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Putin’s Remarks at the Valdai Conference

Last week, Vladimir Putin gave a speech at the annual Valdai Conference (held virtually this year). Below I have reprinted the English translation of his remarks from the Kremlin’s website. He made some very interesting comments on several issues, which I have placed in bold. These include the appropriate role of the state in the Russian economy, civil society, the role of the United Nations and international institutions in general, and the environment.

In terms of the environment, it appears that Putin’s views have evolved, probably as a result of the natural disasters that have befallen Russia at a more rapid rate and with stronger force in recent years (forest fires, flooding, and ice melt) as well as the pandemic and its ramifications.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues, friends,

Participants of the 17th plenary meeting of the Valdai Club,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to welcome you all to our traditional annual meeting. We are meeting in an unusual format this time; we are videoconferencing. But I can see there are also people in the room. Not as many as usual of course, but nevertheless there are people present, and, apparently, you have had an in-person discussion, and I am delighted that you have.

We are certainly aware, we can see that the coronavirus epidemic has seriously affected public, business, and international affairs. More than that – it has affected everyone’s routine rhythm of life.

Almost all countries had to impose various restrictions, and large public gatherings have been largely cancelled. This year has been challenging for your Club as well. Most importantly, though, you continue to work. With the help of remote technology, you conduct heated and meaningful debates, discuss things, and bring in new experts who share their opinions and present interesting outside-the-box, sometimes even opposing, views on current developments. Such an exchange is, of course, very important and useful now that the world is facing so many challenges that need to be resolved.

Thus, we still have to understand how the epidemic affected and will continue to affect the present and future of humanity. As it confronts this dangerous threat, the international community is trying to take certain actions and to mobilize itself. Some things are already being done as collaborative efforts, but I want to note straight away that this is only a fraction of what needs to be done in the face of this formidable common challenge. These missed opportunities are also a subject for a candid international discussion.

From the onset of the pandemic in Russia, we have focused on preserving lives and ensuring safety of our people as our key values. This was an informed choice dictated by our culture and spiritual traditions, and our complex, sometimes dramatic, history. If we think back to the great demographic losses we suffered in the 20th century, we had no other choice but to fight for every person and the future of every Russian family.

So, we did our best to preserve the health and the lives of our people, to help parents and children, as well as senior citizens and those who lost their jobs, to maintain employment as much as possible, to minimise damage to the economy, to support millions of entrepreneurs who run small or family businesses.

Perhaps, like everyone else, you are closely following daily updates on the pandemic around the world. Unfortunately, the coronavirus has not retreated and still poses a major threat. Probably, this unsettling background intensifies the sense, like many people feel, that a whole new era is about to begin and that we are not just on the verge of dramatic changes, but an era of tectonic shifts in all areas of life.

We see the rapidly, exponential development of the processes that we have repeatedly discussed at the Valdai Club before. Thus, six years ago, in 2014, we spoke about this issue when we discussed the theme The World Order: New Rules or a Game Without Rules. So, what is happening now? Regrettably, the game without rules is becoming increasingly horrifying and sometimes seems to be a fait accompli.

The pandemic has reminded us of how fragile human life is. It was hard to imagine that in our technologically advanced 21st century, even in the most prosperous and wealthy countries people could find themselves defenceless in front of what would seem to be not such a fatal infection, and not such a horrible threat. But life has shown that not everything boils down to the level of medical science with some of its fantastic achievements. It transpired that the organisation and accessibility of the public healthcare system are no less, and probably much more important in this situation.

The values of mutual assistance, service and self-sacrifice proved to be most important. This also applies to the responsibility, composure and honesty of the authorities, their readiness to meet the demand of society and at the same time provide a clear-cut and well-substantiated explanation of the logic and consistency of the adopted measures so as not to allow fear to subdue and divide society but, on the contrary, to imbue it with confidence that together we will overcome all trials no matter how difficult they may be.

The struggle against the coronavirus threat has shown that only a viable state can act effectively in a crisis – contrary to the reasoning of those who claim that the role of the state in the global world is decreasing and that in the future it will be altogether replaced with some other forms of social organisation. Yes, this is possible. Everything may change in the distant future. Change is all around us, but today the role and importance of the state do matter.

We have always considered a strong state a basic condition for Russia’s development. And we have seen again that we were right by meticulously restoring and strengthening state institutions after their decline, and sometimes complete destruction in the 1990s.

Then, the question is: what is a strong state? What are its strengths? Definitely, not total control or harsh law enforcement. Not thwarted private initiative or civic engagement. Not even the might of its armed forces or its high defence potential. Although, I think you realise how important this particular component is for Russia, given its geography and the range of geopolitical challenges. And there is also our historical responsibility as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council to ensure global stability.

Nevertheless, I am confident that what makes a state strong, primarily, is the confidence its citizens have in it. That is the strength of a state. People are the source of power, we all know that. And this recipe doesn’t just involve going to the polling station and voting, it implies people’s willingness to delegate broad authority to their elected government, to see the state, its bodies, civil servants, as their representatives – those who are entrusted to make decisions, but who also bear full responsibility for the performance of their duties.

This kind of state can be set up any way you like. When I say “any way,” I mean that what you call your political system is immaterial. Each country has its own political culture, traditions, and its own vision of their development. Trying to blindly imitate someone else’s agenda is pointless and harmful. The main thing is for the state and society to be in harmony.

And of course, confidence is the most solid foundation for the creative work of the state and society. Only together will they be able to find an optimal balance of freedom and security guarantees.

Once again, in the most difficult moments of the pandemic, I felt pride and, to be honest, I am proud of Russia, of our citizens, of their willingness to have each other’s backs. And of course, first of all, I am proud of our doctors, nurses, and ambulance workers – everyone, without exception, on whom the national healthcare system relies.

I believe that civil society will play a key role in Russia’s future. So, we want the voice of our citizens to be decisive and to see constructive proposals and requests from different social forces get implemented.

This begs the question: how is this request for action being formed? Whose voice should the state be heeding? How does it know if it is really the voice of the people and not some behind-the-scenes messages or even someone’s vocal yelling that has nothing to do whatsoever with our people and that at times becomes hysterical?

Occasionally, someone is trying to substitute self-serving interests of a small social group or even external forces for a genuine public request.

Genuine democracy and civil society cannot be “imported.” I have said so many times. They cannot be a product of the activities of foreign “well-wishers,” even if they “want the best for us.” In theory, this is probably possible. But, frankly, I have not yet seen such a thing and do not believe much in it. We see how such imported democracy models function. They are nothing more than a shell or a front with nothing behind them, even a semblance of sovereignty. People in the countries where such schemes have been implemented were never asked for their opinion, and their respective leaders are mere vassals. As is known, the overlord decides everything for the vassal. To reiterate, only the citizens of a particular country can determine their public interest.

We, in Russia, went through a fairly long period where foreign funds were very much the main source for creating and financing non-governmental organisations. Of course, not all of them pursued self-serving or bad goals, or wanted to destabilise the situation in our country, interfere in our domestic affairs, or influence Russia’s domestic and, sometimes, foreign policy in their own interests. Of course not.

There were sincere enthusiasts among independent civic organisations (they do exist), to whom we are undoubtedly grateful. But even so, they mostly remained strangers and ultimately reflected the views and interests of their foreign trustees rather than the Russian citizens. In a word, they were a tool with all the ensuing consequences.

A strong, free and independent civil society is nationally oriented and sovereign by definition. It grows from the depth of people’s lives and can take different forms and directions. But it is a cultural phenomenon, a tradition of a particular country, not the product of some abstract “transnational mind” with other people’s interests behind it.

The duty of the state is to support public initiatives and open up new opportunities for them. This is exactly what we do. I consider this matter to be the most important for the government’s agenda in the coming decades – regardless of who exactly will hold positions in that government. This is the guarantee of Russia’s sovereign, progressive development, of genuine continuity in its forward movement, and of our ability to respond to global challenges.

Colleagues, you are well aware of the many acute problems and controversies that have accumulated in modern international affairs, even too many. Ever since the Cold War model of international relations, which was stable and predictable in its own way, began to change (I am not saying I miss it, I most certainly do not), the world has changed several times. Things in fact happened so quickly that those usually referred to as political elites simply did not have the time, or maybe a strong interest or ability to analyse what was really going on.

Some countries hastily ran to divide the cake, mostly to grab a bigger piece, to take advantage of the benefits the end of the cold confrontation brought. Others were frantically looking for ways to adapt to the changes at any cost. And some countries – recall our own sad experience, frankly – just fought for survival, to survive as a single country, and as a subject of global politics, too.

Meanwhile, time increasingly and insistently makes us question what lies ahead for humanity, what the new world order should be like, or at least a semblance of one, and whether we will take informed steps forward, coordinating our moves, or we will stumble blindly, each of us just relying on ourselves.

The recent report of the Valdai Club, your club, reads: “…in a fundamentally changed international setting, the institutions themselves have become an obstacle to building a system of relations corresponding to the new era rather than a guarantee of global stability and manageability.” The authors believe that we are in for a world where individual states or groups of states will act much more independently while traditional international organisations will lose their importance.

This is what I would like to say in this respect. Of course, it is clear what underlies this position. In effect, the post-war world order was established by three victorious countries: the Soviet Union, the United States and Great Britain. The role of Britain has changed since then; the Soviet Union no longer exists, while some try to dismiss Russia altogether.

Let me assure you, dear friends, that we are objectively assessing our potentialities: our intellectual, territorial, economic and military potential. I am referring to our current options, our overall potential. Consolidating this country and looking at what is happening in the world, in other countries I would like to tell those who are still waiting for Russia’s strength to gradually wane, the only thing we are worried about is catching a cold at your funeral.

As a head of state who works directly in an environment that you and your colleagues describe from a position of expertise, I cannot agree with the assumption that existing international structures must be completely rebuilt, if not dismissed as obsolete and altogether dismantled. On the contrary, it is important to preserve the basic mechanisms of maintaining international security, which have proved to be effective. This is the UN, the Security Council and the permanent members’ right to veto. I recently spoke about this at the anniversary UN General Assembly. As far as I know, this position – the preservation of the fundamentals of the international order established after World War II – enjoys broad support in the world.

However, I believe that the idea of adjusting the institutional arrangement of world politics is at least worthy of discussion, if only because the correlation of forces, potentialities and positions of states has seriously changed, as I said, especially in the past 30 to 40 years.

Indeed, like I said, the Soviet Union is no longer there. But there is Russia. In terms of its economic weight and political influence, China is moving quickly towards superpower status. Germany is moving in the same direction, and the Federal Republic of Germany has become an important player in international cooperation. At the same time, the roles of Great Britain and France in international affairs has undergone significant changes. The United States, which at some point absolutely dominated the international stage, can hardly claim exceptionality any longer. Generally speaking, does the United States need this exceptionalism? Of course, powerhouses such as Brazil, South Africa and some other countries have become much more influential.

Indeed, by far not all international organisations are effectively carrying out their missions and tasks. Called to be impartial arbiters, they often act based on ideological prejudices, fall under the strong influence of other states, and become tools in their hands. Juggling procedures, manipulating prerogatives and authority, biased approaches, especially when it comes to conflicts involving rival powers or groups of states, have unfortunately become common practice.

The fact that authoritative international organisations following in the wake of someone’s selfish interests are drawn into politicised campaigns against specific leaders and countries is saddening. This approach does nothing but discredit these institutions, and leads them towards decline and exacerbates the world order crisis.

On the other hand, there are positive developments when a group of interested states joins forces to resolve specific issues, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which for almost 20 years now has been contributing to the settlement of territorial disputes and strengthening stability in Central Eurasia, and is shaping a unique spirit of partnership in this part of the world.

Or, for example, the Astana format, which was instrumental in taking the political and diplomatic process regarding Syria out of a deep impasse. The same goes for OPEC Plus which is an effective, albeit very complex, tool for stabilising global oil markets.

In a fragmented world, this approach is often more productive. But what matters here is that, along with resolving specific problems, this approach can also breathe new life into multilateral diplomacy. This is important. But it is also obvious that we cannot do without a common, universal framework for international affairs. Whatever interest groups, associations, or ad-hoc alliances we form now or in the future – we cannot do without a common framework.

Multilateralism should be understood not as total inclusivity, but as the need to involve the parties that are truly interested in solving a problem. And of course, when outside forces crudely and shamelessly intervene in a process that affects a group of actors perfectly capable of agreeing among themselves – nothing good can come of that. And they do this solely for the purpose of flaunting their ambition, power and influence. They do it to put a stake in the ground, to outplay everyone, but not to make a positive contribution or help resolve the situation.

Again, even amid the current fragmentation of international affairs, there are challenges that require more than just the combined capacity of a few states, even very influential ones. Problems of this magnitude, which do exist, require global attention.

International stability, security, fighting terrorism and solving urgent regional conflicts are certainly among them; as are promoting global economic development, combatting poverty, and expanding cooperation in healthcare. That last one is especially relevant today.

I spoke in detail about these challenges at the UN General Assembly last month. Meeting them will require working together in a long-term, systematic way.

However, there are considerations of a more general nature that affect literally everyone, and I would like to discuss them in more detail.

Many of us read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry when we were children and remember what the main character said: “It’s a question of discipline. When you’ve finished washing and dressing each morning, you must tend your planet. … It’s very tedious work, but very easy.”

I am sure that we must keep doing this “tedious work” if we want to preserve our common home for future generations. We must tend our planet.

The subject of environmental protection has long become a fixture on the global agenda. But I would address it more broadly to discuss also an important task of abandoning the practice of unrestrained and unlimited consumption – overconsumption – in favour of judicious and reasonable sufficiency, when you do not live just for today but also think about tomorrow.

We often say that nature is extremely vulnerable to human activity. Especially when the use of natural resources is growing to a global dimension. However, humanity is not safe from natural disasters, many of which are the result of anthropogenic interference. By the way, some scientists believe that the recent outbreaks of dangerous diseases are a response to this interference. This is why it is so important to develop harmonious relations between Man and Nature.

Tensions have reached a critical point. We can see this in climate change. This problem calls for practical action and much more attention on our part. It has long stopped being the domain of abstract scientific interests but now concerns nearly every inhabitant of the planet Earth. The polar ice caps and permafrost are melting because of global warming. According to expert estimates, the speed and scale of this process will be increasing in the next few decades.

It is a huge challenge to the world, to the whole of humanity, including to us, to Russia, where permafrost occupies 65 percent of our national territory. Such changes can do irreparable damage to biological diversity, have an extremely adverse effect on the economy and infrastructure and pose a direct threat to people.

You may be aware that this is very important to us. It affects pipeline systems, residential districts built on permafrost, and so on. If as much as 25 percent of the near-surface layers of permafrost, which is about three or four metres, melt by 2100, we will feel the effect very strongly. Moreover, the problem could snowball into a crisis very quickly. A kind of chain reaction is possible, because permafrost melting will stimulate methane emissions, which can produce a greenhouse effect that will be 28 times (sic!) larger than in the case of carbon dioxide. In other words, the temperature will continue rising on the planet, permafrost will continue melting, and methane emissions will further increase. The situation will spiral. Do we want the Earth to become like Venus, a hot, dry and lifeless planet? I would like to remind you that the Earth has an average surface temperature of 14°C while on Venus it’s 462°C.

Another subject, completely different. I would like to say a few words on a different subject. Let us not forget that there are no longer just geographical continents on Earth. An almost endless digital space is taking shape on the planet, and people are mastering it with increasing speed every year.

The restrictions forced by the coronavirus have only encouraged the development of remote e-technology. Today, communications based on the internet have become a universal asset. It is necessary to see that this infrastructure and all cyberspace operates without fail and securely.

Thus, remote, distance work is not just a forced precaution during a pandemic. This will become a new form of organising labour, employment, social cooperation and simply human communication. These changes are inevitable with the development of technological progress. This recent turn of events has merely precipitated these processes. Everyone appreciates the opportunities and conveniences provided by new technology.

But, of course, there is a reverse side as well – a growing threat to all digital systems. Yes, cyberspace is a fundamentally new environment where, basically, universally recognised rules have never existed. Technology has simply moved ahead of legislation and thus, judicial oversight. At the same time, this is a very specific area where the issue of trust is particularly urgent.

I think that at this point we must return to our historical experience. What do I mean? Let me recall that the established notion of “confidence-building measures” existed during the Cold War. It applied to relations between the USSR and the US, and between the Warsaw Pact and NATO, that is, military-political relations.

That said, let me emphasise that now, competition is usually “hybrid” in character. It concerns all areas, including those that are just taking shape. This is why it is necessary to build confidence in many areas.

In this sense, cyberspace can serve as a venue for testing these measures, like at one time, arms control paved the way for higher trust in the world as a whole.

Obviously, it is very difficult to draft a required “package of measures” in this area, cyberspace. However, it is necessary to start on it. This must be done now.

As you may be aware, Russia is actively promoting bilateral and multilateral cyber security agreements. We submitted two draft conventions on this subject at the UN and established a corresponding open-ended working group.

Recently, I proposed starting a comprehensive discussion of international cybersecurity issues with the United States. We are aware that politicians in the United States have other things to focus on now because of the election campaign. However, we hope that the next administration, whatever it may be, will respond to our invitation to start a discussion of this subject just like other items on the Russia-US agenda such as global security, the future of the strategic arms reduction treaty and a number of other issues.

As you are aware, many important matters have reached the point that they require candid talks, and we are ready for a constructive discussion on an equal footing.

Of course, the times when all important international matters were discussed and resolved by essentially just Moscow and Washington are long gone, lost to the ages. However, we see the establishment of a bilateral dialogue, in this case on cyber security, as an important step towards a much broader discussion involving many other countries and organisations. Should the United States choose not to take part in this work, which would be regrettable, we will still be willing to work with all interested partners, which I hope will not be lacking.

I would like to point out another important aspect. We live in an era of palpable international shocks and crises. Of course, we are used to them, especially the generations which lived during the Cold War, let alone World War II, for whom it is not just a memory, but a part of their lives.

It is interesting that humanity has reached a very high level of technological and socioeconomic development, while at the same time facing the loss or erosion of moral values and reference points, a sense that existence no longer has meaning and, if you will, that the mission of humankind on planet Earth has been lost.

This crisis cannot be settled through diplomatic negotiations or even a large international conference. It calls for revising our priorities and rethinking our goals. And everyone must begin at home, every individual, community and state, and only then work toward a global configuration.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which we have all been dealing with this year, can serve as a point of departure for such a transformation. We will have to reassess our priorities anyway. Trust me, we really will have to do it, sooner or later. All of us are aware of this. Therefore, I fully agree with those who say that it would be better to start this process now.

I mentioned history and the older generations who went through all the trials of last century for a reason. Everything we are discussing today will soon become the responsibility of young people. Young people will have to deal with all of the problems which I mentioned and you discussed today. Speaking about Russia, its young citizens, who are still growing up and gaining experience, will have to do this as soon as in the 21st century. They are the ones who will have to confront new and probably even more difficult challenges.

They have their own views on the past, present and future. But I believe that our people will always retain their best qualities: patriotism, fortitude, creativity, hard work, team spirit and the capacity to surprise the world by finding solutions to the most difficult and even seemingly insoluble problems.

Friends, colleagues,

I touched on a wide range of different issues today. Of course, I would like to believe that despite all the current difficulties the international community will be able to join forces to combat not imaginary but very real problems, and that we will eventually succeed. After all, it is within our power to stop being egoistical, greedy, mindless and wasteful consumers. Some may wonder if this is utopia, a pipe dream.

To be sure, it is easy to wonder if this is even possible considering what some individuals are doing and saying. However, I believe in reason and mutual understanding, or at least I strongly hope that they will prevail. We just need to open our eyes, look around us and see that the land, air and water are our common inheritance from above, and we must learn to cherish them, just as we must cherish every human life, which is precious. This is the only way forward in this complicated and beautiful world. I do not want to see the mistakes of the past repeated.

Thank you very much.

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.