Russia to Return to Council of Europe; Italy Says Continued Sanctions Against Russia Not in its Interests; UN: Risk of Nuclear War at Highest Since WWII; Ukraine’s Zelensky Says NATO Accession Should be Decided by Referendum – 1/3 Still Oppose; Poroshenko Facing Charges for Kerch Strait Incident

Council of Europe

An agreement was reached in mid-May at the Council of Europe for Russia to return to the organization, with full restoration of voting rights, after it was suspended in 2014 following the Crimean reunification. According to reporting by Reuters:

The agreement follows efforts by France and Germany to find a compromise among the 47-nation group and means Russia will likely take part in a meeting of the council’s parliamentary assembly in June, when key new appointments will be made.

Russia has indicated it will resume payment of its membership dues as a result. It stopped payment nearly two years ago after its voting rights in the council were suspended over its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Ukraine, supported by five other countries, tried unsuccessfully to block the agreement, which was approved by a qualified majority, diplomats said.

….Diplomats said that Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Armenia joined Ukraine in opposing the agreement, while 39 countries backed it.

Moldova did not participate in the vote and Russia abstained. Britain and Poland — despite supporting Ukraine’s position in the committee of ministers — approved the text, sources said.

With respect to the EU sanctions that were instituted against Russia around the same time in response to the Crimea brouhaha, during a recent meeting in Milan of 11 rightist leaders in Europe, Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, declared in an interview with Russian media that the sanctions were harmful to its economic interests and should be ended. RT quoted Salvini as telling Sputnik news:

“I continue to believe that we don’t need sanctions. The issue of their removal unites all decent people,” Salvini told Sputnik new agency after holding a major rally that included leaders of 11 right-wing European parties in Milan on Saturday [May 19th].

Of course, this isn’t the first time there have been rumblings of complaint about the Russia sanctions from the Mediterranean countries of Europe that have been suffering economically, like Italy, Greece and Spain. But none of these governments have ever had the temerity to actually follow through on voting against the sanctions which have to be renewed by all EU members each year. In recognition of this fact, Salvini spoke of the necessity of changing the political alignment of the European parliament:

Salvini stressed that much would depend on the outcome of the upcoming elections, including whether it would be possible to repeal the anti-Russia restrictions.

On May 21st, Renata Dwan, the UN’s Director of the Institute for Disarmament Research declared the risk of nuclear of nuclear conflict to be urgent and at its highest rate of danger since WWII, citing advances in nuclear weapons technology and the breakdown of arms control treaties as two of the main problems:

With disarmament talks stalemated for the past two decades, 122 countries have signed a treaty to ban nuclear weapons, partly out of frustration and partly out of a recognition of the risks, she said.

“I think that it’s genuinely a call to recognize – and this has been somewhat missing in the media coverage of the issues – that the risks of nuclear war are particularly high now, and the risks of the use of nuclear weapons, for some of the factors I pointed out, are higher now than at any time since World War Two.”

Meanwhile, according to Hans Kristensen of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, the Pentagon has taken the opportunity in its most recent Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) to exaggerate the number of Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons in order to justify production of its own low-yield nuclear warheads. Kristensen writes in a May 7th article for Forbes:

But is Russia actually increasing the number of its non-strategic nuclear weapons? In stark contrast with the NPR claim, I hear there’s no significant increase in the total numbers. On the contrary, there has been a significant reduction over the past ten years – the very period the NPR uses as the basis for its threat assessment. … [I]n February 2018, the Trump administration’s NPR reported that Russia had ‘an active stockpile of up to 2,000 non-strategic nuclear weapons…’ That’s is close to the estimate we have made here at FAS for the past several years.

[T]hat is not an increase but a significant reduction of more than 1,000-3,000 tactical warheads over ten years. … This discrepancy between the significant reduction of Russian tactical nuclear warheads over the past ten years and the NPR’s alarming portrayal of a dangerous increase is deeply disturbing. Not only does it apparently mischaracterize what Russia is actually doing … it seems to distort what the U.S. intelligence community knows, for the apparent purpose of creating political support in Congress to pay for new nuclear weapons.

Read the full article here.

Just prior to winning election as the new president of Ukraine, Zelensky stated that accession to NATO should be voted on by referendum, acknowledging that the country is divided on the issue. Recent polling indicates that approximately 1/3 of Ukrainians oppose NATO membership, with a majority opposing in the eastern part of the country and a plurality opposing in the southern area.

Meanwhile, the disgraced former president, Poroshenko, has had criminal charges filed against him at the State Bureau of Investigation for treason with regard to last November’s Kerch Strait incident. The allegation, by lawyer Andrey Portnov – who served as deputy head of Maidan-deposed president Yanukovich’s administration – is that Poroshenko illegally fostered and then used the crisis to declare martial law in an abuse of power. Watch the segment below from Vesti News for details:


The campaign to help fund the publication of my forthcoming book “The View from Moscow: Understanding Russia and U.S.-Russia Relations” is ongoing. Thank you to Larry Sloan for being the first contributor with a $100 donation.

All donations, large or small, are greatly appreciated in helping me get this book out to the world.  Thank you.

Help Fund My Book on Understanding Russia and U.S.-Russia Relations

St. Basil’s Cathedral, Red Square, Moscow; photo by Natylie S. Baldwin, Oct. 2015

Russia is the world’s other nuclear superpower – the only country that has the ability to destroy the United States within 30 minutes.  It is also the planet’s largest country and 6th largest in terms of purchasing power parity. 

Recent studies indicate a majority of Americans now view Russia as a threat to U.S. interests.  But surveys also indicate a desire among Americans for improving relations, which means embarking on effective diplomacy. 

Unfortunately, our corporate media – and even some of our alternative media – has left a gaping hole in its journalistic duty to inform Americans and provide contextual understanding of this critical issue.  That includes providing Russia’s perspective. 

What is the Russian view and what has shaped it?  In my forthcoming self-published book, “The View from Moscow:  Understanding Russia and U.S.-Russia Relations,” I will help you understand Russia’s unique history, geography and culture and how it influences current Russian policy.  I also discuss the interests in Washington that are obstacles to détente and why.  

I am an independent journalist and writer with over 5 years experience delving into the history of Russia and U.S.-Russia relations, including 2 trips to 6 different cities in the Russian Federation and interviews with a cross-section of Russians about their views of Putin, the Russian economy,  the Yeltsin era, U.S.-Russia relations, the Russian Revolution and more.  I’ve had numerous articles published on these topics at Consortium News.  

The projected publication date of my book is July of 2019.  I currently have funds to finance the book cover design, conversion and distribution, but need help with paying $1,700 for a professional copy editor.  

Each person who donates $100 will receive an autographed hard copy of the book (with mailing address provided).

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All donations, large or small, are greatly appreciated in helping me get this book out to the world.  Thank you.

A Couple of Things Washington May Want to Consider Before Attacking Iran

As previously discussed, Washington seems to be hell-bent on ratcheting up tensions with Iran as far as possible and hoping to provoke a reaction that can then be used as a casus belli.

But before Washington continues with its reckless actions, if there are any clear heads left anywhere near the White House, they might want to consider two things.

The first is the fact that the version of the S300 system that Iran received from Russia in 2016, may have been effectively an S400 but without official acknowledgment. As reported by Military Watch Magazine last year:

In April 2016 Russia began delivery of the S-300 system to Iran, and delivery was confirmed by both parties to be complete in October of that year. What was notable about the delivery was that Iran received a heavily customised variant of the missile system with unknown capabilities. While Russia and Iran both confirmed the fulfilment of a contract to deliver the S-300 to Iran, no further details were given regarding the variant Iran had acquired or the weapons system’s capabilities. What was delivered to Iran could well have had capabilities comparable to the more advanced S-400, in some respects an S-400 in all but name, and such a delivery would have served both Iranian and Russian strategic interests. For an indication as to how this could be achieved, an analysis of the S-400 and its differences from the S-300 system is invaluable.

Over 20 variants of the S-300 have been produced by Russia since the system’s first induction into service in 1978. These have fallen into three main categories, the S-300P family of conventional land based systems, the S-300F family which were developed for naval use, and the S-300V family which feature enhanced anti ballistic and anti cruise missile capabilities and superior mobility. While Iran is known to have acquired a missile system from the S-300P family, all of which are near identical in their external appearance, which system was acquired remains a mystery. The S-300PMU-2 entered service in 1997 as the most advanced variant of the missile system at the time, and was set to be superseded by the S-300PMU-3 in 2007. To improve the weapons system’s export sales and distinguish it from previous variants however, the PMU-3 variant of the S-300 was given the designation S-400. Thus the S-400 is in fact a more advanced member of the S-300PMU family of systems, and should Russia have sold Iran a missile system dubbed ’S-300PMU-2 advanced’ or ’S-300PMU-3’ its capabilities could well be highly similar to those of the S-400. Russia could in this way have provided Iran’s armed forces with an air defence system with far more sophisticated capabilities than the basic S-300PMU-2 design widely suspected to have been transferred. One indication of this are the reports that Iran’s air defence batteries are equipped with surface to air missiles with a 250km range – the range of the 48N6DM/48N6E3 hypersonic surface to air missile. While the basic S-300PMU-2 is usually restricted to a 200km engagement range using the shorter ranged 48N6E2, the 48N6E3 was for a long time the longest ranged missile deployed by the S-400 system – until the later introduction of the heavier 40N6E with a 400km range. The fact that Iran’s customised S-300 variant is equipped with these missiles is a strong indication of capabilities above those of a standard S-300PMU-2 system. 

This theory, as the author points out, is also buttressed by the fact that Iran has not requested the S400 system even though adversaries in its neighborhood (e.g. Saudi Arabia) have pursued purchase of it.

If, in fact, Iran does have capabilities equivalent to the S400, this significantly changes the calculus of the effectiveness of a U.S. attack on Iran as the U.S. is heavily reliant on airpower in its military strategy. As the author sums up:

The U.S. military and civilian leadership upon the S-300’s delivery stressed that their ability to deploy advanced stealth aircraft, at the time including the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber and F-22 Raptor, would allow the U.S. Air Force to neutralise Iran’s air defences if required. Should Iran field a system as sophisticated as the S-400 with advanced anti stealth systems however such an operation would be considerably more difficult – effectively sealing off Iranian airspace to Western military aircraft and forcing the U.S. to resort to costly standoff attacks.

In my previous post, I also mentioned China’s interest in preventing or countering an attack on Iran. This leads to the second point that Washington may want to consider. As James Kennedy, an expert in rare earth materials and political consultant, has recently explained, the U.S. military machine is heavily dependent upon rare earth materials, metal and alloys. Having long ago gutted our own mining and industrial capacity to be self-reliant in this area, guess which country the U.S. is 100 percent dependent upon for these materials? China.

Having already stirred up bad blood economically by pursuing a trade war, China will be in a position to potentially grab Washington by the short hairs should it attack Iran. As Kennedy states:

A US war with Iran now will turn China’s already powerful rare earth trade-weapon into a terminal nuclear strike. Withholding these materials would not just neuter our military during a conflict, it would shut down every automobile and aircraft manufacturer in the US The shutdowns would extend to what remains of our electronics and green technology industries. It would be pink-slips from coast to coast. China would fill the global demand gap. In short, it would snuff out the few remaining embers of our already crippled economy.

If you are thinking that the US has “strategic stockpiles” of these materials – think again. The US sold off all of these materials in 1996. After repeated warnings Congress authorized the repurchase of a few rare earth oxides and dysprosium metal, none of which are directly useful to our defense industry. A 2016 Government Accounting Office report stated that these materials would need to pass through a value chain “outside the United States” before they could be utilized by our defense industry (read: China). In an earlier report the GAO estimated that it could take 15 years for the US to build a domestic rare earth value chain.

It appears to me that Russia and China’s strategy in dealing with Washington’s insanity involves the old adage, “Give them enough rope…”

Is Trump Administration Making its Case for Actual War with Iran or is Trump Doing Major Psyops as Misguided Negotiating Tactic? If the Former, NYT Carrying Water Again for Washington’s Aggression

National Security Advisor John Bolton. Copyright Chip Somodevilia. Getty Images.

Most of us remember Trump the presidential candidate as promising not to get us involved in a bunch of wars. However, since he’s been in office he’s surrounded himself with hawks and neocon architects of the very wars he criticized on the campaign trail. As president, he’s also used threats of war against North Korea, Venezuela, and Iran.

In recent weeks, in between threats by Bolton and Pompeo to install an unpopular puppet in Venezuela with “all options on the table” as to methods, Trump has allowed his Secretary of State and National Security Advisor to also stir up a potential armed conflict with Iran. Publicly, Trump himself alternates between blustering against Iran and acting like he’s not necessarily interested in a war.

Is this a prelude to an Iraq-style invasion or is Trump thinking that if he allows his mad-dog hawks like Bolton and Pompeo to snarl and even snap their jaws a few times that Iran will come begging for negotiations, willing to offer him whatever terms he wants to stop the pain and the possibility of a war?

Some political and legal analysts believe that members of the Trump administration are carefully setting up the use of the 2001 AUMF as legal cover for an attack on Iran, leaving Congress with little recourse to stop such an action. In a recent NBC News article, a legal expert discussed this possibility.

The key elements involve drawing links between al Qaeda and Iran and casting Iran as a terrorist threat to the U.S. — which is exactly what administration officials have been doing in recent weeks.

That could give Trump the justification he needs to fight Iran under the still-in-effect 2001 use-of-force resolution without congressional approval….

….That law gave the president the power to use force against “nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”….

….But former government lawyers familiar with the 2001 law and its applications say it’s obvious from those moves what the Trump administration is trying to do.

“The whole thing is building up to the notion that they don’t have to go to Congress for approval,” Yale University law professor Harold Koh, who served as the State Department’s top lawyer under Secretary Hillary Clinton, said in a telephone interview with NBC News.

Yet Koh said an attempt to shoehorn Iran into the 2001 AUMF is absurd and shouldn’t pass legal muster.

“The theory of war powers has to be that Congress doesn’t just sign off once,” he said. “The suggestion now that Iran attacked us on 9/11 is ridiculous.”

The original law essentially creates a two-part test for the president to make a determination that force is warranted: a country, group or person has aided al Qaeda and force is necessary to prevent a terrorist attack against the U.S. from that entity.

Koh says that testimony given by Pompeo to the U.S. Senate recently involved providing justification to satisfy the first part of the test:

“The factual question with respect to Iran’s connections to Al-Qaeda is very real. They have hosted al Qaeda, they have permitted al Qaeda to transit their country,” [Pompeo} said at a Foreign Relations Committee hearing. “There is no doubt there is a connection between the Islamic Republic of Iran and al Qaeda. Period, full stop.”

Of course, such a connection is dubious as Iran is a Shia theocracy and Al Qaeda is a Sunni extremist cult and the two do not share the same interests. The article goes on to explain how recent events by Washington could be seen as trying to justify the second test:

But the deployment of more forces to the region to counter the threat of attacks on American personnel and assets, as well as the partial evacuation of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, could be seen as satisfying the second part of the use-of-force test. That is, the idea that force is appropriate to prevent a terrorist threat from a country that has given assistance to al Qaeda.

In what would seem to be suspiciously perfect timing, four oil tankers, including two Saudi, one Emirati and one Norwegian, were sabotaged on May 12th. A Norwegian insurance company tasked with investigating the incident has theorized that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards was responsible for the attack using underwater drones, but admittedly this has not been satisfactorily substantiated, relying on similarity with drones used by the Houthi in Yemen.

Gareth Porter, one of the best reporters out there on the subject of Iran, stated on a recent episode of Cross-Talk that there was a reasonable chance that this represented a false flag action by Israel, which has been trying to get Washington to do its dirty work by attacking Iran, a perceived rival in the Middle East, for years. He says that there is a working group between Israel and Washington that has been meeting since December of 2017, with the “intelligence” in early May about Iran planning to attack U.S. interests either directly or via proxies, likely originating from Israel as a result of this working group’s April meeting.

It was also brought out in the episode that the provocative behavior by the U.S. toward Iran is engendering sympathy for Iran in the world community.

The EU is most definitely not interested in a war with Iran, surely realizing that another war in the Middle East would, among other things, seriously worsen the refugee crisis it has been dealing with in the aftermath of Washington’s interventions in Libya and Syria. Germany, Spain and the Netherlands have even reportedly removed their forces from U.S. operations in the area in order to distance themselves from Washington’s provocations after two U.S. naval carriers arrived in the Persian Gulf last week.

Of course, Russia and China are actively opposing any aggression by Washington toward Iran. Russia doesn’t want any more instability in its neighborhood, a point which Putin no doubt would have impressed upon Pompeo during their recent meeting. But, with hard-core ideologues like Pompeo (and Bolton), facts and rationality often do not penetrate. With respect to China, not only is Iranian oil a significant issue (China is still buying it regardless of the sanctions), but Iran also represents a critical point on the Belt and Road Initiative, which Russia also has a stake in.

Trump knew very well who Bolton and Pompeo were and what their agenda was when he brought them on board. So, if he really isn’t looking to get the U.S. into another war, why did he hire these guys? I imagine that Trump likes to see himself as crafty – someone who can play others to further his goals. This would include using Bolton for the type of scheme I mentioned earlier. As much as Trump and what he stands for is appealing to the lowest common denominator, Bolton represents a far darker and more dangerous character – a person who would like to see the world burn and will do whatever it takes to get his way. A NYC real estate grifter is no match for this swamp creature and Trump is very likely to find himself being the one played rather than doing the playing.

At this point, Trump needs to can Bolton before he gets Washington to a stage where de-escalation becomes too difficult as these things tend to take on a life of their own.

Then there’s the media coverage of these events, led by the NYT doing their usual water-carrying for Washington’s warmongers. They played right along with the government’s take that small Iranian vessels armed with missiles represented something new and particularly threatening to the U.S. and its nearby allies. In a May 15th article, the Times stated:

The intelligence that caused the White House to escalate its warnings about a threat from Iran came from photographs of missiles on small boats in the Persian Gulf that were put on board by Iranian paramilitary forces, three American officials said…

….The photographs presented a different kind of threat than previously seen from Iran, said the three officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about it publicly. Taken with the other intelligence, the photographs could indicate that Iran is preparing to attack United States forces. That is the view of John R. Bolton, President Trump’s hard-line national security adviser, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

This ignores previous reporting from the Washington Post on July 26, 2012 in which it was stated:

Iran is rapidly gaining new capabilities to strike at U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf, amassing an arsenal of sophisticated anti-ship missiles while expanding its fleet of fast-attack boats and submarines. . .These highly maneuverable small boats, some barely as long as a subway car, have become a cornerstone of Iran’s strategy for defending the gulf against a much larger adversary. The vessels can rapidly deploy Iran’s estimated 2,000 anti-ship mines or mass in groups to strike large warships from multiple sides at once, like a cloud of wasps attacking much larger prey.

and a Naval Technology report from January 16, 2013:

Iran’s purchase of the British made world-record setting Bladerunner speedboat stirred up increased chatter on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy’s (IRGCN) development of a new fast attack craft (FAC) fleet. Simon O. Williams looks beyond the hyperbole to examine FACs in the context of wider developments in Iran’s naval arsenal. . . .Iran’s missile capabilities continue to grow. In reference to arming FACs, deputy defence minister and head of Iran’s Aerospace Organisation, General Mehdi Farah, stated that the country’s “missiles have the capability of being launched from vessels with speeds of over 30 knots, and these missiles include Zafar, Nasr, Noor and Qader” These are radar guided anti-ship cruise missiles capable of destroying 1,500-tonne targets and damaging even larger ones.

Threats never seen before…except they were seen and reported on publicly 6 and 7 years ago. (Shout out to Sylvia Demarest for pointing this discrepancy out in her e-newsletter analyses).

As most readers already know, this is par for the course for the NYT. I think I have the perfect new tagline for the newspaper of record: Pimping for U.S. Wars Since 1851.

Former State Dept. Psychologist Provides Political Psychological Profile of Putin; Denial & Projection: Gabor Mate Provides Psychological Analysis of Russiagate

“Crimea.Russia.Forever.” Billboard of Putin in Crimea. Photo by Natylie S. Baldwin, October 2015.

The theme of today’s post is psychology. It’s a subject I’ve had a life-long interest in – I almost majored in it at college, but didn’t. It’s a good subject for any writer to have knowledge in. Understanding human motivations and the various ways they manifest themselves can help a fiction writer create authentic and compelling characters. It can also assist non-fiction writers in analyzing politics and international relations. It’s a great tool for serious diplomats as well.

Dr. Kenneth Dekleva is a psychologist who worked in the Obama-era State Department. He has written a political psychological profile of Putin in which, among other things, he notes that successful diplomacy with Putin would be helped by amiable personal relations from an American leader and that this is partly what undermined Obama’s efforts for the reset. While, I’m sure that amiable personal relations would certainly help grease the wheels of effective diplomacy, it must be pointed out that George W. Bush’s personal rapport with Putin did not stop him from unilaterally pulling the U.S. out of the ABM Treaty or expanding NATO by seven more nations up to Russia’s border.

However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some interesting and insightful nuggets offered by Dekleva, such as:

Putin’s background as a KGB intelligence officer has colored his entire professional life.  The KGB shaped his ethos and his sense of identity—the embodiment of a boyhood dream.  Less useful commentary – either vilifying his KGB service or downplaying it – misses a more important question, having to do with how Putin’s skills (“I am a specialist in human relations”) manifest themselves.  Many have tended to see Putin as merely tactical, rather than strategic, but such a view is mistaken.  Seeing such labels as dichotomous, rather than as two sides of the same coin, loses sight of Putin’s adaptability regarding foreign-policy challenges, such as the Ukraine, Georgia, Syria, China, India, the U.S., and Europe.  At times, Putin has shown masterful flexibility, often reversing course and shifting priorities, while not deviating from key strategic concerns and his sense of Russia’s national interest.  A different concern has to do with Putin’s inner circle of advisors – many of whom he has known and worked with for decades – and the question of whom does he trust and listen to?  How do strategic decisions get made?  The recent changes in personnel within the Kremlin and key ministries bear careful study in this regard.

Martial arts and the study of Judo has likely shaped Putin’s personality as much as any other activity.  A student of Judo since age 10, Putin eloquently spoke (in a video made by him in 2008) of its virtues of discipline, respect for one’s teachers and fellow students, and humility.  Holder of an 8th-dan rank, Putin is the highest-ranking non-Japanese judoka in the world and a true ambassador of the art.  Videos of Putin demonstrating Judo showcase not only his immense talent, but also a flexible, playful, and competitive style, which for Putin – for whom Judo is a way of life – colors his political behavior as well. 

Overall, it’s refreshing to hear a public psychologist provide an analysis of Putin that reflects an intelligent, sophisticated and complicated person who largely acts based on rational interests, rather than simply writing him off with out-of-context images as suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, psychopathy, gun-slinger gait, Asperger’s Syndrome or some other cartoonish defamation.

Next, is a very timely and perceptive interview from the Grayzone Project – an independent media outlet founded by Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton that I highly recommend.

Aaron Mate, who has done a tremendous job of debunking the Russiagate scandal by conducting actual journalism, is the son of famous psychologist Gabor Mate, who specializes in the study of trauma.

In this 30-minute video, Aaron prompts his father to explain how Russiagate gained such a foothold in the American political landscape and why it won’t die easily.

Craig Murray’s Take on the Mueller Report; National Security Archive Releases Documents Revealing U.S. Backpedaled on Geneva Agreements with Soviet Union re Withdrawal from Afghanistan; Trump to Push for New Nuke Treaty with Russia & China, Russia is Amenable But China’s Not Interested

Robert Mueller and his wife in Washington D.C..
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Former UK ambassador Craig Murray, who has worked with Wikileaks and stated that he knew the identity of the person who provided the DNC emails to Wikileaks, confirming that it was an inside leak and not a hack, has reviewed the Mueller report and provides his analysis:

Robert Mueller is either a fool, or deeply corrupt. I do not think he is a fool.

I did not comment instantly on the Mueller Report as I was so shocked by it, I have been waiting to see if any other facts come to light in justification. Nothing has. I limit myself here to that area of which I have personal knowledge – the leak of DNC and Podesta emails to Wikileaks. On the wider question of the corrupt Russian 1% having business dealings with the corrupt Western 1%, all I have to say is that if you believe that is limited in the USA by party political boundaries, you are a fool.

On the DNC leak, Mueller started with the prejudice that it was “the Russians” and he deliberately and systematically excluded from evidence anything that contradicted that view.

Mueller, as a matter of determined policy, omitted key steps which any honest investigator would undertake. He did not commission any forensic examination of the DNC servers. He did not interview Bill Binney. He did not interview Julian Assange. His failure to do any of those obvious things renders his report worthless.

There has never been, by any US law enforcement or security service body, a forensic examination of the DNC servers, despite the fact that the claim those servers were hacked is the very heart of the entire investigation. Instead, the security services simply accepted the “evidence” provided by the DNC’s own IT security consultants, Crowdstrike, a company which is politically aligned to the Clintons.

That is precisely the equivalent of the police receiving a phone call saying:

“Hello? My husband has just been murdered. He had a knife in his back with the initials of the Russian man who lives next door engraved on it in Cyrillic script. I have employed a private detective who will send you photos of the body and the knife. No, you don’t need to see either of them.”

There is no honest policeman in the world who would agree to that proposition, and neither would Mueller were he remotely an honest man.

Read the full blistering analysis here.

Last month, the National Security Archive released documents revealing how the agreements between the U.S. and Soviet Union in the 1980’s that were to govern the Soviet Union’s withdrawal from Afghanistan – with Washington disarming the jihadists it had funded/supported and allowing free and independent elections – were backtracked on by Washington once withdrawal was underway. According to the archive’s summary published with the documents:

The documents show that the U.S. position changed from “the mutual withdrawal of all outside forces” (as President Reagan told Mikhail Gorbachev at Geneva in November 1985), to insisting on continued arms support to the Afghan Mujahedin in 1988 (as National Security Advisor Colin Powell told Secretary of State George Shultz when the latter seemed to embrace “mutual restraint”), to the refusal of free election plans in 1990 if they allowed the Soviet-supported Kabul incumbent, Najibullah, to run. The core U.S. goal had been to bring about a Soviet military withdrawal, and once that was clearly underway in 1988 other factors came to the fore, such as U.S. relations with Pakistan, Congress’s commitment to the Afghan resistance, and U.S. insistence that Najibullah had to go.

The Soviet decision to withdraw from its disastrous military invasion of Afghanistan occurred as early as October 1985, according to the documents; but Gorbachev did not set a specific timetable until February 1988 while he sought to create a model of cooperation with the United States for resolving regional conflicts. While the Soviets shared the U.S. goal of an independent Afghanistan, they were especially wary of the power of radical fundamentalists, who dominated in the Pakistan-based resistance, supported by the United States. The Soviet leadership believed that the process of national reconciliation would culminate in free elections under U.N. monitoring and the resulting government would be secular and moderate. However, the documents show that eventually the Soviets accepted the fact that the Reagan administration would continue to arm the more radical factions of the Mujahedin through Pakistan, even in violation of the Geneva agreements. Gorbachev was hoping that progress toward a political settlement could be made by working together with the United States after the signing of the Geneva agreements, thus creating a precedent and further cementing U.S.-Soviet global cooperation.

Read the full summary and view the documents here.

President Trump has made remarks to the effect that the U.S. defense budget in general and the new nuclear arms race in particular are ridiculously expensive. As a recent RAND report confirms, while absorbing the costs of an expensive arms race would be supposedly more difficult economically for Russia, it would also be dangerous for the U.S., both in terms of economic costs and possible unintended consequences – a concept that the neocons and liberal interventionists who have been influential in the past 25 years don’t ever seem to grasp.

“Geopolitical measures to bait Russia into overextending itself are likely impractical, or they risk second-order consequences. Many geopolitical measures would force the United States to operate in areas that are closer to Russia and where it is thus cheaper and easier for Russia than the United States to exert influence. Ideological measures to undermine the regime’s stability carry significant risks of counter escalation. Many military options … could enhance U.S. deterrence and reassure U.S. allies, but only a few are likely to extend Russia.”

Trump’s approach for supposedly addressing this problem is to push for a new multilateral arms agreement with both Russia and China. As reported by the Washington Post on April 25th:

“Between Russia and China and us, we’re all making hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of weapons, including nuclear, which is ridiculous,” Trump said. “And I would say that China will come along, and I would say Russia will come along. It doesn’t really make sense that we’re doing this.”

Russia has expressed some willingness to consider such an agreement but probably has low expectations as the academic news summary service Russia Matters stated in its digest for that week:

  • Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters on April 26 Moscow is closely following reports that the U.S. would like to reach a nuclear weapons deal with both Russia and China, and is “willing” to negotiate. Ryabkov also said that Russia “would like to convince” the U.S. to adopt a joint statement that would condemn any use of nuclear weapons. In October, Russia sent the U.S. a draft joint declaration on how to prevent nuclear war, only to never hear back from Washington, Kommersant reported. “Nuclear war cannot be won and it must never be unleashed,” Kommersant quoted Russia’s draft joint declaration as stating. (AP, 04.26.19, The Moscow Times, 04.19.19)

China, on the other hand, is straight up dismissing the idea. A spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry explained that it’s up to the world’s largest nuclear weapons powers (Russia and the U.S.) to lower their arsenals, thus laying the groundwork for the smaller nuclear-armed nations to do so. According to a May 6th article in Reuters:

BEIJING (Reuters) – China on Monday dismissed a suggestion that it would talk with the United States and Russia about a new accord limiting nuclear arms, saying it would not take part in any trilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations.

….Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that the country’s nuclear forces were at the “lowest level” of its national security needs, and that they could not be compared to the United States and Russia.

“China opposes any country talking out of turn about China on the issue of arms control, and will not take part in any trilateral negotiations on a nuclear disarmament agreement,” Geng told a daily news briefing, when asked about Trump’s remarks.