of all the agency’s operations. The agency is apt to go rogue at any time, and the lack of knowledge among other branches of government in Washington affords the all-important foil of “plausible denial”.

Here is a speculative, but credible scenario: CIA operatives on the ground in Syria launch a swarm of armed drones on the Russian bases. The rickety design of the UAVs is aimed at giving the appearance of Turkish-backed militants in Idlib province. As Putin remarked, the objective was to scapegoat Turkey as complicit. If that worked, then relations between Moscow and Ankara, as well as Tehran, would become acutely strained. Washington is known to be unhappy with the rapprochement between Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The hi-tech navigation equipment and explosives onboard the drones, plus the telltale presence of an American Poseidon surveillance aircraft in the skies above suggest the involvement of a US state agency – the CIA.

Washington’s agenda in Syria has nothing to do with defeating terrorism. It is to propagate instability and chaos to undermine the Syrian government of President Assad and allied Russian achievement in overcoming the US regime-change plot. Nothing would please the American agenda more than for Russia, Turkey and Iran to bust up their detente in Syria.

The CIA has the expertise and technological capability to mount the sophisticated drone attack on the Russian bases. It also has the motivation to carry it out to further its regime-change intrigues. Who gains?

Still, there is another wild card in the pack, as analyst Randy Martin posits. He says: “The swarm drone attack was probably the first time that such a tactic was ever used in military records. It may have been carried out not only as a false flag to blame Turkey, but also as a way for the operatives to test Russian air defenses and signals intelligence.”

Martin added: “The danger is that we can expect more such attacks, perhaps with deadly consequences, against Russian forces in Syria as well as against Crimea and separatists in Eastern Ukraine.”

The implications are grave. If it is confirmed that the CIA were behind the drone attack on Russian bases in Syria, then that is tantamount to an act of war by the Americans – regardless of it being actioned by a rogue agency.

That might explain why the Kremlin is holding its cards very close to its chest on the matter. This is explosive.

January 17, 2018 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 3 Comments

Citation Needed: ‘Expert’ Says Russia Has Policy to ‘Nuke Their Own People’

Sputnik – January 17, 2018

Self-proclaimed “information warfare” and US-Russia relations expert Molly McKew has accused Moscow of maintaining a policy under which Russia may nuke its own citizens- except she failed to provide a shred of evidence to this outrageous allegation.

The story began when reports surfaced detailing the contents of the Trump administration’s planned Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). The document, released by the White House every four years, is meant to assess the nuclear capabilities of the US and any changes that need to be made in their doctrine.

The NPR has yet to be approved by Trump, but it sparked controversy for its hawkishness and its enthusiasm to expand the American nuclear arsenal. The document specifically names China and Russia as “nuclear policy problems” and advises the US to bolster its atomic power projection in Eastern Europe with technology such as sea-launched cruise missiles.

Naturally, Russian news outlets turned their attentions to a US promise to bolster nuclear strength along Russian borders. The NPR claims that the US’ nuclear weapons may be used if the US feels that its interests and those of its allies are threatened — a pretty low standard for starting a thermonuclear war, as nuclear weapons are usually seen as options only to protect against existential threats.

At this point, Miss Molly McKew threw her hat into the ring. “Russian nuclear doctrine includes a description of when they can nuke their own people,” McKew tweeted on Friday in a furious response to a comment from Russian journalist Igor Korochenko that the new NPR was “insanity.”

McKew is making quite the claim. Of course, as an expert, she must know that the stronger a statement, the stronger the evidence to support it must be — yet she did not provide an iota of proof of her allegation.

Sputnik will give her the benefit of the doubt, though, and investigate the claim ourselves. Our first stop will be a 2016 analysis of Russian nuclear doctrine from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The report argues that Russia’s bar for using nuclear weapons is actually higher than many other nuclear states, including the US.

While the American doctrine posits that atomic bombs could be used to defend US interests, Russia would only launch a nuclear strike in response to existential threats to the Russian state: that being other weapons of mass destruction or mass use of conventional weapons.

The report, from a Western think tank that generally takes a dim view of Moscow, makes zero mention of a Russian doctrine to nuke Russian citizens. On the contrary, it criticizes the Russian nuclear doctrine as overly vague — and therefore not specific enough to include the circumstances under which Moscow would do the unthinkable and turn its nuclear arsenal on its own people. Even critics can find no truth to McKew’s charge.

Hard as Sputnik looked, we could find no sources suggesting that Russian nuclear doctrine includes a tenet explaining when Moscow can nuke its own people. The closest we could find is the 1954 Totskoye nuclear exercise, in which the Soviet Union tested a nuclear weapon, then sent Red Army soldiers to the site to see how the aftermath of the blast would affect them.

Horrifying, to be sure — but in those days, the effects of nuclear fallout on the human body were still poorly understood. The US conducted extremely similar tests themselves — eight of them, to be exact: the Desert Rock tests from 1951 to 1957. When the adverse health impacts of such tests were better understood, they stopped.

A harsh critic of the Russian government, journalist Aric Toler, was so shocked by the “expert’s” claims that he slammed McKew on Twitter. “‘The Russian information warfare expert’ is waging really crappy info war on Russia by completing inventing sections in the Russian nuclear doctrine,” Toler wrote, linking to the Russian nuclear doctrine to prove it.

When even your ideological allies are calling your allegations unfounded and hare-brained, that’s probably a good sign that you should slow down, take a deep breath, and cite your sources.

January 17, 2018 Posted by | Deception | , , | Leave a comment

How Russophobia wrecked normalization between US & Russia

By Finian Cunningham | RT | January 16, 2018

It’s a glaring contradiction that while US President Donald Trump has repeatedly voiced a desire for restoring friendly relations with Russia, the two countries stand even more frigidly apart than ever.

One year after Trump’s inauguration as the 45th US president, several metrics indicate bilateral ties have actually deteriorated, despite Trump’s oft-stated approval for better relations between Washington and Moscow.

Trump has said US cooperation with Russia should be seen as “an asset, not a liability.” Many people around the world, including within the US, would agree with Trump’s view. So, why the inertia in translating this into practical policy?

Not merely inertia, but in fact the opposite direction. The seizure of Russian diplomatic properties in the US, restrictions on Russian news organizations, and expanding sanctions on Russian business leaders are just some of the issues indicating growing hostility from Washington. Naturally, Russia has responded with its own countermeasures, which in turn exacerbates the antagonism.

The Trump administration’s green-lighting of lethal weapons supply to the Kiev regime in Ukraine regardless of Moscow’s appeals, and the emerging policy of Balkanizing Syria under a continuing American military presence in that country – again in contradiction to Moscow’s concerns – are more evidence of deteriorating relations.

While Trump was elected in November 2016 on a platform that included a reset from the antagonistic policy towards Russia under Democratic President Barack Obama – a policy Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was also advocating – the upshot has been a continuation of hostility under Trump.

This raises troubling questions about the limits of presidential power to exert avowed policies.

One of the levers of control over the Trump White House has been the relentless “Russiagate scandal.” Trump’s domestic political enemies within the intelligence establishment, Democrat politicians and aligned news media outlets have drowned out public discourse with endless – and baseless – claims that Trump benefited from alleged Russian interference in the presidential election.

Trump has feistily brushed off these claims as “fake news.” Nevertheless, the saturated media insinuations of Trump as a “Kremlin stooge” have inevitably hampered his options for bilateral relations with Russia.

When Trump first met Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Hamburg last July, both leaders greeted each other cordially. That caused cynical comments in US media of Trump being “played by Putin.”

They agreed to bring the Syrian war to a rapid close and to work together to implement a negotiated resolution of the Ukraine conflict. But US policy has since become even more menacing in Syria, with the recent announcement that it is forming a 30,000-member Border Security Force (BSF). That development prompted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov this week to say that he believes Washington is now intending to break up Syrian territorial integrity.

Then when Trump met Putin for a second time at the APEC summit hosted by the Philippines during November, the two presidents’ encounter was strangely crimped from a bilateral meeting to a glancing conversation on the sidelines of the event. News images showed Trump and Putin still enjoyed a cordial relationship. Trump also said then he accepted Putin’s assurances that Russia had not meddled in American domestic politics. Why the constraint then on having a bilateral meeting?

Moreover, a month later, Trump signed off on a new National Security Strategy document in December which explicitly accused Russia of using “subversive tactics” and “interfering in the domestic political affairs of countries around the world.”

The document, which Trump endorsed with his signature, went on to state: “The United States and Europe will work together to counter Russian subversion and aggression.”

Moscow has consistently responded with disdain to all such claims, pointing out the lack of evidence, and that the claims amount to a “frenzy of Russophobia.” Russia has admonished that this is damaging the prospect of restoring relations.

What is lamentable is that even though the Russophobia is at the level of baseless hysteria and wantonly irrational, it has had the palpable effect of negating any attempt to restore US-Russia relations to a more sane footing.

The “Russiagate scandal” can be ridiculed as a contrived drama that keeps running and running. It may be dismissed with contempt as a load of hogwash whipped by Trump’s political enemies within the US foreign policy establishment. But the disturbing thing is that the Russophobia has succeeded in controlling the White House.

Top Russian diplomat Lavrov this week reviewed priority foreign policy issues. They included establishing a peaceful end to the wars in Syria and Ukraine, as well as creating a peaceful settlement to the Korean nuclear crisis.

President Trump, from his brief personal meetings so far with Putin and Lavrov – the latter hosted in the White House – surely appears disposed to work with Moscow in addressing the foreign policy problems in a constructive bilateral manner. That is, in theory.

Regrettably, however, such cooperation between the American and Russian leaders will not be permitted to happen because of the Russiagate specter that has been conjured up over the Trump administration.

Hence, pressing global security concerns that would benefit from US-Russia cooperative dialogue are being jeopardized by the deepening, irrational chill in relations.

The baleful effect of this anti-Russian paranoia was illustrated in an article published last week by the Daily Beast. It was reported that a member of Trump’s National Security Council proposed early in the new presidency last year that the US should scale back its military forces in the Baltic countries.

Russia has long complained that the buildup of US-led NATO forces on its European borders is a provocative threat to its national security.

The idea of repositioning US troops from the Baltic was pitched as a “gesture to the Kremlin that would enable the nascent Trump administration to see its desire for friendly relations with Russia would be reciprocated.”

Apparently, the proposal was quickly rebuffed out of concern about how it would fuel US media claims of Trump being a Russian puppet.

Another idea that was similarly rejected was the lifting of US sanctions on Russia’s economy.

The Daily Beast goes on to make the pejorative editorial comment that the floated proposals “fit a pattern within the Trump administration… of sidling up to Russia. Taken in sum, the pattern raises questions about whether Trump and his team are willing to pay Russia back for the Kremlin’s role in the [presidential] election.”

Note how the article asserts as fact the dubious speculation about Russia interfering in US politics.

Reportedly the proposals for trying to restore relations with Russia have since dried up within Trump’s National Security Council.

Indeed, the NSC official named as the originator of the ideas – Kevin Harrington – is understood to have led the team that produced the hawkish National Security Strategy published at the end of last year.

Thus, from reasonable proposals to engage with Russia floated at the start of Trump’s first year in office, within 12 months the administration has absorbed and adopted the Russophobia narrative.

Anti-Russian group think espoused by US elites has become institutionalized, against the stated views of the president and the American electorate. Where’s the democracy in that?

READ MORE:

Senate probe expanded to anyone ‘of Russian descent or nationality’ – email

January 16, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

US missile systems in Japan may have offensive purpose & be controlled by Washington – Moscow

RT | January 15, 2018

The US-made Aegis missile-defense system deployed in Japan could be used for offensive purposes and fall under full control of Washington, the Russian foreign minister warns.

The deployment of the American Aegis Combat System, designed to provide defense against short to intermediate-range ballistic missiles, casts a shadow over Russia-Japan relations, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during his annual Q&A on Monday. Moscow has serious concerns over its purpose and who will be behind the operational control of the missile system in Japan. Despite Tokyo’s assertions, Moscow remains unconvinced.

“We have data that the system that will be deployed in Japan is based on universal launchers, which can use assault weapons,” the foreign minister stated. He added that Washington has never given control over its weapons to the country of deployment and this time will be no exception.

“We have heard that it will be Japan that will allegedly operate this system, and the United States will have nothing to do with it, but we have serious doubts that it is so.”

The statement comes on the heels of a report, which states that the stationing of the Aegis system is allegedly aimed at curbing Russia and is intended as a deterrent against its nuclear missiles, Japanese media say, citing an unnamed official.

Last month, Tokyo decided to boost its ballistic missile defense system and approved the purchase and deployment of two Aegis Ashore batteries – expected to become operational by 2023 – at a cost of around $2 billion.

Moscow has repeatedly stressed that it is eager to engage in dialogue over the stationing of US missile defense systems overseas, to make sure they will not “become a serious destabilizer” of the international climate, according to Lavrov. Despite US claims that the weapons are not directed against Russia, Moscow has “plenty of evidence that all this is not so.”

January 15, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

US creates rift among Russia, Turkey and Iran

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | January 15, 2018

Five days after Turkey summoned the US charge d’affaires in Ankara to convey its concerns over the US’ continuing support for the Kurdish militia in Syria with weapons and training, President Recep Erdogan threatened on January 15 that it is resolute about thwarting the attempt by Washington to consolidate the emergence of a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria under American protection.

Erdogan said that the Turkish military has completed its preparation to move against the Kurdish militia in their canton of Afrin, in northwestern Syria, and Manbij, in northern Syria. He added, “The operation may start any time. Operations into other regions will come after,” noting that the Turkish army was already hitting the Kurdish positions. Erdogan said, “America has acknowledged it is in the process of creating a terror army on our border. What we have to do is nip this terror army in the bud.”

On January 14, the Turkish Foreign Ministry also issued a statement saying Turkey had reiterated on numerous occasions that it was “wrong and objectionable” to cooperate with the Syrian Kurdish militia. “On the other hand, the establishment of the so-called ‘Syria Border Protection Force’ (by the US) was not consulted with Turkey, which is a member of the (US-led anti-terrorist) coalition,” the statement said. It was also unknown which coalition members approved this decision, the ministry said. “To attribute such a unilateral step to the whole coalition is an extremely wrong move that could harm the fight against Daesh,” it added.

On another plane, what emerges is that the US ploy to create misunderstanding between Moscow and Ankara by stage-managing the drone strike recently at the Russian bases in Syria from Idlib province close to the Turkish border has flopped. Erdogan telephoned President Vladimir Putin last week to talk things over and the latter since then openly endorsed the assessment by the Defence Ministry in Moscow that the drone technology used in the attack was far too sophisticated to be handled by terrorist groups without the support of an advanced country. In effect, Moscow hinted at an American conspiracy.

At a press conference in Moscow today, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also hit hard on the US’ gameplan in northern Syria. For the first time, he made the specific allegation that Washington is working on the “separation of a huge territory along the borders with Turkey and Iraq” from the rest of Syria. Analysts have estimated that the area works out to a quarter of Syrian territory. Lavrov hinted that Moscow, Tehran and Ankara are in consultation on the issue. As he put it, “We, like our Turkish and Iranian partners, like many others, I am sure, are expecting detailed explanations from the US.”

Meanwhile, Tehran has also voiced concern over the American (and Turkish) moves in northern Syria. The Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani warned of the dangers posed to the regional states by the occupation of Syria. “Any political or military action to target a part of the Syrian territories which are under the terrorist groups’ control or occupation of the Syrian lands by foreign forces runs counter to people’s interests, is considered as a threat to the regional countries and doomed to failure,” Shamkhani warned.

However, a military confrontation between Turkey and the US is unlikely to happen. Erdogan is good at brinkmanship. Nonetheless, his future course of action will bear watching. The point is, Turkey also has its own agenda in northern Syria and may well use the presence of Kurdish militia forces along its border regions as a pretext for staging new military operations in northern Syria. Equally, Turkey still has an ambivalent relationship with some of the extremist groups operating in Idlib.

All in all a complicated matrix is developing in northern Syria where Russia, Turkey and Iran have convergence as regards their opposition to the US attempt to bolster the Syrian Kurds’ control of vast territories in the region. But, having said that, Russia and Iran (and Syrian government) also disapprove of any independent Turkish military action in northern Syria. On the other hand, they also harbor misgivings about Turkey’s continuing links with some terrorist groups present in Idlib (which also have had US backing.)

The Syrian government’s best hope – as indeed Russia and Iran’s – would lie in weaning away the mainstream Kurdish groups from the orbit of US influence to engage them constructively as participants in a peace process. But Turkey brands the Kurdish groups as terrorists and threatens to attack them. Damascus has repeatedly questioned the Turkish moves with regard to Afrin.

In such complicated circumstances, it remains to be seen how the proposed Syrian Congress of National Dialogue could be held in Sochi, as planned, in end-January. The expectation was that the congress would pave the way for the drafting of a new constitution for Syria. To be sure, these contradictions will be exploited by the US to create rifts between Turkey and Russia (and Iran.) The US design is to keep Syria weak and divided for a foreseeable future so that its occupation of a big swathe of land in the strategic northern regions bordering Turkey and Iraq goes unchallenged and the Russian plans to push ahead a settlement in Syria somehow within this year get thwarted.

The good part is that the recent disturbances in Iran do not seem to have affected Tehran’s resolve to help Syrian government forces regain the lost territories. In fact, Shamkhani made his remarks (cited above) during a meeting with the Syrian Parliament Speaker Hammoudeh Sabbagh in Tehran on Monday. (FARS )

January 15, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

US Urges EU to ‘Fix’ Iran Deal: Brussels Between a Rock and a Hard Place

By Peter KORZUN | Strategic Culture Foundation | 15.01.2018

President Trump said it was the final waiver extending Iran nuclear deal. He did it with strings attached. The president’s demands include: immediate inspections at sites by international inspectors and “denying Iran paths to nuclear weapons forever” (instead of 10 years as stipulated under current law). New sanctions were issued against 14 people and entities involved with Iran’s ballistic missile programs and a crackdown on government protesters. The president wants the deal to cover Iran’s ballistic missile programs.

Restrictive measures were extended three times last year. And Donald Trump never certified the agreement. Senator Bob Corker, the current chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations, said “significant progress” had been made on bipartisan congressional legislation to address “flaws in the agreement without violating US commitments.”

According to President Trump, there are only two options: either the deal is fixed or the US pulls out. This time he wants to pass the buck, emphasizing that the decision to do it the last time is explained by his desire to secure the agreement of US European allies to fix what he calls “the terrible flaws” of the Joint Commission Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the Iran nuclear deal. Europeans have 120 days to define their position. From now on, Europe is facing a real hard choice: it’s either dancing to the US tune or being adamant in its support for the deal. The latter will bring it closer to Russia.

Germany said on Jan.12 that it remained committed to the deal and that it would consult with “European partners to find a common way forward”. The European Union remains committed to support the implementation of the JCPOA.

The US plan hardly has a chance of success. Even if Europe joins the US, which is not the case, at least for now, the introduction of any changes to the deal requires the consent of other participants: Russia, China and Iran. Tehran has taken a tough stance, flatly refusing any talks on changes.

Another element of US proposal is also a tall order. The president wants a separate follow-on deal on Iran with the EU “to enshrine triggers that the Iranian government could not exceed related to ballistic missiles.” The consent of other participants is not needed but a separate agreement will bury the JCPOA as the provisions of the two deals will contradict each other. Iran will have to pull out and it will not be its fault and responsibility.

A unilateral US withdrawal is the most feasible option. But it will provoke an international outcry. It’s better to face the consequences being a member of an international coalition. So, the US is aggressively pursuing its goals. The stakes are high and Europe will have to make its choice. If it does not back the deal, its image as a reliable partner will be damaged internationally. The EU has economic interests in Iran. It’ll lose a lot pulling out from the JCPOA. On the other hand, Europe is not at all happy at the prospect of deteriorating relations with the United States.

There is another important aspect not to be forgotten. It’s a win-win situation for Moscow. Russia does not want the Iran deal threatened. Its contribution into it was important enough. But if Brussels succumbs to pressure, it’ll be a political win for Russia to bolster its image as a reliable partner remaining faithful to its obligations. Even with the JCPOA in place, some restrictions on economic and military cooperation remain in force. If the US tears up the deal, there will be no formal obligation to comply with them. Tehran will be pushed to develop even closer ties with Moscow and Beijing.

If the EU stands tall and has it its way, the US European partners may not back the United States in the United Nations, undermining what is called “Western unity”. Brussels and Moscow will get closer. Iran will become a field for cooperation. The process of rapprochement will be spurred if the US imposes restrictive measures on European companies participating in joint projects with Russia, such as Nord Stream-2, for instance. That’s how US sticking with tough stance on Iran may backfire. Acting high and mighty on international stage does not always bring the desired results. Taking well-thought-out foreign policy moves as elements of grand strategy does pay off but the US prefers to act otherwise. By doing so, it risks shooting itself in the foot.

January 15, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

US forcing Europe to abandon Russian gas & buy more expensive American LNG – Lavrov

RT | January 15, 2018

The United States is afraid of fair competition in the energy sector, and is hampering the implementation of the Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

“There is reprisal in the energy sector against North Stream 2. It is the US which is calling it politicized, leading to a split in Europe, and the strangling of Ukraine,” he said at a press conference on Monday.

“Washington clearly forces Europeans to abandon Nord Stream 2, despite the fact that gas deliveries to Germany via the pipeline could be 2,000km shorter than through Ukraine, and the cost of transit could be halved,” said the Russian diplomat.

Europeans “are being forced to buy much more expensive liquefied gas from the United States instead of Russian gas,” Lavrov added.

He also said that the US could not withstand fair competition from Russia in the gas-export sector.

Russia plans to build the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea to Germany, and to double the existing pipeline’s capacity of 55 billion cubic meters per year.

The project has faced fierce resistance from some EU members, especially from the Baltic states and Poland. They say the pipeline will cut gas transit through Ukraine and will result in a Russian monopoly in the EU gas market.

Other countries like Austria, Hungary and Germany are in favor of buying Russian gas.

January 15, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | 3 Comments