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Ban on Kaspersky Software: Hypocrisy of US Internet Agenda

Ban on Kaspersky Software: Hypocrisy of US Internet Agenda

Ban on Kaspersky Software: Hypocrisy of US Internet Agenda

On September 18, the US Senate voted to ban the use of products from the Moscow-based cyber security firm Kaspersky Lab by the federal government, citing national security risk. The vote was included as an amendment to an annual defense policy spending bill approved by the Senate on the same day. The measure pushed forward by New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen has strong support in the House of Representatives, which also must vote on a defense spending bill. The legislation bars the use of Kaspersky Lab software in government civilian and military agencies.

On September 13, a binding directive issued by Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke, ordered federal agencies to remove Kaspersky Lab products from government computers over concerns the Russia-based cybersecurity software company might be vulnerable to Russian government influence. All federal departments and agencies were given 30 days to identify any Kaspersky products in use on their networks. The departments have another 60 days to begin removal of the software. The statement says, «The department is concerned about the ties between certain Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence and other government agencies, and requirements under Russian law that allow Russian intelligence agencies to request or compel assistance from Kaspersky and to intercept communications transiting Russian networks». The Russian law does not mention American networks, nevertheless it is used as a pretext to explain the concern.

Similar bans against US government use of Kaspersky products have been suggested before. In 2015, Bloomberg News reported that the company has «close ties to Russian spies».

According to US News, scrutiny of the company mounted in 2017, fueled by U.S. intelligence assessments and high-profile federal investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election. This summer, the General Service Administration, which oversees purchasing by the federal government, removed Kaspersky from its list of approved vendors.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Russian Depositors On Edge After Second Major Bank Fails In Under A Month

Russian Depositors On Edge After Second Major Bank Fails In Under A Month

If once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, and three times is a full-blown collapse in the financial system, then Russia may be getting close.

Just three weeks after Russia bailed out its largest and very politically connected private bank, Otkritie, after an unexpectedly acute bank run resulted in the bank’s near-collapse, already nervous Russian depositors shifted their attention to another domestic lender, and earlier today Russia’s B&N Bank, the country’s 12th biggest lender by assets, also sought a bailout from the central bank. While it is unclear how much this bailout would cost Russian taxpayers, when the central bank took over Otkritie last month, it said it might need up to $6.9 billion, the biggest ever bailout in the country.

B&N Bank, which is controlled by Russian oligarch Mikhail Gutseriev and was not on the central bank’s list of systemically important lenders, said it had under-estimated the problems within the banks it had bought during an expansion drive. “Our objective is, with the support of the central bank … to conduct an effective financial rehabilitation of the bank,” said Mikail Shishkhanov, who was named as chairman of B&N Bank, whose assets account for 2 percent of the Russian banking system, according to ratings agency Fitch.


Mikhail Gutseriev

Some background on the now defunct bank: B&N Bank, founded in 1993, is [or rather was] part of a sprawling conglomerate controlled by energy tycoon and billionaire Mikhail Gutseriev – said to be worth over $6 billion – that includes oil firms, a property development portfolio and an electronics retailer.

The bank embarked on an expansion drive after 2010, buying smaller lenders including Moskomprivatbank, Rost Bank, SKA-Bank before completing its biggest deal in 2016, a merger with MDM Bank, one of Russia’s largest lenders.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Putin Orders End To US Dollar Trade At Russian Seaports

Putin Orders End To US Dollar Trade At Russian Seaports 

Whether in response to rising scorching tensions with the US, or simply to provide support for the ruble, on Tuesday Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed the government to approve legislation making the ruble the main currency of exchange at all Russian seaports by next year, RT reported citing the Kremlin website.

The head of Russian antitrust watchdog FAS Igor Artemyev, many services in Russian seaports are still priced in US dollars, even though such ports are state-owned. So, in order to “protect the interests” of dockworkers and their complyees with foreign currency obligations, the government was instructed to set a transition period before switching to ruble settlements.


The commercial sea port of Novorossiysk

The proposal to switch port tariffs to rubles was first proposed by Putin a year and a half ago, but it was mothballed only to pick up speed again in recent days.

Originally, the idea was rejected by large transport companies, which said they prefer to keep revenues in dollars and other foreign currencies due to sharp fluctuations on the volatile ruble. However, the Russian anti-trust watchdog said the decision would force foreigners to buy Russian currency, which would stabilize rates and be good for the ruble.

According to FAS, the group of companies set tariffs for transshipment in dollars and raised tariffs from January 2015 “without objective grounds.”

The watchdog ruled that NMTP abused its dominant position in the market and imposed a 9.74 billion rubles fine, or about $165 million at the current exchange rate. The decision was overturned by a court in Moscow in July this year.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Wikileaks Publishes “Spy Files Russia” Detailing Russia’s Mas

Wikileaks Publishes “Spy Files Russia” Detailing Russia’s Mass Surveillance System

Perhaps in an attempt to refute recurring allegations that it has traditionally focused on exposing only US state secrets, if not being an outright covert and subversive Moscow front, today Wikileaks released a new cache of documents which it claims detail surveillance apparatus used by the Russian state to spy on Internet and mobile users. It’s the first time the organization has leaked material directly pertaining to the Russian state.

RELEASE: Spy Files https://wikileaks.org/spyfiles/russia/ 


The full datadump can be found here.

In its summary of the cache of mostly Russian-language documents, Wikileaks claims they show how a long-established Russian company which supplies software to telcos is also installing infrastructure – with the government’s blessing – that enables Russian state agencies to tap into, search and spy on citizens’ digital activity, suggesting a similar state-funded mass surveillance program to the one utilized by the U.S.’s NSA or by GCHQ in the U.K. (both of which were detailed in the 2013 Snowden disclosures).

And speaking of, shortly following the publication, another famous whistleblower, one also exiled and currently residing in Russia, Edward Snowden tweeted “Plot twist: @Wikileaks publishes details on Russia’s increasingly oppressive internet surveillance industry.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Turkey Faces Threats for Inking Landmark Arms Deal with Russia

Turkey Faces Threats for Inking Landmark Arms Deal with Russia

Turkey Faces Threats for Inking Landmark Arms Deal with Russia

The long awaited deal has taken place. A deposit has already been paid. Turkey has finally signed the $2.5bn (£1.9bn) contract with Russia to buy S-400 advanced missile defense system. With a range of 400 kilometers (248 miles), the system can shoot down up to 80 targets simultaneously, aiming two missiles at each one, at an altitude of up to 30 km.

The system is not operationally compatible with the systems used by NATO countries, which gives Turkey a military capacity independent of the alliance. NATO commanders will not have control over it. The identification friend or foe (IFF) equipment won’t prevent Turkey from using it against NATO aircraft and missiles. Reaching full operational capability will require Russian personnel to be stationed in Turkey on advice, assistance and training missions.

The technology transfer component of the S-400 deal is especially important as it would allow Turkey to rapidly expand domestic defense industry with Russia’s help. Russia would supply two batteries and help Ankara build two more such systems. A few years ago, the US refused to let Turkey produce Patriot air defense systems on its soil and the deal was off.

Ankara does not have industrial infrastructure to produce air defense systems. Russian specialists will have to come and build it from scratch. As a result, Russia will get access to the defense infrastructure of a NATO member state. The agreement to build the Akkuyu nuclear power plant in Turkey, which is to be launched by 2023, is another example of fruitful economic cooperation.

NATO insists members of the alliance are obligated to use military hardware that is interoperable with each other’s systems. But the S-400 deal is not the first time the principle of interoperability is not observed. Greece purchased Russia’s S-300 missile system several years ago.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Suddenly, “De-Dollarization” Is A Thing

Suddenly, “De-Dollarization” Is A Thing

For what seems like decades, other countries have been tiptoeing away from their dependence on the US dollar. China, Russia, and India have cut deals in which they agree to accept each others’ currencies for bi-lateral trade while Europe, obviously, designed the euro to be a reserve asset and international medium of exchange.

These were challenges to the dollar’s dominance, but they weren’t mortal threats.

What’s happening lately, however, is a lot more serious. It even has an ominous-sounding name: de-dollarization. Here’s an excerpt from a much longer article by “strategic risk consultant” F. William Engdahl:

Gold, Oil and De-Dollarization? Russia and China’s Extensive Gold Reserves, China Yuan Oil Market

(Global Research) – China, increasingly backed by Russia—the two great Eurasian nations—are taking decisive steps to create a very viable alternative to the tyranny of the US dollar over world trade and finance. Wall Street and Washington are not amused, but they are powerless to stop it.So long as Washington dirty tricks and Wall Street machinations were able to create a crisis such as they did in the Eurozone in 2010 through Greece, world trading surplus countries like China, Japan and then Russia, had no practical alternative but to buy more US Government debt—Treasury securities—with the bulk of their surplus trade dollars. Washington and Wall Street could print endless volumes of dollars backed by nothing more valuable than F-16s and Abrams tanks. China, Russia and other dollar bond holders in truth financed the US wars that were aimed at them, by buying US debt. Then they had few viable alternative options.

Viable Alternative Emerges
Now, ironically, two of the foreign economies that allowed the dollar an artificial life extension beyond 1989—Russia and China—are carefully unveiling that most feared alternative, a viable, gold-backed international currency and potentially, several similar currencies that can displace the unjust hegemonic role of the dollar today.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The NYT’s Yellow Journalism on Russia

The NYT’s Yellow Journalism on Russia

Exclusive: The New York Times’ descent into yellow journalism over Russia recalls the sensationalism of Hearst and Pulitzer leading to the Spanish-American War, but the risks to humanity are much greater now, writes Robert Parry.


Reading The New York Times these days is like getting a daily dose of the “Two Minutes Hate” as envisioned in George Orwell’s 1984,except applied to America’s new/old enemy Russia. Even routine international behavior, such as Russia using fictitious names for potential adversaries during a military drill, is transformed into something weird and evil.

The New York Times building in Manhattan. (Photo credit: Robert Parry)

In the snide and alarmist style that the Times now always applies to Russia, reporter Andrew Higgins wrote – referring to a fictitious war-game “enemy” – “The country does not exist, so it has neither an army nor any real citizens, though it has acquired a feisty following of would-be patriots online. Starting on Thursday, however, the fictional state, Veishnoriya, a distillation of the Kremlin’s darkest fears about the West, becomes the target of the combined military might of Russia and its ally Belarus.”

This snarky front-page story in Thursday’s print editions also played into the Times’ larger narrative about Russia as a disseminator of “fake news.” You see the Russkies are even inventing “fictional” enemies to bully. Hah-hah-hah! The article was entitled, “Russia’s War Games With Fake Enemies Cause Real Alarm.”

Of course, the U.S. and its allies also conduct war games against fictitious enemies, but you wouldn’t know that from reading the Times. For instance, U.S. war games in 2015 substituted five made-up states – Ariana, Atropia, Donovia, Gorgas and Limaria – for nations near the Caucasus mountains along the borders of Russia and Iran.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

An Economic Lesson for China and Russia

An Economic Lesson for China and Russia

After years of endless military threats against Russia—remember CIA deputy director Mike Morell saying on TV (Charlie Rose show) that the US should start killing Russians to give them a message, and Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley threatening “We’ll beat you harder than you have ever been beaten before”—now the US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin threatens China. If China doesn’t abide by Washington’s new sanctions on North Korea, Mnuchin said the US “will put additional sanctions on them [China] and prevent them from accessing the US and international dollar system.”
https://www.rt.com/usa/403118-usa-china-sanctions-north-korea/

Here is the broke US government $20 trillion in public debt, having to print money with which to buy its own bonds, threatening the second largest economy in the world, an economy on purchasing power parity terms that is larger than the US economy.

Take a moment to think about Mnuchin’s threat to China. How many US firms are located in China? It is not only Apple and Nike. Would sanctions on China mean that the US firms could not sell their Chinese made products in the US or anywhere outside China? Do you think the global US corporations would stand for this?

What if China responded by nationalizing all US factories and all Western owned banks in China and Hong Kong?

Mnuchin is like the imbecile Nikki Haley. He doesn’t know who he is threatening.

Consider Mnuchin’s threat to exclude China from the international dollar system. Nothing could do more harm to the US and more good to China. A huge amount of economic transactions would simply exit the dollar system, reducing its scope and importance.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“What Did They Expect?” Turkey Pivots From NATO, Signs Russia Missile Deal

“What Did They Expect?” Turkey Pivots From NATO, Signs Russia Missile Deal

Confirming, and sending the clearest sign of his previously discussed pivot toward Russia and away from NATO and the West, on Tuesday President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey had signed a deal to purchase a Russian surface-to-air missile system, and paid the first installment. The deal cements Turkey’s recent rapprochement with Russia, despite differences over the war in Syria, the downing of a Russian fighter jet over Turkey in late 2015 and the assassination of a Russian ambassador earlier this year, and comes as Turkey’s ties with the United States and European Union have become strained to the point of breaking.

Although the missile purchase from Russia was made public several months ago, Erdogan’s announcement was the first confirmation that Turkey had transferred money to pay for the S-400 missile system.

“Signatures have been made for the purchase of S-400s from Russia,” Erdogan said in comments published in several newspapers on Tuesday. “A deposit has also been paid as far as I know.”

As the NYT writes, “the purchase of the missile system flies in the face of cooperation within the NATO alliance, which Turkey has belonged to since the early 1950s. NATO does not ban purchases of military hardware from manufacturers outside the American-led alliance, but it does discourage members from buying equipment not compatible with that used by other members.”

According to reports in the Russian media, Turkey is to get four batteries of S-400 launchers complete with targeting radar and control posts. Some aspects of the deal are reportedly to be finalized, but Russian officials said the contract furthers Russia’s geostrategic interests.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Unknown Oil & Gas Deal Just Changed The Global Energy Balance

Unknown Oil & Gas Deal Just Changed The Global Energy Balance

Doha

One of the biggest energy stories this year has been Russia’s Rosneft buying India’s Essar Oil — giving the Russian company a firm grip on one of the world’s biggest emerging oil and gas markets.

And this past week, that story got more complex. With Rosneft striking another big deal — drawing in another heavyweight energy nation.

China.

Rosneft announced Friday it is selling a significant chunk of its equity to Chinese investors. In this case, little-know exploration and production firm CEFC China Energy.

Although few investors know CEFC, the company is bringing significant capital to the deal. With the firm agreeing to pay $9 billion to acquire a 14.16 percent stake in Rosneft.

The deal is historic in being the first major buy-in by China into the Russian oil and gas sector (although Chinese firms have been involved in financing LNG export projects in the Russian Arctic). Showing the strength of the ever-growing ties between Russia and China in the energy space.

Rosneft and CEFC have been at the center of that burgeoning relationship. With the two companies having signed a deal this past September for long-term supply of Russian crude into China.

This week’s equity purchase further cements those business ties. And shows that China sees Russia as a critical ally in the energy game going forward.

But there are implications well beyond these two countries. With China now having backdoor access into markets like India — through Rosneft’s recently-acquired holdings in that country.

That’s a critical development for the world energy picture. Given that Chinese companies haven’t directly gained much access into India — despite the nation being one of the most important emerging players on the energy stage.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Behold a Pale Horse, and its Rider is Death

Behold a Pale Horse, and its Rider is Death

The US national debt is now over $20 trillion, and Washington is fomenting more wars.

The entire world is helping Washington foment wars—including two targeted countries themselves—Russia and China—both of which are helping Washington foment more wars. Believe it or not, both Russia and China voted with Washington on the UN Security Council to impose more and harsher sanctions on North Korea, a country guilty of nothing but a desire to have the means to protect itself from the US and not become yet another Washington victim like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Serbia, and Ukraine overthrown in a US coup and now poverty-stricken.

I once thought that Russia and China were checks on Washington’s unilateralism, but apparently not. Both governments have been knuckled under by Washington and both voted to punish North Korea for striving to be sufficiently armed to protect its sovereignty from Washington.

Why are Russia and China repeating their same mistake that they made when they supported Washington’s no-fly UN resolution for Libya, a resolution that Washington and NATO stood on its head when they launched air attacks that helped the CIA organized “jihadists” overthrow Libya’s progressive government and murder Gaddafi?

Russia knows that it is surrounded by US nuclear and military bases. So does China. The question is: have Russia and China capitulated out of fear? Or is their cooperation with Washington a ruse while they prepare their own strike on Washington, or are the two misguided governments trying to cooperate with Washington a la sanctions so as to avoid having to confront a US military attack on North Korea?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Laughing on the Way to Armageddon — Paul Craig Roberts

Laughing on the Way to Armageddon — Paul Craig Roberts

The United States shows the world such a ridiculous face that the world laughs at us.

The latest spin on “Russia stole the election” is that Russia used Facebook to influence the election. The NPR women yesterday were breathless about it.

We have been subjected to ten months of propaganda about Trump/Putin election interference and still not a scrap of evidence. It is past time to ask an unasked question: If there were evidence, what is the big deal? All sorts of interest groups try to influence election outcomes including foreign governments. Why is it OK for Israel to influence US elections but not for Russia to do so? Why do you think the armament industry, the energy industry, agribusiness, Wall Street and the banks, pharmaceutical companies, etc., etc., supply the huge sum of money to finance election campaigns if their intent is not to influence the election? Why do editorial boards write editorials endorsing one candidate and damning another if they are not influencing the election?

What is the difference between influencing the election and influencing the government? Washington is full of lobbyists of all descriptions, including lobbyists for foreign governments, working round the clock to influence the US government. It is safe to say that the least represented in the government are the citizens themselves who don’t have any lobbyists working for them.

The orchestrated hysteria over “Russian influence” is even more absurd considering the reason Russia allegedly interfered in the election. Russia favored Trump because he was the peace candidate who promised to reduce the high tensions with Russia created by the Obama regime and its neocon nazis—Hillary Clinton, Victoria Nuland, Susan Rice, and Samantha Power. What’s wrong with Russia preferring a peace candidate over a war candidate? The American people themselves preferred the peace candidate. So Russia agreed with the electorate.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Dangerous Decline of US Hegemony

The Dangerous Decline of US Hegemony


The showdown with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a seminal event that can only end in one of two ways: a nuclear exchange or a reconfiguration of the international order.

President Donald Trump being sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017. (Screen shot from Whitehouse.gov)

While complacency is always unwarranted, the first seems increasingly unlikely. As no less a global strategist than Steven Bannon observed about the possibility of a pre-emptive U.S. strike: “There’s no military solution. Forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about. There’s no military solution here. They got us.”

This doesn’t mean that Donald Trump, Bannon’s ex-boss, couldn’t still do something rash. After all, this is a man who prides himself on being unpredictable in business negotiations, as historian William R. Polk, who worked for the Kennedy administration during the Cuban Missile Crisis, points out. So maybe Trump thinks it would be a swell idea to go a bit nuts on the DPRK.

But this is one of the good things about having a Deep State, the existence of which has been proved beyond a shadow of a doubt since the intelligence community declared war on Trump last November. While it prevents Trump from reaching a reasonable modus vivendi with Russia, it also means that the President is continually surrounded by generals, spooks, and other professionals who know the difference between real estate and nuclear war.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Putin Rejects More Korea Sactions, Warns US Risks “Global Catastrophe, Huge Loss Of Human Life”

Putin Rejects More Korea Sactions, Warns US Risks “Global Catastrophe, Huge Loss Of Human Life”

After UN Ambassador Nikki Haley asked the security council to pass the “strongest possible” sanctions against North Korea following the isolated nation’s sixth nuclear test which took place over the weekend, Russia President Vladimir Putin has hinted that Russia may – and most likely will – use its Security Council veto power to stop any further sanctions from being implemented.

Putin, who is in China for a meeting of leaders from the BRICS countries, said that sanctions at this point would be “counter-productive” and that US threats of military action could trigger “a global catastrophe and a huge loss of human life,” according to Reuters. Some US diplomats have quietly agreed with the Russian leader, noting that if the barrage of already imposed sanctions on Pyongyang hasn’t changed the country’s behavior, then any incremental actions would likely have no impact either.

PUtin added that Pyongyang wouldn’t halt its nuclear tests until it “felt secure.” More details:

“Ramping up military hysteria in such conditions is senseless; it’s a dead end,” he added. “It could lead to a global, planetary catastrophe and a huge loss of human life. There is no other way to solve the North Korean nuclear issue, save that of peaceful dialogue.”

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Fearing Contagion, Russia Bails Out Bondholders in its Biggest Bank Collapse Yet

Fearing Contagion, Russia Bails Out Bondholders in its Biggest Bank Collapse Yet 

“The panicky mood has been dampened down,” as other banks are rumored to be teetering.

True to the playbook of bank bailouts, the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) decided to bail out Bank Otkritie Financial Corporation, the largest privately owned bank in the country, and the seventh largest bank behind six state-owned banks.

The Central Bank put in an undisclosed amount of money in return for at least a 75% stake. This is likely to be Russia’s biggest bank bailout ever, well ahead of the current record holder, the $6.7 billion bailout of the Bank of Moscow in 2011.

Otkritie and its businesses would operate as usual, the Central Bank said. The banks obligations to creditors and bondholders, which include other Russian banks, would be honored to avoid contagion.

The controlling shareholder of Otkritie bank is Otkritie Holding, with a 65% stake. The bank had grown by wild acquisitions, grabbing other banks, insurers, non-pension funds, and the diamond business of Russia’s second largest oil producer Lukoil. Otkritie Holding is owned by executives of Lukoil, state-owned VTB bank, Otkritie, and other companies. So clearly, this bank is too big to fail.

Lukoil is also one of Otkritie’s largest clients. So Lukoil CEO Vagit Alekperov said in a statement that he saw no risks for Lukoil associated with the bail out, and that Lukoil supported the Central Bank’s decision.

In July, according to Reuters, Kremlin-backed rating agency ACRA downgraded Otkritie to a BBB- rating, citing the “low quality of its loan portfolio.”

On August 17, Moody’s placed Otkritie on review for possible downgrade, citing two big issues:

  1. “The recent elevated volatility of the bank’s customer deposits, which puts pressure on its liquidity position and negatively affects its funding costs”
  2. The bank’s “increased involvement in financing the large financial and industrial assets of its controlling shareholder Otkritie Holding.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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