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.