RT Opinion /tags/op-ed RT Opinion en RT /static/img/logo-rss.png RT Opinion 125 40 Macron just threw a live grenade at his own feet /news/599494-france-macron-regime-change/ The French president could be on the verge of regime-changing himself, with his establishment party’s support below that of the opposition
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The French president could be on the verge of regime-changing himself, with his establishment party’s support below that of the opposition

The latest French national polls show a final face off between the anti-establishment right and left, and the total decimation of President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party. Looks like he may have fooled himself into thinking that dumping all over the political chessboard was a big-brained three-dimensional move. 

In the wake of the anti-establishment National Rally party winning the European elections by a landslide, with more than double the score of Macron’s party, the usual suspects started chewing up the scenery with riots and unrest. All the National Rally needs to do is film it to create a campaign ad for themselves heading into the French national elections that Macron called in a double-or-nothing bet with the French people. Because Macron did that. And it’s the National Rally that has long campaigned on the promise of putting an end to it. 

It finally looks like enough French voters aren’t scared into denying Le Pen’s party the opportunity. The far-right label just doesn’t act as the kind of knee-jerk deterrent that it once did. And why should it? “France is on the brink of all-out civil conflict,” headlined Britain’s Telegraph. That has happened under Macron, not Le Pen, as he rammed through his establishment agenda piece by piece with his designated prime minister invoking Article 49.3 of the French Constitution to ram through legislation without a vote at least 23 times, totally overriding the democratic process – the second most since the Fifth Republic began in 1958. Its use to move the goalposts on retirees and make them work longer when France is a global taxation champion that robs them of hard earned cash their entire working lives, under the pretext of getting it back when they retire, would explain why the majority of retirees who voted massively for Macron no longer tell pollsters that they will. His support has dropped to just 28%, according to the latest Ifop poll

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French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech on Europe at the Sorbonne University in Paris, on April 25, 2024
‘Our Europe could die,’ Macron says. Who’s the killer?
]]> According to Le Monde, Macron said of his snap election call: “I’ve been preparing this for weeks, and I’m thrilled. I threw my unpinned grenade at their legs. Now we’ll see how they manage.” Looks like they’re managing just fine, actually. Macron’s party? Not so much. Next time, try putting a little more oomph behind that grenade toss, so it doesn’t just risk rolling back and blowing up in your face. The latest Ifop poll predicts the establishment’s total elimination after the first round of voting on June 30 with a mere 19% of the vote, and the two top parties heading to the second round on July 7 being the right and left anti-establishment at 35% and 26% respectively. And if lawlessness and violence keeps plaguing the streets between now and then, voters will fully understand that it was Macron who lit the match and the left that figured dumping fuel on the fire by trying to present the defeat of their right wing opponents as the solution to calming the unrest was somehow a winning strategy. Odds are that they’ll feel blackmailed and only be more motivated to vote accordingly. Ask German Chancellor Olaf Scholz how all the protests against the anti-establishment so-called “far-right” AfD worked out for him. They came in second, making gains in the EU vote, and his party came in third with its worst ever showing. Turns out that voters don’t really like to feel that they’re somehow being manipulated. 

Macron may think that he incited panic for survival in opposing political camps – the president of the establishment right’s Les Républicains proposed an alliance with Le Pen, then briefly barricaded himself inside party headquarters so his colleagues couldn’t gather to oust him. And the smaller anti-establishment right party Reconquête, founded by Eric Zemmour, ended up kicking out four of its five elected Eurodeputies when Marion Marechal (Marine Le Pen’s niece and number one on Reconquête’s EU electoral list) joined forces with her aunt’s party instead of dividing the vote. But Macron would have barely been able to settle in with his popcorn before the sideshows ended. 

It’s just such a big mystery how it’s come to this, and how the establishment in France and in Europe totally lost the plot. 

In May 2023, Reuters reported that the EU had approved $1.61 billion to buy out Dutch farmers whose cattle were deemed overly enthusiastic with their belching, peeing, and defecating. The farmers then started a political party called the Farmer-Citizen movement, backing the anti-establishment Geert Wilders, whose party won the general elections in November 2023, then went on to a second place finish (and a six seat gain) in the EU vote. 

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FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron waits to greet Lithuania's president prior to their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on March 12, 2024.
Timofey Bordachev: Emmanuel Macron might be a clown, but he’s a dangerous clown
]]> In Germany, as farmers and truckers gathered at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to protest the EU establishment’s crushing bureaucracy on everything from climate change to Ukraine, the misplaced priorities and inability to make ends meet resonated so loudly with the average German that 69% of them backed the protest movement – which would explain the second place finish of the anti-establishment party (the AfD) attacked by the establishment as being in cahoots with the farmers. Turns out that a whole lot of Germans were, too. 

In France, 90% of voters backed French farmer protests and were disgusted when Macron showed up at the annual Paris International Agricultural Fair with a bunch of riot squad goons who unloaded their tear gas on presumably innocent cows (although who knows, maybe they were silently setting off some planet-killing farts) while he ran from an initial confrontation with angry farmers. And well, what do you know. It turns out that 90% support for the farmers roughly translated into 93% of French communes voting for the National Rally in the EU elections.  

Surely it’s all just a big coincidence. Who knew that messing with people’s food and livelihood while focusing on costly ideological priorities that are mainly of interest to the little elite cabal in charge would ever be the recipe for regime change? But the question now is whether Macron, having bet it all and lost, would cling to power like leaders he denounces. Or whether he’d abide by his own stated democratic principles and resign, as the majority (57%) of French say they’d want him to do. 

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Tue, 18 Jun 2024 15:04:13 +0000 RT
The US chose this country to become its proxy in Africa. Will it be better off? /africa/599437-kenya-ruto-nato-biden/ Joe Biden has pledged to grant Nairobi the status of Major Non-NATO Ally
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Kenya’s president is taking a risk by siding up to NATO

President William Ruto was elected Kenya’s head of state in August 2022 and since then he has maintained his country’s relations with the West, especially Britain and the US. He has visited these countries two and four times respectively since his inauguration, and hosted Britain’s King Charles on the monarch’s first official visit abroad after his coronation. Ruto has also visited Israel, the foremost Western ally, and has publicly expressed support for the Jewish state, a stance at odds with the African Union (AU), which has condemned West Jerusalem over the war in Gaza. In contrast, Ruto has visited China, Kenya’s largest trading partner, just once within the same period. Initially, Ruto appeared to espouse Pan-Africanism, earning praise from admirers across the continent. He had decried Africa’s humiliation by the West, condemning the international financial architecture and other neocolonial tendencies that have contributed to Africa’s poverty, instability, and underdevelopment.

In due course, however, rhetoric has prevailed over commitment. In President Ruto, the West, specifically the US, has found a dependable ally in Africa. Ruto’s state visit to the US last month, the first in 16 years by an African head of state, was significant in this regard. Symbolically, it underscored Kenya’s longstanding relations with Washington, skewed as they are. The most prominent outcome of this visit was the US designation of Kenya as a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA). The US bestows this status to a country which, although not part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bloc, has a deep strategic relationship with the US. Kenya will thus join Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco, the three other African countries designated as such. In “Sub-Saharan Africa” (a problematic characterization because of its divisive and racist connotations), Kenya is the first country to be accorded this status, which raises its profile in US security, intelligence, and counterterrorism operations. In the run-up to the MNNA designation, American security and intelligence personnel had frequented Nairobi.

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FILE PHOTO: Outgoing Africa Command commander US General William Ward (2nd L) and his successor US General Carter Ham (R) take part in the AFRICOM change of command ceremony in Sindelfingen near Stuttgart, Germany.
US has found a surprising military frontier against Russia and China
]]> Diplomatically, the current US ambassador to Kenya, Meg Whitman, carries the moniker “Kenya’s President” owing to her preeminence in government functions. She boldly affirmed Ruto’s victory and dismissed claims by the opposition that Kenya’s transitional elections in 2022 were rigged. Like her predecessors, she is a ubiquitous public figure and freely comments on Kenya’s internal affairs. Her views are sought by Kenya’s political elite and local media. Whitman often attends and speaks at government functions and entertains the political elite at her residence on occasions such as American public holidays. Whitman gets along with Ruto as well as with the opposition. It would be ahistorical, therefore, to regard Ruto’s proximity to the West as odd. Kenya has consistently aligned itself with the West since the Cold War, which accounts for an instinctive Western imprint on the psyche of its political elite. In a word, Ruto is not an aberration but representative of the Kenyan elite.

The MNNA designation does not oblige the US and Kenya to come to each other’s aid in the event of an attack, but allows Kenya access to US loans for the purchase of sophisticated American weaponry such as depleted uranium ammunition. From a realist standpoint, this seems beneficial to the Kenyan state because it could modernize its defense, intelligence, and security capabilities. However, for a country beset by poverty, joblessness and inequalities that manifest through poor healthcare, a wobbly education sector, food insecurity and poor infrastructure, spending on military hardware is imprudent and a misplaced priority. The MNNA designation is weighted in favor of the US. It serves its military industrial complex and at the same time sinks Kenya further into debt given that the advanced loans accrue interest. It is imperative that the Kenyan government appreciates that the outmoded state-centric approach to security needs to give way to investment in people. Security, for Kenya, a developing country, is about responsiveness, not ensnaring itself in military adventurism and grandiose security acquisitions for rent extraction given the opacity of such deals. Kenya faces no imminent attack other than internal risks related to bad governance and neglect of the poor. 

Of concern is that, courtesy of the MNNA status, the US is free to place its war reserve stockpiles on Kenyan territory. Besides its military base in Kenya’s coastal town of Lamu, the US will have more access to Kenyan territory, especially in the northeastern region bordering Somalia, for military operations. It could turn Kenya into something of a US satellite state which would puncture Ruto’s Pan-Africanism ideals and further desecrate Kenya’s sovereignty. Such an unflattering status does not secure Kenya, especially when viewed through the “war on terror” lens. It is curious that in Kenya, the US has a springboard for its military escapades in Africa and the Middle East at a time when countries in the Sahel have disengaged militarily from the West and have asked Western powers, including the US, to close their military bases and exit.

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FILE PHOTO: Police officers patrol a neighborhood amid gang-related violence in downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on April 25, 2023.
Proxy colonialism: The West is using this African nation as an imperial accomplice
]]> It is noteworthy that this MNNA designation comes on the cusp of the imminent deployment of about 1,000 Kenyan police officers to Haiti to combat runaway gangsterism. Although Kenya’s contingent will be part of a UN mission, it is sponsored and spearheaded by the US. The deployment became certain after Kenya acceded to the US request to lead the mission. This shows that the MNNA designation has tightened Kenya’s involvement in US global security and intelligence strategy as a proxy. Specifically, it deepens US-Kenyan relations in counterterrorism in the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden. Hence in the wake of the MNNA designation, Kenya joined the US in its fight against the Houthis, who are accused of attacking ships in the Red Sea in retaliation against Israeli atrocities in Gaza. Furthermore, Kenya agreed to host Houthi captives. Nairobi also pledged to continue supporting the US in its antiterrorism efforts in Somalia. As such, Kenya is a willing partner in US military adventurism, security, and intelligence operations, oblivious of the consequences. There is likely to be a backlash from militant groups targeted by the US.

Ruto’s immediate predecessors engaged China and in return received loans for infrastructure. In as much as Sino-Kenyan relations heightened in the past 20 years, it did not denote an ideological shift on Kenya’s part. At the time, Kenya’s relations with the West dimmed and hardly any mega bilateral agreements were signed. Ruto has portrayed himself as a pragmatist who is neither facing West nor East but forward looking. He seems unkeen on enhancing Sino-Kenya relations despite this seemingly pragmatic approach. Although Ruto has visited China, the foremost emerging power, the US shadow over government policy is undeniably conspicuous. Ruto has enlisted US tech companies in advancing Kenya’s digital industry and engaged the US in apparel, agriculture, climate change and infrastructure. Moreover, the World Bank and IMF have engaged him on several occasions in the wake of which retrogressive measures such disinvestment in education, agriculture, and healthcare, coupled with punitive taxes have been witnessed. These neoliberal policies have eviscerated Africa’s economies over the years and spawned poverty. Besides, Ruto openly advocates the export of Kenya’s labor force to the Middle East, Europe, and North America in exchange for remittances. How could such a policy on human resource spur Kenya’s prosperity?

Kenya’s international relations should be guided by its national interests and not the geopolitical anxieties of the US, a hegemon, or any other country. Although the concept of national interest sounds nebulous and is often interpreted from a self-serving perspective by the political elite, it substantively means that the wellbeing of citizens must be central to Kenya’s foreign policy.

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Mon, 17 Jun 2024 17:51:15 +0000 RT
Will Fauci and his ilk answer for damage caused by Covid policies? /news/599343-fauci-covid-vaccine-pandemic/ The American pandemic czar has admitted he was just making up restrictions on the fly during the crisis
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The American pandemic czar has admitted he was just making up restrictions on the fly during the crisis

A little less than three years ago, as I attempted to enter my home country of Canada on a flight from France, I was told that I wouldn’t be able to set foot on Canadian soil as a born citizen without effectively serving a stint of imprisonment in a facility guarded by the authorities – and at my own expense.

The reason? I had presented Canadian border officials with laboratory proof of naturally acquired Covid antibodies as a result of an uneventful experience with the virus rather than proof of antibodies acquired through a manmade treatment – one that blocked neither acquisition nor transmission of the virus. At the very least, I figured, my own naturally-made antibodies were as good as that. And wasn’t it generally accepted medical science that acquired antibodies were the gold standard in protection from a virus? Was I losing my mind? Did I suddenly end up in an alternate universe? Nope. As with so many other issues, establishment bureaucrats just got in the way of common sense and ended up reframing reality.

That vilified natural immunity – everyone eventually catching Covid – ended up being the way out of the pandemic. Now that everyone has caught it, it’s over. Oh, but it would have been far worse to catch it without first getting the jab, some say. But even US Centers for Disease Control statistics show that with few exceptions, the very old or those with preexisting issues were the ones who were hard-hit. If the jab was so great, so protective, then why not just tell those folks to take it and call it a day – which is exactly what people are doing now anyway, now that no one is really interested in keeping up to date with their 200th booster.

Instead, an entire fear campaign was drummed up over the need to stay six feet apart to avoid killing grandma or grandpa, or anyone else who you might inadvertently manslaughter as a result of being near them and not knowing that they were vulnerable. Actually, obesity turned out to be the top preexisting condition that was vulnerable to the virus, so they probably could have been avoided from quite a distance, in fact. Way more than the six feet recommended by the Western establishment’s top Covid guru – Dr. Anthony Fauci, who ran the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the time. I remember that rule being so strictly applied that swimming pools in Canada were making users swim up one black line and down the adjacent black line so that they’d stay at least six feet apart and didn’t inadvertently risk breathing on another swimmer going the other way – in outdoor pools.

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A health worker shows a Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine during the vaccination of military personnel at the army headquarters in Manila in March 2021.
Pentagon ran secret disinfo campaign against Covid vaccine – Reuters
]]> But now that a retired Fauci has been dragged back to testify in front of the US House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, he has admitted that he was just kind of spitballing it with the six-feet rule.

“In the pandemic, we were told to keep 6 feet apart. There’s no science to support that,” a Washington Post headline said, in describing that Fauci told a closed-door hearing in January 2024 that “it sort of just appeared, that six feet is going to be the distance.” He called it “an empiric decision that wasn’t based on data.” Even when it was accepted that Covid wasn’t spread through droplets with a maximum range of six feet and could in fact be anywhere in the air with no distance restriction, it wasn’t revised.

In a press release published this week, the subcommittee underscored that “Dr. Fauci showed no remorse for the millions of lives affected by his divisive rhetoric and his unscientific policies. He did not apologize to the thousands of Americans who lost their jobs because they refused the novel vaccine, nor did he apologize to children experiencing learning loss as a result of actions he promoted.”

Learning loss? How about just the fact that here in France, a lot of parents pass off responsibility for the basics of child development onto their kids’ teachers. And now that there are a lot of young kids who were stuck at home with their parents long enough, in the absence of their teachers, multiple studies have concluded that they’ve fallen behind on basic savoir-vivre. I’m not saying that the seemingly high number of primary school-aged French kids who now seem to mistake the floor of any given public facility for a toilet is necessarily linked to Covid-related development delay, but if not, then it’s one heck of a coincidence. Admittedly, this is not a super scientific study. Really, I’m just spitballing here – like Fauci apparently did through the entire pandemic.

The hearing referred to a clip of Fauci in the summer of 2021 in which he suggested that the choice of refusing the Covid jab was ideologically-driven. “I have to say that I don’t see a big solution, other than some sort of mandatory vaccination. I know federal officials don’t like to use that term. Once people feel empowered and protected legally, you’re going to have schools, universities, and colleges are going to say, ‘you want to come to this college buddy, you’re going to get vaccinated. Lady, you’re going to get vaccinated.’ Yeah, big corporations, like Amazon and Facebook and all of those others, are going to say ‘you want to work for us, you get vaccinated.’ And it’s been proven that when you make it difficult for people in their lives, they lose their ideological bulls**t and they get vaccinated,” Fauci said, apparently failing to consider that the choice is a personal one based on individual circumstances and a scientific risk/benefit analysis which may or may not have been made in consultation with one’s personal physician.

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RT
US targeted Chinese Covid vaccine to kill competition – expert
]]> Speaking of ideology, it emerged at the hearing that the House Judiciary Committee found evidence that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg himself acknowledged pressure on the social media platform’s executives from the Biden administration to crackdown on content suggesting that Covid emerged from a lab. We were constantly being told by officials at the time that only conspiracy theorists would believe that it came from a lab and not from some random dude in Wuhan eating a bat-like creature that he picked up from the local market. 

In reality, as Texas Congressman Michael Cloud pointed out during Fauci’s testimony, Fauci signed off on virus gain -of-function research outsourced to the Wuhan lab, from which it isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine that a virus like Covid could have feasibly emerged. Fauci let the Biden administration double down against the lab leak theory, screaming “misinformation” and “conspiracy” about anyone who dared to evoke it, while now admitting to the hearing that he has “kept an open mind” about the possibility. 

So what about that Covid jab, anyway? Well, it may not have stopped folks from getting or passing on the virus, but at least it’s benign, right? No harm, no foul? Earlier this week, Britain’s Telegraph reported that “Covid vaccines may have helped fuel rise in excess deaths,” citing scientists. Wow, that sounds super “safe and effective,” just like all the bureaucratic white coats promised! Dutch researchers have looked at data from 47 Western nations and concluded that “side effects linked to the Covid vaccine had included ischemic stroke, acute coronary syndrome and brain haemorrhage, cardiovascular diseases, coagulation, haemorrhages, gastrointestinal events and blood clotting.” Is that “ideological bulls**t,” too, Dr. Fauci? Asking for the entire global community.

Fauci and all those who played a similar role of scientific savior during the Covid fiasco have yet to pay any kind of price for their failure to defend science against the “ideological bulls**t” of their political masters and their rampant authoritarianism. The lingering effects of their spinelessness or negligence (at best) and complicity (at worst) have also contributed to a climate in which dissent that doesn’t blindly obey establishment narratives and dogma is automatically considered fake news, which has led Western society down a destructive path on everything from Covid to climate change and foreign conflicts.

At the very least, it should serve as a lesson and a wake-up call to those who have been duped by nonsense spoken confidently by those in positions of authority – and lead the average person to ask themselves what else they’re in the process of being lied to about.

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Sun, 16 Jun 2024 21:31:56 +0000 RT
The puppet is pulling the strings: How Zelensky’s regime manipulates its Western backers /news/599342-ukraine-zelensky-west-manipulate/ The removal of officials favored in Washington and Brussels but inconvenient for Kiev is starting to resemble a purge
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The removal of officials favored in Washington and Brussels but inconvenient for Kiev is starting to resemble a purge

As a state, Ukraine is vitally – or fatally – dependent on the West: As the Ukrainian anti-corruption activist Martina Bohuslavets notes in the staunchly patriotic Ukrainska Pravda, Kiev’s “international partners finance not only the reconstruction of critical infrastructure, but also all…pensions, public employee salaries, and, in general the country’s ability to keep going.”

This is no exaggeration. Consider some figures from The Economist: The Ukrainian state budget for this year amounts to $87 billion; expected tax revenues – $46 billion. “The rest,” the British champion of uncompromising struggle against Russia concludes, “must be filled by foreign aid or borrowing.”

To a large extent, this Western financial support has been forthcoming. According to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, which tracks these funds systematically, between January 2022 and April of this year, the West as a whole had funded Ukraine to the tune of €176 billion in already allocated aid. In addition, there is €100 billion in commitments that has not yet been allocated. It is true that some aid figures are politically inflated. The recent US package of $61 billion, for instance, really only amounts to $31.5 billion that is actually going to Ukraine; the rest is, in essence, a gift to America’s own Department of Defense. Yet there can be no doubt that, without Western funding, Kiev would have to stop the war and many ordinary peace-time state operations as well.

Against this backdrop, it would seem that Ukraine’s Western donors should have an extraordinary degree of leverage over the Zelensky regime. But things are more complicated, as a recent ouster has shown. On June 10, Mustafa Nayyem resigned from his position as head of Ukraine’s State Agency for Reconstruction and Infrastructure Development. The Reconstruction Agency, which has grown out of the country’s bureaucracy for maintaining roads, highways, and bridges, has a broad remit. With a budget worth $2.5 billion of foreign aid, its tasks now also include, for instance, the maintenance and repair of water supply systems, the building of military fortifications and protections to shield energy structures from Russian aerial attacks.

Clearly, this is an important office. As it happens, Nayyem resigned on the eve of an important meeting in Berlin about precisely the issue of reconstruction, bringing together Western supporters and Ukrainian representatives, led by Vladimir Zelensky himself. Nayyem was expected to attend as part of the large Ukrainian delegation but was barred at the last minute by order of Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmigal, clearly acting on Zelensky’s behest. That was an extremely unusual and humiliating move. Nayyem really had no choice but to quit.

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FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets with Russian and Ukrainian delegations before a round of peace talks in Istanbul, Turkiye, on March 29, 2022.
NYT publishes alleged draft of failed Russia-Ukraine peace deal
]]> He made no secret that he felt pushed out. In a long Facebook post, reproduced on the semi-oppositional Ukrainian news site Strana.ua, he complained that his agency had been, in essence, sabotaged for at least half a year: its operating budget severely cut, its work routinely crippled by bureaucratic chicanery, and its personnel disincentivized by massive wage cuts. For the future, he warned that long-standing attempts to “persecute and discredit” his team and himself might intensify.

And at the root of all of this? Nayyem, unsurprisingly did not name names, but observers in and outside Ukraine agree that he had run afoul of Ukraine’s presidential administration, its head Andrey Yermak, Zelensky himself, and Shmigal, too. There seem to be three reasons for their drive to get rid of Nayyem: First, while not averse to being paid very well, he is a former investigative journalist with a record of resisting corruption: He has insisted on transparency and accountability in his agency, going so far as to help Ukraine’s Anti-Corruption Bureau nail two members of Ukraine’s parliament trying to offer bribes for contracts. Second, he has excellent contacts with representatives of Western governments, about which more below. And third, Nayyem is closely linked to the former minister and vice prime minister Aleksandr Kubrakov. Kubrakov, whose portfolio also included infrastructure and development, was ousted in May, and, again, like Nayyem, combined intense contacts with Westerners and a lack of connections to Zelensky’s core team. In his case as well, it is obvious that the latter initiated his downfall.

One factor that deserves special mention is that Nayyem’s now former area of activity – reconstruction – has two sides: wartime and postwar. There is a general consensus that postwar reconstruction will require enormous financial efforts: The World Bank estimates a cost of almost $500 billion, as of now. While the figure reflects horrendous destruction, for some, in and outside Ukraine, it signals fortunes to be made, legally and especially illegally. Insofar as Nayyem is no “team player” when it comes to taking one’s cut – and letting others take theirs – his place in Ukrainian (and Western) politics was always anomalous; and he certainly could not be allowed to stay so close to a portfolio so rich with future enrichment opportunities.

First Kubrakov, then Nayyem; and before the two, the former commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s military, General Valery Zaluzhny. That makes three high-ranking Ukrainian officials favored by the West yet removed by the Zelensky regime. Even when Nayyem had not yet been added to the list, the Financial Times – clearly often used to send unofficial and critical signals to Kiev – was warning that Zelensky’s “little explained removal of top government and military officials,” with whom the US and EU liked to work was causing concern about his “disruptive and inexplicable moves.”

And yet, those warnings have obviously been in vain. After Nayyem’s forced departure, what Ukrainian insiders explain as a purge of anyone in Kiev with their own links to Western backers has triggered another, even more explicit admonition in the FT. Under the headline Ukraine’s top reconstruction official quits in new blow for Zelenskyy,” readers – including in Kiev – learn that “Nayyem’s departure is the latest in a series of personnel changes in Kyiv that have shaken the confidence of western partners” in the Zelensky regime. Richly endowed with strategically leaked information, the FT delivers details about how exactly Shmigal snubbed Nayyem and, more importantly, about recordings made at an earlier meeting between the latter and “two dozen representatives from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and other western agencies” at which Nayyem warned them that he would be fired soon.

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FILE PHOTO: Slovak Foreign Minister Juraj Blanar.
EU state pours cold water on Zelensky’s ‘peace conference’
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On that occasion, Nayyem’s assurances that his agency’s work would nonetheless remain on track was met with skepticism by several Westerners. An American representative underlined that working with Nayyem’s team was “probably our most important partnership.” After Kubrakov’s dismissal in May, Western diplomats in Kiev launched, it is now revealed, a “coordinated display of support for Kubrakov and the western frustrations over Zelenskyy’s government.” On May 13, a meeting between several of them and Prime Minister Shmigal deteriorated into “a heated discussion” about both the removal of Kubrakov and the freezing-out of Nayyem.

While the FT has fired the loudest new warning shot at the Zelensky regime, other major Western publications have done their bit as well: Bloomberg, The Economist, The New York Times, for instance, all have come out with articles lamenting Nayyem’s ouster and deploring “infighting” in Ukraine, “growing concerns” among its Western donors, and, last but not least “awkward timing.” If anyone in Kiev was still in doubt about Nayyem’s Western backing, the disproportionate response to his removal should take care of those.

Yet, here is the crucial question: What difference does it all make? As of now at least, none at all. It is almost as if the media brouhaha is compensation for the fact that, in reality, the Zelensky regime is getting away with not giving a damn about all the Western tut-tutting. The Berlin meeting was all smiles, and the G7 is moving ahead with a scheme to “lend” Ukraine another $50 billion. “Lend” in quotation marks, because the money will be paid back from interests accrued on Russian sovereign assets frozen in the West.

It is, of course, possible that funding for Ukraine will decline in the future. But if so, then that will have to do with factors such as the rise of the far right in EU politics or Donald Trump winning the US presidency again, which, according to The Economist, he currently has a two in three chance of doing. Ukraine’s corruption will not make a difference, and neither will Western protests when their favorites get chopped down. Zelensky and his team know this. They understand the obvious: that their true value for the West is to keep offering their country and its people as resources in a proxy war driven by geopolitics, and that the West itself does not have an exit strategy. That is their leverage, the typical leverage of the proxy regime, when its foreign sponsors have gotten in too deep.

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Sat, 15 Jun 2024 18:49:02 +0000 RT
Biden’s Gaza ceasefire push is a road to fatal escalation /news/599288-us-encouraging-conflagration-gaza/ Despite public calls to end the war in the Middle East, in reality all Washington is doing is encouraging a greater conflagration
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Despite public calls to end the war in the Middle East, in reality all Washington is doing is encouraging a greater conflagration

US President Joe Biden’s ceasefire push has so far led to further violence in Gaza and threatens to spill over into a war with Lebanon. Washington is either asleep at the wheel or is willing to push the entire region off a cliff in order to avoid ditching its “unconditional support” for Israel.

The speech delivered by Joe Biden on May 31, in which he presented an Israeli ceasefire proposal, urging both Hamas and the Israeli government to accept it, provided a glimpse of hope that finally the US was putting its foot down. The US President gave what seemed to be a reasonable roadmap to secure a lasting cessation of hostilities in Gaza and a prisoner exchange.

The immediate Hamas response was to view the speech “positively,” while still maintaining that it required an Israeli withdrawal of its forces from Gaza and a complete end to the war, in order to agree to any proposal. On the other hand, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, stuck with his previous rhetoric about the need to destroy Hamas, was indicating that he was not going to agree to a ceasefire.

Netanyahu took things even further by asserting that Joe Biden’s description of the Israeli ceasefire proposal was not accurate,” also making it clear that there would be no ceasefire until his war goals were achieved. Giving legitimacy to the Israeli PM’s assertions was an article published in The Economist that revealed details of the proposal, in which it became clear that the three-phase ceasefire would be more difficult to conclude, beyond its first phase, than Biden had let on.

Although a series of articles have been released in the Western media, including a Reuters interview with an anonymous Biden administration official, portraying the president’s actions as a bold attempt to pressure Israel to agree to its own proposal, it appears that this move is failing. As the daily death toll rises in besieged Gaza, the Israeli government continues to declare its intention to destroy Hamas, the Palestinian Party that it is supposedly about to conclude a deal with. This as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is being sent on yet another Middle East trip to try and help conclude a ceasefire deal as the effort nears collapse.

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Boys watch smoke billowing during Israeli strikes east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 13, 2024.
Only one power could stop Israel’s Rafah invasion – but it dropped the ball
]]> Israel, meanwhile, continues to escalate its assault on the southernmost Gazan city of Rafah, while renewing incursions and aerial assaults throughout the strip. All of this flies in the face of the International Court of Justice (ICJ)’s recent ruling that ordered Israel to halt its military operation in Rafah. On top of this, the tit-for-tat battles that have been going on since October between Hezbollah and the Israeli military along the Lebanese border, have also escalated to what many consider to be a point of no return; making a new Israel-Lebanon war nearly inevitable.

All of this is very reminiscent of what happened before, when Hamas announced, on May 6, that it had agreed to a ceasefire proposal. The proposal was admitted to be almost identical to the one that was repeatedly lauded by Antony Blinken as a strong deal during his last visit to the region.

On that same day, the Israeli military immediately launched its long-threatened offensive in southern Gaza, seizing the Rafah Crossing between the Palestinian territory and Egypt. At that time, the Israeli PM reiterated what he had been consistently saying beforehand about pursuing the destruction of Hamas and his government decided to signal their refusal to agree to the ceasefire.

Again, with the US now bringing forward Israel’s own ceasefire proposal, the predicament does not seem to have changed much. Benjamin Netanyahu is in a difficult position domestically, after failing to achieve any of his war goals in Gaza, he faces the prospect of his governing coalition collapsing if he accepts a ceasefire agreement with nothing to show for eight months of war. The Israeli people also heavily favor re-occupying the strip, with 0% of Israeli Jews polled saying they would like to see Hamas continuing to govern the besieged coastal enclave after the war.

Therefore, Netanyahu knows the political repercussions for him and others in the Israeli ruling class if he accepts a ceasefire agreement with Hamas. However, he also knows that, despite US pressure on his government to bring the war in Gaza to an end, the American government has no teeth behind its forceful statements and will indefinitely continue its “unconditional support” for Israel.

Not only that, when the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, called for the issuance of arrest warrants for Netanyahu and his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, the US government threatened the court. US lawmakers immediately began to draft legislation to sanction the ICC. When the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued its provisional rulings, as a result of the so-far successful South African genocide case against Israel, the US announced it disagreed with the conclusions.

Even though the US abstained from a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) vote that called on Israel to halt its military operations in Gaza until the end of Muslim Holy month of Ramadan, the Biden administration illogically called the resolution non-binding and gave the Israelis the greenlight to violate it. American lawmakers have even just drafted legislation to condition aid to the Maldives, after that nation made an independent decision to stop Israeli citizens from entering their country due to war crimes committed in Gaza. Now the UN has added Israel to its infamous blacklist for killing Palestinian children, and the US has implemented another double-standard in continuing to provide weapons to a nation added to this list.

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FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel’s immunity cracks: The Hague goes after Netanyahu
]]> Despite the mountains of reports of war crimes from international human rights groups, the decisions made by the UNSC, UN general assembly, the ICC and ICJ, the United States government works to protect the Israeli government at all costs. This has to be kept in mind when we look at the American approach to implementing “red lines” with their Israeli allies, which the Biden administration still cannot find the words to actually define. Even when it comes to the invasion of Rafah, which Washington openly said would be a “disaster,” it was simultaneously preparing another military aid package worth 14 billion dollars.

Understanding all of this, Benjamin Netanyahu was still invited to Washington to address the US Congress and faced with some pressure to conclude a deal. He can rest assured that the Americans will stand by his side no matter what he chooses to do. So, if you are Netanyahu, what incentive is there to stop the war at this point? The Biden administration is filled to the brim with empty and vacuous strategies, which have led to public calls for ending the war, while privately refusing to ever hold Israel accountable.

The big problem this time around is that the continuation of the war will not only mean an escalation of the horrors in Gaza, but is heading towards a massive conflagration with Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Unlike Hamas, Hezbollah possesses the missile capabilities to respond to Israeli airstrikes with devastating effect that could lead to the deaths of hundreds, even thousands, of Israelis. Under great domestic pressure to launch an assault on Lebanese territory, Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be closer to opening a catastrophic conflict with Lebanon, instead of concluding a ceasefire and prisoner exchange with Gaza. In his eyes, a war with Lebanon could even provide the perfect lethal distraction that would enable him to negotiate a ceasefire in Gaza, but at the expense of triggering a much larger and deadlier war.

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Fri, 14 Jun 2024 18:55:46 +0000 RT
A top US senator has betrayed Washington’s worst kept secret about Ukraine /news/599171-ukraine-graham-gold-mine/ Lindsey Graham spoke the quiet part out loud when he said the country is a “gold mine” America can’t afford to lose
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Lindsey Graham spoke the quiet part out loud when he said the country is a “gold mine” America can’t afford to lose

US Senator Lindsey Graham, a reliably hawkish Republican who loves provocative statements, has caused a fresh stir by saying the quiet part out loud. In a recent interview on the CBS program “Face the Nation,” Graham argued that Washington must not permit Russia to win the war in Ukraine because of the rich deposits of critical minerals on Ukraine’s territory, which are worth 10 to 12 trillion dollars, according to the senator.

In particular, Graham made three claims: First, that Russian control over this “gold mine” would enrich Moscow and enable it to share the extracted minerals with China; second, that Ukraine, if it retains control over them, could be “the richest country in all of Europe” and “the best business partner we ever dreamed of”; and, third, that therefore the outcome of the war in Ukraine is a “very big deal.” Indeed, according to Graham, the stakes are so high that the US must help Kiev win “a war we can’t afford to lose.” 

There were other striking statements in that interview, but it is this passage that has attracted most attention and condemnation: Graham, critics point out, has revealed what the Hindustan Times, for instance, calls the real reason why the US is aiding Ukraine.” That reason, as it turns out, is commercial, selfish, and strategic. So much for all that talk about Kiev’s “agency,” “democracy,” and “freedom.”

Ukraine, for the US, is an asset to be used – and used up – in a much greater, global geopolitical game, or to be precise a collection of assets: Apart from a strategic location, critical minerals, black-earth soil, and some gas as well, there are, of course, people. Graham also has a record of calling for more military mobilization in Ukraine. He is infamous as well for his May 2023 comment, in a conversation with Vladimir Zelensky, that “Russians are dying” in the war, while US aid was the “best money we’ve ever spent.” Apart from the general nastiness of Graham’s proudly brutal way of thinking, to make those Russians “die,” plenty of Ukrainians, of course, have to die as well. Zelensky did not seem to mind.

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FILE PHOTO: US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina).
Ukraine is a ‘gold mine’ – US senator
]]> Graham’s critics are, of course, correct. But most of them, I suspect, would also acknowledge that there is nothing surprising or unique here. In essence, the senator’s statement is simply a form of brutal honesty: While he is provocatively shameless about his cold and mercenary approach to politics, he represents the mindset of the Washington elite. At the same time, however, there is also something deeply misleading about his position, if in less obvious ways. Let’s try to separate the cynical frankness from the persisting dishonesty.

Disregarding his specific figures, Graham is right that, unlike most other European countries, Ukraine has substantial reserves of critical minerals, and there is no doubt that these raw materials are of great significance. In general, the term refers to “elements necessary to produce the chips and batteries found in high-tech devices such as smartphones and laptops” and “for the manufacturing of renewable energy technologies such as wind turbines, electric vehicles and solar panels.” At the same time, the global supply of many critical minerals is complicated because they are concentrated in limited locations, which makes them objects of geopolitics. Oil 2.0, if you wish.

The importance of these substances for the US, for instance, is so great that its Secretary of Energy has established a precise list of 50 minerals considered “critical” (mostly overlapping with a second list of 18 “critical materials for energy”). Driven by its desire to diminish its reliance on China, the EU as well has shown intense interest in Ukraine’s critical minerals, which are at the core of its official strategic partnership on raw materials with Kiev, formally set up in 2021. Since 2022, the Ukrainian Geological Survey has partnered with the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, to, in essence, catalogue and digitize Ukrainian deposits for Western investors. Ukraine’s environmental impact assessments rules have been “simplified” for the purpose, that is, most likely, loosened. In 2024, the EU solidified these operations with its Critical Raw Materials Act.

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US President Joe Biden (C) shakes hands with Vladimir Zelensky (L) as France's President Emmanuel Macron (R) looks on in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, in northwestern France, on June 6, 2024
Biden to Ukraine: You’re not getting into NATO, but that doesn’t mean you can stop bleeding for us
]]> At the same time, even despite the ongoing war, international investors from the West have already been lining up, including from as far away as Australia. Indeed, it is an American-Ukrainian venture, the BGV Group, “that has the largest and most diverse stake in Ukraine’s critical minerals.”

So, here is the first point Graham is wrong about: If anyone has been busy securing Ukraine’s critical minerals (and, more broadly, materials), it is actually the West. We see a classic case of projection, with a loud accusation directed at Moscow betraying what the West has been up to. Nothing very surprising there, either. Consider “spheres of influence,” for instance, a thing Russia must not be allowed to claim – even right up on its border – while that of the US extends to east of Kiev and Taiwan, for instance.

Yet there is a larger point here, beyond the senator’s run-of-the-mill hypocrisy. What is perhaps most fundamentally misleading about his claims is their implicit premise, namely that there cannot be a way in which the West and Russia – and others – could share Ukraine’s resources, obviously under conditions of international trade and investment no worse than usual, so that Ukraine as well would benefit. It is not Russia that has insisted on making economic warfare a routine tool of geopolitical competition, but the West. Graham is not only a rather vile cynic. He is also shortsighted; blinded by his poor man’s realpolitik. He has lost sight of the simple option of cooperation, even among competitors. In that respect as well, he is representative of America’s sadly declining elite.

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Thu, 13 Jun 2024 17:17:21 +0000 RT
Scott Ritter: Why did it take Russia so long to realize Donbass was worth fighting for? /russia/598862-russia-donbass-military-operation/ As its military operation enters a critical stage, the question of why it took Moscow eight years to intervene remains a sensitive topic
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
As its military operation enters a critical stage, the question of why it took Moscow eight years to intervene remains a sensitive topic

On May 26, the Donetsk People’s Republic marked the tenth anniversary of the first battle for the region’s international airport. This was a key clash in the fight between Ukraine and local citizens who opposed the nationalist-dominated government that had seized power in Kiev as a result of the US-backed coup in February 2014. The anniversary was but one in a succession of similar commemorations of events which, together, draw attention to the fact that the war in Donbass has been ongoing for a decade.

Earlier this year I traveled to the Chechen RepublicCrimea, and the New Russian territories of Kherson and Zaporozhye, all locations which comprised what I called Russia’s ”Path of Redemption,” the geographic expression of actions undertaken by Moscow. The fourth –and final– destination of my trip, the two people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk that are collectively referred to as the Donbass, brought this journey to a close. By visiting the literal ground zero of the current Russian-Ukrainian conflict, I was able to put a punctation mark at the end of a long and complicated passage which delved into the very essence of modern-day Russia – what it means to be Russian, and the price the Russian nation has been willing to pay to preserve this definition.

When I crossed the border between Zaporozhye and Donetsk, there was no doubt that I was entering a war zone. The bodyguards from the Sparta Battalion that had escorted my vehicle as we drove through Kherson and Zaporozhye was replaced by a heavily armed detachment of camouflaged Russian soldiers, a constant reminder of the ever-present threat posed by Ukrainian partisans and saboteurs. I was being driven in an armored Chevy Tahoe, the former property of a Bank of Russia executive which had been re-purposed for this trip. My host, Aleksandr Zyryanov, the Director of the Investment Development Agency of Novosibirsk, was at the wheel. My fellow passengers were Aleksandr’s close friend and comrade, Denis, and Kirill, a resident of Saint Petersburg who was our point of contact with several Russian military units in Donbass we were hoping to meet up with.

Our first stop in Donbass was the city of Mariupol, site of a bloody siege in March-May 2022 which saw the combined forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Russian army, including Chechen fighters, defeat thousands of Ukrainian Marines and members of the Azov Regiment, a formation of Ukrainian ultra-nationalists who openly support the ideology of Stepan Bandera, the founder of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, or OUN, which fought alongside Nazi Germany during the Second World War. The last surviving remnants of the Ukrainian garrison which had holed up in a complex of tunnels underneath the sprawling Azovstal iron and steel factory that dominated the center of the city surrendered to Russian forces on May 20, 2022, bringing the battle to an end.

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FILE PHOTO. A Russian T-72 tank near Avdeevka, Donetsk People's Republic, Russia.
Donbass breakthrough, cluster munitions, and drone-proof tanks: The past week in the Ukraine conflict (VIDEOS)
]]> Mariupol suffered horribly because of the siege and the house-to-house fighting required to clear the city of its fanatic occupiers. The scars of war were so deep and prevalent as to leave the casual observer grasping to figure out how, or even if, the city and its population could ever recover. This was especially so when looking at the ruins of the Azovstal plant from the vantage point of the restored monument to the its workers who died during World War Two. And yet, like the patches of green that mark a charred forest after the first rainfall, Mariupol bore the evidence of a city coming back to life. The southern districts of the city had been completely razed, and new apartment complexes constructed which are populated by families whose children frolicked in playgrounds and parks nestled between the bright new buildings. Across the highway from the newly built neighborhood was a large new hospital complex. And as one drove into the center of the city, row upon row of damaged apartment buildings were undergoing reconstruction and repair work. Shops and restaurants were open, and people scurried about the sidewalks going about their business. Mariupol is very much alive, although the huge swaths of darkened neighborhoods, their buildings still uninhabitable, bear mute testimony to the work that still needs to be done.

The city of Donetsk, the capital of its eponymous people’s republic, is a living manifestation of the stark contrasts that define a modern metropolitan center during war – shiny high-rise buildings, their glass windows reflecting the morning sunlight, beckon, while in the streets below mothers walk hand in hand with their children, unflinching as the sound of artillery fire – incoming and outgoing – echo around them. Driving through the city, I was struck by the bustling activity at one street corner as families shopped for food and the basic necessities of life in stores fully stocked with the desired goods, only to drive around the next corner to find the ruins of a similar market scene, destroyed by the random artillery and rocket fire from Ukrainian forces who still treat the citizens of Donetsk as ”terrorists.”

I was taken to the Donbass Liberator’s monument, located in the Donetsk Culture and Leisure Park, next to the city’s arena, where we laid flowers to the memory of the fallen. Afterwards, as I was shown the monuments to the fallen heroes of the ongoing war with Ukraine, the sound of rocket fire shook the grounds. ”It’s ours,” said my guide, an attractive young lady whose calm demeanor belied the reality of her current situation. ”Uragan,” she said, a reference to the Russian 220-mm multiple launch rocket system. ”Don’t worry.”

That a female tour guide was serving as a walking resource for weapons identification to a former Marine intelligence officer who used to specialize in identifying Soviet arms and equipment only underscored the disparity between perception and reality which marked the city of Donetsk – a world where normalcy was randomly punctuated with the horrors of war. It would be easy to allow yourself to become shrouded in the kind of flinching paranoia that seizes you when you are convinced that every step you take could be your last. To prevent yourself from simply fleeing to a basement until the all-clear signal sounds, you can overcompensate by taking on a devil-may-care attitude of ”what happens, happens.”

But, for most, caution is the name of the game in Donetsk – while death may be randomly delivered in the form of Ukrainian artillery and rockets, you do not need to become a willing victim, especially if you know the Ukrainian enemy is actively searching for you in order to deliver a lethal blow.

I have been labeled by the Center for Countering Disinformation, a US-funded Ukrainian government agency, as an ”information terrorist” who deserves to be treated as an actual ”terrorist” in terms of punishment – a not-so-veiled threat to my life. Likewise, my name is on the infamous Mirotvorets (”peacekeepers”) ”kill list” promulgated by the Ukrainian intelligence service. Daria Dugina, the daughter of the famous Russian political philosopher, Aleksandr Dugin, and Maksim Fomin, a Russian military blogger who wrote under the name Vladlen Tatarsky, were both on this list and were murdered by agents of the Ukrainian intelligence services. While I would have to be an egocentric narcissist to believe that the entire Ukrainian war effort would grind to a halt in order to hunt me down during my short visit to Donbass, the fact that Ukraine has on a regular basis attacked the hotels frequented by journalists reporting on the conflict also means that one you’d have to have a callous disregard for innocent life by staying at a hotel in Donetsk as long as your name is on such lists.

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FILE PHOTO: A reconnaissance group serviceman of Russian Armed Forces Eastern Military District is seen in a vehicle moving on Kharkiv direction during the special military operation in Ukraine.
Scott Ritter: Russia’s victory over Ukraine is drawing near
]]> Discretion being the better part of valor, my hosts eschewed the offered room in a high-end Donetsk hotel for a more Spartan setting in a safehouse used during their frequent trips to the region. I traded the fine cuisine of Donetsk that my friend and colleague Randy Credico had bragged about during his visit to the region for the traditional soldier’s fare of fried potatoes and sausage cooked over a gas stove by Aleksandr’s friend, Denis.

Paranoia is the name of the game, however, when it comes to the day-to-day lives of those men and women who govern Donetsk and defend it from the Ukrainian army, if for no other reason than the Ukrainians are, in fact, actively trying to hunt them down and kill them. I had the honor and privilege of meeting with Denis Pushilin, the Governor of the Donetsk People’s Republic, and Aleksandr Khodakovsky, the commander of the legendary Vostok Battalion, one of the first military formations created in the Donbass region in 2014 to fight for independence from Ukraine. On both occasions, extensive security precautions were put in place to forestall any effort by Ukrainian intelligence to discover our meeting, identify its location, and attack it with artillery.

Pushilin and Khodakovsky both recalled their personal histories of the time of the founding of the Donetsk People’s Republic. Pushilin personally led a rally in Donetsk on April 5, 2014, calling for a referendum for the DPR to join Russia. He served as the first head of the DPR before stepping down in July 2014. In September 2018, he was brought back as the head of the DPR following the assassination of then DPR leader Aleksander Zakharchenko in a bombing of a Donetsk restaurant. He has served in that position ever since.

Up until early 2014, Aleksandr Khodakovsky was the commander of the elite Ukrainian police commando unit known as Alpha Group. Following the February 2014 Maidan coup that ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, Khodakovsky and most of his Alpha Group commandoes defected to the Donbass resistance, where they were reformed into the Vostok Battalion. It was Khodakovsky’s Vostok Battalion which led the attack on Donetsk Airport on May 28, 2014, and which led the way into Mariupol in 2022. Today the Vostok Battalion has been expanded into a brigade-sized force operating as part of the Russian military, where it plays an active role in the ongoing battles for control of the Donbass region.

The contrast between Pushilin and Khodakovsky is quite stark. Both men are confident in the righteousness of their cause and the path of history they are embarked on. But while Pushilin brought with him the buoyant optimism of a politician looking forward to a better future, Khodakovsky exuded the quiet resignation of a soldier who knows that the victory he is fighting for can only come at a cost which, over the course of a decade’s worth of war, had become almost unbearable. Both men exhibited a deep love for the Donetsk People’s Republic, and a genuine appreciation for the sacrifice made by the Russian army and nation in coming to their assistance, and for bringing them into the fold of the Russian Federation.

The one thing both men had in common was a look of mental exhaustion whenever the subject of Russia’s military intervention was raised. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what caused this look until later, after our meetings had concluded and I found myself in the city of Lugansk, the capital of the Lugansk People’s Republic. The drive from Donetsk to Lugansk took us through towns and villages that had previously been on the front lines of the war with Ukraine. Some of these population centers showed signs of life. Many, however, did not. War, like a tornado, seemed to have a random character, targeting some places for destruction, while skipping over others.

Today, the city of Lugansk is not on the front line, and its citizens enjoy a life of relative calm when contrasted with their neighbors in Donetsk. But war has visited them in the past, with all the violence and horror that currently unfolds in the regions of Donbass located to the south and west of the city. On June 27, 2017, the citizens of Lugansk unveiled a memorial dedicated to children killed because of the fighting that had been raging since 2014. On that day, 33 white doves were released into the air to symbolize the young lives lost.

On January 17, 2024, I visited this memorial, known as the ’Alley of Angels.’ There is another, more well-known Alley of Angels located in Donetsk. Because of the proximity of the war to that city, media coverage of the Donetsk monument, which commemorates the more than 230 children killed in the Donetsk People’s Republic by Ukraine since 2014, has been extensive, to the point that much of the world has seemed to have forgotten that the war with Ukraine has ravaged Lugansk as well. Since the unveiling of the Lugansk monument, another 35 children have been killed, raising the total to 68, with more than 190 additional children injured, all due to indiscriminate Ukrainian shelling.

Aleksandr and I took part in a small ceremony marked by our laying flowers at the foot of the monument. By the time we had finished, a small crowd had gathered around to witness the sight of an American mourning the loss of their children. I was handed a book about the memorial and given an impromptu tour of the sculptures and plaques that were located there. A television crew asked me for a short interview.

“What are your impressions of this memorial?” the interviewer asked.

“It’s a touching tribute to the young lives that were so needlessly lost,” I replied. ”And a constant reminder as to why this tragic war needs to be fought and won.”

Afterwards, a lady emerged from the small crowd that had been watching the proceedings. ”We thank you for coming to visit our city, and to honor the memory of our children,” she said, tears welling in her eyes.

She held out her hand, and I took it in mine, a gesture of friendship and compassion.

“You must be relieved now that you are part of Russia, and the Russian army is helping drive the Ukrainians back,” I said.

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Scott Ritter with Kherson region governor Vladimir Saldo
Scott Ritter: We are witnessing the bittersweet birth of a new Russia
]]> “Yes,” she said, her voice cracking. ”Yes, of course. But why did it take them so long? These children,” she said, gesturing toward the memorial, ”did not have to die. Why did it take them so long?”

I looked into her eyes, and immediately was struck by a sense of déjà vu. I had seen that look before, in the eyes of Denis Pushilin and Alexander Khodakovsky, a mixture of relief and exasperation, of hope and dejection, of happiness and sorrow. Yes, the leadership and people of Donbass are overjoyed by the presence of Russian troops on their territory, and the fact that the region is now legally part of Russia. Yes, Russia loves them now. But where was Russia when the children started dying in 2014? Why did it take so long for Moscow to wake up to the need to bring the Donbass into the fold of the Russian nation?

This is the eternal question, one that Russia today struggles to find an adequate answer for.

Russia’s path of redemption ends in Donbass. Here, the sins, errors, and evil which combined to create the current Russian-Ukrainian conflict are manifest. Questions have been asked to which there may be no adequate answer. Today, the situation on the ground increasingly points to a Russian victory over both Ukraine and its supporters in the collective West. But this victory has come at a huge physical and psychological cost. While the dead may be buried and honored, the living will always have to struggle to come to grips over the sacrifices that have been made in support of the cause they were fighting for.

And, in the end, if they believe that the cause was a just one – and it is my firm position that they do, in fact, believe this to be the case – then the answer to the question as to why it took Russia so long to intervene on behalf of Donbass will hang there, unanswerable, if for no other reason than that the pain any honest answer will generate may be too much to bear for those who had been fighting for the liberation of Donbass these past ten years.

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Tue, 11 Jun 2024 19:40:46 +0000 RT
‘Poop-gate’: Is Biden’s D-Day confusion worthy of all the uproar? /news/599070-biden-us-dd-day-behavior/ Joe Biden’s strange behavior on D-Day quickly gave rise to speculation – some crude, some brutally honest
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The elderly American president’s strange behavior on D-Day quickly gave rise to speculation – some crude, some brutally honest

By all appearances it looked as though Mother Nature came calling for the American leader at precisely the worst moment. During a commemorative ceremony for the 80th anniversary of D-Day in France, Joe Biden, 81, suddenly seemed very determined to have a seat, and not even his doting wife Dr Jill was going to stop the squat. Desperately in search of a chair, a throne or – as some have crudely speculated – a port-a-potty, Biden has once again made the United States the laughing stock of the entire world.

As if in slow motion, Biden began his steady descent, looking as though he was stuck somewhere between one of those infamous ‘where am I?’ brain farts and a full-blown defecation. It should come as no surprise that the MAGA world, seething at the prospect of their man Donald Trump facing 136 years in prison, gleefully settled for the less attractive option.

Breaking911, a right-wing X (formerly Twitter) account that boasts some 1 million followers, unabashedly asked “Did Biden shit his pants AGAIN?” That was a reference to a 2021 claim that the Vatican was forced to cancel a livestream of Biden’s meeting with Pope Francis because the president had a “bathroom accident.”

Republican pundits also alleged that Biden was fishing around for an “invisible chair” as his wife/handler cuffed her mouth while quietly barking orders. One X user named Stephanie was having none of it, however, as she accused the right of clipping the video just before Biden finally takes his seat alongside his wife and French President Emmanuel Macron.

“WTF is wrong with you?! You know who you are… everyone posting a cut off clip of this moment with word ‘poop‘ and ‘imaginary chair‘ is showing a total neglect for truth and for the real issues which are upsetting people about the Biden administration. This REAL CHAIR is NOT an issue! (Nor is his momentary struggle to sit which comes with age) Get a freakin’ grip.”

By the afternoon of June 6, the words “pooping” and “invisible chair” were trending on X.

On top of the invisible chair fiasco, Joe and Jill allegedly excused themselves from the event early, leaving Macron to congratulate the D-Day veterans alone.

“Yikes!” wrote Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, a conservative group. “At an Omaha Beach event honoring the 80th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion, Dr Jill Biden quickly escorts Joe Biden away leaving a seemingly perplexed French President Emmanuel Macron to honor WW2 veterans alone.”

But even if a viewer isn’t convinced that Joe Biden soiled his pants, left the event early, or was in desperate search of a chair that wasn’t there, it’s impossible to watch the video without coming to the conclusion that the American leader is not in full control of his mental faculties.

]]> READ MORE: Biden is using the church to import more Democrat voters to the US

]]> Needless to say, this is not the sort of American leadership the world needs as it sits on the very precipice of World War III. The question of global destruction notwithstanding, this one is no less disturbing: What if Joe Biden really does beat Donald Trump for the White House in five short months? It’s difficult to imagine the doddering Democrat finishing his next dinner, not to mention another four years in office. Equally implausible is his vice president, Kamala Harris, performing the duty of president much better and at nearly half of Biden’s age. It’s impossible to tell how or when, but it looks increasingly likely that sooner or later something is going to hit the fan for the US and the world if Biden remains in office for another term.

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Mon, 10 Jun 2024 21:19:07 +0000 RT
Slava EUkraini: Zelensky drives the EU anti-establishment to massive gains /news/599077-european-elections-zelensky-kiev/ The right wing’s gains in the European elections are a logical pushback against leaders that care more for Kiev than their own citizens
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The right wing’s gains in the European elections are a logical pushback against leaders that care more for Kiev than their own citizens

Hey, are we sure that Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky isn’t a Kremlin stooge? Because he just managed to accomplish exactly what European elites are constantly accusing the Kremlin of trying to do – getting the so-called far-right elected in a bloc-wide surge in the European parliament. Although it was really just a vote for anti-establishment populists. 

Arguably, nowhere were the results of Zelensky’s efforts more obvious than in France, where Macron’s establishment party took the biggest electoral beating, against Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party, whose candidate list was headed up for the EU vote by Jordan Bardella. The 28-year-old grew up in the Parisian suburb of Saint Denis, which now stands as a shining example of how establishment policies can transform a real life place into something out of a ‘Grand Theft Auto’ video game. Thanks to Zelensky, no one in charge cares though, because Saint Denis isn’t in Ukraine. 

It didn’t take French President Emmanuel Macron walking around the Élysée Palace in a Zelensky-style hoodie to telegraph his priorities, though he did it anyway for anyone who may not be well-versed in jackhammer-grade subtlety. And now for the ‘pièce de résistance’ – or final death-blow, depending on how you look at it. On the last day in the French parliament before the European parliamentary elections, Macron invited Zelensky to monopolize the floor of the National Assembly. So forget any debate about all the damage that Macron’s policies have done to France. Zelensky was there to speak, totally unopposed, about his own needs and those of Ukraine, which isn’t actually in the EU, even though Europeans are paying for it like it is. 

Hear that, French voters? The ‘President Emeritus’ of Ukraine says Macron is awesome. He can’t be bothered to renew his own now-expired democratic legitimacy through an election of his own, and fresh off from hanging out with the Western elites on the Normandy landing beaches, celebrating the nonexistent Ukrainian regiment that we’re probably now supposed to believe stormed the beaches alongside its Western allies (the one that wasn’t working with the Nazis, like the one that Zelensky cheered in the Canadian parliament last year), and telling you all how great you should feel about what Macron is doing – “for Ukraine.” Excuse us, sir, but this is a Wendy’s! Or rather an election that has nothing to do with you. But Macron and his establishment cronies insisted on letting Zelensky’s foreign interests walk right in and place their order, hijacking the final stretch of the election campaign. 

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FILE PHOTO: Vladimir Zelensky (L) greets EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (R) at a railway station in Kiev
The EU keeps naive Ukrainians on the hook with more accession talk
]]> In contrast, Macron’s office had said that “the conditions weren’t reunited” for Russia to be involved – not even in anything to do with French parliament, mind you, but just in D-Day commemorations that same week. If the Soviet Union and the Red Army had said the same during World War II – that the conditions weren’t ‘reunited’ for their involvement on the side of the allies – then Macron, as president of France, would probably be issuing his official statements in German right now. 

Zelensky’s 11th-hour appearance was another establishment-sponsored smokescreen to mask reality for the French people with pure ideology. It was one final insult to voters before they had the opportunity to make themselves heard. Just the last of many insults that are now far too numerous to count. But frankly, voters didn’t even need this particular last straw.  

Where to even start? Perhaps with the most obvious price that French and European voters are paying – the one that impacts every single day of their lives. The cost of everything has skyrocketed with no end in sight, all because Brussels decided that the special interests of European and American elites in Ukraine superseded those of the average person’s ability to make ends meet. So out went cheap Russian gas in favor of pricier American fuel, and in came cheap and duty-free Ukrainian farm products that effectively decimated the revenues of European farmers already struggling with EU climate change diktats and spy satellites to ensure their paperwork compliance. 

“For Ukraine,” a bloc-wide censorship regime was also implemented. Not only for Russian media platforms offering information and analysis typically marginalized by the ideological handmaidens of the mainstream establishment French press, where freedom of expression has objectively declined recently, according to a recent NGO report – but demands were also made of online platforms, such as Rumble, that refused to censor content from those same Russian outlets. The new Berlin Wall was being built around Europe online. 

Then, as Zelensky demanded that his guys on the battlefield be allowed to use their Western weapons to hit Russia, Macron went over to Germany and held up a little sheet of paper with a map on it, as if that would convince both German and French voters to let Zelensky off the leash at the risk of dragging Western citizens into an escalating conflict as he sees fit. Like backup singers, Western leaders started singing a tune of mobilization, which has gone over about as well as one might expect. 

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Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a debate at the European Parliament in Brussels, on May 23, 2024
Von der Leyen proposes ‘vaccines’ for minds and a ‘shield’ for democracy
]]> Zelensky’s demands, and Macron’s catering to them, has even freaked out some of the French establishment. Take Macron’s idea of sending French ‘trainers’ into Ukraine, which makes it sound like they’d just be going over there to teach the guys shoved into vans on the streets of Kiev how to fight Russians by perfecting their air squats and kettlebell swings.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s former adviser, Henri Guaino, knows exactly what sending ‘instructors’ means. He pointed out in a TV discussion that the Vietnam War started with a handful of American ‘instructors’. Yeah, and that turned out so well for Washington that it’s now virtually synonymous with failure.

The gist of Guaino’s comment is that it’s fine for the president to authorize troops on specific missions like a hostage rescue or something, but if this ruse is going to drag France into a war, which it risks doing, then there really should be a national debate and a vote on it. Well, the French people just voted. And before heading to the polls, 38% of them said that sending Macron a message with their vote was their top priority, according to an Ipsos poll, even though Macron wasn’t even running for anything himself. Mission accomplie! 

Macron didn’t waste time after the electoral rout in announcing a double-or-nothing bet, calling a national election for the end of June to see if voters really meant it. Maybe he can invite Zelensky back again for that campaign, too. Not that he even needs to when the French, and Europeans in general, are apparently acutely aware of the role of Ukrainian influence, and the complicity of establishment elites, in destroying their countries and their lives.

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Mon, 10 Jun 2024 13:28:38 +0000 RT
Biden to Ukraine: You’re not getting into NATO, but that doesn’t mean you can stop bleeding for us /news/599046-nato-ukraine-biden-zelensky/ It’s increasingly clear that Kiev isn’t wanted as part of the military bloc, but as a willing sacrifice lured by promises
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
It’s increasingly clear that Kiev isn’t wanted as part of the military bloc, but as a willing sacrifice lured by promises

If Vladimir Zelensky is Ukraine’s most inflated politician, its most important one is not from Ukraine at all. Kiev’s war and its political regime both vitally depend on Washington’s faltering, though obstinate, octogenarian, President Joe Biden. Without his support, Western support as a whole would either collapse entirely or decrease decisively; the war would be over, and so would Zelensky.

That is why an interview that his US counterpart recently gave to Time Magazine was a severe blow to Kiev’s ruler, as even the ultra-hawkish British Telegraph noted. NATO, Biden explained, is not part of his plans for Ukraine’s future. To be precise, while NATO membership during an ongoing war has always been an absurd idea, Biden has ruled it out for the future postwar peace as well. Instead, he suggested that Ukraine would be supplied with weapons so “they can defend themselves.”

To add insult to injury, the American president also mentioned Ukraine’s record of “significant corruption,” a thing he should know a thing or two about from family experience: It was money from nepotistic non-work for the Ukrainian company Burisma that, according to Biden’s son Hunter’s own autobiography, turned into a major enabler during my steepest skid into addiction,” while enabling him to “spend recklessly, dangerously, destructively. Humiliatingly.”

Let’s set aside the fact that Joe Biden’s statements contradict Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent promise that the upcoming NATO meeting in Washington will be used to build a strong and well-lit bridge to membership for Ukraine. Bridge to nowhere, it turns out, at least according to Blinken’s boss.

Is Biden reliable? Of course not. For one thing, he is clearly incapable of remembering most of his own statements. Indeed, the Time interview as a whole displays his rambling confusion all too clearly. (Almost as if he had been set up by those among the Democrats who’d still like to replace him with another candidate, but let’s not dwell on that.) In addition, even among politicians, he stands out as unusually immoral (ask the Palestinians), dishonest, and corrupt. And by openly permitting Ukraine to use American arms to strike within Russia (if with restrictions, for now), he has just shown again that his own declared ‘red lines’ are always up for revision.

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FILE PHOTO: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Western war hawks want Ukraine’s resources –?Orban
]]> But Biden’s public snub to Zelensky’s NATO aspirations seems genuine. He has motive, namely, to try to blunt the electoral appeal of Donald Trump’s promise to end the war. A recent US poll has shown that only 13% of likely voters believe Ukraine is winning, while 23% think Russia is; 48% perceive a ‘stalemate’. Many Americans still support humanitarian and economic aid for Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees. But as far as taking on even more security obligations for Ukraine is concerned, Biden has good reason to signal some distance and limits.  

From Kiev’s perspective, that must feel cruel. For even if Biden and many others in the West are in denial about it, the single most important cause of this devastating war was that NATO, with the US in the lead, would not close that infamous ‘open door’ to eventual membership for Ukraine. Conversely, it is virtually certain that if an American president had clearly and reliably excluded such a membership, the large-scale bloodshed and destruction that we have seen since February 2022 would not have occurred, even if tensions might have persisted.

This is no surprise, of course. At least for those not bamboozled by Western rhetoric, it has always been clear that Ukraine has, in John Mearsheimer’s words, been “led down the primrose path.” Its leadership has been strung along – really since the Bucharest summit of 2008, but with fatal complicity only since the 2014 regime change – by false promises. Its rulers have been lured into, and its people sacrificed in, a proxy war to pursue a shortsighted and failing US strategy of geopolitically degrading Russia.

This should have been obvious to even the least acute by the time of the humiliating rebuff Zelensky received at the Vilnius NATO summit of July 2023. No NATO for you, Ukraine, not even a plan of how to get there, but you can keep dying for us, thank you very much – that was the real message in Vilnius. And Zelensky took it like a champ, went home, and kept his country fighting for a West that has assigned it to an eternal antechamber.

So, if the Zelensky regime’s NATO illusions have received yet another rude jolt, what is left? What is the real core of Western strategy, at least for now?

Here, things get even worse. We see no signs of the US seeking genuine, realistic negotiations to end the war. And make no mistake, despite all the silly 2022 rhetoric about Ukraine’s ‘agency’ – meaning, in reality, the right to fall for Western promises and die for US interests – that initiative would have to come from Washington, not Kiev; and once it came from there, Kiev would have no choice but to fall in line. 

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FILE PHOTO: President of Russia Vladimir Putin.
Give them an inch, they’ll take a mile: Why red lines on Western weapons are crucial for Russia
]]> But instead of finally initiating an end to what is not only a Ukrainian catastrophe but also a great Western failure, Washington remains dead set on prolonging the bloody fiasco. Biden used his speech at the D-Day anniversary in Normandy not only to draw expectably false historical analogies, but also to reaffirm that the US will not walk away from the war. If Ukraine won’t be in NATO and the US won’t walk away either, then there is only one possible conclusion: Ukraine will stay outside and keep fighting and bleeding.

The West’s role, meanwhile, will consist of arming it and pushing for more sacrifices. This is where, for instance, Ukraine’s minimum mobilization age comes in. The latest, deeply unpopular law has reduced it from 27 to 25. But while it was under discussion, Western politicians, for instance, uber-hawk US Senator Lindsey Graham and even some of their allies (or instruments) inside Ukraine, have already demanded even lower thresholds.

As NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg just stated at a press conference in Helsinki, NATO “has no plans to deploy forces to Ukraine,” while focusing on establishing a stronger institutionalized framework for supporting Ukraine – presumably otherwise – and ensuring long-term financial assistance.

It would be naive to take Stoltenberg’s words as reflecting unalterable policy. Here, too, as with Biden, things may change; and if they do, he or his successor will present the new line with a straight face. Moreover, while NATO as a whole may continue to refrain from openly sending substantial forces into Ukraine, the same is not necessarily true for individual member states. Indeed, several of them already have comparatively small contingents of ‘advisers’ and mercenaries on the ground. Their casualties, meanwhile, remain subject to a conspiracy of silence in which the Western media is complicit.

Yet, as things stand, the picture is as cynical as can be. The West will not let whatever is left of Ukraine into NATO, not even after the conflict. It will not deploy its own forces in strength during the war. (And that is a good thing, as an open intervention would risk World War III.) But it will encourage Ukraine to keep fighting, while signaling to Russia that Kiev remains a proxy to be armed and used in the postwar future as well, which means incentivizing Moscow to keep fighting as well.

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Sun, 09 Jun 2024 19:58:56 +0000 RT
India’s comeback: How Modi foiled the West’s grand plan /india/598972-india-eletion-decoded-modi/ As Modi prepares to be sworn-in as PM for the third time, the world will continue looking up to India as an emerging global power
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
As the Indian leader prepares to be sworn-in as prime minister for the third time on Sunday, the world will continue looking up to New Delhi as an emerging global power, whose voice cannot be ignored

India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Modi was expected to win a decisive majority in the recently-concluded national elections. All observers and exit polls predicted this. 

When the results were announced earlier this week, however, it emerged that the BJP had failed to win a majority of its own. It will now form a coalition government with the support of regional parties as its allies as part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Undoubtedly, the election results have been a set back for Modi and the BJP. But it is unlikely that this will materially affect governance.

In his address at BJP headquarters after the election results were announced Modi made it clear that it will be ‘business as usual’ for him. His vision for India’s future remains unchanged. He will implement an agenda as per his commitments. This task will of course become more difficult – with a stronger political opposition at home. 

However, as regards foreign policy, there will be continuity. BJP and its allies in the NDA bloc do not have differences on external affairs. The two principal coalition partners have a domestic policy focus.

As it is, foreign policy was not a subject of debate during the elections, barring some episodic attacks by the Congress opposition on the government’s China policy, which it claims downplays the extent of China’s border intrusions. The election manifestoes of various political parties contained little on issues of India’s foreign policy. 

The BJP’s own election manifesto was perfunctory in this regard. It made no direct reference to the US or Russia. China was mentioned only in the context of accelerating the build up of infrastructure on the India-China border. 

Issues such as collaboration with Indo-Pacific countries to focus on security and growth of all, continuation of the Neighbourhood First policy, support for Israel on the issue of terrorism, India’s aspiration for permanent membership of the UN Security Council all figured in the BJP manifesto’s bare-boned foreign policy content.

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Narendra Modi shows a letter by President Droupadi Murmu requesting him to form the country's new government  at the presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on June 7, 2024
Modi to return as India’s PM for third term
]]> It also made note of substantial gains in the global spread of India’s soft power, such as the International Yoga Day and Ayurveda, as well as the return of stolen artefacts to the country. The growing study of Indian classical languages in educational institutions across the world was mentioned as a goal.

In his few remarks on foreign policy in the several media interviews he gave during his election campaign, Modi spoke of India as a “vishwabandhu”, that is, a friend of all countries. This would mean a continuation of the existing policy of of avoiding entanglement in third country conflicts, work in favour of diplomacy and dialogue, and be a force for peace.

It implies support for multilateralism, as that guarantees the promotion of collective interest through a constructive dialogue. It also implies preserving India’s independence in foreign policy making, otherwise described as “strategic autonomy”

One can also broadly include in the “vishwabandhu” concept support for the priorities and concerns of the global south in international affairs. Cooperative multipolarity flows from this, as multipolarity is necessary to counter hegemony,  to balance the interests of North and South, or East and West, and promote equal treatment of all members of the international community.

Since Modi assumed power in 2014, he has been a target of criticism by the media, think tanks, academic circles, democracy promotion and human rights organisations,  and the so-called “progressive” civil society elements in the West. These attacks continued before and after Modi won the 2019 elections. Some sections of the western media and research organisations actually called for rejecting Modi electorally. 

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Supporters of Narendra Modi, India's Prime Minister and leader of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) celebrate vote counting results for India's general election, at BJP headquarters in New Delhi on June 4, 2024.
Election outcome won’t alter India’s foreign policy – experts
]]> The intensity of these attacks increased prior to this year’s election. The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Economist, the Financial Times, Le Monde, Deutsche Welle, the Wall Street Journal, France 24, the BBC, the journal Foreign Affairs have led a manifestly orchestrated campaign against Modi’s re-election. Attacks have come from the US International Commission of Religious Freedoms, V-Dem of Sweden, the Open Society Foundation of George Soros, the Human Rights and Religious Freedom reports of the US State Department etc. Individual US Congressmen have joined the chorus too.

The substance of these attacks has been identical with that of the principal Indian opposition party’s criticism of Modi personally and of his government. 

A new line of attack has been opened up, this time through intelligence leaks, accusing India of interfering in elections in Canada and New Delhi’s operatives of monitoring the activities of the Indian diaspora, in Australia for example, or even eliminating political dissidents abroad. The opposition in India has tried to leverage these claims to accuse the Modi government of bringing disrepute to the country, instead of exposing the political purpose behind these foreign attacks, which is to defame India.

Western countries are very sensitive to any perceived external interference in their elections and have imposed sanctions on countries thought to have interfered. But their agencies have been complicit in interfering in India’s politics and the electoral scene. This is a typical case of double standards.

How much the third Modi government will take note of this western (and suspected Chinese) interference in India’s internal and electoral affairs, including by resident western correspondents in India, remains to be seen. 

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Child cools down in water fountain in scorching heat at sector 34 on May 29, 2024 in Noida, India. Maximum temperature reaching as high as 47.3C, highest recorded this season.
Killer heatwaves are ravaging India – and things are about to get worse
]]> Some in India’s security circles have long believed that the West would prefer a weakened Modi government in power, one without a majority of its own, as that would make India more vulnerable to pressure. In western think tank and media circles the desire to cut Modi to size has been apparent. The latest issue of the Economist emphasizing the humbling of Modi reflects this. 

How much this strengthens the underlying distrust of the West in India or informs policy towards the West is not clear, but some effect it will have. At a minimum, the need to maintain a balance in our external ties, especially with regard to the importance of Russia, will be recognised even more, as also the advantages of our links with BRICS and the SCO as counters to western pressure and stepping stones towards a multipolar world. Of course, the difficult ties with China complicate India’s options in this regard.

Modi’s policy on the Ukraine conflict will remain unchanged. He will not personally attend the peace conference on Ukraine in Switzerland. On Gaza, India continues to support a two state solution and has voted accordingly in the UN General Assembly. India’s position on these two issues is guided by its national interest. 

At the end of the day, the size of the electoral victory of a politician is of passing interest abroad. Foreign countries have to deal with those in power. Very few western politicians have decisive internal support. Their popular ratings are often low but that does not affect how the world deals with them. 

If India’s economy, which grew by 8.2% in 2023 continues to expand, if economic reforms boost India’s attractiveness, if the country succeeds in developing its manufacturing sector, including in the defence area, and if the vital ‘youth dividend’ materialises as expected, India’s foreign policy options in the coming five years of Modi’s government will expand. The country will succeed in protecting its national interest and increase its influence in world affairs. 

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Sat, 08 Jun 2024 09:19:41 +0000 RT
Why you should believe China’s spying accusations against the UK /news/598935-china-spying-accusations-uk/ Western intelligence agencies have made no secret about their wishes to infiltrate Beijing
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Western intelligence agencies have made no secret about their wishes to infiltrate Beijing

China recently announced that it had arrested two of its own nationals on suspicion of aiding British foreign intelligence agency MI6. According to Beijing, the suspected couple were lured by the husband’s “desire for money” having recruited him while he was studying in the UK, claiming that they subjected him to “repeated persuasion, enticement and even coercion”. The individual, named only as Wang, then worked with his wife on behalf of British intelligence in an attempt to spy on the Chinese State.

The revelation of two spies allegedly working for MI6 coincides with a growing alarm in the UK regarding supposed Chinese espionage. Across the past few months, two men have been charged with spying for China, one who was a parliamentary researcher, another group of men were then charged with doing so on behalf of the “Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office.” Finally, in addition to that, the UK government publicised several alleged hacks and leaks, including in the Electoral Register and Ministry of Defence, which it has blamed on Beijing.

It is easy amidst these allegations to assume that Beijing is engaging in a “tit for tat” given the widespread negative publicity coming from Britain, and it is obviously in Beijing’s political interest to make the cases of alleged UK spying known, but that doesn’t mean that the allegations are necessarily without merit. It might first be added, that while Western establishment media promulgates constant paranoia about China, the UK remains part of the Five Eyes network, which is the most comprehensive and sophisticated intelligence alliance in the world. London actively cooperates with Australia, Canada, the United States and New Zealand to share intelligence, and closely follows its geopolitical goals.

Second, MI6 has hardly made it a secret that it seeks to increase its focus on China. Alex Younger, the former head of the Agency, stated last year that Britain is in “a competition” with Beijing and “must wake up.” In 2021, the current head of MI6 stated that China, as well as Russia and Iran, were the agency's top priorities. Logically, looking at such open political rhetoric, it seems improbable to assume MI6 would not be attempting to infiltrate China and its government. This after all is not just the British agency's chief objective, but also that of the CIA in the US too. William Burns, current head of the CIA, has been quite open in stating America’s objective to “rebuild its network” in China which has in fact been forcibly suppressed by the Communist Party. One can only assume based on this that the UK is a willing accomplice.

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Members of Taiwan's military conduct routine exercises at Liaoluo Port in Kinmen on May 24, 2024
China is ready to fight for Taiwan, but is it ready to pay the price?
]]> It is for this reason that China has aggressively intensified its domestic campaign to root out and arrest spies in its home territory, an effort predictably framed by the media as “closing up” or being “arbitrary.” When we think of spies, especially British ones, there is always a temptation to assume they are super skilled secret agents like James Bond, but in reality, intelligence gathering works in a mundane way by making connections inside of key institutions in order to gain access to confidential information. Those who are successfully bought and exist on the inside are known as “assets” and are often financially rewarded for their efforts.

There is also a grey zone that overlaps between what constitutes “intelligence” and “research” in the form of information, and thus the work of the CIA and MI6 often strongly connects with the state and military sponsored “think tanks.” Take for example, Michael Korvig, a Canadian who was arrested on espionage charges in China following Canada’s arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou. Although the mainstream media proclaimed his “innocence” constantly, it was ultimately revealed that he, as an employee of the International Crisis Group think tank, was providing intelligence to the Canadian Secret Intelligence Service.

Because of this, China has also cracked down on US consultancy firms in the country, such as for example, Mintz, which is headed by a former CIA official. Why does it crack down on these firms? Because they can gather research about Chinese companies and organisations which can then be passed back to the US government, especially on issues such as supply chains. Thus, China typically pays close attention to locals who cooperate with these firms, who can become witting or unwitting spies. All in all, this teaches us about the various efforts the UK and US go to in order to spy within China.

Although the mainstream media paint McCarthyist and often absurd exaggerations of Chinese spying everywhere, often opportunistically, the reality is that this works both ways. The CIA and MI6 want to infiltrate China’s own government, meaning a real Cold War-style spying game is taking place behind the scenes.

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Sat, 08 Jun 2024 00:46:17 +0000 RT
Give them an inch, they’ll take a mile: Why red lines on Western weapons are crucial for Russia /news/598847-nato-ukraine-conflict-russian-territory/ NATO is trying to move the Ukraine conflict into Russia, and may trigger an ‘asymmetric response’
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
NATO is trying to shift the Ukraine conflict into Russia, and the lack of a response will be seen as a sign of weakness

On May 31, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the Biden administration’s decision to allow Ukraine to use Western weapons to hit targets in what Washington considers Russian territory.

This week, Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated his country's red lines in this regard, promising an asymmetric response,” without providing specific details.

President Biden stopped Ukraine from using ballistic missiles. The attack will also be restricted to the Kharkov sector — allowing Kiev “to strike military targets, gun positions, as well as transshipment bases that Russia uses to create a kind of buffer zone,” as a White House official put it.

But as Americans often say, all options are on the table. Blinken succinctly stated on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Prague on May 31, “The hallmark of our engagement has been to adapt and adjust as necessary, to meet what’s actually going on on the battlefield, to make sure that Ukraine has what it needs, when it needs it, to do that deliberately and effectively.  And that’s exactly what we’re doing in response to what we’ve now seen in and around the Kharkov region.”

The key words are — “adapt and adjust as necessary.” They message that this isn’t a “stand alone” decision, but part of a process; nor is it limited for all time in geographical terms to Kharkov Region’s border with Russia. 

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Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a meeting with heads of international news agencies in St. Petersburg, June 6, 2024
Zelensky’s illegitimacy, NATO ‘bulls**t’ & Russia’s ‘asymmetric’ response: Key takeaways from Putin’s foreign press briefing
]]> Blinken ignored the Kremlin’s warnings but unmistakably hinted that this was just the beginning. The underlying logic is to keep increasing the costs for Russia as a potential deterrence to force it to bend when costs outweigh the benefits.

Washington is pleased that more and more NATO countries are speaking out in favor of officially allowing Ukraine to strike with its weapons on Russian territory. Notably, on May 31, Germany confirmed the possibility that its weapons could be used near Kharkov region.

Washington seems confident that Moscow, as so often in the past, will get to accept the “new normal.” Nonetheless, Blinken underscored that “Going forward, we’ll continue to do what we’ve been doing, which is, as necessary, adapt and adjust.  And that, as I said, has been a hallmark of our engagement; it will continue to be.” 

So it is entirely conceivable that at a future date sooner rather than later, ATACMS may be included in Kiev’s inventory to hit Russian territory, especially if the Russian offensive expands in scope.

Jeremy Bowen, a BBC International television presenter, wrote this week after a trip to Ukraine that most Western analysts think the Kremlin is bluffing when it rattles the nuclear saber. “China, Russia’s essential ally, has made it clear it does not want any use of nuclear weapons,” he argued. There is some merit in such an argument.

At any rate, Blinken simply ignored the sensitive issue of tactical nuclear weapons, but asserted that NATO will not be cowed. The US has a counter-strategy, which includes bilateral talks with Ukraine in the coming weeks to expedite long-term security arrangements.

Plans are also afoot to take “concrete steps” at the forthcoming NATO summit in Washington in July “to bring Ukraine closer to NATO and ensure that there’s a bridge to membership, a bridge that’s strong and well-lit.” Blinken stressed that NATO will have a key role to build Ukraine’s future force and the Washington summit will advance the country’s integration into the alliance. Biden, however, later said in an interview that NATO membership for Ukraine is not necessarily a part of his vision for ‘peace’. 

Speaking to the press on Monday, White House national security spokesman John Kirby disclosed that Washington has so far only given Kiev permission to use American weapons to hit targets in the part of Russia bordering Ukraine’s Kharkov Region, but won’t rule out the further loosening of restrictions and expanding the geography of such cross-border strikes. 

Kirby was up front that while the policy, with respect to prohibiting the use of ATACMS, or long-range strikes, inside of Russia has not changed, he wouldn’t rule out “any additional policy changes,” which will depend on the battlefield situation and “where things go and what the Ukrainians need.”

“We’re not going to turn our back on what Ukraine needs. And we’re going to continue to try to, again, evolve our support to them as the battlefield evolves as well,” Kirby said. Plainly put, if Russian operations intensify or expand in scope — or, ironically, meet with success —  all bets are off. From Kirby’s remarks, it seems Biden may have taken a decision already in this regard. 

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Vladimir Zelensky at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, on January 16, 2024
Here’s what’s going to happen at the Swiss ‘peace summit’ on Ukraine
]]> All things taken into consideration, the US has thrown down the gauntlet to Moscow. It has completely fudged the core issue, namely, that highly skilled NATO specialists are doing the target selection for Kiev, which, in turn, will be drawing upon the alliance’s pool of reconnaissance data, and, secondly, the attack on Russian territory may even be without the participation of the Ukrainian military. Simply put, there are no pretensions anymore about the NATO raring to take on Russia.

In response, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov has once again warned the US against miscalculations that could have fatal consequences and called on Washington to take Russian warnings with the utmost seriousness. But such reasoning will be falling on deaf ears.

In fact, French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce any day the deployment of French “military instructors” to Ukraine. France hopes to lead a European “coalition of the willing” in this regard. The US and NATO are not currently considering the option of sending military trainers to Ukraine, but are thinking about the possible role of coordination of training.

All in all, during the past ten days since NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg broke the ceiling in an interview with The Economist on May 25 — obviously, with Washington’s prior concurrence — that Ukraine should be allowed to use Western-supplied weapons in strikes against military targets inside Russia, and called on members to “consider whether they should lift” their current restrictions, there has been a spectacular display of the Western alliance wading deeper into the war.

What emerged on May 31 is Plan B to transfer the locus of the war to Russian territory. This poses a tough call for Moscow as its red lines have fallen by the wayside. Procrastination will be construed as weakness and may embolden NATO to further up the ante. This is an existential war and there is no alternative to Russia pressing ahead with the creation of an effective buffer zone, no matter the costs.      

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Thu, 06 Jun 2024 14:36:58 +0000 RT
Modi in limbo: With no majority, the Indian PM is at the mercy of his coalition partners /india/598784-modi-in-limbo-india-election/ The BJP doesn’t have the numbers to support Modi’s ambitious plans or possibly his continuation in office as its allies make demands
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Bharatiya Janata Party allies are demanding their pound of flesh after the party fell short of a majority, with some wanting Narendra Modi out

Make no mistake, “strong leader” Narendra Modi made himself the centrepiece of the 2024 Lok Sabha (parliamentary lower house) election. Modi was the medium and Modi was the message, complete with a “Modi guarantee” for voters in the most presidential-style elections that India has ever seen.

And the little guy – the voter – cut the prime minister down to size in the biggest reversal of his political career. He had parachuted into the Gujarat chief minister’s office in 2001, and has never since lost an election, neither in Gujarat nor, before this, as the two-term prime minister.

Modi wanted to equal the three terms with a single-party majority achieved by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, but has fallen short. Nehru remains his intellectual nemesis. In 2014, Modi promised hope on the back of the “acche din” (good days) he would bring. In 2019, it was national security on the ballot after the Pulwama massacre – a terrorist attack in Kashmir in February 2019, in which 40 Indian paramilitary personnel died after a blast hit their convoy. New Delhi retaliated with a Balakot airstrike conducted by the Indian Air Force on February 26 targeting an alleged training camp of the terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed. 

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India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi flashes victory sign as he arrives at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters to celebrate the results of India's general election, in New Delhi on June 4, 2024
Modi claims victory as BJP-led alliance secures majority
]]> This time around, Modi gave more than 80 scripted interviews which revealed his insight into how he considered himself to be infallible and nearly “divine,” or a non-biological creation,” as he described it.

He held 206 public meetings, with his rhetoric focusing on majoritarian issues: mutton (a dish associated with the Muslim’s Eid holiday); Muslim interlopers or ‘ghuspetias’ (infiltrators, in colorful vernacular); and ‘mujra’ (a dance associated with Muslim courtesans). He also openly spoke of how the opposition was conspiring to rob Hindus of their ‘mangalsutra’ (the wedding necklace) and their buffalos, to give to, you guessed it, the Muslims. 

The new parliament will have 26 Muslim MPs, but Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took pride in fielding just one (Abdul Salam, in Kerala’s Malappuram).

Now, as Modi scrambles to remain as prime minister, his very style of being confrontational and extremely aggressive with his allies is proving to be a tough sell. The BJP needs to retain as allies the chief minister of Bihar state, Nitish Kumar, a veteran political somersaulter whose Janata Dal (United) (JDU) party took the most seats in heavily populated Bihar, and Chandrababu Naidu, whose Telugu Desam Party (TDP) swept the state election in south India’s Andhra Prades. 

Naidu is a recent and reluctant ally as Modi’s BJP had broken his TDP in 2019, and allegedly threatened him with action by enforcement agencies, as has happened with other political leaders.

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Supporters of Narendra Modi, India's Prime Minister and leader of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) celebrate vote counting results for India's general election, at BJP headquarters in New Delhi on June 4, 2024.
Election outcome won’t alter India’s foreign policy – experts
]]> Now, the kingmakers Kumar and Naidu are proving difficult and are asking for the moon, including goodies like the Lok Sabha speaker’s post and the finance ministry. Kumar is indicating that he would like to be deputy prime minister in return for backing Modi. 

Ideally, they would like a government without Modi and his chief lieutenant Amit Shah. They want a model similar to when the first BJP prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, ran a successful coalition government in 1998.

So how did it all go so wrong? Modi wanted to ensure success in Maharashtra, the state with the second highest number of Lok Sabha seats (48); and so is believed to have broken the constituent ruling parties using the brute power of investigative agencies. The Maharashtra voters punished him by giving the lion’s share of the seats to the INDIA (Indian National Development Inclusive Alliance) bloc.

The biggest reality check was provided in Uttar Pradesh (UP), country’s most populous state whose 80 Lok Sabha seats have an outsized influence on capturing power in Delhi. UP had powered Modi into government twice, but this time around the UP voters humbled him

Modi’s margin of victory in his own constituency, the holy town of Varanasi, fell to its lowest, at 152,000. His ministers from UP – Smriti Irani, Ajay Singh Teni and Sanjeev Balyan – all lost prestigious seats. 

Despite the grand Ram temple consecration – a Hindu temple in Ayodhya, built on the land where a mosque once stood, the BJP also lost the Faizabad constituency, where the temple is located.

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Child cools down in water fountain in scorching heat at sector 34 on May 29, 2024 in Noida, India. Maximum temperature reaching as high as 47.3C, highest recorded this season.
Killer heatwaves are ravaging India – and things are about to get worse
]]> Rahul Gandhi of the Indian National Congress and Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi party, a regional UP heavyweight, were allies in the INDIA alliance. They campaigned over the lack of jobs and the BJP’s open determination to change the constitution – the BJP is widely believed to be planning to replace affirmative action for Dalits, India’s most marginalized community, which has faced considerable discrimination in the past and still does so in many spheres of social life. This struck a chord with voters.

Modi’s attacks on opposition leaders and critics, who faced investigation by the economic intelligence agency and revenue department in the run up to the election, was overkill and raised eyebrows given the corruption allegations leveled against some of the leaders that were allowed to join the BJP. Gandhi’s charges of cronyism stuck, and the opaque electoral bond scheme – introduced by the BJP government in 2017 but struck down by the Supreme Court two months before the election – seemed to be a ruling party extortion racket.

Modi even got his tame party president J P Nadda to repudiate the pater familias of the right-wing ecosystem, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or the ‘Sangh Parivar’, saying the BJP did not need the RSS. The boots on the ground for every BJP victory had been provided by RSS workers who simply didn’t step out after being rejected in this manner.

There are two key takeaways. Firstly, the opposition, which is essential for a democracy, is back in India. Modi can no longer get away with not answering a single question in parliament as he has done for the past ten years. His plans for ‘one nation, one election’ have been checked, as has his agenda.

Modi once boasted in Parliament: “Ek akela sab peh bhari” (one alone can best them all). After the voters' reality check he moved swiftly, and basically gave key allies a blank cheque for portfolio demand in return for letters of support. After that in the allies' bag, Modi is now the NDA choice as leader with a swift swearing-in on June 8.

The last NDA government led by BJP’s Atal Behari Vajpayee had to deal with Naidu coming weekly with a wish list. A coalition government is amenable to allies and accountable to Parliament. We shall see an NDA 3.0 after the departing Modi 2.0

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Wed, 05 Jun 2024 13:10:23 +0000 RT
Lavrov in Africa: How is Russia’s multipolar vision being realised? /africa/598773-sergey-lavrov-africa-tour/ Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov started his visit to the continent with Guinea and the Republic of the Congo
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov started his visit to the continent with Guinea and the Republic of the Congo

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s African tour embodies the clear intention of President Vladimir Putin and Moscow to strengthen diplomatic ties on the continent, despite geopolitical tensions and Western pressure on African countries that cooperate with Russia. This strategic initiative comes at a time when geopolitical dynamics are undergoing significant changes, providing Russia with a unique opportunity to assert its partnership and support, and to expand its network of alliances with African countries.

Understanding Moscow’s policy in Africa

First, it is essential, in my view, to understand Russia’s African policy: Russia enjoys a very positive image and is well-regarded by some leaders and, more importantly, by many African populations. This appreciation can be attributed to several historical and contemporary factors. Historically, during the Cold War, the USSR supported African countries against colonization and many liberation movements in Africa, leaving a lasting impression of anti-imperialist solidarity. Today, Russia is building on this historical capital to position itself as a reliable partner that respects the sovereignty of African nations, unlike France, the United States, and the European Union, which are widely rejected by the populations and pan-African movements.

I believe that Lavrov’s tour can be seen as a recognition and mutual respect between Russia and its African partners. Lavrov goes beyond superficial diplomatic discussions; he demonstrates a genuine willingness to deepen bilateral relations and understand the specific needs and aspirations of each nation. This mutual respect is crucial in a context where many African countries seek to diversify their partnerships to avoid excessive dependence on former colonial powers like France and Britain, and on Western institutions, which are criticized in Africa for their neocolonialist and imperialist policies, as well as the intimidation and pressure they exert on some leaders in their relations with Russia.

The main objectives of Sergey Lavrov’s visit 

One of the main objectives of this tour is to strengthen economic and military cooperation. Economically, Russia sees Africa as a continent of the future with expanding markets. Russian investments in the mining, energy, and infrastructure sectors can stimulate local economies essential for the development of countries while providing Russia with resources and economic opportunities.

If we speak of Guinea, for example, after six decades of diplomatic relations with this country, Russia has developed economic cooperation that is currently experiencing notable growth, boosted by the Russia-Africa Summit in St. Petersburg in July 2023. Despite the efforts of both countries, economic cooperation was affected between February and March 2022 by the illegal, criminal, and unjust sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe on Russia due to the military operation in Ukraine. However, Russia continues to strengthen its investments in Guinea, with projects in key sectors: energy, mining, health, and infrastructure. In 2024, Moscow remains a notable contributor to Guinea’s socio-economic development. For example, the Russian company RUSAL, the world leader in the aluminum industry (with nearly 5.5% of global aluminum and 3.8% alumina production) is very present in Guinea (nearly 4,000 employees) and contributes to the creation of jobs for local populations, strengthening Russia’s presence by showing its willingness to play a significant economic role with its African partners.

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Unstoppable march of the Global South: How Russia and Africa made 2023 a pivotal year for bilateral relations
]]> Military cooperation

Militarily, cooperation with African countries is strategically important for Russia. As a major supplier of arms, Russia can offer not only quality military equipment but also training tailored to the needs of African countries and highly valued expertise. This military assistance helps African nations like Burkina Faso, which is plagued by insecurity, to strengthen their internal security and combat threats such as terrorism. For Russia, these military agreements also reinforce its presence and influence in Africa, contributing to a global network of alliances.

The fight against neocolonialism is another central theme of this visit. Russia positions itself as a defender of national sovereignty and an opponent of neocolonial practices. This stance strongly resonates with many African nations seeking to free themselves from imperialist influences like France and the United States and to fully control their economic and political destinies. By supporting this struggle, Russia presents itself not only as a strategic ally but also as an ideological partner.

Russia’s multipolar approach and vision

This approach fits into a broader Russian vision for a multipolar world. In this vision, each nation should have the freedom to choose its own partners and define its policies without external pressures. For African countries, this means more autonomy and the ability to negotiate agreements that truly reflect their interests and aspirations. 

To conclude, I would say that Lavrov’s tour of Africa symbolizes a major step in Moscow’s strategy to strengthen its ties with the continent. It reflects a desire to diversify international partnerships, to respect and support the sovereign aspirations of African nations, which are victims of neocolonialism, and especially to promote a multipolar world order. For Russia, this initiative is an opportunity to consolidate its position on the international stage. For African countries, it is a chance to benefit from new opportunities for cooperation and development within a framework of mutual respect and support for national sovereignty without interference in the internal politics of African nations.

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Wed, 05 Jun 2024 11:49:23 +0000 RT
Germany begins to militarize: When have we seen this before? /news/598466-germany-recent-upsurge-militarism/ A recent upsurge in fighting talk could mark a turning point in the history of the nation, and not a good one
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A recent upsurge in fighting talk could mark a turning point in the history of the nation, and not a good one

Recent German history is marked by two dates – 1918 and 1945 – that stand for extraordinary, catastrophic failures of, among other things, militarism.

Most countries have militaries, many have substantial ones. But militarism is, of course, something else: In essence, the term stands for a syndrome: a type of politics and culture – an integrated Zeitgeist package, if you wish – that harmfully exaggerate the public importance, social prestige, and political power of a country’s military.

Both pre-World War I and pre-World War II Germany were clear cases of this political pathology, and both paid dearly for it, with massive defeats in wars started – first with significant input from others, then entirely on its own – by Berlin. History can be a harsh teacher, and in this case, the lessons that Germany brought on itself were not only painful, but they also got successively worse: 1918 was a severe setback that led to regime change, deep economic crisis, and lasting instability; 1945 was a total defeat that came with national partition and a robust geopolitical downgrading that was to last forever. Or so it seemed. 

When the two Germanies that emerged after 1945 united in 1990, everyone with any sense of history knew that things would change again. It is true that in purely constitutional terms, the new Germany is merely a bigger version of the former West Germany; the former East Germany was simply absorbed.

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Scholz has one trump card in talks with China, but he’ll never use it
]]> Yet in every other respect – including political culture, geopolitics, and, quite fundamentally, what it means to be German – that bigger version of old West Germany was on a timer: In the short term, post-unification Germany phase one (just a bigger West Germany) was bound to be transitory, just like, for instance, post-Soviet Russia phase one (the 1990s). And as with post-Soviet Russia, the really intriguing question has always been what phase two would look like, while those who thought they knew in advance risked being humbled by history. (Remember that once fashionable idea that Russia was “in transition” to becoming a geopolitically docile copy of an imaginary Western standard model? No? Don’t worry. No one else does either.)

Now, however, it’s 2024. Over a third of a century has passed since German unification. Gerhard Schroeder and Angela Merkel, the quintessential leaders of that deceptively abiding phase-one version of post-unification Germany are history. We are in the long term now, and the contours of the new Germany are emerging.

Some are counter-intuitive: Instead of a new powerhouse at the center of Europe straining to steer a destabilizing course of its own after decades of double Cold War dependency (the nightmare of Britain’s Margaret Thatcher and France’s Francois Mitterrand), the new Germany is destabilizingly submissive to its American hegemon, to the point of self-de-industrialization. Rather than a resurgence of traditional nationalism under right-wing governments, we are witnessing the rise of a new kind of national hubris. The standard bearers of this Green neo-Wilhelminism, such as German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, combine a narrow-minded sense of “value” superiority with an aggressive refusal to treat countries that won’t fit their provincial standards as sovereign equals: As Georgia has just experienced, whose government, Berlin is demanding, must “take back” a law that has been made and passed legally. Finally, for better or for worse, the new Germany has not turned into a disruptive force of innovation and industrial competitiveness, as happened after that other German unification, that of 1871.

History, it turns out, is not only a harsh teacher but full of surprises, too. And yet, there is one area where something that could have been expected seems to be happening, even if it is taking on new and puzzling forms: militarism. No doubt, the term may appear hyperbolic, at least for now. After all, the German Minister of Defense, Boris Pistorius has just been compelled to mostly – though not entirelygive up on plans to re-introduce compulsory military service which was abolished in 2011.

Likewise, the size of the German military – the Bundeswehr – remains far below the numbers of the last Cold War: Currently, it has about 182,000 uniformed and, additionally, 81,000 civilian personnel. For comparison, between the early 1970s and the early 1990s, the West German army – back then also heavily armed – hovered around 500,000 soldiers. In case of war, it was planning to mobilize reserves and field 1.3 million. Where Cold War Germany was a country dotted by over 700 barracks, now there are 250.

And keep in mind that those figures – forming the constant reference points in current German debates – cover only the former West Germany. But since the new Germany has ingested the former East Germany, a historically more realistic comparison has to consider its forces as well. In the 1980s, its Nationale Volksarmee amounted to an also very well-equipped peacetime army of about 180,000 soldiers and officers. In case of war, half a million was the aim.

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FILE PHOTO: A Marine with a Javelin rocket launcher. ? Chris Maddaloni / Roll Call / Getty Images
With a $40 billion plan, the US is setting itself up for an expensive failure in Ukraine
]]> Taken together, then, the late-Cold War Germanies kept almost 700,000 Germans under arms at any given moment. If they had ever gone to war – ironically, mostly against each other and on behalf of their respective hegemons – their mobilization plans foresaw almost 2 million Germans joining the fray. Looking back on this recent history, Boris Pistorius must feel deprived: In his Germany, a plan to get to 203,000 men in uniform (and women, currently 13% of the force) by 2031 is unlikely to succeed even remotely, as Der Spiegel reports.

At the same time, there is a problem that the German military does not have: Polls consistently show that it does not lack popular support. According to a study commissioned by the German Ministry of Defense in 2023, almost 90% of respondents had a positive attitude toward the Bundeswehr. This year, two thirds of Germans are in favor of spending more on their military, although – as so often – the willingness to actually pay up is less pronounced: 56% are against additional government debt to finance this policy. Even on the question of re-introducing compulsory military service, public opinion is largely pro-military: In January 2024, just over half of Germans polled were in favor, although younger Germans, unsurprisingly, are less enthusiastic. Pistorius himself cannot complain either: He has been leading the national popularity rankings for months and is considered a plausible candidate to succeed the deeply unpopular Olaf Scholz as chancellor.

Except with respect to the unusually high popularity of a minister of defense, who loves to wear the uniform and pose with soldiers but has hardly produced a record of success, it would still be premature to consider this generally positive attitude toward the Bundeswehr a sign of militarism. It can be read, with at least equal plausibility, as reflecting a fairly ordinary desire for national security and certain conservative values that exist in many societies.

Yet, at the same time, the German elites – in politics and the mainstream media – are clearly engaged in a persistent campaign to turn this positive disposition toward the military into something else altogether. Take, for instance, Germany’s flagship news magazine Der Spiegel. Once a bastion of critical if moderate left-liberal journalism, Spiegel has long turned itself into a platform for NATO propaganda and extremist, war-addicted Centrism. 

A recent featured article under the title 'The Fear of the Great War', began with a swipe at Chancellor Olaf Scholz because, for Spiegel, he is not yet bellicose enough. With unnamed representatives of the Baltic states essentially blackmailing Berlin by threatening to drag NATO into an open war with Russia, to Spiegel, the problem is not the Baltic attempt to strongarm Germany but Scholz’s reluctance to immediately submit. 

Readers also learn, once again, that aid to Ukraine – despite the fact that its military situation is catastrophic – must be ramped up, in essence without limits because, so the evidence-free but extremely popular argument goes, if Russia wins in Ukraine, then it won’t stop there. Any thoughts of trying to deploy genuine negotiations and diplomacy, meanwhile, are quickly – and rather obsequiously – dismissed as the sort of silly thing that Pistorius can only shake his head about. So much for critical distance. 

Transparent and awkward as this journalism of mobilization may be, it is still important not to underestimate it. Especially the endlessly repeated claim that Russia will go beyond Ukraine is a core element of the media campaign to use fear as a tool for psychologically re-militarizing the German public.

Fear is to be understood literally. Consider a recent interview with Andre Bodemann, the German officer leading the effort to develop a new, comprehensive mobilization concept called OPLAN DEU. Bodemann comes across as a conscientious and thorough military planner, the kind of officer that is needed to put together a detailed document of 1,000 pages that seeks to anticipate what to do, for instance, in hospitals and logistics in case of war.

Yet Bodemann is also reckless. Planning for war is a necessity. Telling German citizens that Germany is already not at peace, as he does, is factually wrong as well as a through-and-through political statement. Bodemann may have made it following instructions from politicians, but he was still fundamentally wrong. It is neither his task nor his right to demand that “everyone must change their behavior,” according to his politicized framing of Germany’s security situation. In particular, since he acknowledges in the same interview that the legal aspects – really, I suspect, basis – of his approach still have to be clarified. This is a disturbing public intervention by a military officer. What is even more disturbing is the fact that it seems to be considered normal in the new Germany.

But fear is not all. There are also promises of meaning and even national togetherness. A recent article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, traditionally Germany’s flagship conservative newspaper, asks if Germany is “fit for war” (“kriegstüchtig,” a term with a distinctly old-fashioned, Prussian’ish ring to it, reintroduced into contemporary German by – guess – Pistorius). The author visits a Bundeswehr base, in a spirit not entirely unlike that of Soviet journalists going to a collective farm in, let’s say, 1950: This is reporting in a distinctly boosterish vein interspersed with ideological pabulum. 

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FILE PHOTO, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks with soldiers of the Bundeswehr while visiting the Bundeswehr army training center in Ostenholz on October 17, 2022 near Hodenhagen, Germany.
Fyodor Lukyanov: The world is entering a very dangerous time
]]> It is true that we find the refreshingly frank admission that up until now, Germany’s policy – really, that of the entire West – for Ukraine has consisted of: “We give weapons to your [that is, Ukrainian] sons so that they can kill the common enemy [meaning Russia, with which Germany is not, actually officially at war], but we won’t send our own [German] sons.” So much for that new mobilization law squeezing more “sons” out of Ukraine. 

After that moment of self-revealing honesty, readers encounter young German visitors to the base who display almost Komsomol-like enthusiasm for the army: Here, so to speak, are the German sons – and daughters – ready to step into the breach. And, with a touch of Stalinist boy wonder Pavel Morozov (who was so loyal he sold out his own kin, at least according to legend), their going against the will of their parents and the skepticism of their siblings and peers is highlighted with condescending benevolence.

In addition, serving in the Bundeswehr is also sold as a tool of national unity, with the base commander declaring that on a tough night march with heavy kit, all differences between East and West (inside Germany, that is) fall away: a simile of darkness and sore feet that might have made Mao proud. But finding a high German officer and a prestigious German newspaper linking what seem to be persisting anxieties over how united the new Germany really is with, of all things, the military is, to the historian, alarming: the army as the “school of the nation” and the emblem of unity? Really?

It may be too early to speak of the rise of a new militarism in Germany. Yet it would be naïve not to register an accumulation of tremors that may portend a larger seismic shift in the new Germany’s sense of itself: Old inhibitions are mostly gone, and the sphere of things military has started bleeding into the realm of politics and the public again in a manner that is unprecedented in post-unification history. This may be a passing moment. But it is more likely to be the beginning of a trend, especially since Germany’s mainstream media are almost perfectly, disgracefully united in doing their best to make Germans believe that there is no alternative.

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Mon, 03 Jun 2024 12:56:26 +0000 RT
Trump and ‘our democracy’: What happens when a political system becomes a meme? /news/598598-trump-us-democracy/ Appeals to democracy are now heard incessantly in the West, which is a sign of a deeper malaise
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It is a sign of deep crisis that the concept of democracy has devolved into an ideologically tinged narrative that is defended with empty and exaggerated rhetoric

The verdict in Donald Trump’s hush money trial has bestirred the usual characters in all the predictable ways. And never far from anybody's lips is the word ‘democracy’.

“Donald Trump is threatening our democracy," President Joe Biden himself opined, calling the ex-president's questioning of the verdict "dangerous.“ The editorial board of the New York Times lauded the “remarkable display of the democratic principles” on display in convicting a former president, arguing that this proves that even men as powerful as Trump are not above the law. 

The word democracy is everywhere in the Western world these days. Hardly a day goes by without pleas to defend it, protect it, fight against its sworn enemies, or celebrate its virtues with pompous clichés. Precise and neutral usage has given way to an ideological tinge that is as electrified as it is vague.  

One senses the word is invoked in defense of a certain decaying America-led order and the elite institutions that uphold it – and yet, like its cousin the ‘rules-based-order’, it is never quite defined. In the 2024 US presidential election, we are told, democracy itself is on the ballot. Whatever that means. If Trump is the archetypal demonic figure in the eyes of polite society, democracy is the bulwark against him.

Democracy has been imbued with a primitive metaphysical potency that almost seems a stand-in for religious faith.

Biden’s 2023 State of the Union address contained an exhortation to cure cancer once and for all, followed immediately by a grand summation of what has underpinned all American successes for all time – and, implicitly, will underpin futures ones, such as curing cancer.

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Death of empires: History tells us what will follow the collapse of US hegemony
]]> “Folks, there’s one reason why we’ve been able to do all of these things: our democracy itself.”

Biden concluded: “With democracy, everything is possible. Without it, nothing is.”

Turn back the clock a century or so, replace the word ‘democracy’ with ‘the grace of God’ and give the same speech and nobody would bat an eye.

Democracy is a shield against accusations of wrongdoing. The defense being mounted against the war crimes charges facing the Israeli leadership is that the country is a democracy. As if how a government elects its leaders somehow changes the laws of war.  

But what is curious is that this nauseating ubiquity of the word democracy has coincided with a period of deep dysfunction in actual self-proclaimed democracies. The more it is talked about, the less it seems to work and the larger the chasm between what is proclaimed and what is practiced. Many of the countries most vocally proclaiming democracy are the ones at the forefront of implementing highly undemocratic policies.

It would be easy to become carried away pointing out the blatant hypocrisy in the Western embrace of all things democratic while at the same time leaning hard into authoritarian tendencies. Take your pick of stories: Earlier this month, for example, a German court rejected an AfD complaint about the classification of its youth organization as an extremist movement, meaning Germany’s domestic intelligence service can continue to monitor the activities and communications of the party itself. This was hailed as a victory by the government. “Today’s ruling shows that we are a democracy that can be defended,” Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said.

Clearly, for the current Western elites, democracy has come to mean a system not intended to be run democratically in response to the will of the people, but run by self-proclaimed democrats. 

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FILE PHOTO: US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and VP Kamala Harris hold a Ukrainian flag given to them by  Vladimir Zelensky.
Here’s why America’s usual approach isn’t working in Ukraine
]]> But more interesting than simply laying out further instances of double standards and hypocrisy is to seek to grasp what explains the proliferation of democracy as a meme in exact proportion to the decline of the real thing. After all, the word democracy wasn’t always on the tip of every politician’s lips.

Even Woodrow Wilson, the consummate evangelist of the American political order, whose “make the world safe for democracy” quote is now indelibly associated with his name, did not play loose with facile references to the political system through which everything is apparently possible. At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 upon the conclusion of World War I, Wilson’s opening speech contained only one passing and modest reference to democracy.

And yet at that time, America could much more reasonably than now lay claim to being the world’s preeminent democracy. What to make of this paradox?

Offering a framework to think about this phenomenon is the South Korean-German philosopher Byung-Chul Han in his most recent book, called ‘Crisis of Narration’. “A paradigm becomes a topic… only when there is a deep-seated alienation from it,” Han argues. “All the talk about narratives suggests their dysfunctionality,” he says. In other words, the fact that democracy has become a hot topic and that a narrative is being projected about it are themselves signs that something is amiss.

Han continues by explaining that as long as a narrative serves as an “anchor in being” – an organic part of the fabric of life that provides meaning and orientation – there is no need for such exaggerated talk about narratives. But, Han explains, the “inflation in the use of such concepts begins precisely when narratives lose their original power, their gravitational force, their secret and magic.” He concludes by saying that “once they are seen as something constructed, they lose their moment of inner truth.”

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Drowning in debt: The paralysis at the heart of the US fiscal crisis
]]> Whether American democracy – or any other Western democracy – ever truly possessed any “inner truth” is a matter for historians to decide, but there undoubtedly was a time when a democratic political culture was simply ‘lived’ rather than constantly defended, attacked, or invoked. What was on the ballot was not democracy itself but simply whatever batch of politicians had emerged from the democratic process.

Prior to our contentious era, Western democracy was lived with the sort of assumed assurance that comes from a worldview that has not yet been shattered. That does not mean that politics didn’t have its fair share of all the usual bickering, backstabbing, sophistry, chicanery, and even outright dysfunction. Read any account of the presidency of Warren Harding to be disabused of that illusion – the term ‘smoke-filled room’ derives from that era. But what is important is not the relative merits of the politicians of one era or another but rather the fact that political life took place within a system that itself was seen as secure and to whose defense society wasn’t perpetually being exhorted to rush.

History offers other examples of a once vital political theory being reduced to an obsessed-over narrative in its moment of terminal crisis. Most medieval monarchs believed that they derived their authority directly from God and were not accountable to earthly authorities. The strong ecclesiastical element in ancient coronation ceremonies attests to the intermeshing of the divine and earthly kingdoms. But in medieval Europe, this was never defined with any rigor, nor had it taken on the contours of a political system that would then need to be defended, justified, or really even explained. Kings did not offer daily reminders of their communion with God.

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RT
Schizophrenic world order: The West is willing to destroy its financial system to punish Russia
]]> It only congealed into a succinct political doctrine – called the ‘divine right of kings’ – quite late in the game, when any real conviction that kings were truly God’s emissaries on Earth had all but disappeared. The theory was most comprehensively developed by King James VI of Scotland (later James I of England) – he is even credited with coming up with the expression ‘divine right of kings’. To use Han’s language, something that had at one time been an “anchor in being” had been turned into a narrative – even a meme, we could say. When King James stood up in front of Parliament in 1610, (it was not exactly a State of the Union address) and declared “the state of monarchy is the supremest thing upon earth,” little did he suspect that the doctrine he was espousing so vigorously was mere decades away from disappearing forever – at least from Europe.

His reactionary and hopelessly out-of-touch son, Charles I, continuing in his father’s tradition of believing he answered only to God, ended up being shortened by a head over the matter. Elsewhere in Europe, similar processes were playing out. In France, Louis XIV saw himself as God’s representative on Earth, endowed with a divine right to wield absolute power. He spent much of his time quashing brewing rebellions and establishing his legitimacy by the sweat of his brow. But his preposterous, primitive, and overwrought claims – the type that would fit nicely into Biden’s State of the Union address – can only be seen as a telltale sign of crisis. 

For many hundreds of years, Europe produced good kings and bad kings, but even the reign of a terrible king did not undermine belief in monarchy as an institution or in the implicit connection between the divine and earthly kingdoms. Monarchy itself was not ‘on the ballot’ every time a new king took the throne. But when the magic disappeared and kings found themselves on the defensive is exactly when they began to invoke the importance of their office with exaggerated effect. It is not hard to see the insecurity lying just beneath the surface. 

The cartoonishly inflated reaction to the threats supposedly emanating from Trump and others menacing the temple of democracy is merely a small part of a much larger drama – and no less a manifestation of insecurity. What this signifies is that the magic has drained out of the current iteration of Western liberal democracy. It will be defended, attacked, idealized, invoked all the same – until it simply disappears and is replaced with something else.

 

 

 

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Sun, 02 Jun 2024 18:36:02 +0000 RT
Here’s what’s going to happen at the Swiss ‘peace summit’ on Ukraine /news/598627-zelensky-switzerland-summit-ukraine/ The upcoming gathering has only one goal: to give Vladimir Zelensky yet another stage to shore up his legitimacy
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The upcoming gathering has only one goal: to give Vladimir Zelensky yet another stage to shore up his legitimacy

Between 1985 and 1991, the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, tried to change everything only to, in the end, lose everything. Having set out to reform the Soviet Union beyond recognition, he ended up dismantling it. Whatever you think about the Soviet Union, a leader of a state whose policies rapidly induce its literal end is usually considered a failure.

Gorbachev, gifted with a certain charisma, was initially popular at home and in the West, but subsequently only in the West. Whereas Westerners kept liking him – his bizarrely naïve trust in their promises and benevolence played its part there – his own countrymen and women became disillusioned by his grating combination of grandiloquent rhetoric and abysmal economic failure.

Toward the end, when coup plotters were kind – or incompetent – enough to merely put him under house arrest, no one cared much either way. Gorbachev pulled off the remarkable feat of being defeated by a coup that failed.

Don’t get me wrong: I still believe that history will judge the last Soviet leader critically but, on the whole, kindly. With all his flaws – intellectual vanity paired with almost childish credulity perhaps the worst – and the severe errors he committed, he was fundamentally humane, reasonable, and sincere. For a politician especially, that’s a lot. And we owe him more than anyone else that the first Cold War ended peacefully. If only the current American elites were capable of producing someone as principally rational as Gorbachev! Such a leader could help them make the overdue adjustment to their country’s relative decline and the emerging multipolar order.

Also, Gorbachev was neither a natural born authoritarian – his terminal reforms were motivated by a genuine desire to make his country more, not less democratic – nor a self-obsessed egomaniac putting his personal narcissism and obstinacy above the common, national good. Which brings us to the current president of Ukraine, Vladimir Zelensky.

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FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky.
Vladimir Zelensky: No mandate, no election. So what now?
]]> Zelensky is no Gorbachev, obviously. And yet, looking at Zelensky, I cannot help thinking of that peculiar trap that Gorbachev made for himself: a ruler who, toward the cataclysmic end, was popular in the West, while losing his own country’s backing. No historical analogy is perfect. But there are signs of a similar divergence emerging in the case of Zelensky.

Consider, for instance, his persistently intense schedule of traveling to the West. He may not be feted any longer like an infallible hybrid of Che Guevara, Winston Churchill, and Taylor Swift. But he still gets invited to the 80th anniversary of the 1944 D-Day landing in Normandy. He will also be at the upcoming G7 meeting, where he will sign a new bilateral security agreement with the US. In addition, the Biden administration has just escalated its brinkmanship from hell to a new level of awful by facilitating Ukrainian strikes with American weapons – and, of course, de facto assistance – on Russian territory.

And all of that despite – or because? – the fact that Washington and Kiev are, an anonymous Ukrainian official has told the Financial Times, “farther apart than ever since the war started.” With Ukraine’s most vital relationship now, according to the same source, “very, very tense,” Zelensky has taken to publicly rebuking US President Joe Biden for decisions that Kiev’s ruler considers insufficiently “strong.” Zelensky has even made use of a long New York Times interview to voice his suspicion that Ukraine’s Western sponsors may have been betraying Ukraine from the get-go.

It would be tedious to list all his recent and upcoming destinations. But one that stands out is Switzerland. He is expected there for a so-called peace summit in mid-June; a summit which, incidentally, he requested himself. The official purpose of this conference is “to establish a forum for a high-level dialogue on ways to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace for Ukraine in accordance with international law and the UN Charter.” Russia has not been invited and has made clear that it does not wish to participate in any case. China, for its part, sees no sense in attending a meeting that excludes Russia. The conference seems bound to base its deliberations on Zelensky’s unrealistic ideas about how to end the war, which do not accommodate the fact that Ukraine is not winning. In sum, apart from a miracle, there is no possibility that this summit will actually help make peace.

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FILE PHOTO: Vladimir Zelensky (L) greets EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (R) at a railway station in Kiev
The EU keeps naive Ukrainians on the hook with more accession talk
]]> Yet it will take place in grand style in a luxury hotel on a magic mountain overlooking Lake Lucerne, to be precise. What, then, is its real purpose? To offer Zelensky yet another international stage. Some critics surmise that this may be especially important for him now because the term for which he was elected in 2019 expired on May 20. While Western media misleadingly claim that the Ukrainian constitution does not allow for presidential elections in wartime, in reality, it only prohibits parliamentary elections. In any case, it offers no basis for simply extending the incumbent’s mandate. Zelensky, under a cloud of dubious legitimacy, will relish the opportunity to produce footage showing him hobnobbing with a maximum number of other leaders. And egocentric as he is, that is not just a matter of personal gratification: He and his spin doctors will also appreciate yet another opportunity to feed international VIP coverage back into the news cycle at home in Ukraine.

But here is the rub: At home, things are looking grim. In general, Ukraine’s leadership suffers from the simple fact that it is losing the war. But the single specific issue that undermines the regime the most is its draconian drive to feed ever more Ukrainians into that failing war. On May 18, a new, harsher mobilization came into effect. It was predictable that ordinary Ukrainians would not be happy about it, but even now it is obvious that their reaction is much worse than that.

Even Western outlets that used to be gung-ho about the war not long ago, are now reporting that “originating from all around the country, videos of men actively resisting press gangs with the help of women, often random passersby, pop up online on a daily basis.” And the mobilized have plenty to be afraid of on their own side of the frontline: Recruiting squads have a habit of getting violent and seem to be a law unto themselves; deaths are reported from within their premises. Since the start of the war, thousands of desperate draft dodgers have tried to escape from Ukraine by swimming through the Tysa River. At least 33 have drowned so far but, as the ultra-bellicist The Economist acknowledges, the real death toll is probably much worse.

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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Betting on Armageddon: What is Zelensky’s plan now that his term is over?
]]> Others freeze to death venturing across the Carpathian mountains. Many, though, make it, if often with the help of smugglers-turned-evasion-assistants. Or due to diligent and systematic preparation, as recently reported on the Ukrainian news site Strana.news, which has interviewed a group of “mountain proxy war refuseniks” who made it to Romania. Covering 80 kilometers in a six-day march over extremely difficult terrain guarded by aggressive and well-equipped border guards, these men, ironically, seem to be just the right stuff tough special forces are made of. The problem is not their skills but their motivation: They prefer risking their lives escaping from Zelensky’s proxy war to fighting in it.

The phenomenon of draft dodging is so widespread that the Ukrainian (and Russian: Ukraine very much remains a de facto bilingual country) terms for draft dodger – “Ukhyliant” and “Uklonist,” respectively – have acquired an at least ambiguous aura, carrying undertones of admiration. In English, maybe “proxy war refuseniks” comes close.

Ukraine under Zelensky is a deeply unfree country with an extremely regimented and manipulated media sphere. If the figure of the draft dodger has become an object of understanding, solidarity, and even a certain romanticization none the less, that tells us more than opinion polls distorted by fear of the regime’s police. Zelensky may still feel at home among strangers abroad. But at home, the ground is shifting.

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Sat, 01 Jun 2024 15:57:15 +0000 RT
Scott Ritter: Russia’s victory over Ukraine is drawing near /russia/598395-russia-ukraine-conflict-phases/ In a war of attrition, grinding the enemy down is just the first part. Stretching what remains until it breaks is how you finish the job
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In a war of attrition, grinding the enemy down is just the first part. Stretching what remains until it breaks is how you finish the job

As Russia’s military operation in Ukraine enters its 28th month, the conflict can be said to have gone through several distinct phases, all but one (the opening gambit) of which prioritized attritional warfare as the principal guiding military philosophy. For Western military observers, schooled as we are on what we deem the ‘modern’ military philosophies of maneuver warfare, the Russian approach to fighting appears primitive, a throwback to the trench warfare of conflicts past, where human life was a commodity readily traded in exchange for a few hundred meters of shell-pocked landscape.

Upon closer scrutiny, and with the benefit of 27 months of accumulated data, the Russian approach to warfare emerges as a progressive application of military art that considers the totality of the spectrum of warfare – small-unit tactics, weapons capability, intelligence, communications, logistics, the defense economy and, perhaps most importantly of all, political reality. It is critical to keep in mind that while Russia may have entered the conflict facing a single adversary (Ukraine), within months it became clear that Moscow was confronting the cumulative military capability of the collective West, where NATO’s financial, material, logistical, command and control, and intelligence support was married to Ukrainian manpower resources to create a military capacity designed by intent to wear Russia down physically and mentally, to strategically defeat Russia by promoting the conditions for its economic and political collapse.

That Russia recognized this strategic intent on the part of its declared and undeclared adversaries early on is a testament to the patience and vision of its leadership. Outside military observers criticized Moscow’s inability to deliver a knockout blow against Ukraine early on, attributing this failure to poor leadership and even poorer military capacity on the part of a Russian military machine suddenly deemed incompetent. However, the reality was far different – Moscow was making the strategic transition from a peacetime military posture. It initially intended a brief conflict by compelling the Ukrainian government to the negotiation table (only to be thwarted by Ukraine’s Western partners, who chose to sacrifice Ukraine in the hope of strategically defeating Russia instead of opting for a peaceful resolution), to a posture capable of wearing down both Ukraine’s ability to resist and the collective West’s ability to sustain Kiev economically and politically.

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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Betting on Armageddon: What is Zelensky’s plan now that his term is over?
]]> From a military perspective, Russia’s strategic goal has always been the ”demilitarization” of Ukraine. Initially, this could have been achieved by defeating the Ukrainian military on the field of battle. Indeed, Moscow was well on the path toward achieving this goal, even after it pulled its forces back from around Kiev and the other Ukrainian territories it had occupied in the initial phases of the conflict. When Russia moved over to Phase Two, the objective was to complete the liberation of the Donbass region. The battles fought in May and June 2022 nearly brought the Ukrainian military to the breaking point – slow, grinding operations where Russia exploited its firepower superiority to inflict massive casualties on army with finite ability to sustain itself. Only the decision by the collective West to provide massive infusions of military resources – equipment, training, logistics, command and control, and intelligence – saved the Ukrainians. With NATO’s assistance, Kiev was able to rebuild its depleted military and go over on the counterattack, pushing Russian forces back in the vicinity of Kharkov and Kherson.

This military success proved to be the undoing of Ukraine and its Western allies. The impressive territorial gains achieved in the Kharkov and Kherson offensives that took place between late August and the middle of November 2022, proved to be a narcotic. While Russia adjusted to the new realities of an expanded conflict, mobilizing hundreds of thousands of troops, building strong defenses, and putting its defense industry on a wartime footing, the Ukrainians and their NATO advisers assumed that they would simply be able to repeat the successes of summer-fall 2022 through a grand summer counteroffensive in 2023.

This hope proved to be in vain.

It was at this juncture that the principles of attritional warfare began to be applied by the Russians in a more comprehensive form. While Ukraine and its NATO allies assembled a massive offensive strike capability which married the last of Ukraine’s trained manpower reserves with billions of dollars of Western equipment and training, Russia continued to engage in so-called ”meatgrinder” operations in and around the city of Artyomovsk (known in Ukraine as Bakhmut). These battles produced massive casualties on both sides. Russia, however, was able not only to absorb these losses, but to continue to accrue strategic reserves. Ukraine, on the other hand, squandered tens of thousands of troops and billions of dollars of hard-to-replace military materiel which had been earmarked for the summer 2023 counteroffensive. As such, when the Ukrainians finally kicked off their counteroffensive, in early June 2023, they did so with forces insufficient to the task. Over the course of the next several months, extending into fall, the Ukrainian army ground itself down in the face of Russian defenses, which were optimized to defeat the attackers.

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FILE PHOTO: A serviceman directs a 2S3 Akatsiya self-propelled howitzer in the course of Russia's military operation in Ukraine, in Kharkiv region.
Here’s why Russia’s Kharkov offensive is far more than just a military setback for Kiev
]]> By the time the counteroffensive ground to a halt, in December 2023, Ukraine was a spent force militarily. Its armed forces had used up their reserves of manpower. NATO had depleted its stocks of available military materiel. And the West had become politically exhausted at the prospect of a never-ending conflict which seemed destined to result in an endless cycle of throwing good money after bad, all the while failing to bring about the strategic goal of defeating Russia.

Moscow, on the other hand, emerged from the 2023 Ukrainian counteroffensive in a good position. From a military perspective, the Russians had won the war of attrition with Ukraine and the collective West – basic military math had Ukraine consuming manpower and material resources at a far greater rate than they could be replenished, making Kiev grow physically weaker every day the conflict dragged on, while the Russians were able to accumulate manpower and material resources at a rate far greater than Ukraine was able to destroy, meaning Russia grew stronger every day the conflict continued.

Economically, Ukraine and its Western backers were exhausted. The blowback from the aggressive anti-Russian sanctions imposed by the West had severely curtailed the industrial capacity of the European members of the NATO alliance to sustain the scope and scale of its military support to Ukraine, while domestic political realities in the US, amplified by the fact that it was engaged in a hotly contested presidential election cycle, paralyzed the American ability to sustain Ukraine financially. The military and economic exhaustion of Ukraine and the collective West severely impacted the ability of this coalition to politically sustain support for a war that had no discernable prospect of ending well.

While the conflict has not, by any stretch of the imagination, been without cost to Russia, the approach taken by the leadership, to create conditions on the battlefield designed to maximize enemy losses while minimizing their own, meant that Moscow entered 2024 in a much stronger position militarily, economically, and – perhaps most importantly – politically. War, it has been said, is an extension of politics by other means, and this is no exception to the age-old adage. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s latest electoral victory has provided the leadership in Moscow with a political mandate that strengthens Russia’s hand considerably, especially contrasted with the weakened posture of Ukraine.

It is within such a context that the Russian offensive north of Kharkov must be evaluated. From a military-political standpoint, the operation has a specific objective – to push Ukrainian forces back from the border with Russia so that Ukrainian artillery and rocket systems can no longer strike Russian territory. But there is a larger purpose for this offensive – to continue the process of grinding down the Ukrainian military, to complete the larger task of ”demilitarization” set by the Kremlin.

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A worker in Severodonetsk, Lugansk People's Republic
Ukraine no longer: How locals are coming together to rebuild Russia’s new Lugansk republic
]]> In this, Russia is succeeding. First and foremost, by attacking north of Kharkov, Moscow has compelled Kiev to commit not only the last of its mobile strategic reserves in response but, because these forces are inadequate in strength, to force Ukraine to strip away units on the eastern line of contact, in Kherson, Zaporozhye and Donbass, and to divert them to the Kharkov direction. The depletion of reserves is part and parcel of the overall Russian strategy of attrition. Moreover, as these forces displace to the Kharkov region, they are being interdicted by Russian air, missile, and drone strikes, further eroding their combat power. The result is that Ukraine is now defending a longer line of defense with even fewer forces than it started with.

One should not expect the Russian efforts to stop in the Kharkov direction. Reports indicate that Moscow is amassing significant forces opposite the Ukrainian city of Sumy. If Russia were to open a new direction of attack there, Ukraine would struggle to find forces sufficient to mount a viable defense. And at some point, one should expect additional reserves to make their appearance on other parts of the battlefield, maybe in Zaporozhye, or Donetsk, or Lugansk, where Ukrainian forces have been stretched to breaking point.

The goal of a war of attrition is to wear your enemy down to the point where continued resistance is impossible. This has been Moscow’s goal since April 2022. And it is the goal today. The Kharkov offensive is simply the current manifestation of the continuation of this strategy, and the clearest indication yet that the Russian endgame in Ukraine is drawing near.

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Sat, 01 Jun 2024 11:56:22 +0000 RT
China is ready to fight for Taiwan, but is it ready to pay the price? /news/598410-china-taiwan-war-consequences/ Beijing is showing it’s willing to go to war over Taiwan, and it’s preparing for the inevitable consequences behind the scenes
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Beijing is showing it’s willing to go to war over Taiwan, and it’s preparing for the inevitable consequences behind the scenes

Last week, William Lai was inaugurated president of the self-governing island of Taiwan. Lai, a pro-independence hardliner who advocates formal separation from China, made a provocative speech affirming the wayward province's sovereign existence.

China quickly responded by unleashing a military exercise around the island, which was, in Beijing’s own words, a drill on “seizing power” and forming an effective naval blockade. Although the drill was arguably pre-mediated and would have happened regardless, it was nonetheless the largest and most significant one China had held so far, bigger than the one which followed Nancy Pelosi’s controversial visit to the island in 2022.

In line with this, mainland China’s official rhetoric towards Taiwan also became noticeably more aggressive than ever before, with its foreign ministry spokesperson stating: “Taiwan independence forces will be left with their heads broken and blood flowing after colliding against the great … trend of China achieving complete unification.”

Beijing, of course, has always made its position on reunification with the island crystal clear, including never ruling out the use of force to do so, but in recent years this issue has intensified as the US has deliberately played up tensions with Taiwan in order to provoke China, and therefore manipulate the international paradigm towards a conflict between authoritarianism and democracy, a trend which dramatically accelerated following the outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine.

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Taiwan’s President Lai Ching-te (R) and US Representative Michael McCaul (L) during a meeting in Taipei on May 27, 2024.
Taiwan to get better weapons than Ukraine – Washington
]]> But the question is: will China actually take this risk? This would be another significant moment in international relations, one which unlike Ukraine, could actually infer direct war with the US itself. Beijing has a lot to think about. The decision to re-take Taiwan by force would incur a colossal Western reaction which the US would quickly capitalize on to affirm unity with all its allies. First, that includes immediate decoupling measures, which China has long sought to resist. It would include a total embargo on sending microchips to China and other critical technology, an immediate exclusion of critical Chinese products from the markets of all involved, a potential seizing of Chinese-held currency assets, and a widespread censorship campaign which would blanket-ban TikTok and CCTV, amongst other things.

Politically, as the US has done with Ukraine and NATO membership, one would also expect it to move the goalposts through the consequences of such a conflict. The US would likely overtly abandon the One China Policy and then affirm the recognition of an independent Taiwan as its position, declaring non-recognition of Beijing’s Taiwan annexation, should it succeed. This all means the political and economic costs for China to engage in such an effort would be huge. The question therefore is, how much must the benefits outweigh the costs for Beijing to ultimately decide on invading?

China is, in fact, strategically preparing for this scenario more than people realize. First, a potential war scenario is a critical factor in the direction the country’s economy is taking. China is pursuing an increasingly massive indigenization drive for chips, technological supply chains and other critical goods, seeking to phase out the need for foreign imports. The US has long sought to use the semiconductor supply chain, and China’s dependence on Taiwan for a great deal of that chain, as a strategic chokepoint in order to cripple China’s economic and military development. Beijing has been investing aggressively to try and break out of this containment and wean itself off such dependency as fast as possible, all while simultaneously seeking to advance its own capabilities.

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Taiwanese F-16 pilot firing a AGM-65B Maverick missile during an exercise at the Penghu Islands
The West is one step away from openly backing Taiwan separatism
]]> Secondly, China has long been preparing for the possibility that the US will try and impose a full-blown naval embargo on it, as unlikely as this may be. The Pentagon has been tasked with preparing a study on how such an embargo would be possible. The goal, of course, would be to cripple China militarily by depriving it of access to foreign fuel supplies, again attempting to use its lack of energy independence, owing to its population size as another chokepoint. Beijing’s biggest response to this has been to build the Belt and Road initiative, and use strategic partners such as Pakistan to create alternative maritime and commercial routes which effectively avoid its naval peripheral regions that have been increasingly militarized by the US. This also includes increasing strategic and energy integration with Russia.

When these things are viewed in context, China is certainly preparing for the contingency of a war, as well as laying down the economic adjustments that would be needed in such a scenario. However, it also remains true that at this point in time, Xi Jinping has not given up on diplomacy, and as much as he retains an incentive to economically develop the country through integration with Western markets, he is not likely to take such a massive decision. However, we must be honest that with the way the world is changing, this door is increasingly closing, and it is obvious to most people that on the current trajectory, Taiwan has absolutely no interest whatsoever in unification. So what options does China have left with Taipei? It may be damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t.

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Sat, 01 Jun 2024 00:55:29 +0000 RT
The Democrats just sealed Donald Trump’s victory in November /news/598583-democrats--donald-trump-victory/ The Orange Man’s guilty verdict will only make him stronger, and real jail time is unlikely
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The Orange Man’s guilty verdict will only make him stronger, and real jail time is unlikely

Members of the Democratic Party continue to fail to understand that the more mud they fling at the former president, the dirtier they look by comparison.

On Thursday, a unanimous decision from a 12-person jury declared Donald Trump guilty on 34 felony counts, which could see the former president sentenced to 136 years in prison. There’s just one catch: the notorious Orange Man will never spend a single night behind bars. The worst that will happen for the Republican presidential frontrunner is that he will enter the race with a criminal record.

Because the crimes are nonviolent and Trump has no prior convictions, any chance of prison time is a long shot. What could happen instead is that Judge Juan Merchan could sentence him to house arrest – which would undoubtedly make ankle bracelets, much like the famous Trump ‘mug shot,’ the latest fashion accessory – probation or some other lighter form of supervised release.

Another option that would backfire in the Democratic Party’s face is the imposition of community service. While Democrats may relish the idea of Trump being forced to join a prison work gang as punishment, it’s too easy to imagine millions of Trump supporters turning out at some soup kitchen or animal shelter to throw their support behind the most controversial figure in American politics today.

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FILE PHOTO: Donald Trump.
Trump leads Biden in five swing states – NYT poll
]]> And then there is the question of New York, the site of the Trump case, which is only second to the state of California when it comes to liberal residents. Trump inveighed against District Attorney Alvin Bragg, calling him the “Soros-backed DA.” As The New York Times wrote of the Bragg-Soros connection, “Soros donated to a liberal group that endorses progressive prosecutors and supports efforts to overhaul the criminal justice system – in line with causes that he has publicly supported for years. That group used a significant portion of the money to support Mr. Bragg in his 2021 campaign.”

On November 21, 2022, The Times reported that the district attorney’s office “has moved to jump-start its criminal investigation” into Trump’s reported “hush-money payment to a porn star who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump.” This was the first indictment of a former president in US history. Trump pleaded not guilty, yet was found guilty of all counts on May 30, 2024, making Bragg the first prosecutor in US history to win a conviction against a former president.

Trump, who will be sentenced on July 11th, denies ever having had sex with Daniels.

Another aspect of the Trump case that has rallied many to Trump’s defense is the political identity of the judge presiding over the case, Juan Merchan, whom Trump has criticized as “conflicted.” That may be an understatement when it is considered that Merchan donates to an organization called ‘Stop Republicans,’ as well as the Biden campaign.

Finally, Trump posted on his Truth Social platform that Loren Merchan, the judge’s daughter, is president of Authentic Campaigns, a Chicago-based progressive political consulting firm whose top clients include Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who was the lead prosecutor in Trump’s first impeachment trial. Merchan’s daughter helped raise at least $93 million in campaign donations – and used the Trump case in her solicitation emails – highlighting a major conflict of interest that have Trump supporters demanding Judge Merchan recuse himself from the case.

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FILE PHOTO: Members of a caravan of Central Americans walk from Mexico to the US side of the border to ask authorities for asylum on in Tijuana, Baja California Norte, Mexico.
Biden is using the church to import more Democrat voters to the US
]]> Finally, there is the question of fairness when it is considered that New York is major Democrat country. Can Trump seriously hope for a fair trial to take place in this prominent Blue state? He certainly doesn’t think so.

Merchan imposed the 10th contempt of court fine of $1,000 for an April 22 interview in which the former president said: “That jury was picked so fast – 95% Democrats. The area’s mostly all Democrat.”

While the Democrats may be rubbing their hands in glee after finally getting Trump entangled in the judicial net, they continue to ignore the fact that every scandal has only served to empower the 45th president.

In the worst-case scenario, should Trump be sent to prison, this will not stop the flow of campaign cash from entering the GOP’s coffers; in fact, it is practically guaranteed that the spectacle of the Orange Man behind bars – complete with mug shot in prison garb – will be the best campaign promo of all time.

The only thing better than that would be to witness the first president in US history to pardon himself as the Trump legacy goes full circle.

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Fri, 31 May 2024 19:28:46 +0000 RT
The EU keeps naive Ukrainians on the hook with more accession talk /news/598505-eu-ukraine-accession-talks/ Brussels seems to ignore the fact that Ukraine is a corrupt, authoritarian money black hole – all to “boost Kiev’s morale”
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Brussels seems to ignore the fact that Ukraine is a corrupt, authoritarian money black hole – all to “boost Kiev’s morale” and keep it fighting Russia

“The European Union is aiming to start negotiations as early as June 25 on becoming a member of the bloc to help boost Kyiv’s morale, but has yet to fully overcome objections from Hungary,” Bloomberg reported this week. More “negotiations.” And a date to actually START these negotiations!

Yet another amping up of “marriage buzz” between the European Union and Ukraine. Not an actual wedding date, though. And here some of us figured that given EU accession talks for Ukraine were approved in December 2023, the talks would have already begun. So now we’re learning that they MAY begin in June?

Look, for high profile couples – which is what Ukraine and the EU would be – its kind of an unwritten rule that unless you read the wedding announcement with an actual marriage date in the New York Times, it’s not actually a thing. Andrew and Josephine, who holiday at Martha’s Vineyard and whose eyes locked across the room at a restaurant on Lake Como, aren’t making 200 announcements to the masses that they’re headed in the general direction of marriage, just as soon as Uncle Victor gets around to giving his blessing. Or when the rest of the family can figure out how to trick him into being in the bathroom so he can’t raise his objection to the union.

In this case, Uncle Victor is Hungarian President Victor Orban, who literally was out of the room last December so the other 26 EU member states could vote to begin EU accession talks for Ukraine with the requisite unanimity. As Politico reported at the time, the issue was still deadlocked after three hours and Scholz convinced Orban that dipping out would be a win-win in the sense that everyone could ram through their approval while Orban could still say he didn’t vote in favor. All Kiev really got out of that were bragging rights about the potential future union. Ask all the other guys who came before how that has turned out.

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FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky.
Vladimir Zelensky: No mandate, no election. So what now?
]]> Georgia’s parliament can’t even pass its own law against foreign interference without the EU low-key threatening to break up with it. European Council President Charles Michel said last month that the law was “not consistent with Georgia’s EU aspiration and its accession.” So confusing! Because the EU and the West in general is always lecturing about the need to prevent foreign interference. Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze even said that “if we pass this law, we will insure this country against polarization and radicalism in the long term. Otherwise, it will be very difficult for us to become a member of the European Union.” Unless the EU is the one looking to intervene, right? Total gaslighting territory and normally grounds to run for the hills and call off the wedding – if there was an actual date, which there isn’t. If you don’t like the EU’s demands now, just wait until you see the prenup!

Türkiye has been waiting for a ring as a “candidate country” since 1999, and is routinely subjected to speculation over whether its chances of ever getting to the altar are now totally dead. “Türkiye sidelined as EU a prepares to open door to others,” wrote Voice of America last year, citing Brussels’ ogling of Moldova and its fawning over Ukraine. It’s not like Türkiye hasn’t gone out of its way to act as Brussels’ bouncer for all the migrants flooding from Africa and the Middle East and trying to get into Europe. And this is the thanks that it gets – basically a transactional relationship with no firm date anywhere on the horizon. 

And speaking of Moldova, the EU apparently isn’t thrilled about living in union with Moldova when it still has an estimated 1,500 Russian troops hanging out, making sure that things stay quiet in the separatist enclave of Transnistria. Awkward! Particularly when you’re trying to put on some moves. Especially when a lot of those moves tend to be against Russia.

Serbia’s constructive relationship with Moscow is seen as a detriment to its own EU accession. Because Brussels is so insecure that it can’t handle that Belgrade would have close friends of whom it doesn’t approve if they were to get into a formal, committed relationship. That’s a pretty big red flag and one of the main hallmark behaviors of control freaks. But then again, we’re talking here about an entity headed up by a certain unelected someone who just last week was singing the praises of vaccines for people’s minds. Which would explain why Brussels also doesn’t like the fact that Serbia speaks up and has a mind of its own. European Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi told Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic earlier this month “that Serbia needs to continue with democratic reforms and align its foreign policy more closely with that of the EU,” according to Euronews.

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Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a debate at the European Parliament in Brussels, on May 23, 2024
Von der Leyen proposes ‘vaccines’ for minds and a ‘shield’ for democracy
]]> What do all these countries have in common that Ukraine doesn’t have – other than the fact that they’re being jerked around by Brussels while waiting for any substantial promise? Well, they don’t have an active conflict on their territory that constantly evokes fears of World War III, to start with – unlike Ukraine. And they aren’t also going to cost the EU a fortune in subsidies the day after the ring goes on the finger, as a European Council document leaked to the Financial Times last year suggests, citing €95.6 billion in agricultural subsidies that would mean 20% cuts of farming subsidies to the current farmers who have been protesting a lack of revenues all across the bloc.

There’s also that niggling issue of corruption. The BBC reports that Ukraine has been ranked at its highest level in the most recent Transparency International Index, published in January: 104th out of 180! Maybe they could just take Ukraine’s Eurovision ranking instead? “This whole Ukrainian corrupt mafia state has basically conned us all and we’re all going to get f**ked as a consequence. We are getting f**ked now right?” said former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s top advisor, Dominic Cummings, in an interview earlier this month.

Does the EU seriously think that a country whose president just cancelled democratic elections and made himself indefinite leader is “marriage material”? If so, guess the bar was even lower than even the biggest cynics figured. What about some of these Ukrainian citizens who talk on social media about going to the store to buying bread in Ukraine, only to end up kidnapped by Ukrainian officials and held in a gym for a few days before finding themselves on the battlefront? Totally cool and normal for a potential future EU democracy?

But unless Brussels is the type to get drunk and run away and elope with the biggest headcase on their dance card, and seal a deal that’s destined to end in tears, it’s kind of pointless getting too excited every time Brussels starts rhetorically love-bombing Kiev. So why do they even bother doing it when they don’t do this with the other candidate countries (at least not to anywhere near the same extent)? To “boost Kyiv’s morale,” as Bloomberg pointed out – presumably to offset Ukrainians dying on a daily basis just so the West can continue to avoid any peaceful resolution whose terms it can’t dictate.

If Zelensky doesn’t come to his senses soon, as with anyone being strung along, it can only end in tears.

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Thu, 30 May 2024 19:09:41 +0000 RT
Hard to port: India defies Washington’s pressure to deal with Iran /india/598349-chabahar-port-deal-india-iran/ President Ebrahim Raisi’s death has created uncertainty, but the Chabahar Port deal is likely to remain a priority for both India and Iran
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Political instability following President Raisi’s death introduces uncertainty, yet there are strong indications that the Chabahar Port deal will continue to be a priority for Delhi and Tehran – despite scrutiny from the West

The sudden demise of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash has not only created a power vacuum within Iran but also raised questions about the future of its foreign policy, especially in relation to the strategic Chabahar Port deal with India. This unexpected event comes at a critical juncture for Iran, which is embroiled in regional conflicts and struggling with severe economic challenges

The transition of power, with the first vice-president Mohammad Mokhber stepping in temporarily, will significantly influence Iran’s international engagement, particularly in relation to its pivotal partnership with India.

Chabahar Port, located in the Gulf of Oman, is a crucial element of India-Iran relations. It offers Delhi a strategic foothold in the region, providing a direct route to Afghanistan and Central Asia while bypassing Pakistan. The port not only serves as a gateway for India’s humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, but also facilitates significant trade and commerce. 

Furthermore, Chabahar Port is strategically positioned to integrate with the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC), which spans from Russia to India. The INSTC is a collaborative effort involving India, Russia, Iran, and ten other Central Asian nations. This multimodal corridor seamlessly combines rail and sea transport, offering an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). India’s economic interests in Chabahar Port revolve around enhancing trade, connectivity, and strategic positioning in the region. 

So far, Chabahar Port has facilitated the trans-shipment of 2.5 million tons of wheat and 2,000 tons of pulses from India to Afghanistan. Additionally, in 2021, India provided Iran with 40,000 liters of an eco-friendly pesticide, Malathion, via the port to combat a locust infestation. The recent ten-year contract between India Ports Global Ltd (IGPL) and the Ports & Maritime Organisation of Iran (PMO)  underscores the project’s importance to both nations. 

Chabahar Port in Iran is critical to India's economic and geopolitical strategy for Central Asia and beyond. ? RT

Under the contract, IPGL is set to invest around $120 million for port operations and equipment. The collaboration in Chabahar is expected to continue beyond this period. India has also proposed a rupee credit line equivalent to $250 million for joint projects aimed at enhancing the port’s infrastructure.

The political instability following Raisi’s death introduces uncertainty, but there are strong indications that the Chabahar Port deal will continue to be a priority for Iran. 

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Rescue team members work at the crash site of a helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Varzaghan, in northwestern Iran, on May 20, 2024.
How Iran’s tragedy became food for the EU’s political sharks
]]> Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who retains ultimate control over Iran’s state and foreign policy, remains in power, suggesting that foundational aspects of its foreign policy will persist despite the turmoil. The upcoming presidential election, expected to occur within 50 days, will be a decisive factor in shaping the continuity or change in Iran’s approach to its bilateral agreements.

India’s substantial investment in Chabahar Port, however, could be at risk. The United States has consistently warned of potential sanctions against countries engaging in business with Iran, which could complicate India’s efforts to secure necessary technologies and investment. These sanctions could also deter international companies from participating in the Chabahar project and hinder its development, as mentioned by US State Department spokesman, Vedant Patel

Responding to the warning, Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar exposed Washington’s “narrow view” of the deal. ”[The US] have not done so in the past. So, if you look at the US’ own attitude towards the port in Chabahar, the US has been appreciative of the fact that Chabahar has a larger relevance,” he noted.

However, it's notable that on November 8, 2018, India successfully secured a waiver from the US for the Chabahar project, with the justification being the need for access to Afghanistan.

Additionally, the fluctuating value of Iran’s rupee reserves, which has already impacted trade in commodities like rice, tea, and pharmaceuticals, might worsen due to political instability. A weakened Iranian economy would likely reduce its purchasing power, directly affecting Indian exports and bilateral trade volume. Therefore, Iran may not be able to afford as many imported goods from India, leading to a decrease in trade. 

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FILE PHOTO: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends the inauguration of the Global Trade Show ahead of Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2024 in Gandhinagar on January 9, 2024.
Is the US falling out of love with India?
]]> In May 2018, during the Trump administration, the US withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). As a result, Indian imports of Iranian crude oil virtually ceased from nearly 12% of India’s total crude oil requirements. However, Chabahar Port and the railway line connecting it with Afghanistan remained exempt from US sanctions, allowing India to maintain its strategic investment and regional connectivity. 

Chabahar Port is central to India’s strategy to counterbalance China’s influence in the region, particularly through the development of Pakistan’s Gwadar Port. This is located just 72km east of Chabahar, and is a key component of the BRI. It serves as a terminal for the CPEC, and is a 3,000km Beijing-backed infrastructure project in Pakistan, connecting China’s Xinjiang province to the Persian Gulf.

Any disruption to the development of Chabahar could weaken India’s strategic position and provide China with a stronger foothold in the region. India’s commitment to the port, as evidenced by the recent long-term agreement, highlights its strategic patience and vision for regional connectivity. However, the perceived risks associated with Iran’s political instability might also deter Indian businesses from further investment, potentially stalling key projects, in addition to US sanctions. These risks could be associated with Iran’s political instability, regional conflicts, and economic uncertainties. 

The US response to Iran’s new leadership will play a significant role in determining the future of the Chabahar Port agreement. Historically, Washington has maintained a stringent stance on Iran due to concerns over nuclear proliferation and regional security. However, the death of Raisi might present an opportunity for the US to reassess its approach, particularly if the new Iranian leadership shows a willingness to engage in dialogue.

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A Chinese Coast Guard ship fires a water cannon at Unaizah May 4, a Philippine Navy chartered vessel, conducting a routine resupply mission to troops stationed at Second Thomas Shoal, on March 05, 2024 in the South China Sea.
Will India join the US-China tug-of-war?
]]> If Washington enforces sanctions rigorously, it could severely impact India’s involvement in Chabahar Port, hindering its broader regional strategy. However, recognizing the port’s role in supporting Afghanistan’s economy, the greater regional trade benefits, and countering Chinese influence, the US might adopt a more nuanced approach, balancing its policy objectives with strategic considerations.

The sudden change in Iran’s presidency could significantly impact stability of the Middle East, with potential repercussions for the operational security and economic viability of Chabahar Port. Its proximity to the volatile Strait of Hormuz, through which a substantial portion of the world’s oil transits, adds to its vulnerability in times of regional instability.

India must navigate this new geopolitical landscape with caution, ensuring that its strategic interests are protected. This involves closely monitoring Iran’s internal political dynamics, engaging diplomatically to reinforce the bilateral partnership, and adapting to evolving circumstances to maintain the momentum of the Chabahar project.

Despite Iran’s political turmoil, the bedrock of its foreign policy, especially its ties with India over Chabahar Port, is expected to remain unshaken. The strategic motives behind the Chabahar deal go beyond individual leadership, and are rooted in the wider geopolitical and economic interests of both countries. Regardless of Iran’s upcoming election results, Chabahar Port’s lasting strategic importance suggests that the bilateral agreement with India will persist as a crucial part of Tehran’s foreign policy. 

]]> READ MORE: Why is the West desperate to have India at a Ukraine summit that Russia has rejected?

]]> India is likely to strategically re-engage with the US to maintain the Chabahar Port’s waiver, emphasizing the broader regional advantages and extensive implications for the region’s prosperity. As noted by S. Jaishankar, this forward-thinking strategy would not only serve India’s interests but also promote a broader vision of regional growth and cooperation, surpassing narrow interests.

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Thu, 30 May 2024 12:53:01 +0000 RT
How Iran’s tragedy became food for the EU’s political sharks /news/598391-raisi-iran-eu-solidarity/ The helicopter crash that killed Ebrahim Raisi became a stage for European officials’ rhetorical gymnastics
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The helicopter crash that killed Ebrahim Raisi became a stage for European officials’ rhetorical gymnastics

Spare a thought for poor Janez Lenarcic, the European Union’s commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management. 

Normally, Lenarcic just rides shotgun, chiming in as EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell pops off, most recently on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. But when Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s helicopter dipped out over a mountain range near Iran’s border with Azerbaijan, he seized the opportunity to come out of the dugout and into the spotlight. The Iranian government had asked the EU for help with the rescue mission. So, Lenarcic stepped up to the plate and battered up for what seemed to be a gift of a pitch, right across the plate, and an easy home run. 

“Upon Iranian request for assistance we are activating the EU’s Copernicus rapid response mapping service in view of the helicopter accident reportedly carrying the President of Iran and its foreign minister,” Lenarcic wrote on X. Seems straightforward enough, right? After all, if the EU’s Copernicus satellite system has the bandwidth to spend time spying on the crops of farmers that feed the EU to ensure that they haven’t been cheating on the paperwork submitted to bureaucrats, then surely it could temporarily deploy to help rescue eight people in a helicopter crash. 

But then, with a single hashtag at the very end of his social media post, Lenarcic triggered a whole lot of EU officials: “#EUSolidarity.” Apparently, the humanitarian crisis guy can’t even act in a straightforward humanitarian crisis without being bombarded by virtue-signaling. 

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Iranians follow a truck carrying coffins of the late President Ebrahim Raisi and his companions, who were killed in a helicopter crash, during a funeral ceremony for them on May 22, 2024 in Tehran, Iran.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Will the death of its president lead to a different Iran?
]]> Dutch MEP Assita Kanko promptly launched into a rant about Iranian women that tested the X platform’s character limit. “I am sad that Mahsa Amini and so many women and their supporters were killed by the Iranian regime. I am shocked that Lenarcic posted a message on behalf of the EU proposing to activate EU solidarity to save the Iranian president. Was this truly our priority? Solidarity with whom? The killer or the victims?” 

Sounds like some folks figured that a helicopter crash would be a convenient way to just enact capital punishment on the Iranian president in the absence of any due process. Because that’s effectively what it would mean to have the ability to facilitate a rescue but refuse to do so. Is that a European value now? Kanko alleges arbitrary punishment of women in Iran. Is the solution for the EU to then just arbitrarily execute the country’s president through negligence?

“It is an absolute mystery to me how the EU Commission can show EU solidarity with Iran. What a miserable hashtag, what a mockery of the brave fighters for human rights in Iran. I expect an explanation for this,” wrote German Bundestag member and EU parliamentary candidate, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, on the X platform.

Lenarcic took a stab at an explanation. “The provision of a Copernicus satellite mapping upon request for facilitating a search and rescue operation is not an act of political support to any regime or establishment. It is simply an expression of the most basic humanity,” he said. Yeah, well, the most basic humanity comes after narrative and virtue signaling for these jokers. It’s almost like he forgot which clown tent he’s helping to run and made the mistake of figuring that the most basic common sense would fly. 

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FILE PHOTO: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
Iran’s president has died: What’s next?
]]> The crash ended up turning into a de-facto contest to see who could make a straightforward disaster into a spinoff for their own pet causes. “How about ensuring Human Rights Defenders and other victims of this regime in need of assistance get emergency visas for EU? Or more support to civil society and human rights organizations as an expression of EU solidarity with Iran?” German MEP Hannah Neumann said on X. Because a real emergency isn’t the crash, it’s some folks who need priority visas because they adhere to the EU’s narrative on Iran. And EU solidarity should apparently be reserved for the bloc’s “civil society” regime-change partners in Iran.

The award for best virtue signaling in an aviation disaster goes to Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, who managed to make it all about Ukraine. “I don’t feel comfortable sending condolences while Iran is sending drones that are used against civilians in Ukraine,” he said. 

The EU should lobby France to add rhetorical gymnastics as a new event at this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris. France chose breakdancing as the new event that it gets to introduce as the host this year, but Landsbergis would really sweep any competition with his Iran-to-Ukraine sympathy shift low-bar routine. 

All these EU officials sound like they’re auditioning for a Real Housewives of Brussels reality show. The way they whine and snipe, you’d think that the EU crisis and humanitarian commissioner had invited the Iranian president and his entourage to a party in Josep “Jungle” Borrell’s EU garden, and that their noses were out of joint about it – not that there were human lives on the line. 

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Wed, 29 May 2024 16:29:36 +0000 RT
Is Assassin’s Creed’s black samurai a historical triumph or woke overreach? /pop-culture/598308-assassins-creed-black-samurai/ What is lurking in the new Assassin’s Creed “Shadows” – diversity and inclusion or good storytelling and historical accuracy?
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
What is lurking in the newest game in the franchise – diversity and inclusion or good storytelling and historical accuracy?

In November 2024, a new installment in a popular videogame franchise will be released – Assassin’s Creed Shadows. Set in Feudal Japan, the game will tell the story of two protagonists – Naoe, a Japanese female ninja, and Yasuke, an African samurai. 

Finally, a game about stealth, cinematic assassinations and a centuries-long conflict between global shadow societies takes place in Japan – a land of unbreakable honor, invisible ninjas, and sharp katanas. The first leaks about this setting began surfacing in 2021, just as Ghost of Tsushima, another game about being a warrior in Japan, was released to high critical acclaim.

This is not the first time when an Assassin’s Creed game has used two protagonists. In Syndicate, set in Victorian London, you played as the Frye twins - Jacob and Evie. The two characters embodied two different playstyles - Jacob specialized in open hand-to-hand combat, while Evie relied on stealth and ranged weapons. Another game, Origins, that told the story of the creation of the Assassins’ Brotherhood in Ancient Egypt, had several missions that let you control Aya, the wife of the main protagonist Bayek. So, if this is not the first time this has happened, what made the initial reaction to Shadows so different?

At first, people were surprised by the inclusion of an African man as one of the playable characters. Sure, Yasuke was a real person, who lived in Japan during Oda Nabunaga’s reign in the 16th century. But even today, historians can not agree whether he was really a mercenary samurai, or just a slave in Nabunaga’s court.

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Special concerts as part of the presentation of the Moscow Jazz Festival at the "Russia" International exhibition-forum
Moscow Jazz Festival holds special event for Russia EXPO
]]> Assassin’s Creed games have always included prominent historical figures as characters – Leonardo Da Vinci, Napoleon, Cleopatra, Socrates, Benjamin Franklin, all to immerse the player in the time period and to make them feel the importance of their contribution to mankind’s history.

Out of all the people that lived during that period and could be used as a protagonist – why choose Yasuke? He did not impact the history of Japan that much and is not symbolic of any events that happened. So why was a big black man chosen for a game seemingly about Japanese people, stealth and ninjas? Maybe the developers wanted to add the same “choose your playstyle” feature they already had in Syndicate. Or maybe they saw the opportunity to put another “underrepresented” person in a setting they probably have no place in, just to show the world how progressive they are. This move is sure to place them on a few liberal game awards organizations’ radars, but for now it has only made a lot of gamers upset. At this time, Shadows’ reveal trailer on Youtube is the most disliked in the series’ history, with people all over the world, including in Japan, sharing their disappointment with Ubisoft. Some are even calling out the hypocrisy by saying that adding a black character is seen as progressive (and you can be called racist for objecting), but if a white samurai was the main character, the uproar would be unimaginable.

The decision to make one of the protagonists non-Japanese is a brave one. Since the reveal, the community has split into two parts – the more vocal one expresses their displeasure with another example of meaningless diversity and inclusion, while the other one is seemingly happy with finally getting their Japanese Assassin’s Creed. Both groups have their reasons. Adding a diverse character for the sake of diversity and progressive optics is now commonplace, and people are tired of seeing it. The intentions could be genuine, but it’s hard for gamers to trust corporate boardrooms. The silent majority, meanwhile, is excited for the game, if sales are any indication. Shadows is the #1 best seller on Amazon Japan. But then again, if a gaming industry titan like Ubisoft, as part of an insanely popular franchise like Assassins Creed, were to make a game about India, Russia or Türkiye, there are good chances that the game would be an instant best seller in that country, African protagonists or not.

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FILE PHOTO: Scarlett Johansson.
Open AI takes down Scarlett Johansson-like voice
]]> There is an opinion online that adding a black samurai is not a betrayal of Japanese culture or history. That the stories that can be told about Japan are not limited to stories about Japanese samurai; that it’s a harmful cliche. While it can be a stereotype, stories that are based on a stereotype resonate the most with people - a cowboy movie, a samurai game, a World War II series. It’s a hook that grabs the entire human population interested in that genre, and then it’s up to the story to prove itself and show that it is much more than just a stereotype. Red Dead Redemption 2 for example, is “just another cowboy game,” but its story and its characters attracted many people, even some that had no previous interest in gaming.

But the main problem of Shadows might not be its questionable choice of characters. Ghost of Tsushima, a 2020 Sony game about the first Mongol invasion of Japan, whose success was probably the reason Shadows was made, is being compared to the upcoming Assassin’s Creed, six months before its release.

Journalists worry that we've come full circle – Ghost of Tsushima was created as an ‘Assassin’s Creed in Japan’, improving on its mechanics and storytelling. If Ubisoft learns nothing from their shortcomings in game design, it looks like Shadows will be their typical open-world game, and will pale in comparison to a Japanese game about Japan.

Come November, the dust will settle and the game will be released. As usual, fans will be hyped, and the game will be full of bugs and lacking in features. After a while, the bugs will be patched, downloadable content will inevitably be released, and the in-game store will bombard gamers with ads. In the end, some will remember the game fondly for years, some will leave it halfway through, but its success will be measured only by Ubisoft’s earnings report for that year. That is the only way that corporations see the right and wrong in their decisions – their bottom line.

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Tue, 28 May 2024 19:55:38 +0000 RT
Von der Leyen proposes ‘vaccines’ for minds and a ‘shield’ for democracy /news/598243-leyen-eu-democracy-shield/ The European Commission president’s campaign features an unprecedented preventive crackdown on wrongthink
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The European Commission president‘s campaign features an unprecedented preventive crackdown on wrongthink

One of the hallmarks of the European Union is that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. In fact, it often means the exact opposite.

Take, for instance, the idea that Ursula Von der Leyen, the European Commission president, is running for re-election when in reality she’s just publicly squabbling with a few other establishment hacks to be handpicked and confirmed by the establishment itself, not by popular vote. But that hasn’t stopped her from cosplaying as an actual democratic candidate. It’s not like she didn’t have the opportunity to actually be one rather than just play one, but when her German colleagues asked her to run for an elected EU seat in Germany to establish some democratic credibility, she reportedly declined the inconvenience.

But that hasn’t stopped her from posting “campaign” ads on social media, as though she’s actually trying to appeal to voters. In one such video, she promises that if she’s re-coronated, er, “re-elected,” she’ll defend Europe with a “Democracy Shield.” The whole idea, she says, is to “detect disinformation and malign interference... remove content, including [artificial intelligence] deepfakes, [and] to make our societies more resilient.” Nothing about defending Europe’s democracy from unelected bureaucrats wielding excessive power though, I guess?

Ever since billionaire tech entrepreneur, Elon Musk, took over Twitter, renamed the social media platform ‘X’, and publicly shamed all the Western government authorities that tried to exploit the platform directly for their own propaganda purposes, his “community notes” feature has allowed users to react directly and in real time to content, including deep fake videos, and has proven that the antidote to inaccuracy is more free and democratic speech, not less.

“Democracy,” in the case of this “Democracy Shield” is really just a euphemism for censorship. Because what does this “shield” really protect Europe from, that more free speech can’t achieve, other than inconvenient facts? Or from Queen Ursula and the rest of the European establishment having to defend their own ideological lunacy and explain to citizens why the narratives they peddle often don’t jibe with reality.

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President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.
Von der Leyen facing growing discontent in EU capitals – media
]]> Apparently, they figure that democracy would be better off if everything and everyone that didn’t fit their top agenda narratives could just be whacked over the head and dragged off into the shadows by the online Gestapo serving von der Leyen’s online “Democracy Shield.” 

But maybe characterizing the Democracy Shield as little more than a “propaganda shield” is unfair. After all, it’s not like the EU or Ursula actually say that they’re interested in doing propaganda. No, instead she says that she just wants to do a little “pre-bunking,” which totally doesn’t sound like propaganda at all. 

Speaking at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit earlier this month, von der Leyen explained that “research has shown that pre-bunking is more successful than de-bunking. Pre-bunking is the opposite of de-bunking. In short, prevention is preferable to cure. Think of information manipulation as a virus. Instead of treating an infection once it has taken hold, that’s the de-bunking, it is better to vaccinate, so that our body is inoculated. Pre-bunking is the same approach.”

Yeah, folks, just think of free debate and discussion as a nasty virus that could get really messy. May provoke verbal diarrhea. Ugly stuff. Wouldn’t it just be better if the EU could inject its narratives like a vaccine straight into the minds of citizens to eliminate any risk of messy opposing views or information?

What if the pre-bunk narrative IS the disinformation, though? Of course that never happens, right? Everything that the EU and Western governments say is always the total and complete objective truth and anyone questioning it is some kind of foreign agent.

By the way, von der Leyen’s “societal resilience” here really just means compliance – that everyone piles into the clown car on command so these bozos can take everyone on a joyride down Dystopian Highway towards wherever fresh Hell their hidden special interests dictate at any given time.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during a toast at an official state dinner as part of the Chinese president's two-day state visit to France, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on May 6, 2024.
Fyodor Lukyanov: This is the question that could ultimately destroy EU-US unity
]]> But perhaps Queen Ursula should be given the benefit of the doubt here, though. Maybe she really does just want to deploy her Democracy Shield against armies of annoying online bots and not on the political playing field to quash dissent?

“It’s not just fakes or fabricated content,” von der Leyen argued in announcing the Shield. “It’s also buying influence and causing chaos. We have seen far-right politicians and lead candidates from AfD in Germany in the pockets of Russia. They are selling their souls on Russian propaganda outlets and videos.” 

Well, if she puts it that way… doubt benefit erased.

Want to smear a political opponent because they happen to enjoy free speech on a variety of platforms? Sounds like a job for Queen Ursula’s Democracy Shield, which, like NATO, is totally defensive and does not ever do offensive operations and actively snuff out opponents on the political landscape. The EU already tried to pick off entire media outlets that it didn’t like, censoring Russian platforms like RT and Sputnik at the supranational level and imposing that ban on all member states of the entire bloc in the absence of sovereign and democratic due process. The justification? That they were spreading “distortion of facts” that threatened the EU democratic order. Nothing better for credible journalism than governments arguing that they’re the ultimate arbiters of truthful information.

It turns out that blanket censorship didn’t quite knock everyone into line, so von der Leyen says in her ad that the Democracy Shield will “track down information manipulation and coordinate with national agencies.” Hunting down wrong-speakers on the informational landscape? Sounds super democratic. So does the idea of “national agencies” deciding what qualifies as news.

Is this authoritarian Democracy Shield going to require any independent oversight? Because von der Leyen, back when she was German defense minister under Chancellor Angela Merkel, wasn’t really into that kind of thing. Western press reports were rife with details of her underwhelming performance, with the Washington Post, for instance, citing a shortage of military equipment and promises to rectify the situation that were never fulfilled. They also said that the troops used broomsticks instead of machine guns for NATO exercises. Guess she had lots of those at her disposal.

We know from her stonewalling of the committee demanding to see her text messages with Pfizer brass over her vaccine deals that Queen Ursula really isn’t into transparency, either. Who needs actual democratic values though, when you have a Democracy Shield? Maybe we can see it deployed in real time in a sort of test. If it was truly doing its job of shielding democracy, it would mow down von der Leyen’s propaganda first, then just blow itself up.

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Sun, 26 May 2024 15:04:42 +0000 RT
Here is the reason Africa can’t really be free /africa/598120-africa-day-true-identity/ As the world marks Africa Day, the question remains why the continent is still being held back
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
As the world marks Africa Day, the question remains why the continent is still being held back

Africa Day came into being on May 25, 1963, under the aegis of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), as a recognition of Africa’s diverse cultures, history, and collective struggles against colonialism, imperialism, and slavery. It is celebrated by Africans in Africa and the diaspora. In effect, this day is an occasion to reflect on Africa’s gains, challenges, inadequacies, and prospects. However, this is a celebration of which the African populace is not aware owing to their exclusion from governance due to pervasive elitism. Disdain for the people is part of the colonial legacy. Africa Day is hardly recognized except by a few African Union (AU – the successor to the OAU) member states.

It is imperative that Africans affirm themselves continuously. For a couple of years, I have witnessed Africa Day celebrations in institutions of learning in some African countries being reduced to showcasing traditional dances, cuisines, and dress forms (dashiki exhibitionism). It is also accompanied by expressions of narrow nationalism through flag waving. Romanticization of Africa and its cultures this way is deeply simplistic and evokes bigotry. A flag, a symbol of nationalism and militarism, is axiomatically divisive and destructive. Flags affirm meaningless colonial borders over which Africans bicker. Thus, Africans unconsciously and deliberately denigrate themselves and advance the colonial stratagem of divide and rule. They struggle with authenticity amidst pervasive mimicry. Therefore, Africa Day, rather than being an occasion for Africa to affirm itself, foregrounds Africa’s insecurities and anxieties. It is, therefore, an oddity.

In line with the spirit of Africa Day, the OAU spearheaded liberation against colonialism and white minority rule (apartheid) in South Africa. In the wake of South Africa’s democratic transition in 1994, the OAU had effectively run its full course. Although a worthy cause and mandate, it later became narrow and obsolete. There was a need to rethink regional integration efforts in Africa. Hence the birth of the AU in 2002 to cure inherent failures within the OAU and as a response to the changed global order following Western triumphalism. 

The OAU’s enduring inefficiencies were cemented in its charter under the non-interference doctrine which rendered sovereignty absolute. It barred the OAU and individual member states from interfering in the internal affairs of other states. Consequently, tyrants committed gross human rights violations with impunity. While presiding over state repression in Uganda, Idi Amin headed the OAU in 1975 and Uganda was a member of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights from 1977 to 1979. It is illustrative of the depravity that afflicted the OAU and a continued lack of commitment to human rights by the AU and international community.

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‘They stopped seeing us as human beings’: How Europe provoked a savage modern genocide in the heart of Africa
]]> In the AU Charter, the retrogressive doctrine of non-interference has been replaced with the one of non-indifference that allows for intervention in the face of gross human rights violations such as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. It means that sovereignty has been redefined as responsibility, but African rulers are still reluctant to call out peers committing atrocities against their people. The redefinition of sovereignty was informed by inaction during the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and atrocities in the Balkans around the same time. In Rwanda, almost a million people were massacred in 100 days while Africa and the rest of the world stood by. Thus, the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) has become part of the rubric of conflict management even as its application is hamstrung by geopolitics, lack of political will and hypocrisy. Internationally, R2P evokes regime change accusations when carried out unilaterally as was the case in Iraq in 2003, when the United States invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) invasion of Libya in 2011, though sanctioned by the UN Security Council and multilateral, ousted Muammar Gaddafi who was subsequently murdered.

Africa Day is also about reflecting on education in Africa. From the AU website, the 2024 theme is “Educate an African fit for the 21st Century: Building resilient education systems for increased access to inclusive, lifelong, and relevant learning in Africa.”  This theme is timely but aberrant. The centrality of education to Africa’s prosperity and standing cannot be overemphasized. I wonder, however, what is so special about the 21st century that could have excused lack of investment in mass education before to ensure inclusivity and social cohesion. The preparation of the so-called African fit for the 21st century should have started soon after independence. Education must be an ongoing process and not trivialized as a fad. Quality and inclusive education has been neglected while Africa’s elite talk flippantly about accelerated development, and technological advancement through the agenda 2063 blueprint.

It is of concern that after 60 years of independence, for some African countries, education remains colonial thus irrelevant to Africa’s peculiar needs. It thus worsens inequalities and poverty since properly equipped schools are beyond the reach of the majority of people. The irony is that education, which is supposed to reduce poverty and inequalities, accentuates these very problems, becoming a catalyst for conflicts and instability in Africa. Contempt for indigenous knowledge systems and valorization of foreign cultures is normative among Africa’s elite, who regard patronizing Western education systems and upholding Eurocentricity a marker of excellence and sophistication. This alienation is self-denigrating and poverty inducing. 

Africa is yet to establish empowering education. Empowerment here refers to education that restores Africans’ self-confidence eroded by years of subjugation and humiliation under colonialism and imperialism. As such, Africa continues to struggle in manufacturing, trade, technology, and innovation since this borrowed education does not nurture critical thinking and most importantly is not anchored in Africa’s cultures and epistemologies. Thus, education in Africa reproduces an ontologically dislocated being only fit for mimicry.  

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Africa against neocolonialism: Why does the continent's struggle for self-sufficiency remain so difficult?
]]> Lack of emphasis on relevant education for Africa’s social, political, economic, cultural, and technological transformation accounts for a reductive interpretation of decolonization that equates it to flag independence and the exit of colonialists. There is a tendency to conflate replacement of colonialists with black people of a similar mentality with freedom and independence. Consciousness about decoloniality whereby colonialism persists culturally, symbolically, and institutionally is nonexistent. Africa’s problems stubbornly persist because Africa’s elite derives validation externally. African nation states derive their legitimacy externally too, not from the extent to which they serve their people through good governance. Western institutions of learning and entrenchment of alien ideologies, as prescribed by the West, confer approval on this elite. Alienation is culturally violent and damaging. 

The decolonization project stalled after independence when the political elites, for self-serving reasons, pandered to foreign interests at the expense of the wellbeing of the populace. In the Sahel, for instance, such rulers and governments increasingly got detached from the people, became illegitimate and were eventually toppled. These coups were received by a groundswell of jubilation. In Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Guinea, military juntas have effected revolutionary changes, including severing ties with the French, the colonial power, whose colonial instincts are hardly disguised. The military leaders have withdrawn from the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), which they have dismissed as a French and Western lackey. In Senegal, elections held in 2024 ushered in a youthful government that is also opposed to longstanding French interference in the country and subregion. The resolve to detach from the cultural, economic, social, and political chokehold and build local economies for the betterment of the people is palpable within the Sahel and West African subregions. Although coups are not the panacea for the challenges bedeviling Africa, they show that democracy, to be relevant, must resonate with people’s aspirations and pressing needs. 

Africa Day is also about Pan-Africanism. Africa’s elite wax lyrical about Pan-Africanism but propagate neocolonialism as agents of imperialism. These elites must live the ideals of Pan-Africanism – the foremost being commitment to advancing the cause of Africans on the continent and in the diaspora. Economic, political, and cultural emancipation is true liberation. Institutions of global governance such as the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are flawed but have an outsized role in African economies, thus neoliberalism has exacerbated Africa’s poverty, inequalities, joblessness, and lack of investment in social welfare. Economic exclusion is a trigger of conflicts. In Kenya, for instance, President William Ruto’s government has abandoned its pro-poor manifesto on which he campaigned for election. He has embraced the Bretton Woods’ template and imposed numerous punitive taxes without commensurate public goods, and disinvested in education, healthcare, and social welfare generally. These taxes and high electricity tariffs have raised the cost of doing business. Ruto’s supporters in the poor and working class have been hard hit. 

Under the AU, African rulers devised initiatives such as New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) by which African countries could attract investment if they upheld good governance. NEPAD is embedded in paternalism, and it is curious that its architects missed its center-periphery framework. Moreover, NEPAD is built on antecedent development initiatives such as the Lagos Plan of Action (1980) and Abuja Treaty (1991). These initiatives have, however, not transformed Africa’s economies and people’s lives because they were stuck in the neoliberal template.

As an intergovernmental body, the AU precariously relies on external funding which places Africa’s destiny and security in the hands of external actors. Unsurprisingly, since the Rwandan genocide, similar horrors have occurred in Sudan’s Darfur region, and Tigray region in Ethiopia (incidentally the seat of the AU), to name but two cases.

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FILE PHOTO. Two Anlo chiefs holding a palaver, Ghana.
Indigenous democracy: Why Africa should reject the Western way
]]> Currently, a civil war is raging in Cameroon over differences in colonial heritage which is illustrative of the destruction of the lingering colonial legacy. Pitting the Anglophone and Francophone regions, this civil war was triggered when Francophone Cameroonian elite insisted on imposing the French culture on their compatriots who adopted the British heritage institutionally at independence. The AU has downplayed this conflict and so has the international community.

Sudan and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are theatres of violence too. Congo has been unstable since the 1990s and continues in bloodletting without an end in sight. The West and some of Congo’s neighbors such as Rwanda and Uganda are implicated in resource looting and related atrocities in one of the world’s enormously mineral-rich countries. Years of dictatorship and impunity in Sudan tipped over into civil war following the ouster of Omar al-Bashir in 2019. The AU pledged to silence guns in Africa by the year 2020 but the reality is that this aspiration is bound to remain a pipedream.

Africa is forging alternative partnerships with China in trade, investment, cultural exchanges and skills and knowledge sharing to counter Western hegemony. But without Africans, especially their elite, being clear about Africa’s interests, the shift towards China and other emerging powers will not change much regarding Africa’s status and fortunes. 

Africa Day evokes much that Africa should reflect on. The questions of identity and leadership, however, must be resolved as a prerequisite to emancipation. Unless Africans take pride in themselves, mimicry will continue to be their default approach in multilateral relationships to their detriment. This will further undercut Africa’s agency and quest for true liberation.

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Sat, 25 May 2024 09:57:12 +0000 RT
The West is one step away from openly backing Taiwan separatism /news/598199-china-taiwan-separatism-provocation/ While insisting they don’t support “unilateral changes” to the status quo, US and EU officials won’t criticize Taipei’s blatant provocation
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While insisting they don’t support “unilateral changes” to the status quo, US and EU officials won’t criticize Taipei’s blatant provocation

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) initiated a significant event, Operation Joint Sword-2024A, on Thursday. It involved the creation of a simulated blockade around the self-governing island of Taiwan, as well as areas around the islands of Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu, and Dongyin. It’s worth noting that this is the largest military drill of its kind in a year and follows the recent inauguration of Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te, who has made it clear that he will escalate the issue of formal independence.

During his address, Lai broke his promise of maintaining the status quo with the mainland. As Kathrine Hille, writing for the Financial Times, noted, he “used conspicuously different language, while also spelling out some of the facts that most jar Beijing.” 

While Tsai Ing-wen, Lai’s predecessor, would reference “the Beijing authorities” or “the other side of the Strait,” which do not explicitly state that China and Taiwan are separate entities, the new leader mentioned “China” throughout his address. 

He referred to “Taiwan” and “the Republic of China, Taiwan,” saying that “some call this land the Republic of China, some call it the Republic of China Taiwan, and some, Taiwan; but whichever of these names we ourselves or our international friends choose to call our nation, we will resonate and shine all the same.”

Referring to Taiwan as a “nation,” Lai quoted the Republic of China’s constitution – the state that lost control of the mainland to Communist forces during the Chinese Civil War in 1949 but still remains in Taiwan – to say that “the Republic of China Taiwan is a sovereign, independent nation in which sovereignty lies in the hands of the people” (of ROC nationality). “This tells us clearly: the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China are not subordinate to each other,” he concluded.

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Beijing launches ‘punishment’ drills around Taiwan
]]> Officials from the Kuomintang (KMT) party, the long-time ruling party before the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)’s electoral success in recent years, were quick to criticize Lai’s speech. For instance, former Taiwanese leader Ma Ying-jeou’s office harshly criticized him for introducing a “new two-country theory,” adding that his “direct and explicit stance is tantamount to leaning towards Taiwan independence, leading to an unprecedentedly dangerous situation between the two sides of the strait.” 

Sure enough, the damage was already done and, just days later, Beijing launched an unprecedented military drill. As Chinese state media was quick to say, the drill was explicitly designed to send a message that “Taiwan independence is a dead end.” CGTN’s First Voice, a column designed to provide instant commentary on breaking news, said, “The fiercer ‘pro-independence’ forces provoke, the stronger the Chinese mainland counteracts.” It also pointed out that the blockade simulated in the drill was designed to completely cripple the local economy, destroy key military installations, deter military and political targets in Taipei, and prevent separatist forces from fleeing. 

It’s also clear that the codename itself suggests that more operations are slated to come this year, e.g., Joint Sword-2024B, Joint Sword-2024C, and so on. Beijing will no doubt be keeping a firm eye on Lai’s leadership and the policies of his party to see if an out-and-out issue of sovereignty is presented, triggering a military response from the PLA. 

What’s most fascinating about this conundrum is the response from Taiwan’s Western benefactors. For example, according to the US Department of State’s website, Washington opposes “any unilateral changes to the status quo from either side; we do not support Taiwan independence; and we expect cross-Strait differences to be resolved by peaceful means.”

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China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theater Command launches exercises around Taiwan on Thursday.
Taiwan puts military on high alert
]]> Secretary of State Antony Blinken, however, did not condemn Lai’s statements. Instead, he issued a statement congratulating “the Taiwan people for once again demonstrating the strength of their robust and resilient democratic system” and expressing hope in working together “to advance our shared interests and values, deepen our longstanding unofficial relationship, and maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

Filip Grzegorzewski, the EU’s representative in Taiwan, also attended the inauguration in person. He said on X (formerly Twitter), “I was honored to attend the inauguration of William Lai Ching-te. Congratulations to Taiwan for this display of vibrant democracy. Peace and stability across the Strait are key to regional and global security and prosperity. I look forward to continuing to develop our relations.”

Both of these officials mentioned the necessity of “peace and stability across the [Taiwan] Strait” and formally oppose “any unilateral changes to the status quo,” yet have failed to call out Lai’s highly provocative speech, which directly questions the status quo, so much so that it even breaks with his own promises as a candidate and the statements of his predecessor and former colleague. If the Collective West refuses to hold Lai accountable for his blatantly provocative statements, then it is clear that it, in fact, does support unilateral changes to the status quo conducted by separatist forces – which is a grave mistake that will only raise the chances of military confrontation.

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Sat, 25 May 2024 00:49:22 +0000 RT
Betting on Armageddon: What is Zelensky’s plan now that his term is over? /russia/598185-ukraine-zelensky-plan-term-over/ Legitimate or not, the Ukrainian leader is a national catastrophe hell-bent on going global
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Legitimate or not, the Ukrainian leader is a national catastrophe hell-bent on going global

On 20 May, something important changed for Ukraine’s Vladimir Zelensky. On that day, the five-year presidential term for which he had been elected in 2019 came to an end. He remains in office, however, without having to face fresh elections. Zelensky’s critics, including within Ukraine, argue that he is now illegitimate in a strict, constitutional sense – in effect, a usurper. His followers and defenders, including in the West, insist that Zelensky legally remains president under martial law. 

What is clear is that, according to the Ukrainian constitution, presidential elections can be held during wartime (unlike parliamentary ones, which are ruled out), even if a lack of clarity would require amendments, as Ukrainian experts have explained in national media. Even the New York Times acknowledged as much as recently as last October. At that point, however, Zelensky himself had not yet ruled out elections and American super hawk Senator Lindsey Graham was demanding them in his usual imperious tone.

Wartime elections in Ukraine would have posed practical challenges, although these could have been overcome. For instance, back in October, Zelensky himself stated that online voting was a possibility. Western media, including the BBC, which now claim Zelensky had no legal or practical option of standing for reelection, are misinforming their audiences by simply reproducing his regime’s current talking points. Not, obviously, for the first time.

No doubt, the legal legitimacy of a president is a critical issue, especially one as high-handed and authoritarian as Zelensky has been for years and since well before the escalation of the war in February 2022. Yet what is more important are the political meaning and effects of Zelensky’s transition to past-due-date status.

In this respect, the first point to note is that is Zelensky is evading the basic accountability of an election that would inevitably increase public scrutiny of his record. Even more disturbing, however, is to see one of his closest associates turning unquestioning compliance with this move into a de facto loyalty test, complete with ominous threats. The speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, Ruslan Stefanchuk, a key magnate in Zelensky’s “Servant of the People” party, has reportedly even called all those who doubt the president’s continuing legitimacy enemies of the people and “political lice.”

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Ukraine is losing, and direct intervention by the West risks a nuclear conflict – so what now?
]]> Of course, this rhetoric – ironically reminiscent of Stalinism – comes with the usual tired smears: Anyone who dares doubt the Zelensky regime is routinely accused of doing so at the behest of Russian agitators. Perish the thought – in Zelensky’s post-“Revolution of Dignity” and “free world” showcase Ukraine – that citizens could genuinely disagree with their superiors! 

Verbal brutality of the Stefanchuk kind is especially intriguing because a reasonably reliable and recent (February) poll shows that almost 70% of Ukrainians agree that Zelensky should remain president until “the end of the state of war.” For better or worse, Zelensky’s decision to avoid elections – whatever his reasons – is not unpopular.

But a closer look at the same poll reveals why the Zelenskyites are so touchy and aggressive: Widespread consent with postponing presidential elections does not translate into the same amount of popularity for Zelensky personally, or, for that matter, for his regime. For instance, in December 2023, 34% of respondents believed that he should not stand for another election (whenever the latter were to take place). By February of this year, only three months later, that share had risen to 43%. Clearly, Ukrainians who believe that this is not the right time for presidential elections and, at the same time, that Zelensky should never be a candidate again, don’t consider elections unnecessary because they are happy with his rule.

This reflects a long-term decline: Zelensky’s popularity ratings over the course of the war show a clear pattern. Initially, the escalation of February 2022 boosted them from 37% to a whopping 90% – an obvious case of a wartime rally-around-the-leader effect. Yet, by February of this year – after the bloody and costly failure of Ukraine’s 2023 summer counteroffensive and the de facto sacking of the popular commander-in-chief and Zelensky rival Valery Zaluzhny – the president’s ratings were down to 60%.

At the same time, trust in the Zelensky regime and its policies as a whole underwent the same degradation. Also in February, Ukrainian pollsters found that, for the first time during the war, a majority of Ukrainians believed the country was moving in the wrong direction. 

Now add to this picture that, in February, Ukraine’s military situation was, though by no means good, better than now and that a highly unpopular – divisive,” as even the AP admits – mobilization law had not even been passed yet. This law is now coming into force against the backdrop of an increasingly desperate fight on crumbling frontlines. It is safe to assume that Zelensky’s standing and that of his regime have only declined further.

The question is why. Zelensky has found more than one way to undermine himself: He has adopted punishing domestic policies of a generally rapacious neoliberal kind; he has stifled politics and the media; and he has set himself up as a merciless national recruiting sergeant forcing ever more unwilling Ukrainians into a meatgrinder proxy war for the West.

But the deepest cause of his decline remains that Zelensky – the man who would be Churchill (to paraphrase Kipling) – is not meeting a key requirement of the role: He is not winning his war. Instead, he is imposing ever-growing sacrifices – plenty of “blood, sweat, and tears,” to quote the British orator – but no victory. Rather, Ukraine’s situation is only growing worse.

Indeed, the post-February-2022 war could have been avoided entirely, if Zelensky had had the consistency and courage to keep his one clear 2019 election promise, namely to pursue a negotiated compromise in earnest. The framework for such a policy existed; its name was Minsk II. But instead of using it, Zelensky, his team, and his Western backers decided to stall and deceive systematically in order to arm for a larger war. Which is what they got.

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FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky.
Vladimir Zelensky: No mandate, no election. So what now?
]]> Even after all of that, there was a last chance, no longer to prevent the war but to end it very quickly, again by finally coming to a mutually acceptable compromise. We now know that such a settlement was almost achieved in the spring of 2022 – and then abandoned, in essence, because Zelensky chose, once again, to listen to the West.

Since then, he has only become more intransigent. The Zelensky we are seeing now is a man who would like nothing better than to try to escape defeat by escalating the war to an open clash between NATO and Russia. The essence of his strategy – if that is the right word for this sort of betting on Armageddon – is to make this war go global.

But the irony of all of the above is that, up until now, his endless doubling-down has secured his position and power. It may be counter-intuitive but where his crony Stefanchuk sounds like Stalin, Zelensky’s whole recipe of survival has now boiled down to “the worse, the better,” a phrase usually, if perhaps apocryphally, attributed to Lenin. 

Against this backdrop, the most important point about Zelensky skirting an election is not whether he is now legitimate or not, but that this is just one more stage in that strange double trend: While his position is steadily getting weaker and his actual policies are a bloody dead end for his country and its people, he is incapable of even considering a genuine change of course.

Zelensky, the former low-taste comedian, has become a desperate high-stakes gambler who has locked himself and his whole country into a devastating sequence of losing while constantly raising the stakes. His single most urgent remaining ambition is to draw more of the world into this vortex. Zelensky should never have been president; and it is high time that he ceases to be one. Ironically, since he would probably not have been ousted in elections, there is little need to regret their loss.

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Fri, 24 May 2024 13:12:14 +0000 RT
Israel’s immunity cracks: The Hague goes after Netanyahu /news/598059-hague-netanyahu-hamas-israel/ The recent application for arrest warrants shows that even those backed by Washington can’t get away with everything
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The recent application for arrest warrants shows that even those backed by Washington can’t get away with everything

The challenge of witnessing a historic event in real time isn’t to notice it. That’s the easy part. What’s hard is to understand its meaning for the future, which is what historic events are really all about. Recent news from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague have confirmed that rule.

Its prosecutor, Karim Khan, has applied for arrest warrants that will make history one way or the other. The official application is a long document, but its key points can be summarized quickly. With regard to what Khan describes as “an international armed conflict between Israel and Palestine, and a non-international armed conflict between Israel and Hamas running in parallel,” he accuses the senior Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Al-Masri (aka Deif), and Ismail Haniyeh of a list of crimes against humanity and war crimes: extermination, murder, hostage taking, sexual violence (including rape), torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, and other inhumane acts.

Khan also accuses Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Yoav Galant of a similar set of crimes against humanity and war crimes: starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury, cruel treatment, willful killing, intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population, extermination and/or murder, persecution, and other inhumane acts.

Applying for the warrants is not the same as the ICC actually issuing them. For that to happen, three of its judges, sitting as a pre-trial chamber, have to grant Khan’s applications. But this fact makes little difference. First, because rejection of such applications at this stage is, as legal experts agree, very rare.”

Second, and more importantly, the political impact of Khan’s request alone is already profound and irreversible. Even if his applications were to fail in the pre-trial chamber, such an outcome would only damage the ICC’s already fragile credibility, especially if it were to act with obvious bias, by, for instance, granting Khan’s request regarding the Hamas leaders but not for the Israeli ones. In such an improbable scenario, the message of the rejected warrant applications would continue reverberating; indeed, it would only become even more resonant.

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Boys watch smoke billowing during Israeli strikes east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 13, 2024.
Only one power could stop Israel’s Rafah invasion – but it dropped the ball
]]> But what is that message and what will be its main effects? It is certain that they will be political rather than strictly judicial, because one thing that will not happen – at least not soon or easily – is actual arrests. The ICC is special in that, based on its foundational Rome Statute of 1998, it is the only permanent international tribunal empowered to pursue individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. (Unlike the older International Court of Justice, also based in The Hague, which can deal with similar crimes but only while targeting states. Israel as a state is, of course, already the subject of ongoing ICJ processes, likely to receive a boost from the ICC joining the fray.) However, the ICC does not have its own police force to detain suspects and instead has to rely on the 124 states that have signed up to the Rome Statute. For both the Hamas and Israeli leaders in question, the warrants are likely to merely make traveling more complicated, at least for now.

There are many other good reasons to be skeptical about Khan’s move. This is very far from some simple, Hollywood-style comeuppance for the bad guys. For one thing, it’s very late. Israel’s genocidal attack on Gaza – and the West Bank as well, with less but ever-increasing intensity – has been going on for seven months.

Even cautious jurists must act much faster in such an emergency. Not to mention that the ICC has been delaying obviously needed action on Israeli crimes for years already. It took a raging, essentially live-streamed genocide to finally wake it up; and even then, it moved with glacial speed. So, let’s not idealize Khan and his team. History may well remember them more for their inexcusable tardiness than for what they have now, finally, done, which is, after all, merely their job.

Second, it is very disappointing to see only two Israeli officials targeted, at least at this point. It is true that so much of Israeli society is participating in these crimes, that – as with Germans and their Nazism – going after literally every single perpetrator may well be practically impossible. Yet, at the top and cutting edge, as it were, this ongoing genocide has been the vicious work of a plethora of easily identifiable politicians (why not charge the whole so-called War Cabinet, for starters?), along with soldiers and police high and low.

And what about those known representatives of what counts for “civil society” in Israel who have, for instance, systematically blocked humanitarian aid for the victims (in collusion, obviously, with Israeli officials). Let’s not forget the contribution made by Israeli media either – words matter. Inciting genocide is a crime, too. In 2008, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda rightly convicted the singer-songwriter Simon Bikindi, not for any hands-on killing but for a murderous speech. Khan, to be fair, has been clear that more cases may still follow.

Third, Khan’s demonstratively simultaneous targeting of Israeli and Hamas leaders has drawn sharp and plausible criticism as well. Read closely, his application betrays a disingenuous desire to signal symmetry where there is none in reality. Hamas’ violence on and after its attack of October 7 is certain to have some criminal features that deserve prosecution. Hostage taking, for one thing, is a clear case, while systematic sexual violence alleged again by Khan and used heavily as a point of Israeli propaganda, has not been confirmed by evidence so far. The key point, though, is that under international law, Hamas armed struggle is principally legitimate because it is the armed resistance to which the Palestinians have a clear and incontrovertible right.

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Pro-Palestinian protesters at George Washington University, Washington, DC, May 2, 2024.
Why Israel is the one thing you can’t protest against in Western universities
]]> Hamas and its allies legitimately attack Israeli military targets; they did so – not exclusively but to a large extent – on October 7 as well. Indeed, the stunning if temporary military success of the Palestinian resistance on that day, puncturing supremacist Israeli conceits of invincibility, is one reason for the pathological ferocity of the Israeli response.   

Not to speak of the simple yet usually overlooked fact that, with the rest of the world largely abandoning Israel’s Palestinian victims to their fate, Hamas, its Qassam Brigades, and their allies are the only force on the ground standing between Palestinian genocide victims and Israeli perpetrators. An uncomfortable fact causing sensations of cognitive dissonance? Blame those, then, among the international community who have not defended the Palestinians.

Israel, on the other hand, is as fundamentally in the wrong as the Palestinian resistance is fundamentally in the right. Israel cannot actually claim a right to “self-defense” against a population it occupies. In reality, as an occupying power (yes, for Gaza as well, notwithstanding its deceptive 2005 “withdrawal”), it has obligations toward that population under international law, all of which it perverts into their grotesquely vicious opposite.

For instance, where it must, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, “ensure […] that the basic needs of the population of Gaza are met […] that Gaza is supplied with the food, medical supplies and other basic goods needed to allow the population to live under adequate material conditions,” Israel has blockaded, starved, and massacred regularly, even before this latest escalation.

In sum, Hamas commits some crimes within a legitimate liberation struggle, as do virtually all resistance organizations in history without thereby losing their principal legitimacy under international law. But, also under international law, Israel’s whole struggle is one great crime. That is the key difference which Khan’s approach has obfuscated.

And it is this obfuscation that, in all likelihood, explains a glaring anomaly in his application. As at least one observer has noted, the crimes of which Khan accuses Netanyahu and Gallant strongly overlap with those listed in the 1948 UN Genocide Convention. In effect, Khan has pulled off a strange and disturbing trick: He has charged them with genocide, while pretending he is “only” talking about crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The most plausible explanation for this inconsistency is that he needed it to keep up the pretense of “equivalence” between Hamas and Israel. Yet, in reality, it is Israel and only Israel that has been committing genocide. If Khan had acknowledged that crucial fact in his application, then he would have had to also recognize the principal difference between the two sides.

And yet it is important to note what the applications are not trying to do because they cannot: There is no hint of Israel’s standard propaganda that the Palestinian resistance as such is nothing but criminal (or “terrorist”). On the contrary, the flip side of Khan’s suspicious move is that he also, implicitly but clearly, acknowledges that the Palestinian armed struggle as a whole is not criminal, only specific acts within it can be.

With all its flaws, it would still be shortsighted to underestimate the significance of Khan’s applications, for several reasons which cannot all be discussed here. The most important of these, in any case, is that the ICC prosecutor going after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant is a crippling blow to Israel’s most crucial political resource: its impunity.

And “crucial” is to be understood literally here because Israel does not occasionally break the law, as many states do. Rather, Israel cannot possibly exist the way it does without constantly breaking the law. Its formal and de facto annexations and settlements (East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and really most of the West Bank), its nuclear arsenal, its routine attacks (including on diplomatic compounds) and assassinations outside Israel, and, last but not least its apartheid regime to subjugate the Palestinians – all of it brazenly defies international law. (For apartheid is not just the name of a specific, now historic regime and crime in South Africa. Rather, it is a recognized atrocity crime, just like, for instance “extermination,” even if that fact is too little known.) And that is before we even start talking in detail about Israel’s massive record of typically settler-colonial crimes against humanity, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and genocide against the Palestinians that, of course, reaches back decades.

Israel, in short, is not an ordinary country. In reality – expressed in a “liberal” centrist idiom – it is the single most condensed case of a rogue state in the world, and it has enjoyed an extraordinary privilege of impunity. As John Mearsheimer pointed out years ago, there simply “is no accountability” for Israel. It is, literally, a state accustomed to – and dependent on – getting away with murder. 

That situation is, again, in Mearsheimer’s words, “outrageous.” But what is more relevant in the context of the recent ICC actions is that this impunity is not a luxury for Israel. It’s a vital necessity. A state that is so akin to an ongoing criminal enterprise is fundamentally threatened by being held up to any international legal standards. Like all genocidaires, Benjamin “Amalek” Netanyahu and Yoav “human animals” Gallant are horrible individuals, but they are dispensable. What the Israeli establishment and the international Israel lobbies are really afraid of is not what may happen to these two, but what the warrants against them signal about the future of Israel’s extraordinary privilege.

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Pro-Palestinian encampment at George Washington University in Washington, DC, on May 3, 2024
The top pro-Jewish organization in the US has shown it isn’t what it claims to be
]]> Whatever Khan’s intentions, whether he has done so deliberately or, perhaps, even while trying to “soften the blow,” as his critics suspect, his applications mark a catastrophic and irreversible breach in Israel’s hitherto unique armor of impunity. Think about it: If this is the best your friends can do while still trying to favor you, your days may be numbered.

And what about those Western leaders, high officials, but also lowly bureaucrats, who have supported Israel with arms, munitions, intelligence, diplomatic cover, and, last but not least, the vigorous suppression of solidarity with the Palestinian victims? Those residing in Washington may feel safe. Not because the US does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC. That is, in reality, a formality. It is American power and lawlessness that, for now, protects them. Predictably, they have, with President Joe Biden in the lead, displayed insolent defiance toward the ICC, in effect claiming that Israel, just like the US, is above the law. Their usual barefaced lies – for instance, the absurd claim that the ICC has no jurisdiction (obviously, it has because Palestine is a recognized signatory of the Rome Statute: case closed) need not detain us.

But the situation is different for America’s clients. They cannot feel so secure. Longstanding, hardline supporters of Israel’s current crimes, such as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz or Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, to name only two, must now begin to understand, if they admit it or not, that their actions as well are very likely to have been criminal. Because the Genocide Convention criminalizes not only perpetrating a genocide but also complicity in it. In addition, it imposes the obligation on every signatory state to prevent genocide.

Could such likely accomplices ever end up prosecuted, whether internationally or even at home? An unrealistic idea? Hard to imagine? How could such luminaries of the West ever face the same justice that they meant to reserve, as Khan was reminded by one of them, for Africa and Russia? And yet, before last week, many of us would have considered it impossible that the ICC would really ever dare touch Israelis. The underlying fact, over which neither Karim Khan nor anyone else has control, is that the West’s power to impose its double standards is waning. In a new, multipolar world that is emerging inevitably, only one thing is certain: The times they are a-changing. No genocide perpetrator or accomplice should be too comfortable anymore, even in the West or among its favorites. The days of privilege and impunity are coming to a close, one way or another.

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Wed, 22 May 2024 21:33:55 +0000 RT
Is the US falling out of love with India? /news/597650-relations-between-india-us/ New Delhi may remain Washington’s partner in some areas, but it will never be the proxy the Americans want
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New Delhi may remain Washington’s partner in some areas, but it will never be the proxy the Americans want

After India pursued a deal with Iran on the Chabahar Port, the US responded by threatening New Delhi with sanctions. This has exposed a possible growing geopolitical incompatibility between the two countries over the past several years, even as the US championed India as a critical strategic partner against China.

Since 2017, the US has promoted India as one of its key partners. It even went so far as to rename an entire region “the Indo-Pacific,” eyeing New Delhi as a key strategic asset in its longstanding strategic ambition of containing the rise of China.

Thus, India was celebrated for its commitment to democracy, its potential as a new economic and manufacturing giant, and became part of a grouping known as “The Quad,” alongside Australia and Japan. New Delhi itself was happy to capitalize on these strategic overtures to enable its own economic and political rise as a great power. As the West soured on China, Prime Minister Narendra Modi saw that India’s time had come.

All of a sudden, however, this newly found optimism for India melted away, despite Western economic engagement with the country growing. New Delhi appears increasingly estranged from US objectives, even to the point that “The Quad” was recently marginalized in favor of a new grouping, dubbed “The Squad” with the militantly pro-US Philippines under Ferdinand Macros Jr taking India’s place. It is as if the US believes Manilla will do more to cooperate on anti-China objectives than New Delhi, such as joint military exercises. Thus, from close proximity, India appears to be falling into relative estrangement. What happened?

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A Chinese Coast Guard ship fires a water cannon at Unaizah May 4, a Philippine Navy chartered vessel, conducting a routine resupply mission to troops stationed at Second Thomas Shoal, on March 05, 2024 in the South China Sea.
Will India join the US-China tug-of-war?
]]> First, India has an independent and strictly self-interested foreign policy. It might be willing to lean towards the US for its own gain, but that does not make it an “ally.” The US can subdue many countries into following its foreign policy objectives, such as Britain, the Baltic states, or the Philippines, but India only joins in if it sees fit. Talk of New Delhi being part of an ideological cause for “democracy and freedom” is nonsense, and its leadership has never seen such cooperation in this way, despite its grievances with China. India has no commitment to US unipolarity like Britain or Australia would support, and instead seeks to rise as a power in its own right in a multipolar world.

In doing so, India actively takes positions of disagreement with the US and its allies when it is necessary to do so. Over the past two years, these points of disagreement between New Delhi and the West have surged due to unavoidable changes in the international environment, which have increased geopolitical conflict. India has had an interest in balancing the rise of China, because it recognizes that it can benefit economically from supply-chain and manufacturing realignments. However, when US-led foreign policy begins to attempt to crush all multipolarity for its own benefit, this becomes a strategic problem for India and creates a divergence in the two nations’ objectives. One particular example is the war in Ukraine.

The US has sought to use the war as a means to attempt to economically and militarily cripple Russia, as nonsensical as this has been proven, thus seeking to eliminate one of India’s key strategic partners in the field of energy and armaments. Why would India comply with the US-led sanctions regime? It did not, and even pursued currency changes to avoid it. Ukrainian victory would strategically weaken and isolate India, forcing it into a Western dependency scenario. Worse still, the war has ushered in an improvement in US relations with Pakistan following the removal and jailing of anti-US Prime Minister Imran Khan. The US, of course, tried to ignore and reconcile these differences for quite a while, even as it leaned on India’s shoulder. But then a second issue emerged in this newly fraught geopolitical environment: the Israel-Gaza war.

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India's Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on board INS Vikramaditya to inaugurate a naval base in Minicoy on March 6, 2024.
India’s powerplay: The tide is turning in the Indo-Pacific
]]> Many Indians support Israel. However, New Delhi also frames itself as a champion of the Global South, and recognizes that it would lose credibility in toeing the Western line of unconditional support for Israel’s campaign of genocidal destruction. More importantly though, the situation has also entailed increased Western conflict with Iran, which is another strategic partner of India, a country with which it has historical and cultural ties, and is another critical energy supplier. As US tensions with Iran grow, India will not follow suit on Western pressure.

Then finally, to top it all off, a recent Biden gaffe ruffled feathers in India wen he called the nation “xenophobic.” All of this has had the effect of recalibrating India’s balancing act on its foreign policy and distancing itself from the US.

In conclusion, New Delhi may be a US partner in some areas, but it is not a US proxy. The two countries have very different visions for the emerging new world order. India cannot accept US subjugation or the removal of its own strategic partners from the chessboard, which has quickly stifled Washington’s starry-eyed vision of India being the newest global champion of freedom and democracy, in pursuit of a unipolar world.

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Sun, 19 May 2024 21:02:20 +0000 RT
Dirty tactics: How the US tries to break China’s soft power in Africa /africa/597773-chinese-media-influence-africa/ American agenda in Africa is based on the methods the US keeps accusing China of
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The Americans are promoting their agenda in Africa using the exact same methods that they accuse China of employing

In April, the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) published the article “China’s Strategy to Shape Africa’s Media Space” by research associate Paul Nantulya. The author attempts to expose China’s media strategy in Africa. Criticism of China on the ACSS website is not surprising, since the Center was established within the US Department of Defense and promotes the views and agenda of official US structures. In other words, through organizations like ACSS, the US engages in the same activities which it blames China for. 

The article notes that in recent years, Chinese investments in the African media space have surged, and the country intends to establish a long-term institutional presence in the African media and communications market. This is evident from the fact that the state-owned Xinhua news agency has 37 offices throughout Africa, the Chinese provider of satellite TV services StarTimes has become the second largest player in the strategically important African market, China finances and supports African media outlets, and Chinese news agencies speak well of the ruling political elites in those African countries which have friendly relations with China.

According to the author of the article, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) plays an important role in supporting and financing China’s initiatives, and through this, the CCP gets the chance to spread its “propaganda” and influence the minds of young people.

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FILE PHOTO: Outgoing Africa Command commander US General William Ward (2nd L) and his successor US General Carter Ham (R) take part in the AFRICOM change of command ceremony in Sindelfingen near Stuttgart, Germany.
US has found a surprising military frontier against Russia and China
]]> In addition to the financial component and the expansion of its “physical” media presence, another key aspect of China’s media strategy in Africa is personnel training: it is actively involved in training both students and media professionals through professional development programs, exchanges, and internships. Paul Nantulya warns, “The embedding of CCP media in African media ecosystems risks distorting Africa’s information spaces.”

Such an article is perfectly aligned with the US global foreign policy, and its “fight against disinformation.” It is hardly surprising that ACSS sees China and Russia as the main sources of “disinformation.” ACSS regularly publishes articles and holds events dedicated to combating disinformation in Africa – in 2023, it published seven such materials, and five others have appeared since the beginning of 2024. They include articles titled ‘Mapping a Surge of Disinformation in Africa’ (about China and Russia’s disinformation campaigns in Africa), ‘Tracking Russian Interference to Derail Democracy in Africa’, ‘China’s Influence on African Media’, ‘Intervening to Undermine Democracy in Africa: Russia’s Playbook for Influence’, and so on.

In these articles, general statements about democratic values are mixed with publicly available statistics, and though they may seem trivial, they are part of a systematic approach. Since 2022, combating disinformation has been one of the objectives of the Biden Administration’s “U.S. Strategy Toward Africa,” which states: “We will expand digital democracy programming, defend against digital authoritarianism, fight back against disinformation, combat gender-based online harassment and abuse, and establish standards for responsible conduct in cyberspace.” The US Department of State receives funding to combat China’s “malign actions” in Africa (including disinformation) and the US-supported state structure (the African Center for Strategic Studies) is actively engaged in promoting the US agenda.

Africa’s media space is still dominated by Western-controlled media such as BBC, CNN, CNBC, France 24, Euronews (Africanews), Africa Report / Jeune Afrique, etc. They exert considerable influence on the regional agenda and trends, have access to insider information, and utilize the same methods as China: train personnel, create Africa-oriented media, open additional offices, and invest in information and communications technology infrastructure. The only difference is that Western media have been doing this for over a century. So, in fact, the US approach resembles the well-known saying: He who smelt it, dealt it.

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Angolan President Joao Lourenco meet in Luanda, Angola on September 27, 2023.
The US is using Russia’s playbook in Africa, but there’s a catch
]]> However, in recent years, the role of African media (as well as its quality) has greatly increased. Africa’s media space is becoming more sovereign, and large influential outlets have emerged which are not dependent on the externally imposed agenda. These include newspapers like The East African (Kenya), The Herald (Zimbabwe), The Punch (Nigeria), etc. Non-Western centers of power – such as China, Turkey, the UAE, Russia, and India – play an important role in these developments. Media outlets from these countries cover African events and share professional experience with African colleagues. As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the West to compete with alternative sources of information and influence the agenda. Paul Nantulya’s article is similar to US attempts to control TikTok or Israel’s ban of Al Jazeera, since nowadays, the media and various communication channels have also become an arena of global confrontation.

One of the main goals of the US policy in Africa is to oppose the influence of China and Russia. However, Russia should not regard its presence in Africa as a sign of the growing confrontation with the US and the collective West. Russia’s policy in Africa is self-sufficient regardless of the position of Washington or Paris, and should be primarily aimed at the needs of the African audience. Russian media should respond to US pressure by growing its audience, improving the quality of published and broadcast materials, attracting reputable African authors and experts, and expanding TV and radio broadcasting in Africa.

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Fri, 17 May 2024 20:54:45 +0000 RT
An EU country’s leader has been shot, and of course it has to be about Putin /news/597737-attack-slovak-robert-fico/ It seems to be more important that Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is “pro-Russia” than the attack on him and the reason behind it
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Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico’s “pro-Russia” stance seems to be more important than the fact that he was attacked and the reason behind it

Media can’t seem to decide whether it’s Putin’s friends or enemies who deserve to get shot. 

Populist and nationalist Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot during a domestic appearance on Wednesday, and was immediately transported to hospital. Before any further facts could be established, many press outlets had already framed a convenient narrative. 

“How Robert Fico turned Slovakia into one of Russia’s only allies,” read a headline London’s Telegraph, only subsequently mentioning that he was “reportedly in a life-threatening condition after assassination attempt.”

It appears that even political assassinations now take a backseat to the news that someone is supposedly Putin’s pal these days. So instead, the reader was drawn to the article about a Russian ally, only to be mugged by the subheading suggesting, “Yeah, and look where that friendship with Putin got him!”

That’s a 180-degree turn (or a “Baerbock 360” if you’re in Germany) from their usual hot take, which is that it’s usually Putin’s enemies who get killed. Now it’s his friends, too, apparently. 

In the time that it took for Fico to be admitted to hospital, the Western press had erased Slovakia’s sovereignty with the stroke of a pen. “Pro-Russia Slovak prime minister Robert Fico shot,” reported The National newspaper in Scotland.

“Europe on the edge as assassination attempt on pro-Putin Slovakian PM is branded ‘a wake-up call to the West,’” headlined Britain’s Daily Mail.

One might think this suggests that Europe is unnerved by someone trying to kill one of its elected leaders – that it would be a sad day for democracy and the rule of law. Nope, that’s not what they’re saying. “Fears grow Russian president will exploit the attack – as badly wounded man’s deputy insists he will SURVIVE gun attack,” the Daily Mail went on to explain.

Oh, so the real fear, they suggest, is that Putin might actually start dropping some inconvenient truths. Judging from the tone of the Western press, you’d think that Putin’s the big winner in all this and not the guy who actually survived being gunned down. 

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Slovak prime minister, Robert Fico speaks during a joint press conference after summit of the Visegrad Group (V4) in Prague.
‘No country should be punished for its sovereignty’ – Fico in quotes
]]> The incident risks drawing attention to the notion that the extremists are on the side of the establishment – something that Fico himself has pointed out routinely. He was elected prime minister last October, but it wasn’t his first rodeo, having been previously elected twice before. Speaking of which, if the EU is a tranquil garden, as chief diplomat Josep Borrell once said in comparing the bloc to the developing world, then Fico is a bucking bronco right in the center of it with his pragmatically populist and nationalist positions. Earlier this year, he said he’d block Ukraine’s entry into NATO.

“The war in Ukraine didn’t start a year ago, it started in 2014, when Ukrainian Nazis and fascists started murdering Russian citizens in the Donbass and Lugansk,” Fico said last year. 

He’s been particularly vocal about the need for peace rather than continued war in Ukraine, but has nonetheless said, in the meantime, that Slovakia’s military industrial complex, like everyone else’s, can cash in on weapons sales to Ukraine – at least until they get around to listening to him on the need for a ceasefire. Still, the Slovakian government won’t be sending cash for military-related purposes over there, he’s said, citing rampant corruption.  

More recently, Fico reacted to French President Emmanuel Macron’s obsession about some potential future troop deployment to Ukraine. Fico reminded Macron that Ukraine isn’t actually part of NATO, and therefore the alliance has no obligation to send troops there. As a matter of fact, he argued, Slovakia really has nothing to do with whatever’s going on between Ukraine and Russia. The neighbors are fighting, and he wants to mind his own business. But Macron is giving interviews, the latest one to The Economist, saying that if Russia breaks through Kiev’s front lines, then sending troops is a real possibility. Like, if my neighbors take their fight to the front lawn, well then I’ll have to just go over there maybe and throw a few punches myself. Except that his neighbors aren’t even just down the street.

Fico’s stance obviously leaves France and the rest of the EU in the awkward position of having to explain why exactly Ukraine is their problem if one of the EU countries bordering it has decided to just stay out the conflict. The best they’ve come up with so far is that if they can’t use Ukraine as a battering ram against Russia, then the next thing you know, Putin will be hanging out in Cannes and watching tennis at Roland Garros. 

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FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister of Slovakia Robert Fico.
Slovak PM Robert Fico: Noted critic of Western approach to Ukraine conflict
]]> So again, who are the real radicals? The bloc and their handmaidens in the Western press would have you believe that it’s Fico and not the Western establishment cronies he’s been challenging on every front. 

Earlier this month, Fico was railing about the EU to Azerbaijani TV during a visit there, complaining about the bloc’s intolerance of independent thought. During the presidential election in March, Fico’s political opponents were drumming up fear over citizens voting for his ally, Peter Pellegrini.

“The fear is that Pellegrini will act hand in hand with Fico’s direction of #foreignpolicy, which could have a devastating effect on Slovakia,” tweeted former prime minister Eduard Heger, described by Reuters as having started a “pro-Western party.” The people voted for Pellegrini anyway, despite all the fear-mongering over the potential result of their own exercise of democracy. 

Now, some of Fico’s allies are straight up pinning this attack on the vibe that’s been created by opposition politicians and media rhetoric. Sometimes, though, a lunatic is just a lunatic. By using the Western establishment’s own standards of pinning responsibility for an act of violence on the ideology of a particular group – as they’re constantly doing with the right-wing – in this particular case, they’re the ones who have been fostering an anti-populist, anti-sovereignty radicalization on everything from climate change to the Ukraine conflict, and even on the Covid mandates which Fico actively opposed by heading up mass demonstrations against them. By their own measure, they’re long overdue for a good look in the mirror.

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Thu, 16 May 2024 15:27:47 +0000 RT
Here’s why Russia’s Kharkov offensive is far more than just a military setback for Kiev /russia/597626-latest-attack-russia-ukraine/ With Moscow’s forces advancing on Ukraine’s second-largest city, more and more voices are having to admit the reality of the situation
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With Moscow’s forces advancing on Ukraine’s second-largest city, more and more voices are having to admit the reality of the situation

In Chapaev,” a 1930s Soviet film classic still very familiar in both Russian and Ukrainian popular culture, a famous key scene depicts a “psychological attack.” In the movie, this does not refer to propaganda or information warfare, as we might assume now. Instead, the attack is a disciplined advance across a real battlefield, carried out with so much panache that it almost panics the defenders into a rout. In the old Soviet film, this assault is repelled.

Yet, in reality, things can turn out differently: There are signs that Russia’s recent offensive in Ukraine’s north-eastern Kharkov region, while unlikely to have been designed for such effects, may be turning into a psychological defeat for Kiev and its Western backers.

Without insider knowledge, we cannot know the exact aims that Moscow intends to pursue with this operation. We do know what it has achieved, at this point, in terms of territory and positions taken: more than 100 square kilometers, including a growing number of villages. According to Ukrainian officers and media, Russian forces are fighting in the town of Volchansk, a local center of military importance. It is hard to predict where this particular advance will stop. But given the – as of now, at least – comparatively small forces deployed in this operation, it is unlikely that it was meant to capture the city of Kharkov, Ukraine’s second-most-important urban center. It may, however, serve to bring it within the range of Russian artillery again, which could serve future and larger offensives.

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Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky
Tarik Amar: This is the biggest illusion about the Ukraine war the West refuses to acknowledge
]]> More probable guesses regarding Russia’s goals include the creation of a buffer zone to protect the Russian region and city of Belgorod and exert pressure on Ukraine’s military to over-extend its already depleted resources. Russian forces starting fresh attacks in additional regions (Sumy and Chernigov) – opening what one British newspaper has already termed yet another, “third” front –would fit this pattern. And Russian aims need not be static, of course: Moscow can begin operations with one set of aims but revise them when fresh opportunities open up, which may be happening in this case.

What requires less guessing is assessing the impact of the attack on Russia’s two opponents: Ukraine and the West, in particular the United States. Unsurprisingly, both Kiev and Washington are making efforts to put on a brave face. Both – most likely with a degree of coordination – are trying to downplay their losses and future risks. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has paid a surprise visit to Kiev. Acknowledging that the situation is challenging,” he has tried to keep hope alive by promising that American aid will arrive soon and make a great difference. The problem is that he cannot know that; and it is inherently unlikely. For two reasons: There is not enough aid, and there cannot be enough aid, given Ukraine’s underlying weaknesses in manpower which cannot be repaired with any amount of Western funding.  

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky as well, has sought to reassure domestic and international audiences. Claiming that his military understands Russian plans to stretch the Ukrainian defense thin, he has promised that other important sections of the front, for instance in the Donbass town of Chasov Yar, will not be abandoned. But what if it does not matter if Zelensky sees through Russian strategy or not? His real choice may only be between where Russia will make gains and where Ukraine will lose. That is the essence of being over-extended. Ukraine’s military has already, according to CNN, hinted clearly at further retreats on the Donbass front.

More interesting than these rationalizations of a worsening battlefield crisis are reactions that are both more candid and less optimistic. For one thing, the Russian advance is turning into not only a Ukrainian (and Western) defeat, but also a Ukrainian scandal reported in the West in an unusually forthright manner. In Ukraine, the quick and almost unresisted Russian march through what should have been a zone of fortifications, minefields, and traps has led to accusations of corruption on a level that can only be described as treasonous. Ukrainskaya Pravda, a traditional stalwart of pro-Western sentiment and patriotic mobilization rhetoric, is asking where the fortifications are. Pointing out that regional authorities have paid millions to fictitious companies to build what clearly either is not there or is so shoddy that it might as well be missing entirely. 

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A worker in Severodonetsk, Lugansk People's Republic
Ukraine no longer: How locals are coming together to rebuild Russia’s new Lugansk republic
]]> In the West, the BBC – no less – has given global resonance to a Ukrainian special reconnaissance officer, Denys Yaroslavsky, who says that he and his men saw Russian forces “simply walk in.” Something important that should have been there to at least slow them down, was missing: While Ukrainian officials “claimed that defenses were being built at huge cost,” as the BBC reports, the costs (and, for someone, profits) materialized, but the defenses did not. “Either it was an act of negligence, or corruption,” Yaroslavsky has concluded. “It wasn’t a failure. It was a betrayal.”

That Ukraine’s war effort suffers from great corruption would be news only to the most naive. But its open denunciation in and outside Ukraine points – not for the first time, it is true – to the decreasing capacity of the Zelensky regime to shape and control crucial narratives. In a similar vein, the self-contradictory output of Ukraine’s notorious head of Military Intelligence, Kirill Budanov bespeaks, at least, confusion. On one side, Budanov has painted what the New York Times has called a “bleak picture.” In conversation with the American newspaper, he has described Ukraine’s situation as “on the edge.” More specifically – and more importantly – he even went as far as to openly name his country’s worst Achilles heel, its stark lack of reserves to shift around under acute pressure on any given part of the frontline. While also predicting a future “stabilization,” Budanov stressed risks and constraints. Yet speaking to a home audience, via Ukrainian TV, the general shifted his emphasis to “stabilization” only, promising that Russian forces are already contained, at least “in principle.”

Clearly, Russia’s operation in Kharkov Region is an ongoing battle within an ongoing war. It would be rash to predict outcomes, at least in detail. Yet, if we zoom out and focus on major developments, two things are certain: First, Moscow has and retains the initiative. That is why its forces are on the offensive and why it decides about the purpose of their attacks, while Ukraine and the West are now reduced to reacting. Second, despite the laboriously maintained facade of optimism and perseverance, both Ukraine and the West are openly showing signs of nervousness, and more specifically of a nervousness induced by Russian pressure. That, for now, is the most obvious effect of the Kharkov operation, even if it may be hidden in plain sight.

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Wed, 15 May 2024 13:43:21 +0000 RT
Will India join the US-China tug-of-war? /india/597556-south-china-sea-asian-powers/ India is on high alert as China and the Philippines exchange warnings over the South China Sea
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
As the tussle between Beijing and Manila over the vital trade corridor intensifies, New Delhi remains vigilant

The Philippines deployed ships to a disputed area in the South China Sea over the weekend to stop what it called China’s “alarming activities.” The office of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said in a statement that patrol ships will monitor the alleged “illegal activities of China” in creating “an artificial island” on Escoda Shoal in the West Philippine Sea. 

The latest development comes amid the two countries’ ongoing conflict over the territory.

Earlier this month, the Philippines conducted Balikatan drills (‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ in Tagalog) with the US. More than 16,000 American and Philippines military personnel participated in this largest-ever annual military exercise. The drills also included more than 250 French and Australian forces, along with observers from several security partner nations, led by Japan.

China’s claims in West Philippine Sea 

The drills took place against the backdrop of growing assertiveness by Beijing in the South China Sea. On April 23, two Philippines patrol boats approached the shallow turquoise waters of a disputed shoal located around 194km (121 miles) west of the Philippines province of Palawan for an underwater survey near a disputed shoal in the West Philippine Sea. 

A Chinese coast guard ship instructed them via radio to leave the area and threatened hostile measures. Following several radio exchanges, the Chinese coast guard crew damaged both of the Philippines patrol boats by firing high-pressure water cannons at them. In the history of conflicts in the South China Sea, this encounter was among the most intense.

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Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on October 18, 2023
Russia, China and MAGA Republicans: Why Western pundits fear them
]]> Earlier, there were also several confrontations between the Philippines and China in disputed islands of the West Philippine Sea, particularly at the Second Thomas Shoal and the Bashi Channel. 

China has long insisted that the Philippines remove its tiny naval presence and tow away the BRP Sierra Madre, which is still in active service but in crumbling condition. In 1999, the naval ship was purposefully abandoned on the shoal, and it now stands as a precarious reminder of Manila’s territorial claims to the atoll. Chinese ships frequently obstruct naval ships carrying provisions and other supplies for Philippines sailors aboard. The Philippines government and private vessels are frequently involved in dangerous altercations with the China Coast Guard and maritime militia. Since last year, however, there seems to be an increasing number of altercations between Beijing and Manila.

China has used a U-shaped ‘nine-dash line’ that crosses the exclusive economic zones of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam to demonstrate its claim in the region, which lies along a vital trade and supply corridor that supports over $3 trillion in yearly shipborne commerce. 

Oil, gas, and fishing sources abound in the area. Beijing has declined to acknowledge a 2016 international arbitration decision from a Hauge court connected with the UN that ruled Beijing’s broad claims invalid based on historical grounds. 

Concerns for India

In January 2022, the Philippines signed a $375 million contract with India for three batteries of the shore-based, anti-ship BrahMos missile, making it the first exporter of the joint venture missile between Russia and India. Together with the required Integrated Logistics Support package, operator, and maintenance training, the delivery of three missile batteries is also included in the deal. The Philippine Marines’ coastal defense regiment will primarily use the missile systems.

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India's Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on board INS Vikramaditya to inaugurate a naval base in Minicoy on March 6, 2024.
India’s powerplay: The tide is turning in the Indo-Pacific
]]> According to the agreement, India will give the Philippines the first BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles in April 2024. The Philippines is purchasing the systems as part of its Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program. Once operationalized, this delivery will strengthen the Philippines armed forces’ defensive position.

During a visit to the Philippines in March 2024, Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar gave the government assurances about India’s commitment to maintaining an international order based on norms and advancing security and peace in the Indo-Pacific region. Before that, 21 Philippines Navy personnel received training in Nagpur from January 23 to February 11, 2023 on system operations and maintenance. India and the Philippines are now considering sending an Indian defense attaché to monitor security developments and plan to strengthen bilateral defense cooperation. The military attaché is anticipated to be stationed in Manila by the end of 2024.

Lastly, India’s largest private port operator, APSEZ (Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone), is looking at the Philippines’ Bataan for its port expansion plan. The business intends to build a port that can handle Panamax boats and is 25 meters deep. Meanwhile, Adani Group plans to invest in the Philippines’ ports, airports, electricity, and defense industries.

This demonstrates India’s concern in this area, but the country is conscious of its limitations. Even though it has been almost ten years, the INS Airavat event is still vivid in the minds of decision-makers. Even though the Indian authorities have dismissed it, China’s claim in the South China Sea and India’s inability to combat China far from its immediate neighborhood is real. In fact, India has declared that the Indian Ocean, encompassing the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, is its top priority. Beyond that, India has no direct interest.

]]> READ MORE: China wants to literally dig its way around geopolitical challenges

]]> Nonetheless, India decided to station three of its ships in the area: The guided missile destroyer INS Delhi, the fleet tanker INS Shakti, and the anti-submarine warfare stealth corvette INS Kiltan. INS Kadmatt visited Thailand in December 2023 as part of a long-range operational deployment. It docked in Manila around the same time. The present deployment is further evidence of India’s concern for the area.

India and the US: Shared agenda, separate action

Notwithstanding India’s efforts, its conservative posture on the South China Sea has, to some extent, irked the US. This is also reflected in the US’ growing impatience over the utility of QUAD. Recently, the US replaced India with the Philippines in the new security alliance known as ‘SQUAD’. However, leaving India out of SQUAD reflects more US bias than India’s limitations. Unlike India, the Philippines is a mutual defense treaty ally of the US. But more importantly, the US has been unhappy over India’s close bonding with its traditional security partner Russia and the way India has openly defied Western-led sanctions on Moscow over the Ukraine conflict. 

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Philippines' President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit 2024 in Melbourne.
The US is cultivating an antagonist to China in Beijing’s own backyard
]]> Additionally, India decided not to join a US-led initiative in the Red Sea. Even though ten Indian navy ships are currently on patrol in the area where Houthi rebels have been using drones and anti-ship missiles, India’s refusal to back the US-led maritime alliance did not sit well with US policymakers, and some even referred to India’s position as opportunistic.

Concerns about the stability of the region are at an all-time high. Meanwhile, President Marcos is working to also forge ties beyond the US. He has made contact with a number of potential allies, including Australia, Japan, and Vietnam – another country that has been the target of China’s muscle-flexing.  

Beijing has expressed dissatisfaction with these attempts to bring Washington into the game – stressing the need to keep South China Sea issues bilateral. It warned the US against meddling.

The timing of the current skirmish surprisingly coincides with the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang. While the Chinese ship was taking violent action against the patrol vessel from the Philippines, the Chinese foreign minister was busy in Manila talking about the settlement of issues and strengthening ties with his colleague in the Philippines and Marcos.

Undoubtedly, any serious conflict between China and the Philippines would be dangerous. The idea of these coast guard skirmishes in the Spratly Islands leading to World War III seems far-fetched. Yet, the risk of casualties or a vessel capsizing is not improbable. Any event such as this would spark a major crisis requiring quick de-escalation measures from both the US and China. India remains vigilant. 

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Wed, 15 May 2024 03:49:00 +0000 RT
Seeds of chaos: Here’s why Africa can’t trust Western ‘security guarantees’ /africa/597574-military-agreements-africa-west/ Military agreements between African and Western states do not provide what they are supposed to
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Military agreements with the US and former colonial powers fail to deliver what they are supposed to

The threat of terrorism continues to weigh heavily on many African countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Libya, Mali, Somalia, and Sudan, among others. Active Salafi-jihadi organizations, particularly those linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State, aggravate the destabilizing effects of these conflicts.

Over the years, Western military engagements with Africa have been portrayed as counterterrorism measures to promote peace and regional stability. However, a thorough examination exposes a concerning trend.

Sierra Leone’s first lady, Fatima Maada, said in response to an interview question on the effects of colonization: “The kind of mineral resources we have in our country is enough to take care of everybody in that country but unfortunately, we are not given the free will to make decisions on our mineral resources. There’s always big brother who decides and when you fight and say no, we are not going to do this, they use the system to stop you. It’s either they set you up with the opposition and they will be supporting the opposition against you from the back or they cause unnecessary chaos in your country. They will do things to make you not functional and of course, any country that doesn’t have peace, cannot develop.”

Undoubtedly, such covert operations by western states are deeply rooted in their strategic interests in African resources. Consequently, instead of promoting security, these military interventions perpetuate instability serving as components of a broader neo-colonial agenda.

Continuation of colonization pact

Historically, western powers sought to apply the ‘divide and rule’ principle to assert their influence in Africa, starting with the Berlin Conference (1884-1885), which marked the transition from European economic and military influence to the direct colonial rule of the continent.

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FILE PHOTO.
‘Dead Aid’: What’s behind the West helping Africa?
]]> It was a meeting of European powers including Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden-Norway, Turkey, and their ally, the United States of America. The conference was held under the chairmanship of Otto Von Bismarck in Berlin, Germany, to officially partition and colonize the African continent.

Prior to the conference, European powers such as Britain, France, Germany, Portugal and Belgium, had asserted their influence in the continent since the 15th century. Hence, the colonization of Africa did not begin with the Berlin Conference, but the meeting made it official to champion the interests of the colonizers based on the three C’s (Commerce, Christianity and Civilization). To ensure the legitimacy of the occupation of the territories, as well as avoiding conflicts among the colonial powers, the General Act of Berlin (an international treaty for colonization) was ratified, and among its provisions was the concept of effective occupation. This ensured that the unseen artificial borders created in Berlin were visibly carved out, while the historical ethnic, cultural, and political boundaries of the African territories were not taken into consideration.

The aftermath of this conference saw African countries being subjected to pillage, resulting in the exploitation of valuable natural resources, suppression of cultural identity, and decimation of human capital through the trans-Atlantic slave trade. This trade facilitated the massive extraction of African resources to fuel industrialization in Western Europe and deprived countries of the resources they needed for government services, education, and health.

In the face of oppression, Pan-African Liberation movements for independence spearheaded by Pan-Africanists like Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and Patrice Lumumba emerged to challenge colonial rule. Patrice Lumumba’s tragic death, with reports implicating Belgian forces in his assassination and the gruesome desecration of his body by cutting it into pieces and soaking it in acid, serves as a stark reminder of the lengths to which colonial powers went to maintain control.

Africa was colonized through different means. The French used a direct system of colonization known as ‘Assimilation’. The policy incorporated French territories into a family-like union known as the Union Franc?aise, or French Union of 1946. The administration of French territories was placed directly under French leaders. This triggered agitation, particularly from Morocco and Tunisia, forcing France to grant broader autonomy to the colonies in Africa, with an eventual option of independence, subject to France maintaining control of the currency, defence and strategic natural resources in the Fifth French Republic known as the Communaute? Franc?aise, or French Community of 1958. This arrangement was agreed upon by all the black Francophone African colonies, except Guinea.

But then, the transformation of direct colonial policies into covert operations, in the form of indirect rule, marked a new phase in the Africa-West relationship. The terms “Continuation of Colonization pact” and “FrancAfrique” have been used to describe the agreement between France and its former colonies. These are complex arrangements that Charles De Gaulle put in place to keep the former colonies of France under its sway, such as the ‘Franc Zone’, which ties the currencies of Francophone African states to the French franc, now the Euro. The military cooperation accords, which most ex-colonies signed with France upon independence, provided for French military advisers to work for African governments and set the framework within which French military interventions could be undertaken. And these arrangements are still in force in the primarily civilian-governed former French colonies in Africa, even though they have continuously come under harsh criticism.

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FILE PHOTO: Outgoing Africa Command commander US General William Ward (2nd L) and his successor US General Carter Ham (R) take part in the AFRICOM change of command ceremony in Sindelfingen near Stuttgart, Germany.
US has found a surprising military frontier against Russia and China
]]> Former African Union Ambassador to the United States Arikana Chihombori-Quao highlighted in a speech on neo-colonialism that, as part of the agreement, Francophone African countries can only purchase military equipment from France, their armed forces can only be trained by French instructors, and France maintains a military presence with the ability to intervene using force without their consent.

The controversial French Military intervention and subsequent bombing of an Ivorian Air Force base in 2004 during the Ivorian Civil War (2002 and 2004) serves as a glaring demonstration of the agreements.

Bitter legacy of intervention to Libya

The neo-colonial agenda continues to haunt Africa, with Western powers exerting control through military interventions that undermine territorial sovereignty and perpetuate a sense of dependency. The imposition of Western values and interests often leads to the marginalization of local populations and exacerbates existing grievances created by colonialism, fueling instability and conflict.

A stark reminder of the consequences of Western intervention is Libya. The NATO-led military invasion in 2011, justified as a humanitarian intervention to protect civilians, resulted in the bloody overthrow of Muammar Al-Gaddafi, the former leader of Libya, and plunged the country into chaos.

Libya is now torn apart by competing factions and extremist groups, with significant humanitarian and security implications spanning the entire Sahel region. While then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton famously commented “We came, we saw, he died,” showcasing her inherent joy in eliminating one of Africa’s most prominent leaders, the then prime minister and current president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, criticized the move in a passionate speech in Denmark in 2011: “When the so-called civilized community, with all its might, pounces on a small country, and ruins infrastructure that has been built over generations – well, I don’t know, if this is good. I do not like it,” echoing Russia’s continuous support for the sovereignty of African states.

Selective leadership

Western states often support governments that align with their interests and label others as authoritarian and human rights violators. A notable example occurred during the Ivorian Civil War, when France faced a backlash for allegedly favoring Alassane Ouattara in the conflict  because he championed French interests, such as enforcement of the FrancAfrique, including the use of the FCFA (Franc des Colonies Françaises d’Afrique).

The case of Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire) prompts scrutiny into French covert operations. Also notable is initial French reluctance to withdraw from Niger despite calls from leaders of the Alliance of Sahel States to remove all French military bases. This ‘Machiavellian use of force’ underscores France’s interest, such as entrenching French companies in investment deals and compulsory deposition of foreign reserves of Francophone African countries in the French treasury.

According to the Taiwan-based Center for Security Studies, “the French treasury continues to receive over USD 500 billion going to trillions of US dollars, year in and year out, from the France-Africa neo-colonial arrangement based on some sort of colonial tax.” Such action violates every form of diplomatic protocol and undermines the sovereign will of states to make independent decisions as enshrined in the United Nations Charter.

Interestingly, Western states exhibit reluctance to support pan-African governments effective in combating terrorism. Recent examples from Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger highlight this paradox. On Monday, April 29, 2024, these countries, with support from the Russia-Africa corps, successfully eliminated Islamic State leader Abu Huzeifa in Menaka, Mali, as part of a joint counterterrorism military operation after driving out Western forces, but yet continue to face criticism and resistance from Western governments.

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Britain's King Charles III, centre, shakes hands with soldiers during his visit at the Mtongwe Naval Base in Mombasa, Kenya, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023.
King Charles keeps British colonial legacy mindset alive
]]> In other parts of West Africa, particularly Ghana, the United States and other Western countries are increasingly expanding cooperation to counter Russia, which is engaged in counterterrorism cooperation with Sahelian States. The Ghana-United States Status of Forces Agreement signed in 2018 exemplifies the status quo. Despite a series of protests in Accra, Ghana in 2018, the United States proceeded with the agreement even though the US embassy in Ghana had initially denied any plans to establish a military base in the country.

The proponents of the pact argue that the $20 million investment in training and equipment for the Ghanaian military is necessary for the nation’s security. However, many Ghanaians oppose the agreement, fearing a loss of sovereignty and security and believing that the American military “have become a curse everywhere they are, and they are not ready to mortgage their security.”

Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, a member of parliament for North Tongu in the Volta region of Ghana and ranking member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, has criticized the agreement as not mutually beneficial. “We must never undermine our national sovereignty. President Trump talks about America first, there can also be Ghana first. This is an agreement which very eminent Ghanaians including Ghana’s longest serving foreign minister, Dr. Obed Asamoah, publicly said was not in our national interest and that it was too one sided. This is an agreement which the respected Prof. Akilagpa Sawyer, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana looked at and said it was not well negotiated and was not in our best interest,” he stressed.

Ghanaian society seeks to forge genuine partnerships in protecting its national security and promoting peace and stability. However, the desperation of some countries to enforce their hegemonic values on African nations casts doubts on the intent of such military agreements.

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Tue, 14 May 2024 18:10:33 +0000 RT
Only one power could stop Israel’s Rafah invasion – but it dropped the ball /news/597505-israel-rafah-invasion-us-diplomacy/ The breakdown of ceasefire talks and the resulting civilian deaths are a result of weak and indecisive American diplomacy
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The breakdown of ceasefire talks and the resulting civilian deaths are a result of weak and indecisive American diplomacy

Israel has been threatening a full-scale invasion of the Gazan city of Rafah for months, with the US government belatedly warning against the move and calling for a ceasefire. However, the Biden administration has consistently flip-flopped on the issue and refused to take serious measures to pressure Israel into reaching a deal.

On May 6, Hamas publicly announced that it had accepted a ceasefire proposal, triggering celebrations throughout Gaza. The rejoicing was short-lived though, as the Israeli government reiterated its refusal to accept a deal and pledged instead to launch a ground operation in Gaza’s southernmost city, despite US government objections.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even stated that “the day after is the day after Hamas. All of Hamas,” meaning there is no ceasefire deal he will accept.

Despite the Israeli military capturing the Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt, in addition to killing dozens of civilians after bombing 100 targets throughout Rafah, Israel announced that a delegation had been sent to Cairo to exhaust all possibilities of reaching a ceasefire. As it would later turn out, the ceasefire proposal that Hamas accepted was almost identical to one drafted by the CIA and Israeli intelligence, and lauded by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken as a strong proposal.

Meanwhile, in cities like Haifa and Tel Aviv, Israeli protesters – led by the families of captives held in Gaza – had taken to the streets to demand their government accept the ceasefire terms, which included the release of all Israeli prisoners. Clashing with the police and labeling the Netanyahu government liars, the demonstrators threatened to burn the country if their prisoners were not freed.

The US response the very next day was to gaslight reporters by telling them that the whole world was wrong and that Hamas had not accepted any ceasefire proposal. It was not long before US President Joe Biden was to sit down for an interview with CNN and state that he would not supply Israel with offensive weaponry to be used in a “major invasion” of Rafah. What he refused to do, however, was define what a major invasion means – and where the red line is.

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Pro-Palestinian protesters at George Washington University, Washington, DC, May 2, 2024.
Why Israel is the one thing you can’t protest against in Western universities
]]> This unclear approach comes after the Israeli military violated the terms of the 1979 Camp David agreement, which normalized ties between Egypt and Israel, by invading what is known as the Philadelphi Corridor in southern Gaza. Not only did the Israeli army send in its Givati Brigades, who published videos of themselves recklessly crushing the border crossing for fun, they also sealed off the key aid route to Gaza’s civilian population, who are on the brink of famine

A weak and confusing American approach

The Israeli government has been threatening to invade Rafah since the start of the year, with Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly asserting, since the beginning of February, that Israel will lose the war if there is no invasion. it's a move that the US not only says will mean defeat militarily, but more importantly, threatens the lives of over a million civilians, most of whom have nowhere else to go.

In early March, Biden gave a confusing interview to MSNBC, where he repeatedly contradicted himself when addressing the issue of an Israeli invasion of Rafah.

While claiming that entering Rafah is a “red line,” he then said that “there’s no red line [where] I’m going to cut off all weapons... but there’s red lines that if he crosses them”, before he seemed to lose his train of thought.

The sudden changes in the stance of policymakers in Washington are not limited to Biden’s MSNBC interview. In early February, the US said it would oppose an invasion of Rafah, calling it a disaster,” to which the Israeli prime minister responded that he was preparing his forces to invade – and ramped up aerial attacks on the area. Yet, in mid-February the US government prepared a $14 billion military aid package for Israel and would go on to say that it could only support a limited invasion of Rafah.

Then there were reports that emerged, citing unnamed US officials, alleging that Biden was growing frustrated with Netanyahu and that he had even sworn at him. There was then the American push towards a six-week ceasefire in March, which the US president publicly said he hoped would happen prior to the Muslim Holy month of Ramadan. Even now, the Biden administration is still talking about an alleged “six-week ceasefire”, despite its own proposal to Hamas being a detailed agreement designed to end the war or at least to last for several months.

Silently, the US approved over 100 weapons transfers to assist the war effort against Gaza, in which they used loopholes to avoid Washington’s own new laws on weapons sales. Then, with two weeks left until the end of Ramadan, the US finally abstained in a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) vote, which called on Israel to implement a ceasefire until the end of the Muslim Holy month. In response, Israel immediately canceled the pre-planned visit of a high-level American delegation to Tel Aviv. 

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Pro-Palestinian encampment at George Washington University in Washington, DC, on May 3, 2024
The top pro-Jewish organization in the US has shown it isn’t what it claims to be
]]> However, the very next morning, following the passing of the UN Security Council resolution, the US State Department announced that the resolution was non-binding. This not only meant that Washington was denying the reality of the internationally understood consensus that all UNSC votes are by their nature binding, but also that it would allow Israel to violate the resolution. So, even though Washington technically took a measure to pressure its ally temporarily, the very next day it gave an informal veto of the resolution, signaling to the Israeli government that it would retain American support no matter what.

While admitting that an invasion of Rafah will inevitably lead to the mass killing of Palestinian civilians, and block humanitarian aid transfers during an impending famine, and that it will not lead to the collapse of Hamas or the return of Israeli prisoners, the US government is effectively twiddling its thumbs.

The US has had nearly seven months to formulate a coherent policy when it comes to its goals and red lines in the Gaza-Israel war, yet it cannot articulate what its red lines are – and what ceasefire it even desires – without constantly contradicting itself. Western corporate media are now pointing to the postponing of a singular weapons shipment to Israel by the Biden administration, as if this constitutes pressure. But the US has done nothing to force Israel to allow aid to pass through the Rafah Crossing, which it immediately called upon Israel to do.

At this point, the US government is not helping to achieve Israel’s publicly stated war aims, it is not helping the families of Israeli prisoners, and it has failed to achieve a ceasefire or the sufficient transfer of humanitarian aid into Gaza. Instead, Joe Biden appears to be doing one thing – helping Benjamin Netanyahu prolong the conflict, with no end goal, no exit strategy, and no political solution or even the most basic idea of a post-war situation on the horizon. If anything, the US government has proven itself to be incapable of playing any constructive role to any side’s benefit. In fact, it is detrimental to the situation. If there were any people of conscience left in Washington, they would be urging their colleagues to step aside and hand the issue over to nations with coherent foreign policy platforms and intelligent diplomats.

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Mon, 13 May 2024 20:15:16 +0000 RT
Russia, China and MAGA Republicans: Why Western pundits fear them /news/597310-russia-china-maga-authoritarian/ Atlanticists want to lump everyone they hate under the ‘authoritarian’ label, while failing to notice real authoritarians under their noses
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Atlanticists want to lump everyone they hate under the ‘authoritarian’ label, while failing to notice real authoritarians under their noses

Writing in The Atlantic ahead of the publication of her new book, “Autocracy, Inc.: The Dictators Who Want to Run the World,” Anne Applebaum argues that Russia, China, and “MAGA Republicans” are making “common cause” in an affront to freedom and “liberalism” (clearly used here in the European sense of freedom rather than in the American sense of leftism). 

Applebaum cites talk by Russian officials of alleged Western biolabs in Ukraine, subsequently picked up by American social media and the Chinese and Russian state press as evidence of a “joint propaganda effort” between all the above players – as though they deliberately coordinated – that “helped undermine the US-led effort to create solidarity with Ukraine and enforce sanctions against Russia.” According to a YouGov poll, a quarter of Americans believed the theory, she added. Maybe that’s because it seemed like a totally plausible theory given all the lies that the Western establishment has been firehosing onto the average person over the past couple of years about everything from the origin of Covid to the efficacy of authoritarian lockdowns, anti-Covid jabs and mandates? 

“They also heard false descriptions of Ukrainians as Nazis, along with claims that Ukraine is a puppet state run by the CIA, and that NATO started the war.” Canada’s Ottawa Citizen, outed NATO countries’ training of Ukrainian neo-Nazis to fight Russia long before the conflict went red-hot in 2022. NBC News wrote in March 2022 that “Ukraine has a Nazi problem.” Guess they work for Russia and China too now? But alright, if she doesn’t like the sound of “CIA puppet state” then she could always go with “State Department outpost.” The notion that NATO started the war by arming and training neo-Nazis on Russia’s border who shelled Russophones in the region for years is the argument that’s generally cited when accusing NATO being responsible for the current mess in the same way that a kid who constantly threatens to punch you in the face could arguably be blamed for setting off a fistfight. That’s not disinformation or fake news – it’s a point of view. Why does Applebaum have such a problem with others who don’t share her perspectives? Sounds kind of… authoritarian.

She also doesn’t appreciate the badmouthing by Russia of various color revolutions as the work of outsiders when they’re really just organic revolts by the people, she argues. Because Western governments totally don’t practice subversion or regime change. She cites Ukraine’s Orange Revolution as a specific example – which is unlucky, because as a political consultant working in Toronto at the time, I was personally approached by a colleague to partner on that particular “campaign” in Ukraine – and neither of us is Ukrainian. She also cites Syria, despite a former French foreign intelligence chief, Alain Juillet, suggesting that it was shortly after a pipeline project benefiting Washington’s foes was chosen by Syrian President Bashar Assad that “the troubles began” for Assad in Syria.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (R) in Budapest, Hungary on May 9, 2024.
China and EU member announce ‘new era’ of relations
]]> Applebaum says that Russians are fed fake news about the decline of the West – places like America, France, Britain, Sweden, and Poland – and told that they’re “filled with degeneracy, hypocrisy, and Russophobia.” Where would they possibly get that idea? Maybe from the Western establishment’s own Russophobia, hypocrisy, and platforming of degeneracy? 

She criticized China for “conversation management” online. How about Western governments’ use of social media like X (formerly Twitter) to control narratives – a fact disclosed by X owner Elon Musk after he bought the company and delved into its inner workings? “The Chinese regime also combined online tracking methods with other tools of repression, including security cameras, police inspections, and arrests.” Was she even in the Western world at all during the Covid fiasco? She could just as easily have been describing the QR codes on which basic freedoms and daily life were contingent in Europe. Or Canada, where Freedom Convoy pro-liberty, anti-mandate truckers and their supporters saw their bank accounts blocked by executive order in what Canadian federal court has qualified as an actual act of authoritarianism. Is that in her book?

Just because one might have the same opinion as another person or group doesn’t mean that they’re one and the same. For example, Applebaum’s husband, Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski, also a former Defense Minister and member of European Parliament, tweeted in the wake of the mysterious explosion of Europe’s Nord Stream economic lifeline of cheap Russian gas: “Thank you, USA,” accompanied by a photo of the disaster. So, clearly he agrees with whoever blew it up. “The destruction of Nord Stream, as far as I’m concerned, was a very good thing,” Sikorski told the New Statesman in September 2023. By Applebaum’s own logic, he may as well have done it himself or at least shared equally in the culpability.

Just because Russia, China, and some folks on the right all happen to oppose the authoritarian clown show of raging ineptitude that the Western establishment has become, doesn’t invalidate their respective arguments. When American free-market, limited-government proponents support the fact that the Chinese government that has lifted an estimated 800 million of its citizens out of poverty, according to the World Bank, and that a Russian president described by the BBC as far back as 2018 as having “overseen an economic boom” during which “living standards for most Russians improved,” it’s because those countries have shown progress in aligning with values synonymous with classic American conservatism. And they just happen to be doing so at the exact same time that Western officials are regressing on every front when it comes to those same values. Not that Applebaum would notice, even though it’s happening right under her nose. Which is why there’s a huge vacuum left these days for anyone interested in doing the job of holding the Western establishment to account.

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Sat, 11 May 2024 21:12:08 +0000 RT
Poke the bear and find out: Here’s why the West should finally listen to Russia’s warnings /news/597364-west-russia-warnings-nuclear/ The West has a history of not heeding Russian warnings to back down; it ignores them at its peril.
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The latest scuffle over provocations which tested Moscow’s red lines shows that simply brushing off the Kremlin won’t work anymore

We have been through an intense, if muffled crisis in the ongoing political-military confrontation between Russia and the West by way of Ukraine. The essence of this crisis is simple: Kiev and its Western supporters have lost the initiative in the Ukraine proxy war and may be on the verge of defeat, as high Western officials increasingly admit.

In response to this self-inflicted quandary, several important Western players have threatened further escalation. Most prominently, Great Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Cameron publicly encouraged Kiev to use British Storm Shadow missiles to strike inside Russia. French President Emmanuel Macron continued to threaten a direct – not covert, as at present – intervention by French, that is, NATO, troops (In addition, an intriguing and much-discussed article reported that a deployment of 1,500 troops from France’s Foreign Legion had already begun. While its sources were hard to assess, its claims appeared too plausible for easy dismissal.)

Moscow, in return, issued a set of stark warnings, laying down – or highlighting – red lines. It announced drills with tactical nuclear weapons. Belarus did the same; in Minsk’s case, the weapons in question are, of course, also Russian. In addition, the British and French ambassadors received extremely straight talk about the risks their respective governments were running.

Addressing London, Moscow made clear that Kiev striking inside Russia with British missiles would expose Britain to “catastrophic consequences,” in particular, Russian retaliation against British forces anywhere. Regarding France, Moscow blasted its “belligerent” and “provocative” conduct and defied as futile French attempts to produce “strategic ambiguity.”

For now, this particular crisis seems to have abated. There are some signs that the West got the message. NATO figurehead Jens Stoltenberg, for instance, has insisted that NATO is not planning to send troops – openly, that is – into Ukraine.

Yet it would be wrong to feel too reassured. For this crisis was, at its core, a clash between, on one side, a Western problem that has by no means gone away and, on the other side, a persistent Russian policy that, it seems, all too many in the West refuse to take seriously enough.

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FILE PHOTO: The Iskander mobile short-range ballistic missile system.
Message to the West: What’s behind Russia’s tactical nuclear drills
]]> The Western problem is that a defeat at Russia’s hands would be worse by orders of magnitude than the fiasco of the rout-like retreat from Afghanistan in 2021. Ironically, that is so because the West itself has charged its needless confrontation with Russia with the power to do unprecedented damage to NATO and the EU:

First, by insisting on treating Ukraine as a de facto almost-NATO-member, which means that by defeating it, Moscow will also defeat Washington’s key alliance. Second, by investing large and growing sums of money and quantities of supplies into this proxy war, which means that the West has weakened itself and, perhaps even more importantly, revealed its own weakness. Third, by trying to ruin both Russia’s economy and its international standing; the failure of both attempts has resulted in a stronger Russia across these two domains and, once again, revealed more limits of Western power. Fourth, by radically subordinating the EU to NATO and Washington, the geopolitical damage has been, as it were, leveraged.

In short, when the Ukraine crisis started in 2013/14 and then greatly escalated in 2022, Russia had vital security interests at stake; the West did not. By now, however, the West has made choices that have charged this conflict and its outcome with the capacity to do great, strategic harm to its own credibility, cohesion, and power: Overreach has consequences. That, briefly, is why the West is at an impasse and remains there after this crisis.

On the other side, we have that persistent policy of Moscow, namely its nuclear doctrine. Much Western commentary tends to overlook or downplay this factor, caricaturing Russia’s repeated warnings about nuclear weapons as “saber-rattling.” Yet, in reality, these warnings are consistent expressions of a policy that has been developed since the early 2000s, that is, for almost a quarter-century.

A key feature of this doctrine is that Russia explicitly retains the option of using nuclear weapons at a relatively early stage in a major conflict and before an adversary has had recourse to them. Many Western analysts have described the purpose of this posture as facilitating a strategy of “escalating to deescalate” (sometimes abbreviated as E2DE), here meaning specifically to end a conventional conflict on favorable terms through a limited use of nuclear weapons to deter the adversary from continuing.

The term “escalate to de-escalate” emerged in the West, not Russia, and this Western interpretation of Russian policy has played an important role in Western politics and debates and, thus, has its critics as well. In addition – but this is a separate question – some analysts point out that the idea of E2DE is less of any country’s national property than something inherent in the logic of nuclear strategy, that other nuclear powers have had similar policies, and that the whole idea, whoever adopts it, may not work.

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FILE PHOTO: Russian Ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov.
Russia’s nuclear drills are response to West’s ‘shameless’ policies – Moscow?
]]> In addition, Russia’s nuclear doctrine is, as you would expect, complex. And, while France’s President Emmanuel Macron has made a habit of strutting a constant inconstancy he calls “strategic ambiguity,” Moscow is capable of inflicting some genuine calculated uncertainty on its adversaries, with less bragging but more effectively. Thus, one side of its nuclear doctrine stresses that nuclear weapons could only be used if the existence of the Russian state was in danger, as has just been underlined again by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov. But to misunderstand this as a promise that Moscow would only use nukes if Moscow were under siege and half of Russia’s territory or population gone already, would be foolish.

In reality, there also is room in its nuclear doctrine for treating the unconditional territorial integrity and sovereignty of Russia as critical thresholds. How do we know? From multiple Russian documents, which need not be cited here because Ryabkov has reminded us of this facet of Moscow’s policy, too. In the same statement in which he emphasized the criterion of “state existence.” Take that, Emmanuel.

A final point, it seems, needs highlighting as well: Russia has never restricted its option of using nuclear weapons, indeed any type of weapons, to the area of a specific local conflict, for instance, Ukraine. The opposite is the case. Moscow is explicitly reserving the right to strike beyond the confines of such a battlefield. That is something that President Vladimir Putin has made crystal clear in his address to Russia’s Federal Assembly in February of this year. It is exactly that message that Britain has received as well in the recent crisis.

Whichever way you parse it, official Russian nuclear doctrine has specific messages for potential adversaries. Moscow has consistently applied this doctrine throughout the Ukraine War and in its recent warnings – by drill and by diplomatic demarche – to its Western opponents.

But there is the rub: The West has a history of obstinately not hearing Russian messages. That is how we ended up in this war in the first place. Russia had warned the West repeatedly since, at the latest, President Vladimir Putin’s well-known speech at the Munich Security Conference in – wait for it – 2007. The last major warning came in late 2021, when Russia – with Sergey Ryabkov, incidentally, in the forefront – offered the West what turned out to be a last chance to abandon its unilateralism and specifically NATO expansion and, instead, negotiate a new security framework. The West brushed this offer off. With nuclear weapons in play, it is time that Western elites learn to, finally, listen when Russia sends a serious warning.

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Fri, 10 May 2024 19:35:31 +0000 RT
Passport to rape: How a politician accused of assaulting hundreds of women could ensure his victims stay silent /india/597251-passport-to-rape-revanna-mp-india/ After 3,000 videos of an Indian MP engaging in rape surfaced, society is ensuring the victims suffer in shame
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
An Indian lawmaker accused of rape make sure they hide – because being a rape survivor is a bigger social taboo than being a rapist

In what is being called the biggest sexual assault and rape case in the world, Prajwal Revanna, 33, a member of the Indian parliament from the Hassan constituency in the southern state of Karnataka allegedly recorded himself raping women. Nearly 3,000 such clips have been circulated in Hassan and uploaded online. 

Yes, you read that right: 3,000.

The women ranged from his 68-year-old family cook, to political workers, to government officials, and virtually all the women who worked for the extended Gowda clan – a clan headed by the fugitive’s grandfather, former Prime Minister H. D. Deve Gowda, who ran India from June 1996 to April 1997. 

Incredibly, Revanna’s father H. D. Revanna has also been arrested on charges of kidnapping a woman and serial sexual assault. The younger Revanna, who some might call ‘a chip off the old block’, fled to Germany using his diplomatic passport (one that is issued to each MP) as soon as the videos were circulated. He was later suspended by his party, the Janata Dal (Secular), over the allegations. Indian officials have requested Interpol’s help to bring him back to stand trial. 

The burden of Revanna’s perverted crimes, however, is being borne by his victims – the survivors whose identities have been unmasked because of the viral circulation of the rape videos. In India’s agrarian and patriarchal society, being a rape survivor is a bigger social taboo than being a rapist. 

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India's Congress party spokesperson Supriya Shrinate shows a photograph featuring JD(S) MP Prajwal Revanna  who was summoned for alleged sexual abuse case, at a press conference in Bengaluru on May 1, 2024.
India seeks Interpol’s help to track down politician facing sexual assault charges
]]> Police are unsympathetic to women who try and report or register a crime; hence, so many rapes are severely unreported even though the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in 2019 said a rape happens every 16 minutes. Trials are a nightmare, with the survivor subjected to humiliation and grilling. And afterwards, it is difficult for a family to get a survivor married off – an economic imperative in an impoverished milieu. Hence, families try to avoid the “stigma” of rape.

The misplaced sense of honor in patriarchal Indian society burdens the woman’s body as being the repository of the man’s honor. The Hassan victims whose identities have been unmasked have locked their homes and left in a desperate bid to avoid prurient gossip and prying eyes. 

I spoke to a senior official of the Karnataka police for this column and he expressed frustration at the lack of cooperation from the victims. 

Can you blame them, I asked, with the way the system is skewed against women in India? The rapist is not blamed but the women are, even if it happens to be an eight-month-old baby girl or a bedridden 80-plus woman.

Sources told me that the tell-tale signs of locked houses, of women gone into hiding, with their husbands and fathers seeing the videos and demanding answers, is the predictable fallout.

Where does Revanna draw his power from? His grandfather Deve Gowda was an accidental PM for a brief interregnum. Gowda is a dynast of the old school and has always indulged in ‘family first’ politics, finding important jobs for his sprawling clan.

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Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar during the launch of the party's new symbol – 'man blowing turha' ( long, curved, trumpet-like instrument) –  from Chhatrapati Shivaji's Raigad Fort, on February 24, 2024 in Navi Mumbai, India.
The bloodline: How political dynasties are threatening the world’s largest democracy
]]> Hassan, which is located some 180km from the country’s IT capital of Bangalore, is the family pocket borough. The systematic exploitation and abuse of women predates Prajwal’s political career. One of his victims in the viral videos can be heard saying: “I am 68 years old, please spare me, I have fed you as a child. I have fed your father.”

Another, a policewoman who is forced to strip her uniform is begging for mercy, saying that she will commit suicide if he continues. An unmoved Prajwal is seen giggling in the video.

Hassan is such a stronghold of the Gowda clan that before a woman could reach the police the vindictive powerful clan would be tipped off and terrible consequences for the victim's family would follow. That’s the main reason the women kept quiet.

Prajwal is believed to have recorded his acts as a blackmail weapon against the victims to keep them quiet and biddable. If they refused him anything, he would threaten to make the rape video viral.

The entire Gowda clan was aware of Prajwal’s monstrous activities yet they turned a blind eye perhaps because his father was also doing the same. The powerful family obtained gag orders from courts to ensure that the abuse did not become public. 

So far the family’s defense has been eye-watering and sickening as they have claimed the videos are three to four years old. There is no statute of limitations on rape cases in India, but the defense seems to claim that the acts were acceptable because they happened some years ago.

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Students of Maharani's Women's College hold placards and shout slogans to protest against the alleged rape and murder of a 27-year-old veterinary doctor in Hyderabad, during a demonstration in Bangalore on December 3, 2019.
India arrests three over alleged gang rape of Brazilian woman
]]> Even though the Hassan case came into the public eye because of the sheer number of women Prajwal abused, the media was squeamish in reporting the abuse even calling it a “sex scandal,” which is ridiculous. The women were not willing participants in the media-termed “sex scandal.”

The uproar and shame over the leaked videos forced the Karnataka police’s Special Investigation Team to warn it would arrest and prosecute anyone circulating or even in possession of the videos. A district court even denied anticipatory bail to anyone found doing so; this includes four men charged with distributing pen drives with the videos.

Yet Prajwal is not the only politicians to get a free pass on a heinous case of sexual abuse or assault. Here’s a 2018 list of powerful politicians facing charges of sex crimes.

More recently, Indian Olympic gold medal winning women athletes accused another powerful MP, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, of serial sexual harassment. Because the establishment turned a blind eye, thanks to the MP’s considerable political influence in his native Kaiserganj, in India’s most politically important state of Uttar Pradesh, the women went on a public protest and sat on hunger strike. 

Instead of acting against the harasser who ran the wrestling association, the police in April 2023 violently cleared the athletes from the protest site in New Delhi.

]]> READ MORE: Battle Royale: How a king ended up on the ballot in India

]]> Incredibly, in what seemed a clear bid to rehabilitate him, a famous male TV anchor from a mainstream channel this weekend conducted a friendly interview with Singh, whose son is contesting the ongoing parliamentary election in his father’s place. The anchor proudly shared pictures on social media of himself arm-wrestling Singh and repeatedly called him a “strong man.”

I don’t mean to pick on the anchor, who apologized when faced with a swift and harsh backlash on social media, but this is how abuse against women is normalized instead of the criminal being ostracized.

Yes in India you will be valued as a woman if you don’t complain, and if you quietly confirm and win medals. Political leaders will seek you out for photo ops and selfies. But if you dare complain against powerful politicians, the entire establishment will seek retribution.

As Prajwal hides to ensure he is not punished for his alleged serial abuse, ironically his victims also have to hide their faces to ensure a fake sense of honor. Until this victim shaming and apologizing for alleged rapists changes, women will keep being abused and remaining silent in India.

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Thu, 09 May 2024 04:51:56 +0000 RT
There’s a careful plan behind Xi’s European tour /news/597183-xi-france-hungary-serbia/ China want’s to preserve and strengthen its foothold in and near the EU and invests diplomatic effort where it is worth investing
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
China wants to preserve and strengthen its foothold in and around the EU and is investing diplomatic effort where it is worth it

Chinese President Xi Jinping is on a state visit to Europe. On what is his first trip to the EU since 2019, he has visited France and Hungary and concluded the tour in Serbia.

The trip comes at a pivotal moment, when European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is attempting to flip the EU institution against China, having initiated dozens of probes on Chinese products in recent weeks. Likewise, the US has aggressively ramped up rhetoric accusing Beijing, accusing it of complicity in the Ukraine conflict, designed of course to undermine Xi’s credibility on his trip.

Despite von der Leyden’s blatant pro-US bias, it is quite obvious that the loyalty of EU nations has become the subject of a battle between Washington and Beijing for influence in the emerging geopolitical struggle. Although of course the EU is in theory aligned with the US, through its dominance of institutions such as NATO, China’s foreign policy for many years now has focused on attempting to exert all influence to prevent the EU from fully aligning itself with Washington’s goal of containing Beijing, instead seeking to preserve open economic ties with the continent. To this end China has devoted an extensive diplomatic effort to Europe, an effort it doesn’t feel worth making towards the US, or even the UK.

Continental Europe is a mixed bag, and depending on the political status quo there are some states who are favourable to China, and some who are not (such as the Baltic states), and thus China sees it important to uphold the bastion of support where it can. As a result, Xi has dedicated his visit to three countries who are currently favourable towards Beijing: France and Hungary within the EU and Serbia outside the bloc. First, France is a Western-aligned state which has always been famous for its “maverick” foreign policy derived from its position as a former empire in its own right. Emmanuel Macron in particular has always been keen to go against the grain and has continued to engage with Beijing, even visiting China himself last year.

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PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 06: French President Emmanuel Macron and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
France and China call for Palestinian state
]]> Traditionally, the most enthusiastic large EU country towards China is in fact Germany, and that is still visible, for example in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s visit to Beijing several weeks ago. However, German politics has become a domestic tug of war over China, as the foreign ministry is controlled by the neoconservative Green Annalena Baerbock, who has attempted to try and undermine ties with Beijing. This of course has been met with resistance from the German Industry lobby, while US-funded think tanks also try to undermine German ties with China to the best of their ability. As a result, it is not politically convenient for Xi to visit Germany, and thus he chose France, where opinions seem more comfortable with its “maverick” role.

His second destination, Hungary, under Viktor Orban has carved out a niche as being the most pro-Beijing state in the whole EU. Orban has an even more maverick foreign policy which also seeks healthy ties with Russia. However, its small size means it cannot steer the entire bloc’s agenda. Despite this, Budapest is a very important partner for Beijing because it serves as a gateway for Chinese investment and other projects to amplify themselves on the continent when doors are being shut elsewhere. Such as, building an overseas campus for Fudan University, or a Chinese electric car factory, which is critically important if the commission is wielding the threat of tariffs.

But not only that, Hungary occupies a strategic position in central Europe above the Balkans which is the terminus of a Chinese economic corridor that starts with the port it owns in Piraeus, Greece. And between Greece and Hungary lies Serbia. Although Serbia is not part of the EU, it is a critically important nation in the Balkans which has stormy relations with the West owing to the massive bombing campaign NATO waged against it in the 1990s. 

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FILE PHOTO: China's President Xi Jinping.
Xi marks 25th anniversary of NATO atrocity
]]> It is a nation which dislikes the West, but has no power to directly resist as it faces pressure to integrate into the EU, and a sovereignty issue over Kosovo. As a result, Serbia’s well being depends on its ability to court relationships with third-party powers such as Russia and China to secure geopolitical clout.

For China, Serbia thus becomes another focus point, or safe-haven, to project influence into Europe. Since the Ukraine conflict began, China has taken the subtle position of opposing the expansion of US-led western institutions, recognising them as a tool of hegemony that will be used against it. As a result, strengthening ties with Belgrade has become part of Beijing’s effort to keep its foothold in the continent, both politically and economically – it has created as a commercial passage utilising its role as part of the Balkan corridor. 

Hence, Xi is reportedly going to try and upgrade relations with Serbia. After all, it is a place where China can invest and thus, sell to Europe, without EU and NATO interference. It is also hoped Serbia will join BRICS eventually.

Thus, while Xi’s visit to France, one of the EU’s leading states, is to ensure the bloc does not unite against Beijing, his visit to Serbia and Hungary is strategic by design in using them as projection points in ensuring China’s commercial ties with Europe can be upheld amidst resistance by powerful individuals such as Ursula von der Leyen.

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Wed, 08 May 2024 00:33:50 +0000 RT
US out: How NATO’s disastrous Libya invasion still echoes in West Africa today /africa/597057-us-niger-cut-military-relations/ The March visit by a US delegation to Niger only made matters worse for Washington – and this is why
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The visit to Niger only made matters worse for Washington – and this is why

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin recently confirmed that Russian forces have entered the same military base where American troops are stationed in Niger, a fact which clearly demonstrates a shift in the Sahel state’s policy. Washington is fully withdrawing its troops from Niger and is also relocating military personnel stationed in Chad, as it considers its options for continuing “America’s counterterrorism mission” in the region, according to the Pentagon. How did it come to pass that in March, Niger’s new leadership terminated the security agreement with the US, declaring as unwelcome the presence of 1,000 American troops?

For a long time, diplomatic relations between Niger and the US seemed to be based on the following false premise: the US is a superior power, while African nations are inferior. This is rooted in the deep and bloody past of slavery, racism, colonial massacres and imperialist hegemony through military camps all over Africa, and later – the dollar monopoly, irrational IMF and World Bank debts, and NATO recolonization of the continent. The aim of all this is clear: to control the strategic resources of Africa.

But everything changed when African patriots rose to power in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. Assimi Goïta, Ibrahim Traoré and Abdourahamane Tiani, the three leaders of the new Alliance of Sahelian States (AES), are fully involved in the emancipation process of African peoples in the 21st century. This results in cutting all the ties of alienation and building relations in the new, truly multipolar world to come.

The story started on July 6, 2012, when the American Embassy in Niger sent a diplomatic ‘note verbale’ to the Nigerien Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which was headed by Mohamed Bazoum at that time. The note was in fact a proposal of unilateral subjugation of Niger under the rule of the US Defense Department, with all the rights in the Nigerien territory given to American troops, without any kind of reciprocity for the Nigerien state. Here are, for example, just several terms of this unusual agreement (page 6):

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FILE PHOTO: Outgoing Africa Command commander US General William Ward (2nd L) and his successor US General Carter Ham (R) take part in the AFRICOM change of command ceremony in Sindelfingen near Stuttgart, Germany.
US has found a surprising military frontier against Russia and China
]]> “The Embassy further proposes that United States contractors shall not be liable to pay any tax or similar charge assessed within the Republic of Niger in connection with activities under this Agreement and that such contractors may import into, export out of, and use in the Republic of Niger any personal property, equipment, supplies, material, technology, training, or services in fulfilment with activities under this Agreement. Such importation, exportation, and use shall be exempt from any license, other restrictions, customs duties, taxes, or any other charges assessed within the Republic of Niger. 

The Embassy proposes that United States contractors shall be granted the same treatment as United States personnel with respect to professional and drivers’ licenses”.

The then-Nigerien president, Mahamadou Issoufou, did not intervene in the process, having left the country’s negotiations with the US in the hands of his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Bazoum (who was later elected president in 2021).

In his statement made for the Nigerien public radio and TV broadcaster, RTN, the spokesperson of the Nigerien military authorities, Amadou Abdramane Djibo, claimed that the American military presence is “illegal” and “violates all the constitutional and democratic norms.” According to Niamey, this “unjust” agreement was “unilaterally imposed” by the US, by a “simple verbal note” .

There were Nigerien diplomats who tried to object against the 2012 document, in a diplomatic verbal note dated January 23 of 2013, but just five days later, Bazoum accepted all the US conditions: “[The] Ministry hereby communicates its acceptance of all terms of the draft agreement on the status of United States military personnel and civilian employees of the United States Department of Defense, as embodied in Embassy note verbale No. 174 of July 6, 2012.” 

American diplomats, military personnel and civilians related to the Defense Department were free to enter and operate in Niger simply by using American official papers, having the right to import and export all kinds of goods and weapons without any inspection by the Nigerien side. Following the 2013 agreement, there was no actual obligation by the US to fight against terrorism, nor were they accountable for military activities in the country. So profoundly unfair and shameful.

Earlier this year, the new Nigerien leader, Abdourahamane Tiani, after expelling French troops from the country, prepared a memorandum under the responsibility of the defense minister, General Salifou Modi, asking for substantial changes to be made in the same infamous 2013 US agreement. However, as revealed by spokesperson Amadou Djibo in his statement, the US did not respond to this offer of revision. Instead, the US sent an official delegation to Niger on March 12-14, led by the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Molly Phee, and General Michael Langley, the chief of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), with a clear intention to reinforce military ties under the same 2013 agreement.

According to Daniel Twining, the president of the International Republican Institute, and Will Meeker, the senior director for Africa at the International Republican Institute, “the latest evidence that Washington needs a new Africa policy is on display in Niger.” They also note, that, after “many months of intense political jockeying,” Washington’s security partnership with the country “looks likely to end.”

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FILE PHOTO. ECOMOG soldiers on patrol look down a road in Monrovia.
‘A threat to our countries’: Why former French colonies decided to leave ‘African version of EU’
]]> The US military “now risks becoming the next casualty in the spate of coups and violent insurgencies plaguing countries across a large swath of the continent.” Thus, the pullout of US forces from Niger, as well as the closure of US-funded airbases the cities of Niamey and Agadez, “would jeopardize Washington’s efforts to address transnational terrorist threats and other sources of instability in North and West Africa,” Twinning and Meeker believe.

At the meeting, some accusations were voiced by the US officials, with the alleged intention of Niger to sell uranium to Iran among them. This claim appears entirely implausible for anyone who knows that the entire production of uranium in Niger is still exclusively under French control through the only uranium producer in the country, ORANO. As Amadou Djibo stated, the Nigerien government therefore denounces “with force the condescending attitude, accompanied by the threat of reprisals from the American delegation vis-à-vis the Nigerien government.”

Phee also affirmed the opposition of the US to an alleged secret agreement between Niger and Russia. The Nigerien government, however, rejected that unfounded claim, explaining that all the agreements between Niger and Russia, just as between Niger and Iran, are public, legitimate, and transparent. Djibo also noted that it is with the same false accusations that the US destroyed Iraq at the beginning of the century. In 2003, Niger was also falsely accused of providing uranium to Saddam Hussein’s regime in Baghdad. The so-called weapons of mass destruction alleged by US General Colin Powell were in fact fictitious, just like the so-called uranium deal between Niger and Iran is today.

Indeed, the end of military ties between Niger and the US looked inevitable: these ties were unilaterally imposed for the exclusive benefit of the US; the 2013 agreement proved itself counterproductive in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel; the US Army is responsible for the destabilization of Africa today since its massive attack under the NATO flag against Libya in 2011; the sovereignty of the continent is a matter of life and death for all African people, and is not subject to negotiation.

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Tue, 07 May 2024 16:54:18 +0000 RT
Good terrorists, bad terrorists: Can the world stop creating a vague and dangerous demarcation and start countering both? /india/597077-good-terrorists-bad-terrorists-india-russia/ India and Russia must strengthen their counterterrorism cooperation to deny militants from gaining the upper hand
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
In multipolarity, chaos will be a constant – India and Russia must strengthen their counterterrorism cooperation to prevent independent and state-sponsored militants from gaining the upper hand

Concrete actions including digital technology should be pursued to counter trans-border terrorism and the financing of terrorism, declared Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval as the recently concluded meeting of BRICS national security advisors in Russia. 

The comments come in the wake of the March 22 Moscow terror attack, when four gunmen stormed Crocus City Hall in one the most brazen assaults in the country’s history. Now a month and half after the attack, more questions have been raised than answered.

The thought articulated by Russian and Indian officials shortly after the Moscow attack – that the two countries could be cooperating more closely to combat terrorism in all forms – is now being tested in practice in the wake of the email bomb attacks received by nearly 100 schools in New Delhi last week. 

On Sunday, the Times of India reported that the Delhi police are likely to approach the federal government and subsequently the courts to facilitate sending a judicial request to Russia seeking details of the email ID from which the threats were sent. The email address is believed to be registered with mail.ru, the Russian company Mail.ru, which is one of the leading email, communications and entertainment services providers in Russia. Separately, the Delhi police have already reached out to Interpol via the Central Bureau of Investigation for assistance in the matter.

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Schools open for new session, children arrive in the morning at Dwarka in South West Delhi, on April 1, 2024 in New Delhi, India.
Dozens of Indian schools receive fake bomb threats
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Slippery slope

The September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center ushered in a new age defined by the (in)famous Global War on Terror (GWOT). Spearheaded by the US, during this campaign Afghanistan was invaded, Iraq was targeted, and Libya dismembered under the banner of fighting global terrorism. Yet, even as existing heads of the Hydra were defeated (Operation Neptune Spear against Osama Bin Laden in 2011), new ones arose in the form of ISIS in the Middle East and the resurgence of Taliban in Afghanistan, which challenged the efficacy of the GWOT. The Islamic State, albeit an exception, even propounded a notion of territoriality that attracted global followers to its self-declared caliphate. 

After the demise of ISIS and the strengthening of global anti-terror cooperation, terrorism seemingly gave way to other pertinent issues, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and then the crisis in Ukraine. But then came the Hamas October 7 attack, and the devastating war in Gaza, affecting security in the Middle East and subsequently awakening large-scale terrorism.

Russia, meanwhile, saw a steady resurgence of attempted coordinated terrorist attacks due to the intensifying crisis in Ukraine. Despite the Islamic State having claimed responsibility for the Moscow Crocus City Hall attack, many pertinent questions are left unanswered. The fact that the gunmen fled the scene rather than barricade and sacrifice themselves like Islamic extremists, betrays their true intentions. Secondly, Washington outright declaring the absence of any Ukrainian involvement even though it may be a potential instigator further adds to the mystery. 

Finally, carrying canisters of oil to set the building on fire as a deliberately planned tactic is eerily similar to the bloody 26/11 Mumbai attack in 2008, which killed 166, injured hundreds, and soured ties between India and Pakistan, and showcases that it was a sophisticated operation rather than a crudely planned terror act. 

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Doctors work next to bodies of victims near the Crocus City Hall concert venue, Krasnogorsk, Russia, March 22, 2024.
‘We’ll wipe them out in the outhouse’: Russia’s long and bloody fight against terrorism
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Many expect an appropriate Russian retaliation. The American invasion of Afghanistan, the Indian strikes on Balakot, Pakistan, an alleged training camp of the terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed, after the 2019 Pulwama attack – one of the deadliest in Jammu and Kashmir region in the recent years (40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were killed after the terrorists rammed an explosives-laden car into a convoy) – and the recent Israeli escalation in response to Hamas’ assault have undoubtedly set a growing precedent.

In the dawning post-GWOT era of multipolarity, global cooperation on terrorism is bound to become difficult, if not outright impossible. Cooperation with Moscow on finding the culprits would be a slippery slope for Western governments, given the ongoing Ukrainian conflict and the possibility of it having been a state-sponsored attack.

Intelligence sharing and collaboration is usually concluded between strategic and regional allies. Such selective regional collaboration inadvertently creates blind spots in global counter-terrorism efforts, which can be exploited by extremist elements. In such scenarios, there is increased urgency towards enhancing government-to-government communication, which is seamless, efficient and effective.

Common interests

Russia and India have already cooperated in the past in multiple bi- and multi-lateral forums, as well as through transnational organs focused on combating terrorism. As part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), both New Delhi and Moscow have cooperated intensively within the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS), which specializes in coordinating the counterterrorism efforts of member states.

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File Photo: India's National Security Adviser Ajit Doval attends a meeting on Afghan issues held by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia.
New Delhi seeks global anti-terrorism tech measures
]]> Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh recently highlighted the critical need to ensure that those who finance extremist activities are held to account, adding that “any kind of terrorist act or support for it in any form is a major crime against humanity.”

Joint annual counterterrorism exercises, the most significant being the Peace Mission exercises, which have consistently been held since 2005, mark a significant contribution towards global anti-terrorism measures. These exercises, usually held on a large scale almost mimicking other conventional armed exercises have invited critical attention from the West, which questions the aim of such large scale ‘anti-terror’ operations.

On the other hand, the existence of a joint working group specializing in countering dissemination of online extremist propaganda along with deep-seated cooperation with critical transnational bodies such as the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (UN-CTED), Eurasian Group on Combatting Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (EAG) and Commonwealth of Independent States Anti-Terrorism Centre (CIS-ATC), among others, make the SCO-RATS mechanism one of the most pivotal nodes in the global anti-terrorism framework. The United States Army War College classifies RATS as the “SCO’s most important and best-functioning component structure to date.” 

Differing stances

However, issues of cooperation and implementation still exist. The accession of Pakistan to the SCO at the behest of China is viewed with apprehension by New Delhi. Although India has officially stated that the SCO won’t be affected by bilateral issues between India and Pakistan, New Delhi still feels that bringing a terror-financing state onboard an anti-terrorism forum does more harm than good. 

There are legitimate fears that the Chinese-Pakistan bonhomie or the strengthening Russian-Chinese partnership would be detrimental to Russian-Indian relations, as well as to India's national interests. This is further exacerbated by India drifting towards an American partnership to deter Chinese influence which, in turn, is viewed negatively by both the Russian and Chinese leadership as American attempts at infiltrating a largely non-Western platform. 

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FILE PHOTO: A view shows the burnt-out Crocus City Hall following a deadly attack on the concert venue outside Moscow, Russia.
Andrey Sushentsov: Americans can’t tell us who blew up Nord Stream, but they solved the Moscow terror attack case in 15 minutes?
]]> The differing stances of member states have previously led to indecision during critical events, which hampers effective decision-making and the efficacy of the SCO as a whole. During the 2010 unrest in Kyrgyzstan, the differing viewpoints among members about how to react to the rapidly deteriorating situation left the transnational platform paralyzed. Rapid, efficient and effective implementation is therefore a less-explored field that can benefit from better cooperation and compromise among SCO members. 

Apart from multilateral organizations, India and Russia had a joint working group as part of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) aimed at combating money laundering activities, as well as the financing of terrorism. Previously, the FATF had effectively placed relevant states (read Pakistan) engaged in sponsoring terror groups within its infamous grey and black lists, which act as a potent deterrent against the proliferation of state-sponsored extremist actions.

However, the platform has also been affected by the Ukraine crisis, which in turn saw the suspension of the Russian Federation as a member of the body on February 24, 2023. Officials from India’s Foreign Ministry had reiterated confidently that up until the suspension of Russia from the forum both countries worked together on “several tracks” to counter terrorism. Enabling greater cooperation would be dependent on securing the reinstatement of full membership of Moscow within the transnational body. 

Another vital area of cooperation has been between the RIC and ASEAN groupings as part of the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus format. Besides establishing critical confidence-building measures (through joint operational exercises among participating militaries), it also features crucial counter-terrorism scenarios. Building interoperability between the functioning counter-terrorism arms of the involved states is a much-needed deterrent towards growing instability in the global frameworks. 

Countering, not managing

The emergence of multipolarity has exacerbated chaotic engagements between divergent regional trends and groupings. Within an increasingly flexible and mobile world, proxy warfare would be the preferred method of engaging rival states and factions.

The discreet use of proxy extremist elements, as well as paramilitary corporations provide the twin advantage of plausible deniability for their geostrategic masters, as well as destabilizing their rivals. Proxy warfare also provides a cheaper alternative to fielding professional standing armies in future battlefields, which in turn directly impacts the popularity of the governing elites at home (the fiascos in Vietnam and Afghanistan are a testimony to that). 

]]> READ MORE: The West has invented a magic phrase to hide its geopolitical games

]]> States are therefore seduced with expediently utilizing them for their own national interests by creating a vague and dangerous demarcation between ‘good terrorists’ and ‘bad terrorists.’ Such attempts will only lead to unintended and often violent repercussions, such as the break in ties between the Afghan Mujahideen and the US or the myriad attacks within Pakistan by home-grown extremist groups.

This highlights that the best way to secure the future of a multipolar world is not by ‘managing’ terrorism but by actively countering all forms of extremist actions, to minimize global ambiguity, and chaos. Working towards such a future should be our main goal in today’s disruptive times. 

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Tue, 07 May 2024 14:18:25 +0000 RT
Why Israel is the one thing you can’t protest against in Western universities /news/597066-israel-destroyed-western-universities/ The crackdown on pro-Palestine campus protests might just make college kids hate the establishment again
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The crackdown on pro-Palestine campus protests might just make college kids hate the establishment again

The American university crowd didn’t seem to mind too much when the state was ushering in authoritarian green policies under the dodgy pretext of reducing the temperature of the planet. Or when campuses were banning right-wing speakers. Or when everyone was being forced to comply with their ‘revolution’ over personal pronoun usage. Or when unvaccinated fellow students were being banned from campus during the Covid-19 fiasco. But now that the Western establishment, from North America to Europe, is cracking down on campus protesters demonstrating against Israel’s ongoing bombing of Gaza civilians, they’re suddenly wondering where all their rights went.

If those who are now upset with the campus crackdowns had bothered to help expand the Overton window – that is, the range of acceptable speech and debate – back when others with whom they disagreed were trying to pry it open as widely as possible, they’d be reaping the benefits of true free speech now. Instead, the establishment has enjoyed a culture of impunity, enabled by the woke crowd and its constant demands for safe spaces. And now the government and universities have unilaterally decided that it’s Israel that needs a safe space and protection from college kids.

To that end, the US Congress has just passed a new bill broadening the definition of anti-Semitism on university campuses to include “targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.” How about another law banning criticism of Iran because it’s a collective of Muslims? Or of Russia because it’s a collective of Orthodox Christians? Or of China because it’s a collective of Buddhists? Can’t have that, because it would enable the state in question to act with carte blanche impunity by scaring critics into silence.

Not only is the establishment using force to crack down on protesters, but it’s now formally legislating against dissent, even though 55% of Americans are against Israel’s actions in Gaza, according to a Gallup poll from March. Not even the Israeli establishment is going that far to quash dissent when, just a few days ago, thousands of Israelis rallied around the country in opposition to the government’s handling of the crisis and in favor of a ceasefire. So are they just a bunch of anti-Semites, too?

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Pro-Palestinian encampment at George Washington University in Washington, DC, on May 3, 2024
The top pro-Jewish organization in the US has shown it isn’t what it claims to be
]]> The Western establishment’s constant reductio ad absurdum, conflating pro-ceasefire and anti-genocide activism with anti-Semitism, is exactly the kind of thing that the establishment has been doing for years to ram through its agenda. Don’t like blowing cash on Ukraine? Then you’re doing the Kremlin’s bidding. Opposed to carbon taxes? You’re a science denier. Didn’t buy the ever-changing Covid narrative? You’re a threat to society. 

While the US establishment is pretending to be scandalized by the ground-breaking concept of university students actively protesting injustice, much of the focus in Europe has been on one particular campus – Sciences Po – where I taught in the master’s program for seven years. It’s basically the French equivalent of Harvard.

Initially, students faced off against French riot police and refused to budge when the authorities repeatedly threatened to use force if the students didn’t move as they blocked the campus with a sit-in to demand a ceasefire in Gaza. Some students ended up facing disciplinary proceedings as a result. The students have also been demanding that the university cut all ties with entities related to the state of Israel, which management has refused to do. There haven’t been any campus uprisings against Russia amid the conflict in Ukraine, and yet these same universities, including Sciences Po, didn’t hesitate to cut ties with Russian universities. So why not with Israel? Because that simply isn’t the establishment’s position, unlike in the case of Russia. These institutions’ lofty values of “universality, humanity, and tolerance,” as the director of Sciences Po Strasbourg put it, are apparently selectively imposed. Kind of like campus free speech these days.

Even when Sciences Po dropped the disciplinary actions against student protesters in exchange for the students agreeing to attend a formal debate on campus to air out grievances on all sides, at least one member of the center-right establishment, the vice president of former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s party, Les Republicains, was furious about the mere notion of even entertaining the possibility. “We cannot finance a school which has become the place of entryism, a mixture of leftism and Islamism, which legitimizes anti-Semitic remarks and acts of violence,” Francois-Xavier Bellamy said. Bellamy’s Les Republicains colleague, Valerie Pecresse, president of the Greater Paris Region, straight-up suspended its own funding of the university. 

The end result of this establishment censorship is a safe space that shelters the establishment’s own rhetoric and ideas from criticism. We’re talking here about the top university for educating France’s future political elites, so you’d think it would be a good idea for students to be battle-hardened in the arena of contentious political debate and conflict. Instead, these soft-handed elites want the school to protect their narrative at the expense of the most critical kind of diversity – that of critical thought. 

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A Palestinian flag on the fence of Israel's Ofer prison near the city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank
Neglect, abuse, torture: The West is ignoring the fate of Palestinians stuck in Israeli jails
]]> Even French President Emmanuel Macron has recently echoed the students’ concerns in calling out Israel’s actions. “Deep indignation at the images reaching us from Gaza where civilians have been targeted by Israeli soldiers,” Macron said on X (formerly Twitter). “I express my strongest disapproval of these shots and demand truth, justice and respect for international law.” 

Earlier this year, Macron said that a two-state solution recognizing a Palestinian state isn’t taboo for France. Not that he’s actually taken any actual leadership action on that front. And Sciences Po isn’t the only French campus to spark controversy on this issue. Cops cleared out a pro-Palestinian encampment this week at Paris’ Sorbonne University. Why couldn’t they just pretend that they were one of the migrant camps along the Seine and plaguing various other parts of the city for years on end? Pretty sure those migrants aren’t big fans of Israel, either. So why do they get to stay and block the city? 

And when left-wing France Insoumise party leader Jean-Luc Melenchon had his conference on Palestine at Lille University canceled last month, he compared the university’s president to Nazi Adolf Eichmann, who famously said he was just following orders. The French education minister piped up to say that she’d file a criminal complaint for public injury in support of the university president and on behalf of the government. Way to prove Melenchon wrong and dispel any notion of the heavy-handed state in his Eichmann reference. 

The Western establishment supports free speech and democratic values – just as long as you find yourself on the same side as those with the power to redefine them at any given moment to suit their agenda on any given issue. The real revolution will be when this is no longer the case. Until then, episodes like the current campus chaos will only provide glimpses of this hypocritical reality as the facade of freedom temporarily cracks.

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Mon, 06 May 2024 21:43:24 +0000 RT
The West has invented a magic phrase to hide its geopolitical games /news/596994-us-georgia-civil-society/ The meaning of ‘civil society’ changes depending on whether Washington is speaking about protests inside or outside the American border
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The meaning of the words ‘civil society’ changes depending on whether Washington is speaking about protests inside or outside the American border

The elites and mainstream media of the West are so addicted to double standards that spotting yet another one is hardly news. These are the people who have just given us genocide re-labeled as self-defense,” who abhor spheres of influence except when they are global and belong to Washington (with a sidekick role for Brussels), and who insist on the rule of law while threatening the International Criminal Court if it so much as dares look their way.

Yet there is something special about the latest case of Western ‘values’ schizophrenia, this time about the concept of ‘civil society’ in conjunction with two political struggles, one in the US and the other in the Caucasus nation of Georgia.

In the US, students, professors, and others are protesting against the ongoing Israeli genocide of the Palestinians and against American participation in that crime. In Georgia, the issue at stake is a proposed law to impose transparency on the sprawling and unusually powerful NGO sector. Its critics denounce this law as a government power grab and as somehow ‘Russian’ (which, spoiler alert, it is not).

The very different reactions to these two cases of intense public contention by the West’s political and mainstream media elites show that, for them, there are really two kinds of civil society: There is the ‘vibrant’ variety, with ‘vibrant’ an almost comically ossified cliche, used by the Washington Post Editorial Board, in EU statements, and by White House spokesman John Kirby, to name only a few. It is almost as if someone had sent around a memo on proper terminology. This vibrant, good kind of civil society is to be celebrated and supported.

And then there is the wrong kind of civil society, which must be shut down. US President Joe Biden has just expressed the essence of this attitude: “We are a civil society, and order must prevail.” This is, of course, a bizarre misreading of the idea of civil society. Ideally, its key features are autonomy from the state and the capacity to establish an effective counterweight, and even, if necessary, to offer resistance to it. Putting the emphasis on “order” instead is ignorant or dishonest. In reality, civil society makes no sense, even as an ideal, if it is not granted a substantial degree of freedom to be disorderly. A civil society that is so orderly as to disturb no one is a fig leaf for enforced conformism and – at least – incipient authoritarianism.

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Pro-Palestinian encampment at George Washington University in Washington, DC, on May 3, 2024
The top pro-Jewish organization in the US has shown it isn’t what it claims to be
]]> But let’s set aside the mundane fact that Joe Biden says things that display ignorance or duplicity. What is more important is that ‘order,’ in his usage, is a transparent euphemism: According to the New York Times, over the last two weeks, over 2,300 protesters have been arrested on almost 50 American campuses. Often, arrests have been made with demonstrative brutality. Police have used riot gear, stun grenades, and rubber bullets. They have assaulted students as well as some professors with massive aggression.

The most well-known individual case at this moment is that of Annelise Orleck, a professor at Dartmouth College. Orleck is 65 years old and attempted to protect students from police violence. In response, she was slammed into the ground in the worst MMA style, knelt on by beefy policemen, who clearly lack elementary decency, and dragged away with whiplash trauma, as if she had been in a serious car accident. Ironically (if that’s the word), Orleck is Jewish and, at one time, used to be the head of her universities program in Jewish Studies.

In another, extremely disturbing development, at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), a violent police crackdown – including use of rubber bullets – was preceded by a vicious attack by so-called pro-Israeli counter-protesters.” In reality, this was a mob out to inflict maximum harm on the anti-genocide protesters, who, a New York Times investigation has found, maintained an almost entirely defensive stance. University security forces and the police failed to intervene for hours, letting the “counter-protesters” run wild. That is a pattern every historian of the rise of fascism in Weimar Germany will recognize: First the SA mobs of the rising Nazi party had a free hand to assault the Left, then the police would go after the same Left as well.

That is the real face of the “order” that President Biden and all too many in the West’s establishments endorse. But only at home. When it comes to the unrest in Georgia, their tone is entirely different. Make no mistake, there has been substantial violence – and what Biden would denounce as “chaos” if it happened in America – in Georgia. Indeed, while the US anti-genocide protesters have not been violent but disorderly (yes, those are very different things), the protesters in Georgia have used genuine violence, for instance, when they tried to storm the parliament.

Nothing remotely comparable has been done by the US anti-genocide protesters. Regarding the trespassing and causing public inconveniences that so agitate the US president, there has been plenty of that in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. By Biden’s logic a protest must not even disturb or delay a campus graduation ceremony. What would that imply for blocking a central traffic node in the capital city?

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FILE PHOTO.
Georgia accuses Washington of trying to spark ‘two revolutions’
]]> Don’t get me wrong: The Georgian protesters report violent police tactics used against them as well, and, more broadly, the rights or wrongs of their cause, or the draft law they reject are beyond the scope of this article. I do believe they are used by the West for a geopolitical play Color-Revolution-style, but that is not the point.

The pertinent point here is, once again, staggering Western hypocrisy: A West that thinks trying to storm parliament is part of having a “vibrant” civil society in Georgia, cannot mass-arrest and brutalize anti-genocide protesters on its own campuses. That is, of course, also the message of Georgian prime minister Irakli Kobakhidze, who clearly has had enough of the absurdity.

In a resonant post on X, Kobakhidze objected forcefully to American “false statements” about the controversial draft law as well as, more importantly, US interference in Georgian politics in general. The prime minister, in essence and very plausibly for the non-naive, named and shamed Washington’s habit of trying out a “color revolution” at regular intervals. Finally, he reminded his American interlocutors “about a brutal crackdown of the students’ protest rally in New York City.” With that phrase clearly standing for the totality of police repression against young Americans who object to genocide, Kobakhidze turned the tables.

And that is, perhaps, the most intriguing take-away from this fresh but not unprecedented episode of the long-running saga of Western double standards. To find condemnation and suppression of almost entirely peaceful protests against genocide, while more violent protests against a law to regulate NGOs are being celebrated – that is shameful but not new. As before, geopolitics trumps ‘values.’

But ‘civil society’ used to be a key concept for projecting Western soft power by, in essence, subversion and manipulation. It was so useful because its ideological charge was so powerful that its mere invocation stifled resistance. Now, by displaying how it handles its own civil society at home, the West is ruining yet another useful illusion.

 

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Sat, 04 May 2024 21:24:22 +0000 RT
The top pro-Jewish organization in the US has shown it isn’t what it claims to be /news/596971-adl-jews-israel-us/ The Anti-Defamation League’s director has made outlandish and harmful claims about students protesting the Israeli war effort in Gaza
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The Anti-Defamation League’s CEO has made outlandish and harmful claims about students protesting the Israeli war effort in Gaza

As students at top universities in the US protest against the Israeli war effort in Gaza, which has resulted in the deaths of over 34,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and injury to over 70,000 more, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has been working overtime to sanitize Israel’s image – and to make outrageous claims about protesters.

The ADL describes itself as an anti-hate organization with a mission “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” Its CEO and director, Jonathan Greenblatt, recently said live on MSNBC that “Iran has their military proxies like Hezbollah, and Iran has their campus proxies like these groups, like Students for Justice in Palestine,[and] Jewish Voice for Peace.” He also told Forbes during an interview that he’d “really like the FBI to investigate these groups” for their supposed “elevation of Hamas propaganda.”

Additionally, Greenblatt visited Columbia University and did a live stream in which he said he wanted the New York Police Department back on campus or, he suggested, “bring in the National Guard.” The ADL chief then proceeded to pen a controversial opinion piece for CNN, arguing for the NYPD to make a return to campuses, calling on universities to ban full-face masking, to immediately suspend students who violate codes of conduct, and to arrest outsiders for trespassing, as well as pushing for donors to divest from universities.

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Pro-Palestinian students stand their ground after police breached their encampment at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
Pro-Palestine protests at US colleges: as it happened
]]> The Anti-Defamation League has a long and storied history of attacking people it disagrees with, often Arabs, black people, and queer people. It rightly casts as anti-Semites those who claim that Jews in the US fundamentally have a “dual loyalty” split between America and Israel, while consistently painting Israel’s detractors, especially those with Muslim roots, as having this same compromised loyalty. The ADL infamously collaborated with the House Un-American Committee in the 1940s and 50s, adopting a quasi-state role that also favors deeper (and unwavering) support for Israel.

Today, this supposed civil-rights advocacy organization’s 53-year-old leader appears to be continuing this tradition – though ADL faces a much tougher mission ahead. That’s because many Americans, particularly younger ones, are disgusted with the actions of the Israeli state, or at least with those of the far-right government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. What is transpiring in Gaza is nothing short of a televised genocide, and it is impossible for any ordinary human being of a decent moral composition not to feel sympathy for the Palestinians.

Greenblatt is evidently desperate to turn the discussion away from the wanton slaughter of human beings by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) by making this issue about alleged hate speech and about altercations against Jews on college campuses, even though many of the groups he has baselessly accused of connections to foreign states and designated terrorist groups are themselves Jewish.

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Pro-Palestinian protesters demonstrate on the campus of George Washington University on May 2, 2024 in Washington, DC, US
Suspended US students get education offer from Houthis
]]> It is clear that he also wants to avoid legitimate discussions about boycotting, defunding, and sanctioning (‘BDS-ing’) Israel, particularly in light of that country’s, or at least of PM Netanyahu’s, complete disregard for elementary humanitarian and international law, while ironically calling on people to BDS universities.

This deflection is certain to fail. No amount of punditry can force people not to believe their lying eyes. With the advent of social media and its attendant democratization of information, it is impossible for Gazans not to be seen and heard. Additionally, student movements have been on the correct side of history so many times during so many junctures in so many different places that it may as well be a law of history. This is a losing battle for the ADL.

On top of that, Greenblatt’s comments are dangerous and could potentially be defamatory if directed at particular individuals. The mainstream media has allowed him and his organization an open platform to accuse students of being linked to foreign states and to designated terrorist groups, which would be, as he notes, a criminal offense. It could also be a civil matter if his claims caused material damage, such as job losses or job-opportunity losses. Allowing someone to make such claims, without evidence or even the slightest challenge, violates the most fundamental principles of journalism. The mainstream media cannot allow Greenblatt to go unchallenged, or the ADL should be properly identified as a pro-Israeli group that also has open ties to the US security state.

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Fri, 03 May 2024 21:27:32 +0000 RT
Tarik Amar: This is the biggest illusion about the Ukraine war the West refuses to acknowledge /russia/596888-west-illusion-russia-ukraine-war/ Despite what foreign leaders and commentators say – and really seem to believe – Russia is the one setting the tempo of the conflict
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Despite what foreign leaders and commentators say – and really seem to believe – Russia is the one setting the tempo of the conflict

We are living through a remarkable Western anticlimax. The US has finally, after half a year of domestic wrangling, passed another large funding package of $61 billion for Ukraine. This money had been presented as decisive: either it would come through or Kiev would be unable to hold its crumbling frontlines against Russia and would lose the war soon, as Ukrainian President Zelensky himself warned.

That was the minimum sales pitch. The more aggressive hard sell went further, claiming that once the money would be added to a fresh mobilization drive in Ukraine, its re-armed and replenished forces would not only resist Russian pressure but turn the tables and, in the end, perhaps in 2025, win the war. 

Both these sales pitches were very unrealistic, as marketing often is. Now that the funding is on its way, reality is reasserting itself. There is no surprise that Russian advances are continuing, while the Ukrainian position keeps deteriorating, as the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian military, General Syrsky, is admitting.

Of course, those who choose to believe that the additional money will make a substantial difference can argue that, at this point, whatever aid will eventually reach Kiev’s troops on the ground has yet to arrive. Yet there are signs that civilian and military officials with inside knowledge of Ukraine’s situation know that its problems are more profound, and that money will not fix them. That is the most plausible explanation for how rapidly these officials have started lowering expectations. 

The most striking examples come from some Ukrainian officers on the frontlines, who under the cover of anonymity, have spoken to the Swiss magazine Blick. Their statements are so bleakly sensational that a major Ukrainian news site has reproduced them – Strana.ua, which has a record of challenging the official messages of the Zelensky regime. 

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A worker in Severodonetsk, Lugansk People's Republic
Ukraine no longer: How locals are coming together to rebuild Russia’s new Lugansk republic
]]> These Ukrainian officers predict that Ukraine will lose the war this year. One of them, serving on the frontline in the strategically critical town of Chasov Yar, foresees that the Donbass region – that is, most of the country’s east – will come under full Russian control by October. At that point, he surmises, Kiev will have to negotiate with Moscow. While he still uses the popular euphemism of a “freeze” and avoids terms such as “capitulation,” under such circumstances these negotiations would clearly amount to a form of surrender. The British magazine The Economist also quoted a commander in Chasov Iar as stating that he and other officers expect the city to fall to Russian forces, despite the promised injection of Western aid.

In general, the officers interviewed by Blick list three reasons why a Ukrainian defeat has become inevitable: First, an irredeemable lack of manpower, since, as they put it, the new mobilization “will not save us.” That is plausible, because Ukrainian units are heavily depleted, as Ukrainian commanders have acknowledged. Any mobilization is about trying to fill gaping holes, not about expanding the forces.

In addition, those Ukrainians willing to fight have already been recruited and quite a few unwilling ones as well: for a long time, Kiev has had to rely on manhunts to scrape together enough “cannon fodder.” This problem is only getting worse. And, finally, those mobilized now also need to be trained. Their lack of consent and motivation will make that hard, while there is not enough time for it in the first place.

Secondly, the Ukrainian officers believe that most of the fresh aid will arrive too late. That fear is well-founded, too, considering the underlying weakness of Western arms industries. This is reflected in the fact that less than 14 out of the 61 billion dollars are really earmarked for supplies to be delivered this year. Much of the rest will restock US arsenals.

The West is capable of releasing some systems and ammunition quickly, which is hyped in the mainstream media, for instance The Economist, as “just in time.” Yet, in a large-scale war of attrition, the real challenge is scale. It is clear that the West cannot provide in sufficient quantities, now and for the foreseeable future. That is why even President Vladimir Zelensky, after a meeting with NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, publicly stated that he sees no “positive” developments regarding timely support for Ukraine’s military. He cautioned that although money has been allocated, it is one thing “to have funds” and “as important to see what we can get” with them.

The third reason why the Ukrainian officers speaking to Blick believe that Kiev will lose is their own commander-in-chief, Syrsky. They still call him the “butcher,” a nickname he originally earned by his ruthless – and useless – wasting of troops during the battle of Artyomovsk (Bakhmut). Serving under him, the frontline fighters say, has a “paralyzing” effect – on them, not on the Russians. One officer even went as far as to speak of a “genocide of our best soldiers.” Even though Syrsky is a bad commander-in-chief, that is hyperbole. But it is indicative of the low morale of some Ukrainian frontline troops that they use such terms with respect to their own leadership.

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Valery Zaluzhny
Zelensky’s top rival has gone missing: Where is General Zaluzhny?
]]>  In the West as well, we see signals of caution: Parts of the commentariat have started reframing the $61 billion. It is no longer the make-or-break lifesaver of the West’s war effort but simply insufficient. Hugo Dixon, a Reuters columnist, for instance, argues that the aid package can only be the beginning of a longer and, again, much more expensive effort.

Biden administration officials – anonymous just like the skeptical Ukrainian officers – have also publicly doubted that the new aid package will be enough for Ukraine to win.

The key question is what are all these signals about? Are they really meant to lower expectations, preparing, in essence, an exit – at least for the US, if not necessarily the EU – from the Ukraine proxy war fiasco? Or are we witnessing a campaign to prepare the Western public for even longer and deeper engagement? Is Washington preparing to get up from the table and walk or is it doubling down on a very bad and extremely risky game?

There is some evidence pointing to a doubling-down: As part of the same package of laws, the US ramped up its effort to seize Russian state funds. In the US itself, there are only a few billion dollars to grab, but there are hundreds of billions in Europe. That is an extreme act that, in the end, will greatly damage America by further undermining the dollar, as both Russia and China are warning. Yet the aim is obvious: to plunder these Russian assets to secure funding for years of future war in Ukraine.

In addition, some Western politicians and experts believe – or at least say – that Ukraine can buy sufficient time to hold out until more Western industrial resources can be made available for the war effort. In such a long-term scenario, they hope, the West and Ukraine could ultimately turn the logic of attritional warfare against Russia and prevail. Again, that as well, is a strategy – or, rather, wishful thinking – reckoning on years of further war. Indeed, if – a big if – President Vladimir Zelensky is to be trusted, Kiev and the Biden administration are in talks about a security agreement to lock in American support and more money for a decade.

Yet the truth is that we cannot know Washington’s real plans. We cannot even know if it has definite plans. Perhaps, the Biden administration is merely playing for time to reach the election in November without an outright Russian victory. Maybe there are serious intentions to prolong the proxy war. In a worst case, we cannot rule out that the US is ready to escalate to direct war or let the EU and Britain do so. We do know that we cannot assume that American strategies will be rational or responsible.

But here is another thing we do know, even if all too many Western observers – and planners – seem to habitually forget it: Russia also has plans, and its actions and capabilities have shown a clear pattern of defying Western and Ukrainian expectations.

It is Russian actions, adaptation, strategies and tactics that have caused the failure of Western arms in Ukraine, such as missiles (the famed but ultimately strategically ineffective HIMARS, ATACMS, Storm Shadows/SCALPS) and tanks and other armored vehicles (for instance, the equally over-sold Leopard IIs, Abrams, Challengers, and Bradleys which have proven tactically ineffective).

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A patch with the Ukrainian flag on a trooper's arm as Ukrainian soldiers take part in a military training in Poland, on April 4, 2024
Mobilizing for defeat: The Zelensky regime insists more Ukrainians must die before it’s all over
]]> Top-notch as well as less advanced air defense systems (Patriot, NASAM, IRIS-T, Hawk) have fared no better. Even these peak products of the West’s military-industrial complexes have not been the silver bullets they were supposed to be, as the Washington Post has long admitted. They have always been overstretched, incapable of protecting both major cities and military forces. In addition, they are expensive to use and susceptible to being overwhelmed by a mix of simple and technologically advanced drones and missiles – which is precisely what Russia has been doing. 

Likewise in the area of mobilization: Ukraine is mobilizing desperately. Russia, as The Economist acknowledges, finds it easier – very much against Western expectations as of the fall of 2022 – to refill and expand its forces. “Ukraine is therefore likely,” the British magazine concludes, “to remain on the back foot, unable to mount new offensives.” The same holds, of course, for Moscow’s war economy, its ability to maintain international alliances and support notwithstanding Western attempts to isolate it, and last but not least, military strategy and tactics. 

Whereas Western commentators and leaders often speak – and, it seems, really think – as if their decisions are the key factor deciding how much longer this war will continue and how it will end, the reality is the other way around: The initiative is Russia’s. Those planning for an even longer war – and even those Western critics of Western policies that warn of another “forever war” – are overlooking the obvious: Moscow has a greater say on these matters.

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Thu, 02 May 2024 16:11:03 +0000 RT
Pfizergate: Ursula von der Leyen’s shady Covid vaccine deals prove she can get away with anything /news/596821-eu-pfizer-vaccines-leyen/ Questionable contracts and overspending have left the unelected ‘queen’ of the EU unfazed and eager for a new term
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Questionable contracts and overspending have left the unelected ‘queen’ of the EU unfazed and eager for a new term

Forget this whole “election” charade and just glue the crown onto her head, already.

Ursula von der Leyen, the unelected European Commission President, is up for job renewal in June. She’d have to be re-nominated by the majority of EU member state leaders and then re-confirmed by members of the newly-elected European Parliament. They’d have to be crazy to dethrone this ultimate incarnation of true EU values, like transparency and foresight (or rather, lack thereof). 

One particular tale about Queen Ursula comes to mind that perfectly illustrates the point. 

During Covid, the European Union rolled out a bloc-wide QR code system as proof of vaccination for travel, leisure, and in some cases a condition of employment – even as reports started raising doubts about how reliable the shot really was when it came to stopping infection, transmission, and death. It’s like there was this interest in Brussels to move fast in getting shots into arms as quickly as possible, and setting up this digital identity system linked to jab status before the scary music stopped or people just tuned it out. Skeptical members of the European Parliament have been demanding to know what kind of deal the bloc’s leadership actually signed with the manufacturers of these injections. We’re talking about 11 contracts, 4.6 billion vaccines, and €71 billion of public money transferred to Big Pharma.

So far, neither the citizens who paid for all of it, nor their elected representatives have been able to get full transparency on those deals. According to research published last year by the French NGO Global Health Advocates, and the UK based health nonprofit, StopAids, the European Commission “agreed to extensive confidentiality requirements with pharmaceutical corporations that may not be fully consistent with EU legislation,” and that of the contracts analyzed with AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Moderna, “the Pfizer contract was the most significantly redacted.” Specifically, they noted that the European Commission “redacted the most information about product safety and indemnification in the Pfizer and Moderna contract,” concluding that “it looks like most of the risk was borne by the EU in a desperate attempt to get access to these vaccines.”

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President Of The European Commission Ursula Von Der Leyen
EU prosecutors take up Von der Leyen corruption probe – Politico
]]> The reports also draw attention to the lack of interest on the part of certain Big Pharma CEOs when it comes to accountability towards their customers – their end-clients who received and ultimately paid for the jabs: average EU citizens. “We provided Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Moderna the opportunity to react to the claims… but we did not receive a response,” the NGOs said.

It turns out that Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla is also the same person who was exchanging private text messages with von der Leyen the month before the Pfizer contract was negotiated. How do we know that? Because she said so herself in April of 2021 in a New York Times interview. While she was busy doing that, questions arose over how German defense contracts were being awarded. Politico reported on it in 2019, citing the increased use of consultants during her time in office, and she ultimately copped to “mistakes” having been made. Nor would they be the last of their kind, apparently. 

By 2020, von der Leyen told the New York Times, she was going back and forth with the Pfizer chief via text message for a month at the height of the pandemic, with the result being a “1.9 billion dose order from Pfizer” (to be precise, a 900 million order with another 900 million option that hasn’t been exercised) through 2023, according to the newspaper, with 4.6 billion doses in total ordered from all drug manufacturers. Why so many doses for a EU population of just 448 million? “I am convinced that we are in this for the long haul,” she told the newspaper in April 2021.

Good thing that contracts worth €71 billion euros (in the case of Covid) aren’t based largely on the whims and feelings of freewheeling unelected bureaucrats and involve transparency and open debate and discussion about any terms in an effort to avoid any potential future pitfalls, right? Whoops, too late. By December 2023, von der Leyen’s “long haul” had derailed, dumping doses all over the continent, with about €4 billion in Covid vaccines ending up in landfills across Europe, according to Politico.

More recently, individual EU member states have been left to do the litigation tango with Pfizer themselves, as the company sued them over failing to pay for doses that they didn’t need or want anymore now that they can’t force the jab on anyone or scare people into taking it. The original Pfizer-EU contract was amended last year to reduce the original number of doses purchased, but Brussels told member states that they were still on the hook for having to pay a cancellation fee for each dose they no longer want. And instead of pumping the jabs into arms by 2023 to liquidate the stock, the EU would have three more years to try drumming up continued interest among its citizens.

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Employees work at the assembly line of the manufacturing facility of pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca in Sodertalje, Sweden on February 8, 2022.
Covid vaccine maker admits it could cause potentially fatal side effect
]]> Not that anyone has any idea what the original contract even was. Perhaps von der Leyen’s text messages could provide a clue. But they’ve magically vanished, and she doesn’t seem too interested in making an effort to recover them forensically. The New York Times is suing to get a hold of them, and the European Public Prosecutor’s Office has recently taken over from Belgian authorities in investigating criminal allegations of “interference in public functions, destruction of SMS, corruption and conflict of interest.”

European parliamentarians on the bloc’s Covid-19 committee expressed their interest in having von der Leyen answer to their committee on these contract negotiations in person, but she doesn’t share that interest. Nor does Bourla – which led the committee to request that his access privileges to the EU parliament be revoked. Not that he needs them anyway when he has Queen Ursula’s direct line.

It’s important for European democracy to be “safe and secure,” von der Leyen said in February in announcing a desire to remain on her throne after June’s EU parliamentary elections, in which she refused to run in her home country despite being encouraged to do so for petty reasons of democratic legitimacy. “Safe and secure” from what, exactly? Russia, of course. It’s actually kind of surprising that she hasn’t yet accused Moscow of deleting her texts with Bourla, too.

Von der Leyen has proven to be an unstoppable tank when it comes to crushing pesky formalities, rolling right over Pfizergate like a minor speedbump.

Just last month, she was confronted in writing by EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell, Internal Markets Commissioner Thierry Breton, and some of their colleagues over her commission’s selection of the EU’s small and medium-sized business envoy, who just happens to be a fellow German from her own CDU party back home, while also scoring the lowest among the candidates up for the job. EU lawmakers have also lamented the lack of transparency in selecting someone for a position worth €17,000 a month. 

Ursula von der Leyen talks a good game about transparency, despite demonstrating a tenuous personal grasp of the concept. Kind of like the entire EU does on a regular basis. Virtue-signaling democratic values while making a mockery of them is what makes this Queen the perfect reflection of her Kingdom.

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Tue, 30 Apr 2024 19:31:09 +0000 RT
Ukraine no longer: How locals are coming together to rebuild Russia’s new Lugansk republic /russia/596638-lugansk-republic-restoration-community/ An American journalist details her trip to a region which has been at the center of conflict for over a decade
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
An American journalist details her trip to a region which has been at the center of conflict for over a decade

Amid decimated buildings, residences turned to rubble, abandoned streets, and clear signs of recent bombs and battles, residents of the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) are attempting to rebuild and move on, two years into Russia’s military operation.

These are the images I witnessed on my most recent trip to the LPR and its cities which are wrapped up in a battle for survival. Despite significant advances by Russia and the liberation of Avdeevka, the task of rebuilding is not an easy one – especially under the constant threat of Ukraine and NATO attempting another advance.

The LPR has rarely been the center of attention since the start of Russia’s operation, but it was front and center after the 2014 Maidan Coup, when residents fought against the new regime in Kiev. Cities here were among the first areas to break away from Ukrainian control, but suffered great civilian casualties, including journalists simply documenting the evacuation of residents from areas like the small town of Metallist. There’s now a monument dedicated to two reporters who died there in 2014, while doing their jobs in the line of fire.

The head of the Lugansk People’s Republic, Leonid Pasechnik, took questions about the rebuilding process, among other topics. He thanked the Russian president and federal authorities for their help, and stated that other regions were also providing enormous assistance toward restoring and improving infrastructure.

But rebuilding so close to the front line is slow and difficult, with the fear of shelling constantly looming over the heads of the population as they literally pick up the pieces and come together as a community, determined to succeed. In spite of the danger, the world continues turning for the residents who have managed to make progress and rebuild.

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FILE PHOTO: US soldiers conduct live-fire testing of early versions of the Army Tactical Missile System, December 14, 2021
US ATACMS will help Ukraine attack Crimea –?NYT
]]> One hospital we visited in the city of Krasnodon, on the eastern edge of the republic, was relatively new and equipped with the latest medical technology, which was available for the treatment of local residents free of charge. This was surprising to many for me especially, given the exorbitant cost of healthcare in my native US, where many often would rather suffer injuries and avoid going to the doctor than getting into debt.

According to our guide, injured soldiers from the conflict were rarely admitted to the hospital in Krasnodon, because the area is quiet at the moment. We also visited another hospital that is currently under construction nearby.

The mayor of Krasnodon accompanied us on the tour and gave us some insight into the rebuilding process and the history of the area. Krasnodon is a city with a rich past spanning from World War II, when it was home to the “Young Guard” Soviet underground, which fought Nazis in the occupied territories. A memorial complex and museum in their honor are prominent features of the city.

We got a clear look at how the community is adapting to focus on physical health and children. We had a chance to visit a sports center specifically for children, which had a boxing gym, courts to play basketball, a ballet room for girls, and a 25-meter swimming pool – all available free of charge. The national theater in the area was also under construction, but already functional, contributing to the revival of the community’s cultural life and alleviating the tension of nearby war.

Over on the western side of the LPR, in the city of Severodonetsk, we witnessed one of the most impactful points of any trip to the Donbass region, the results of NATO-made weapons used on civilians and civilian infrastructure. Crumbled buildings, ghostly abandoned streets full of vacant markets, restaurants, and cafes – all signs of another life. One that was bustling here not too long ago.

Every now and then, we could see people walking the streets, and their numbers are set to grow as rebuilding continues in liberated areas. However, the locals we had a chance to speak to said life wasn’t easy, as many still live in apartment buildings that had come under fire. Near one residential complex, we saw a damaged tank that was still stuck following battles that took place here. Even in partially demolished buildings, some residents remain, unwilling to leave their homes, especially now that the war has moved further away and there’s a chance for revival.

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A damaged healthcare facility is seen in the town of Gorlovka in the wake of a Ukrainian strike on April 18, 2024.
Ukraine strikes hospital in Donbass, injuring eight – authorities
]]> We also got to see captured NATO weapons including Javelin missiles, as well as fragments of HIMARS, Storm Shadow missiles, and British anti-tank guided missiles.

There was also a conference held with former Ukrainian soldiers who had switched sides to fight with the Russian Army in the LPR. The most obvious question was why they had switched sides. The answers varied, but all of the men said they were of ethnic Russian origin, spoke Russian, and had family in Russia or nearby Lugansk. Some said they had been treated very badly while fighting for Ukraine because they were ethnic Russians, and had been abused by their comrades.

The oldest man, a Donetsk native, was a chief warrant officer and had been taken prisoner by in Mariupol. He said he had not joined the Russian side in 2014 because his family was located in Ukrainian-controlled areas. But he decided to switch sides after he witnessed targeted killings of civilians in Mariupol by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and after his experience at the Azovstal plant, the infamous Ukrainian fortress later captured by Russia.

Another man in his 30s said he had joined the Ukrainian Army in 2018 when he had no job or college education, and saw it as his only opportunity. He was sent to Mariupol and ended up in a battalion with Neo-Nazi Azov soldiers until 2019. He witnessed these men paying tribute to Adolf Hitler and Ukraine's own World War Two-era Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera, playing Nazi music, and giving Nazi salutes. He also said he and a fellow soldier endured many insults for being of Russian origin, and wanted out. They decided to surrender to the Russians when they saw Ukrainians shoot at civilians from Mariupol.

These soldiers also said they hadn’t seen any foreign mercenaries – though one mentioned seeing foreigners aiding Ukrainians in non-fighting roles. When the six soldiers were asked about the 2014 Maidan coup, they said they understood that was when the current conflict began, but that they had not been able to separate facts from propaganda back then. What eventually drove them to fight for Russia, they said, was their own experiences in the Ukrainian Army's ranks, as well as a shared belief that their land and their families had no future without Russia.

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Donetsk People’s Republic, Russia
New Russian regions collected billions in taxes last year – data
]]> What’s notable about Lugansk, and really the entire Donbass region, is the fact that the major cataclysms it has gone through – from the Red Army’s struggle during World War II to the 2014 Maidan revolt, and the 2022 military operation – share the same issues: the fight against forces of a fascistic nature. And now, they are being vilified by much of the West for keeping up this fight.

Throughout their experience, there’s a clear understanding and grasp of history that seems to be missing in the West, especially in the US, and that extends to how communities value and collectively aid each other. We’ve seen the extensive progress in Mariupol, but even in areas like Severodonetsk and within the Lugansk republic, we can see how quickly people in dire circumstances show huge resolve. 

One of these people was Yuri Mezinov, who is from Rostov-on-Don and was one of the first to lend a hand in 2014 following the Maidan coup. Yuri has built up a list of contacts in Donbass to aid with humanitarian assistance, including the delivery of food, supplies, and aid to those who need it, including pets and especially children.

He has also gone beyond the essential delivery of aid, helping to restore electricity supplies, rebuilding housing and other structures, as well as putting on shows and activities for young children. For this, Yuri told us, he’s been targeted by Ukraine and put in very dangerous situations. However, he is determined to continue helping. We got the chance to accompany him as he delivered supplies to people, which took a team effort.

When speaking of war, it is essential to remember that the fight is not only taking place on the battlefield, but also in the rebuilding of communities, restoring rubble back to a functioning society. Shortly after we departed Lugansk, a bakery was attacked by Ukrainian forces and several civilians were killed. Attacks like this began way before February 2022, and people in Donbass – whether in Lugansk, Donetsk or elsewhere – continue to face a persistent echo of explosions and uncertainty every day. But for now, at least, the light of victory and the warm blanket of community have begun expanding into many cities, along with a chance to feel a sense of normalcy and calm amidst a now-global crisis.

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Mon, 29 Apr 2024 19:51:25 +0000 RT
The US and the UK are pushing for total war on all fronts /news/596728-west-world-war-3/ The Iran-Israel clash has served as a catalyst for renewed escalation by Western leaders, and World War III cannot be ruled out
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The Iran-Israel clash has served as a catalyst for renewed escalation by Western leaders, and World War III cannot be ruled out

The events of recent weeks have produced a sudden jolt in Western politics. From a lethargy that was starting to creep into US and western discourse over the Ukraine war, Iran’s attack on Israel suddenly seemed to have had the effect of awakening Ronald Reagan from his grave and leading to a surge of neo-conservativism on steroids, on both sides of the Atlantic.

US House Speaker Mike Johnson did a complete 180-degree U-turn and proclaimed himself a “Reagan Republican” passing a series of aid bills for astronomical overseas spending that he had otherwise blocked for months, as he denounced an “axis of evil.” Along with that, a proposed TikTok ban bill came out of nowhere too and was quickly signed into law.

Then the UK decided to devote its largest ever aid package to Ukraine, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak warning of an “axis of authoritarian states” and amplifying ideologically combative rhetoric. At the same time, it was then revealed Biden had sent 300km long range ATACMS missiles to Ukraine despite having pledged not to do so for years, fearing escalation. Finally, EU President Ursula von der Leyen has suddenly dramatically increased economic warfare on China, pushing the European Commission to open probes on scores of Chinese exports. Where exactly did all this come from?

It’s almost as if the US and its allies seized upon the tensions between Iran and Israel in order to “whitewash” their slate and double down on a series of objectives they are otherwise losing public support for, including the war in Ukraine, but also Israel’s invasion of Gaza. One has to wonder if the Israeli attack on the Iranian compound in Damascus, which provoked Tehran’s response, was deliberately staged, coordinated and planned for this purpose. It served the mutually convenient goal of letting both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Western governments off the hook for whatever opposition they had otherwise faced.

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference at the US embassy in Beijing on April 26, 2024.
Blinken in Beijing: The US tried to turn China against Russia – but did it work?
]]> It should be abundantly clear now that the current powers that be, in London and Washington, have absolutely no intent of letting up on the wars they have provoked, while also pushing for a potential third one with China, and seem indifferent to the consequences, even if for example, the Israel-Gaza war is shattering the West’s claims of moral superiority. In each case, the stakes are very high, Western foreign policy at large has taken on a very zero-sum and ideological character which bemoans the loss of hegemony, and seeks to uphold it at all costs. It is reactionary to the extent it does not have a vision for improving the world, but wants to take back the world to the way it was. It is a sense of entitlement and privilege that wants to suppress an emerging multipolarity.

Because of this, it has become impossible for Western leaders to ever consider the concept of compromise in these respective theaters, and they refuse under any circumstances to make concessions which could be deemed strategic. This has produced a position where the only outcome they are willing to accept in Ukraine is what they deem “the defeat of Putin,” and have been subtly escalating ever since, edging ever closer to the point where a “proxy war” becomes a direct one for all intents and purposes. NATO military advisors are already on the ground, and Ukrainian attacks are being guided by NATO intelligence or even coordinated by British admirals.

The media in the West, especially in Britain (there is more dissent in the US) are effectively in war mode. The BBC amplifies non-stop Ukraine propaganda, pushing any claim that will help Kiev irrespective of its empirical worth or evidence, and all voices of dissent have been shut down. It seems evident that the decision may have been made to risk a full-on war with Russia, rather than to consider any negotiation scenario. Thus, the shockwaves from the Iran-Israel saga have been used to pursue a new and sudden round of escalation on every front, which can have only been bolstered by the prospective elections looming in both the US and UK.

Because of this, it is fair to say that the world faces a more dangerous and uncertain outlook than at any point since the end of World War II. This current crop of Western leaders are not pursuing a more restrained and calculated mindset, as seen for most of the Cold War, but an aggressive and evangelistic one that does not prefer stability but affirms hegemony as an absolute right, thus more resembling a pre-1914 world. Because of this, we should draw the conclusion that Western leaders are not truly seeking to avoid war, but are prepared to embrace it if necessary. The British military establishment and the media have long been making noises about conscription. In the US, if Joe Biden wins re-election, we can assume that he will unapologetically escalate on every single front. World War III is no longer a dramatized specter of farfetched panic, but an actual possibility that should not be ruled out.

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Mon, 29 Apr 2024 01:31:02 +0000 RT
Neglect, abuse, torture: The West is ignoring the fate of Palestinians stuck in Israeli jails /news/596620-palestinian-prisoners-israel-jails/ Palestinian detainees tell of torture and of indefinite detention, but their cause is unlikely to gain much traction in the West
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Released detainees tell of suffering in indefinite detention, but their plight is unlikely to gain much traction in the West

For over six months, the world has watched the devastating Israeli campaign against Palestinians in Gaza, which has killed over 34,000 people so far (including over 16,000 children).

Fewer are aware, however, of the nearly 10,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, many of whom have been repeatedly arrested and held for prolonged, indefinite periods. These include children, university students, medics, doctors, and journalists, among others.

While these numbers have increased dramatically in just over half a year, media coverage is scant, with the exception of some reporting on Layan Naser, one of the Christian university students re-imprisoned earlier this month. She was taken by Israeli troops from her family’s home in the early morning, with her parents held at gunpoint. But this is not an isolated phenomenon, she’s just one of many Palestinian students similarly abducted, ostensibly in the name of security, for taking part in campus activism.

On April 7, the Palestinian Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs condemned the latest kidnappings of Layan Kayed and Layan Naser, two young women who have previously been targeted and imprisoned, along with multiple others.

Justifying endless incarceration

The greater issue is that, as of April 17, which is Palestinian Prisoners’ Dayover 9,500 Palestinians are being held in Israeli prisons – roughly one third of whom are imprisoned under what is termed administrative detention – a procedure that allows the Israeli military to hold people based on secret evidence, indefinitely and without trial. Israel justifies it with its Emergency Powers laws, under the constant state of emergency the country has been in since 1948.

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FILE PHOTO. Palestinians checking the damage in a house that was destroyed by an overnight Israeli bombardment in Gaza.
Israel struck zones in Gaza it had declared ‘safe’ – NBC
]]> Some 3,000 Gazan Palestinians have been detained by Israel since the current war on Gaza started last October – a number revealed by an investigation by Palestinian NGO Al Mezan Center for Human Rights. According to Al Mezan, this includes “women, children, elderly people, as well as professionals such as doctors, nurses, teachers and journalists.”

Out of the estimated 3,000 detainees, 1,650 Gazans are held under the Unlawful Combatants Law – a law similar to administrative detention but specific to Gazan Palestinians. They are also imprisoned without charge or legal representation, suspected of being “unlawful combatants.” They are, Al Mezan notes, “held in total isolation from the outside world” and “are neither granted the status of prisoners of war under the Third Geneva Convention, nor afforded the protections of civilian detainees under the Fourth Geneva Convention.” Another 300 (including ten children) not currently detained under the Unlawful Combatants Law are being imprisoned pending investigation.

Meanwhile, in the West Bank, according to the Commission of Detainees Affairs, as of April 16 8,270 Palestinians have been arrested, including 275 women, 520 children, 66 journalists (with 45 still in custody, 23 of whom are in administrative detention).

Of these, 80 women (not including women from Gaza) and over 200 minors are imprisoned. The total number held under administrative detention is more than 3,660, including more than 40 children.

Since last October 7, 16 West Bank Palestinian captives have died in Israeli prison due to ”systematic measures of torture, medical crimes, the policy of starvation and many other violations and assaults conducted against male and female detainees, minors and elderly detainees,” according to a report by NGO the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports 27 Palestinians from Gaza have died since October 7: “The detainees died at the Sde Teiman and Anatot facilities or during questioning in Israeli territory.” The same article refers to a UNRWA report published by The New York Times recently, which states that detainees released to Gaza testified that they were beaten, robbed, stripped and sexually assaulted, and had access to doctors and lawyers denied.

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Palestinian paramedics carry away bodies of dead people uncovered in the vicinity of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.
Israel rejects US call to probe Gaza mass graves – Politico
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Israeli Guantanamos

Reports of torture of incarcerated Palestinians (including children) have been published over the years, with more emerging in recent months. Israeli rights group B’Tselem notes that “Every year, Israel arrests and detains hundreds of Palestinian minors, while routinely and systemically violating their rights: during the arrest [and] under interrogation.”

In March, the executive director of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) expressed extreme concern, stating that the nearly 10,000 imprisoned Palestinians is, “a 200% increase from any normal year” and that, since last October, at least 27 Palestinians have died in Israeli prison camps inside Gaza. Prisoners include children and the elderly, including an 82-year-old grandmother.

These detention camps, from what I saw in January 2009 in Gaza, are large areas bulldozed flat, without tents or shelter. Former inmates describe them as “open-air cages,” where prisoners are “handcuffed and blindfolded 24 hours a day.”

There are numerous new testimonies of Palestinians mistreated in Israeli detention. Examples include one elderly man from southern Gaza alleged to have been tortured so badly that his leg became infected and after seven days of medical negligence, had to be amputated. Another 60-year-old man is said to have been held for over 50 days, and beaten severely during that time. Human-rights groups continue to document such accounts and to speak out.

Already in February, organizations like Adalah, HaMoked, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, submitted a plea to the UN Special Rapporteur (SR) on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, “urging the SR to take immediate action to halt the systematic abuse, torture, and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons and detention facilities.”

Al Mezan reports visiting 40 Palestinian detainees in Ashkelon and Ofer prisons, whose testimonies include being brutally beaten and deliberately starved as a form of torture and collective punishment. One 19-year-old told Al Mezan that “three of his fingernails were removed with pliers during interrogation” and he was, “handcuffed and bound in stress positions for long periods – three times over three days of interrogation.”

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FILE PHOTO
US won’t sanction IDF despite ‘gross human rights violations’ – media
]]> Al Mezan reports all detainees “suffer from acute emaciation, fatigue and back curvature due to being forced to bend their backs and heads while walking,” and that the NGO’s lawyer who spoke with these prisoners stated he had never seen such poor prison conditions in 20 years of working with detainees.

More recently, Haaretz reported on a doctor’s treatment of Palestinians in a field hospital in Israel and of horrific conditions: “Just this week, two prisoners had their legs amputated due to handcuff injuries, which unfortunately is a routine event.” According to him, all patients have all four limbs cuffed and are blindfolded and fed through a straw, meaning “even young and healthy patients lose weight after a week or two of hospitalization.”

Now, compare this situation to cases when similar reports or claims come from a state targeted by Washington for regime change or designated as “rogue” or as an “adversary.” In such cases, the claims are often taken at face value, extrapolated, amplified and widely broadcast. For example, in 2017 Western media latched onto claims of a “slaughterhouse” in the town of Saydnaya, Syria, where there were supposed “mass hangings” by the Syrian government. These accusations were uncritically endorsed by legacy media, despite having numerous fallacies and not being based on primary sources.

As noted at the time, Amnesty International admits that since no photos, videos or concrete testimony exist of Saydnaya Prison, they were forced to devise “unique ways with interactive 3D models and digital technology, animations and audio software” and liaised with West-based NGOs that support efforts to overthrow the Syrian government to craft their report, which gained media traction because it supported the NATO narrative on Syria.

When it comes to Palestinian prisoners and their reports of being tortured, starved, and denied urgently-needed medical care while in Israeli detention or prisons, such level of effort and media coverage is nowhere to be seen – likely because of the political inconvenience this would cause to Washington and its allies.

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Sat, 27 Apr 2024 19:02:07 +0000 RT
‘Our Europe could die,’ Macron says. Who’s the killer? /news/596642-europe-death-macron-france/ French President Macron spoke at Sorbonne University on the EU’s achievements, but has little to boast about
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The French president has given a speech to highlight the EU’s achievements – but there’s little to celebrate

“We must be clear about the fact that our Europe today is mortal,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in a speech this week. “She can die, and it depends only on our choices. But these choices are to be made now.”

What Macron portrays as an urgent need to resuscitate the EU comes after he himself has spent nearly seven years in power, having even been president of the Council of the European Union in 2022. He’s been credited for the nomination and confirmation of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, described by Forbes last year as the world’s most powerful woman. Or, as some might say, an unelected, omnipotent bureaucrat whose supranational authoritarianism supersedes the democratic process of member states. Or, as others might now say after Macron’s address, the Nurse Ratched at the EU’s deathbed.

Macron’s interminable speech should have been one big mea culpa on behalf of the EU’s establishment class. Tell us how you screwed up. At least then we’d know that there was hope for an actual course correction rather than just more of the same.

Instead, Macron argued that the EU hasn’t ever been a vassal of Washington. Saying that you’re not a vassal is exactly like having to tell people you’re not a prostitute. It’s not something that one has to go around saying if the optics aren’t already glaring. Queen Ursula is basically America’s viceroy in Europe at this point, and Macron himself can’t seem to manage to carve out any positions independent of the US that last longer than the time it takes for Uncle Sam to reach over and administer a transatlantic spanking.

Macron’s speech was a fascinating blend of delusion and insecurity. He chose Paris’ Sorbonne University as the venue. The theme? Stocktake of European action.” Sure, tell us what’s really going on as though you had a clue – and an actual strategy and vision that wasn’t subjected to the constant whims and trends of the moment or any given election cycle.

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French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the Sorbonne University in Paris, on April 25, 2024.
‘Our Europe’ could die – Macron
]]> Macron gave a similar speech at the Sorbonne in September 2017. Why there? Because as Macron said last time, “living collectively was the ideal of Robert de Sorbon” – the theologian who founded the university. It just so happens that circling the drain collectively is what the EU is really all about right now, thanks to the special brand of iron-fisted incompetence of those in charge. There’s a European Parliament election coming up, and the populists are surging in the polls right now.

The first step to recovery is admitting that there’s a problem. Macron, however, apparently feels compelled to do the opposite of that, and talk about all of the EU’s failures as though they’re successes. Like counterterrorism, for instance. France has made such great progress on that front that the country is now back on the highest alert just days before it's slated to host the Paris Olympics, including an open air Opening Ceremony along the Seine. It barely seems to have ever been downgraded from high alert; the initially white terror warning signs have been turning yellow from years of light exposure in the windows of buildings where they’re now permanent fixtures. Macron, however, highlighted the role of a new bureaucratic entity called the ECOFIN Council. Because nothing deters terrorists more than meetings.

In addressing Africa, Macron underscored the importance of another meeting: the “European Union - Africa Summit” held two years ago. The sparse content in the Africa section of Macron’s talk could be explained by minor details like French troops being drop-kicked back across the Mediterranean by African countries after French stability missions resulted in coups (which are kind of the opposite of stability).

Clearly not deterred by any inconvenient discrepancies between reality and projected fantasy, Macron’s speech also celebrated addressing the migration challenge, which the EU has basically paid to outsource to countries like Turkey, Tunisia, Mauritania and Egypt. The last I checked, none of these countries were actually in Europe. But the EU has outsourced almost everything else by this point, so they may as well.

Macron talked about the EU leading the ecological and environmental transition. To what, exactly? Poverty, probably. Just ask the farmers straitjacketed by Brussels' climate change diktats, their farmland being spied on by satellites to ensure compliance, how great that is. He brought up the EU’s energy sovereignty and reindustrialization. Not so fast; Germany in particular is still busy going in the opposite direction and de-industrializing. So it might be a while before the EU’s economic engine comes out on the flip side.

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FILE PHOTO.
Macron wants von der Leyen replaced – Bloomberg
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The EU has become more dependent on pricier American liquefied natural gas, which sounds like the opposite of sovereignty. France’s own LNG imports from the country the EU implies an explicit need to be sovereign from — Russia — are now up 75% in the first few months of this year, compared to a year ago. France was Russia’s top customer for LNG in Europe last February, according to a Politico report. For all the noise it makes, it’s not like the EU has stopped importing gas from Russia. They just replaced their Russian pipeline gas imports with Russian LNG – a billion dollars worth of Russian arctic liquified natural gas into the EU every month, to be exact. In 2023, the bloc was actually still importing 15% of its pipeline gas from Russia, according to Reuters. While that’s down from 45% before the conflict in Ukraine, it still might come as a shock to people who were actually listening to Brussels brag about how they were sticking it to Putin by depriving him of energy revenues, that they were still importing any pipeline gas at all. The NGO Global Witness reported last year that the EU really just pivoted to importing Russian liquefied natural gas, instead of pipeline gas, with Russian LNG imports into the EU jumping 40% since the onset of the conflict — even more than in each of the previous two years. 

Speaking of Ukraine, Macron said that “the sina qua non condition for our security is that Russia does not win the war of aggression it is waging against Ukraine. This is essential.” What’s more essential is that Macron should spell out what Ukraine “winning” actually means. It would seem that Ukraine not continuing to senselessly grind down its demographics should be seen as a win, given the non-zero chance of a battlefield game-changer that risks igniting a Third World War. Macron, however, clearly has other ideas, what with all his cosplaying as Napoleon Bonaparte and fantasizing about smoking Russians by openly talking about sending French troops to Ukraine.

Not that Ukraine is actually in the EU, but Macron now explains that the EU has “started to rethink our geography within the boundaries of our neighborhood.” Imagine the EU’s reaction to Russia uttering those same words.

In the end, however, this is just another speech, calibrated for maximum impact ahead of the upcoming June EU parliamentary elections. Like much of what EU leaders such as Macron are peddling nowadays, firehosing reality and diluting it with ideological rhetoric might tug on a few hearts, but won’t win over any brain that isn’t totally shot full of holes like a block of Comté.

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Fri, 26 Apr 2024 17:32:28 +0000 RT
Here’s what makes Blinken’s job in China so difficult /news/596560-blinken-china-visit-us/ “Overcapacity” and “dual-purpose trade” are catchphrases to hide the fact that Washington is getting trounced in the economy of the future
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
“Overcapacity” and “dual-purpose trade” are catchphrases to hide the fact that Washington is getting trounced in the economy of the future

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in China on Wednesday to kick off a three-day trip. It is reported that he will speak with his Chinese counterpart and potentially with President Xi Jinping. As the New York Times reported, quoting officials privy to the visit, one of the main topics will be China’s alleged support of Russia, which includes the supposed sale of weapon components and dual-use products. It also comes at a time of increased tensions. 

Relations have shown a flicker of warmth since US President Joe Biden and Xi’s encounter at the 30th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco last year. However, this visit comes sandwiched between significant moves by the Biden administration. 

On the one hand, Biden recently signed off on a hefty military aid package for Ukraine, Taiwan, and Israel, coupled with a divest-or-ban provision for the Chinese social media juggernaut, TikTok. On the other, a historic trilateral summit involving the US, Japan, and the Philippines hints at potential formal military collaborations down the road, with the US deploying medium-range missiles in the Philippines, a move with unmistakable implications for China.

Blinken’s trip also follows closely on the heels of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s recent visit to China, which coincided with US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s presence in the country. Lavrov’s visit underscored the enduring bond between Russia and China, while Yellen’s seemed to foreshadow potential trade tensions over what Beijing perceives as baseless accusations of “overcapacity.”

Behind the diplomatic niceties lies a deeper agenda: the concerted effort by the US and some of its allies to curb China’s economic and technological ascent. This was laid bare when EU officials on Tuesday executed unannounced raids on the offices of a Chinese company in Poland and Denmark.

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FILE PHOTO: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin.
US ‘shooting itself in the foot’ by arming Taiwan – Beijing
]]> The European Commission said that its “unannounced inspections” are based on “indications that the inspected company may have received foreign subsidies that could distort the internal market pursuant to the Foreign Subsidies Regulation.” Despite this explanation, it appears the EU is mirroring Washington’s growing scrutiny of and hostility against Chinese firms. The EU’s alignment with the US on trade policy, particularly regarding China, signals a loose front aimed at constraining China’s global economic reach.

The issue of Russia is also another excuse to limit China. The bilateral partnership has been extraordinarily beneficial for both sides: their trade reached a record $240.1 billion in 2023, and Russia’s economy grew by 3.6% the same year despite Western sanctions. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts Russia’s economy will grow faster than all advanced economies in 2024.

This is due in no small part to trade with China, the world’s second-largest economy, but it’s also due to the fact that many other large countries, such as Brazil and India, have not joined Western sanctions on Russia – they just aren’t trading in strategic sectors of the economy like China is. But even in those sectors, the US and its allies have never revealed evidence that Beijing is directly helping Russia’s war effort in Ukraine.

What it’s really about was revealed in 2021 when US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo stated bluntly that “we (the US) need to work with Europe” to “slow down China’s rate of innovation.” Even during the administration of former President Donald Trump, the US was strong-arming European countries to implement bans on Huawei and attempting to bully others into signing public tenders with US companies over Chinese competitors.

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File photo: J-20 stealth fighter jets rehearse for the Changchun Air Show in China, July 24, 2023.
US would beat China in a war – intel official
]]> The idea was that without the ability to compete globally, Chinese firms in the high-tech sphere would inevitably become less profitable and, thus, less innovative. But this is not the case, in fact. While Western countries attempt to control the narrative with accusations of unfair trade practices and military equipment sales, the reality is that Chinese firms continue to dominate global markets in crucial sectors like solar power, telecommunications, and electric vehicles.

They are simply implementing protectionist policies to prop up their own companies while failing to take concrete steps to actually compete in the market. But for Europe, it should be noted how one-sided this is. The continent is reliant on US tech; the EU’s GDP advantage has crumbled over the past decade-and-a-half since the 2008 financial crash; and it is becoming strategically compromised due to US influence and a lack of domestic innovation.

In essence, the diplomatic dance between Blinken and his Chinese counterparts encapsulates a broader struggle for supremacy in a rapidly evolving world order. Overcapacity is a myth; China has the best industrial base in the world and shouldn’t be ashamed of it. Accusations of assisting in war efforts – made even more absurd by America’s open support for Israel’s operation in Gaza, which has been credibly accused of genocide – are just noise. The US and its underlings are simply just getting beat in almost every meaningful sphere, which will make Antony Blinken’s job especially tough this week.

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Thu, 25 Apr 2024 22:05:17 +0000 RT
Zelensky’s top rival has gone missing: Where is General Zaluzhny? /russia/596582-zaluzhny-zelensky-ukraine-rival/ Ukraine’s former commander-in-chief Vladimir Zaluzhny, slated to become ambassador in London, has been suspiciously absent from public eye
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The former Ukrainian commander-in-chief, slated to become ambassador in London, has been suspiciously absent from the public eye

There is only one genuinely puzzling question left about Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky: Why is he still in office? By now, at least, everything else about him is obvious: A self-centered actor with a vast-yet-insecure ego easily manipulated by flattery – call him Churchill and see what happens – he has played a charismatic president, first on TV, then in reality. In the process, he has failed to protect his country by maintaining a balance between Russian and Western interests, a task Ukraine’s place on the map and in history make inevitable.

Crudely siding with the West like no Ukrainian president before him, not even Pyotr Poroshenko, he has sacrificed Ukraine’s national interest to Western, specifically US geopolitical strategizing. Due to Zelensky’s apparently blind trust in Western promises – mainly but not exclusively that of NATO membership – Ukraine has been used as a proxy in an attempt to permanently degrade Russia. In the end, and it’s near, that strategy will have failed irretrievably: Russia will emerge stronger than before, and Ukraine will have been ruined not only for a foreign cause but for a lost one, too.

If you doubt this outcome, consider two facts: Even now, American officials are already letting it be known in mainstream Western media (this time, Politico serves as their mouthpiece) that “some” of them doubt that the latest and, probably, really, the last US aid package of about $61 billion dollars will save Ukraine. And, at the same time, they are also making it clear that there won’t be more money for the rest of 2024. Do the math: By 2025, the issue is likely to be irrelevant. And Washington knows it.

So, why is the one Ukrainian official most responsible for this now-very-predictable outcome still in power? The simple answer is because Zelensky has built an authoritarian system, a tendency he mightily displayed well before the Russian attack of February 2022, as many Ukrainians back then loudly criticized. One result: While he should have faced elections this March, he chose not to. Constitution be damned.

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Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky.
Support for ‘authoritarian’ Zelensky falling – German media
]]> How practical, because Zelensky has long lost his aura of invincible popularity. Also in March, one of Ukraine’s top pollsters found that he would have lost. And the man who would have beaten him is Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s most popular general. Zaluzhny served as the country’s – much over-hyped – commander-in-chief, from 2021 until February this year, when he was, in effect, sacked by Zelensky.

The president and the general hate each other’s guts; there is really no milder way of putting it. But Zelensky’s main motive was a belated attempt to kneecap a very dangerous potential rival. Especially because Zaluzhny is, of course, well-connected in three directions: with parts of the Ukrainian military leadership and many lower-ranking officers, too, with Ukraine’s very well-armed far right (which overlaps with parts of its army), and with Zelensky’s other main rival, former President Pyotr Poroshenko. “President Zaluzhny, Prime Minister Poroshenko” – that was a common fear or hope, depending on your point of view.

Still, Zaluzhny fired was not the same as Zaluzhny gone. So, the plan was to send the 50-year-old off as ambassador to Britain. According to Dmitry Kuleba, Kiev’s foreign minister, one of Zelensky’s reasons for picking London for Zaluzhny’s golden exile is that the British capital features many diplomatic representatives of the Global South. An intriguing move: Countries of the Global South have generally not sided with the West and Ukraine, and the Ukrainian far right, to which Zaluzhny has occasionally signaled his affinity and benevolence, includes hardcore white supremacists. Perhaps the former comedian in the president’s office is enjoying a practical joke.

However, Zaluzhny has not yet left for the UK. In recent days, two things happened. First, there have been rumors, which have remained unsubstantiated, that, in reality, he was under some form of house arrest. Then the Ukrainian authorities rushed to announce that he is, finally, about to leave and that, of course, there was nothing odd about the long delay: The general the president loves to hate – and to fear – took a breather, formalities with the British needed time and, finally, the bulky general is now undergoing a crash course in diplomacy at the Foreign Ministry – another intriguingly comical idea.

We may never know why exactly it has taken so long to send off Zaluzhny. Some observers have speculated that the West was blackmailing Zelensky: First, you pass a new mobilization law to feed more Ukrainian cannon fodder into the proxy war, then we release $61 billion in US aid for you and let you ship off your nemesis to London. Again, mere rumors, at this point.

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A patch with the Ukrainian flag on a trooper's arm as Ukrainian soldiers take part in a military training in Poland, on April 4, 2024
Mobilizing for defeat: The Zelensky regime insists more Ukrainians must die before it’s all over
]]> We do know something else, however: Less than a month ago, Politico published a long article based on statements by anonymous Ukrainian officers close to the former commander-in-chief. Their quintessence was that Ukraine’s military situation is desperate and that even the release of the US aid package – then mired on Capitol Hill and facing an uncertain future – would not turn things around.

As one of them put it, there is “nothing that can help Ukraine now because there are no serious technologies able to compensate Ukraine for the large mass of troops Russia is likely to hurl at us. We don’t have those technologies, and the West doesn’t have them as well in sufficient numbers.” Others acknowledged Russian sophistication and adaptation and were explicit about the fact that Ukraine’s crisis is not only military but also political.

At that moment, emphasizing Ukraine’s distress was, of course, welcome in Kiev, since it served to persuade the US – and others – to release yet more aid. Yet, for the same reason, saying that it was too late anyhow, was, obviously, verboten. So, what was that Politico article really about? Mere defeatism from a group of officers loyal to the former commander-in-chief (and probably either out of a job, demoted, or simply under a cloud of disfavor under his successor)? Unlikely. A signal that the West should stop betting on Zelensky and try a new approach with a new man – Zaluzhny – at the top? More likely.

What the episode did reveal, in any case, are two important things: Not only is Zaluzhny not down and out, he also still has many friends. And his friends still have good connections in the West. Was that, perhaps, the real meaning? A message sent not so much by the talkative-if-anonymous officers but by those giving them a forum to remind Zelensky that he is replaceable? In that case, has Zelensky already come to regret his London plan? Maybe the pertinent issue isn’t those representatives of the Global South Kuleba was referring to, but the many ways in which Zaluzhny could network with those of the West, far from Kiev and hard to control.

And that is the crux: Short of a convenient accident, Zelensky has no way of really stopping Zaluzhny. He’s dangerous to him in Ukraine and anywhere else as well. The president can try to sideline him but, even when he does, the ambitious, popular general remains very much in play. The more so when the war is going badly for Ukraine. Because, after all, Zelensky relieved Zaluzhny of responsibility just about when the worst was to come. That now is for his successor – and old rival – Aleksandr Syrsky to deal with. Wherever Zaluzhny is, he’ll live in Zelensky’s head – and for good reason.

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Thu, 25 Apr 2024 16:55:56 +0000 RT
Abbas Juma: Iran’s nuclear plans are clear. Just read its own Islamic law /news/596508-iran-nuclear-weapons-islam/ Tehran’s doctrine is based on a fatwa Islamic law, which unequivocally prohibits indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction
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Tehran’s doctrine is based on a fatwa Islamic law, which unequivocally prohibits indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction

In light of the direct conflict that broke out between Israel and Iran, rumors that the Islamic Republic could produce nuclear weapons began circulating again. In addition, just a few days ago Reuters and other media outlets quoted a senior commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) saying that Iran may review its nuclear doctrine following Israeli threats.

The US, EU, and Israel have long feared that Iran may produce nuclear weapons, and have used this threat to justify their actions against the Islamic Republic. However, it is important to understand that Iran’s nuclear doctrine is based on a fatwa (a ruling based on Islamic law) issued by the country’s Supreme Leader. According to this fatwa, the production of nuclear weapons is a sin. However, Iran’s opponents do not believe in the sincerity of this ruling and, they suggest, it can be renounced at any time.

Things are not that simple

On April 17 and 18, the first Tehran International Conference on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation took place. The motto of this conference was “Nuclear energy for everyone, nuclear weapons for no one.” There, Ali Akbar Velayati, adviser to the Supreme Leader of Iran, read Ayatollah Khamenei’s message in front of officials and members of various international delegations and organizations.

“All of you know that, in the absence of the Imam Mahdi, whose coming is expected by the Shiites, the Shiite legal system is based on the opinion of authoritative and highly competent experts in the field of Islamic law (which Iran’s decisions are based on). These religious scholars issue fatwas which clearly indicate whether any action is permissible or not. One [important] issue is the permissibility of the production and use of weapons of mass destruction (chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons) …”.

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An Israeli Air Force fighter jet flies over the border area with south Lebanon on March 12, 2024
US forced Israel to abandon larger attack on Iran – NYT
]]> Ayatollah Khamenei had carefully analyzed the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons by the Americans in Japan as well as the use of chemical weapons against Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, and stated his position on this issue:

“We believe that, besides nuclear weapons, other types of weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical and biological weapons, also pose a serious threat to humanity. The Iranian nation, which is itself a victim of chemical weapons, feels more than any other nation the danger that is caused by the production and stockpiling of such weapons, and is prepared to make use of all its facilities to counter such threats. We consider the use of such weapons as haraam [forbidden] and believe that it is everyone’s duty to make efforts to secure humanity against this great disaster.”

In the period from 2010 to 2015, other religious authorities, such as ayatollahs Makarem Shirazi, Jafar Subhani, Noori-Hamedani, and Javadi Amoli, also issued fatwas that prohibited the production and use of weapons of mass destruction.

But can the issued fatwas be changed or canceled? Can Iran’s position in this regard change? From a theological point of view, certainly not. Islamic law states clear reasons for this.

Why Iran can’t produce nuclear weapons

Nuclear weapons and the radiation which results from their use threaten the environment, causing the destruction of crops and the death of offspring. Verse 205 of Surah al-Baqarah says: “And when he goes away, he strives throughout the land to cause corruption therein and destroy crops and animals. And Allah does not like corruption.”

The protection of the environment, the preservation of the life of living beings and plants is every Muslim’s obligation under Sharia, Islamic law. The production and stockpiling of nuclear weapons, even if they are never used, may endanger the lives of people on the planet as a result of human error. According to Islamic law, this is unacceptable.

Islam believes that a victory must be achieved by reasonable, lawful, and humane means.

As for the rules of warfare, Islam strictly prohibits the killing of civilians, women, children and the elderly, as well as attacks on civilian infrastructure.

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Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei witha a group of commanders of the Iranian armed forces, Tehran, April 21, 2024.
Iran’s supreme leader thanks armed forces for Israel attack
]]> Here are the main principles of warfare in Islam:

First, there must be a clear division between military personnel and civilians. Secondly, civilians should not be targeted. Then, weapons that are used in the attack must correspond to the desired (military) goal. Appropriate weapons must be used to strike military targets. The fourth principle is the principle of necessity. The production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons contradicts all four principles of warfare.

Many hadiths, which are sayings or traditions of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, also prohibit harming nature and people who cannot defend themselves. For example, Ali ibn Abu Talib (cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad) said that the Prophet prohibited adding toxic substances to water – even to the enemy’s water sources – since this may harm civilians.

Are there loopholes?

Iran advocates agreements which would prohibit the production, proliferation, and stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction, and generally accedes to such treaties. Iranians can lay claim to remaining faithful to the signed agreements – unlike Americans, who signed a nuclear deal with Tehran under one president then unilaterally withdrew from it when the administration in the White House changed.

Some people say that Iran is a Shiite country, and in Shia Islam there is a concept called taqiyya, which allows one to conceal one’s beliefs, convictions, etc. in the face of danger. Its critics say Iran covers up its aggressive intentions with false humane and religious principles. This idea is fundamentally wrong, since taqiyya concerns only the fact of protecting and preserving one’s religion – for example, if Muslims are in danger of being killed for their religious beliefs.

Taqiyya is prohibited if humanity is in danger of being destroyed, or if it contributes to the spread of iniquity and unrest. Therefore, taqiyya is not applicable to the production of nuclear weapons.

Based on Islamic law, the Supreme Leader of Iran made a definitive decision to ban the production and use of weapons of mass destruction. The US, Israel, and European countries know this very well. At the same time, Iran needs peaceful nuclear energy – and there is nothing dangerous or reprehensible about this.

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Wed, 24 Apr 2024 16:06:41 +0000 RT
Why is the West desperate to have India at a Ukraine summit that Russia has rejected? /india/596409-switzerland-ukraine-peace-india/ The organizers of the Swiss-based event want New Delhi to be represented at the highest level to corner Moscow
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The organizers of the Swiss-based event want New Delhi to be represented at the highest level to corner Moscow

The international geopolitical landscape is becoming more perilous. The Ukraine conflict continues on without any solutions in sight. Tensions in the western Pacific between China and the Philippines are rising, and this is in addition to the continuing volatility of the Taiwan issue. A third area of potential regional strife involves Iran and Israel.

The Ukraine conflict is the most critical as it pits the two most powerful countries, the erstwhile Cold War antagonists, against each other in an actual, albeit indirect, military conflict in which a dangerous nuclear dimension is involved, even as the existing arms control agreements have broken down.

In Ukraine – even though the situation on the ground has moved in Russia’s favor, and the earlier goal of the US and EU of inflicting a strategic defeat on Russia through a proxy war (by arming and funding Ukraine) has not been realized – there is so far no sign of willingness to genuinely explore a negotiated solution. The West is finding it difficult to remove itself from the coils of a policy in which it is trapped. Ukraine is being treated as the last frontier of Europe facing a ‘non-European’ Russia.

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FILE PHOTO: President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky attends the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at U.N. headquarters on September 19, 2023 in New York City.
Ukraine fatigue: Kiev and the West are tiring of war and each other
]]> The narrative promoted at the highest levels is that if Russia wins in Ukraine, it will target other European countries, beginning with Poland and the Baltic states. Consequently, the long-term security of Europe is supposedly at stake. With this degree of demonization of Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, it is difficult for the West to step back, even if the recognition is growing that Ukraine is fighting a losing battle.

Support in the US for funneling more weapons and money into Ukraine has been diminishing, even as a new $60.8 billion Ukraine aid bill is moving through the legislative process towards approval.

The EU wants to prepare for the eventuality (especially if Donald Trump is reelected) of the US watering down support for Ukraine, and is willing to accept more responsibility for arming and funding Kiev. To this end, Western European countries have increased their defense budgets and intend to build stronger military capabilities of their own.

The president of the European Commission and the NATO secretary-general are fueling the war mood with their hawkish discourse against Russia, instead of lowering the rhetoric to pave the way for dialogue and diplomacy.

This is despite the fact that EU economies are not doing well and social unrest is growing. Farmers, particularly in Poland, are protesting against the flow of Ukrainian grain and other agriculture products into the EU as their interests are being hurt. This is ironic as the export of Ukrainian grain from Black Sea ports disrupted by the conflict required the opening of an alternative route through Europe to sustain Ukrainian agriculture.

The possibility of a diplomatic breakthrough on the Ukraine issue is low at this stage. President Vladimir Zelensky is frenetically lobbying for more weapons to defend against Russian missile attacks by trying to shame the US and others for leaving him unprotected, in a form of psychological warfare. He has even called for more direct help from the US, UK, Germany, and France to intercept Russian missiles, as they did in the case of Iran’s recent attacks against Israel.

]]> READ MORE: US has found a surprising military frontier against Russia and China

]]> While war fever is being nurtured by the West, moves are also afoot to hold an international peace conference in Switzerland this June on Zelensky’s ten-point peace proposal. It is maximalist in scope and has been dismissed by Russia, which has said it is willing to negotiate, but on a realistic basis that recognizes the territorial changes on the ground.

Moscow will not restore Crimea and the four Russian-speaking regions that voted in referendums to join Russia, whereas Ukraine demands full restoration of these territories, as well as war reparations, trials of Russians for alleged war crimes, and so on.

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FILE PHOTO: A MIM-104 Patriot launcher at Rzeszow Airport, Poland. ?  Christophe Gateau / picture alliance via Getty Images
Dmitry Trenin: The US is crawling away from Ukraine
]]> The position of the US and EU is that they will not impose a territorial solution on Ukraine. Zelensky has also passed a law against conducting negotiations with Russia while Putin is in power, even though he has just won another presidential election and will be in power for the next six years.

Any proposals by the West should be preceded by genuine moves by it towards peace. On the contrary, the moves are for more arms for Ukraine, unremitting propaganda that Putin will attack the EU if he is allowed to win in Ukraine, more sanctions on Moscow, appeals to China to not support Russia while the US and EU themselves do not withhold support for Ukraine, and so on.

Switzerland and Ukraine are active in gathering support for the proposed peace conference, especially from Global South countries. Four closed-door meetings to prepare for this conference have already been held, but without Russia’s participation. Clearly, a peace conference without Russian participation makes little sense. Moscow cannot be presented with a framework for peace in which it has had no role. The strategy seems to be to mobilize as many countries as possible, especially from the Global South, so that the blueprint for peace can be presented as the view of the larger international community, to which Russia would need to be responsive.

]]> READ MORE: Sergey Poletaev: Here’s Russia’s plan for Ukraine for this summer

]]> It appears that the Swiss foreign minister had a preliminary conversation with his Russian counterpart in New York on Russia’s participation after a preliminary round without its presence. The Russian foreign minister thinks this is cunning diplomacy by Switzerland, which is no longer neutral as it has taken part in all Western sanctions on Russia.

To promote the peace summit, both the Swiss and Ukrainian foreign ministers have visited India to press for its participation in the belief that this will encourage other Global South countries to attend. As for the agenda, India is told that it can pick up those points in Zelensky’s ten-point proposal to which it has no objections, and that could be the basis of its participation.

All of this suggests that the conference is a ploy to diplomatically isolate Russia by demonstrating that Ukraine wants peace and the Global South is in favor of dialogue, but Russia is recalcitrant. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, during a visit to China, sought Beijing’s participation. China had proposed its own peace plan, which Russia considered more balanced, but it has gone nowhere.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Ivan Timofeev: Is neutering NATO the next Russia-China project?
]]> India has consistently favored dialogue and diplomacy to end the Ukraine conflict. For the sake of consistency, it cannot ab initio reject any initiative, however deficient, to discuss peace and decline to take part. It therefore participated in earlier closed-door meetings on Ukraine’s ‘peace summit plan’. It would, accordingly, be open to attending the June 10 summit, if only to note that without Russia’s participation as one of the two protagonists in the conflict, any initiatives would be like a marriage without the bridegroom. The organizers expect Indian participation at the highest level.

A G7 meeting is being held in Italy on June 13-15, to which the Indian prime minister has been invited. The Ukraine peace summit is slated for June 15-16, which would normally make it convenient for Narendra Modi to attend it immediately after the G7 summit concludes. However, the results of the current general election in India will be declared on June 4, which means that if Modi’s party – the BJP – wins, as is anticipated, the prime minister will be preoccupied with post-electoral ceremonies and cabinet formation, and can hardly be away from the country.

At best, he could attend the G7 summit for a day and hurry back home. In any case, due to the manner in which the so-called peace summit is being organized, and considering reports of an increasing number of Western military personnel being sent to Ukraine in ‘non-combat’ positions, along with more arms supplies, India may not deem it appropriate for Modi to be present, and could instead decide – rightly so – on representation at a lower political level.

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Tue, 23 Apr 2024 10:59:01 +0000 RT
The Middle East crisis has made one thing clear about the US /news/596413-us-israel-palestine-veto-iran/ The veto on Palestinian statehood and Israeli strikes on Iran are signs of irreversible decline in American soft power
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The veto on Palestinian statehood and Israeli strikes on Iran are signs of irreversible decline in American soft power

So-called Western values, especially those touted by the United States, have long revealed themselves to be hollow and contradictory. The country’s Declaration of Independence from Great Britain famously stated that “all men are created equal,” while instituting brutal chattel slavery on Africans and committing a horrific genocide against the Native people of the Americas.

Yet, it could still be argued – in terms however trite – that the US was somehow on the right side of history at various junctures. Today, recent actions by the administration have shown that this is undeniably no longer the case. On Thursday, the US vetoed a draft UN Security Council resolution that would grant Palestine full UN membership despite Washington’s official position being in favor of the two-state solution.

The US explained this decision by saying that Washington “continues to strongly support a two-state solution,” and that the “vote does not reflect opposition to Palestinian statehood but instead is an acknowledgment that it will only come from direct negotiations between the parties [who are currently at war].“ Most Arab countries, as well as major powers like Russia, have expressed dismay over the decision.

Trita Parsi, founder of the National Iranian American Council and co-founder and executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, said Washington had apparently lobbied its allies, Ecuador, Japan, and South Korea, so that the Biden administration would not have to veto the resolution. The states did not follow these orders. Washington failed to use its diplomatic weight to accomplish its face-saving goal before the UNSC, exposing its gradual loss of soft power.

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An Israeli Air Force fighter jet flies over the border area with south Lebanon on March 12, 2024
US forced Israel to abandon larger attack on Iran – NYT
]]> Parsi also claims to have heard from a Western-friendly “senior Global South diplomat” that “whatever agonizing claim the US had to lead a self-appointed free world has died a very loud public death on the Security Council horseshoe tonight. You can't lead if you can't listen.”

Indeed, the fact that the US has issued four vetoes on behalf of Israel over the past seven months despite both international and domestic public opinion clearly supporting an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and the recognition of Palestinian statehood is remarkable. It shows that US leadership has been very publicly lambasted; additionally, it is clear that US “ironclad support” for Israel will not survive into the next generation because of the dismal state of public opinion, even just in the US itself.

Also on Thursday, Israel launched strikes on Iran following Tehran’s retaliatory attack during the preceding week. That was done in response to Israel bombing the Iranian consulate building in Damascus earlier this month, killing several high-ranking Iranian military officials. Despite President Joe Biden working double time all week to avoid Israel escalating regional tensions and the fact that the administration had advance notice of Israel’s attacks, his government failed to prevent it.

Additionally, Israel is reported to have also bombed Baghdad, Iraq against alleged members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) while the prime minister of Iraq is in Washington for a state visit. There are also unconfirmed reports, based on publicly available flight data, that an American military aerial refueling tanker aircraft was in western Iraq during the time of Israel’s attacks that day. It raises serious questions about whether Washington’s posture, stated as only helping Israel defensively, has quietly changed.

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Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei witha a group of commanders of the Iranian armed forces, Tehran, April 21, 2024.
Iran’s supreme leader thanks armed forces for Israel attack
]]> Now, the Middle East is closer to a regional war than ever as a result of failed American so-called leadership, and the contradictions between Washington’s words and deeds are mounting. Israel is reportedly demanding an expansion of its ground operation in Gaza to Rafah, the last holdout for Palestinians in the enclave, in exchange for not escalating toward a regional war. The chances of strategic miscalculations, given the number of actors, are immense.

Yet, from the Iranian standpoint, it appears Tehran, whose attacks on Israel last week were largely performative, is playing down the attacks on its soil. This may provide a clear exit from the escalatory cycle – which would be consistent with the behavior of the current Iranian state over decades – if, indeed, the matter of the Damascus consulate bombing is “closed,” as official Iranian sources said. A massive win for both regional and global security, this would also reveal Iran, which the West defines as a “rogue state,” as evidently more responsible and forward-looking than the so-called world leader, the US.

No matter how the situation in the Middle East unfolds, it is clear, once again, that American leadership has been abdicated. The wider global community is discussing the issue in Gaza at length to reach a pragmatic and attainable solution. Meanwhile, Washington refuses to listen to these pleas, will not hold the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accountable for its actions, and cannot formulate a coherent strategy that aligns with its own stated values.

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Mon, 22 Apr 2024 21:17:48 +0000 RT
EU elites promised a prosperous green future. This could be their undoing /business/596093-eu-green-agenda-legitimacy/ Technocrats have staked their legitimacy not so much on a carbon-neutral future as on a vision of prosperity that is rapidly receding
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Technocrats have staked their legitimacy not so much on a carbon-neutral future as on a vision of prosperity that is rapidly receding

Lenin famously defined communism as Soviet power plus electrification of the whole country. In other words, the ideological project of building communism was supplemented by the technocratic project of electrification, the latter being an important source of legitimacy for the new regime. 

The present-day European Union is engaged in its own expansive electrification project – the energy transition – that similarly inhabits ground where ideology meets technocracy and underpins legitimacy.

Yet in the past year or so, something has gone badly wrong, and a backlash against the climate agenda and its technocratic enforcers has been spreading across Europe. The energy crisis – far from catapulting the continent further along the path toward a carbon-neutral future as it should have – has exposed just how elusive the goal is, as Europe has scrambled to sign expensive LNG deals and even restart coal-fired plants. Farmers dissatisfied with EU policies that they regard as devastating to their livelihoods have been grumbling for years, but recently their protests have reached a crescendo, and built up political weight. Right-leaning and far-right parties, meanwhile, are gaining ground by the day. Standards of living are dropping and industry is shutting down or moving elsewhere.

Discontent with suffocating bureaucracy and regulation is widespread. A recent survey among German small and medium-sized companies – has registered a massive shift in sentiment against the EU. This is particularly concerning because the so-called German Mittelstand used to be among the strongest pillars of support for European integration. 

What is embroiling Europe is deeper than a political crisis – it is approaching what can be called a crisis of legitimacy for the ruling elite. This can be thought of as a metaphysical event that precedes political upheaval, the latter being merely confirmation that such a crisis has taken place. Legitimacy is, of course, a rather nebulous concept, and it defies objective measurement. 

Ruling classes throughout history have always advanced various claims about their own legitimacy, without which a stable political order is impossible. In tracing the contours of the current crisis, it’s important to establish what exactly the claims Europe's technocratic elite have put forth and how they are becoming increasingly difficult to believe. 

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Protesting farmers block the A2 highway between Poland and Germany
Polish farmers block highway into Germany (VIDEO)
]]> Ostensibly, the EU’s ruling elite has staked out the green transition as its raison d’être. They claim to have the mandate, vision and competence to see it through and have set clear targets to measure their success.

The headline targets and dates are well-known: reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 and become climate-neutral by 2050. There are many other secondary targets. But the goals themselves, which will almost certainly prove elusive, are actually not where Europe’s technocracy has staked its credibility, and the failure to achieve them will not prove its undoing. What is in fact being promised in the energy transition lies somewhere adjacent to the carbon reductions and phase-out of fossil fuels. It is a vision of growth and prosperity wrapped up in a deeper narrative imbued with quasi-religious meaning, and a technocratic path toward achieving it. It is partly a promise of prosperity itself, partly a story about that prosperity, and partly a belief in the power of the anointed managerial class to achieve it.

The EU Green Deal is an ambitious and far-reaching program that can be parsed at many levels. It will certainly go down as a cultural artifact of our era. What is underappreciated, however, is the extent to which it has hitched its wagon to those very notions of growth and prosperity, albeit, of course, with a shiny green luster. In the discourse surrounding the initiative, words such as “emissions” and “renewables” are interspersed with ideas about a “prosperous society,” a “competitive economy,” and a “jobs bonanza.”  When launching the Green Deal, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called the program “our new growth strategy – a strategy for growth that gives more back than it takes away.”

The Commission’s press release announcing the Green Deal – tantamount to a statement of creed – makes a startling juxtaposition. Climate change and environmental degradation, we are told, “present an existential threat to Europe and the world.” A more stark description of an apocalyptic crisis cannot be formulated. But the solution, which is couched in the typical corporate jargon of our era, makes clear what the vision is really about: “to overcome this challenge” – it’s merely a challenge now – “Europe needs a new growth strategy that transforms the Union into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy… where economic growth is decoupled from resource use and where no one and no place is left behind.” This is the future that Europe’s technocratic class has promised, and it will live and die by this promise.

In other words, climate targets are set and inevitably missed, but the prospect of missing them hardly threatens the legitimacy of the EU technocracy: if anything, the EU has been quite transparent about falling short of targets, because this only means that efforts need to be redoubled, regulations tightened, and more resources devoted to the cause. The most recent monitoring report by the European Environmental Agency readily admits that the majority of the 2030 green objectives will likely be missed.

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FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz poses in front of the Siemens gas turbine intended for the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, August 3, 2022
‘Russia turned off the gas’ – German leader
]]> But it’s a very different story when the EU becomes not more modern but less, as innovation falls behind. And instead of becoming more resource-efficient, it begins drastically overpaying for the same non-green energy sources and even returning to coal. Or when the economy loses rather than gains competitiveness and many companies simply pack up shop and move abroad. And what happens when Europe itself is left behind?

One of the implications of the green transition essentially being envisioned as a preservation of the current economic system but plopped down onto a new, sustainable foundation is that all the current rules must still apply: those governing investment, economic viability, and profit. As much of some on the fringe of the climate movement may yearn to implement a system-demolishing ‘eco-Leninism’, to use a term coined by radical activist Andreas Malm, the official EU narrative firmly inhabits the neoliberal framework.

And this leads us to the next great conceit of the energy transition: that there is no trade-off between green investing and making money and that much of the green transition would be quite profitably financed by the private sector. As money poured into green projects, the thinking went, those companies would surge ahead, leaving their non-green counterparts languishing and starved of capital. 

And in fact, a strong emphasis has been placed on tapping the deep-pocketed world of institutional managed money. According to the EU’s own estimates, around €400 billion will be needed each year from 2021 to 2030 and €520-575 billion per year in the subsequent decades until 2050. Since the EU cannot pony up anywhere close to that amount, the idea has been to lean heavily on the private and financial sector, with public funds directed to making projects profitable for investors.

For a while, it seemed things might in fact be moving in the direction of a merger of green policy and capitalist profits. When Ford launched an electric Mustang and pickup truck, its market value surged to over $100 billion for the first time. A portfolio put together by The Economist in mid-2021 featuring stocks that stood to benefit from the energy transition doubled the returns of the S&P 500 over a period of a year and a half. Previously the domain of niche sustainable funds, green stocks broke out into the wider market and began receiving inflows from conventional funds. Investors inevitably began drawing comparisons between clean energy today and tech at the turn of the millennium in its market-altering potential.

Meanwhile, various green special-purpose acquisition vehicles (SPACs) proliferated. SPACS are a novel way for smaller companies to list without having to make an initial public offering, although they are indelibly associated with the now-departed era of low interest rates and abundant and cheap capital, when investors were looking to gain exposure to as many small prospective companies as possible in the hopes of hitting the jackpot with the next Tesla. Meanwhile, companies fully reliant on government subsidies with unproven technology were raising money.

A sense emerged that practically any well-marketed endeavor in tune with the prevailing zeitgeist could raise capital, and trendy political ones all the more so. In fact, the implicit unspoken expectation was that in the low-interest-rate world, enterprises supported by the Western elite were, perhaps not sure bets, but at least more attractive than they otherwise might be.

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European Council President Charles Michel (L) and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen leave after a press conference.
EU leadership must go – member state’s PM
]]> Alas, this world was not meant to last. Surging inflation and the sharp rise in interest rates to fight it in tandem with the energy crisis in 2022 blew a cold and menacing wind through the green investment boom and revealed much of it to be a fad. The S&P Global Clean Energy Index fell more than 20% in 2023. ESG funds in the US bled more than a net $5 billion in the final three months of 2023, while Europe saw a huge decline in the pace of inflows. Danish offshore wind developer Orsted, one of the darlings in the renewable space, canceled two US projects and has seen its share price plummet 75% since its 2021 highs. After declining for several years, the cost of wind and solar began rising.

Perhaps most symbolic is that Climate Action 100+, the world’s largest investor engagement initiative on climate change, has recently seen a spate of high-level desertions. In just a few days JPMorgan Asset Management, State Street and Pimco withdrew, while BlackRock moved its membership to its much smaller international business in what is a clear downgrade.

Many reasons are cited for the moves but what BlackRock attributed its decision to is probably closest to the truth: the potential conflict between the aim of Climate Action 100+ to get companies to decarbonize and its own fiduciary duty to customers to prioritize returns. In other words, the green economy and making money aren’t quite so compatible after all.

The last year or so has laid bare the reality that the energy transition will not be propelled by a wave of private investment. That puts the onus squarely on policymakers, who will have to mandate the necessary measures rather than hoping that the market delivers them on its own accord. And indeed, what we have seen is that EU institutions and European governments have used executive-heavy measures to push through climate policies, tempered by sporadic and reluctant concessions to farmers and other constituents. In this sense, the EU technocracy has indulged its worst impulses: a penchant for intricate and all-encompassing regulation and classification that almost seems to be a green reincarnation of the mind-boggling complexity of late medieval Scholasticism that set out to codify and order every aspect of the world in accordance with Christian theology. 

And here we circle back to the question of legitimacy. Reality has come to resemble almost the mirror opposite of what the European Commission’s “new growth strategy” prescribes. The continent is deindustrializing and plunging headlong into a deep economic decline, yet Europe’s ruling class has staked its legitimacy on the exact opposite: a potent vision of prosperity. 

Quite telling is that in 2023, Germany’s carbon emissions fell by a whopping 10% in just one year. For those convinced of the “existential threat to Europe and the world” of climate change, this figure should have been celebrated, regardless of how it was achieved. But because the reduction came thanks not to steps toward a “modern and competitive economy” but quite the opposite – factories shutting down – it was met not with jubilation but embarrassment. This is not how carbon reductions were supposed to happen, and it is why Europe’s ruling elite is facing a deeper crisis.

Regimes whose legitimacy has been compromised but which nevertheless plough ahead with unpopular measures and intrusive regulations enter a very dangerous place. Veteran European analyst Wolfgang Munchau believes that the hyperactive phase of the green agenda will end with the European elections in June and that some of it might even go into reverse. This may be true and if so it would be a prudent political compromise that could stave off a more acute crisis. But it would represent a profound retreat, and it will not restore the lost legitimacy.

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Sun, 21 Apr 2024 16:40:39 +0000 RT
The US has a new insidious plan for Venezuelan oil /news/596324-us-venezuela-oil-sanctions/ Cancelling sanctions relief and kicking out everyone else looks like a setup for an arranged marriage with Western oil giants
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Cancelling sanctions relief and kicking out everyone else looks like a setup for an arranged marriage with Western oil giants

Six months ago, high oil prices in America amid Western sanctions against Russian oil and gas sent the Biden administration scrambling for more supply that it could control – and ideally profit from.

Washington couldn’t influence Russia and Saudi-led OPEC, or relent on the ideologically-driven sanctions idiocy, but it could at least maybe dial up or down the supply to mitigate domestic political fallout of any resulting price increases. So the White House considered the cards it could play, and offered Venezuela a deal to lift the American boot off its neck. It’s probably just a coincidence that the country happens to have the largest oil reserves on the planet – largely untapped.

There’s also the added bonus of rapprochement to counter China and Russia’s advances in Washington’s backyard, or mitigating the influx of migrants from Venezuela to the US as a result of people fleeing a country struggling under a seemingly endless embargo. 

So Washington turned to the same Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro whom it indicted on “narcoterrorism” charges in 2020 – the same guy the US spent years delegitimizing by promoting another Venezuelan politician as the “real” president of the country. But instead of black-bagging him to collect the $15 million bounty they’re offering for information leading to his capture or conviction, the Americans made a deal with him.

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President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro
US reimposes Venezuela sanctions
]]> Thanks to the US, Maduro had a few problems, but maybe those could go away, if he’d be willing to play ball with America on its own terms. American oil giant, Chevron, scored a license to pump Venezuelan oil in November 2022 – a month after the sanctions waiver was implemented – and in exchange, the US would unblock some of Caracas’ oil sale cash that had been confiscated as a result of US sanctions. Until now, the US simply allowed Venezuelan state oil giant Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) to export oil to the US market while invoking sanctions to seize its profits through PDVSA’s American subsidiary, Citgo, confiscating billions in Venezuelan oil revenue. Where did all that cash go? To fund Washington’s regime change puppets, back when the entire Western world was referring to handpicked Juan ‘Who?’ Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela.

But since the Guaido project flamed out and Maduro was still in charge when the Ukraine conflict upended global oil markets through Western sanctions lunacy, the US sucked up any pride that it may have had left and said that it would let Venezuela get its hands on some of its own cash. Suddenly, Chevron was back plundering Venezuela’s black gold in exchange for Maduro promising to play nice in national elections. Just last month, Chevron announced a new drilling plan for Venezuela in a joint venture with PDVSA, with the goal of increasing output by 35% year-on-year by bringing new wells online. And a month before that, Chevron ramped drilling back up in the Orinoco Belt.

Six months later, Washington has now let the sanctions waiver expire, and any temporary business licenses to operate in Venezuela along with it. Not that Chevron has much to worry about. The Biden administration has underscored that oil companies’ continued licensing would be considered on a case-by-case basis. Which sounds like a convenient way for Washington to keep the market for itself, or at least decide who gets access. Everyone else gets scared off by sanctions.

Using sanctions as an instrument to control the global playing field isn’t new. It’s just getting harder to do amid increasing options as the rest of the world diversifies away from a Western-dominated global order. In February 2020, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned Russia’s Rosneft state oil company on accusations that it “brokered the sale and transport of Venezuelan crude oil” – something that the US will no doubt be cool with American competitors doing. “The United States is determined to prevent the looting of Venezuela’s oil assets by the corrupt Maduro regime,” then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, as the US was literally looting Venezuela’s oil assets and withholding the profits.

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Nicholas Maduro speaks after the referendum on the Essequibo region, on December 4, 2023 in Caracas, Venezuela.
US suspected of building ‘secret military bases’ in oil-rich Latin American region
]]> So what did Maduro do to give Washington an excuse to slap sanctions back on? Apparently it has to do with the disqualification of opposition candidate Maria Corina Machado from the presidential elections, set for July 2024. Disqualified by the Supreme Court for 15 years, Machado (whose candidacy has since been replaced by that of a former diplomat) is accused of involvement with “the corruption plot orchestrated by the usurper Juan Guaido,” and the marginalizing of the country which led to “dispossession of the companies and wealth of the Venezuelan people abroad, with the complicity of corrupt governments.” Machado did thank Israel for intervening in Venezuelan affairs by recognizing Guaido as the Western-selected interim president, and has argued in favor of the country’s National Assembly invoking an article that would allow it to authorize foreign missions inside Venezuela, arguing in favor of a “responsibility to protect” — the same provision that led to regime change in Libya under the slippery pretext of “humanitarian” intervention.

Washington wants Venezuelan elections to be as democratic, free, and fair as its own. Which are super clean. Just ask former presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders, who was railroaded in the 2016 primary by the Democratic National Committee in collusion with the campaign of his rival, Senator and former First Lady Hillary Clinton, according to leaked documents posted online. Anything that Washington perceives to fall short of this stellar standard gives it an excuse to move the goalposts – once its own have had a chance to score some touchdowns.

While democratic failings are cited, maybe the waiver cancellation now has more to do with the fact that US oil prices have fallen, production has skyrocketed at home, and domestic demand is now low. Perhaps Venezuela’s untapped oil potential was too much of a good thing, and there wasn’t any point in demanding that Maduro set a table for everyone to dine when he could just be having a romantic tête-à-tête – or more like an arranged marriage – with Washington’s favorites. The party’s over for everyone else and they’re now kindly being asked to leave before the cops (or OFAC) show up.

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Sat, 20 Apr 2024 22:02:59 +0000 RT
US has found a surprising military frontier against Russia and China /africa/596240-us-joint-military-exercise-africa/ The influence of Africa-US military pacts is likely to wane as multipolar world allows the continent turn to alternative strategic partners
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An increasingly multipolar world means Washington’s influence over Africa will wane as alternative strategic partners emerge

Justified Accord 2024, the US Africa Command’s (AFRICOM) largest ever exercise in East Africa, ran from February 26 to March 7 and was hosted in Kenya, Djibouti and Rwanda. Joint Africa-US war games have been held for years and are portrayed as crucial to the security and stability of the continent.

They are also presented as integral to addressing terrorism and other transnational crimes in Africa and beyond. Through these exercises, the US seeks to improve the capacity of Africa’s militaries. Terrorism and other forms of extremism have been on the global agenda for decades and attracted unprecedented attention after the 9/11 attacks.

Violent extremism and counterterrorism were seen as the foremost national security issue under both presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and it was also an issue of concern under the Clinton administration.

The US military presence in Africa, however, is led by its national security objectives as well as its geopolitical interests. Africa’s security is part of broader US security concerns across the globe.  Russia’s upswing in Africa’s security matrix – especially in the West African subregion, the Central African Republic, Libya, the Sahel – has placed the US on tenterhooks. Moreover, China’s footprint in Africa, primarily in infrastructure development and security, has also drawn the attention of Washington and enhanced the significance of the Africa-US military partnerships.

In his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 7, 2024, the head of USAFRICOM, General Michael Langley, expressed concern about the upsurge in the influence of Russia and China in Africa. “Recent history shows that Moscow and Beijing jump to fill the void when American engagement wanes or disappears, and we cannot afford to do that in West Africa,” he said. Therefore, clearly, part of the AFRICOM’s mission is to stave off Russian and Chinese encroachment in Africa.

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Angolan President Joao Lourenco meet in Luanda, Angola on September 27, 2023.
The US is using Russia’s playbook in Africa, but there’s a catch
]]> The US, since the end of the bipolar world, has had an almost unassailable ideological dominance in Africa and a disproportionate role in Africa’s security. Within the same period, however, China has been on the ascendancy as a formidable global actor. Russia has also upped its interest in Africa’s security.

To deal with this, the US has tried to redefine its relations with Africa from paternalism to partnership, and invariably cautions Africa against Russia and China. The US claims that, unlike China and Russia, it is motivated by Africa’s wellbeing, investing in civilian and defense institutions. Ironically, the US also claims that it upholds Africa’s sovereignty, unlike China, which extends predatory loans to impoverished African countries and exploits their natural resources in return. The US, also accusing Russia of trading in Africa’s natural resources under the guise of providing security, does not mention that Africa’s relations with the US and the West generally are just as problematic. The scramble for Africa’s natural resources and the consequent hollowing out of its sovereignty is a Western design formalized at the Berlin Conference. 

General Langley drew a dichotomy between the US and its rivals in his presentation before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Chinese and Russian companies have used predatory tactics to entangle African states in debt and extractive contracts that leave local populations in the lurch. America offers an alternative. US diplomatic, development, and defense support does not hold their peoples and natural resources hostage, so we do not impose a moral balancing act on our partners. Instead of demanding financial and political concessions, we demand accountability on the fundamentals: respect for human rights and the rule of law,” he claimed.

This dichotomy is false. The US invokes the rule of law expediently. Since the Cold War period, for instance, Washington has had relations with autocrats in Africa and supported the overthrow of leaders opposed to its policies. The US and its Western allies are complicit in atrocities in Gaza, which renders their self-arrogated role as custodians of international law and norms hollow.

The Africa-US joint military exercises in East Africa come in two phases. First is the ‘Justified Accord’ for medical, communication, or logistical training. Second, the “Cutlass Express exercises” are for maritime security enforcement and promotion of national and regional security in East Africa.

The first phase is hosted by the Kenya Defense Forces and usually takes place from a British military base in Nanyuki, Kenya. It is to be remembered that the British soldiers from this base have over the years been implicated in atrocities such as murder in the surrounding communities.

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FILE PHOTO: A soldier and a Kenyan man employed to play an 'insurgent' take part in a simulated military excercise of the British Army Training Unit in Kenya.
Payback time, Your Majesty: Will the British Army be brought to justice for its actions in Africa?
]]> In East Africa, USAFRICOM prides itself on “deep commitment to peacekeeping, crisis response and fostering enduring partnerships with military forces in the region.” Around 1,000 personnel from more than 20 countries from the East African region participate in these joint training exercises, which prepare them for African Union (AU), and United Nations (UN) mandated missions.

Usually between 2,000 and 2,500 short-term rotational US military and civilian personnel make up the Combined Joint Taskforce Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), which covers an expansive region that entails the land and airspace in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Seychelles, Somalia, and Sudan, as well as coastal waters of the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Indian Ocean. With the challenges minimized, this partnership is glowingly portrayed: “Through collaborative training and shared experiences, the exercises foster a strong professional ethos and partner military forces, enhancing their ability to respond effectively to crises and contribute to lasting peace in East Africa.”

Concerned about its national security, the US monitors “ungoverned spaces” in Africa that are open to transnational crimes such as terrorism, as well as drug and human trafficking. The US military’s exploits and its interest in Africa’s security are self-serving. An unstable Africa would be a haven for transnational crimes that could easily find their way onto the US shores. Thus, the US regards the expansive yet ungoverned waters of the Gulf of Guinea, the Gulf of Aden, and the West Indian Ocean as susceptible to illegal fishing, illegal trafficking, and piracy which necessitates its interest in maritime security.

Further, the US military trains Africa’s security forces in counterterrorism and other areas of military professionalization, advises on peace operations, and oversees humanitarian assistance efforts. The US military has worked with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) for medical supplies in Mogadishu and humanitarian assistance to Ethiopia and northern Kenya. USAFRICOM is also working with the AMISOM’s successor, the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS).

The counterterrorism or the “War on Terror” discourse, however, usually glosses over questions related the Manifest Destiny ideology, poverty, inequalities, and injustice exacerbated by deeply flawed institutions of global governance, institutionalized international predation, and interference in the sovereignty of states in Africa. Instead, a highly reductive and flawed position that terrorism is a manifestation of a clash of civilizations and can be addressed militarily holds sway.

African states are institutionally weak, weighed down by corruption and poor governance, and lack command and control which expose them to the smuggling of drugs, people and weapons, as well as the dumping of hazardous wastes. These challenges have a historical and international dimension, it must be affirmed. The persistence of neocolonial patterns within a deeply unequal international order has contributed immensely to Africa’s inability to assert itself. The West has callously dumped hazardous wastes in Africa, for instance in Kenya, that have been linked to an upsurge in cancer.

The Africa-US military pacts are not altruistic. Embedded in their design are America’s foreign policy and strategic interests. Consequently, there has been a backlash over the presence of US military in Africa. In Niger, for instance, the military authorities have revoked its longstanding military partnership with the US and ordered them to close down their two military bases in Niamey. The US airbase in Agadez, Niger is one of its largest drone bases in Africa for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance activities. From this base, the US conducts drone attacks across the world. The collapse of the US-Niger military cooperation, the West fears, will witness a resurgence of terrorism-related activities in the Sahel since Niger has been a bulwark against violent extremism in the region. The US has stated, however, that discussions are ongoing with Niger on the status of its military bases. 

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Abdourahamane Tiani (Niger), Ibrahim Traoré (Burkina Faso), Assimi Go?ta (Mali)
Here’s how a joint African military force can do what the West couldn’t
]]> The West is wary that Russia’s Africa Corps, formerly Wagner, will increasingly become a major player in the security in the Sahel, though is not about who has the capacity to reinforce national efforts towards combating terrorism in the Sahel. It is ideological warfare. It is also about sovereignty. In the wake of military coups in Burkina Faso, Niger, Guinea and Mali, the assertive authorities have closed down French bases. They have become impatient with decades of economic, political, cultural, military chokehold under the exploitative Francophonie orbit. They are deliberate about ending paternalistic and neo-colonial relations with France, their former colonizer, and other Western powers. Not to be left exposed, however, they are exploring and have indeed established alternative economic, political and military relations with Russia, China, Iran and other emerging powers.

In Niger, the decision to revoke military ties with the US was endorsed by trade unions. The inference is that the Nigerien civil society is in concurrence with the military establishment on the need to free Niger from condescending and exploitative partnerships. The mass support for military takeovers in the Sahel and West Africa was evidence of the backlash against puppet governments out of touch with the people.

The toppled regimes were seen as bending over backwards to accommodate foreign policies, beneficial to foreign actors especially France, but pernicious to the people’s wellbeing. Owing to hostility against Western military bases, the USAFRICOM has struggled to establish its headquarters in Africa, and African countries are reluctant to host its headquarters lest they are perceived as US lackeys. Exceptions are countries such as Djibouti which hosts several foreign military bases by major global actors and Kenya which hosts British and US forces. USAFRICOM headquarters is located in Stuttgart, Germany, and is unlikely to move to Africa any time soon.  

The justification for the presence of the US military in Africa is that African militaries are just as weak as the state in Africa. Hence, they lack command and control, training, equipment, and logistics capabilities to assert their sovereignty. Furthermore, they consistently exhibit little or no capacity to secure their people, and effectively participate in peacekeeping operations in Africa’s troubled spots without external assistance. However, with an increasingly multipolar world that affords Africa alternative strategic partners, the influence of the Africa-US military pacts is likely to wane as China and Russia and other emerging powers assert themselves.

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Fri, 19 Apr 2024 17:47:39 +0000 RT
China wants to literally dig its way around geopolitical challenges /news/596140-china-vietnam-cambodia-canal/ A canal funded by Beijing will reduce regional reliance on Vietnam, a fellow communist state and a traditional rival
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
A Beijing-funded shipping canal will reduce regional reliance on Vietnam, a fellow communist state and traditional rival

China and Vietnam, two Communist neighbors with a shared revolutionary heritage, exist in a state of strategic unease. They are not enemies, and have significant trade connections, but neither are they friends.

This is because Vietnamese nationalism views Beijing with a suspicion that is historically rooted, with a legacy of seeking to sustain its independence against the Chinese dynasties of old. As China has risen again, this sentiment in Hanoi has increased, especially with the Sino-Vietnamese war of 1978 and overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea, known to Vietnamese as the East Sea.

Similarly, China is wary of the idea of Vietnam potentially aligning with a foreign power as part of a containment coalition against it, itself an instigator of conflict. Although the two countries are not currently in a state of hostility and have worked to improve bilateral relations amid these strong points of contention, this mutual suspicion persists, which leads to them continuing to hedge against one another subtly, even as they co-operate on some projects, in an unspoken competition. For example, one may note Vietnam recently forming parallel strategic partnerships with the US, Australia, and Japan, moves which were unthinkable decades ago.

As Vietnam hedges its bets, China is also broadening its strategic options. Beyond the South China Sea/East Sea controversy, Beijing is making efforts to woo two Southeast Asian countries which traditionally have been reliant on and influenced by Vietnam: Laos and Cambodia. Owing to the reality of geography, Vietnam has had the upper hand against these countries, as it effectively “wraps itself” around the east coastline of Southeast Asia. This renders Laos landlocked, while Cambodia has only a small portion of coastline. This means that, for most intents and purposes, Vietnam has been the two countries’ primary route of supply and access point to the sea.

Both have resented being dominated by Vietnam and, as a result, there has been a decades-long struggle for influence between Beijing and Hanoi over them, including Beijing’s support in the 1970s for the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. However, as China has ascended, the balance of power soon turned in its own favor, as it has unlocked game-changing resources and projects that are now rewriting the geographical limitations of this region via the Belt and Road initiative (BRI). As part of the BRI, China first gave landlocked Laos a new lifeline by building the China-Laos Railway.

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Philippines' President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit 2024 in Melbourne.
The US is cultivating an antagonist to China in Beijing’s own backyard
]]> Opened in 2021, this high-speed and commercial freight route, and accompanying expressway, connects the Laotian capital Vientiane with China, meaning the country no longer must rely on Vietnam to access ports. This has allowed Laos to not only export goods to China but also to become an intermediary between China and Thailand, with more railways to form a complete route between Beijing and Bangkok underway. The China-Laos railway is a strategic gamechanger, but more important than that is the new Techo Funan Canal in Cambodia.

This canal is a China-funded and contracted mega waterway that will span over 110 miles (180 km) from the Mekong River at Phnom Penh to the sea, with construction set to start this year. By building this canal, Cambodia now gets to bypass the Mekong Delta, which is in Vietnamese territory and subsequently transforms its capital city into a direct port. This canal strengthens China-backed Cambodia and deals a strategic blow to Vietnam, weakening its hold over its neighbor. Cambodia is thus transformed, from a historical subordinate to Hanoi into a commercial competitor. It is no surprise that the Techo Funan Canal has attracted Vietnamese fears and opposition.

When all of this is viewed together, China is effectively strengthening Laos and Cambodia at the expense of Vietnam. This is also part of Beijing’s strategy of using the BRI to integrate the interior of the continent and establish trade routes which bypass the contested waters of the South China Sea, which the US and its allies are militarizing. So, how is Hanoi reacting to these developments? The answer is, bizarrely enough, by integrating itself with China further in order to further compete with trade from China. As the saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them!” On April 11, Vietnam announced it would be starting work on two high-speed railway links which would connect its northern cities with Yunnan and Guanxi provinces in China. Why? So that Vietnam can continue to promote itself as the nearest and primary overseas destination for Chinese companies, suppliers, and goods, so that it itself can be the next industrial powerhouse. Thus, to continue to hold an advantage and ensure China’s reliance on Vietnam, latch onto China’s success and therefore ensure that outbound Chinese commerce into Southeast Asian ports isn’t going to be siphoned away by what’s emerging in Cambodia.

Either way, what this shows is that the competition between Beijing and Hanoi is a complex and intermingled one, but far from hostile. The two nations have differing and conflicting objectives, but also many complimentary ones, for which it benefits them both to maintain a cordial status quo. Hanoi fears China’s presence emerging all around it, including peeling away its neighbors, which leads it to turn back to the Old Enemy” the US, though at the same time it is forced to admit Beijing can’t be ignored and that it continues to derive benefits by being in China’s game. Vietnam has to dine at the table while ensuring it is not the menu.

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Thu, 18 Apr 2024 00:29:34 +0000 RT
Shunned by the West, this African country has found a new friend – and it’s not China /india/596086-india-uganda-ties-rival-china/ In its bid to dodge the American economic bullet, Uganda seeks new partnerships beyond China. In India, it may see such potential
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In its bid to dodge the American economic bullet, Uganda is seeking new strategic and trade partnerships beyond Beijing. In India, it may see one such opportunity

Last week, senior Indian diplomat Dammu Ravi, Secretary (Economic Relations) in the Ministry of External Affairs, paid a visit to Uganda as part of his three-nation African tour. Ravi addressed the Uganda-India Business Conclave, which saw a 35-member multi-sectoral business delegation from India travel to the African country in an effort to expand ties in areas from manufacturing and agriculture to renewable energy, healthcare, and tourism. Developing relations with Uganda is part of India’s broader strategy in Africa – and it comes at a critical time.  

In January, Uganda hosted the 19th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit, followed by the third South Summit and the G77+China summit. 

This is indeed an important milestone for Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, both diplomatically and politically. The landlocked East African country was recently suspended from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) by the United States due to multiple accusations related to human rights violations. This was followed by the freezing of new lending to Uganda by the World Bank.

Given the above, Museveni ensured his guests were impressed during the summit. In his speech, he pledged to realign the country’s foreign policy to emphasize greater cooperation among the Global South. In its bid to dodge the American economic bullet, Uganda is seeking new partnerships beyond China. In India, Museveni may see one such opportunity.

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Heads of States and members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), pose for a photo at Speke resort convention centre in Kampala, Uganda Friday, Jan. 19, 2024.
Reshaping the global order: What the Non-Aligned Movement supported by Putin stands for
]]> India may find Uganda to be a credible partner in East Africa. Undoubtedly, the endorsement for Uganda’s 2024–2027 presidency of the NAM grouping is a testament to the country’s leadership and multilateral engagements. However, New Delhi is likely to tread carefully in furthering its relations with Kampala given its strong ties with China and recent altercation with the US. 

Complicated history 

The relationship between India and Uganda dates back to when Indian sailors traded goods in dhows across the Indian Ocean, long before the Christian era, when European sailors traveled around the world. 

As a matter of fact, the word “dhow” in Swahili refers to any pre-European ship found in the Indian Ocean, especially those that originate in India. After the abolition of slavery in 1834, the British brought with them more than 30,000 Indian ‘coolies’, a racist term for indentured laborers, for the construction of the Uganda Railway. Eventually, a large number of them settled in East Africa and made Uganda their home. 

India’s freedom struggle inspired the early Ugandan activists to fight colonization. Known as the Year of Africa, 1960 marked a turning point for African independence with 17 new countries created, and another 18 in the following year. On 14 December, 1960, a “Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples” was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, which proclaimed the necessity to “steadfastly bringing to a speedy and unconditional end the provisions of the Charter and the present colonialism in all its forms and manifestations.” The matter was initially proposed for inclusion in the agenda of the Assembly’s 15th session by the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, Nikita Khrushchev, during his address to the General Assembly on September 23, 1960. Uganda became independent on October 9, 1962. 

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RT
‘They stopped seeing us as human beings’: How Europe provoked a savage modern genocide in the heart of Africa
]]> However, in August 1972, Ugandan dictator Idi Amin ordered the country’s entire South Asian population to be expelled, accusing them of sabotaging the economy. Around 50,000 Indians and Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) along with other Asians had to leave.

Five decades later, in January of this year, President Museveni called that move a “mistake” and expressed gratitude to the Indian community for the service that they have rendered the country over the decades. Indeed, anti-Indian policies were promptly reversed once Museveni assumed office in 1986. Several actions have been taken to guarantee the reinstatement of bilateral relations, including the return of belongings that had been confiscated from Indians and PIOs. 

New Delhi and Kampala have significantly deepened trade ties over the past two and a half decades. Since 1995, when the constitution established Uganda as a republic, India’s trade with the African nation has witnessed a sharp rise of almost 9% annually, and today it stands at nearly $1.3 billion. Indian exports to Uganda stand at $695 million, rising from just $57.4 million in 1995.

Since 2008, Uganda has been part of India’s Duty-Free Tariff Preference (DFTP) scheme that New Delhi offers to almost 35 least developed countries. Based on the scheme, 98% of India’s total tariff lines are duty free. Uganda’s exports to India consisted mainly of coffee, cocoa beans, and dried legumes, while it primarily imports pharmaceutical products, vehicles, plastic, paper and paperboard, and organic chemicals. 

Betting on strong diaspora 

Narendra Modi made history in 2018 when he became the first Indian prime minister to address the Ugandan parliament. During the PM’s visit, several agreements were signed, including one that waived the requirement for a visa for official and diplomatic passport holders, established a regional material laboratory in Uganda, and agreed to bilateral defense cooperation. Modi also announced two lines of credit totaling $64 million for the production of dairy and agricultural products, as well as $141 million for the construction of electrical lines and substations. Additionally, it was announced that numerous Indian Army training centers would provide additional training to the Uganda People’s Defense Force. 

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FILE PHOTO: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) meets with the president of the Union of the Comoros, Azali Assoumani (L), G20 Summit, New Delhi, India, Sept. 9, 2023.
How the Global South is rediscovering centuries of shared history to challenge Western domination
]]> India’s first overseas educational campus was established in Uganda when, in April 2023, the National Forensic Sciences University (NFSU) of India inaugurated its campus in Jinja.

Notably, this town on the shores of Lake Victoria in Southern Uganda is also the center of the country’s Indian community. In 1997, then-Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral unveiled a bust of Mahatma Gandhi there. Few know that in 1948, a portion of Gandhi’s ashes were immersed in the Nile near Jinja.

Today, the Indian diaspora residing in Uganda exhibits the most robust and long-lasting cultural and economic ties towards the country. There may only be 20,000 Indians in Uganda, making up less than 1% of its overall population, but they provide about 65% of all national taxes.

Indeed, Indians living in Uganda play a significant role in the economy, especially in sectors like manufacturing, trade, agro-processing, banking, sugar, real estate, hotels, tourism, and information technology. They are not only some of the biggest taxpayers, but also provide jobs to thousands of Ugandans. Over the last two decades, these PIOs and NRIs have invested more than $1 billion in Uganda.

To further India’s connectivity with the East African country, Uganda Airlines last year launched direct flights between Kampala and Mumbai. The service, initially revealed in 2021, is only the second Uganda Airlines’ destination outside of Africa. As a result, the company joined Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, and Ethiopia as the fifth flag carrier to connect their national capitals with India. The airline now operates from Mumbai thrice a week and aspires to expand to include new and important destinations in Delhi and Chennai.

Diplomatic rapprochement 

Uganda has vacillated between steady economic growth and authoritarian leadership. President Museveni, who has been ruling the country for 35 years, won another term in 2021 and is set to lead for another five years. 

While the country has managed to rebound from the pandemic and marked a 5.3% growth in the 2023 financial year ($114 billion at the end of 2023 in PPP term), the state of its economy looks dire amid mounting debt from China, the World Bank and the IMF, including a $1 billion Extended Credit Facility (ECF) for past-pandemic recovery from the IMF.

Since Uganda’s severe anti-LGBTQ legislation, its relations with the US have plummeted. To recall, in May 2023, Uganda enacted its contentious Anti-Homosexuality Act, which carries a life sentence or potentially the death penalty for homosexuality. 

Since January, the US has barred Uganda from benefitting from AGOA as a measure of punishment. AGOA is a preferential trade arrangement which allows member countries duty-free access to the US market for around 6,000 products.

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FILE PHOTO: Anti-Homosexual activists march on the streets of Kampala carrying placards.
Ugandan court rejects bid to scrap anti-gay law
]]> Clearly, the US decision has created ripple effects for Uganda’s economy, deterring World Bank loans and many Western foreign direct investments. As this economic pushback may potentially increase the inequality in the already volatile nation, Uganda may eventually lean on economic support from China. In the words of President Museveni, “In case Uganda has no other choice than borrowing, there exists plenty of non-Bretton Woods sources who are eager to lend.”

With huge opportunities available in the Indian market, Uganda can make better use of India’s duty-free tariff scheme, and recover its losses from missing out on AGOA. Stronger India-Uganda relations, including bilateral trade and increased investments from India, could deter the country from turning entirely towards China. 

Currently, India and Uganda are two of the closest allies. As Uganda retains the presidency of NAM for the next three years, India can make use of its historic and present relations with Uganda and together, may effectively assume the leadership of the Global South under the banner of NAM. Indeed, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s second visit to Uganda in as many years is a powerful sign of growing bonhomie between the two countries and the relevance of one to the other. 

However, India’s role as a champion and future leader of the Global South will be determined by how well it manages its multi-alignment. After successfully hosting the G20, India must contribute to Uganda’s NAM presidency, keeping the right balance with the West, particularly when the Ugandan economy is still crippled by Western sanctions.

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Wed, 17 Apr 2024 15:59:15 +0000 RT
Scholz has one trump card in talks with China, but he’ll never use it /news/596038-scholz-subservient-us-visit-china/ Germany’s Chancellor Scholz is in China with ultimately little new to offer aside from unsolicited advice
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The German chancellor has a weak hand to play with Beijing, and he won’t dare do the only thing that could give him leverage

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is on a three-day visit to China. He is not traveling alone. A large delegation of German business representatives, including from flagship companies such as Mercedes, Siemens, and BMW, is coming along. Scholz’s agenda is ambitious: The chancellor wishes to talk about international trade and competition, climate politics, the tensions over Taiwan, the war in Ukraine and Beijing’s relationship with Russia. Since Iran has just made use of its clear right to self-defense and retaliated following Israel’s illegal attack on Tehran’s diplomatic premises in Damascus, Scholz felt compelled to make a statement about that as well.

Two of these topics tower above the others: matters of trade and the relationship between China and Russia. Regarding trade, the crucial issue is that the West in general – led by the US – has embarked on a policy of de facto economic warfare against China, while constantly threatening to escalate further.

That was the essence of Janet Yellen's recent Beijing trip; the US Treasury Secretary arrived with a list of demands to curb what America denounced as Chinese “overcapacity” and dumping, and left with a blunt warning that “nothing was off the table” in terms of additional strikes against China’s economy. 

Then there is the EU, which as usual, follows Washington’s lead. Under hardliners like European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Vice President Margrethe Vestager, Brussels is ramping up anti-Chinese rhetoric and measures. Beijing has officially been declared a partner for cooperation, an economic competitor, and a systemic rival.” With the EU Commission defining “economic security” clearly in opposition to China and launching probes targeting Chinese electric vehicles, wind turbines, and soon the procurement of medical devices, the accent clearly is on competitor and rival.

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at Shanghai's Tongji University as part of his three-day visit to China.
German leader backs open EU market for Chinese cars
]]> At the same time, however, German business leaders know that they cannot afford a policy of sustained conflict. A high-ranking Siemens executive has just gone public with a warning that “decoupling” from Chinese manufacturing would take “decades.” That, clearly, is just another way of saying it’s a very bad idea to even try.

Superficially, it may appear that there is an opportunity here for Scholz – an opportunist to a fault – to appear as a mediator or, at least, to deftly balance and weave between competing demands. The Global Times, a media outlet owned by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, prefaced the chancellor’s visit with a generally welcoming article, depicting Scholz as, in essence, a dove among hawks, arguing that while Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Economic Minister Robert Habeck stand for confrontation, the chancellor is seeking to find a balanced approach.

Yet, even if he wanted to try to be smart and flexible, Scholz is hamstrung in multiple ways. He will struggle to be taken seriously because both Germany and its chancellor lack international standing, and Germany lacks leverage in its relationship with China.

Let’s look at the leverage deficit first: In economic terms, the Chinese-German relationship is substantial and complex. Many factors are important; multiple indicators are relevant, such as, for instance, foreign direct investment (which is currently dipping). But overall trade volumes suffice to show that Germany cannot speak to Beijing from a position of strength or even parity.

China, according to 2023 export data, is still Germany’s single biggest trading partner, as Bloomberg has noted. That is not unusual in today’s world: with the second-largest economy in the world (the largest in Purchasing Power Parity terms), China is the top trade partner for a total of 120 countries.  China is also the largest (external) trade partner of the European Union as whole. However, from China’s perspective, Germany ranks only 8th among export destinations, less than the US, Japan, and even Vietnam. 

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Philippines' President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit 2024 in Melbourne.
The US is cultivating an antagonist to China in Beijing’s own backyard
]]> None of the above means that the economic relationship with Berlin does not matter to Beijing, but it does mean that it matters even more for Berlin. Among rational actors, such a pattern of mutual dependency is a reason for cooperation. What it certainly is not is one-sided leverage for Germany. If anyone has the whip hand here, it’s China, which may have tried to “gently” signal this fact with Scholz’s intriguingly low-key, not to say humiliating reception on his arrival in the Chinese manufacturing metropolis Chongqing.

In fundamental terms, Germany, according to data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is a country of not quite 84 million people (in China, Chongqing alone is home to over 30 million inhabitants) with projected GDP growth this year down to almost zero (0.5 percent). China has a population of over 1.4 billion, and its GDP is estimated to grow by 4.6 percent.

In sum, China’s economy has problems, such as its over-expanded real estate sector, which are inevitable and often obsessively exaggerated by Western “China doomers.” Germany’s economy is a problem.

The German chancellor can only play a weak hand, due to economics. There is only one way to play it well, and that would involve politics. Scholz could create some room for maneuver for Germany if he did what the Global Times article signaled Beijing would like to see from him: to show some autonomy, a little bit of distance between himself and the hardliners now dominating both Washington and Brussels.

Indeed, for the China hawks in the West, the mere possibility that the German chancellor might go off script is such a nightmare scenario it had to be exorcised in one of America’s two most authoritative journals on international politics. Foreign Policy dedicated a whole article to, in essence, asking if Scholz will chicken out and be too conciliatory toward Beijing. If the Global Times sent an invitation of the “an-offer-you-should-not-refuse” kind, Foreign Policy’s message was “don’t you dare.”

Scholz should dare. It would be only rational because it is really the only trump card he has. As Foreign Policy acknowledges, the EU’s hardball approach cannot work if Berlin is not on board. Without the EU toeing the line, Washington’s game would become much more challenging, too. That is power right there: the power to balance and play both sides. 

Unfortunately, this is where we come up against Scholz’s very narrow limits. This is no Bismarck. Instead, we are dealing with a chancellor who can be called the most recklessly and – it must be said, spinelessly – subservient to the US in Germany's post-WWII history. Scholz grinned when Biden announced, in essence, that the US would destroy the Nord Stream pipelines if it felt like it. When it happened, nothing happened: Germany took it and kept grinning. 

Under Scholz, Berlin has become a perfect client of the US. Accordingly, there is no real daylight between Berlin and Brussels either; another ultra-Atlanticist German, Ursula von der Leyen, runs the European Commission. True, some observers speculate that Germany is slyly cutting corners, but that will amount to too little, in absolute terms, for Beijing.

The issue of dependency also brings us to the penultimate irony of Scholz’s visit: The German chancellor has let it be known that he intends to challenge Beijing on its policy toward Russia and thus the war in Ukraine. In essence, Scholz seems to believe it is his job – and within his rights – to urge China to loosen its ties with Russia as well as to support the West’s unrealistic proposals for ending the war in Ukraine without acknowledging that Russia is winning it.

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is greeted by the vice mayor of Chongqing, Zhang Guozhi, April 14, 2024.
German leader greeted in China by deputy mayor (VIDEO)
]]> There are two things wrong with this astonishingly tone-deaf attitude: First, obviously, neither Germany nor the EU are in a position to make such requests of Beijing. They have neither the arguments nor the power to back them up. In such cases, the wiser and more dignified course is to be quiet. Second, less obviously, who is Scholz to try to interfere in the partnership between Moscow and Beijing, a partnership marked by rationality and respect for both partners’ national interests? As long as Germany offers a spectacle of unquestioning and irrational obedience to Washington, no one will be interested in its advice on how to cooperate. 

That was the penultimate irony. Here is the ultimate one: Scholz’s visit is, most fundamentally, an outcome of the fact that the West has not been able to cajole China. With respect to Germany in particular, it is true that, according to a recent poll, two thirds of German businesses active in China complain of unequal treatment. And yet they are there. And yet a German chancellor still arrives with a planeload of business leaders.

The true message of the poll is about how indispensable China is, talk of “derisking” this and “decoupling” that notwithstanding. In the not-too-distant future, a successor of Scholz may well find himself on a similar trip, but to Moscow. Namely, when two realities will have become so compelling that they must be acknowledged: Russia, too, cannot be cajoled by the West; and, for Germany as well as for Europe as a whole, Russia, too, remains indispensable. 

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Tue, 16 Apr 2024 16:59:24 +0000 RT
Iran’s strike on Israel was much more successful than it seems. Here’s why /news/596044-iran-attack-result-israel/ Tehran’s retaliatory attack may not have caused much destruction, but it was far from a failure
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Tehran’s retaliatory attack may not have caused much destruction, but it was far from a failure

On the night of April 14, Iran and its proxy forces launched a series of cruise missile and kamikaze drone strikes on Israeli territory. The attacks did not come as a surprise. Tehran had warned that it would respond to the Israeli airstrike on Iran’s consulate in Damascus, Syria, on April 1, which killed several high-ranking officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), including two generals. The retaliatory strike was called Operation True Promise. 

There is still much debate on whether Iran’s retaliatory strike was successful. Most military experts agree that there was nothing unusual about Tehran’s actions, except that this was Iran’s first direct attack on Israel. From a technical point of view, the strategy was simple and correct: Iran first suppressed the enemy’s air defense systems with drones and then launched hypersonic missiles which the Israelis and Americans were not able to intercept. Incidentally, in light of this, Ukraine’s statements about shooting down Russian Kinzhal hypersonic missiles sound ridiculous.

Do not jump to conclusions 

Many experts were skeptical about Iran’s strike and hastened to say that the retaliation did not live up to expectations. Given the clip thinking of most commentators, this reaction is hardly surprising. Their reasoning resembles a Hollywood blockbuster stuffed with special effects, where the end of the world and its miraculous salvation fit into 90-120 minutes, with a love scene in the middle. In real life, things are different. As Sun Tzu wrote in ancient times, to fight 100 battles and win 100 battles is not the height of skill. The best way to win is not to fight at all. This is Iran’s strategy. Its strike against Israel was not so much a military response as a grandmaster’s move in a big chess game. And the game is not over yet. 

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FILE PHOTO: Benjamin Netanyahu.
Why Israel is risking a dramatic escalation with Iran
]]> After the attack on the Iranian consulate in Syria’s capital, Tehran found itself in a tough situation. It had to respond in a way that would look convincing and would achieve specific military goals, but would not start World War III.

To achieve the first point, Iran had to carry out a direct strike without resorting exclusively to proxy forces – and that is indeed how it acted. Regarding the second point, even though most of the missiles and drones were indeed shot down, some managed to penetrate Israeli air space and hit military targets. The Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Mohammad Bagheri, said that the information center on the Israeli-Syrian border and Israel’s Nevatim air base were hit. And finally, as to the third point – war didn’t happen. This resembled the situation in 2020, when the Iranians hit US bases in Iraq in response to the assassination of General Soleimani.

However, it is still too early to speculate as to whether Iran’s attack was a success or not. The big question now is how Israel will respond. 

What Iran has accomplished

It’s important to emphasize that Iran’s operation carried more political than military weight. In this sense, it was carried out subtly and was a success. Obviously, the Iranians did not want to start a war which would involve the US, even though that is what Netanyahu wanted. In other words, Israel didn’t manage to provoke Iran. 

It is also obvious that the Islamic Republic possesses more powerful drones and missiles than those used in the attack on April 14. However, even the less advanced drones and missiles were able to penetrate Israeli air space and inflict economic damage, since Israel spent much more money on shooting down the missiles and drones than Iran spent on launching them. 

Tehran has once again demonstrated that Israel is not invulnerable, and it is possible to attack it. As for the degree of inflicted damage, which some commentators were unsatisfied with, it largely depends on the type of missiles and drones used in the attack – and Iran has a lot of military equipment. 

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Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, April 14, 2024.
Israel promises ‘response’ to Iranian attack
]]> Finally, Iran’s main achievement is that it has managed to confuse Israel in the same way that it was confused after the October 7 Hamas attack. The country has to respond. But how? Should Israel strike Iranian proxy forces? This is possible, but Israel does it all the time without much result. Should it hit Iran directly? But that would start a war which no one is prepared for, including the US.

Conclusion

The ball is now in Israel’s court, and the country faces the same challenges that the Islamic Republic did after April 1. But will Israel be able to solve these challenges as efficiently? 

It is noteworthy that IRGC Commander-in-Chief, Hossein Salami, said that from now on, if Israel attacks the interests of Iran and Iranian citizens, Tehran will strike it again.

This is an important statement. Essentially, the attack carried out by Iran on April 14 was not just a retaliatory strike, but established a new order. Iran demonstrated that it is ready to resort to new means of influence in a situation where words are not sufficient. It attacked Israel directly not in order to start a war, but to demonstrate what could happen if all other methods of pressure on Israel fail. 

A new option has been put forward. Israel may be deprived of its most important advantage – absolute impunity, which until recently had been guaranteed by the US.

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Tue, 16 Apr 2024 14:09:32 +0000 RT
This MeToo saga is wrecking journalism, politics, and the legal system in Australia /news/595992-australia-metoo-revealed-corruption/ A long ongoing case has both caused and revealed corruption in all areas of public life
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A long ongoing case has both caused and revealed corruption in all areas of public life

In Greek mythology Heracles (Hercules in Latin) was tasked with cleaning out the Augean stables in a single day.

Augeas was a Greek king who owned large herds of animals that resided in his palatial stables. They produced extraordinary amounts of dung, and the stables had not been cleaned for years.

Heracles completed his allotted task in a day – but King Augeas refused to pay him. Heracles killed the king, and went into exile. 

The Brittany Higgins #MeToo case in Australia still awaits its Heracles – in the meantime, the prodigious pile of dung that it has generated grows exponentially higher by the day.

The sordid saga is Australia’s most infamous #MeToo case. It has dominated the mass media, the legal system, and politics in this country for the past few years – both causing and revealing corruption within each of these areas of Australian public life.

It has destroyed the reputations and careers of prominent journalists, politicians, judges, and lawyers – whilst at the same time transforming both its protagonists, Brittany Higgins and Bruce Lehrmann, into, at the end of the day, rather grubby and flawed celebrities.

It commenced in March 2019, when two drunk, unknown twenty-something political staffers – Higgins and Lehrmann – decided to go back to Parliament House in Canberra after a regular Saturday night of excessive drinking at nearby bars.

Parliament House had long been a favored after-hours sexual trysting location for young political staffers, but both Higgins and Lehrmann have subsequently maintained, unconvincingly, that this was not their intent. 

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FILE PHOTO: Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell
Pedo island: The corrupt system that created Jeffrey Epstein survives his downfall
]]> Higgins claimed that Lehrmann raped her in a minister’s office (that of Senator Linda Reynolds, for whom they worked) to which they had improperly gained access, while Lehrmann has steadfastly denied that any sex, consensual or otherwise, took place.

On Monday, in the Federal Court in Sydney, Justice Michael Lee handed down his judgment in defamation proceedings brought by Lehrmann against Channel 10 and television personality Lisa Wilkinson – who broadcast the sensational television interview in early 2021 in which Higgins first publicly alleged that Lehrmann had raped her in Parliament House.

Justice Lee, one of the few lawyers involved in the Higgins saga to have acted with complete propriety and objectivity, made damning findings about both Higgins and Lehrmann – describing them as “unreliable witnesses” who had told deliberate lies – and found that Channel 10 and Wilkinson had acted unreasonably and in a “grossly improper and unjustifiable way.”

Justice Lee’s assessment of the credibility of all the major protagonists in the Higgins saga is undoubtedly correct. 

Notwithstanding this uniformly negative appraisal, Justice Lee found – on the civil, balance of probabilities, onus of proof – that Lehrmann had raped Higgins in 2019, because he had been reckless as to whether the inebriated Higgins had consented to having sex with him.

Lee was at pains to point out that this finding differed from a finding of guilt in a criminal trial – where the more onerous “beyond reasonable doubt” onus of proof applies. It is also clear that if Lehrmann had admitted to having sex with Higgins, he would have been in a better position to defend his conduct.   

In making this crucial factual finding, Justice Lee disbelieved the accounts given by both Higgins and Lehrmann of what had occurred on the night in question. In particular, he rejected Higgins’ evidence that she had repeatedly told Lehrmann that she did not consent to having sex with her.

It followed that Justice Lee entered judgment in favor of Channel 10 and Wilkinson – because their truth defense had been made out. Lehrmann will no doubt appeal the decision – given that the legal costs of all parties probably exceed $5 million.   

The defamation trial presided over by Justice Lee revealed in graphic terms the unprofessional and unprincipled conduct engaged in by those media organizations that became involved in the Higgins affair in a partisan fashion.

Lisa Wilkinson’s interview with Higgins in February 2021 – which turned Higgins into a #MeToo icon – was hardly an exercise in journalism at all. Wilkinson was committed to the #MeToo cause and to bringing down the conservative Morrison government, and Justice Lee found that Higgins’ allegations were not tested at all – especially her now demonstrably false assertion that the government conspired to cover up her rape.

Wilkinson’s slanted interview unsurprisingly later won a prestigious award, and in her televised acceptance speech in June 2022 she reiterated the truth of Higgins’ allegations – thereby causing Lehrmann’s upcoming criminal trial for rape in the ACT Supreme Court to be postponed, and making it difficult, if not impossible, for him to receive a fair trial before a jury.  

Justice Lee found that no reputable journalist could have believed that Wilkinson’s speech did not amount to a contempt of court.

And, at one point in her cross-examination, Wilkinson – who Justice Lee described ironically as a “fourth estate eminence grise” – accused Lehrmann’s lawyer of “making me sound like a tabloid journalist” – a comment that provoked laughter from serious journalists.  

Wilkinson fell out with Channel 10 as a result of the aftermath of her speech, and she has not appeared on television for the past few years. Justice Lee’s scathing and apt criticisms of Wilkinson will probably ensure that her “journalistic” career will not be revived anytime soon.

After Lehrmann’s rape trial was aborted as a result of misconduct by a juror, Lehrmann agreed to give a tell-all television interview to the Channel 7 ‘Spotlight’ program, which was broadcast in June 2023.   

This was hardly surprising – both Higgins and Lehrmann are addicted to the celebrity culture that created them and continues to sustain them in their quest for perpetual celebrity status.

Lehrmann’s ‘Spotlight’ interview was just as self-serving and flawed as Higgins’ interview with Wilkinson had been – perhaps even more so because Lehrmann is the more determined liar – and his defamation trial revealed squalid details about the lengths to which Channel 7 was willing to go to procure it. 

Bear in mind that Justice Lee found that Lehrmann was “a fundamentally dishonest liar” who “gave false evidence about a litany of matters.”

Evidence presented at the trial showed that Channel 7 paid the rent on an expensive apartment for Lehrmann for over 12 months, as well as paying for meals at fashionable restaurants and numerous interstate trips. 

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CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 09: Brittany Higgins, a former Liberal Party staff member addresses the media at the National Press Club on February 09, 2022 in Canberra, Australia.
How the #MeToo movement crushed its Australian icon
]]> More sensationally, a former Channel 7 employee who acted as Lehrmann’s “minder” on the ‘Spotlight’ program testified that Channel 7 paid $10,000 for “Asian massages” for Lehrmann, as well as reimbursing him for cocaine that he purchased.

The “minder” also testified that Lehrmann supplied Channel 7 with confidential documents obtained during his criminal proceedings – thereby committing a contempt of court. Justice Lee found that this allegation was made out. Both the “minder” and producer of ‘Spotlight’ recently departed Channel 7.

So much for what the Higgins saga tells us about contemporary investigative journalism in Australia.

The story has had an even more destructive impact on the legal system in Australia, particularly in the Australian Capital Territory – the nation’s capital.

After Wilkinson delivered her infamous televised speech, and after Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered his apology to Higgins in federal parliament in early 2022 – in which he implicitly accepted that she had been raped – it was virtually impossible for Lehrmann to receive a fair trial before a jury in his criminal rape case. 

Nevertheless, the Lehrmann criminal matter went to trial in the ACT Supreme Court in late 2022.

During her cross-examination at the trial, Higgins was granted the extraordinary indulgence of not having to appear for some days – even though no application by her was made in open court. And when the jury was unable to reach a verdict after some days’ deliberation, it was not discharged, as many lawyers thought it should have been. 

By chance, a court official discovered that a juror had improperly accessed material from the internet – in clear breach of the trial judge’s repeated directions, and the trial was aborted.

Of course, the fact that modern jurors pay no heed to judge’s directions gives lie to the proposition that adverse pre-trial publicity can be cured by an appropriate direction by the trial judge. 

After the rape trial had been aborted, Higgins delivered an inflammatory speech on the court steps condemning the legal system and Lehrmann. This speech constituted a clear contempt of court, but no action was taken against Higgins – just as no action had been taken against Lisa Wilkinson for her speech earlier in the year.

A subsequent enquiry reluctantly established by the woke Labor/Greens ACT government into the Lehrmann trial – presided over by a well-respected former judge from Queensland – made serious findings of misconduct (including that he had not acted with fairness and detachment and had lied to the judge presiding over Lehrmann’s rape trial) against the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions, Shane Drumgold, who had prosecuted Lehrmann at trial.

Drumgold was forced to resign, and notwithstanding the serious findings of misconduct made against him by the enquiry, Drumgold has now found employment as a lecturer in law at a Canberra university.

And the ACT government recently gave Senator Reynolds $90,000 and an apology to settle a defamation action she had brought in respect of Drumgold’s conduct.

Not surprisingly, the reputation of the ACT legal system amongst those who believe in due process and the rule of law is at an all-time low – and quite deservedly so. It is difficult to see how it can ever recover.

Lehrmann’s flawed prosecution for rape has also led a few courageous judges in New South Wales – including one particularly brave female judge – to publicly raise questions about the influence of the #MeToo movement on the Office of the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions.  

These judges believe that “meritless” cases alleging rape are regularly being prosecuted for essentially ideological reasons – and they are sick and tired of presiding over extremely weak cases with no reasonable prospects of success, that juries quickly throw out. These judges have taken the unusual step of ordering the government to pay the successful defendants’ legal costs in such cases.   

The Higgins saga’s effect on politics has been equally dire.

Mention has already been made of Prime Minister Morrison’s extraordinary apology to Brittany Higgins made in federal parliament in February 2022. 

Given that it was inevitable that the Higgins matter would wind up before the courts, it was grossly improper for Morrison to express a view on what might have occurred in Parliament House three years earlier. He was completely unaware of the facts at the time, and his apology was a pathetic attempt to curry political favor with the #MeToo movement. 

Morrison’s crude ploy failed completely, and Higgins became a trenchant critic of the prime minister and subsequently campaigned against him. The Morrison government was voted out of office in early 2023 – with its “woman problem” said to be a major contributing factor to its demise.

Morrison also disloyally failed to support Senator Reynolds over the Higgins matter – he simply threw her under the #MeToo bus, in order to try and save himself and his government from being voted out of office. Reynolds has now, understandably, resigned from parliament in disgust – yet another female victim of the Higgins saga.

After winning the federal election in early 2023, the Labor government of Anthony Albanese settled a foreshadowed legal claim by Higgins against the Morrison government and Senator Reynolds for the staggering sum of $2.3 million – at a mediation that lasted less than a day.

It is now apparent that many of the allegations made by Higgins in that foreshadowed claim were never properly tested, and may well be demonstrably false. Justice Lee expressed doubts the settlement in his judgment.

Higgins and her boyfriend were friendly with a number of female Labor politicians who had eagerly taken up her cause in 2022, and serious questions have recently been raised about the propriety of this unprecedented settlement.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission – ironically established by Albanese last year – is currently considering whether to conduct an enquiry into Higgins’ settlement. 

Higgins used part of her settlement monies to recently purchase a chateau in France, where she now resides with her boyfriend – who bears a disturbing resemblance to Bruce Lehrmann. Australian taxpayers are decidedly unimpressed.

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Protesters take part in the annual 'Invasion Day' march on Australia Day in Sydney, January 26, 2024.
Woke elites are erasing Australia’s national identity – no wonder neo-Nazis are on the rise
]]> The Higgins saga is, however, far from ended.  

Last year, Lehrmann was charged with raping a woman after meeting her at a Toowoomba striptease club. That trial will take place later this year or early next year, and will no doubt ensure that Lehrmann retains his celebrity status for the foreseeable future.

Senator Reynolds has also sued Higgins and her boyfriend for defamation, and that case will come on for trial later this year in Perth.

If the National Anti- Corruption Commission decides to investigate Higgins’ remarkable $2.3 million payout – as it should – that enquiry may also take place later this year. 

It is now beyond argument that the Higgins saga has seriously corrupted journalism, the legal system and politics in Australia, perhaps beyond hope of redemption, because – as Justice Lee pointed out in his judgment – the Higgins “shambles” has always been “a proxy for broader cultural and political conflicts.”  

A few judges and journalists of integrity – no politician would dare criticize the #MeToo movement – have taken a principled public stand, but they comprise a very small, if courageous, minority.

No doubt the #MeToo movement will fixate upon the fact the Justice Lee found that, on the civil onus of proof, Higgins was raped and blithely ignore his serious criticisms of her and those media organizations that uncritically published her false allegations.  

As the Higgins tsunami continues to wreak havoc into the future, one can only wonder what appalling additional disclosures it will reveal and how much more Australian taxpayers will have to pay for it.

Only one thing is certain – cleaning up all this filth is beyond even Heracles.

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Mon, 15 Apr 2024 21:59:43 +0000 RT
Mobilizing for defeat: The Zelensky regime insists more Ukrainians must die before it’s all over /russia/595870-ukraine-mobilization-zelensky-defeat/ Kiev’s new effort to scoop up more bodies for the front is a response to looming catastrophe – and a catastrophe in itself
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Kiev’s new effort to scoop up more bodies for the front is a response to looming catastrophe – and a catastrophe in itself

Ukraine’s situation is extremely precarious, if you want to put it optimistically. A more realistic term is “catastrophic.” The country faces steady, accelerating advances of Russian forces that are well-motivated and trained and superior in quantity and equipment. Even Ukraine’s commander-in-chief has admitted that the situation on the eastern front has significantly worsened in recent days.” A massive understatement but still proof that things are even worse.

We also know – from Ukrainian polls – that ever more Ukrainians are open to ending the war by making concessions. Yet the Zelensky regime is doubling down. Instead of entering serious negotiations – the kind where you adjust your aims to your losses so as to avoid even greater ones – it is seeking to throw more lives into a war that has become a meatgrinder for Ukrainian troops.

That is the main purpose of a new mobilization law that has just passed the Ukrainian parliament. (In addition, President Zelensky has already signed off on additional measures that will be integrated into the new law once he signs that as well. In essence, though, this is one integrated bundle, which many Ukrainians and outside observers refer to as one and the same law, as will be done here.)

The new mobilization law is complex, consisting of a long list of measures, including, for instance, new rules on confiscating private cars for defense purposes. Its core, however, is simple: The minimum age for mobilization is lowered from 27 to 25 years of age. All Ukrainian men between age 18 and 60 will have to register, including those abroad. Failure to do so will count as evading military service. To make sure that compliance can be policed easily, all registered men must have their registration papers on them at all times.

The law, which has been under contentious consideration for months, is not being well-received in Ukrainian society. On a TV show run by Ukrainska Pravda, a very anti-Russian outlet, Maria Berlinska, a Ukrainian activist of equally sterling credentials, called it a fiasco. And she is by no means alone. It is true that some Ukrainian commentators have – once again – tried to dismiss all and any popular discontent as nothing but Russian interference. But this time, that tired old trick from the NATO-Zelensky playbook is not working well. Even Western mainstream media acknowledge the law is unpopular.”

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FILE PHOTO: President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky attends the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at U.N. headquarters on September 19, 2023 in New York City.
Ukraine fatigue: Kiev and the West are tiring of war and each other
]]> It is not hard to understand why many Ukrainians are angry. Perhaps the single worst disappointment is that the law does not include a hard rule for demobilization, which is what everyone expected. Think of it as a tacit deal: The government gets to hoover up more young men for cannon fodder, but, at least, it also promises to let go those exhausted soldiers who have already served (and survived) for years (36 months was under discussion). Even the New York Times has noticed that Ukraine’s current soldiers are battered and exhausted.” Yet opening a way out for at least some of them is what did not happen. Instead, the Zelensky regime has dared come out with a law that only takes but gives nothing back.

To take how much, or to be precise, how many exactly? That is the second major sore spot: The law is meant to refill the ranks, which are clearly very badly depleted (massively contradicting the regime’s few and absurdly low – and thus mendacious – statements on casualty figures). High-ranking Ukrainian officers have gone public warning that “some” front sections that need to be held by eight to ten soldiers are, in reality, manned by two to four. That means that where 100 meters need to be defended, in effect, only 20 can be. Sure, such statements are also spin to drum up political support for the mobilization law. But from everything we know about the war, this spin is based on reality.

Yet what no one has done – either President Zelensky or anyone among his top brass – is to say exactly how many more Ukrainians they want. The former commander-in-chief Valery Zaluzhny had bluntly asked for half a million. That is one reason why he lost his job. His successor, Aleksandr Syrsky has got the memo and is keeping mum, only letting it slip that it will not be 500,000. How reassuring.

Clearly, the Kiev regime prefers to go on the prowl for more meatgrinder fodder without too much public scrutiny. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment: If you had to drag, let’s say 300,000 mostly very reluctant and potentially rebellious men off to a war without a chance, would you like them, their families, and friends to know just how many they are? And by the way, 300,000 is a number Zelensky has mentioned, if in a very roundabout way, namely as his estimate (it’s no more than that, of course) of additional troops soon to be fielded by Russia.

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FILE PHOTO.
Mobilization law is ‘point of no return’ for Zelensky – Ukrainian MP
]]> The third main cause of public discontent about the new mobilization law is that it is unjust. Ordinary Ukrainians have a keen and absolutely realistic sense that their “elites” – in politics and business, and usually both in one and the same people – are not sharing the risks and sacrifices of war. This fact, too, the regime and its media try to propagandize away as “Russian manipulation.”

Yet the fact is that no such outside interference is needed. Take, for instance, Berlinska on Ukrainska Pravda again. She is all for continuing the war for years (and has entirely unrealistic ideas about how to do so). And yet she also asks why should the child of a mother from a forlorn village….turn into a flag in the ground [that is end up on one of those massively expanding military cemeteries], while someone [else] can ride around Kiev in expensive cars, go on expensive holidays abroad, simply get rich and do business during wartime?”

Now add to all of the above, the following: Those who were eager to fight have already volunteered. When they volunteered, moreover, misguided optimism was widespread. Those illusions have evaporated by now. Whoever is forced to fight now knows two things: The war is not going well (which is the reason why he is being drafted, actually) and family members, friends, or work acquaintances have already fallen or, if “lucky,” been taken prisoner or come back with severe, possibly lifelong injuries and psychological trauma. Finally, sending even more of the young to fight the proxy war for the West also makes Ukraine’s severe demographic problem even worse, wasting not just one generation but the fathers (and some mothers, too) of the next one, too.

This mobilization law is a hapless response to the catastrophe of looming defeat. It is a catastrophe in and of itself. Ideally, it would be the last straw, finally provoking Ukrainians to rebel against a regime that has sold them out to US and EU geopolitics. Ideally.

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Sat, 13 Apr 2024 19:52:55 +0000 RT
Why Israel is risking a dramatic escalation with Iran /news/595700-israel-bomb-iran-consulate-damascus/ While Israel’s latest airstrike in Syria appears totally unhinged, there seems to be clear strategic thinking
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
While Israel’s latest airstrike in Syria appears totally unhinged, there seems to be clear strategic thinking

On April 1, Israel bombed and ultimately destroyed the Iranian consulate annex building situated next to the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, Syria. The strike, which killed seven military officials, was widely condemned by the international community as a clear violation of Syria’s sovereignty, as well as of the Vienna Convention and the established norms of international relations. 

A cursory look through history shows that state actors have virtually never attacked the diplomatic missions of other states, except during periods of total war. The most relevant and recent example is when the US bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, today’s Serbia, in 1999, which it claimed was an accident. Though, to be sure, Beijing did not believe this was the case despite apologies from the administration of President Bill Clinton. 

Such a situation is totally unacceptable and sets a horrible precedent for international relations. Israel, as well as countries like the US, do not have the right to exercise military actions in Syria without the express consent of the UN-recognized government of Syria. Doing so is a blatant violation of the UN Charter. 

In addition to violating the UN Charter, the attack on the Iranian consulate is a clear violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. 

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Iranians protest after the killing of General Mohammad Reza Zahedi in a presumed Israeli airstrike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus.
US ‘very concerned’ over potential Israel-Iran war – White House
]]> It is a bold gambit for the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to have resorted to such an escalation. It begs the question, why did Israel do this?

According to the New York Times, one of the strikes killed General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, who was believed to have been in charge of Tehran’s relations with Hezbollah in Lebanon and other non-state groups in Syria, having served extensively across the Middle East during his tenure. 

Perhaps the most simple explanation for the attack could be that it was meant to stifle the logistical operations of the “Axis of Resistance” and any potential attack against Israel by a united front. 

At the same time, it is probably far more complicated and could do with the fact that the current US policy of carte blanche for Israel will almost certainly not survive until the end of this decade. For military leaders in Israel, now could be the only time to act in what could potentially be an existential war. 

Public opinion has plummeted in the West for Israel and its ongoing atrocities in Gaza, but it did not begin there. In 2021, during weeks of fighting in Gaza that year, for the first time ever, members of the US Congress went on the record to criticize Israel. The following year, mainstream human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch published scathing reports accusing Israel of apartheid.  

In the middle of last month, the administration of President Joe Biden abstained from a vote on a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Biden also personally told Netanyahu on April 4 that he had to change his approach to the unfolding humanitarian disaster in Gaza. Despite these actions, the US has maintained that the UNSC resolution is non-binding and is still providing arms for Israel’s war effort, effectively making any words or abstentions moot. 

Even if US support may be shakier than in the past, it is clear that Washington is still nominally on the side of the Jewish state – at least for now. Thus, it could be seen that the stakes for Israel are extremely high. 

Finally, an undeniable factor is that the current Israeli government’s survival is the primary driving force behind this attack. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the most senior Jewish elected official in Washington, on March 14 called out Prime Minister Netanyahu personally in a speech to the Senate. 

He accused the leader of “allowing his political survival to take precedence over the best interests of Israel.” The senator called for new elections, adding that Israel “cannot hope to succeed as a pariah opposed by the rest of the world.”

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FILE PHOTO: Overview imagery of the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant covering 100,000 square meters, July 26, 2015
Israel ready to attack Iranian nuclear sites – media
]]> Israel, the most well-equipped military in the Middle East, is in a state of total war with a guerilla group, Hamas, that is comparatively fighting with sticks and rocks. The fact that it has not yet achieved its objective of eradicating Hamas and freeing the hostages it took on October 7 last year is extraordinarily embarrassing for the Netanyahu government. Additionally, the near-unified international backlash against Israel for its military actions in Gaza has the made situation unsustainable – though retreat would also mean political suicide for the Likud Party. 

It is clear that the Israeli prime minister needs an out. An obvious route would be to provoke the Iranian government into a major escalation, diverting international attention away from Israel’s crimes in Gaza and instead forcing Washington and its allies to rally behind the Jewish state in apparent self-defense. Interestingly, Biden seemed to create space for such a strategy during his latest call with Netanyahu when he also added that the US would defend against “public Iranian threats against Israel and the Israeli people.” For its part, Israel has warned Iran it could take things to a “new level” if it retaliated for the airstrike in Damascus.

Judging by the reaction from within Iran, evident by official statements and reports from the state media, it is clear that major sectors of civil and elite society in Tehran are demanding reprisal for this attack. According to anonymous Western intelligence reports cited by media outlets Bloomberg, such an attack is very likely.

But it is also likely that this is precisely what the Israeli government wants to happen, hoping that a kneejerk need for revenge – in addition to the emotions stirred by the situation in Gaza – could force a strategic misstep by the Iranian government, allowing Israel to make a last-ditch effort to secure US support for its military effort and also ensure Netanyahu’s political survival.

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Fri, 12 Apr 2024 16:25:56 +0000 RT
Ukraine fatigue: Kiev and the West are tiring of war and each other /news/595695-compromise-solution-ukraine-russia-conflict/ As Kiev and the West grow conflict-weary, the idea of some compromise solution is dawning, on both foreign hawks and those on the ground
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The idea of some form of compromise solution to Kiev-Moscow conflict is creeping up on foreign hawks and on more and more locals

What a small band of objective-though-long-disparaged observers in the West have long warned about is now happening: Ukraine and the West are losing their war against Russia. The strategy of using Ukraine to either isolate and slowly suffocate Russia or to defeat and degrade it in a proxy war is coming to its predictable catastrophic end.

This reality is now being acknowledged even by key media and high officials that used to be uncompromising about pursuing the extremely ill-advised aim of military victory over Russia. A Washington Post article has explained that with ”no way out of a worsening war,” Ukrainian President Zelensky’s options look bad or worse.” NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg has discovered the option of ending wars by concessions – Ukraine’s concessions, that is. The sturdy old hardliner Edward Luttwak warns of a ”catastrophic defeat” – for the West and Ukraine. True, Luttwak is still spreading desperate illusions about a direct NATO deployment to avert the worst. In reality, it would, of course, only make things much, much worse again, as in World War III worse. But his fear, not to say panic, is palpable.

The fast-approaching outcome will be a disaster for Ukraine, even if Moscow should be generous regarding the terms of a postwar settlement (not a given, after the costs that Russia has incurred). Ukraine has already been ruined in terms of its demography, territory, economy, and, last but not least, political future. The damage incurred cannot simply be undone and will have long-lasting consequences.

For the West, this war will also mark a dismal turning point, in four main ways that can only be sketched here:

First, the US will have to absorb its worst defeat since Vietnam. Arguably, this latest fiasco is even worse because, even during the Vietnam War, America did not try to attack Russia (then, of course, leading the Soviet Union) as head-on as it does now. Washington’s most over-confident attempt ever to take Moscow off the “grand chessboard” once and for all has backfired perfectly. In general, that will diminish America’s capacity to impress and cajole globally. In particular, the goal of preventing the rise of regional hegemons in Eurasia, the holy grail of US geopolitics, is even farther out of reach than before. The “unipolar” moment and its illusions were passing anyhow, but the US leadership has added a textbook illustration of the West’s limits.

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) and French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne (R) shake hands at the end of a joint press conference after their meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris on April 2, 2024.
The US and France are playing good cop, bad cop with Ukraine’s attacks on Russia
]]> Second, the EU and its individual members – especially myopic warmongers such as Germany, Poland, and France – are far worse off again: Their foolish abandoning of geopolitically imperative caution and balancing (remember: location, location, location) will cost them dearly.

Third, in their own, different ways, cases such as Britain (not even an EU member anymore) and the Baltics (very exposed and very bellicose, a shortsighted combination) are in a class of their own: damage there will be galore. Damage control? The options are paltry.

And, finally, there is, of course, NATO: Over-extended, self-depleted, and having gratuitously exposed itself as much weaker than it would like to seem. Its defeat by Russia in Ukraine will trigger centrifugal tendencies and blame games. Not to speak of the special potential for tension between the US and its clients/vassals in Europe, especially if Donald Trump wins the presidency again, as is likely. And, by the way, he can only thank NATO for proving his point about what a dubious proposition it has become. If you believe that having added more territory on the map (Sweden and Finland) was a “win,” just remember what has happened to the mistaken celebrations of Ukraine’s territorial advances in 2022. Territory may be a price; it is not a reliable indicator of strength.

Yet what about Ukrainians? They have been used as pawns by their Western friends from hell. They are still living under a regime that has just decided to mobilize even more of them for a hopeless meatgrinder, while Zelensky is admitting that Ukraine is on the verge of defeat.

Some Western media are still telling a simplistic and false story about Ukrainians’ unflagging and united will to hold out for victory, as if every single one owed the West to play a Marvel hero to the bitter end. But in reality Ukraine is a normal, if badly misled country. Many of its citizens have long shown what they really think about dying for a toxic combination of Western geopolitics and the narcissism of a megalomanic comedian: by evading the draft, either by hiding in Ukraine or fleeing abroad. In addition, a recent poll shows that almost 54 percent of Ukrainians find the motives of the draft dodgers at least understandable. Kiev’s push for increased mobilization will not go smoothly.

But there is more evidence of the fact that Ukraine’s society is not united behind a Kamikaze strategy of “no compromise.” Indeed, under the title “The Line of Compromise,” Strana.ua, one of Ukraine’s most important and popular news sites, has just published a long, detailed article about three recent and methodologically sound polls.

They all bear on Ukrainians’ evolving attitudes to the war and in particular the question of seeking a compromise peace. In addition, Strana offers a rich sample of comments by Ukrainian sociologists and political scientists. It is no exaggeration to say that the mere appearance of this article is a sign that the times are changing: Under the subtitle “How and why attitudes to the war differ in the East and the West of Ukraine,” it even highlights “substantial” regional differences and, really, suppressed divisions. If you know anything about the extreme political – even historical – sensitivity of such divergences in Ukraine, then you will agree that this framing alone is a small sensation.

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(L-R) French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in Berlin on March 15, 2024
Western troops in Ukraine: How a big lie could lead to the biggest war
]]> But that is not all. The article, in effect, dwells on ending the war by concessions – because that is what any compromise necessarily will take. Readers learn, for instance, that, according to the ‘Reiting’ agency polling on commission of Ukraine’s Veterans’ Affairs Ministry, in Ukraine’s West, farthest removed from the current front lines, 50% of poll respondents are against any compromise, while no less than 42% are in favor of compromise solutions as long as other countries (other than Ukraine and Russia, that is) are involved in finding them. For a region that, traditionally, has been the center of Ukrainian nationalism, that is, actually, a remarkably high share of those siding with compromise.

If you move east and south over the map, the compromise faction gets stronger. In the East, the proportions are almost exactly reversed: 41% against compromise and 51% in favor. In the South, it’s a perfect tie: 47% for both sides.

On the whole, Ukrainian sociologists are finding a “gradual increase” of those supporting a “compromise peace” in “one form or the other.” Even if, as one researcher plausibly cautions, this increase displays different rates in different regions, it still adds up to the national trend. One of its causes is “disappointment,” the loss of faith in victory, as the political scientist Ruslan Bortnik observes. In other words, the Zelensky regime is losing the information war on the home front. Notwithstanding its mix of censorship and showmanship.

The compromises imagined by Ukrainians include all conceivable solutions that do not foresee a return to the 1991 borders. In other words, there are ever more Ukrainians who are ready to trade territory for peace. How much territory, that is, of course, a different question. But it is clear that the maximalist and counter-productive aim of “getting everything back,” the all-or-nothing delusion, imposed for so long on Ukrainian society, is losing its grip.

The agency Socis, for instance, counts a total of almost 45% of respondents ready for compromise, while only 33% want to continue the war until the 1991 borders are re-established. But there are also 11% who still favor fighting on until all territories lost after February 2022 are recovered. That, as well, is now an unrealistic aim. It may have been closer to reality when Kiev dismissed an almost finished peace deal in the spring of 2022, on awful Western advice. That ship has sailed.

Polling results, it is important to note, do not all point in the same direction. The KMIS agency has produced results that show 58% of respondents who want to continue the war “under any circumstances” and only 32% who would prefer a “freeze,” if Western security guarantees are given. Such a freeze, while a favorite pipedream of some Western commentators, is unlikely to be an option now, if it ever was. Why should Moscow agree? But that is less relevant here than the fact that KMIS, for one, seems to have found a massive bedrock of pro-war sentiment.

And yet, even here, the picture is more complicated once we look closer. For one thing, the KMIS poll is comparatively old, conducted in November and December of last year. Given how quickly things have been developing on the battlefield since then – the key town and fortress of Avdeevka, for instance, finally fell only in February 2024 – that makes its data very dated.

KMIS also had interesting comments to offer: The agency notes that respondents’ proximity to the front lines plays an “important role” in shaping their opinions about the war. In other words, when the fighting gets close enough to hear the artillery boom, it concentrates the mind on finding a way to end it, even by concessions. As one Ukrainian sociologist has put it, “in the East and South … one of people’s main concerns is that the war must not reach their own home, their own home town.”

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Scott Ritter with Kherson region governor Vladimir Saldo
Scott Ritter: We are witnessing the bittersweet birth of a new Russia
]]> In addition, the executive director of KMIS has observed that the number of compromise advocates also grows when Western aid declines.

It remains difficult to draw robust conclusions from these trends, for several reasons: First, as some Ukrainian observers point out, the number of compromise supporters may be even higher – personally, I am sure it is – because the Zelensky regime has stigmatized any appeal to diplomacy and negotiations as “treason” for so long. Many Ukrainians are virtually certain to be afraid to speak their mind on this issue.

Second, what exactly the compromise camp understands by compromise is bound to be diverse. This camp may still include quite a few citizens who harbor illusions about what kind of compromise is available at this point.

Third, the current regime – which is de-facto authoritarian – is not answerable to society, at least not in a way that would make it easy to predict how shifts in the national mood translate into regime policies, or not.

And yet: There is no doubt that there is a groundswell in favor of ending the war even at the cost of concessions. Add the clear evidence of Western Ukraine fatigue – even a growing readiness to cut Ukraine loose – and the facts that the Russian military is creating on the ground, and it becomes hard to see how this basal shift in the Ukrainian mood could not become an important factor of Ukrainian – and international – politics.

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Thu, 11 Apr 2024 13:35:01 +0000 RT
Ukraine is using this simple trick to hurt the EU /news/595705-zaporozhye-nuclear-plant-attack/ Strikes on the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant are being leveraged to push for sanctions that could impact Western Europe
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Strikes on the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant are being leveraged to push for sanctions that could impact Western Europe

Ukraine says that in the wake of recent unattributed drone attacks on the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, Moscow just has to give it back. Not that Kiev had anything to do with it, of course. No doubt it was just the Ghost of Kiev and the Heroes of Snake Island making a comeback after spending some downtime consulting with Hollywood on some new superhero franchises. 

Russia expressed concerns that Ukraine was attacking the plant again in a series of incidents over the past week. In denying it, Kiev issued a statement addressing ”recent Russian provocations at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant” – but then dodged the issue of the attacks themselves. “The only source of threats [to the nuclear powerplant] has been and remains the illegal and criminal actions of the Russian invaders,” it said.

“We once again insist that [the nuclear power plant] be returned under the control of its rightful owner, Ukraine, and Russia be held accountable for all its crimes.” So you’re implying that Russia wants to blow up a nuclear powerplant it controls, and that if it gives the power plant back, it will suddenly stop wanting to blow it up? Because that makes logical sense. 

In its statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine refers to vague nuclear safety threats “created by Russia,” but it buried the lede in calling on its “partners” to sanction Russia’s atomic energy sector near the very bottom of the press release.

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RT
Ukrainian drone attack on nuclear plant a ‘dangerous provocation’ – Kremlin?
]]> How convenient. It just so happens that the Russian atomic energy sector is virtually sanctions-proof. Even while French President Emmanuel Macron was talking recently about sending troops to fight Russia, there’s a joint innovation venture underway between French and Russian engineers from the state atomic energy corporations Rosatom and Framatome. The head of the global atomic energy agency has even warned against doing anything stupid sanctions-wise against Russia in the nuclear power sector. “I would warn against this point of good nuclear energy against bad nuclear energy,” International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi told an atomic energy summit last month. “I don’t think this is what we need to have in the global energy market.”

Germany isn’t happy about France and Russia working together on nuclear energy, according to Bloomberg. Prior to the Ukraine conflict, Berlin had been fighting against cheap French nuclear energy at the EU level in order to make the French economy less competitive, or at least improve its own prospects after it went “all in” on green energy. This was clearly shown to be not ready for prime time after Germany shrugged off Nord Stream being blown up along with its cheap supply of Russian gas. Now the US is seducing German green industry with promises of plentiful gas and tax breaks under Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act. At the same time, Germany is now importing Russian-partnered French nuclear energy, which it has long sought to compromise under the pretext that it’s bad for the planet, all while resorting to firing its own coal plants back up. 

So Berlin doesn’t sound like the best advisor on energy strategy. France, however, at least had a modicum of self-preservation kick in before it was too late, with Macron doing a 180-degree turn (or 360 degrees if you’re the German foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock) and revving its own decommissioned nuclear power plants back up when it realized that Nord Stream was dead. But Kiev’s latest statement demanding sanctions against Russia’s nuclear sector suggests that it’s pressuring Paris to abandon whatever’s left of its senses.

If anyone wasn’t aware that Russian nuclear energy was an obsession of Kiev’s, consider that its intelligence service (the SBU) has also just detained six design engineers in Kharkov accused of cooperating with Rosatom, via a contractor, in allegedly plotting to integrate the Zaporozhye power plant into the Russian nuclear network, according to the SBU’s own press service.

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RT
EU’s Borrell warns of ‘potential nuclear disaster’ in Russia
]]> Despite these details, Kiev’s Western sponsors seem keen to play up the aura of “uncertainty” around the Zaporozhye powerplant drone attacks to try to convince Russia to take a hike. “Russia is playing a very dangerous game with its military seizure of Ukraine’s nuclear power plant,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said. Well then maybe just tell your Ukrainian buddies to knock it off, then? Or is the US lumbering up to blame any potential future nuclear disaster on one of the so-called “pro-Ukrainian groups” – the kind that unidentified US officials have conveniently accused, via Western press leaks, of taking out Nord Stream? 

“Reckless drone attack against Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant increases risk of dangerous nuclear accident. Such attacks must stop…Russia should withdraw from Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant,” Tweeted EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell. Yeah, it totally doesn’t sound like you guys all share talking points or anything.

What’s glaring is that none of Kiev’s Western enablers are actually arguing that Russia attacked its own asset with drones, on territory that it controls. Guess that would sound just a bit too stupid. Instead, they’re implying that Russia’s presence could end up justifying a nuclear disaster. Which is super smart!

But by playing along with Kiev’s Russian blame game like indulgent parents of an unruly toddler, the Western establishment figureheads may be failing to realize how Kiev’s targeting of Russia’s nuclear industry could, yet again, result in them talking themselves into harming their own critical interests “for Ukraine.” Not that it would be more important than the nuclear fallout, which sounds like it could easily be prevented with a spanking, a time-out, and the withholding of entitlements.

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Wed, 10 Apr 2024 18:35:43 +0000 RT
Wheels of industry: Here’s how India can overtake China on the electric car market /india/595600-india-ev-policy-china/ New Delhi has followed a similar strategy to China in a bid to attract EV manufacturers, but subsidies and tax cuts may not be enough
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
New Delhi has followed Beijing’s strategy to attract EV manufacturers, but subsidies and tax cuts may not be enough – India’s real strength lies elsewhere

India is rapidly turning into a hotspot for electric vehicles with Elon Musk‘s Tesla reportedly looking at sites for a $3 billion manufacturing facility, and Korean auto giants Hyundai and Kia localizing their battery production through the Indian subsidiary of Exide Energy.

The developments come a week after the Indian government rolled out an electric vehicle (EV) policy aimed at attracting major global players and encouraging local production of premium EVs in the country.

According to Press Information Bureau data, India had around a million EVs on the road in July 2022. According to Bain and Company, EVs accounted for around 5% of total vehicle sales between October 2022 and September 2023.

The policy is a step in the right direction. It supports the Modi government’s “Make in India” initiative, and has set the table for a competitive EV market. However, if the country has ambitious plans of catching up with China, it needs to up its innovation quotient – an ingredient which would have made this policy a game-changer.

Let’s look at the policy first. It stipulates that companies looking to tap into India’s lucrative EV market are required to invest a minimum of $500 million. To be eligible, companies must set up manufacturing plants in the country and start commercial production of EVs within three years. This applies to greenfield projects.

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A Tesla Supercharger electrical vehicle charging station in Falls Church, Virginia, February 13, 2023.
Tesla scouting locations for $3bn Indian plant – FT
]]> For existing EV investors, as well as offering manufacturing incentives, they can also import a restricted number of vehicles at a reduced customs duty rate of 15% for vehicles valued at $35,000, subject to certain conditions. This benefit continues for five years if the company establishes its manufacturing unit on time and achieves localization levels of 25% by its third year and 50% by its fifth year.

More of the same?

Currently, the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME India) Scheme Phase-II is being implemented with total budgetary support of $1.2 billion.

EVs are also covered under the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for Automobile and Auto Components, which was approved in September 2021 with a budgetary outlay of $3.1 billion for a period of five years, along with tax reduction on EVs. 

So, will EV makers be enthused by these incentives? The answer is a feeble yes. For starters, one needs to understand how the EV manufacturing ecosystem was established in China – at a time when Tesla was in its infancy. India’s new EV policy follows the playbook of a different era, when the concept of EVs was in a beta phase.

In the early 2000s, prior to entering the electric car era, China’s automotive industry faced a challenging situation. While excelling in the production of traditional internal-combustion vehicles, domestic car brands that could measure up to dominant foreign manufacturers were almost nonexistent.

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Former Governor of Reserve Bank Of India (RBI) Raghuram Rajan at the release of his book "I Do what I do" on September 7, 2017 in New Delhi, India.
Parachute Economics: Why claims that India’s growth is hyped are at odds with the evidence
]]> Then the Chinese government got into top gear. From 2009, with a combination of subsidies, tax breaks, and its inherent manufacturing prowess, China gained an enormous lead in the EV sector. With the help of subsidies at both national and local levels, its market share reached 15.5% in 2021. India has followed a similar strategy and is trying to catch up with its neighbor, but the question is whether that is enough? 

India’s real strength

While China has inherent strengths in manufacturing, it is a no-brainer that India’s strength lies in software. Quality software is a crucial component of an EV’s competitive advantage.

The complexity of software in present-day Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles is considerable, often exceeding 150 million lines of code. However, as we transition to EVs, the software complexity is projected to increase significantly, potentially tripling or more, especially with the integration of advanced autonomous driving features.

Simply put, an electric car is bound to be a “supercomputer on wheels.” Currently, the approach with conventional vehicles is to provide computing power throughout a vehicle for localized processing. In an EV, this process is turned upside down – consolidating the processing of multiple electronic control units or even consolidating most of a vehicle’s computing into a handful of central processors. 

With this approach, vehicle computing resembles more of a generalized computing platform in terms of hardware and software architectures, but with the processing power of a supercomputer, according to a study by Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). 

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People buy jewellery at a showroom on the occasion of Akshay Tritiya, at PP jewellers Karol Bagh on May 3, 2022 in New Delhi, India.
India's economy is poised to grow rapidly. Will reality match expectations?
]]> Connected vehicles create up to 25 gigabytes of data per hour, a small portion of which is shared outside the vehicle. With increased data consumption, when vehicles interact with a multitude of external systems over a range of communication channels, that amount may reach four terabytes per hour, all of which will be captured, analyzed and monetized by multiple remote third-party systems. 

Perhaps, in its early days, Tesla may have been more focused on manufacturing. Over a period of time, the world’s largest EV maker understands that software will be the differentiator. Here, India has an enormous lead – something which cannot be replicated by China overnight.  

For example, almost every financial transaction in the world, amounting to trillions of dollars, has an Indian IT software footprint. Also, large software exporters such as TCS, Infosys, Wipro, and L&T Technologies have been developing software and maintaining IT systems for companies such as Mercedes Benz, Toyota, Kia, and others over the past two decades. Also, India has internationally recognized brands such as Tata Motors, Mahindra, Bajaj, which was not the case when China started out its EV play.  

]]> READ MORE: AI poses a threat to our planet, but not the one you might think

]]> It is in this area that the government needs to formulate a strategy that can replicate the success achieved by India’s $190 billion software export industry. For Tesla and other EV makers, the luster of the EV space in the US is waning considerably over the past several quarters, and mass adoption rates are slowing down. This necessitates more innovation in manufacturing techniques as well as software.

Then, there is the EV battery supply chain factor. While India has unearthed some of the raw materials that go into an EV, it needs to have a larger and more reliable supply chain. Further, the procurement of essential battery components such as lithium, cobalt, and nickel frequently leads to environmental harm and human rights violations, including the use of child labor and hazardous working conditions. This brings sustainability to the forefront.

In many ways, the Indian government is touting the “double-engine” as its strategy for rapid economic development. Manufacturing plus software bundle could well be another useful mantra for growth. 

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Wed, 10 Apr 2024 04:33:09 +0000 RT
Gender discontent is just a phase for most kids, a new study shows. Will transition pushers leave those kids alone? /news/595657-lgbtq-gender-confused-kids/ ‘Progressive’ educators seem hell-bent on turning a passing state of confusion into irreversible decisions many come to regret
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
‘Progressive’ educators seem hell-bent on turning a passing state of confusion into irreversible decisions many come to regret

Thousands of children will likely regret going under the knife to change their sex as the majority of gender-confused kids have been found to shed the confusion by the time they are fully grown adults.

Search anywhere on social media these days and you’ll find endless chatter on the subject of young people ruminating over a sex change. Coming at a critical time in a child’s development, the messaging can sow tremendous confusion. And what has been missing from the conversation is how many of these young people eventually grow out of their feelings over time.

One such adolescent, ‘Rebecca,’ was 11 years old when she began to identify as transgender. At the age of 13, at the emotionally sensitive time when puberty sets in, she broke the unsettling news to her friends and family. That same year, the doctors prescribed her puberty blockers and testosterone. At the tender age of 16, she went under the knife for a double mastectomy. Less than a year later, however, she understood that she’d made a terrible mistake.

“I need to open up about my experience,” Rebecca told RT via email. “I want others to understand that they needn’t go through the same trauma that I did.”

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US President Joe Biden addresses guests during the White House Easter Egg Roll in Washington, DC, on April 1, 2024.
Biden denies proclaiming Transgender Day of Visibility on Easter Sunday
]]> At the age of 17, Rebecca belongs to a growing number of individuals known as “detransitioners,” those who hope to reverse a sex-change operation, often after coming to the conclusion that they are comfortable with their biological sex. But making the journey back from such extreme medical procedures is far from easy, and many young people will suffer for the rest of their lives with an irreversible decision they made as minors.

In the West, the number of minors experiencing gender dysphoria has exploded. Between 2009 and 2019, the number of children being referred for transitioning treatment in the United Kingdom surged 1,000% among biological males and 4,400% among biological females. In the US, the number of young people identifying as transgender has almost doubled since 2017, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

Now, a landmark 15-year study concludes that what this new medicine recognizes as “being transgender” is, more often than not, just a passing phase for kids. Researchers from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands monitored more than 2,700 people from age 11 to their mid-twenties, questioning them every three years for sentiments about their gender.

At the start of the study, published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, about one in ten children (11 percent) expressed ‘gender non-contentedness’ to varying degrees. By age 25, however, just one in 25 (4%) said they ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ were discontent with their gender, the Daily Mail reported.

The researchers concluded: “The results of the current study might help adolescents to realize that it is normal to have some doubts about one’s identity and one’s gender identity during this age period and that this is also relatively common.”

Will this revelation slow down the advent of sex-drenched lessons in ‘progressive’ Western classrooms? Will educators stop and consider the findings of the data and let kids enjoy their childhood years before they are introduced to these radical ideas? Of course, shielding kids from the messaging in the age of social media is virtually impossible, and questions will naturally arise from some of the students. So if teachers feel the need to breach the subject on an individual basis (as opposed to discussions in front of the entire classroom), this should be done privately in the company of parents and counselors as the children are reassured that they will likely grow out of their mixed feelings over time. The problem, however, is that the wheels of change have already been set in motion and it is doubtful they will reverse anytime soon.

In 2022, members of the National Education Association (NEA), the largest teacher’s union in the US, laid out ways for teachers to introduce gender pronouns to children starting in pre-kindergarten, in a webinar titled “Using Pronouns to Create a Safe, Welcoming, and Inclusive Environment.” It was recommended that schools ask students their preferred pronouns and add LGBTQ+ books to school library shelves.

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File photo: A rainbow flag hangs under a US flag at the US embassy in Berlin, Germany, 25 July 2019.
US to ban LGBTQ flags from embassies – Bloomberg
]]> In light of the latest findings, will these methods be re-evaluated? If doubting their gender identity is only a passing phase for most children, then aggressively pushing the ideas of transgenderism and things like gender fluidity seems like a sure-fire way to exacerbate this phase and turn it into full-blown gender dysphoria. This, in turn, can possibly lead to a sex-change operation somewhere down the road that will be largely irreversible.

Meanwhile, there are other ways that children are being set up to question their gender identity. Public libraries have gotten in on the action, hosting Drag Queen Story Hours where books heavily laced in sexual innuendo are the main feature and read by grown men dressed in women’s clothes, some of whom are convicted child sex offenders. It’s anybody’s guess what these salacious exhibitions do to the psychology of a developing child, but certainly nothing good. All this proves what is becoming increasingly obvious: Western society has become a lewd no-go zone for the most vulnerable segment of the population, where not even religious feast days can avoid getting caught up in the transgender net.

Trans rights were thrust onto the national stage this month after Easter was superseded in the US by ‘Trans Visibility Day.’ While President Joe Biden was accused by some of specifically targeting the holiday, the White House later clarified that the awareness day is recognized every year on March 31 and only coincided with Easter this year by chance.

But couldn’t the Biden administration have moved the celebration this year to a different date out of respect for one of Christianity’s holiest days? Nobody in the US should expect such miracles to happen anytime soon. Craziness is in the saddle and it’s riding America, and it will likely take many more studies to slow the gallop down.

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Tue, 09 Apr 2024 21:41:08 +0000 RT
Indigenous democracy: Why Africa should reject the Western way /africa/595599-african-views-governance-models/ African traditional governance models can and should be incorporated into modern socio-political life
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
African traditional governance models can and should be incorporated into modern socio-political life

In the discourse of global governance, Western democracy often stands as the epitome of political organization and representation. Yet, across the African continent, there exists a critical perspective on Western democratic models.

Many Africans, informed by their rich tapestry of tradition, history, and social structures, believe in the necessity of re-evaluating Western democratic paradigms and advocating for forms of governance that are more rooted in African realities. This critical view stems from a deep-seated belief that Africa should develop its own forms of democracy, inspired by indigenous practices, religions, traditions, and communal values.

At the heart of the African critique of Western democracy lies the recognition of the dissonance between imported political systems and the diverse socio-political landscapes of African nations. Western democracy, often characterized by ultra-individualism, elitist power structures, and a focus on “progressivist” values, may not fully resonate with the communal ethos prevalent in many African societies. In contrast, traditional African governance systems, such as those found in various kingdoms, chiefdoms, and tribal structures, prioritize consensus-building, communal decision-making, and the integration of spiritual beliefs into governance.

One of the primary reasons many Africans hold on to traditional ways of governance is the historical context of colonialism and its enduring impacts. The imposition of Western political systems during the colonial era disrupted pre-existing structures of governance and often marginalized indigenous institutions. This historical legacy has left a profound imprint on African societies, fostering skepticism toward Western models and a yearning to reclaim and revitalize indigenous governance practices.

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‘They stopped seeing us as human beings’: How Europe provoked a savage modern genocide in the heart of Africa
]]> Moreover, African traditional systems are often viewed as more inclusive and participatory, encompassing a broader spectrum of voices within the community. Decision-making processes in traditional settings typically involve consultation with elders, community leaders, and spiritual authorities, ensuring that diverse perspectives are considered and a consensus is reached.

This contrasts with the hierarchical nature of many Western democratic systems, which can further marginalize disenfranchised groups and perpetuate power imbalances. African religions and spiritual beliefs also play a significant role in shaping the concept of governance and policy-making on the continent. Indigenous belief systems often emphasize interconnectedness, reverence for nature, and collective responsibility.

Many Africans argue that incorporating these values into governance structures can lead to more sustainable and holistic approaches to development, as opposed to the often utilitarian and anthropocentric outlook of Western political frameworks.

African leaders of national liberation, from Patrice Lumumba to Gamal Abdel Nasser and Muammar Gaddafi, always attacked the economic inequality and liberal/neoliberal policies in the West which prioritize market-driven growth and privatization. In many African countries, these policies have exacerbated economic hardships, widened the gap between rich and poor, and perpetuated dependence on foreign aid and investment. This economic disparity undermines the democratic ideal of equal opportunity and social justice.

There is also the issue of Western values’ incompatibility with African cultural diversity. Western democratic norms and practices may not always resonate with the cultural diversity present in African societies. For example, issues such as LGBTQ+ rights, gender-centred divisions and secularist policies of state building may clash with traditional and national beliefs and norms in certain communities. This cultural incompatibility can lead to tensions between progressive democratic principles and local customs, potentially undermining social cohesion and stability.

Furthermore, African history is replete with examples of sophisticated governance systems that predate colonial rule. Kingdoms such as the Mali Empire (c. 1226 to 1670 AD), the Ashanti Empire (1701-1901 AD), and the Great Zimbabwe civilization (11th century- 15th Century AD) thrived through systems of governance that combined political authority with cultural and economic institutions.

They stand as remarkable examples of African societies that experimented with diverse forms of democratic governance, challenging conventional narratives of autocratic rule in pre-colonial Africa. The Mali Empire, renowned for its wealth and power under leaders like Mansa Musa, employed a system where power was decentralized among local rulers and their tribes, fostering a sense of participation and representation among its citizens.

Similarly, the Ashanti Empire, with its complex political structure and emphasis on consensus-building through councils of elders and popular assemblies, exemplified a form of participatory democracy that allowed for the expression of various viewpoints within society.

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RT
Europe has stolen Africa’s heritage. Will justice prevail?
]]> Meanwhile, the Great Zimbabwe civilization, known for its impressive stone structures and sophisticated trading networks, is believed to have operated under a system where decision-making was distributed among different levels of society, suggesting a form of decentralized governance and inclusion of traders, craftsmen, landowners and soldiers.

These examples challenge the misconception that democracy is a foreign concept to African civilizations, highlighting instead the rich history of democratic experimentation and innovation on the continent.

Since the 1950s, authentic experiments in African grassroots democracy conducted in Egypt, Tanzania and Liby have produced valuable outcomes worthy of thorough examination and advancement. In Egypt during the 1950s and 1960s, the widespread establishment of workers’ unions, farmers’ associations, and the democratic redistribution of arable land resulted in significant participation from previously marginalized groups in the political decision-making process.

Similarly, in Tanzania, Julius Nyerere – under his philosophy of Ujamaa (fraternity/familyfood in Swahili) – amalgamated ideals from African religion, tradition, and community to spearhead a movement of democratic involvement across various sections of the newly liberated and unified Tanzanian society.

Meanwhile, in Libya, Gaddafi employed a blend of Islamic tradition, particularly Shura (popular consultation), tribalcouncils, and a non-representative Direct Democracy approach to construct his vision of a new democratic alternative for the Global South.

Drawing inspiration from these historical and contemporary precedents, advocates for African-centred democracies argue for the adaptation and modernization of indigenous governance principles to suit contemporary challenges.

In recent years, there has been a growing movement across Africa to reclaim and reinterpret traditional governance practices. Initiatives such as the African Union’s Agenda 2063 emphasize the need for home-grown solutions to the continent’s developmental challenges, including governance reform.

Specifically, Agenda 2063 paints a vision of a continent where a shared commitment to good governance, democratic principles, gender equality, and human rights prevails. The African Union collaborates closely with its member states to craft and execute policies aimed at fostering robust, well-governed institutions. These efforts entail enacting legislation to ensure active participation of African citizens in policymaking and development endeavors, while also prioritizing the creation of safe and secure living environments.

To bolster the realization of these goals, the AU has instituted various organs focused on upholding good governance and human rights across the continent. These include the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR), the AU Commission on International Law (AUCIL), the AU Advisory Board on Corruption (AUABC), and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC).

Countries like Ghana and South Africa have incorporated elements of indigenous governance into their legal and political frameworks, recognizing the importance of cultural heritage in shaping national identity and governance structures. Resilient and time-honoured democratic mechanisms such as Councils of Elders, Community Assemblies, Rotation of Leadership, Customary Law, and Dispute Resolution are experiencing a resurgence in African intellectual and political discourse.

In Ghana, one prominent example of incorporating elements of indigenous governance into the legal and political framework is the institution of chieftaincy. Traditional leaders, known as chiefs, hold significant authority and influence within their respective communities. Their roles often include mediation of disputes, preservation of cultural heritage, and consultation on local governance issues. The chieftaincy system is recognized and respected by the Ghanaian government, with chiefs playing active roles in decision-making processes at the local level.

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The triumph of Adwa: An epic story of African victory over European colonizers
]]> Another notable example of incorporating indigenous governance elements, in South Africa, is the recognition of customary law within the legal system. Customary law encompasses the traditional practices, norms, and customs of various indigenous communities. The Constitution of South Africa acknowledges the importance of customary law and provides for its recognition and application in certain matters, particularly relating to family law, inheritance, and land tenure. This recognition ensures that the legal system accommodates the diverse cultural practices and values of South Africa’s indigenous communities.

Engaging discussions on these topics are taking place on social media platforms and within the halls of African parliaments. I had the personal privilege of actively participating in and leading several of these discussions between 2009 and 2010. During this time, my Jamahiri Media Centre (a then budding Global-South media project in Tripoli, Libya) hosted the African Youth Conference, where we advocated for and promoted African democracies, diverging from imported neo-liberal Western democratic models.

Critics of the African-centric approach to democracy often cite concerns about potential regression into authoritarianism or the exclusion of minority voices. However, proponents argue that embracing African traditions does not imply a rejection of democratic principles but rather a reimagining of democracy that is more inclusive, participatory, and reflective of local contexts.

In fact, the African critical view of Western democracy reflects a profound desire to reclaim agency over governance and policy-making processes. By drawing upon indigenous traditions, religions, history, and social structures, many Africans advocate for the development of democratic models that resonate with the continent’s unique identity and address the complex challenges it faces. As Africa continues to assert itself on the global stage, the debate over the future of democracy on the continent will remain pivotal in shaping its political landscape.

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Mon, 08 Apr 2024 17:19:01 +0000 RT
Historic irony: Germany is being sued over genocide complicity for helping Israel /news/595553-nicaragua-germany-genocide-israel-icj/ A globally widespread turn against Israel is far from complete, but Managua’s case at the ICJ is one of its clearest indications
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
A globally widespread turn against Israel is far from complete, but Managua’s case at the ICJ is one of its clearest indications

On April 8 and 9, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), often referred to as the World Court, will hold hearings on a case brought by Nicaragua against Germany. Managua is accusing Berlin of facilitating genocide and breaches of international law by Israel against Palestinians and seeks to end military aid to the Jewish state.

The outcome of the hearings is unpredictable. But this is clearly an important event that could have far-reaching consequences, for three reasons: First, this is the highest court of the United Nations. It has no independent capacity to enforce its rulings, but they carry political weight, whether in the short or long term. Second, while Israel is not directly present in the courtroom, its ongoing genocide in Gaza is at the core of the proceedings. Third, whichever way the ICJ ends up ruling, its decision will have implications for other countries, especially in the West, which have supported Israel and its assault.

Nicaragua’s main argument is not complicated: the UN’s 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (in short, Genocide Convention) codifies more than one offense. Under its terms, perpetrating a genocide – Article 3(a) – is only one way to commit a horrific crime. In addition, so is serving as an accomplice – Article 3(e). And, finally, all signatory states commit themselves not only not to be either perpetrators or accomplices, but they have also signed up to prevent and punish genocide – Article 1.

Managua’s representatives argue that Berlin is guilty on two main counts: “Germany is facilitating the commission of genocide,” they maintain, which means acting as an accomplice. And “in any case has failed in its obligation to do everything possible to prevent the commission of genocide.” In addition, Nicaragua also accuses Berlin of being in breach of international humanitarian law, also known as the law of armed conflict, as well as various other binding norms of international law – by helping Israel continue its illegal occupations, its apartheid system, and its “negation of the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people.”

Despite persistent misinformation, the term “apartheid” does not refer only to the historic case of the racist South African regime between (formally) 1948 and the early 1990s. Rather, apartheid has been an internationally recognized crime against humanity for half a century already, as confirmed again by Article 7 of the Rome Statute (the basis of the International Criminal Court) of 1998. Put simply, apartheid is a crime of the same category as, for instance, “extermination” or “enslavement” and can occur, unfortunately, anywhere.

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FILE PHOTO: Israeli settlers gather near the settlement of Bat Ayin in the occupied West Bank on June 21, 2021.
Obscured by the fog of the Gaza war, Palestinians face a different threat
]]> In the same vein, the right to self-determination is not a matter of ideology or political rhetoric or, for that matter, choice. Rather, it is a bedrock principle of modern international law. It was codified in the UN Charter and has been reaffirmed repeatedly in key conventions and treaties as well as perhaps most famously in the 1960 UN General Assembly “Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.”

Nicaragua, in sum, is not fooling around: Its case appeals to numerous cardinal obligations under international law. It also digs much deeper than “merely” Germany’s actions during Israel’s currently ongoing genocidal attack on the Palestinians. In that respect, the case focuses on Germany’s continuing and, as a matter of fact, escalating military exports to Tel Aviv* and on Berlin’s decision to cut off financial support to the United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). But Managua is also targeting the fundamentals of Berlin’s long-standing policy toward Israel and thus, inevitably, also toward Palestine. The stakes, hence, are even higher than they may appear at first sight.

The public response in Germany has been muted and often unserious: The arch-conservative Welt newspaper, for instance, suspects that Nicaragua is acting in Russia’s interest: Germany is a key supporter of EU sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, so Managua – caricatured in the best Cold War style as “Moscow-loyal” – must be trying to deliver payback on the Kremlin’s behalf. Evidence? Zero, of course. (Welt is of course a flagship publication of the Axel Springer media group, which is extremely pro-Israel. It also makes money from brokerage in Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.)

But Germany and its convoluted motivations and rationalizations are not, actually, the most interesting aspect of this case. That, instead, lies in its international implications: This is the first time the ICJ has been asked to rule on an accusation of complicity in the Gaza Genocide.

South Africa’s complaint against Israel was, of course, about Israel’s role as the main perpetrator of the crime. The ICJ, it is important to recall, found that there is a plausible possibility that Israel is indeed committing genocide, which at this point was the worst possible outcome for Tel Aviv (because full decisions in such cases always take years). The judges issued several instructions to Israel (all of which its government has treated with total contempt) and, of course, allowed the case to proceed. In view of the way in which Israel has since only escalated its lawless violence, it may, hence, well find itself fully convicted in the not so distant future.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Most Hamas battalions in Gaza eliminated – Netanyahu
]]> Meanwhile, even the ICJ’s preliminary finding that genocide is plausible has increased the urgency of the complicity issue: If genocide is at least a plausible possibility, then so is being an accomplice. Hence, the key question becomes how the court will define complicity. It is hard to see how supplying arms and ammunitions would not qualify. Likewise, Germany’s suspension of financial support for UNRWA was absurd, based on Israeli allegations that, in turn, are likely to have involved extorting false confessions by torture.

There is a reason that many other countries (such as Norway, Ireland, Belgium, Türkiye, Spain, Portugal, and Saudi Arabia) never cut off support for UNRWA, while others that did initially stop paying resumed funding (France, Japan, Sweden, Finland, Canada, and the EU). Germany’s foul compromise – to partially restore funding but to specifically exclude Gaza, where help is most urgently needed – may not impress the judges.

Nicaragua, nonetheless, is unlikely to prevail with all its charges, even if – in this author’s opinion – they all make perfect sense. But even a partial victory for Managua would have implications far beyond Germany. If the judges follow the plaintiff’s key argument about complicity even to some extent, then every government and international body that has supported Israel during its current assault on the Palestinians will be at risk of facing similar charges. As they should be.

This potential precedent effect would be reason for deep concern for the US, Great Britain, France, and the EU as a whole, or at least its power-grabbing Commission under the ruthless Israel supporter Ursula von der Leyen. As the Washington Post has noted, there is a growing global momentum, at long last, for stopping arms supplies to Israel. The US and Germany, supplying almost 99% of all arms imports to Israel, are the two major holdouts, but they also appear increasingly isolated.

And not only institutions would have reason to worry, but individuals as well. Some British civil servants are already rebelling because they resent being made accomplices to a genocide. In the same vein, more than 600 important lawyers, academics and former judges, including former Supreme Court judges have publicly warned the British government “that it is breaching international law by continuing to arm Israel.” 

This turn toward a more critical attitude toward Tel Aviv has been catalyzed mightily by the recent Israeli massacre of seven staffers of the World Central Kitchen (WCK) aid organization. While one of the victims was a young Palestinian, the others were, generally speaking, “Westerners.” Clearly, these deaths meant much more to Western elites and, on the whole, publics than those of over 30,000 Palestinians. Even in the US, dozens of Democrats in Congress have now publicly demanded that arms transfers to Israel stop. The signers included not only traditional critics of Israel such as Rashida Tlaib but also hardcore Israel supporter Nancy Pelosi.

Nicaragua filed its case with the ICJ on March 1. The hearings will take place now. As it has turned out, the viciousness of Israeli forces in general, and in the particular case of the attack on the WCK convoy, has meant that Berlin, and indirectly, Tel Aviv are now facing those hearings against a widespread, if far from complete, turn against Israel. The judges at the ICJ are, of course, jurists of the highest caliber. Their assessment of the case will not depend on this immediate background, and they may even decide to throw out Managua’s case, although they should not. But the issue of complicity in Israel’s genocide will not go away, one way or the other.

Finally, what many Germans seem to be missing, such as the hapless yet arrogant Welt with its blinkered and tired Cold War phraseology, is the fact that Nicaragua is a classical representative of both the Global South and the emerging multipolar world. In the shape of Germany, it is challenging an equally traditional, if secondary and crisis-ridden, representative of the West. The fact alone that the West is losing control of both key institutions and narratives marks fundamental change. In the infamously racist terms of EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, the “jungle” is paying a visit to the “garden.” And it’s the garden that is on the defensive: legally, morally, and in the eyes of most of humanity.

*Russia recognizes West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, as shown on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Consular Department website

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Sun, 07 Apr 2024 17:21:58 +0000 RT
The US and France are playing good cop, bad cop with Ukraine’s attacks on Russia /news/595415-us-ukraine-attacks-russia/ Washington maintains it doesn’t ‘support or enable’ Kiev’s deep strikes while France argues they’re legitimate
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Washington maintains it doesn’t “support or enable” Kiev’s deep strikes, while Paris argues they’re legitimate

“It’s our policy from Day One, when it comes to Ukraine, to do everything we can to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression. At the same time, we have neither supported nor enabled strikes by Ukraine outside of its territory,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said while standing beside his French counterpart in Paris a few days ago, in the wake of Ukraine’s drone attack on the Nizhnekamsk oil refinery in Tatarstan, responsible for over 6% of Russia’s oil output.

“Ukraine is acting within the framework of legitimate defense. We consider Russia to be the aggressor. Based on this, there can be no other comments,” said the French foreign affairs minister, Stephane Sejourne, of the incident, chalking it up to the refinery being a military target, even though its oil output as one of the country’s five largest such facilities sounds pretty important for civilians. 

The United Nations generally condemned “all attacks on civilian infrastructure” without getting caught up in the debate of whether this particular target was legitimately military or civilian. That’s for international law to decide years from now, if ever. France could have said something like that, but decided instead to go all-in on its support for this new escalation involving attacks deeper inside Russian territory – even when the target isn’t overtly and unambiguously military, or at least in the absence of any evidence from Paris for why it was qualifying it as such.  

Why is France so keen to encourage strikes inside Russia while standing right beside Blinken, if the US truly condemns them? The answer is that maybe the US actually doesn’t. Just ask the Ukrainians. “The flights are determined in advance with our allies, and the aircraft follow the flight plan to enable us to strike targets with meters of precision,” an unnamed Ukrainian source told CNN for a report referencing the drone attack on Nizhnekamsk and Russia’s massive Rosneft Ryazan refinery, both hundreds of kilometers away from the Ukraine conflict front line.

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FILE PHOTO: White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
The US has sacrificed a common anti-terror principle to stick it to Putin
]]> Of course there’s always the possibility that the CNN report isn’t talking specifically about the US – just its Western allies – and the Pentagon has absolutely nothing to do with this targeting, and its hands are squeaky clean. Except that Ukrainian sources bragged to the press again in February 2023, in a “my daddy lets me play with these cool rockets” kind of way, telling the Washington Post that they were getting the coordinates for US-made HIMARS rocket attacks from Washington and its allies. A US official even confirmed it. “One senior Ukrainian official said Ukrainian forces almost never launch the advanced weapons without specific coordinates provided by US military personnel from a base elsewhere in Europe,” according to the Post. Is that any different now? Or is Washington just hoping to create a smokescreen using its allies and corporate lingo to deflect responsibility? 

The Post quotes a “senior US official” who underscored that the role is strictly “advisory.” Sounds kind of like when Blinken says that the US neither “supports nor enables” strikes. If Washington happens to leave the HIMARS or drone coordinates lying around where you can see them, don’t go using them to blow stuff up, okay? 

Some people’s parents don’t “support or enable” them doing drugs or alcohol, either, but then tell their kids that if they absolutely must, and are going to do it anyway, then just do it in the garage where it can be supervised. Nice parental supervision the US and its allies are doing here with Kiev. An audio recording, intercepted by Russian intelligence, just leaked back in February of German Air Force brass plotting to help Ukrainians target the Crimean Bridge with drones, which unlike refineries is an indisputably civilian target. A highlight of their musings was how they might go about doing it without leaving any German fingerprints. Of course, Washington would never entertain such thoughts.

We keep hearing how Washington doesn’t want Russian refineries to be hit because it risks driving up the global oil price, particularly if Russia retaliates proportionally. Yeah, that sounds totally legit in light of all the US-driven energy market deregulation that’s taken place so far as a result of the Ukraine conflict, including the mysterious explosion of the Nord Stream gas pipeline from Russia to Europe. Washington seems really broken up about that – and about the EU now having an overdependence on US liquified natural gas instead. How absolutely horrible would it be if oil prices spiked because of Ukrainian drone shenanigans at a time when headlines abound of US oil exports hitting record highs as it becomes the top global oil producer?  

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RT
Hunter and the hunted: How Joe Biden is being linked to corruption, terror attacks, and political assassinations in Ukraine
]]> This latest performance in Paris by Blinken and Sejourne is on par with French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent Napoleonic musings about sending French troops to fight Russia while he posed up a storm for glamor shots with a punching bag. If there’s one country whose recent rhetoric makes the US look almost pacifist by comparison right now, it’s France. It’s like someone with a mild drinking problem hanging out with a raging alcoholic and looking reasonable by comparison. 

Blinken flying over for this press conference in Paris had the vibe of an actor traveling to be on location for filming. Maybe they can record this new buddy movie and submit it to next year’s Oscars, where they can have fellow actor, Vladimir Zelensky, present it. Throw in some more footage of Macron preparing to fight Vladimir Putin with the help of Coach Photoshop, and Blinken holding the punching bag talking about how Macron’s such a maniac for wanting to go over to Russia and kick down doors against Blinken’s advice. 

Something definitely seems to be up with these two. Since when does Paris stand there right in front of Washington like Sejourne just did with Blinken, and imply that Ukraine can risk escalation inside Russia now? Unless, of course, Washington is in fact totally cool with it. It would be nice to know what the US is offering France in exchange for playing the bad cop role, or if France is just dumb enough to be doing it for free. 

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Sat, 06 Apr 2024 16:15:26 +0000 RT
Delhi’s Chief Minister is in jail: How an anti-corruption accuser himself became the accused /india/595334-bureaucrat-turned-opposition-arvind-kejriwal/ Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of India’s Aam Aadmi Party, served as an officer in the tax department before turning to politics
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Before turning to politics, Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of India’s Aam Aadmi Party, ruling the national capital and Punjab, was a tax department officer

An Indian court earlier this week remanded Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi and the leader of the opposition Aam Aadmi Party (AAP, Common Man Party), to judicial custody until April 15. Kejriwal was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), an agency that investigates revenue-related crimes, on March 21. He spent ten days in ED custody before being sent to Tihar Jail on April 1. 

The ED says he skipped nine summonses for questioning in a bribery case related to changes in the Delhi Excise Policy governing liquor sales.

Though Kejriwal – the acting chief minister of India’s capital, which has the special status of union territory and has its own legislative assembly and elected government – is now in a high-security jail, he is someone that has been spoken about as a future prime minister, mostly by his own party and on social media campaigns that have gone viral. He himself, however, has said he is not a 2024 candidate for prime minister. 

Even those who oppose the AAP talk about the open secret of Kejriwal’s prime ministerial ambitions, and say that if it happens, he will only continue India’s right-of-center politics. Supporters of the Congress, India’s grand old party which is now in opposition, and of left-of-center regional parties have occasionally branded Kejriwal and his politics as “soft Hindutva” (which refers to Hindu nationalism) – given that he and his party kept quiet about the Delhi riots of February 2020, or over various lynching incidents in which Muslims are the victims.

Incidentally, the only other person spoken about as a future prime minister in Indian political circles is Yogi Adityanath, who rules the country’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, and who is seen as “harder Hindutva.”

If a man sitting in India’s highest-profile jail ever does reach the political pinnacle of prime minister, it will have been quite the journey for Kejriwal, who comes from middle-class beginnings, has epitomized the middle-class dream, and who frequently adopts middle-class symbolism – a muffler covering his head during his early years as CM, and favoring trousers over the conventional white kurta-pajama – in his rise.

AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal is greeted by supporters during a rally by the leader on May 9, 2014 in Varanasi, India. ?  Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

From bureaucrat to politician

Born in 1968 to an upper caste family in northern India’s Haryana, Kejriwal was a diligent student, and successfully aced the ultra-competitive entrance exams to the Indian Institute of Technology, which has produced many luminaries of the IT world. 

Qualified as a mechanical engineer for India’s then-largest private concern, he began preparing for the civil services exam – the most competitive exam that the Indian middle-class most aspires to – and in 1995, he joined the Indian Revenue Service (IRS) as an assistant commissioner of Income Tax under the Finance Ministry.

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India's Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar during a meeting with his Russian counterpart in Moscow on December 27, 2023.
India summons German diplomat over ‘blatant interference’
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Ironically, it was IRS officers of the same ministry who arrested him in 2024 over allegations of bribery that have remained not only undocumented and unproven, but based on hearsay – by people who subsequently joined the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). More on this later.

As an income tax official, what Kejriwal saw of the system shocked him, because a few years later – while still in service – he started a movement (along with journalist Manish Sisodia, who would later become deputy CM of Delhi) called ‘Parivartan’ (Change), which demanded transparency in the workings of the income tax department. It also addressed public grievances in various welfare schemes.

Kejriwal used several mechanisms, such as the Right to Information Act (enacted by the Delhi Congress government) to fight corruption that the average person faced, most commonly in the electricity departments, and to prevent the privatization of water in the capital city.

Kejriwal thus became known as an anti-corruption crusader. He resigned his government job in 2006, and was given the Ramon Magsaysay award for integrity in governance and service to people. He used the prize money to start the Public Cause Research Foundation, an institutional foundation for his anti-corruption work.

Prominent among his efforts was a campaign against corruption in the organizing of the Commonwealth Games of 2010, which became etched in the public mind after a bridge-roof collapse at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium due to shoddy work. Then-CM Sheila Dixit was beleaguered by allegations of corruption against her government, and it led to her losing power a few years later.

India Against Corruption (IAC) activist Arvind Kejriwal (C) is detained by police personnel during a protest in New Delhi in December 2012. ?  MANAN VATSYAYANA / AFP

A loner becomes a leader

In 2011, he joined with like-minded anti-corruption activists, such as eminent lawyer Prashant Bhushan, former police officer Kiran Bedi, and grassroots organizer Anna Hazare, to form India Against Corruption (IAC), and their main demand of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was the enactment of the Jan Lokpal Bill – to have a public ombudsman look into allegations of corruption (rather than a government-controlled agency like the Central Bureau of Investigation).

Coinciding with protests over the ghastly rape-murder of a medical student in Delhi, the IAC protests gained momentum and large crowds, marking a low point for PM Singh, who had to promise to put forward the Jan Lokpal Bill in parliament. 

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Former Governor of Reserve Bank Of India (RBI) Raghuram Rajan at the release of his book "I Do what I do" on September 7, 2017 in New Delhi, India.
Parachute Economics: Why claims that India’s growth is hyped are at odds with the evidence
]]> There were people who were not convinced by the IAC movement. Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy accused Kejriwal of funding his movement with money from the Ford Foundation, which the latter denied. She and others also claimed the IAC was run by the BJP’s parent outfit, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, whose larger goal was to dislodge the Congress using the anti-corruption campaign.

Incidentally, after the 2011 movement ended, some IAC members such as Kiran Bedi joined the BJP; natural remedies baron Baba Ramdev became a prominent supporter of the BJP; and Anna Hazare was silent on allegations of corruption during the next dozen years – waking up briefly only after Kejriwal’s arrest.

Kejriwal continued the Lokpal Bill protest in 2012, as the government backtracked on its promise. And then he launched a political party – the AAP. 

The next year, Delhi legislative elections were held, and the AAP won enough seats to form a minority government. Kejriwal, who had contested Sheila Dixit in her constituency, defeated her. He was elected CM by his party.

But the minority government lasted only a year, and when elections were held in 2015, the AAP won a stunning 67 out of 70 seats. His has been a popular government on several fronts: He set up mohalla clinics (primary health centers) through the city; he gave a facelift to government schools, much to the relief of middle-class parents who could not afford private schools; he made electricity free up to a certain limit of consumption, on the condition that even slum-dwellers get meters installed instead of illegally tapping overhead wires; and his administration was the first to allow women free transport on government buses.

No wonder that when elections were held in 2020, the AAP repeated its sweep by winning 62 out of 70 seats.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal campaigns during a Jan Sabha ahead of Delhi Assembly Elections at Ghazipur, Vishwas Nagar on February 2, 2020 in New Delhi, India. ?  Mayank Makhija/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The road to prison

For traditional Delhi politics, the AAP was an upstart; the Congress and the BJP had always dominated the city’s political landscape until Kejriwal landed on the scene. Since then, with the BJP ruling the central government in Delhi, it is no wonder that all their political aggression is directed towards Kejriwal and not the Congress.

Kejriwal has had a running dispute over the division of power with the lieutenant-governor of Delhi, appointed by the central government (a holdover from when Delhi was not a state but directly run by the central government’s Home Ministry). The Delhi police are under the Home Ministry, so the AAP government is powerless in all law-and-order matters. Plus, the police have likely been deployed against AAP workers more times than against other opposition workers.

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FILE PHOTO: India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a public meeting, in Chennai on March 4, 2024.
Challenging the hegemon: The Ukraine crisis is a catalyst for India’s rise
]]> Things came to a head when the ED filed a corruption case against the former anti-corruption activist. It related to the Delhi Excise Policy, which was changed in 2021; previously all liquor shops were run by the state government, but they were not well-spread geographically, and high prices resulted in consumers buying liquor from Haryana. The government decided to privatize the liquor trade and tax it.

The ED’s case is that the government favored private players from some southern Indian states in return for bribes, some of which were then used by the AAP for the Goa state elections. There has not been any documentary evidence to support it; the case rests on the testimony of former aides and traders from the south – who later either joined the BJP or bought electoral bonds favoring the BJP.

Yet, Kejriwal has not been granted bail. This is because the Prevention of Money Laundering Act was amended in 2018, making bail possible only if the judge is satisfied with the claims of innocence by the accused – something that could procedurally happen only when the trial/case is over. The BJP told parliament that the amendment was necessary to make bail difficult for terrorists.

2024 Elections

The arrest after the announcement of the 2024 parliamentary will no doubt result in the absence of Kejriwal during the campaign – and as the AAP is part of the opposition INDIA (Indian National Development Inclusive Alliance), he was expected to campaign not just in Delhi. The AAP won the state election in Punjab in 2022, and he was expected to help out with CM Bhagwant Singh’s campaign. Plus, the AAP has candidates in Gujarat, among other places.

The general election in India will run from April 19 to June 1 and is called “the largest democratic exercise in history,” as it will see 970 million people casting their votes. The results will be declared on June 4. 

If Kejriwal’s absence is felt, it is because of a missing second rung of leadership that could have taken up the slack. Kejriwal has often been accused of driving potential rivals from the party, like Bhushan and political scientist Yogendra Yadav. Even Punjab CM Mann takes a backseat to Kejriwal.

It remains to be seen whether his absence from campaigning is prolonged, given how the ED allowed AAP parliamentarian Sanjay Singh to be released on bail, under questioning from the Supreme Court. June 4, when results are announced, will tell whether or not the move against Kejriwal was ill-advised. 

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Fri, 05 Apr 2024 06:33:33 +0000 RT
Obscured by the fog of the Gaza war, Palestinians face a different threat /news/595350-israeli-settlements-escalate-palestinian-territories/ The hardline Israeli government is pushing for the annexation of occupied land as the world’s attention is focused elsewhere
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The hardline Israeli government is pushing for the annexation of occupied land as the world’s attention is focused elsewhere

As the bulk of the media’s attention is directed at the horrifying war in Gaza, Israel has deployed more troops to the West Bank, while constructing more sections of a separation wall and setting up new checkpoints. Coupled with settlement expansion, this will mean a weakening the territory’s economy, and could lead to a larger confrontation between Palestinians and Israelis.

Even though Israel’s separation wall was deemed to be in contravention of international law, as per an International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory opinion issued in 2004, Israel has continued to construct the barrier on Palestinian territory. Since the outbreak of the war in Gaza on October 7, Israel has silently continued its construction of the wall in the northern West Bank. According to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, 86% of the separation barrier is inside the West Bank, de facto annexing 10% of the occupied territory.

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, decided to continue the construction of separation barriers in 2009, arguing that it provided “security” and prevented Palestinians from entering Israel without a permit, effectively isolating over 150 West Bank communities into islands, while serving as a guard wall for illegal settlements. The UN human rights chief, Volker Turk, recently stated that Israeli settlements are expanding at record rates. While the US government recently responded to Israel’s announcement that they will build more illegal settler units by saying this is inconsistent with international law, nothing tangible has been done to punish the top US ally in the Middle East.

Widely ignored in the international media has been the recent construction work on a cement wall, to replace what was formerly a military fence placed inside the northern portion of the Tulkarem governorate in the West Bank. It should be noted that Tulkarem, more specifically the Nour al-Shams refugee camp in the area, has been a flashpoint for Israeli military raids and a location from which locally formed armed groups have used light weapons to confront those invading forces.

Israeli separation wall construction In Tulkarem (West Bank), February 26. ?  Ahmad al-Bazz
Israeli separation wall In Tulkarem (West Bank), February 26. ?  Ahmad al-Bazz

Another location where Israel has been constructing a new segment of its separation wall is in the West Bank governorate of Jenin. The structure's construction is continuing to the west of the northern West Bank city, and situated right behind it is an Israeli highway, followed by a settlement. Although Israel had already constructed a militarized fence in the area, to divide Palestinians from Israelis, erecting the wall on Palestinian land quite literally cements the annexation of the territory. 

Israeli separation wall under construction to replace old military fence, West of Jenin (West Bank), February 23. ?  Ahmad al-Bazz

Yet, it is not only the Israeli separation wall and newly announced settlement expansion which is impacting the status quo inside the West Bank. The Israeli military has set up an unprecedented number of gates, dirt mounds, and other obstacles, to block roads throughout the occupied territory. In Palestinian villages surrounding the city of Ramallah for instance, Israeli forces set up 28 gates in a single day following the outbreak of war in Gaza. While there is often the most attention placed upon around 100 permanent checkpoints in the occupied territory, with temporary checkpoints bringing that total into the thousands yearly, roadblocks and gates can have an even more strangling effect on daily life for Palestinian residents.

Palestinians forced to leave their village on foot, after Israeli forces close a gate and prevent the flow of vehicles in the Hebron Governorate. February 28. ?  Ahmad al-Bazz

As a result of the closure of gates, and roads with dirt mounds or cement blocks, Palestinians living inside villages or towns are effectively isolated from the rest of the territory. Instead of being able to travel in cars to their jobs, or to transport goods like foods or agricultural products, they are restricted to traveling on foot. Sometimes residents stay home altogether, especially when Israeli soldiers are present and they fear persecution at crossings out of their villages. Some of the worst areas for such closures are situated in the Southern West Bank governorate of al-Khalil (Hebron).

Army forces close Palestinian village with gates and place an Israeli flag in the middle of the road, in the Hebron area. February 28. ?  Ahmad al-Bazz

Ubai al-Aboudi, the executive director of Palestinian rights group ‘Bisan Center’, told RT that due to Israeli measures in the West Bank since October 7, “unemployment rates have increased dramatically, we have seen a huge number of Palestinians that are not able to provide food for their families”. He added that “what we have seen is a doubling of the number of Palestinians that are food insecure in the West Bank, there were 300,000 before October 7 and now there are 600,000”.

Israeli forces close gate, preventing Palestinians from travelling in their vehicles in the Hebron area. February 28. ?  Ahmad al-Bazz

In February, the Israeli Knesset voted through a bill that backed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s voiced rejection of any unilateral recognition of a Palestinian State. This has again revived fears of a major de-jure annexation by Israel of areas inside the West Bank. The Netanyahu cabinet, in December 2017, managed to pass a bill which ordered the government to begin working to implement an annexation plan. Beginning in early 2023, the current Israeli ruling coalition began quietly handing over areas of the West Bank that were formerly under military control to civilian control.

According to Ubai al-Aboudi, the separation wall, gates and checkpoints are all components of Israel’s overarching plan to confiscate more Palestinian land: “The Apartheid wall has never been to do with security measures, but rather a means to steal more Palestinian lands and to exert and continue its control over the Palestinian population. The new parts of the wall that are being built are intended to confiscate land, they declare areas as “no access zones” close to the wall and this allows them to push back the people and take control of more territory.”

Under the cover of the Gaza war, while the cameras were focused elsewhere, Israeli state-backed settler groups called “defense squads” have expelled some 16 different Palestinian communities in the South Hebron Hills area. In addition to this, entire villages have been invaded and the populations displaced by settlers, drawing comparisons to the 1948 Nakba (ethnic cleansing of Palestine). At least 427 Palestinians have also been killed in the West Bank since October 7, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry while the number of Israeli soldiers operating inside the territory is now larger than the invading force present in Gaza. In fact, the Israeli military even transferred its elite Duvdevan unit from Gaza into the West Bank back in January.

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FILE PHOTO: Basem Naim.
‘Russia is very important for protecting Palestinians’: Top Hamas official talks to RT about the conflict with Israel
]]> When asked what has changed in terms of the environment of violence in the West Bank since the beginning of the Gaza war, Ubai al-Aboudi shared the following: 

“Look, before October 7 there were 235 Palestinians killed in the West Bank that year, which was a record when compared to previous years. So, can I say that the Israeli forces have become more cruel or committed more violence? I’d say that they have been more open in their acceptance of violence, the army has lost its checks and balances in their system, and it has been more tolerated that Israeli settlers and soldiers attack Palestinians. Is this something completely out of the norm? No. Israeli soldiers and settlers have been attacking Palestinians since the start of the occupation, what has changed here is that they’ve lost control over the situation and the rate of attacks has intensified.”

As Israeli forces disrupt daily life for the Palestinian residents of the West Bank, with the construction of new walls, checkpoints, gates and road blocks, the armed confrontations between Palestinian localized armed groups and Israeli forces continue. If the rate of settlement expansion, settler violence and raids which aim at destroying infrastructure inside Palestinian refugee camps, is to be coupled with the economic decline that has come as a byproduct of Israeli aggression, it makes for a tough year ahead in the occupied territory. The US government asserts its position as favoring a Two State solution, yet the Israeli government’s actions inside the West Bank are making this solution even more impossible than prior to October 7. All of this occurs under the fog of war, where unprecedented measures are tolerated in the West Bank, as the international community fixates on Gaza.

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Thu, 04 Apr 2024 19:12:26 +0000 RT
Parachute Economics: Why claims that India’s growth is hyped are at odds with the evidence /india/595354-raguram-rajan-india-growth-gdp/ Indian economy is a “work in progress” says ex-Reserve Bank of India chief Raghuram Rajan. But Modi’s plan to take it to $30tn has strategy
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The former head of the Reserve Bank of India Raghuram Rajan is not wrong about the economy being a “work in progress.” But he overlooks PM Modi’s strategy of growing it to $30 trillion by 2047

Last week Raghuram Rajan, former governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and former International Monetary Fund (IMF) Chief Economist, renewed his criticism of the management of the Indian economy, cautioning against falling for what he believes to be “hype” about the country’s current growth trajectory.

The context is India’s unexpected surge in economic growth for the third quarter of 2023. While most analysts expected a growth of 6.4% for the quarter, the actual numbers came in at a staggering 8.4% – given the momentum in growth, there is every reason to believe India will clock a very impressive 8% for 2023-24.

Implicit in this growth surprise was the suggestion that India was exploring a new trend rate of growth – around 7%, compared to the existing 6%.

Rajan’s reaction was an argument that it would be a mistake to buy into this claim.

“The greatest mistake India can make is to believe the hype [about growth]. We have got many more years of hard work to do to ensure the hype is real. Believing the hype is something politicians want you to believe because they want you to believe that we have arrived,” he said.

The official reaction was not long in coming. Economists like Arvind Virmani, former chief economic adviser and presently member of government policy think tank Niti Aayog, and Arvind Panagariya, chairman of the newly constituted 16th Finance Commission, dismissed Rajan’s criticism.

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Indian billionaire, co-founder and managing director of Mumbai-based real estate giant Hiranandani Group, Niranjan Hiranandani, in RT’s Let’s Talk Bharat show with Anupam Her
India will be a ‘centerpiece of the world’s economy’ – real estate tycoon to RT
]]> In an unkind cut, Virmani accused Rajan of thinking like a parachute economist – an expert attached to multilateral institutions but equipped with little or no knowledge on the local economy and offering just policy advice.

To be fair to the government, analysts, both in the private sector and in multilateral institutions, have collectively flagged India’s growth potential. They are inspired by its ability to ride out the unprecedented back-to-back shocks, beginning with the Covid-19 pandemic, and then to thrive in subsequent years. This resilience, they argue, is inspired by the series of structural reforms undertaken by the government in this period.

Message vs Messenger

Frankly, the problem here is not with the message but with the messenger.

Rajan, through his public association with Rahul Gandhi, the former President of the Indian National Congress, India’s principal opposition party, especially in talking up some quixotic economic ideas propounded by Gandhi, has moved out of the neutral corner. To be sure, officially he is not a member of the Congress party.

However, in public life, like in politics, it is not what you do, but what you are seen to be doing.

Rajan is perceived as aligning politically with a party that is dead opposed to the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). As a result, the former governor’s trenchant critique has come to be viewed with suspicion as motivated.

Shorn of politics, Rajan is arguing that India is a work in progress. Ironically, the NDA, too, believes this.

Given that it is general-election season in India – with polling to begin on April 19 and continue till June 1, the NDA is showcasing its success in fixing legacy deficits with respect to access to basics like toilets, banking, cooking gas, electricity, drinking water, health insurance, internet, and so on.

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India's Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman poses for pictures as she leaves the Finance Ministry Office to present the annual budget in parliament on February 1.
Modi government ramps up spending before Indian election
]]> Staking claim to this achievement, NDA coined a moniker around their star campaigner, Prime Minister Narendra Modi: “Modi ki guarantee” (Modi's guarantee). In almost every public rally or speech since then, Modi has invoked this slogan to promise “unprecedented prosperity” in the next five years if voted back to power.

Effectively, the prime minister is arguing that, having resolved the foundational handicaps, the stage is set to launch the next phase of India’s growth that would be far more inclusive than what had been achieved in the first six decades. Implicitly, the NDA is accepting the fact that India is a work in progress—exactly what Rajan is saying.

India@2047

Where they differ is in their respective beliefs and the plan to deliver on India’s growth potential.

Even before the general election bugle was sounded the NDA signaled that it had a plan for India to evolve into a developed country by 2047, when its economy would measure $30 trillion – an audacious claim, given that at present it is $3.7 trillion. It has already promised an active first 100 days in office, if reelected.

]]> READ MORE: Top-down or bottom-up? As elections approach, Modi-led party is set to test two economic philosophies

]]> The ideological underpinning of this strategy is that a strong economy is a necessary condition for India to acquire military and diplomatic clout. A teaser shared by Niti Aayog reveals that India’s per-capita income will double to $4,418 by 2030 and then grow to $10,021 by 2040 and $17,590 by 2047.

Indeed, if this was to happen, then the deficits cited by Rajan, such as literacy and skilling, must be overcome. While the NDA believes this will be achieved, Rajan disagrees. But this is a case of ‘he said, she said’. Either claim can only be verified over time.

Till then, whatever be the motivations, it is best for both sides to agree to disagree.

 

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Thu, 04 Apr 2024 04:33:18 +0000 RT
New hacking allegations against China aren’t what they seem /news/595310-china-hacking-us-uk/ Washington and London are claiming Beijing sponsored a cybercrime campaign against them three years ago. Why did wait until now?
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Washington and London are claiming Beijing sponsored a cybercrime campaign against them three years ago. Why did they wait until now?

In March, the UK, in conjunction with the US and other members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, accused China of engaging in a state-sponsored hacking campaign against them. In response to the alleged 'attack' they launched coordinated sanctions against a small group of hackers and their associated businesses.

The sanctions were particularly big news in Britain, where the government suddenly decided that Beijing had been behind a hack on the electoral commission three years ago. Notably, the country’s Conservative party-aligned newspapers all pushed this narrative in an aggressive fashion.

These accusations by the Five Eyes nations are not so much genuine concerns as they are a deliberate and opportunistic act of political theatre which, largely driven by the US, seeks to slander China for diplomatic and political gain. The sanctions, although narrow in scope and thus meaningless, are designed to try and send a message to and about China. It is essentially a fearmongering campaign, which seeks to both undermine Beijing’s engagement with other countries and serve domestic political purposes in the US.

The rhythm of US escalation and de-escalation with China

The US has an adept foreign policy whereby it intentionally chooses to escalate and de-escalate tensions with China at opportune moments, which is precisely why calls for “engagement” with Beijing coming from Washington D.C. cannot be trusted. The US does not change its goals or its policies, only its tactics in consideration of what suits it at that particular moment. Hence it has always alternated between overtures and deliberate provocations. It usually does so by having a certain report or development leaked to the media at an opportunistic time, in order to craft a particular narrative which mandates a certain set of reactions and policy responses.

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CIA Director William Burns
How America’s top spymaster sees the world and why it’s so disappointing
]]> To give some examples of such, the Trump administration played down tensions with China directly in 2019, even amidst the Hong Kong crisis, in order to secure a “trade deal” with Beijing. Once it got what it wanted by 2020, and the Covid-19 pandemic struck, it deliberately unleashed a full-on crusade against Beijing on every front. Similarly, the Biden administration came into office and then immediately upped tensions with China on the Xinjiang issue in order to damage China’s ties with Europe in a build-up to coordinated sanctions as a display of transatlantic unity.

After this was done, it then decided it wanted to “cool” things down for a bit and establish “guardrails” so the rhetoric guns went silent for a few months as Washington reached out to Beijing. Then, as the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics came, it took the “Xinjiang card” off the shelf again with a number of timed leaks and publications geared towards supporting a Winter Olympics boycott, as well as a sweeping ban on all Xinjiang goods under the premise of “forced labour” at that time.

What we see is that the US does not truly de-escalate with China, it “blows hot and cold” and essentially manipulates the media cycle to pursue its policy preferences as it sees fit. This means that major issues pertaining to China only tend to appear when there is an agenda serving it.

The newest phase

Now, the Biden administration has made a political design to escalate tensions with China by accusing it, in coordination with the Five Eyes, of state-backed hacking and cybercrime. The fact that the British government would sit on such an accusation for three years suggests both clear political purpose and timing. The question is, why? First, we are approaching a Presidential election in the US. It was always an inevitability that the administration would want to appear “tough” on China to prevent the issue from being used as an attack point by Biden’s rival, Donald Trump. As seen in 2020, an election year tends to become a year of very aggressive rhetoric and extreme theatrics.

Secondly, there is the goal of undermining China’s engagement with Europe. It has been publicly announced that Xi Jinping will visit a number of European countries in May, including France. As stated above, the US, with the support of the Five Eyes countries, actively seeks to damage Chinese diplomacy with Europe by weaponizing negative publicity in order to narrow political space for engagement.

What we see from this is that the US engages China on its own terms, but seeks to prevent those it deems as “allies” from doing the same, and thus resorts to psychological warfare through the manipulation of mass media.

In conclusion, when one sees these strategies being utilised, one recognises that the Western media has far less independence and impartiality than it claims to have, but is indirectly subject to the preferences of US policy. W

hen the White House says “jump”, reporters ask, “how high?” and thus we see that a new propaganda campaign has been cultivated against Beijing, but of course, we should not be blind to the reality that there is no greater weaponisation of cyberspace and espionage in the world than the system created by the Five Eyes. And are we really going to pretend the CIA doesn’t hack anyone?

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Thu, 04 Apr 2024 00:48:11 +0000 RT
Biden is using the church to import more Democrat voters to the US /news/595296-us-religious-ngos-support-migrants/ Hundreds of millions of dollars are being funneled to religious NGOs to entice and support illegal immigrants across the southern border
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Hundreds of millions of dollars is being funneled to religious NGOs to entice and support illegal immigrants across the southern border

At a time when millions of Americans are homeless and in need of medical treatment, Washington is more concerned with playing host to millions of illegal immigrants south of the border.

How many Americans would like to receive cash debit cards, food, clothing, medical treatment, shelter, and even “humanitarian transportation” for doing absolutely nothing, aside from breaking the law? Well, sorry, because American citizens don’t qualify for the massive handout that surpasses $1.6 billion dollars, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. The freebies are going to millions of US-bound migrants in 17 Latin American nations and Mexico instead.

In what was once a matter of quiet speculation is now an open secret: the Biden administration is using hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to fund a variety of NGO initiatives aimed at helping illegal immigrants enter the US from Latin America and Mexico.

Under the auspices of a United Nations-led “Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (RMRP),” the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) have been sending taxpayer funds to various religious nonprofit organizations, which then dangle the juicy enticements before thousands of migrants, opening the floodgates to a wave of illegal US southern border crossings.

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Migrants wait to be processed by US Customs and Border Patrol after they entered the US from Mexico at Eagle Pass, Texas, October 19, 2023
Elon Musk accuses Democrats of ‘importing voters’
]]> Exhibit number one. With an estimated 25% of the US population declaring membership in the Catholic Church, it might be expected that this denomination and its various offshoot organizations would spend the bulk of its funds tending to its American flock. Shockingly, that is not the case.

The prominent Catholic Charities USA and its various related agencies, for example, while not among those operating south of the border alongside the United Nations, receive “tens of millions of dollars in federal subsidies to oversee illegal immigrant transportation” north of the Rio Grande and resettlement operations to various sanctuary cities inside of the US.

At the same time, some 13 franchises of the nonprofit Caritas, whose website proudly pronounces that it is “inspired by the Catholic faith” and is “the helping hand of the Church,” will allocate $12.3 million to immigrants south of the border, much of it as hard cash, according to the UN database.

According to USA spending (here and here), and cited by Todd Bensman of CIS, USAID and the State Department’s PRM have doled out in excess of $11 million to the NGO Caritas Brazil, since the mass migration program started in 2021, including $3 million pledged through December 2024 to “overseas refugee assistance programs for the Western Hemisphere” that include “food, non-food items, shelter, health, [and] psychosocial support.”

It can’t go unnoticed that the same sanctuary cities that are putting illegal immigrants up in hotels while giving them free meal tickets, are the same places where thousands of tent cities overflowing with homeless people – many of them with serious medical problems and deadly addictions – have popped up over the last five years. Are the churches and various religious organizations opening their doors to these needy citizens? Judging by the deplorable state of the streets in America, it certainly doesn’t look like it, nor does the Biden administration seem to care.

Another example of a religious nonprofit serving as “co-smuggler” in the illegal trafficking of human flesh is the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which has pledged $17.1 million in assistance to immigrants in at least seven Latin American nations during 2024, according to the UN’s RMRP planning documents. In fiscal year 2022, 47% of revenue reported by HIAS was the result of grants from government organizations, primarily from the State Department, but also from the Department of Homeland Security, according to the group’s tax filings and other sources, with the rest deriving from powerful corporate sponsors and other sources.

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Immigrants near Juarez, Mexico, try to cross into the US last month through concertina wire strung by Texas National Guard troops.
Civil war 2.0: What’s behind the latest escalation between Washington and Texas?
]]> Meanwhile, in just the last year, the State Department’s PRM and USAID have forked over to the International Organization of Migration $1.4 billion, by far the highest amount on record, according to USAspending.gov.

So what’s going on here? Why is the Biden administration so obsessed with using taxpayer dollars to fund a massive influx of illegal immigrants into the country at a time when America already has enough poor people to take care of? Is it really the case that the Democrats are working on behalf of strictly humanitarian interests, or is something else at play? When dealing with the world of politics, it’s not a bad idea to think more in terms of power, not compassion.

In a nutshell, the Biden administration hopes to attract as many illegal immigrants into the country and turn them into loyal voters so Democrats can create a permanent one-party state. And judging by the outstanding numbers, the cynical strategy just might work.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) report for fiscal 2023 shows that the number of non-detained illegal immigrants has surged from 3.7 million in FY 2021 to nearly 4.8 million in FY 2022 and almost 6.2 million in FY 2023, making Joe Biden – in cahoots with faith-based NGOs – the greatest smuggler of human beings in the history of the United States.

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Tue, 02 Apr 2024 21:21:40 +0000 RT
The 13-year-old war in Syria holds a warning for Ukraine /news/594636-syria-war-ukraine-warning/ Once the US has its claws in a country, it won’t let go easily – and friend or foe, you’ll be left drained and broken
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Once the US has its claws in a country, it won’t let go easily – and friend or foe, you’ll be left drained and broken

‘March Madness’ is such a NATO thing. The Western military alliance routinely kicks off conflicts in foreign countries during this particular month, most recently Serbia (1999), Iraq (2003), Libya (2011), and Syria (2011). In that last case, it took a few years for the US to actually invade, but the sanctions and the covert support of anti-government forces began right away.

Remember Bashar Assad, the Syrian president who simply ‘had to go’, according to everyone from then-UK Prime Minister David Cameron, and then-Secretary of State John Kerry, to then-Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni Silveri. Whatever happened to Assad, anyway? Turns out that he’s still living a quiet life as president of Syria, and hardly ever finds his name being rolled around in the mouths of NATO’s regime change enthusiasts anymore.

Nearly a decade after mounting a propaganda campaign to support a US-led NATO invasion of the country, the State Department’s special envoy to the conflict, Ambassador James Jeffrey, confirmed in 2020 that the US was no longer seeking Assad’s ouster. Instead, he said, it wanted to see “a dramatic shift in behavior,” evoking Japan’s transformation in the wake of the US dropping a couple of bombs on it during World War II. 

That’s quite the policy shift. But it can be explained in exactly the same way that a guy who lusts after a girl and gets shot down suddenly starts telling people that he was never really into her anyway. The attitude changed because Washington had no choice. It had tried just about everything, and failed.

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FILE PHOTO: Lybia's Leader Muammar Gaddafi attends a meeting with seven hundred Italian women at the Auditorium Parco Della Musica on June 12, 2009 in Rome, Italy.
How NATO undid decades of post-colonial development in mere months
]]> The anti-Syrian propaganda, now virtually non-existent, had for years been relentless. We were told that Assad had simply lost control of the country, and that the US and its allies couldn’t risk having ISIS terrorists running around as a threat and trying to establish a caliphate in Syria because Assad simply wasn’t able to stop them. And whenever he did try, he was conveniently accused of humanitarian offenses. So of course, here comes Uncle Sam to ‘help’ get rid of ISIS, and also Assad – totally without any humanitarian issues, because American bombs aren’t like that.

In the process, the CIA and Pentagon spent billions of dollars training and equipping ‘Syrian rebels’, many of whom bailed out to join other jihadist groups, including ISIS and Al-Qaeda, taking their shiny new weapons with them. 

There’s a glaring parallel here with Ukraine, which risks following a similar trajectory with Western involvement and patronage. Even before the current conflict, the CIA-linked Freedom House and others had questioned the extent to which far-right extremists controlled the country. Major Western media outlets were publishing pieces referencing Ukraine’s neo-Nazi problem. So it looks like the same argument could someday be used on Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky – that he’s lost control of the country to extremists. And just like the West trained extremists in Syria under the guise of helping, they’ve done the exact same thing in Ukraine by training and equipping the Azov neo-Nazi fighters.

So what happened to those ‘Syrian rebels’, anyway? Since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan didn’t want a festering jihadist nest right next door, and knowing exactly who those fighters were ever since a NATO base in Türkiye served as a staging ground for the mission to support them, he ultimately airlifted them en masse (an estimated 18,000 of them) to go fight – and die – in another war that NATO had also kicked off in Libya. So, problem solved. But the move raises a question for Ukraine’s future. What are all the Western-trained neo-Nazis going to do when the dust settles in Ukraine, if Russia doesn’t complete its stated mission of de-Nazification?

Former French intelligence chief Alain Juillet has noted that the terrorist troubles in Syria just happened to arise three weeks after Assad’s selection in 2011 of an Iranian-Iraqi pipeline through Syria, rather than a Saudi-Qatari pipeline. The competing pipeline plans would provide a way for either Iran or Qatar to ship natural gas to Europe from the Iranian-Qatari South Pars/North Dome gas field, thus eliminating the high cost of transporting the gas by tankers. So the impetus for intervention was likely economic, as is typically the case. There’s also little question that the West has always wanted to control Syria as a means of containing Iran. 

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FILE PHOTO: White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
The US has sacrificed a common anti-terror principle to stick it to Putin
]]> Not only did that plan backfire, but spectacularly so. By 2015, then-US President Barack Obama, who at one point weighed conducting airstrikes on the country, was asking Syrian allies Russia and Iran to work with the US to “resolve the conflict.” He stated that “we must recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the pre-war status quo.” The US had gone from guns ablaze regime-change mode, to asking ‘pretty please’ permission of Syrian allies Russia and Iran to help them do it. 

Both Iran and Russia had entered the conflict militarily at the request of Assad’s government to help stabilize the country, with Moscow first entering the scene when fighting got too close for comfort to its warm water base for the Black Sea Fleet in Tartus. So basically, Russia was called in to help clean up the mess that the US and NATO had made of the country. And by December 2018, when I asked Russian President Vladimir Putin at his annual press conference whether then-US President Donald Trump was right about ISIS being defeated in Syria, he agreed

So Trump yanked out the US special forces troops who had been deployed to the country, and declared that America would only keep hanging around where the oil was, in Syria’s eastern oil fields. “Our mission is the enduring defeat of ISIS,” the Pentagon chief said, attempting to reframe Trump’s crass admission. Yeah, right – because it’s not enough that ISIS isn’t really a problem anymore. Uncle Sam has to stick around to make sure that they never come back, ever again. Guess there’s no chance of just heading home and kicking back with a few beers and waiting to see if it’s actually going to be a problem in the future? Nope! Not when so much has been invested in establishing an in-country military footprint that just happens to be right on top of the biggest pile of Syria’s natural resources – the kind that have been the topic of CIA intelligence directorate reports since at least 1986. In December 2023, Syrian Oil Minister Firas Hassan Kaddour evoked the plan to “liberate” the oil fields from US occupation.

Peace in Syria was only possible because of Russia helping to eliminate the troublemakers. Has Zelensky considered what his own future might look like if Russia doesn’t actually succeed in doing the same in Ukraine – and that maybe Russia achieving its goals wouldn’t actually be the worst thing that could happen? The Ukrainian president is already being accused of “consolidating power,” by the State Department-backed media, and has canceled presidential elections. If he doesn’t get a handle on the hoodlums, like the ones in the Ternopol regional council busy giving out awards named after famous Ukrainian Nazis to other famous Ukrainian Nazis, then he’s ripe for the Assad treatment. And if he’s too harsh with them, then he risks being accused, like Assad, of undemocratic heavy-handedness. And at the very least, Ukraine ‘winning’ means that Zelensky is going to have to let his new friends hang out and take what they want for as long as they want to – as the Syria case proves. The West lost in Syria and still won’t go home. Imagine if it had actually been able to have free run of the place. Maybe there’s something worse than a Russian ‘win’ for Ukraine: Permanent occupiers who use friendship as a pretext to stick around and suck the country dry.

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Sun, 31 Mar 2024 20:53:35 +0000 RT
How America’s top spymaster sees the world and why it’s so disappointing /news/595132-us-cia-burns-russia/ The CIA head’s vision for the future of America’s ongoing confrontation with Russia is depressingly shortsighted
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The CIA head’s vision for the future of America’s ongoing confrontation with Russia is depressingly shortsighted

William J. Burns has published a long piece in Foreign Affairs under the title 'Spycraft and Statecraft. Transforming the CIA for an Age of Competition'. This is an essay likely to be read with great attention, maybe even parsed, not only by an American elite audience, but also abroad, in, say, Moscow, Beijing, and New Delhi, for several reasons. Burns is, of course, the head of the CIA as well as an acknowledged heavyweight of US geopolitics – in the state and deep-state versions.

Few publications rival Foreign Affairs’ cachet as a US establishment forum and mouthpiece. While Burns’ peg is a plea to appreciate the importance of human intelligence agents, his agenda is much broader: In effect, what he has released is a set of strategic policy recommendations, embedded in a global tour d’horizon. And, last but not least, Burns is, of course, not the sole author. Even if he should have penned every line himself, this is a programmatic declaration from a powerful faction of the American “siloviki,” the men (and women) wielding the still gargantuan hard power of the US empire.

By the way, whether he has noticed or not, Burns’ intervention cannot but bring to mind another intelligent spy chief loyally serving a declining empire. Yury Andropov, former head of the KGB (and then, for a brief period, the whole Soviet Union) would have agreed with his CIA counterpart on the importance of “human assets,” especially in an age of technological progress, and he would also have appreciated the expansive sweep of Burns’ vision. Indeed, with Burns putting himself so front-and-center, one cannot help but wonder if he is not also, tentatively, preparing the ground for reaching for the presidency one day. After all, in the US, George Bush senior famously went from head of the CIA to head of it all, too.

There is no doubt that this CIA director is a smart and experienced man principally capable of realism, unlike all too many others in the current American elite. Famously, he warned in 2008, when serving as ambassador to Moscow, that “Ukrainian entry into NATO is the brightest of all redlines for the Russian elite (not just Putin).” That makes the glaring flaws in this big-picture survey all the more remarkable.

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Flowers and toys are placed on the roadside in front of the burned-out Crocus City Hall in Moscow Region following a terrorist attack, March 27, 2024.
US trying to cover up ‘something’ related to Moscow terror attack – Kremlin
]]> Burns is, obviously, correct when he observes that the US – and the world as a whole – is facing a historically rare moment of “profound” change in the global order. And – with one exception which we will return to – it would be unproductive, perhaps even a little churlish, to quibble over his ideologically biased terminology. His mislabeling of Russia as “revanchist,” for instance, has a petty ring to it. “Resurgent” would be a more civil as well as more truthful term, capturing the fact that the country is simply returning to its normal international minimum status (for at least the last three hundred years), namely that of a second-to-none great power.

Yet Burns’ agenda is more important than his terminology. While it may be complex, parts of it are as clear as can be: He is eager (perhaps desperate) to prevent Washington from ending its massive aid for Ukraine – a battle he is likely to lose. In the Middle East, he wants to focus Western aggression on Iran. He may get his will there, but that won’t be a winning strategy because, in part thanks to multipolar trend setters, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and BRICS, Iran’s escape from the isolation that the US has long imposed on it is already inevitable.

Regarding China, Burns’ real target is a competing faction of American hawks, namely those who argue that, bluntly put, Washington should write off its losses in Ukraine and concentrate all its firepower on China. Burns wants to persuade his readers that the US can have both its big fight against China and its proxy war against Russia.

He is also engaged in a massive act of CIA boosterism, clearly aiming to increase the clout of the already inordinately powerful state-within-a-state he happens to run himself. And last but not least, the spy-in-chief has unearthed one of the oldest tricks in the subversion and destabilization playbook: Announcing loudly that his CIA is on a recruiting spree in Russia, he seeks to promote a little paranoia in Moscow. Good luck attempting to pull that one on the country that gave us the term “agentura.” Moreover, after the horrific terror attack on Crocus City Hall in Moscow, it is fair to assume that Burns regrets having boasted about the CIA expanding its “work” in Russia. Not a good look, not at all.

What matters more, though, than his verbal sallies and his intriguingly straightforward, even blunt aims, are three astonishingly crude errors: First, Burns insists on reading the emerging outcome of the war in Ukraine as a “failure on many levels,” for Russia, revealing its, as he believes, economic, political, and military weakness. Yet, as the acknowledged American economist James K. Galbraith has recently reiterated, the West’s economic war on Russia has backfired. The Russian economy is now stronger, more resilient, and independent of the West than never before.

As to the military, Burns for instance, gleefully counts the tanks that Russia has lost and fails to note the ones it is building at a rapid rate not matched anywhere inside NATO. In general, he fails to mention just how worried scores of Western experts have come to be, realizing that Moscow is overseeing a massive and effective expansion of military production. A curious oversight for an intelligence professional. He also seems to miss just how desperate Ukraine’s situation has become on the ground.

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FILE PHOTO: White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
The US has sacrificed a common anti-terror principle to stick it to Putin
]]> And politics – really? The man who serves Joe Biden, most likely soon to be replaced by Donald Trump, is spotting lack of popularity and fragility in Moscow, and his key piece of evidence is Prigozhin and his doomed mutiny? This part of Burns’ article is so detached from reality that one wonders if this is still the same person reporting on Russian red lines in 2008. The larger point he cannot grasp is that, historically, Russia has a pattern of starting wars on the wrong foot – to then learn, mobilize, focus, and win.

Burns’ second severe mistake is his argument that, ultimately, only China can pose a serious challenge to the US. This is staggeringly shortsighted for two reasons: First, Russia has just shown that it can defeat the West in a proxy war. Once that victory will be complete, a declining but still important part of the American empire, NATO/EU-Europe will have to deal with the after-effects (no, not Russian invasion, but political backlash, fracturing, and instability). If Burns thinks that blowback in Europe is no serious threat to US interests, one can only envy his nonchalance.

Secondly, his entire premise is perfectly misguided: It makes no sense to divide the Russian and the Chinese potentials analytically because they are now closely linked in reality. It is, among other things, exactly a US attempt to knock out Russia first to then deal with China that has just failed. Instead, their partnership has become more solid.

And error number three is, perhaps, even odder: As mentioned above, Burns’ language is a curious hybrid between an analytical and an intemperate idiom. A sophisticated reader can only wince in vicarious embarrassment at hearing a CIA director complain of others’ “brutish” behavior. What’s worse: the tub-thumping or the stones-and-glasshouse cringe? Mostly, though, this does not matter.

Yet there is one case where these fits of verbal coarseness betray something even worse than rhetorical bravado: Describing Hamas’ 7 October assault as “butchery,” Burns finds nothing but an “intense ground campaign” on Israel’s side. Let’s set aside that this expression is a despicable euphemism, when much of the world rightly sees a genocide taking place in Gaza, with US support. It also bespeaks an astounding failure of the strategic imagination: In the same essay, Burns notes correctly that the weight of the Global South is increasing, and that, in essence, the great powers will have to compete for allegiances that are no longer, as he puts is, “monogamous.” Good luck then putting America’s bizarre come-what-may loyalty to Israel first. A CIA director at least should still be able to distinguish between the national interests of his own country and the demands of Tel Aviv.

Burns’ multipronged strike in the realm of elite public debate leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. It is genuinely disappointing to see so much heavy-handed rhetoric and such basic errors of analysis from one of the less deluded members of the American establishment. It is also puzzling. Burns is not amateurish like Antony Blinken or a fanatic without self-awareness, such as Victoria Nuland. Yet here he is, putting his name to a text that often seems sloppy and transparent in its simple and short-sighted motivations. Has the US establishment decayed so badly that even its best and brightest now come across as sadly unimpressive?

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Sat, 30 Mar 2024 21:11:01 +0000 RT
British generosity: The UK is loaning back African gold it stole. Is it the best it can do? /africa/595161-uk-ashanti-gold-crown-jewels/ How did crown jewels from Ghana end up in London, and is there any way to bring them home for good?
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How did crown jewels from Ghana end up in London, and is there any way to bring them back home?

At the end of January, the British Museum and Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum announced that more than 30 Asante ‘crown jewels’, gold artifacts that once belonged to the royals of Asante (or Ashanti) in modern-day Ghana, would be brought to the Ghanaian city of Kumasi in April.

This, however, is only a loan deal between the UK museums and the Ghanaian Manhyia Palace Museum. British laws ban museums from permanently returning contested artifacts to their original owners, which means that despite the announced ‘repatriation’, the golden items, illegally extracted some 150 years ago, will only be temporarily placed in Ghana. Will they ever be returned for good?

Historical artifacts aptly depict the culture of a people. Given the waning influence of African traditional institutions, largely eroded by Westernization and cultural importation, societal narratives find resonance when historical events and souvenirs are relied upon. When discussing the legacy of culture, tracing back to a time of overpowering community influence on legal, religious, and nuptial relationships, these artifacts lend credence to the veracity of handed-down stories.

Despite fluctuations in the gold trade over the years, Africa’s role as a significant player in the gold market is firmly established. In 2022, a cohort consisting of Switzerland, the UK, US, Hong Kong, and the United Arab Emirates accounted for about 60.6% of global gold sales. However, Africa still holds over 40% of the world’s gold reserves. This reality underscores the enduring importance of the continent in the gold industry.

Central to this narrative is the story of the Ashanti Gold. The Ashanti region, formerly known as Asante, holds historical significance for its involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade during the 19th century. Despite this dark past, it was also renowned for its exquisite gold and brass craftsmanship, as well as its production of Kente, a brightly colored woven cloth. These contributions to the global trade market earned the region, which later became part of Ghana, the moniker ‘Gold Coast’.

It was an easily targeted spot for slave traders and gold grabbers who covertly masqueraded as traders. Therefore, it features prominently in the African historical narrative of capital and human exploitation by Europeans. Dr. Judith Spicksley, a historian at the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation (WISE) at the University of Hull, in her seminal article ‘Pawns on the Gold Coast’, describes how early in the trade relationship, Europeans took gold pawns as security for debt. However, as unorthodox rules for slave operations weakened and the lust for more gold overshadowed the emergent supply, Europeans turned increasingly toward the use of human pawns. This is no different from other exploitative processes that led to the loss of precious resources on the continent.

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RT
Africa’s secret weapon: Extracting this resource will help present the continent’s true potential to the world
]]> Official evidence of the looting of Ashanti Gold began during the Anglo-Asante War of 1874, when Britain’s military invasion of the Kumasi empire, sitting on the largest gold reserves in the region, inflicted much damage. Armed with explosives and superior firearms, the British military went on a sordid quest for Ashanti’s Gold Royal regalia – like the Mponponsuo sword created 300 years ago by the Kingdom’s Okomfo (spiritual leader) Anokye, which led the list of looted items in 1874. Under the pretext of ending slavery, British military incursions and lopsided trade treaties enforced with superior military might on African leaders occurred. Leaders who resisted were exiled, like the Asantehene Agyeman Prempeh, who was exiled to Seychelles in 1874.

The British established trading ports, ensuring Britain declared itself a legitimate ruler on foreign soil. The rulers of several African kingdoms acted as middlemen in these trades, often against their will, but had to consent for self-preservation. The spoils from these conquered kingdoms paid for these wars. In Asante, the Asantahene, ruler of the Ashanti people, signed the harsh Treaty of Fomena in July 1874 to end the war. A standout clause in the treaty between Queen Victoria and Kofi Karikari, King of Ashanti, was the payment of 50,000 ounces (over 1,400kg) of approved gold as indemnity for the expenses caused to the Queen of England by the war. Britain incurred costs from these wars at the expense of its opponents, destroying Africa’s biggest empires.

1874 wasn’t the only instance of looting. In 1896, ceremonial swords, cups, and other vital items measuring a palace’s royalty were stolen. In his 2020 book ‘The Brutish Museums: The Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence and Cultural Restitution’, Dan Hicks, a British archaeologist, anthropologist, and professor at the University of Oxford, repudiates the presence of these artifacts in Western museums, which perpetuates a narrative of colonial superiority and cultural dominance while erasing the histories and voices of the communities from which they were stolen.

Although discussions about the restitution of African artifacts predate independence in most African countries, they intensified in the latter half of the 20th century. Archaeologist and Nigeria’s head of the Federal Department of Antiquities, Ekpo Eyo, sent circulars to several European embassies in 1972 about the repatriation of the Benin Bronzes (thousands of 14th- to 16th-century plaques and sculptures taken by the British from the African Kingdom of Benin in the late 19th century) and spurred official pronouncements like the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. This convention offers a shared framework among state parties regarding actions required to prohibit and prevent cultural property import, export, and transfer.

The convention emphasizes that the return and restitution of these cultural properties are the linchpin of the convention, which mandates safeguarding the identity of peoples and promoting peaceful societies to strengthen the spirit of solidarity and stifle the expansionary rise of black-market trades across the continent.

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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
‘A violation of human rights’: Will the UK government get away with deporting asylum seekers to Africa?
]]> After 150 years, the Ashanti Gold artifacts are held in various museums around the world, including major museums in Europe and North America. The British Museum in London holds 32 of the 39 historical artifacts, while seven treasures are at the Fowler Museum of the University of California in Los Angeles. Other minor artifacts, which receive little attention, are held in museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Musee du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris, and other smaller regional museums or private collections.

In restitution efforts for the Ashanti Gold artifacts, complex legal and logistical hurdles are at play. Firstly, there has to be established provenance through examining documentation, archives, and historical records, owing to the difficulty arising from the long years of history and multiple transfers. Variations in international laws governing the repatriation of cultural property also add to the myriad of challenges. Transporting the artifacts from current holders to their destination and settling associated legal disputes or financial concerns provides further complication. Collaboration among international partners toward this is essential for successfully repatriating these artifacts.

In conclusion, this extensive discussion about restitution aims to deepen existing Euro-African diplomatic relationships. The emphasis on restitution primarily lies in its utility as a building block for reconciliation; it aims to rectify pre-colonial injustices, foster international dialogue, and advance the growing bilateral trade between countries on both continents. The Ghana restitution experience will provide the policy framework and lead the roundtable engagement for restitution claims from other countries in Africa. As noted earlier, this action will not only demonstrate contrition but also make the most declarative statement from the West and other collaborators regarding their penitence during this ruinous expedition in colonial Africa.

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Sat, 30 Mar 2024 15:45:39 +0000 RT
Why Americans have little to smile about these days /news/595133-us-happiness-very-low/ Rising cost of living, disappointment with political leaders, and crushing loneliness are souring moods in the Land of the Free
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Rising cost of living, disappointment with political leaders, and crushing loneliness are souring moods in the Land of the Free

From a sputtering economy and high inflation to a lack of trust in political leadership, Americans are expressing displeasure with many facets of their daily lives.

In the annual World Happiness Report, the United States plunged eight places to 23rd, a historic low for the land famous for its pearly white smiles. It’s the first time since the report launched back in 2012 that the US did not feature among the world’s 20 happiest countries.

So what’s dragging Americans down? Perhaps the best place to start is with the economy, which has left many people in the dust as the rich just keep getting richer. Consumer prices for basic grocery items remain above what they were in January 2021, when President Joe Biden assumed office. Prices for chicken (+26%), bread (+30%), sugar (+44%), and butter (+27%) are enough to trigger many shoppers, while a simple trip to a restaurant has become a rare luxury for many financially strapped consumers. Meanwhile, rent costs have surged by 20% over the same period.

Amid this sticker shock at the checkout line, Americans have also expressed a heavy amount of skepticism with the political system. A comprehensive Pew Research Center survey reveals high levels of dissatisfaction with the three branches of government, the Democratic and Republican parties, as well as the candidates for office.

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FILE PHOTO.
Global hunger isn’t the worst food-related threat to humanity
]]> Among the findings, just 4% of US adults say the political system is working extremely or very well; another 23% report it is working somewhat well. About six in ten (63%) express not too much or no confidence at all in the future of the US political system.

A growing proportion of Americans are expressing contempt for both political parties. Nearly three in ten (28%) express unfavorable opinions of both parties, the highest share in three decades of polling. And a comparable share of respondents (25%) do not feel well-represented by either party.

While trust in government has remained near historic lows for much of the last two decades, today it stands among the lowest levels dating back nearly seven decades. And now, three years after the January 6 protests at the Capitol Building, more Americans believe their country is heading for a political smash-up.

According to a CBS/YouGov poll released in January, 49% of respondents expect some sort of violence in future political contests, like the upcoming showdown between Donald Trump and Joe Biden on November 4. Meanwhile, a full 70% agreed with the statement that American democracy is ‘threatened’.

Not since the Civil War period have the American people witnessed such stark political divisions, and it seems to be just a matter of time before the Blue and Gray battle fatigues are back in style, albeit over entirely different issues.

The Democrats and Republicans are trapped inside of their own iron-clad echo chambers, where they are prevented from hearing their political opponents just across the aisle. This lack of a national dialogue, worsened by an overtly pro-liberal media, is what spawned the so-called insurrection on January 6, and could easily trigger a new bout of violence sometime down the road.

Feelings of loneliness is another thing dragging Americans down. In May 2023, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called loneliness a “public health epidemic.” The latest Healthy Minds Monthly Poll from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) reveals that, early in 2024, 30% of adults said they have “experienced feelings of loneliness at least once a week over the past year, while 10% say they are lonely every day.”

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RT
Elites vs. deplorables: The US is now a two-tier nation
]]> Somewhat surprisingly, younger people were more likely to experience these feelings, with 30% of Americans aged 18-34 reporting they are “lonely every day or several times a week, and single adults are nearly twice as likely as married adults to say they have been lonely on a weekly basis over the past year (39% vs. 22%).”

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately one in ten Americans aged 12 and over takes antidepressant medication. More than 60% of Americans taking antidepressant medication have taken it for two years or longer, with 14% having taken the medication for ten years or more.

So what is it that has put the American people in a grand funk? Needless to say, runaway inflation has prompted a deep distrust of politicians and corporations, which, by the look of things, are only in business to fleece the powerless consumers.

This alienation from the powers-that-be, together with feelings of loneliness, triggered by a disconnected society that increasingly meets only online, has prompted a mental health emergency.

How can the American people begin to fix their broken society? It seems that the only answer is to begin breaking down the walls that separate the various segments of society so that a national conversation can truly begin.

So where are the world’s happiest places to live? According to the World Happiness Report, the majority of the top ten happiest places are primarily northern countries that just happen to have the least amount of sunshine: Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Australia.

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Fri, 29 Mar 2024 21:12:02 +0000 RT
M.K. Bhadrakumar: Moscow massacre proves the West has created a Frankenstein monster on its own doorstep /india/595083-crocus-hall-attack-ukraines-survival/ While the terrorist attack rallied world sympathy for Russia, the main concern of the Biden administration is now to sequester Zelensky
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The Crocus Hall terrorist attack rallied world sympathy massively for Russia, while Biden‘s prime concern is to sequester Zelensky so that all is not lost

With hindsight, it was not a coincidence that the retirement of US Acting Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was announced on March 5 so soon after her return to Washington from Kiev, where after consultations with top Ukrainian security officials she announced dramatically“I leave Kyiv… more confident that, as Ukraine strengthens its defenses, Mr. [Vladimir] Putin is going to get some nice surprises on the battlefield and that Ukraine will make some very strong success.” 

Nuland did not divulge what those “nice surprises” might be, but her superiors in DC were certain to have been curious to know since they know her ingenuity is limitless. At any rate, we now know that within hours of the superhawk’s premature retirement on March 5, instructions went out from Washington to the American embassy in Moscow to issue an advisory that “extremists have imminent plans to target large gatherings in Moscow, to include concerts” and warning US citizens to “avoid large gatherings.” 

The wording of the March 7 advisory suggests that Washington was in possession of some information credible enough in terms of its source. Meanwhile, the UK embassy in Moscow also issued a similar advisory cautioning British citizens against visiting shopping centers.  However, the State Department scrambled to issue a statement within two hours of the horrific attack on the mall in Moscow’s Crocus City Hall on March 22, declaring that Ukraine was not responsible.   

Yet, the very next day, President Putin stated in his address to the nation that what happened was “a premeditated and organized mass murder of peaceful, defenseless people,” harking back to the Nazis – “to stage a demonstrative execution, a bloody act of intimidation.” Importantly, Putin disclosed that the perpetrators “attempted to escape and were heading towards Ukraine, where, according to preliminary information, a window was prepared for them on the Ukrainian side to cross the state border.” 

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Flowers and toys are seen left by the burnt-out Crocus City Hall concert venue in Krasnogorsk, outside Moscow, on March 25, 2024.
Weapon of mass distraction: Is the West scapegoating Islamic State over Moscow attack?
]]> Plainly put, the perpetrators’ Ukrainian mentors or handlers gave them instructions to exit Russian territory after their mission through a particular route. What remains in the realm of the ‘known unknown’ pertains to the chain of command. 

Precisely, does the trail end with Kirill Budanov, the chief of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine (GUR) since August 2020, who had previously served as deputy director of the country’s Foreign Intelligence Service and specialized in covert operations inside Russia? 

Or – the big question is – does it go all the way to President Vladimir Zelensky, considering the far-reaching, explosive nature of the operation? This is the first thing. 

Secondly, the perpetrators did not behave like vintage ISIS killers on suicide missions nor were they answering the call of ‘jihad’. They were ethnic Tajiks who admitted that they were lured by money. 

Expert opinion based on the published videos is also that their movements inside the mall during the operation did not show battle skills characteristic of well-trained fighters, and they had ‘poor muzzle discipline’, which means they had only minimal rifle training. Simply put, the storyline that this was an ISIS attack won’t fly. It is intended as a red herring to confuse dumb-witted folks abroad. 

That said, the US military has been ‘retooling’ erstwhile ISIS fighters who are largely unemployed nowadays after the deadly Russian-Iranian offensive in Syria to crush them. Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) went on record as recently as February 13, saying that the US is recruiting the erstwhile jihadist fighters to carry out terrorist attacks on the territory of Russia and CIS countries.

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FILE PHOTO: White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
The US has sacrificed a common anti-terror principle to stick it to Putin
]]> According to the SVR statement, “Sixty such terrorists with combat experience in the Middle East were selected this year in January… they are undergoing a fast-track training course at the US base in Syria’s Al-Tanf, where they are being taught how to make and use improvised explosive devices, as well as subversive methods. Particular emphasis is paid to planning attacks on heavily guarded facilities, including foreign diplomatic missions… In the near future, there are plans to deploy militants in small groups to the territory of Russia and the CIS countries.”

The SVR noted that “special attention was paid to the involvement of natives of the Russian North Caucasus and Central Asia.” 

This is not to say that the four perpetrators set out from Al-Tanf like the four knights in TS Eliot’s play ‘Murder in the Cathedral’. As a matter of fact, the men could have been picked up from anywhere. 

Significantly, US President Joe Biden who is not lost for words to vilify Russia on any account — even using abusive epithets — has in this case chosen to keep mum and would rather wait for the findings of the Russian investigators. The Americans appear to be nervous about what the Russian side already knows about their involvement in the affair. Not a single leader in the non-western world parroted the US narrative about the ISIS role.

The high probability is that US intelligence had gotten wind of something brewing in Budanov’s kitchen after Nuland’s visit. Evidently, the prime concern of the Biden Administration is to sequester Zelensky so that all is not lost downstream.

Indeed, the Crocus City Hall attack rallied world sympathy massively for Russia. It is a huge challenge of statecraft for Putin now to garner this outpouring of world sympathy and yet act decisively to completely uproot the dark forces entrenched next-door, which may involve shaking up the very foundations of the house that Washington built in Kiev after the 2014 coup. Eliot’s immortal lines come to mind: ‘What peace can be found / To grow between the hammer and the anvil?’

Meanwhile, it is going to be an even bigger challenge for Biden to figure out the pathway for future dalliance with the Frankenstein he created at the doorstep of what used to be a well-groomed garden that was Europe. 

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Fri, 29 Mar 2024 14:04:06 +0000 RT
Why the US decided to give peace in Gaza a chance /news/595006-us-give-peace-gaza/ Washington was in a difficult position at the UN Security Council over its traditional ally
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Washington was in a difficult position at the UN Security Council over its traditional ally

In a historic move on Monday, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) achieved a breakthrough by passing a binding resolution aimed at securing a “lasting, sustainable ceasefire” in Gaza and advocating the release of all hostages held by Hamas since the October attacks on Israel last year. 

This momentous step forward in international diplomacy signals a potential turning point in the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict, offering a glimmer of hope for peace in a region long plagued by violence and discord.

The decision by the UNSC comes after several failed attempts to broker a ceasefire. It underscores the growing global consensus on the urgent need to address the root causes of the conflict and pave the way for a peaceful settlement. The resolution, which was passed with overwhelming support from the international community, reflects a shared commitment to upholding international law and promoting stability in the region.

The US, traditionally a staunch ally of Israel, notably abstained from vetoing the resolution this time, signaling a shift in its approach and a willingness to engage constructively in multilateral efforts to end the violence – though it has said that it does not represent a change in policy. This decision reflects a recognition of the need for a balanced approach that takes into account the legitimate concerns and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.

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Palestinian children collect food at a donation point provided by a charity group in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, on November 30, 2023
The hunger killing Gaza’s children has a clear cause that few are willing to name out loud
]]> With the UNSC resolution now enshrined as international law, all UN member states are bound by its provisions, setting a clear mandate for concerted action to implement its objectives. This presents a unique opportunity for diplomatic initiatives and coordinated efforts to de-escalate tensions, rebuild trust, and create the conditions necessary for lasting peace and stability in the region.

However, despite the optimism surrounding the UNSC resolution, significant challenges remain on the path to peace. The Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has vowed to carry out operations in Rafah, a densely populated area where millions of displaced Palestinians now reside. This escalation threatens to further exacerbate tensions and undermine efforts to achieve a ceasefire and pave the way for meaningful negotiations.

Moreover, Israel’s position as a key strategic ally of the United States poses a dilemma for Washington, which has long maintained unwavering support for Israel’s security and sovereignty. While the US remains committed to its alliance with Israel, the changing geopolitical landscape and evolving strategic priorities have complicated its stance on the conflict. 

The Biden administration faces pressure from both domestic and international stakeholders to balance its support for Israel with a commitment to upholding international law and promoting peace in the Middle East. Should the US allow Israel to destroy the last remaining Palestinian holdout in Gaza, Biden will almost certainly lose the 2024 presidential election to Donald Trump. Additionally, relations with Muslim countries would be shattered beyond repair, as well as endangering US military personnel in the region.

The prospect of a full-scale war looms large, with Israel’s military capabilities and the broader implications of its actions raising concerns about the potential for a regional conflict. The possibility of an invasion by neighboring Arab states adds another layer of complexity to an already volatile situation, highlighting the need for concerted diplomatic efforts to prevent further escalation and find a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

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The new Workers Party MP for Rochdale, George Galloway, outside his campaign HQ in Rochdale, England, March 1, 2024.
George Galloway is not a threat to democracy – only to the elite hypocrites running the UK
]]> Further, Israel’s nuclear ambiguity and so-called Samson Option, its rumored unofficial retaliatory policy, raise serious questions about whether spillover in the conflict, prompted by the state’s potential ground operation in Rafah, could trigger a international thermonuclear war. The situation in the Middle East thus represents a major threat to international security, underscoring why major countries like Russia, China, and Brazil have been adamant about a ceasefire.

Despite these challenges, there are reasons for cautious optimism. The UNSC resolution represents a significant step forward in international efforts to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and provides a framework for meaningful dialogue and engagement. By building on this momentum and redoubling efforts to promote reconciliation and mutual understanding, there is hope for a brighter future for the people of Gaza and the wider Middle East.

While the road to peace remains long and arduous, the UNSC resolution offers a ray of hope in an otherwise bleak landscape. By seizing this opportunity and working together in good faith, the international community can help pave the way for a just and lasting peace in the region. Now is the time for bold leadership, unwavering commitment, and a shared vision of a future defined by cooperation, coexistence, and prosperity for all.

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Wed, 27 Mar 2024 22:07:29 +0000 RT
The US has sacrificed a common anti-terror principle to stick it to Putin /news/594949-west-reactions-crocus-terrorism/ Western officials were too quick to attribute blame for the Moscow attack in ways agreeable to their political goals
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Western officials were too quick to attribute blame for the Moscow attack in ways agreeable to their political goals

In the wake of the terrorist attack that killed over 140 people in Moscow, the White House is sure about a lot of things – that it had nothing to do with Ukraine, and that the fact that Washington's intelligence-based prediction came to fruition is proof-positive that American counterterrorism efforts are working. Excuse me?

What just transpired in Moscow strikes me as the kind of thing that suggests it’s not actually working all that well, considering a bunch of people were killed. If the US has a long-standing policy of warning even countries that it’s at odds with – like Iran and Russia – of terrorist chatter that comes to its attention, like Russia has also done for the US in similar situations (the Boston Marathon bombing warning, perpetrated by Chechens, comes to mind), then frankly, it did a pretty poor job. 

Granted, the US Embassy issued a statement warning of a non-specific attack in Moscow two weeks before one actually occurred. And it coincided with Russia liquidating an ISIS-K cell consisting of two Kazakhs, claiming that they were targeting a synagogue southwest of Moscow. Nothing in the warning provided a description of suspects to the general public, and after the cell roll-up, it seemed like the case was closed, with no further warnings or clarifications from those in Washington who claimed to have the inside scoop. 

American and Western counterterrorism efforts are working so well that ISIS-K – an offshoot of the ISIS group in Syria to which some Western-backed ‘Syrian rebels’ defected with CIA and Pentagon training and weapons – happened to spring up in Afghanistan in 2014, under the watchful eye of the US counterterrorism operation. 

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Flowers and toys are seen left by the burnt-out Crocus City Hall concert venue in Krasnogorsk, outside Moscow, on March 25, 2024.
Weapon of mass distraction: Is the West scapegoating Islamic State over Moscow attack?
]]> Then the West became so caught up in its stick-measuring contest with Russia in Ukraine that it trained up a bunch of neo-Nazi mercenary fighters who are now integrated into the Ukrainian army, presided over by the likes of military intelligence chief and guerrilla warfare aficionado Kirill Budanov. Add to the West’s complicity in the recruitment of foreign fighters from all over the world to serve in the ‘International Legion for the Defense of Ukraine’ – including, apparently, fighters from Tajikistan, like the Moscow terrorists, if an unconfirmed online recruitment post by the Ukrainian Embassy in Tajikistan is any indication. In light of that alone, perhaps it’s time for Moscow to cancel its visa-free regime with Tajikistan and other Central Asian countries?

Looks like the US has done everything in Ukraine to sacrifice the fight against terrorism in order to stick it to Putin – who’s been America’s partner in fighting terrorists since he and former US President George W. Bush committed to cooperation against global terrorism in a joint statement after the September 11, 2001, attacks on American soil. French President Emmanuel Macron even said back in 2019 in an interview with The Economist that NATO was brain-dead and should pivot from its Russia obsession to a counterterrorism focus – which just happens to be something on which the West has successfully cooperated with Russia in the past. Although the latest example of ‘cooperation’ mostly involved the US going into Syria on the pretext of fighting ISIS, then spending much of its time in a failed attempt to oust President Bashar Assad by training and equipping jihadists from a NATO staging base in Türkiye. When all the trainees dined and dashed on the CIA and Pentagon’s tab to the tune of billions, it was Russia (with an intelligence assist from Iran) that handled the mop-up at the Syrian government’s request, eliciting the wrath of ISIS in the process. But ISIS in Syria failed in its effort to establish a caliphate and hasn’t really been a problem there for years. 

Unconfirmed reports and online videos are now emerging of the Moscow attack suspects allegedly training in NATO member state Türkiye for two months, and dozens of suspects recently being detained by the Turkish authorities in Istanbul. If confirmed to be true, it would not be unlike the Western-backed ‘Syrian rebel’ jihadists who trained on NATO’s Incirlik Air Base in Türkiye and were subsequently released into Syria. This is the same base that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan closed in the wake of a failed coup against him in 2016, and in which he implicated Washington. It looks like terrorists of all kinds now have another playground to choose from: Ukraine. 

White House spokesman John Kirby made a point of underscoring that Ukraine absolutely was not involved, as did his colleague, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. “This was a terrorist attack that was conducted by ISIS. Mr. Putin understands that. He knows that very well. And look, there is absolutely no evidence that the government of Ukraine had anything to do with this attack,” Jean-Pierre said. That’s interesting wording coming from the same country whose officials told the New York Times that the Nord Stream pipeline from Russia to Europe was blown up by “pro-Ukrainian groups.” 

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Russian President Vladimir Putin lights a candle to commemorate victims of a terrorist attack on the Crocus City Hall concert venue on the day of national mourning, in Russia.
Dmitry Trenin: The American explanation for the Moscow terror attack doesn’t add up
]]> The language used by both the White House in the Moscow attack case and unnamed American officials commenting on the Nord Stream sabotage to the NYT is careful to absolve the Ukrainian state itself. It gives the impression that Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky can’t be blamed for anything, although the opposite was argued by the West in an effort to oust Assad from power in Syria by saying that he had lost control of the country and turned it into a terrorist cesspool.

So in light of the Moscow attack perps making a run for the Ukrainian border where they were apprehended, about 400km from Moscow, the US is a bit too quick to absolve itself of any responsibility for turning Ukraine into a giant anti-Russian training camp for guerrilla wannabes run by fans of asymmetric warfare, and loading it up with training and weapons. It’s also a bit too keen to preemptively clear Ukraine of any responsibility whatsoever. 

French President Emmanuel Macron put the blame entirely on ISIS. Just so everyone got the message in France, the government hiked up the terrorism alert to maximum level. No one here really knows what that means because the terror alert has been in place nonstop for the better part of two decades now, to the point where the bright red on many of the terror alert signs in the front windows of public buildings has faded to bubblegum pink. 

Maybe if the French and their US and Western allies hadn’t been so busy destabilizing countries and turning them into terrorist Disneylands for regime change purposes, then maybe they could actually get a handle on the issue. Then they wouldn’t have to whine, like Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis did recently on Twitter: “Let’s not lose focus.” Because apparently, jihadism is just a minor speed bump on the regime change highway.

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Wed, 27 Mar 2024 17:10:12 +0000 RT
Weapon of mass distraction: Is the West scapegoating Islamic State over Moscow attack? /india/594899-russias-response-to-moscow-attack/ That ISIS has claimed responsibility for Crocus City Hall massacre doesn’t close matters – answers should be looked for elsewhere
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
ISIS claiming responsibility for the massacre doesn’t end matters, while Washington and Kiev’s reactions raise even more doubts

It is baffling why the powers that be, instead of trying to prevent the conflict in Ukraine from going out of control, seem actually bent on intensifying it. The horrific terror attack in Moscow at the Crocus City Hall that has resulted in 139 dead and 182 wounded has added fuel to the fire. Russia is bound to react to this grave provocation. 

The US took military action against Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on its soil, even though the terrorists were not Afghan. In 2003, President Bush attacked Iraq on the grounds that it had terrorist ties, which was not the case. Russia would have these precedents in mind while considering its response to the terrible terror attack it has suffered.

President Putin has stated several times in the past, and once again in his recent interview with Tucker Carlson, that the CIA was involved in the Islamic insurgency in the Caucasus. As far back as 2015, he said in an interview with Rossiya-1 television channel host Vladimir Solovyov for a documentary film ‘President,’ commenting on The Second Chechen War, that the West was trying to tear Russia apart by supporting terrorists, and that North Caucasus elements were in direct contact with representatives of US intelligence in Azerbaijan.

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A view shows the Crocus City Hall concert venue following a shooting incident and massive fire, outside Moscow, Russia.
‘Radical Islamists’ carried out Moscow terror attack –?Putin
]]> When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the US, along with Saudi Arabia, mobilised Islamic extremists to launch a jihad from Pakistani soil against Soviet forces. Central Asia, with its Muslim population, was considered the soft underbelly of the Soviet Union and the strategy was to de-stabilise it by provoking a religious conflict in the country. While Central Asian countries are today independent, they can still be used as springboards to strike at Russia. 

Moscow is watchful about this possibility. Russia has a large Muslim population and preserving religious harmony in the country would be crucial for internal stability.

President Putin in his address to the nation after the terror attack has pointed a finger at Ukraine. The terrorists, he said, were heading towards the Ukrainian border and there were arrangements to take them across it. 

In his second address on Monday night, he went a step further, saying the attack may be only a link in a whole series of attempts by those who have been fighting Russia since 2014, “using the neo-Nazi Kiev regime as their hand.” This is a grave charge, with very serious implications. 

]]> READ MORE: Ukrainian bar mocks deadly Moscow concert hall attack

]]> The US is trying to deflect attention away from any Ukrainian involvement. Immediately after the terrorist mayhem in Moscow, the White House spokesperson stated that Ukraine was not involved. This is unusual. Even before any investigation has taken place the US seems to have reached a conclusion about Ukraine’s non-involvement. For the spokesperson to affirm this so categorically would suggest that the US agencies would be aware of who is involved. 

The US, and the UK, had in early March warned their citizens in Russia to avoid mass gatherings, concerts etc. Very often countries do issue such advisories as a precaution because they have got a whiff of some terrorist attack being planned. But, for the White House spokesperson to immediately after the attack in Moscow rule out Ukrainian involvement raises some questions. It is not clear why Ukrainian extremist elements intending to target Moscow would share their plans with the US.

On the issue of terrorism there is consensus in so many forums, be it the UN, the G7, the G20, BRICS and SCO, on collective action by the international community to combat terrorism. It is repeated in many multilateral documents that no cause justifies a recourse to terrorism. 

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A woman lights a candle at a makeshift memorial near the Crocus City Hall in memory of the victims of a terrorist attack on the concert venue near Moscow on March 22, Russia.
‘The Moscow terror attack was an inside job!’ The strange and twisted world of the West’s political and media Russia haters
]]> In this light, whatever the current differences between the US and Russia, if the US had hard information about the planned terrorist attack in Moscow one could argue that they should have alerted Moscow more precisely. More so to stave off the real possibility of Russia holding Ukraine responsible for this act. The Russians have long accused Ukrainian nationalists of terrorising the Russian ethnic civilian population in Donbass and also cite the case of pro-Russians set on fire in a building in Odessa by Ukrainian nationalists in the early days of the conflict, in May 2014.

More recently, Moscow has accused Kiev of numerous terrorist attacks, including two bombings of the Crimean Bridge, in which civilians were killed, as well as the targeted assassinations of Russian public figures, including journalist Darya Dugina, the daughter of prominent Russian philosopher Aleksandr Dugin in August 202, and military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky. Last year, the Washington Post reported that Ukrainian security agencies “have carried out dozens of assassinations against Russian officials in occupied territories, alleged Ukrainian collaborators, military officers behind the front lines and prominent war supporters deep inside Russia.” 

Many are questioning the narrative of the West, led by the US, that ISIS is responsible for the Moscow attack. In their view the political intention is to deflect attention away from any Ukrainian complicity because such a massive attack against innocent civilians could negatively affect world opinion, especially in the Global South, on Ukraine as a victim of “unprovoked” Russian aggression. 

No doubt Russia has acted against Islamic State in Syria and remnants of ISIS could have planned this attack. However, its timing raises some doubts. It could have been planned just before the presidential elections in order to seriously disturb them. But then, it could have been reasoned that in that case the public would line up more solidly behind Putin. Committing this monstrosity after the presidential election would, however, “spoil Putin’s party,” as it were. And so the choice was made.

It is widely believed that the West has used Islamic extremists in Syria to fight the Assad government. President Putin, while targeting ISIS in Syria, has voiced concern that these elements could present a potential terrorist threat to Russia, with Russia’s experience of the conflict in the Northern Caucusus in mind, when the sympathy of the West lay with the insurgents.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin lights a candle to commemorate victims of a terrorist attack on the Crocus City Hall concert venue on the day of national mourning, in Russia.
Dmitry Trenin: The American explanation for the Moscow terror attack doesn’t add up
]]> It would not be difficult for intelligence agencies to manipulate Islamic extremists from behind the scenes, organise funds and arms for them, and even have them claim responsibility. This would be standard practice to ensure deniability. The fact that ISIS has claimed responsibility for the Crocus City Hall attack does not definitively close the matter. 

If it was ISIS that was behind this monstrous act of terror, the four suspects arrested and interrogated do not fit into the profile of ideologically committed Islamic extremists. They do not come across as persons ready for martyrdom for a cause they deeply believe in. Rather, they come across as small-time mercenaries, ready to do a job, however heinous, for some money.

The narrative propagated by some in the West, and in Ukraine in particular, that this is a false-flag operation carried out by Russian agencies in order to create grounds for more mobilisation of troops and an all-out assault on Ukraine, is going too far. 

Russia does not need the excuse of a major terror attack to step up its operations against Ukraine. With President Macron ready to send French troops into Ukraine – 2,000 soldiers to begin with, according to the Russian intelligence chief Naryshkin – and General Pierre Schill of France expressing French readiness to show “strength” in an Op-Ed in Le Monde, the Baltic states egging for NATO intervention in Ukraine, the move to supply F16s to Ukraine, the clear warning by Russia that French/NATO troops would be legitimate targets, are enough reasons for a worsening military conflict in Ukraine.

Ukraine could have officially distanced itself from the Moscow attack in sober language. Instead, President Zelensky has abusively attacked Putin and Russia. It does not help Ukraine’s case. 

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Tue, 26 Mar 2024 11:06:59 +0000 RT
‘The Moscow terror attack was an inside job!’ The strange and twisted world of the West’s political and media Russia haters /russia/594845-russia-haters-crocus-response/ Widespread failures to display normal responses to atrocity in Moscow betrays how narrow-minded and mean Russophobia has made some in West
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Many of the responses to the tragedy betray both the narrow-mindedness and meanness of some of the world’s most demented Russophobes

Only a few days ago, one of the worst terrorist attacks in recent history occurred in Russia. The perpetrators stormed concert venue Crocus City Hall on the outskirts of Moscow, systematically and in cold blood massacring as many victims as they could, then starting a devastating fire that destroyed much of the adjacent shopping mall.

Numbers cannot convey the depravity of the attackers or the suffering of the victims – and of their families and friends – but they can convey some of the scale of this horror: As of March 25, 137 were reported as killed and over 180 as injured. As always in such cases, many more will have to struggle with severe psychological trauma.

Like numbers, comparison is inadequate yet necessary to try to grasp the significance of this event. The 2015 Paris attacks that centered on a concert at the Bataclan venue, for instance, were similar in scope: They left at least 130 victims dead and more than 350 injured. The French government responded with an immediate countrywide state of emergency, massive security sweeps, and – as Encyclopedia Britannica sums it up – a dramatic escalation of French military intervention in the Syrian Civil War as well as an equally dramatic increase in domestic security spending.

There was also, of course, a great wave of international solidarity not only with the victims of the attack but, as was proper, with France as a nation. No Western or, for that matter, Russian commenters who care about their reputations would have dared make perverse claims about French authorities somehow being behind this horrific attack and prepared to sacrifice their own people and to, in effect, betray their country.

Yet, things have turned out differently after the Crocus City Hall massacre in Moscow. While the Russian security services and authorities got to work in a manner fundamentally similar to the French response in 2015 (capturing 11 suspects, four of them “immediate” shooters who’d mass-murdered innocents at a concert, on the run towards the Ukrainian border), a disturbingly large number of Western politicians and media figures responded with a combination of glee, generally transparently concealed but at times stunningly open, with hypocritical equivocating, and, last but not least, with insane conspiracy theories. In other words, with anything but genuine compassion and respect.

A German X user (here anonymized) with over 30,000 followers delivered an example of pure sadistic pleasure by posting a picture of the Crocus mall in flames, with the comment “May it burn, may all of Moscow burn.” Perhaps realizing he sounded as if tweeting from the Nazi Reich Chancellery, the over-excited user subsequently deleted this message. But without displaying any signs of remorse.

Some X user, even if with a substantial number of followers indicating a concerning popularity, may not strike you as very representative. But consider the case of Michael Roth, an extremely vocal member of the German parliament (for Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s SPD) and chair of its Foreign Policy Committee. He showed enough smarts to abide by minimum decorum, just enough to admit that Russia had suffered a “cruel act of terror” that cannot be justified.

But his real message was something else, namely that with Russia such a minimal concession to common decency (insincere as it may be) can and must immediately be accompanied by some Russophobic ranting: Roth carefully hedged that his “compassion” was (clearly: only) for “the innocent victims,” which translates into withholding any acknowledgement of the fact that – as with Bataclan in France – the Crocus attack is also an attack on a whole country and nation. He then proceeded to slander Russia as a “terror state,” caricaturing its war in Ukraine as a campaign of terror. (Roth, by the way, is a great fan of Israel, who has loyally stuck with Tel Aviv through its Gaza genocide with true Germanic “Nibelungentreue.” Go figure…).

Meanwhile, Roderich Kiesewetter, a militaristic foreign-policy hardliner from the CDU (Angela Merkel’s party and the conservative rivals of the SPD) has publicly fantasized about the possibility of a “false flag operation.” Bereft of any evidence or plausibility, the idea of Russia bizarrely launching a massive terror attack on itself, Kiesewetter had an urge to say, can nonetheless, “not be excluded.” In Germany, baseless accusations and insane speculation are bipartisan, as long as the target is Moscow.

If Kiesewetter and Roth, influential if not (yet) first-rank German politicians, illustrate the toxic brew of Russophobia, deranged conspiracy fantasies, and sheer lack of decency that is now ‘normal’ in Berlin, Germany has had no monopoly on perverse responses to the Crocus massacre. Let’s look at some by-no-means marginal representatives of Western media, traditional as well as social.

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Dmitry Medvedev, former Russian president
‘Kill them all’ – Medvedev enraged by Moscow terror attack
]]> US-based Igor Sushko, a popular purveyor of deep-frosted neo-Cold War hype with over 300,000 X followers, raced into overdrive, rapidly promoting a black legend of Putin’s false flag terror attack at the Crocus City Hall,” as if he had to hurry to get the fake news out before reality hits. And that, come to think of it, may well have been the idea: As every propagandist knows, dirt flung first can stick around – at least with the badly informed – even once the facts have been established.

Alexey Kovalyov, formerly of ‘Meduza’ (a website based in Latvia, which has spent recent years waging information war against Russia – such as warning of imminent martial law which never happened) and a stalwart representative of that ‘liberal’ Russia that the West loves to promote, joined the monotonous ‘false flag’ chorus with a gratuitous display of a lack of logical acumen by absurdly concluding from a terror attack which did take place that the Russian authorities are not preventing any such attacks. He also sensed an opportunity to warm up old fairy tales, repeating the allegation that Putin was to blame for terrorist bombings in Russia in 1999. Never mind that the best – and very critical – biographer of Putin, Philip Short, has explained in detail why that old canard makes no sense.

Oliver Carroll, another staunch warrior on the (ideological) eastern front rushed to frame the Crocus massacre with aberrant references to the Berlin Reichstag Fire of 1933 and the Kirov murder of 1934. These incidents have in common that it’s either virtually certain (with Reichstag Fire) or at least a widespread belief (with Kirov murder) that they were staged by state authorities. In other words, yet again ‘false flag’ operations. Carroll, too, has zero evidence to offer. But then, he works for The Economist, so none needed. Not when it’s about putting the boot into Russia and its government.

It would be tedious to catalogue the full emerging swampish ecosystem of “Crocus Truthers.” Suffice it to say that it features famous old hands of the propaganda war, such as Garry Kasparov and, from Ukraine, Sergei Sumlenny (a lesser practitioner, conspicuous perhaps above all for combining an almost grotesque Russophobia with a very long stint as a de-facto point man for the German Green Party in Kiev) and, last but not least, Sarah Ashton-Cirillo.

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RT
Moscow concert hall terror attack suspects brought before court (VIDEOS)
]]> In case you are blessed with not remembering him (or her? I admit, I have lost track), that is the person who volunteered as a clownish yet vicious spokesperson for the Ukrainian military – in a sadly transparent attempt to deploy a little “queer-washing” to please (some) Western audiences. In that capacity, Ashton-Cirillo launched a deranged, violent rant against the blogger Gonzalo Lira. Lira later died in a Ukrainian prison, abandoned by his own government in Washington and killed by a combination of massive medical neglect and – it is virtually certain – torture.

What to make of this odd alliance? Influential mainstream politicians and journalists, oddball (to put it mildly) social-media types, and a gaggle of eternally bitter Russian oppositionists in exile, who have never figured out how to square their intense dislike of Putin’s Russia with an adult sense of the West’s capacity to use them…

Two things seem certain: This degree of hatred of Russia makes the haters blind in a manner that leads to reputational self-damage, if not today, then tomorrow. And it also comes with an unsurprising inability to face the reality of the Zelensky regime in Ukraine. 

For, tellingly, the absurd ‘false flag’ accusations are almost always accompanied by an adamant refusal to even consider that the Kiev regime may have been involved, in one way or another, in the Crocus massacre. And yet, as a matter of fact, it could well turn out that there was some form of Ukrainian hand behind the attack.

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Mon, 25 Mar 2024 20:48:48 +0000 RT
The US is cultivating an antagonist to China in Beijing’s own backyard /news/594824-us-china-philippines-antagonist/ Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the president of the Philippines, is a stark contrast to his predecessor – and besides, Washington has dirt on him
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Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the president of the Philippines, is a stark contrast to his predecessor – and besides, Washington has dirt on him

The Philippines has been a treaty ally of the United States since 1951, almost as long as it’s been an independent country. Before that, it was a colony of the US, which had won it as spoils of war from Spain. Because of this, it is hard to characterise the Philippines as anything but an unabashedly pro-American nation.

In the past few years however, it took a different line. Under the presidency of the very blunt and frank Rodrigo Duterte, the archipelago became more geopolitically ambiguous in its foreign affairs, pursuing closer relationships with Russia and China, while still being cordial to the US.

This unusual “hedging” was part of Duterte’s strategy to adopt a more centralised approach to governing the country, which suffers from high levels of poverty, crime and disorder. Duterte was a hardliner, and also saw economic opportunity in getting closer to Beijing, despite highly contentious disputes over the South China Sea. His relationship with Washington suffered during this period, as it effectively contributed nothing to the development of the country despite the US post-colonial “overlordship”. Instead, Duterte opted for the Belt and Road initiative and sought to turbocharge the islands with Chinese investment.

Yet, just a year or so after Duterte’s departure, the return to power of the Marcos family has seen Manilla do an effective 180° turn in its foreign policy, and go from being pro-Beijing to an effective antagonist of the country in favour of the US again. Ferdinand Macros Jr, also known as “Bongbong,” is the son of Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the Philippines as a right-wing, anti-Communist dictator from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s. The family was notorious for its corruption and theft of national assets for its own personal gain, but got away with it precisely because it was unequivocally pro-US. For during the Cold War, Washington would support figures of any brutality on the conditi