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The West Slips Down Another Step

The West Slips Down Another Step

The West Slips Down Another Step

There is much on the Internet these days about documents allegedly hacked by Anonymous; these documents belong to the “Integrity Initiative” and describe a multi-country effort, funded by London and Washington, to counter “Russian propaganda” and “fake news”. Since the initial story broke, a good deal of confusion has been laid down: Wikileaks is doubtful, and Anonymous itself is being evasive. On the other hand, Integrity Initiative doesn’t entirely deny.

But even if entirely false, they would be in that curious category of “fake but true”: Integrity Initiative does actually exist and here is its website. It is certainly engaged in anti-Russia propaganda. It publishes articles locking the barn door after the horses have escaped: yes, “Novichok” is terribly deadly but that doesn’t mean it will kill you. But, if it isn’t strong enough to kill you today, it may be strong enough to kill someone four months later. Its most memorable statement is surely this:

The Kremlin has invested more operational thought, intent and resource in disinformation, in Europe and elsewhere in the democratic world, than any other single player.

A statement that would stun anyone who’s ever been in a hotel and gone channel cruising: RT’s in there somewhere along with CNN, MSNBC, Fox, BBC, DW, France Télévisions, Rai and so on. A tiny voice in a bellowing crowd. But, after all, these are the people who tell us that Russia affected the US election with one FB message per 400 million others.

The Integrity Initiative is one of many. We had, and still have, the Legatum Institute which worried about “Russian disinformation” back in 2013, a pair of British thinktankers two years later also worried about “Russia’s information warfare in the UK“.

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Black Sea Provocation… Vintage Putin or Poroshenko Dregs?

Black Sea Provocation… Vintage Putin or Poroshenko Dregs?

Black Sea Provocation… Vintage Putin or Poroshenko Dregs?

The latest potentially disastrous flare-up in violence between the Kiev regime and Russia near the Black Sea’s Kerch Strait is clearly a blatant provocation aimed at strengthening the autocratic regime under President Petro Poroshenko.

It’s also a reckless gambit to push Kiev’s madcap agenda for joining NATO and the European Union. No matter, it seems, if that gambit risks igniting a full-scale war between Russia and NATO.

The US-led NATO military alliance and the European Union appeared to back Kiev’s claims of aggression by Moscow following the latest escalation in the Black Sea. That response fits Poroshenko’s long-held narrative of casting Russia as an aggressor and to mobilize support from NATO and the EU.

Ironically, Western news media featured pro-NATO pundits who have claimed that the weekend confrontation was “vintage Putin”. It is speculated that the Russian president was taking advantage of several political distractions for Western governments – Trump’s public relations problems with Saudi Arabia over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Brexit debacle and so on – to strike a heavy hand at Kiev.

That typically cynical anti-Russian view completely overlooks the glaring facts that the naval clash between Ukrainian and Russian forces in the Black Sea plays conveniently for the Kiev regime and Poroshenko. It’s less a case of “vintage Putin” and more the dregs of Poroshenko’s intrigue.

The prompt declaration by Poroshenko’s national security council for imposing martial law in Ukraine – within hours of the naval confrontation on Sunday – effectively strives to give Poroshenko and his Kiev regime dictatorial powers. Potentially, a state of emergency could permit Poroshenko to call off presidential elections due in March next year.

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Major Psy-Op in Europe Exposed: UK Government Tramples on Values It Vowed to Protect

Major Psy-Op in Europe Exposed: UK Government Tramples on Values It Vowed to Protect

Major Psy-Op in Europe Exposed: UK Government Tramples on Values It Vowed to Protect

Those who have been saying that the West has turned Russia into a scapegoat to be blamed for each and every thing that goes wrong have been proved right. We have witnessed concocted stories invented to denigrate Moscow that have gone viral as directed by the secret services. The UK, the country that is spearheading the anti-Russian information campaign, offers a good example that illustrates how this is being done.

An online group of hackers known as Anonymous has just revealed covert UK activities in the EU. According to the documents released by that group, London is in the midst of a major program to interfere in the internal affairs of EU members, the US, and Canada. Anonymous threatens to release more information on the clandestine operations of the UK government, unless it agrees to remove the shroud of secrecy protecting those information-warfare efforts. On Nov. 24 Twitter deleted RT comments on the issue. The UK knows it has friends it can rely on in a crunch.

The Integrity Initiative is a London-based organization set up and funded by the government-friendly Institute for Statecraft, in cooperation with the Free University of Brussels (VUB) to wage information-warfare operations against Russia. Anonymous calls it a “large-scale information secret service.” It aims to “change attitudes in Russia itself” as well as the influence of Russian natives living abroad. The Integrity Initiative’s budget for the fiscal year ending on March 31, 2019 is estimated at £1.96 million ($2.51 million). The network has received grants from NATO, the US State Department, and Facebook.

The Initiative’s operations have been kept under wraps. Its activities are conducted by “clusters” of local politicians, journalists, military personnel, scientists, and academics involved in anti-Russian propaganda efforts. The list includes William Browder, a US-British businessman convicted in absentia in Russia for tax evasion.

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Sino-Russian interdependence will be based on oil

Sino-Russian interdependence will be based on oil

Although Beijing is Moscow’s largest trading partner, while Russia only ranks in the second ten among China’s importers, the Kremlin is strategically the most important contractor because it supplies the most desirable product – oil – and Chinese demand for this raw material is growing. It appears that an increase in Russian oil exports to China will be at the expense of European consumers.

Chinese oil production has been falling since 2015, and yet enormous infrastructure investments and huge strategic petroleum reserves (SPR) boost the demand for it. No wonder then that in 2017, Beijing became the largest importer of crude oil, overtaking the United States. Currently, China’s consumption of product is approaching 13 million barrels per day. In the March Gefira we predicted that the PRC will have become the largest consumer of this raw material by 2025, accounting for 18-20% of the global consumption.1)And Russia has an important role to play because already in 2016 it became China’s most important oil supplier, replacing Saudi Arabia.

China has been buying more and more Russian oil in the last decade, even though the Kremlin does not increase its export volume, which is around 5 million barrels per day. In 2009, countries such as Poland and the Netherlands imported more Russian crude oil than Beijing, but in 2015 they were overtaken by China, which in 2017 had an over 20% share in the Russian exports of this raw material.

In recent years, an increase in the Sino-Russian trade balance has been noticeable. While a decade ago, the total turnover was less than 45 billion USD, in the last year this result was almost twice as high: 84 billion USD. During the November meeting of the prime ministers of both countries, it was announced that the target would be to reach the level of 200 billion USD, with the energy industry, mainly oil and gas, being the main factor in the balance sheet growth.2)

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The New Global Tinderbox: It’s Not Your Mother’s Cold War

shutterstock_725886793

When it comes to relations between Donald Trump’s America, Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and Xi Jinping’s China, observers everywhere are starting to talk about a return to an all-too-familiar past. “Now we have a new Cold War,” commented Russia expert Peter Felgenhauer in Moscow after President Trump recently announced plans to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The Trump administration is “launching a new Cold War,” said historian Walter Russell Mead in the Wall Street Journal, following a series of anti-Chinese measures approved by the president in October. And many others are already chiming in.

Recent steps by leaders in Washington, Moscow, and Beijing may seem to lend credence to such a “new Cold War” narrative, but in this case history is no guide. Almost two decades into the twenty-first century, what we face is not some mildly updated replica of last century’s Cold War, but a new and potentially even more dangerous global predicament.

The original Cold War, which lasted from the late 1940s until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, posed a colossal risk of thermonuclear annihilation. At least after the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, however, it also proved a remarkably stable situation in which, despite local conflicts of many sorts, the United States and the Soviet Union both sought to avoid the kinds of direct confrontations that might have triggered a mutual catastrophe. In fact, after confronting the abyss in 1962, the leaders of both superpowers engaged in a complex series of negotiations leading to substantial reductions in their nuclear arsenals and agreements intended to reduce the risk of a future Armageddon.

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Russian Diplomat: “Yes, Russia Is Preparing For War, I Can Confirm It”

A week after Russian president Vladimir Putin doubled-down on a warning to Russia’s geopolitical foes first made earlier this year by declaring that Russia would use its “unstoppable” nuclear weapons in response to an incoming missile attack shortly after US president Trump announced the US would pull out of the INF Treaty, , a Russian diplomat has both confirmed (and denied) what US war hawks have been calling out: Moscow is preparing for war, he said, just in case the US starts one.

Speaking at the UN on Friday, Andrey Belousov, deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department of Nonproliferation and Arms Control, echoed Putin’s comments from last week that Russia is indeed readying itself for war, but only so it can defend its people against American aggression.

“At a recent meeting, the US stated that Russia is preparing for war. Yes, Russia is preparing for war, I can confirm it”, Belousov said adding that “We are preparing to defend our homeland, our territorial integrity, our principles, our values, our people.”

Russia’s military build-up and large-scale drills, which have often been painted in the Western media as preparations for all-out war, are a defensive necessity, he said.

Russia doesn’t seek a confrontation, he said, unlike the US. “Why else would the United States pull out of the [INF] Treaty, increase their nuclear potential, adopt a new nuclear doctrine that lowers the threshold for nuclear weapons use – that’s the question for us all.”

Belousov’s words came after a Russian draft resolution to reinforce the INF Treaty, which bans intermediate-range nuclear weapons, was overwhelmingly rejected at the UN First Committee.

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“No Chance INF Will Be Renegotiated” Says Top Russian Official Ahead Of Trump-Putin Meeting

On Wednesday a top Russian defense official warned that it’s impossible that Moscow will renegotiate the the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF), said to likely be at the top of the agenda when Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are set to meet in Paris on November 11 on the sidelines of commemorative events of the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

Chairman of the Defense Committee of the State Duma, Vladimir Shamanov, is reported to have said there’s “no chances that the nuclear treaty will be renegotiated” citing Russia’s position of there being “no turning point” away from the Reagan and Soviet-era 1987 treaty placing restrictions on nuclear-capable missiles and outlining arms reduction agreements.

This comes after Russian officials reportedly urged US National Security Advisor John Bolton to stay in the treaty during his trip to Moscow this week, something he rebuffed while saying“There’s a new strategic reality out there,” and described the INF Treaty as a bilateral treaty in a multipolar ballistic missile world,” that remains insufficient as it does not account for countries like China, Iran or North Korea.

The two met previously at their controversial Helsinki summit, via Reuters

And separately Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told Russian state media on Thursday: “I am confident that this topic [US withdrawal from the INF Treaty] will dominate the agenda,” and added “We need to understand where the US is going with this issue.”He said amidst crumbling dialogue between Moscow and Washington officials that direct contact between presidents are “twice as important,” according to TASS.

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Trump Threatens US Will Increase Nukes Until Russia, China “Come To Their Senses”

After hours of closed door talks in Moscow between US National Security Advisor John Bolton and his Russian counterpart Secretary of the Russian Security Council, Nikolay Patrushev, Bolton told reporters that the United States has yet to take a decision on whether it plans to deploy missiles in Europe if the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) is scrapped.

Bolton further said that he now understands Russia’s position on nuclear arms regulations and treaties much better, and added that more consultations on arms treaties are needed, while further denying prior Russian charges that a US pullout of the INF was an attempt at “blackmail,” according to Russian state media sources. He subsequently had a 90-minute meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and later in the trip is expected to meet with President Vladimir Putin.

John Bolton shakes hands with Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev. Via RFE/RL

This comes following President Trump’s shock weekend announcement concerning the Reagan-era treaty with the Soviet Union, wherein he said after a campaign rally in Elko, Nevada: “We’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement,” and indicated, “We’re going to terminate the agreement.” The Guardian had the day prior to the Saturday statement revealed that Bolton – in what some described as an overreach of the position’s typical role – had been pushing Trump to abandon the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Moscow’s reaction on Sunday was fierce with Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warning that Trump’s pledge to “terminate” the treaty was “very dangerous” and that “[Withdrawal] won’t be understood by the international community, but [instead] arouse serious condemnation of all members of the world community, who are committed to security and stability and are ready to work on strengthening the current regimes in arms control.”

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Washington’s Latest Cold War Maneuver: Pulling Out of the INF

Washington’s Latest Cold War Maneuver: Pulling Out of the INF

Photo Source White House Photographic Office | CC BY 2.0

The Trump administration has decided to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), the most comprehensive disarmament treaty ever negotiated between Washington and Moscow.  National Security Adviser John Bolton, a long-time opponent of arms control, reportedly will inform Russian President Vladimir Putin this week that the United States will do so. The Trump administration will also be briefing our key European allies on the decision, which will complicate relations with Germany and France who favor maintaining the treaty.  This is the latest in a series of U.S. steps over the past 20 years that have put the Russians on the defensive, and led Russian President Vladimir Putin to be more assertive in protecting Moscow’s interests in East Europe.

The INF treaty actually eliminated an entire class of intermediate-range missiles from the U.S. and Soviet arsenals in 1987.  The Pentagon opposed the treaty, and Secretary of Defense Weinberger and his deputy for arms control and disarmament, Richard Perle, resigned in protest over President Ronald Reagan’s decision to go forward.  The Pentagon has opposed all presidential decisions to pursue disarmament, although—in the case of INF—the Soviets destroyed more than twice as many missiles as the United States, and the European theatre became safer for U.S. forces stationed there.  The treaty and the improved bilateral relations actually led to a slowdown in military spending in both the United States and Russia.

In 2002, President George W. Bush created the worst of all possible strategic worlds when he abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM), the cornerstone of strategic deterrence and one of the pearls of Soviet-American arms control policy.

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“Complete Chaos”: Russia Slams “Dangerous” U.S. Pullout Of INF Treaty As “Blackmail”

Washington’s planned withdrawal from the international Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, announced by President Trump on Saturday, has been slammed by Russia as “a very dangerous step” which is ultimately part of “continuing attempts to achieve Russia’s concessions through blackmail” in statements made by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Sunday.

And Russian lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev, who chairs the Russian Parliament’s Upper House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned the move could create a domino effect endangering other landmark deals like the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). The lawmaker said such an outcome pits mankind against “complete chaos in terms of nuclear weapons.

Russian Deputy FM Sergei Ryabkov further said that the decision would receive the condemnation of the international community as it could trigger a new arms race and make the world deeply unstable. However, Ryabkov accused the United States seeking “total domination”and said it’s attempting to remove impediments to that goal.

“At first glance, I can say that apparently the INF Treaty creates problems for pursuing the line towards the US total domination in military sphere,” Ryabkov said, according to TASS.

He explained further of the treaty signed between the Soviet Union and the United States in 1987 in Washington, DC: “This would be a very dangerous step, which, I’m sure, won’t be just understood by the international community, but arouse serious condemnation of all members of the world community, who are committed to security and stability and are ready to work on strengthening the current regimes in arms control.”

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Foreign Banks Are Embracing Russia’s Alternative To SWIFT, Moscow Says

On Friday, one day after Russia and China pledged to reduce their reliance on the dollar by increasing the amount of bilateral trade conducted in rubles and yuan (a goal toward which much progress has already been made over the past three years), Russia’s Central Bank provided the latest update on Moscow’s alternative to US-dominated international payments network SWIFT.

Russia

Moscow started working on the project back in 2014, when international sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea inspired fears that the country’s largest banks would soon be cut off from SWIFT which, though it’s based in Belgium and claims to be politically neutral, is effectively controlled by the US Treasury.

Russia

Today, the Russian alternative, known as the System for Transfer of Financial Messages, has attracted a modest amount of support within the Russian business community, with 416 Russian companies having joined as of September, including the Russian Federal Treasury and large state corporations likeGazprom Neft and Rosneft.

And now, eight months after a senior Russian official advised that “our banks are ready to turn off SWIFT,” it appears the system has reached another milestone in its development: It’s ready to take on international partners in the quest to de-dollarize and end the US’s leverage over the international financial system. A Russian official advised that non-residents will begin joining the system “this year,” according to RT.

“Non-residents will start connecting to us this year. People are already turning to us,” said First Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Russia Olga Skorobogatova. Earlier, the official said that by using the alternative payment system foreign firms would be able to do business with sanctioned Russian companies.

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Trump To Pull U.S. Out Of 1987 Nuclear Weapons Treaty With Russia

As Russia continues to outmaneuver the US by developing new ballistic missiles like the 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile, as well as hypersonic weapons capable of carrying a nuclear payload, President Trump said Saturday that he plans to abandon a 1987 arms-control treaty that has (on paper, at least) prohibited the US and Russia from deploying intermediate-range nuclear missiles as Russia has continued to “repeatedly violate” its terms according to the president, the Associated Press reports.

“We’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement,” Trump said Saturday after a campaign rally in Elko, Nevada. “We’re going to terminate the agreement.”

In a report that undoubtedly further complicated John Bolton’s weekend trip to Moscow, the Guardian revealed on Friday that the national security advisor – in what some described as an overreach of the position’s typical role – had been pushing Trump to abandon the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

The announcement comes after the U.S. had been warning Russia it could resort to strong countermeasures unless Moscow complies with international commitments to arms reduction under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a pact struck in the 1980s.

When first signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev following their historic 1986 meeting, the INF was touted as an important deescalation of tensions between the two superpowers. But it has since become a flashpoint in the increasingly strained relationship between the US and Russia, as both sides have accused the other of violating its terms.

But for the US, Russia is only part of the problem.

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NATO Coordinates Information War on Russia

NATO Coordinates Information War on Russia

NATO Coordinates Information War on Russia

The US, Britain and other NATO allies upped the ante this week with a coordinated campaign of information war to criminalize Russia. Moscow dismissed the wide-ranging claims as “spy mania”. But the implications amount to a grave assault recklessly escalating international tensions with Russia.

The accusations that the Kremlin is running a global cyberattack operation are tantamount to accusing Russia of “acts of war”. That, in turn, is creating a pretext for NATO powers to carry out “defensive” actions on Moscow, including increased economic and diplomatic sanctions against Russia, as well as “counter” cyberattacks on Russian territory.

This is a highly dangerous dynamic that could ultimately lead to military confrontation between nuclear-armed states.

There are notably suspicious signs that the latest accusations against Russia are a coordinated effort to contrive false charges.

First, there is the concerted nature of the claims. British state intelligence initiated the latest phase of information war by claiming that Russian military intelligence, GRU, was conducting cyberattacks on infrastructure and industries in various countries, costing national economies “millions of pounds” in damages.

Then, within hours of the British claims, the United States and Canada, as well as NATO partners Australia and New Zealand followed up with similar highly publicized accusations against Russia. It is significant that those Anglophone countries, known as the “Five Eyes”, have a long history of intelligence collaboration going back to the Cold War years against the Soviet Union.

The Netherlands, another NATO member, added to the “spy mania” by claiming it had expelled four members of Russian state intelligence earlier this year for allegedly trying to hack into the headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), based in The Hague.

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The Perfect Storm Bringing China And Russia Together

The Perfect Storm Bringing China And Russia Together

Nat Gas

During the Cold War, China and the Soviet Union regarded one another as strategic adversaries. Relations between Beijing and Moscow, however, have significantly improved over the years. Besides political alignment, the countries have complementary economies; China has an insatiable appetite for the raw materials which Russia has in abundance and Beijing has the financial strength to protect Moscow against the sanctions related to its annexation of Crimea.

Bilateral trade, as a consequence, has increased dramatically over the years. At the end of 2017, it stood at $80 billion, an increase of 30 percent year-on-year, with an aim to reach $200 billion by 2024. Much of this growth will need to come from energy trade, of which natural gas will likely make up a large part. An example of this natural gas growth is the Power of Siberia pipeline – which is currently nearing completion – and the Altay pipeline project which looks set to follow.

China’s booming demand for energy

The transformation of rural China a couple of decades ago into a global economic powerhouse has been admired across the globe. Even during the financial crisis of 2008, China served as a stabilizing force amid the turmoil. The Asian country’s expanding economy requires ever-larger volumes of energy to power homes and factories. Beijing’s adoption of more stringent rules to counter air pollution has created an energy revolution due to the coal-to-gas switch. This has had serious consequences for the global gas market.

Until recently, the LNG market was facing an oversupply. Growing demand in China due to its new rules on air pollution has absorbed much of the glut. According to analysts from Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., new supplies of LNG are “being easily mopped up by rampant market growth”. Political developments, however, have somewhat shifted Beijing’s focus from LNG to more pipeline gas from Russia. This has come at the right moment for Moscow as relations with its biggest customer, the EU, have deteriorated.

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US Officials Say Russia To “Seize” Syria’s Oilfields As Moscow Presses Europe On Reconstruction

Russia is attempting to woo European countries like Germany into a program of reconstruction cooperation in Syria, where broad swathes of the country have been destroyed through seven years of grinding proxy war; however, Pentagon officials have charged Russia with wanting to “seize” Syria’s oil and gas resources.

This comes as the United States has resolved to keep its over 2,000 troops in the east of Syria while vowing zero reconstruction aid so long as Iranian troops and advisers are present in the country. This week a top US military official even went so far as to accuse Russia of seeking “to take advantage in any way they could” and that a “great power competition” for Syria will continue to shape its post-war future.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Leah Lauderback, who served as director of intelligence for Operation Inherent Resolve until June, told an Army conference that “Great power competition was an objective by Russia,” and that specifically they are looking to “seize” oilfields in Syria. But a Russian official has slammed the US and Europe as living in a “fantasy land” if they still have removal of Assad on the table as “radicals will take over that will slit people’s throats’’ should regime change happen.

Al Omar Oil Field in Deir ez-Zor, Syria

Gen. Lauderback said of Russia in the context of discussing US anti-ISIS operations at an Army conference in D.C. this week: “Economically, they wanted to seize oilfields, they wanted bids and contracts to develop Syria for infrastructure in order to stabilize Syria over the long term,” she said according to Al-Monitor news.

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