Russia Agrees to Freeze All Nuclear Warheads & Extend New START for 1 Year, Trump Administration Says Agreement Likely in Next Few Days; Social Media Platforms Censor New Reporting on Hunter Biden Scandal, Congress Encouraging More Social Media Censorship

Yesterday, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated that it would agree to freeze all nuclear warheads and extend the New START Treaty, which is set to expire in February. Later in the day, an official from the Trump administration said there were no major remaining obstacles to a deal. According to reporting by The Wall Street Journal:

“We are very, very close to a deal,” the official said. “Now that the Russians have agreed to a warhead freeze, I do not see why we cannot work out the remaining issues in the coming days.”

The remaining issues to be worked out include verification of the warhead freeze and the definition of a warhead, the U.S. official said. 

“We appreciate the Russian Federation’s willingness to make progress on the issue of nuclear arms control,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said. “The United States is prepared to meet immediately to finalize a verifiable agreement. We expect Russia to empower its diplomats to do the same.” 

Further reporting by TASS suggested that a meeting would happen between the sides within the next few days to hammer out the details:

The United States is ready to hold a meeting immediately with Russia to finalize the agreement to extend the Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START), spokesperson for the US State Department Morgan Ortagus said in a statement Tuesday….

….It is expected that US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea will inform NATO allies Tuesday about the status of talks with Russia.

On October 14th, the New York Post published an article reporting on what were alleged to be emails from Hunter Biden retrieved from a laptop abandoned at a computer repair shop. The emails purportedly reveal that Biden leveraged his father’s political connections in order to get a cushy compensation package from the Ukrainian oil company, Burisma, for which he sat on the board – a position for which Biden had no experience or qualifications.

As soon as the story hit, many establishment Democrats and their supporters were insisting that the emails were fake and/or part of a Russian disinformation campaign. Here we go again. Those making this accusation offered no evidence and many others have pointed out that if the emails were not authentic, then the Biden family would be howling this from the rooftops, but they aren’t. The Department of Justice and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) have both publicly stated that there is no evidence that this story has anything to do with a Russian intelligence operation. The DNI, John Ratcliffe, stated yesterday after Rep. Adam Schiff – who put out misinformation about Russiagate – tried the “Russia done it” line:

“Let me be clear: The intelligence community doesn’t believe that because there is no intelligence that supports that. And we shared no intelligence with Chairman Schiff or any other member of Congress that Hunter Biden’s laptop is part of some Russian disinformation campaign,” Ratcliffe added.

Not long after the New York Post story came out, Twitter prevented users of the platform from sharing it publicly. Some reported that they couldn’t even share the article privately as part of the direct message (DM) feature on Twitter, using the excuse/policy that Twitter would not allow the sharing of stories that involved hacked materials. Facebook also reportedly throttled the dissemination of the article on its platform.

Congressional Democrats have been putting increasing pressure on the CEO’s of social media and tech companies to implement even more censorship policies under the guise of preventing the spread of “disinformation” and “fact checking.” In the video below, Kim Iversen discusses these issues and the implications for free speech:

Putin Offers 1-Year Extension on New Start Without Pre-Conditions, U.S. Rejects; Top Think Tanks Funded by Defense Industry, Including Atlantic Council Which is Advising Belarus’ Opposition Leader

On Friday Putin offered to extend the NEW Start Treaty with no pre-conditions for one year. The Russian news agency TASS reported on Putin’s remarks:

Earlier in the day, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with permanent members of the Russian Security Council that it would be right to extend the treaty unconditionally for at least one year “to have a possibility to hold meaningful talks on all the parameters of the problems that are regulated by such treaties.” He asked Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to try to receive “any clear answer” from the United States the soonest possible.

Later in the day, Trump’s national security advisor, Robert O’Brien, pooh-poohed the proposal, calling it on a non-starter. The AP reported:

Adding an edginess to the diplomatic clash, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, suggested the Russians rethink their stance “before a costly arms race ensues.” Administration officials have previously alluded to building up nuclear forces if the treaty is abandoned, although the Pentagon has its hands full paying for a one-for-one replacement of older nuclear weapons.

It is believed that Moscow may be biding its time until after the election when presumably Democratic candidate Joe Biden will be taking over the presidency. The Biden campaign has publicly indicated its position to renew New START while the Trump administration has been trying to strongarm the Russian government into making major concessions that would not be reciprocated.

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that the top 50 think tanks in the U.S. have received over $1 billion in funding from defense contractors and the U.S. government. Reporting by Barbara Boland at The American Conservative showed:

Donations to these think tanks came from 68 different U.S. government and defense contractor sources, under at least 600 separate donations. The top five defense contractor donors to U.S. think tanks were Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martina and Air Bus.

The Top 10 Think Tanks by Amount Received from U.S. Government and Defense Contractors 

RAND Corporation$1,029,100,000
Center for a New American Security (CNAS)$8,956,000
Atlantic Council$8,697,000
New America Foundation$7,283,828
German Marshall Fund of the United States$6,599,999
CSIS$5,040,000
Council on Foreign Relations$2,590,000
Brookings Institution$2,485,000
Heritage Foundation$1,375,000
Stimson Center$1,343,753

The think tank occupying the number 3 position on the above list is the illustrious Atlantic Council – a pro-NATO think tank that sponsors such hawkish hacks like Anders Aslund as experts. In a lengthy expose, Kit Klarenberg discusses how Belarussian opposition politician Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is getting increasingly cozy with folks affiliated with the Atlantic Council:

From the moment she announced her candidacy for the Belarusian presidency after her husband Sergey was spuriously jailed for electioneering activities that would be considered normal in the rest of Europe, Tikhanovskaya has been a darling of the Western media. With her improbable ascension from stay-at-home mother to leading opposition figure, then proto-revolutionary leader-in-exile, documented on an almost daily basis. 

Along the way, Tikhanovskaya has been keen to stress the upheaval in Belarus is neither pro-Western nor pro-Russian in character, but pro-democracy, a key message reiterated uncritically over and again by mainstream journalists. However, not a single one has deigned to mention, much less question, the fact that one of her key confidantes, Franak Viacorka, is a ‘non-resident fellow’ at Atlantic Council, a think tank that aggressively propagandizes in support of NATO, and wider American financial, political, military and ideological interests in Europe and beyond. 

This position isn’t mentioned in his Twitter bio, and it’s unclear precisely when he became Tikhanovskaya’s ‘international relations advisor.’ Viacorka’s Atlantic Council appointment was announced on August 15 – in a Washington Post op-ed published the same day, he and Melinda Haring, deputy director of the council’s Eurasia Center, painted a glowing, provocative portrait of the would-be president of Belarus, framing her as part of a wider feminist uprising against the country’s “deeply patriarchal” elite, an upheaval central to the radical shakeup of the country.

The council billed Viacorka as a “journalist from Belarus,” which is true, to an extent. A long-time anti-Lukashenko activist, his campaigning as a teenager in the run-up to the 2006   presidential election was even the subject of an award-winning documentary. Subsequently, he spent seven years at US government-controlled media outlets Radio FreeEurope and Radio Liberty, before moving to Washington DC in August 2018 to serve as Digital Media Strategist   for the US Agency for Radio Free Europe’s parent company US Agency for Global Media (USAGM), a role which ended just before he joined the Atlantic Council. In August 2018, USAGM’s then-CEO acknowledged its media outlets’ “global priorities reflect US national security interests.” 

Founded in 1961, the council is best understood as NATO’s intellectual wing-cum-propaganda arm. Just as the alliance’s paradoxical purpose is, in the phrase of academic Richard Sakwa, “to manage the security risks created by its existence,” so too the organization exists to promote the notion of a Russian threat, in order to justify NATO’s post-Cold War endurance. 

In this sense, the Atlantic Council is no different from most other ‘think tanks’ in that its raison d’etre is to defend and further the concerns of its financiers – in pursuit of that goal, as with most other lobby groups of this nature, it often publishes highly dubious, biased ‘research’ under the guise of objective academic inquiry, and recruits to its ranks individuals who advance its objectives in some way, promoting these as ‘independent experts.’ 

Read the full article here.

Nagorno-Karabakh Ceasefire Breaks Down, Azerbaijan Lobbies DC; Pompeo’s Proposed “Asian NATO” Idea Falls Flat

A ceasefire brokered by Russia over the weekend that was to allow time for both sides in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to collect the dead and exchange prisoners, broke down almost immediately. Within 24 hours, heavy shelling was reported in civilian areas. Fighting has continued on into the beginning of this week. Antiwar.com reported the following:

The ceasefire fell apart on Sunday, and Azerbaijan said it shelled an Armenian regiment after an attack on Ganja, a city deep inside Azerbaijan’s territory. Armenia denied attacking Ganja.

Accusations continued on Monday. Baku accused Armenian forces of launching attacks inside Nagorno-Karabakh and shelling areas inside Azerbaijan. Nagorno-Karabakh said Azerbaijan directed a “large number of forces” to Hudrut, a town in the south of the enclave, and reported “large-scale hostilities.”

Nagorno-Karabakh said on Monday that 45 more of its servicemen were killed, bringing its total military deaths to 525 since the clashes broke out on September 27th.

Follow-up reporting by AP on Tuesday stated:

The reported death toll in clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over the separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh has reached about 600, with officials reporting more military and civilian deaths as the fighting continues despite a cease-fire announced over the weekend.

Nagorno-Karabakh military officials said Tuesday that 16 more of their servicemen have been killed in fighting, bringinhe total number of dead among military members to 532 since Sept. 27, when the fighting started. Azerbaijan hasn’t disclosed its military losses, and the overall toll is likely to be much higher with both sides regularly claiming to have inflicted significant military casualties on one another.

Azerbaijani authorities said 42 civilians have been killed on their side in over two weeks. Nagorno-Karabakh human rights ombudsman Artak Beglaryan late Monday reported at least 31 civilian deaths in the breakaway region. Hundreds more have been wounded….

….On Tuesday, Azerbaijani officials have once again accused Armenian forces of shelling some of its regions, and Nagorno-Karabakh officials said Azerbaijan launched “large-scale military operations” along the front line.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan has employed multiple professional PR firms to lobby for its interests in Washington DC, including pushing the characterization of Armenia as the aggressor in the current flare-up in Nagorno-Karabakh. According to reporting from Barbara Boland in The American Conservative:

While oil-rich Azerbaijan’s lobbying slowed after 2016 due to the collapse of its currency, Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) documents reveal a flurry of recent activity aimed at convincing Washington elites that Armenia is the aggressor and that the U.S. should favor Azerbaijan in the conflict.

When American lobbying and public relations firms are hired by foreign countries, they are legally required to register their clients with the Justice Department under FARA. They are also required to provide a list of the activities they undertake on behalf of the foreign country.

Azerbaijan’s hired K Street guns are distributing what are euphemistically referred to in FARA documents as “informational materials.” These materials could be more accurately described as propaganda. The documents distributed on Capitol Hill highlight Armenia’s “provocative actions,” its “illegal” role in the conflict, that Armenia allegedly “kills Azerbaijani civilians, including children,” and how “Armenia’s leaders have been actively undermining the ongoing peace process.”

The documents lobbyists distribute on Capitol Hill make some incredulous claims: that “Armenia has long been involved with Middle Eastern terrorism,” that “Azerbaijan has been consistent in urging substantive and result-oriented negotiations in order to achieve a breakthrough in the conflict,” and that “Turkey is not directly involved and is not a party to the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict.”

Read the full article here.

For some interesting background on the historical complexities behind the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, read Nagorno-Karabakh’s Myth of Ancient Hatreds here and The Fighting Between Armenia and Azerbaijan Has Halted – But a Deep-Rooted Conflict Remains here. Pepe Escobar provides his take on things at Asia Times.

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In late August, Washington floated the idea of trying to cement a NATO-style alliance in Asia against China consisting of the U.S., Japan, Australia, and India – a group of nations currently known as “the Quad.” The aspiration of an Asian NATO was mentioned publicly by Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun:

“It is a reality that the Indo-Pacific region is actually lacking in strong multilateral structures. They don’t have anything of the fortitude of NATO or the European Union,” Biegun said. “There is certainly an invitation there at some point to formalize a structure like this.”

However, a meeting of the Quad members last week seemed to put the kibosh on that idea:

A meeting in Tokyo of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or “Quad” — the United States, India, Japan, and Australia — ended without a joint communique or no mention of an earlier proposal by Washington that it might be time to expand their group into a more formal security alliance akin to NATO

This is a blow to the Trump administration, which is looking to shore up its support for what it sees as a growing cold war against China.

Read the full write-up by Jason Ditz here.

Prof. Paul Robinson’s Thoughts on “The View from Moscow”

By Paul Robinson, Irrussianality, 10/5/20

The View from Moscow reads somewhat like two books in one. The first 150 pages consist of a straightforward survey of Russian history from Kievan Rus onwards, with a focus on the Soviet period (everything up until 1917 gets a mere 44 pages). The second half of the book then shifts tone and becomes altogether more political, as Baldwin attempts to explain how post-Soviet US-Russia relations deteriorated to the extent that we are now in a sort of ‘New Cold War’.

Read full review here.

Paul Robinson: Renewed Azerbaijan/Armenia Conflict a New Threat to Russia’s Delicate Balancing Act with Key Player Turkey

By Professor Paul Robinson, RT, 9/28/20

Azerbaijan has never forgotten its 1990s humiliation at the hands of Armenia. Now stronger than its sworn enemy, and emboldened by Turkish support, Baku’s assertiveness is creating a headache for Moscow.

Russian president Vladimir Putin once complained that communist leader Vladimir Lenin had placed a ‘time bomb’ under Russia. He had in mind the introduction of the federal principle after Lenin’s Bolsheviks took power in 1917. Lenin gave national minorities their own republics within the Soviet Union. In so doing, he created a situation which allowed those republics to secede from the Union once communist power collapsed.

Soviet federalism brought other problems. The communists granted autonomy to the larger nationalities in the form of 15 ‘republics.’ Smaller nationalities also got autonomy, but of a different form – so-called ‘autonomous republics’ and ‘autonomous regions.’ When the union fell apart, fully-fledged republics got independence, but the autonomous republics and regions within them did not.

Unsurprisingly, many of the smaller minorities were not too happy with this somewhat arbitrary outcome, and attempted to secede from the seceding republics. The result was several wars, the first of which took place in the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region, an Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan, after it attempted to secede from Azerbaijan and join with Armenia. The war ended in an Armenian victory. Not only did the Armenians drive the Azeris out of Nagorno-Karabakh, but they also captured a swath of Azeri territory linking Armenia with the breakaway region.

Continue reading here.

Guest Post: Achieving Genuine Peace by Eradicating Imperialism

Today’s guest post is by James Chen. Please feel free to give your thoughts on the article in the comments section below. – Natylie

By James Chen

In the most important speech of his short, but significant life of public service, President John F. Kennedy explained about “the genuine peace”:

“What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children–not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women–not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.”

I like to point out two not-so-subtle essences of the meaning of genuine peace, which are frequently missed or ignored by some childish political pundits and radical “peace lovers.” First, genuine peace cannot to be achieved by an indiscriminate pacifists’ approach. Secondly, genuine peace should not be obtained through endless Machiavellian shenanigans, such as the adage that my enemy’s enemy is always considered a friend.

The indiscriminate pacifists’ approach can only make more wars necessary. When The League of Nations chose to acquiesce to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, Northern and Eastern China, permission was in fact granted to the Japanese Empire to choose its next target, the Soviet Union or the United States. Again, when Neville Chamberlain and Édouard Daladier signed the Munich Agreement with Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, a disastrous war in Europe was invited. No imperial aggressor has ever been dissuaded or deterred by goodwill alone in human history.

The doctrine of making one’s enemy’s enemy a friend will inevitably lead to wars with our emboldened “allies” who are fundamentally our enemies. Henry Kissinger, who persuaded President Richard Nixon to play the “China card” against the Soviet Union, only found himself, at the last stage of his life, struggling to urge a new cold war with imperial China, which had already infiltrated every fabric of the United States in the past half century. Zbigniew Brzezinski, who devised the “Mujahideen card” for President Jimmy Carter, would always be branded as the prime culprit whose ill-minded scheme ultimately led to the bombing of the World Trade Center and an endless war against Islamic terrorism. Making friends with someone who does not share the same values does not make him a true friend, but a true enemy much harder to deal with, due to the technology, weapons and money that is provided.

In order to understand why 75 years after the end of WWII, we are still far away from realizing the dream of genuine peace which the whole world suffered so much to achieve as 70 million lives were lost, we have to go back to the historical moment when the most deadly confrontation of human beings was about to end. It is well known that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had a great vision to achieve world peace which he sought to implement by eradicating the long-standing practice of imperialism and by developing a rapport with the leader of the second most powerful country of the world at that moment. The chance was never better in human history. His abrupt death disrupted this dream as his successor, President Harry S. Truman, did not have Roosevelt’s understanding of the nuances of the international arena or the Soviet Union’s security concerns, much less his diplomatic skills. Most unfortunately for the world, Truman did not have that deep aspiration for genuine peace.

The consequences have been quite severe. Not only did the world miss one of the greatest opportunities to advance human civilization with a quantum leap, but also the U.S. took an erroneous path to engage in a prolonged and dangerous cold war with the Soviet Union. At the same time, the British Empire was allowed to survive and continue to play a manipulative role on the world stage. After all, two of the most ambitious and barbaric medieval empires, the Chinese and the Ottoman, were also revived as a result of the Machiavellian game. During the process, the American Republic has been degenerating into an empire, controlled by the deep state of establishment, disguised under the mask of a permanent revolving election door of two-party dictatorship. Today, although the Soviet Union has been dissolved for nearly thirty years, we are probably even farther away from achieving the goal of genuine peace than we were 75 years ago, while world peace is constantly threatened by the ambitions of four contemporary empires: the American, the British, the Chinese, and the Ottoman.

With no intention to write a book-length article, I would only point out here two ominous manifestations of each of the four empires as follows:

The American Empire

  1. The United States government orchestrated a permanent military organization, NATO, only four years after the end of WWII. The military organization was created in 1949 against the Soviet Union as a loophole to by-pass the UN Charter, with a claim to secure a lasting peace in Europe, based on common values of individual liberty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The interesting thing is that it continues to expand nearly thirty years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Many of its member states are in fact rated as flawed democracies, and four of its member states – Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Turkey – are rated as hybrid regimes by the most recent Democratic Index. The records of NATO breaching the UN Charter – invading and bombing sovereign countries, sponsoring terrorism, and conducting genocides – are numerous.
  2. The military forces of the United States invaded Vietnam and intended to suppress the self-determination of the Vietnamese people in the 1960s-70s, causing millions of deaths in that country. And the ripple effect of that intervention resulted in human catastrophe in surrounding countries, such as Cambodia and Laos.

The British Empire

  1. The United Kingdom persuaded the United States to join the 1953 Iranian coup d’état carried out by the Iranian military, known in Iran as the 28 Mordad coup d’état, resulting in the overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh, in favor of the monarchical rule of the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, in August of 1953. It is not necessary to list the consequences of the coup in this article.
  2. The United Kingdom was the first country to join the United States in the second Iraq War, which was orchestrated by the neoconservatives of the Bush II administration to expand the American-Anglo dominance of the world, resulting in total destabilization of the region and the spread of Islamic terrorism.

The Chinese Empire

  1.  Ever since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, China has been continuing its imperial expansion without cessation, epitomized by the annexation of Tibet in 1950 and suppression of the Tibetan rebellion in 1959; invasion of India and occupation of Aksai Chin in 1962; invasion of Vietnam in 1979; continuous aggression against Taiwan – threatening invasion, massacres and annexation, causing multiple Taiwan strait crises in 1954, 1958, 1996, and further; militarizing international waters of the South China Sea by constructing military bases on uninhabitable archipelagos in violation of international law.
  2. Since the normalization of relations between U.S. and China, the Chinese government has been trying to weaken the United States through sabotage, infiltration, spying, subjugation, and coercion. At the same time, it has been influencing and bribing many American politicians, academics, and businesspeople to serve its interests. One of the most pertinent examples of the Chinese interference in the American political and business arena is related to the current Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden. Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, a lawyer and investment banker, until recently was a director at Bohai Harvest RST, known as BHR, formed with $1 billion in Chinese government funding shortly after then-Vice President Biden visited China in December 2013, according to the investigative report. BHR co-purchased Henniges Automotive with Chinese military contractor AVIC, which had been identified as a front for China’s military and had been sanctioned before the Obama administration approved the Biden-connected sale.

The ultimate goal of the Chinese government is to replace the United States as the most powerful country on Earth, including their own ideology of exceptionalism.  Their goal is to realize the ambition reflected in their name for their country, “the Central Empire,” which is based on the myth of a single dominant “race” of Han-Chinese.

The Ottoman Empire

  1. Thirty thousand Turkish troops are currently occupying one third of the Republic of Cyprus since 1974, after a bloody invasion. This occupation of a foreign territory of a sovereign state is the only such occupation confirmed and recognized by the UN Security Council, with condemnation and resolutions currently issued on the subject.  This is in addition to other indisputable invasions and occupations perpetrated by the Turkish military forces in other sovereign countries, including Greece, Iraq, Syria, and Libya.
  2. The Turkish government continues to conduct genocide against the Kurdish people inside and outside its borders, both physically and culturally for nearly 100 years, sometimes with help from the United States through military and economic aid programs. The Turkish government also continues to deny the Armenian, Assyrian, and Pontic Greek genocides which were the archetypal examples for all the genocides committed in the twentieth century and beyond. Today, it continues efforts to eradicate acknowledgment of those victimized ethnic groups under the pretense of national security concerns, which is supported by typical acquiesce from the United States and the United Kingdom, two so-called western democracies which do not officially recognize the Armenian genocide.

Understanding the pathophysiology of this four-empire disease of the world, I would like to jump directly into the solution of it. The principles we should bear in mind are:

  1. The government of the United States should lower the threshold for organizing a new party that is free of control by the military-industrial complex, banks, oil companies, etc.
  2. Our government should start to break down the few media-conglomerates and social media companies to allow truly free discussion by American citizens;
  3. Our government should change the direction of our foreign policy towards respecting true democracy, self-determination, and sovereignty;
  4. Our government should stop supporting theocracies disguised as democracies;
  5. Our government should make allies by shared values, not necessarily short-term interests;
  6. Our government should start to dissolve, or at least reform, all the permanent military organizations which the United States is currently participating in;
  7. Our government should avoid playing into the hands of globalist fascism, which advocates forming a single global government with etiology of neo-liberalism;
  8. Our government should seek foreign policy advice from outside of establishment think tanks, such as the Council on Foreign Relations, etc.

To be more specific, we should start to move in the following five directions without hesitation:

  1. Disengage from any relationships with the Chinese and Ottoman empires;
  2. Form true alliances against the Chinese and Ottoman empires;
  3. Sever the so-called US-UK special relationship and encourage the dissolution of the British Empire;
  4. Consolidate cooperation with Australia, EU, Japan and India;
  5. Rebuild trust with Russia.

I have no doubt that this approach is the only approach that can not only serve the founding principles of this country, but also can deliver genuine peace to the world by the end of the twenty-first century.

James J. Chen has had a life-long interest in history, politics, and the humanities. He has begun writing on these topics, with a particular emphasis on the the U.S.’s role in the evolution of the modern world.  He lives and practices medicine in the San Francisco Bay Area. His website address is: https://jamesjchen.wixsite.com/save-the-country.

What is it Really Like in Russia? Video of a New Housing Development in the Yekaterinburg Area

Note: I’m finishing up a project this week and an in-depth article should be published in the near future. Hence, the fewer posts.

In the meantime, below is a video of a new housing project that has been built in Yekaterinburg in the Urals area of Russia. With our media constantly characterizing Russia as simply a corrupt and dour hell-hole, it is important to see examples of what life is really like throughout the country.

I found this one particularly interesting since I plan to return to Russia in 2021 and Yekaterinburg is on my list of cities to visit.

What Putin Said About the Situation in Belarus in His Recent Interview with Rossiya TV

Vladimir Putin answered questions from VGTRK journalist and anchor of Vesti v Subbotu (News on Saturday) programme Sergei Brilyov.

In a recent interview with Rossiya TV, Vladimir Putin discussed several issues, including the current state of the Russian economy and the Covid pandemic. However, I have excerpted below the portion dealing with what is presently happening in Belarus. – Natylie

Sergei Brilyov: Mr President, it is not only the purely economic things that affect the economy (for example, the oil prices returned to $46 as we predicted) but also political factors. Belarus is, certainly, a political factor.

Vladimir Putin: Of course.

Sergei Brilyov: We have seen numerous reports on your telephone conversations with European leaders. But these reports are usually just scanty press releases from the Kremlin Press Service. In fact, you have not yet publicly shared your view of the situation in detail. What do you think of the developments in Belarus?

Vladimir Putin: You know, I think that we have shown much more restraint and neutrality with respect to the events in Belarus than many other countries, both European and American ones, such as the United States.

In my opinion, we have indeed been covering the developments in Belarus quite objectively, from every angle, showing both sides. We believe that it is up to the Belarusian society and people themselves to deal with this. Although, certainly, we care about what is happening there.

This nation is very close to us and perhaps is the closest, both in terms of ethnic proximity, the language, the culture, the spiritual as well as other aspects. We have dozens or probably hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of direct family ties with Belarus and close industrial cooperation. Suffice it to say that, for example, Belarusian products account for more than 90 percent of the total agricultural imports on the Russian market.

Sergei Brilyov: You mean the Belarusian products imported to our country?

Vladimir Putin: Belarusian exports. If we look at other industries – for example, agricultural equipment manufacturing – the figures are similar. Therefore, of course, we care about what is happening there. But it is still up to the Belarusians to deal with this situation.

We most certainly hope that all the parties will have enough common sense to reach a solution in a peaceful way, without running to extremes. Of course, if the people take to the streets, it cannot be ignored. Everybody must listen to them and respond. By the way, the President of Belarus said that he is willing to consider conducting a constitutional reform, adopting a new Constitution, holding new parliamentary and presidential elections based on the new Constitution. But the effective Constitution must not be breached. Did you note that the Constitutional Court of Belarus issued a ruling, according to which it is absolutely unacceptable to establish supra-constitutional bodies which are not envisaged by the country’s basic law and which are trying to take over power. It is hard to disagree with this ruling.

Sergei Brilyov: I looked at what they are writing about Belarus abroad, and often it is not about ideology but simply about facts. A lot of foreign articles about the events in Belarus are accompanied by an explanation what Belarus is and where it is located. This is because as distinct from Russian citizens, many people there know little about it. And, of course, in Russia we remember the events not only after the election but also before it, in part, about the 33 guests at the Byelorusochka hotel and the Russian citizens that were detained.

Mr President, who do you think got into whose trap?

Vladimir Putin: Well, now it is obvious. This was an operation by secret services. The people you mentioned were used without their knowledge in order to move them to Belarus. They received perfectly legal assignments. They were told that they must go to third countries, to Latin America and the Middle East, for absolutely legal work. But in fact they were dragged off to Belarus and presented as a potential attack force in order to destabilise the situation during the election campaign. This had nothing to do with reality.

Let me repeat that these people were going to work in a third country. They were simply lured there, dragged across the border. By the way, our border guards did not let them out and they could not move in anywhere. But de facto they were brought in on fake documents.

Sergei Brilyov: Ukrainian secret services?

Vladimir Putin: This was an operation of Ukrainian secret services in cooperation with their US colleagues. Now this is known for sure. Some participants in this event or observers, well-informed people do not even conceal this now.

Sergei Brilyov: Mr President, I think I have been lucky in my career as a journalist. I had three detailed interviews with Alexander Lukashenko but you know him much better, of course. In this context, I would like to quote what Mr Lukashenko said after one of his telephone conversations with you.

Vladimir Putin: Go ahead.

Sergei Brilyov: He said that when it comes to the military component, we have a treaty with the Russian Federation in the framework of the Union State and the CSTO, that is, a Collective Security Treaty Organisation, and these aspects seem to be covered by that Treaty. Somewhat earlier he said you agreed to provide assistance to Minsk at his first request.

What is meant by “these aspects”?

Vladimir Putin: There is no need to hush up anything.

Indeed, the Union Treaty, that is, the Treaty on the Union State, and the Collective Security Treaty (CSTO) include articles saying that all member states of these organisations, including the Union State, which consists of two states only – Russia and Belarus, are obliged to help each other protect their sovereignty, external borders and stability. This is exactly what it says.

In this connection, we have certain obligations towards Belarus, and this is how Mr Lukashenko has formulated his question. He said that he would like us to provide assistance to him if this should become necessary. I replied that Russia would honour all its obligations.

Mr Lukashenko has asked me to create a reserve group of law enforcement personnel, and I have done this. But we have also agreed that this group would not be used unless the situation becomes uncontrollable, when extremist elements – I would like to say this once again – when the extremist elements, using political slogans as a cover, overstep the mark and start plundering the country, burning vehicles, houses, banks, trying to seize administration buildings, and so on.

During our conversation with Mr Lukashenko, we came to the conclusion that now it is not necessary, and I hope that it will never be necessary to use this reserve, which is why we are not using it.

I would like to say once again that we proceed from the belief that all the current problems in Belarus will be settled peacefully, and if any violations are permitted by either side – the state authorities and the law enforcement personnel, or the protesters – if they exceed the framework of the law, the law will respond to this accordingly. The law must be equal for everyone. But speaking objectively, I believe that the Belarusian law enforcement agencies are exercising commendable self-control despite everything. Just take a look at what is happening in some other countries.

Sergei Brilyov: Yes, but the first two days were awful for many people.

Vladimir Putin: You know what I think about this. Was it not awful when people died in some European countries nearly every day?

Sergei Brilyov: This is why Lukashenko rejected Macron’s mediation, offering instead to help him deal with the yellow vest protests.

Vladimir Putin: Is it not awful when a defenceless person is shot in the back and there are his three children in his car?

Sergei Brilyov: Yes, it is awful.

Vladimir Putin: Have those who are putting the blame on Belarus and the Belarusian authorities, President Lukashenko, have these people condemned these acts? I have not heard anything about this. Why such discrimination?

This makes me think that the issue is not the current events in Belarus, but that some forces would like to see something different happening there. They would like to influence these processes and to bring about the solutions that would suit their political interests.

Therefore, I would like to say once again that the general situation [in Belarus] is improving, by and large. And I hope that all the problems – and there are indeed problems, because otherwise the people would not have taken to the streets – that all these problems will be settled peacefully within the framework of the Constitution and the law.

Sergei Brilyov: Thank you, Mr President.

Read the full interview here.

Gordon Hahn – Belarus: The Slavic Knot Tightens

By Gordon Hahn, August 23, 2020

As previously thought, Aleksandr Lukashenko’s harsh rule in Belarus is likely finished (www.facebook.com/gordon.hahn1/posts/10223340676086689). A few scattered thoughts on the dynamics taking shape around the Belarus crisis; one that threatens both the ‘stability’ and peace of Europe, Eurasia, and the world.

BELARUS

1. The situation is likely to deteriorate slowly over time.

2. Aleksandr Lukashenko is an unsteady element, who is likely to become more desperate and trigger-happy the longer the protests persist. His overreactions will provoke greater resistance. In this way, Belarus 2020 is not necessarily Russia 2021 or 2024. Putin is a careful, balancing, soft authoritarian. Where Putin nudges and prods with incentives and disincentives, Lukashenko shoves and batters to intimidate.

3. The regime thus far has split only on the edges, with the state bureaucracy and security forces still remaining loyal. However, Lukashenko’s popular support base is slowly disintegrating, as the protests by factory workers and others indicate. Over time, regime unity is also likely to deteriorate.

4. Lukashenko is using a ‘besIeged fortress’ strategy now to reinforce his support base in state and society, warning of possible intervention by NATO forces. His defense minister has raised the specter of a NATO ‘humanitarian intervention’ model in order to conduct an air campaign against Minsk as Washington and Brussels did in Serbia (www.rbc.ru/politics/23/08/2020/5f41b8479a79471b497ceef8?from=from_main_3&fbclid=IwAR2bppfrQ3XQEkXuakn6zh5xlszi6xTV4QH9EAFKy06XD0KYChEzo-mmkpE). The Serbian campaign, NATO expansion, and color revolution policies have had a profound effect on the politics of several pro-Russian Slavic and post-Soviet states in addition to those of Russia herself. The threat of NATO expansion and humanitarian interventions can be something in which some politicians and opinion makers sincerely believe and/or a bogey man deployed to create a rally around the flag effect and to discredit domestic opposition.

5. The risk of violence on the part of the opposition, which would likely spark a ruthless and bloody crackdown far greater than that which we have seen hitherto, grows the longer the protests continue. Some leaders will become frustrated with peaceful demonstrations, and Belarusian nationalists – while fewer in proportion than in Ukraine or Russia – will be increasingly inclined to turn to violence. In this case, the Maidan example is unfortunately germane.

RUSSIA

1. Putin is cautious in general. In this crisis he will be exceedingly so. At this point, he appears to be hedging his bets, making no threatening sounds towards the West and maintaining some separation from Lukashenko’s listing ship.

Continue reading here.

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