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Thursday, November 26, 2015

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UK State Churchianity disappointed and bewildered

On Sunday 22nd November 2015, it became apparent that the leaders of State Churchianity in the UK (the establishment Church of England) were "disappointed and bewildered" by something which had happened to them in the real world.

The Church of England had prepared a one-minute cinema advertisement. The three main cinema chains in the UK (Odeon, Cineworld and Vue) refused to run the ad because they believed it would risk upsetting or offending audiences.

This was a fair and reasonable decision by the cinemas. The Church of England's advertisement was maladroit, clunky and entirely unsuitable in mood and style for a captive audience which was paying its money to watch the film Star Wars: The Force Awakens (trailer here).

The BBC's report on the ad rejection story is here (22.11.15). And the Church of England's intended advertisement entitled Just Pray can be viewed here.

The row followed hot on the heels of the so-called ISIS terror attacks in Paris (France) on Friday 13th November 2015, and the subsequent Deep State lockdown of public-access infrastructure in Brussels (Belgium), where the HQs of the European Commission and NATO were located.

In the UK, pointed questions were put. Should ads about Churchianity's Sunday prayers or Islam's Friday prayers be banned in cinemas on the ground that religion is a terrorist behaviour?

Is it now payback time for both Churchianity and Islam in the popular culture?

With regard to Churchianity, the back catalogue is filthy. After the Crusades, the Inquisition, murderous schisms, Western empire and colonial missionaries, military chaplains and child abuse, it is hardly surprising that a historically-informed public takedown is underway.

Churchianity and Christianity are two quite separate religions these days. They hardly even have a Venn diagram overlap any more.

The Jesus of Nazareth of early pre-Churchianity didn't build pompous limestone palaces, huckster phoney salvation theories, initiate fake liturgies, or oppress and exploit women and children. It was in later years that the corporate controllers of globalist Churchianity made all of that expedient.

Militant Islam, in the commonsense vernacular view, has reminded everyone what Churchianity was once allowed to become in the 'developed' nations. It doesn't require thinking beyond the threshold of pain. In plain view, religion is a terrorist behaviour. Its spread should not be encouraged among secular audiences in respectable cinemas.

Picture: A new scripture shortly to be published. Alcuin Bramerton.

Picture: Consciousness. Itzhak Bentov. Artwork by Adrian Dvir and Weed.

Itzhak Bentov's two best-known books are Stalking the wild pendulum: On the mechanics of consciousness (1977) and A brief tour of the higher consciousness: A cosmic book on the mechanics of creation (2000).

In the preface to the second of these, Itzhak Bentov's wife, Mirtala, describes how, as a nine-year old boy, Bentov began his search for God.

In defiance of his Jewish background, he took the decision to test the existence of God with a ham sandwich. Ham sandwiches, Bentov understood, were forbidden by God.

He decided to eat the ham sandwich on Yom Kippur, a high Jewish holiday of fasting and atonement. Eating a ham sandwich on Yom Kippur would be seen by God as a particular challenge.

In order not to endanger anyone else's life, Bentov took his ham sandwich outdoors to the city park. He sat down on a bench, took a bite and looked up at the sky. No lightning. No brimstone. No flying pigs. Perhaps God hadn't noticed?

Bentov took another bite and then finished the ham sandwich completely. Nothing apocalyptic happened. At the age of nine, the boy decided that there must be rather more to God than he had been told.

More about Itzhak Bentov (1923-1979) can be found here, here, here and here.

Picture: Toshika Hasumi's manga cartoon of a six-year-old Syrian refugee girl.

The six-year-old Syrian girl at the top of the image above is a (genuine) refugee. The manga cartoon of her, and its caption, are by the Japanese right-wing artist, Toshika Hasumi.

When Hasumi's cartoon was seen online, it caused a stir. It was intended to ignite a necessary debate. But was it racist? Was it cynical? Or was it something else?

More here (15.11.15), here (08.10.15) and here (02.10.15).

Picture: Pagodas in Bagan, Myanmar.

Picture: Bucharest, Romania. November 2015.



Who have been the most influential people in 21st Century global affairs so far?

We are still only sixteen years into the new century, but the following thirteen people seem to stand out. If none of them had existed, human civilisation might have been a rather different thing by now.

Julian Paul Assange
Winfried (Win) Franz Wilhelm Bischoff
David S. Cohen
Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías
Xi Jinping
Blythe Sally Jess Masters

Satoshi Nakamoto
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin
Larry A. Silverstein
Edward Joseph Snowden
Andrew Jeremy Wakefield
Dov S. Zakheim
Mark Elliot Zuckerberg

I know. There is only one woman on the list. I did consider Joanne (Jo) K. Rowling & Malala Yousafzai.

However, bearing in mind how the spiritual and cultural evolution of the planet is going with regard to the surface human population, it would be no surprise if by mid-century half of any such list was female, and by the end of the century, perhaps, most was.

Speaking in cartoon language, some of those thirteen listed individuals appear to be goodies and others appear to be baddies. But is it too soon to determine who is which?

And another caveat must be entered. We live in a media-constructed habitat of smoke and mirrors. None of the real top influencers in human affairs is known in the public domain. Their influence is potent, but invisible. However, all thirteen individuals on the list above know perfectly well who they are working for, and who they are working against.

When the major disclosures, arrests and public trials begin, a lot of previously unheard-of people will get their time in the limelight.

Picture: Obama. Putin. Xi. Poker game. After David Parkins.

Picture: Free speech. Free minds. Suzzan Blac.

Why we should defend the right to be offensive

Free speech; Free minds

Roger Scruton comments:

To people like me, educated in post-war Britain, free speech has been a firm premise of the British way of life. As John Stuart Mill expressed the point:

"The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it."

"If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error."

That famous statement is not the last word on the question, but it is the first word and was, during my youth, the received opinion of all educated people.

The law, we believed, would protect the heretics, the dissidents and the doubters against any punishments devised to intimidate or silence them, for the very reason that truth and argument are sacred, and must be protected from those who seek to suppress them.

Moreover, public opinion was entirely on the side of the law, ready to shame those who assumed the right to silence their opponents, whatever the matter under discussion, and however extreme or absurd the views expressed.

All that is now changing. Under the UK's Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006, it is an offence to stir up hatred towards religious and racial groups.

"Stirring up hatred" is an expression both loaded and undefined. Do I stir up hatred towards a religious group by criticising its beliefs in outspoken terms? Under the terms of the act, I would have to use "threatening words and behaviour" and also intend to stir up hatred.

But is giving offence a reason to convict someone of a crime?

The robust English view used to be that the correct response to offensive words is to ignore them, or to answer them with a rebuke.

If you invoke the law at all, it should be to protect the one who gives the offence, and not the one who takes it. Now, it seems, it is all the other way round.

At the time of the attacks on the twin towers, many expressed their shock at the gratuitous murder of 3,000 innocent people, blaming doctrinal Islam for the perversion of the criminals responsible. Immediately a new word entered the public discourse - Islamophobia.

The religious fanaticism of those who had flown into the twin towers and the so-called Islamophobia of their critics were both represented as crimes, hardly distinguishable in their destructiveness.

The main purpose of future policy, it was implied, must be to ensure that neither crime is committed again. Pressure mounted to forbid Islamophobia by law - and in its way that is what the Racial and Religious Hatred Act has tried to do.

Ed Miliband promised last April that a future Labour government would make Islamophobia into an aggravated criminal offence, and meanwhile the consequences for a civil servant, a policeman or a teacher of being accused of this fault are serious in the extreme.

If the government is to succeed in its new measures to eradicate Islamic extremism, therefore, it should be encouraging people to discuss the matter openly, regardless of who might take offence

This takes us back to what John Stuart Mill had in mind. It is not falsehood that causes the greatest offence, but truth.

You can endure insults and abuse when you know them to be false. But if the remarks that offend you are true, their truth becomes a dagger in the soul - you cry "lies!" at the top of your voice, and know that you must silence the one who utters them.

That is what has happened in the case of Islamophobia. Muslims in our society are often victims of prejudice, abuse and assault, and this is a distressing situation that the law strives to remedy.

But when people invent a phobia to explain all criticism of Islam, it is not that kind of abuse that they have in mind. They wish to hide the truth, to shout "lies!" in the face of criticism and to silence any attempt at discussion. In my view, however, it is time to bring the truth into the open, including the truth about the Holy Book itself.

The classical Islamic philosophers, the early jurists and the Sufi poets all tried to interpret the Koran so that it would be compatible with life in the real world. But their efforts were increasingly disapproved of, and now it is widely held among orthodox Sunnis that interpretation is no longer permitted - or, as the saying goes, "the gate of ijtihad is closed".

None of the real difficulties are to be discussed. And yet it is just now, in Islam's encounter with Western democracy, that discussion is most needed.

Muslims must adapt, just as we all must adapt, to the changed circumstances in which we live. And we adapt by putting things in question, by asking whether this or that belief is true or binding, and in general by opening our hearts to other people's arguments and attempting to meet them with arguments of our own.

Free speech is not the cause of the tensions that are growing around us, but the only possible solution to them. If the government is to succeed in its new measures to eradicate Islamic extremism, therefore, it should be encouraging people to discuss the matter openly, regardless of who might take offence.

In 2008 it also became a crime in the UK to stir up hatred against groups defined by their sexual orientation. The orthodox liberal view is that homosexuality is innate and guiltless.

Like the Islamists, the advocates of this view have invented a phobia with which to denounce their opponents. Deviate in the smallest matter from the orthodoxy, and you will be accused of homophobia and, although this is not yet a crime, it is accompanied, especially for those with any kind of public office, by real social costs.

The fear of accusation, of standing aside from the crowd, of not being impeccably on the side of the received opinion, explains much of the legislation attacking free speech in this country.

Politicians have not sufficiently examined what they meant by "stirring up hatred". They have been too keen to show that they are on the side of Muslims and also of homosexuals notwithstanding the manifest conflict between the two.

It is precisely for this reason that they should have been careful about introducing vague phrases that could be used to silence discussion.

We may disapprove of the view that homosexuality is a sin, but it does not follow that the street preachers who have recently been arrested for saying so are stirring up hatred. However misguided their opinion might be, it is a legitimate contribution to a much-needed public debate - a debate that will not now occur, so fierce is the condemnation of those who deviate from the one permitted opinion.

What, then, should be the rôle of the law in policing the forum of public debate? It seems to me that it should not criminalise opinions that give offence, but protect those who express them.

In the age of the internet, the Twitter crowd and social media, however, it is increasingly difficult for the law to intervene - abuse and persecution rapidly become widespread and anonymous, avoiding all punishment and blame.

A recent example illustrates what I mean. In the course of a scientific conference in Korea, Professor Sir Tim Hunt, the Nobel-prize winning biologist, said that when "girls" were present in a research laboratory "you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry".

As a result of the ensuing witch-hunt, Sir Tim was forced to resign from his professorship at University College London, the Royal Society (of which he is a fellow) went public with a denunciation, and he was pushed aside by the scientific community. A lifetime of distinguished creative work has ended in ruin.

The orthodox view today is that sex is in every respect irrelevant to the pursuit of a scientific career. I don't know whether that view is true, though I doubt that it is, and clearly Sir Tim does not entirely endorse it either.

How would I find out who is right? Surely, by considering the arguments, by weighing the competing opinions in the balance of reasoned discussion, and by encouraging the free expression of heretical views. That is what free speech is about, and why the law has set out to protect it.

Truth arises by an invisible hand from our many errors, and both error and truth must be protected. The heretic, however, is now exposed to public intimidation and abuse on a scale inconceivable before the invention of the internet.

Of course, we have moved on a bit from the Middle Ages. It is not the man who is assassinated now, but only his character. But the effect is the same. Free discussion is being everywhere shut down, so that we will never know who is right - the heretics, or those who try to silence them.

Source here (25.10.15).

Roger Scruton is a UK-based academic philosopher specialising in aesthetics, and a widely-published conservative polemicist.

The artwork at the top of this piece, and the clickthrough image underneath it, are by Suzzan Blac (UK).

Picture: UK. David Cameron. Old Syria hand. Fake poppy. Real pig.

Picture: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. 2015.

On Wednesday 28th October 2015, the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, gave an interview in Damascus to the French weekly news magazine, Paris Match.

ParisM: Mr President, three years into this war, and considering how things have turned out, do you regret that you didn’t manage things differently at the beginning, with the appearance of the first signs of the revolution in March 2011? Do you feel that you are responsible for what happened?

Assad: Even in the first days of the events, there were martyrs from the army and the police; so, since the first days of this crisis we have been facing terrorism. It is true that there were demonstrations, but they were not large in number. In such a case, there is no choice but to defend your people against terrorists. There’s no other choice.

We cannot say that we regret fighting terrorism since the early days of this crisis. However, this doesn’t mean that there weren’t mistakes made in practice. There are always mistakes. Let’s be honest: had Qatar not paid money to those terrorists at that time, and had Turkey not supported them logistically, and had not the West supported them politically, things would have been different. If we in Syria had problems and mistakes before the crisis, which is normal, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the events had internal causes.

ParisM: Your army is blamed for its excessive use of force during this war. Why are civilians shelled?

Assad: When a terrorist attacks you with weapons, how do you defend yourself and your people? With dialogue?

The army uses weapons when the other side uses them. For us in Syria, it is impossible to have our objective as shelling civilians. There’s no reason to shell civilians. If we are killing civilians, in other words killing our own people, fighting terrorists at the same time, and fighting the states which stand against us and which support terrorists, like the Gulf countries, Turkey, and the West, how could we stand for four years?

If we haven’t been defending the people, we wouldn’t have been able to stand all this pressure. Consequently, saying that we are shelling civilians doesn’t make any sense.

ParisM: Satellite imagery of the cities of Homs and Hama show completely destroyed neighborhoods; and the United Nations, of which your country is a member, talks about 190,000 people having been killed in this war. Were all the people in those neighborhoods terrorists?

Assad: First of all, you need to verify the figures provided by the United Nations. What are the sources of these figures? The figures being circulated in the world, particularly in the media, are exaggerated and inaccurate.

Second, images of destruction are not only obtained through satellite images, they are there actually on the ground, and they are accurate. When terrorists enter a certain region and occupy it, the army has to liberate it, and there is a battle. So, naturally, there is destruction.

But in most cases, when terrorists enter a certain area, civilians flee from it. In fact, the largest number of victims in Syria is among the supporters of the state, not the other way round; and a large number of those were killed in terrorist attacks. Of course, when you have war and terrorism, innocent people die. This happens everywhere in the world. But it is impossible for a state to target civilians.

ParisM: According to the United Nations, there are three million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, what amounts to one eighth of Syria’s population. Are all those allied with terrorists?

Assad: No, no. Those who left Syria are generally people who left because of terrorism. There are those who support terrorism, and there are those who support the state but left because of the security situation. There is also a significant number of those who do not support any side.

ParisM: From a military perspective, do you have the means which will enable you to win this war?

Assad: Now we are fighting states, not only gangs. Billions of dollars are spent on those gangs. They receive arms from different countries, including Turkey. So, it is not an easy war from a military perspective. Nevertheless, the Syrian Army is winning in many places.

On the other hand, no one can say how this war will end or when. But the major war for them (the terrorists and the nations supporting them) in the beginning was how to win the hearts of the Syrians; and they have lost this war. The communities which embraced terrorists have become very small, and that is the reason why the army is winning. So, we have to look at this war militarily, socially, and politically.

ParisM: But they haven’t lost yet, since half your territories are out of your control.

Assad: The Syrian Army doesn’t have a presence everywhere, and it’s impossible for it to be everywhere. Consequently, in any place that the Syrian Army doesn’t have a presence, terrorists cross the borders and enter that region.

But the Syrian Army has been able to regain control over any region it decided to enter. This is not a war between two armies where you can say that they took a certain part and we took another part. The war now is not like that. We are talking about terrorist groups which suddenly infiltrate a city or a village. That’s why it’s going to be a long and difficult war.

ParisM: Many people say that the solution lies in your departure. Do you believe that your departure is the solution?

Assad : The president of any state in the world takes office through constitutional measures and leaves office through constitutional measures as well. No President can be installed or deposed through chaos.

The tangible evidence for this is the outcome of the French policy when they attacked Gaddafi (in Libya). What was the result? Chaos ensued after Gaddafi’s departure.

So, was his departure the solution? Have things improved, and has Libya become a democracy? The state is like a ship; and when there is a storm, the captain doesn’t run away and leave his ship to sink. If passengers on that ship decided to leave, the captain should be the last one to leave, not the first.

ParisM: This means that the captain is prepared to die. You talked about Gaddafi. Do you fear facing the same fate and to meet your death like Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi?

Assad: A captain doesn’t think of life and death, he thinks of saving his ship. If the ship sinks, everybody will die, so we would rather save the country. But I want to stress an important point here. Remaining president had never been my objective, before, during, or after the crisis. But we as Syrians will never accept Syria becoming a western puppet state. This is one of our most important objectives and principles.

ParisM: Let’s talk about ISIS. Some people say that the Syrian régime encouraged the rise of Islamic extremists in order to divide the opposition. How do you respond to that?

Assad: In Syria we have a state, not a régime. Let’s agree on the terms first. Second, assuming that what you are saying is true, that we supported ISIS, this means that we have asked this organization to attack us, attack military airports, kill hundreds of soldiers, and occupy cities and villages. Where is the logic in that? What do we gain from it? Dividing and weakening the opposition, as you are saying?

We do not need to undermine those elements of the opposition. The West itself is saying that it was a fake opposition. This is what Obama himself said. So, this supposition is wrong, but what is the truth? The truth is that ISIS was created in Iraq in 2006. It was the United States which occupied Iraq, not Syria. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was in American prisons, not in Syrian prisons. So, who created ISIS, Syria or the United States?

ParisM: The Syrians we meet in Damascus talk about sleeping Jihadi cells in the West more than they talk about the war against ISIS. Isn’t that strange?

Assad: Terrorism is an ideology, not an organization or a structure; and ideology doesn’t acknowledge any borders.

20 years ago, terrorism used to be exported from our region, particularly from Gulf countries, like Saudi Arabia. Now, it is coming to our region from Europe, especially from France. The largest percentage of the European terrorists coming to Syria are French; and you had a number of incidents in France. There was also an attack in Belgium against a Jewish museum. So, terrorism in Europe is no longer asleep, it is being awakened.

ParisM: The Americans, in their war against ISIS, are tactical allies. Do you still think that their intervention constitutes a violation of national sovereignty?

Assad: First, you said that it is tactical, and this is an important point. You know that tactics without a strategy do not produce results, so it will not defeat terrorism. It (the US involvement) is an illegal intervention, first because it is not authorized by a Security Council resolution, and second because it did not respect the sovereignty of a state, Syria, in this case. So, it is an illegal intervention, and consequently constitutes a violation of sovereignty.

ParisM: According to Agence France Presse, your air forces made at least 2,000 sorties in 40 days, and this is a huge number. When your aircraft cross the alliance’s aircraft, for instance on their way to shell Raqqa, do you coordinate or do you have a non-aggression agreement?

Assad: There is no direct coordination. We attack terrorism everywhere, regardless of what the United States, or the alliance it leads, is doing. You might find it strange that the number of daily Syrian air strikes against terrorists is larger than that launched by the alliance. There’s no coordination; and at the same time you need to realize that the (US) alliance’s airstrikes are merely cosmetic.

ParisM: But these airstrikes are helping you, and one reason why the US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel resigned is that he believed that they support your government and your positions.

Assad: Don’t you see that this question contradicts the earlier question, in which you said that we support ISIS? This means that we are ISIS’s enemies.

ParisM: I said that some people say, sometimes, that you have supported ISIS to divide the opposition.

Assad: And I didn’t mean “you” by my remark, I meant “those” people.

ParisM: Since one result of the alliance’s airstrikes, from an American perspective, was Chuck Hagel’s resignation, do you think that the (US) alliance’s airstrikes are helping you?

Assad: Terrorism cannot be destroyed from the air, and you cannot achieve results on the ground without land forces who know the geographical details of the regions and move in tandem with the airstrikes.

That’s why, and after two months of the (US) alliance’s airstrikes, there are no tangible results on the ground in that direction. And that’s why saying that the (US) alliance’s airstrikes are helping us is not true.

Had these airstrikes been serious and effective, I would have said that they would be certainly useful to us. But we are the ones fighting the battles against ISIS on the ground, and we haven’t felt any change, particularly because Turkey is still extending direct support to ISIS in those regions.

ParisM: On July 14th, 2008, you stood on the presidential podium in the Champs Elysees on the sidelines of the Mediterranean summit. Today, the French government considers you an outcast. How do you feel about that?

Assad: The good relationship which extended from 2008 to 2011 was not based on a French initiative. It had two sides: the first was an American effort to make the French government influence the Syrian rôle, particularly in relation to Iran.

The second side was a result of Qatar urging France to improve relations with Syria. So, the good relations with France had American and Qatari motives and were not the product of an independent will. Today, there is no difference since both administrations, I mean those of Sarkozy and Hollande, are not independent.

ParisM: Francois Hollande still considers you an opponent. Do you believe that you can revive relations with him some time in the future?

Assad: The issue has nothing to do with personal relations; I don’t know him to start with. It has to do with relations between states and institutions, relations based on the interests of two nations. When there is any French official, or French government, seeking mutual interests, we will deal with them.

But this administration (the French government) is acting equally against the interests of our people and against the interests of the French people. As for him considering me a personal enemy, I don’t see the logic of that. I’m not competing with Hollande for anything. I believe that Hollande’s competitor in France now is ISIS, because his popularity is close to that of ISIS.

ParisM: Are there chemical weapons in Syria today, yes or no?

Assad: No. When we announced this, it was a clear announcement, and when we decided to abandon chemical weapons, our decision was final.

ParisM: But US Secretary of State, John Kerry, accuses you of violating the agreement because you used chlorine. Is that true?

Assad: You can find chlorine in any house in Syria. Everyone has chlorine, and any group can use it. But we haven’t used it because we have traditional weapons which are more effective than chlorine, and we do not need to use it.

We are fighting terrorists, and using traditional weapons without concealing that or being shy about it. So, we don’t need chlorine. These accusations do not surprise us; for when did the Americans say anything true about the crisis in Syria?

ParisM: Have you used chemical weapons?

Assad : We haven’t used this kind of weapon; and had we used it anywhere, tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people would have died. It’s impossible for these weapons to kill, as it was claimed last year, only one hundred people or two hundred people, particularly in areas where hundreds of thousands, and maybe millions, of Syrians live.

ParisM: In your latest visit to Paris in November 2010, I conducted an interview with your wife, Mrs. Asmaa al-Assad. Do you miss traveling outside the borders of your country?

Assad: Traveling is not one of my hobbies anyway; and my visits were not for tourism, but for work. What I truly miss is Syria as it was. This is what we miss. And of course we miss the existence of a different world, a world which has logical and moral relations.

At that time, we used to have great expectations for the development of our region, for more intellectual openness. We used to believe that France, with its cultural heritage, is the country which is most capable of playing this rôle with Syria in the Middle East.

ParisM: Your wife used to consider herself an ambassador of modernity. How does she live in Syria, and how does she feel about what is happening in Syria, particularly as she hasn’t left the country?

Assad: Like all Syrians, she feels pain. Both of us feel pain for the destruction and the blood we see in Syria; seeing Syria going backwards decades and not years.

It’s painful to see the country which used to be one of the top five countries in the world in terms of security become a safe haven for terrorists.

It is also painful for both my wife and I to see our belief that the West will help us in our bid for development and openness go in the opposite direction. And what is even worse, is to see the West having allies among medieval states in the Gulf, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

ParisM: People describe you as being very close to your children. How do you explain to them what is happening to your country when you return home in the evening?

Assad: Of course, this discussion goes on in every Syrian house now; and the most difficult thing in this discussion is when you deal with children whose social consciousness has developed during this crisis.

There are two basic questions asked, not only in our family but in many families. The first question is: how can people who believe or say they are defending God and Islam kill and murder?

This is a case which is not easy to explain, and children ask whether these people know that they are wrong. And the answer here is that there are those who know but make use of religion for private purposes, and there are ignorant people who do not know that religion is good. They think, instead, that religion means killing.

The second question is: why does the West launch an aggression against us, and why does it support terrorists and destruction? Of course, they (our children) do not say the West in general, they specify certain countries, including the United States, France, and Britain. Why do they do that? Have we done anything to hurt them? We also explain to them that people are something, and states are something else.

Source here (28.10.15).

Picture: Northern Saw Whet Owl. Words from Faith Nolton.

It wasn't just Jesus of Nazareth, Apollonius of Tyana and St Francis of Assisi who were shamans. Shamanism is undergoing a revival today.

The emergence of the New Spirituality in the West has focussed educated attention on the healing and nature-working abilities which are inherent in all of us.

More here: The resurrection of the shaman.

Picture: Russia. Vladimir Putin. The democratisation of the United States.

On Thursday 22nd October 2015, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, took part in the final plenary session of the 12th annual meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club, in Sochi, Russia.

The topic of the 2015 Valdai conference was:
Societies Between War and Peace - Overcoming the Logic of Conflict in Tomorrow’s World

Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to greet you here at this regular meeting of the Valdai International Club.

It is true that for over 10 years now this has been a platform to discuss the most pressing issues and consider the directions and prospects for the development of Russia and the whole world. The participants change, of course, but overall, this discussion platform retains its core, so to speak – we have turned into a kind of mutually understanding environment.

We have an open discussion here; this is an open intellectual platform for an exchange of views, assessments and forecasts that are very important for us here in Russia. I would like to thank all the Russian and foreign politicians, experts, public figures and journalists taking part in the work of this club.

This year the discussion focusses on issues of war and peace. This topic has clearly been the concern of humanity throughout its history. Back in ancient times, in antiquity people argued about the nature, the causes of conflicts, about the fair and unfair use of force, of whether wars would always accompany the development of civilisation, broken only by ceasefires, or would the time come when arguments and conflicts are resolved without war.

I’m sure you recalled our great writer Leo Tolstoy here. In his great novel War and Peace, he wrote that war contradicted human reason and human nature, while peace, in his opinion, was good for people.

True, peace, a peaceful life have always been humanity’s ideal. State figures, philosophers and lawyers have often come up with models for a peaceful interaction between nations. Various coalitions and alliances declared that their goal was to ensure strong, ‘lasting’ peace as they used to say. However, the problem was that they often turned to war as a way to resolve the accumulated contradictions, while war itself served as a means for establishing new post-war hierarchies in the world.

Meanwhile peace, as a state of world politics, has never been stable and did not come of itself. Periods of peace in both European and world history were always based on securing and maintaining the existing balance of forces. This happened in the 17th century in the times of the so-called Peace of Westphalia, which put an end to the Thirty Years’ War. Then in the 19th century, in the time of the Vienna Congress; and again 70 years ago in Yalta, when the victors over Nazism made the decision to set up the United Nations Organisation and lay down the principles of relations between states.

With the appearance of nuclear weapons, it became clear that there could be no winner in a global conflict. There can be only one end – guaranteed mutual destruction. It so happened that in its attempt to create ever more destructive weapons humanity has made any big war pointless.

Incidentally, the world leaders of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and even 1980s did treat the use of armed force as an exceptional measure. In this sense, they behaved responsibly, weighing all the circumstances and possible consequences.

The end of the Cold War put an end to ideological opposition, but the basis for arguments and geopolitical conflicts remained. All states have always had and will continue to have their own diverse interests, while the course of world history has always been accompanied by competition between nations and their alliances. In my view, this is absolutely natural.

The main thing is to ensure that this competition develops within the framework of fixed political, legal and moral norms and rules. Otherwise, competition and conflicts of interest may lead to acute crises and dramatic outbursts.

We have seen this happen many times in the past. Today, unfortunately, we have again come across similar situations. Attempts to promote a model of unilateral domination have led to an imbalance in the system of international law and global regulation, which means there is a threat, and political, economic or military competition may get out of control.

What, for instance, could such uncontrolled competition mean for international security? A growing number of regional conflicts, especially in ‘border’ areas, where the interests of major nations or blocs meet. This can also lead to the probable downfall of the system of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (which I also consider to be very dangerous), which, in turn, would result in a new spiral of the arms race.

We have already seen the appearance of the concept of the so-called disarming first strike, including one with the use of high-precision long-range non-nuclear weapons comparable in their effect to nuclear weapons.

The use of the threat of a nuclear missile attack from Iran as an excuse has destroyed the fundamental basis of modern international security: the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The United States has unilaterally seceded from the treaty. Incidentally, today we have resolved the Iranian issue and there is no threat from Iran and never has been, just as we said.

The thing that seemed to have led our American partners to build an anti-missile defence system is gone. It would be reasonable to expect work to develop the US anti-missile defence system to come to an end as well. What is actually happening? Nothing of the kind, or actually the opposite – everything continues.

Recently the United States conducted the first test of the anti-missile defence system in Europe. What does this mean? It means we were right when we argued with our American partners. They were simply trying yet again to mislead us and the whole world. To put it plainly, they were lying.

It was not about the hypothetical Iranian threat, which never existed. It was about an attempt to destroy the strategic balance, to change the balance of forces in their favour not only to dominate, but to have the opportunity to dictate their will to all: to their geopolitical competition and, I believe, to their allies as well. This is a very dangerous scenario, harmful to all, including, in my opinion, to the United States.

The nuclear deterrent lost its value. Some probably even had the illusion that victory of one party in a world conflict was again possible – without irreversible, unacceptable, as experts say, consequences for the winner, if there ever is one.

In the past 25 years, the threshold for the use of force has gone down noticeably. The anti-war immunity we have acquired after two world wars, which we had on a subconscious, psychological level, has become weaker. The very perception of war has changed: for TV viewers it was becoming and has now become an entertaining media picture, as if nobody dies in combat, as if people do not suffer and cities and entire states are not destroyed.

Unfortunately, military terminology is becoming part of everyday life. Thus, trade and sanctions wars have become today’s global economic reality – this has become a set phrase used by the media. The sanctions, meanwhile, are often used also as an instrument of unfair competition to put pressure on or completely ‘throw’ competition out of the market. As an example, I could take the outright epidemic of fines imposed on companies, including European ones, by the United States. Flimsy pretexts are being used, and all those who dare violate the unilateral American sanctions are severely punished.

You know, this may not be Russia’s business, but this is a discussion club, therefore I will ask: Is that the way one treats allies? No, this is how one treats vassals who dare act as they wish – they are punished for misbehaving.

Last year a fine was imposed on a French bank to a total of almost $9 billion – $8.9 billion, I believe. Toyota paid $1.2 billion, while the German Commerzbank signed an agreement to pay $1.7 billion into the American budget, and so forth.

We also see the development of the process to create non-transparent economic blocs, which is done following practically all the rules of conspiracy. The goal is obvious – to reformat the world economy in a way that would make it possible to extract a greater profit from domination and the spread of economic, trade and technological regulation standards.

The creation of economic blocs by imposing their terms on the strongest players would clearly not make the world safer, but would only create time bombs, conditions for future conflicts.

The World Trade Organisation was once set up. True, the discussion there is not proceeding smoothly, and the Doha round of talks ended in a deadlock, possibly, but we should continue looking for ways out and for compromise, because only compromise can lead to the creation of a long-term system of relations in any sphere, including the economy.

Meanwhile, if we dismiss the concerns of certain countries - participants in economic communication - if we pretend that they can be bypassed, the contradictions will not go away, they will not be resolved, they will remain, which means that one day they will make themselves known.

As you know, our approach is different. While creating the Eurasian Economic Union, we tried to develop relations with our partners, including relations within the Chinese Silk Road Economic Belt initiative. We are actively working on the basis of equality in BRICS, APEC and the G20.

The global information space is also shaken by wars today. The ‘only correct’ viewpoint and interpretation of events is aggressively imposed on people; certain facts are either concealed or manipulated. We are all used to labelling and the creation of an enemy image.

The authorities in countries which seemed always to have appealed to such values as freedom of speech and the free dissemination of information, are now trying to prevent the spreading of objective information and any opinion that differs from their own. They declare it hostile propaganda which needs to be combatted, clearly using undemocratic means.

Unfortunately, we hear the words war and conflict ever more frequently when talking about relations between people of different cultures, religions and ethnicity.

Today hundreds of thousands of migrants are trying to integrate into a different society without a profession and without any knowledge of the language, traditions and culture of the countries they are moving to. Meanwhile, the residents of those countries – and we should openly speak about this, without trying to polish things up – the residents are irritated by the dominance of strangers, rising crime rate, money spent on refugees from the budgets of their countries.

Many people sympathise with the refugees, of course, and would like to help them. The question is how to do it without infringing on the interests of the residents of the countries where the refugees are moving. Meanwhile, a massive uncontrolled shocking clash of different lifestyles can lead, and already is leading, to growing nationalism and intolerance, to the emergence of a permanent conflict in society.

Colleagues, we must be realistic: military power is, of course, and will remain for a long time still an instrument of international politics. Good or bad, this is a fact of life. The question is, will it be used only when all other means have been exhausted?

When we have to resist common threats, like, for instance, terrorism, will it be used in compliance with the known rules laid down in international law? Or will we use force on any pretext, even just to remind the world who is boss here, without giving a thought about the legitimacy of the use of force and its consequences, without solving problems, but only multiplying them.

We see what is happening in the Middle East. For decades, maybe even centuries, inter-ethnic, religious and political conflicts and acute social issues have been accumulating here. In a word, a storm was brewing there, while attempts to forcefully rearrange the region became the match that lead to a real blast, to the destruction of statehood, an outbreak of terrorism and, finally, to growing global risks.

A terrorist organisation, the so-called Islamic State, took huge territories under control. Just think about it. If they occupied Damascus or Baghdad, the terrorist gangs could achieve the status of, practically, an official power; they would create a stronghold for global expansion. Is anyone considering this?

It is time the entire international community realised what we are dealing with. It is, in fact, an enemy of civilisation and world culture that is bringing with it an ideology of hatred and barbarity; trampling upon morals and world religious values, including those of Islam, thereby compromising it.

We do not need wordplay here; we should not break down the terrorists into moderate and immoderate ones. It would be good to know the difference. Probably, in the opinion of certain experts, it is that the so-called moderate militants behead people in limited numbers or in some delicate fashion.

In actual fact, we now see a real mix of terrorist groups. True, at times militants from the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra and other Al-Qaeda heirs and splinters fight each other, but they fight for money, for feeding grounds; this is what they are fighting for. They are not fighting for ideological reasons. Their essence and methods remain the same: terror, murder, turning people into a timid, frightened, obedient mass.

In the past years the situation has been deteriorating. The terrorists’ infrastructure has been growing, along with their numbers, while the weapons provided to the so-called moderate opposition eventually ended up in the hands of terrorist organisations. Moreover, sometimes entire bands would go over to their side, marching in with flying colours, as they say.

Why is it that the efforts of, say, our American partners and their allies in their struggle against the Islamic State has not produced any tangible results?

Obviously, this is not about any lack of military equipment or potential. Clearly, the United States has a huge potential, the biggest military potential in the world. However, double crossing is never easy. You declare war on terrorists and simultaneously try to use some of them to rearrange the figures on the Middle East board in your own interests, as you may think.

It is impossible to combat terrorism in general, if some terrorists are used as a battering ram to overthrow the régimes that are not to one’s liking. You cannot get rid of those terrorists; it is only an illusion to think you can get rid of them later, take power away from them or reach some agreement with them.

The situation in Libya is the best example here. Let us hope that the new government will manage to stabilise the situation, though this is not a fact yet. However, we need to assist in this stabilisation.

We understand quite well that the militants fighting in the Middle East represent a threat to everyone, including Russia. People in our nation know what terrorist aggression means and know what the bandits in the North Caucasus have done.

We remember the bloody terrorist attacks in Budennovsk, Moscow, Beslan, Volgograd and other Russian cities. Russia has always fought terrorism in all its forms, consistently advocating for truly unifying the global community’s efforts to fight this evil. That is why we made our suggestion to create a broad anti-terror coalition, which I recently voiced in my speech at the United Nations (full text here [28.09.15]).

After Syria’s official authorities reached out to us for support, we made the decision to launch a Russian military operation in that nation. I will stress again: it is fully legitimate and its only goal is to help restore peace.

I am sure that the Russian service members’ actions will have the necessary positive effect on the situation, helping Syria’s official authorities create the conditions for subsequent actions in reaching a political settlement and stage pre-emptive strikes against terrorists that threaten our nation, Russia. Thus, we help all nations and peoples who are certainly in danger if these terrorists return home.

Here is what we believe we must do to support long-term settlement in the region, as well as its social, economic and political revival. First of all, free Syria and Iraq’s territories from terrorists and prevent them moving their activities to other regions. And to do that, we must join all forces – the Iraqi and Syrian regular armies, Kurdish militia, various opposition groups that have actually made a real contribution to fighting terrorists – and coordinate the actions of countries within and outside of the region against terrorism. At the same time, joint anti-terrorist action must be based on international law.

Second, it is obvious that a military victory over the militants alone will not resolve all problems, but it will create conditions for the main thing: a beginning of a political process with participation by all healthy, patriotic forces of Syrian society. It is the Syrians who must decide their fate with exclusively civil, respectful assistance from the international community, and not under external pressure through ultimatums, blackmail or threats.

The collapse of Syria’s official authorities, for example, will only mobilise terrorists. Right now, instead of undermining them, we must revive them; strengthening state institutions in the conflict zone.

I want to remind you that throughout its history, the Middle East has often been an arena for clashes between various empires and powers. They redrew boundaries and reshaped the region’s political structure to suit their tastes and interests. And the consequences were not always good or beneficial for the people living there. Actually, no one even asked their opinion. The last people to find out what was happening in their own nations were the people living in the Middle East.

Of course, this begs the question: isn’t it time for the international community to coordinate all its actions with the people who live in these territories? I think that it’s long overdue; these people – like any people – should be treated with respect.

The involvement in the process of political settlement of the Muslim clergy, leaders of Islam and heads of Muslim nations is crucial. We count on their consolidated position and assistance, as well as their moral authority.

It is very important to protect people, especially youth, against the destructive effects of the ideology of the terrorists, who are trying to use them as cannon fodder, nothing more. We need to distinguish clearly between genuine Islam, whose values are peace, family, good deeds, helping others, respecting traditions, and the lies and hatred that the militants sow under the guise of Islam.

Fourth, we currently need to develop a roadmap for the region’s economic and social development, to restore basic infrastructure, housing, hospitals and schools. Only this kind of on-site creative work, after eliminating terrorism and reaching a political settlement, can stop the enormous flow of refugees to European nations and return those who left to their homelands.

It is clear that Syria will need massive financial, economic and humanitarian assistance in order to heal the wounds of war.

We need to determine the format within which we could do this work, getting donor nations and international financial institutions involved. Right now, Syria’s problems are being discussed at the UN and other international organisations, and within the framework of interstate relations. It’s true that for now, we are not always able to reach an understanding and it is painfully difficult to abandon might-have-been expectations and unjustified calculations, but nevertheless, there is some progress.

We see that contacts are being gradually established between military departments within the anti-terrorist operation framework, although not as actively and quickly as we might like. Approval of the Russian-American document on safety guidelines for the two countries’ military aircraft flying missions over Syria is a serious step in the right direction.

We are also close to starting an exchange of information with our western colleagues on militants’ positions and movements. All these are certainly steps in the right direction. What’s most important is to treat one another as allies in a common fight; to be honest and open. Only then can we guarantee victory over the terrorists.

For all the drama of its current situation, Syria can become a model for partnership in the name of common interests, resolving problems that affect everyone, and developing an effective risk management system.

We already had this opportunity after the end of the Cold War. Unfortunately, we did not take advantage of it. We also had the opportunity in the early 2000s, when Russia, the US and many other nations were faced with terrorist aggression. Unfortunately, we were unable to establish a good dynamic for cooperating then, either. I will not return to that and the reasons for why we were unable to do this. I think everyone knows already. Now, what’s important is to draw the right lessons from what happened in the past and to move forward.

I am confident that the experience we acquired, and today’s situation, will allow us finally to make the right choice: the choice in favour of cooperation, mutual respect and trust, the choice in favour of peace.

Let me thank everyone who spoke (in this discussion). I think this was all very substantive and interesting, and I am very pleased to see that our discussion has spice and substance to it rather than being all dry talk.

Let’s not dig around now in the distant past. When it comes to who was to blame for the Soviet Union’s collapse, I think that internal reasons were the primary cause, of course, and in this sense, Mr Ambassador was right. The inefficiency of the former Soviet Union’s political and economic systems was the main cause of the state’s collapse.

But who gave this process a helping hand is another matter. I don’t think that our geopolitical adversaries were standing around idle, but internal reasons were nonetheless the primary cause.

Mr Ambassador, as I understand it, was debating with me from afar, and now here, face to face, when he said that, unlike me, he does not consider the collapse of the Soviet Union one of the twentieth century’s great tragedies. For my part, I continue to insist that this was a tragedy, above all a humanitarian tragedy. This is what I was saying.

The Soviet collapse left  25 million Russians abroad. This just happened overnight and no one ever asked them. I repeat my argument that the Russian people became the world’s biggest divided nation, and this was unquestionably a tragedy.

That is not to mention the socioeconomic dimension. The Soviet collapse brought down the social system and economy with it. Yes, the old economy was not very effective, but its collapse threw millions of people into poverty, and this was also a tragedy for individual people and families.

Now, on the question of continuing strategic offensive arms limitation talks, you are right to say that we do need to continue this dialogue. But at the same time, I cannot say that Russia and the United States have done nothing here. We did conclude a new treaty on limiting strategic offensive arms and set goals for limiting this type of weapons. However, the USA’s unilateral withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, which was the cornerstone for preserving the balance of power and international security, has left this whole system in a serious and complicated state.

In this respect, since this is a discussion club, I would like to ask Mr Ambassador what he thinks of the USA’s unilateral withdrawal from the ABM Treaty.

Jack Matlock (US): I was personally opposed to that withdrawal and I take your point. I would say that I don’t think that any subsequent plans for the sort of deployments were, or could be, a threat to Russian systems. But in general, I am not a supporter of ABM systems. I would point out that I think the main source of that is not to threaten Russia but to secure employment in the United States. A lot comes from the military-industrial complex and the number of people it employs.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Ambassador, I find your arguments unconvincing. I have the greatest respect for your experience and diplomatic skills, of which you have given us a flawless demonstration, avoiding a direct answer. Well, you did answer my question, but not without some embellishments.

One should not create jobs when the result of this activity threatens all of humanity. And if developing new missile defence systems is about creating jobs, why create them in this particular area? Why not create jobs in biology, pharmaceuticals, or in high-tech sectors not related to arms production?

On the question of whether this poses a threat to Russia or not, I can assure you that US security and strategic arms specialists are fully aware that this does threaten Russia’s nuclear capability, and that the whole purpose of this system is to reduce the nuclear capabilities of all countries but the USA itself to zero.

We’ve been hearing arguments this whole time about the Iranian nuclear threat, but as I said in my remarks before, our position was always that there was no such threat, and now not only we but the entire international community share this view.

The United States initiated the signing of an agreement with Iran on settling the Iranian nuclear issue. We actively followed and supported our US and Iranian partners on the road to a common decision and this agreement has now come into force and Iran has agreed to send its enriched uranium out of the country.

So if there is no Iranian nuclear problem, why develop a missile defence system? You could stop the project, but not only has the project not stopped, on the contrary, new tests and exercises are taking place. These systems will be in place in Romania by the end of the year and in Poland by 2018 or 2020.

As I can tell you, and the specialists know, the missile defence deployment sites can be used effectively for stationing cruise missile attack systems. Does this not create a threat for us? Of course it does, and it changes the very philosophy of international security.

If one country thinks that it has created a missile defence shield that will protect it from any strikes or counter-strikes, it has its hands free to use whatever types of weapons it likes, and it is this that upsets the strategic balance.

You have worked on arms agreements in the past and have achieved some amazing results. I can but take off my hat to you and congratulate you on this. You and your Russian partners have had some great successes, but what is happening now cannot fail to worry us. I am sure that you would agree with this in your heart. Essentially, you admitted as much when you said that you did not support the USA’s unilateral withdrawal from the treaty.

Now, on the subject of Ukraine, and on the idea that this creates dangers for us, yes, of course it creates dangers, but was it we who created this situation? Remember the year when Mr Yanukovych lost the election and Mr Yushchenko came to power? Look at how he came to power. It was through a third round of voting, which is not even in the Ukrainian Constitution’s provisions. The Western countries actively supported this. This was a complete violation of the Constitution. What kind of democracy is this? This is simply chaos. They did it once, and then did it again in even more flagrant form with the change of régime and coup d’état that took place in Ukraine not so long ago.

Russia’s position is not that we oppose the Ukrainian people’s choice. We are ready to accept any choice. Ukraine genuinely is a brotherly country in our eyes, a brotherly people. I don’t make any distinction between Russians and Ukrainians. But we oppose this method of changing the government.

It is not a good method anywhere in the world, but it is completely unacceptable in the post-Soviet region, where, to be frank, many former Soviet republics do not yet have traditions of statehood and have not yet developed stable political systems. In this context, we need to take great care of what we do have and help it to develop. We were ready to work even with the people who came to power as a result of that unconstitutional third round back then.

We worked with Mr Yushchenko and Ms Timoshenko, though they were considered to be completely pro-Western politicians – I think this is not an accurate label in general, but this was the way they were viewed. We met with them, travelled to Kiev, received them here in Russia. Yes, we sometimes had fierce debates on economic matters, but we did work together.

But what are we supposed to do when faced with a coup d’état? Do you want to organise an Iraq or Libya here? The US authorities have not hidden the fact that they are spending billions there. The authorities have said directly in public that they have spent $5 billion on supporting the opposition. Is this the right choice?

Another of our colleagues said that it is wrong to interpret things as suggesting that the United States seeks to change the political system and government in Russia. It is hard for me to agree with that argument. The United States has a law that concerns Ukraine, but it directly mentions Russia, and this law states that the goal is democratisation of the Russian Federation. Just imagine if we were to write into Russian law that our goal is to democratise the United States, though in principle we could do this, and let me tell you why.

There are grounds for this. Everyone knows that there were two occasions in US history when a president came to power with the votes of the majority of the electoral college members but the minority of voters. Is this democratic? No, democracy is the people’s power, the will of the majority. How can you have someone elected to the country’s highest office by only a minority of voters? This is a problem in your constitution, but we do not demand that you change your constitution.

We can debate all of this forever, but if you have a country writing such things into its domestic laws and financing the domestic opposition [of another country] .… Having an opposition is a normal thing, but it must survive on its own resources, and if you have a country openly spending billions on supporting it, is this normal political practice? Will this help to build a spirit of trust at the interstate level? I don’t think so.

Now, on the subject of democracy moving closer to our borders. You seem to be an experienced person. Do you imagine we could be opposed to having democracy on our borders? What is it you call democracy here? Are you referring to NATO’s move towards our borders? Is that what you mean by democracy? NATO is a military alliance. We are worried not about democracy on our borders, but about military infrastructure coming ever closer to our borders. How do you expect us to respond in such a case? What are we to think? This is the issue that worries us.

You know what is at the heart of today’s problems? I will share it with you, and we will certainly make public the document I want to refer to now. It is a record of the discussions between German politicians and top Soviet officials just before Germany’s reunification. It makes for very interesting reading, just like reading a detective story.

One prominent German political figure of the time, a leader in the Social Democratic Party, said during the talks with the senior Russian officials – I can’t quote him word for word, but I remember the original closely enough – he said: “If we don’t reach agreement now on the principles for Germany’s reunification and Europe’s future, crises will continue and even grow after Germany’s reunification and we will not end them but only face them again in new forms.”

Later, when the Soviet officials got into discussion with him, he was surprised and said, “You’d think I am defending the Soviet Union’s interests – reproaching them for their short-sighted views it seems – but I’m thinking about Europe’s future.” And he turned out to be absolutely right.

Mr Ambassador, your colleagues did not reach agreements then on the basic principles of what would follow Germany’s reunification: the question of prospective NATO membership for Germany, the future of military infrastructure, its forms and development, and the coordination of security issues in Europe. Oral agreements were reached back then, but nothing was put on paper, nothing fixed, and so it went from there.

But as you all recall from my speech in Munich, when I made this point, back then, the NATO Secretary General gave the oral assurance that the Soviet Union could be sure that NATO – I quote – would not expand beyond the eastern borders of today’s GDR. And yet the reality was completely different. There were two waves of NATO expansion eastwards, and now we have missile defence systems right on our borders too.

I think that all of this raises legitimate concerns in our eyes, and this is something we certainly need to work on. Despite all the difficulties, we are willing to work together.

On the serious issue of missile defence, we have already made past proposals and I say again that we could work together as a threesome – the USA, Russia, and Europe. What would this kind of cooperation entail? It would mean that all three parties agree together on the direction missile threats are coming from, and have equal part in the system’s command and in other secondary matters. But our proposals met with a refusal. It was not we who did not seek cooperation, but others who refused us.

Now we face the serious issue of what is happening in Syria, and I am sure this will be the subject of further discussion. We hear criticism that we are supposedly striking the wrong targets. I said recently, speaking in Moscow: “Tell us what are the right targets to hit if you know them,” but no, they don’t tell us. So we ask them to tell us which targets to avoid, but they still don’t answer us.

We have this excellent movie, Ivan Vasilyevich Changes Profession. The Russian audience knows it well. One of the movie’s characters says to the other: “How am I supposed to understand what you’re saying if you don’t say anything?”

Fortunately, at the military level at least, as I said before, we are starting to say something to each other and come to some agreements. The circumstances oblige us to do so. The military people are the most responsible it seems, and I hope that if they can reach agreements, we will be able to reach agreements at the political level too.

How effective will our operations in Syria be?

How can I give a certain answer to such questions? The only thing that is certain is an insurance policy. We are acting in accordance with our convictions and with the norms of international law. We hope that coordinated action between our strike aircraft and the other military systems being used, coordinated with the Syrian army’s offensive, will produce positive results. I believe and our military also think that results have already been achieved.

Is this enough to be able to say that we have defeated terrorism in Syria? No, big efforts are still needed before we will be able to make such an assertion. A lot of work is still needed, and let me stress that this must be joint work.

We do not want to start finger-pointing now, but let me say nonetheless that over the nearly 18 months that a US-led coalition has been carrying out airstrikes, with more than 11 countries taking part and more than 500 strikes against various targets, there is no result yet, and this is a clear fact.

What result can we speak of if the terrorists have reinforced their presence in Syria and Iraq, dug in deeper in the territory they had already taken, and expanded their presence? In this sense, it seems to me that our colleagues have not achieved any effective results as yet.

The first operations between our armed forces and the Syrian armed forces have produced results, but this is not enough. It would be wonderful if we united forces, everyone who genuinely wants to fight terrorism, if all the region’s countries and the outside powers, including the United States, came together on this. In essence, this is just what we proposed.

We proposed that a military delegation come to Moscow first, and then I said that we were ready to send a high-level political delegation headed by Russia’s Prime Minister to discuss political questions. But our proposal was given a refusal. True, our American colleagues did then provide explanations at the ministerial level, saying that there had been some misunderstanding and that the road is open, that we can take this road and should think about how to unite our efforts.

Now, the foreign ministers of the USA, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey will meet. I think that other countries in the region should join this process too, countries whose involvement is essential if we want to settle this issue. I am thinking of Iran, primarily. We have already said this many times before. But it is a start at this stage to have the foreign ministers meet to discuss things. As for our Iranian partners, we are in close contact with them on this matter, and Iran makes its own significant contribution to a settlement.

On the question of Syria’s partition, I think this would be the worst-case scenario. It is an unacceptable option because it would not help to resolve the conflict but would instead only serve to increase and prolong it. This would become a permanent conflict. If Syria were partitioned into separate territories, they would inevitably fight between themselves without end and nothing positive would come out of this.

On the matter of whether al-Assad should go or not, I have said many times already that I think it wrong to even ask this question. How can we ask and decide from outside whether this or that country’s leader should stay or go. This is a matter for the Syrian people to decide.

Let me add though that we must be certain that government is formed on the basis of transparent democratic procedures. We can talk of having some kind of international monitoring of these procedures, including election procedures, but this must be objective monitoring, and most importantly, it must not have a bias in favour of any one country or group of countries.

Finally, on how we see the political process, let me give a general outline now, but let me say at the same time that it is the Syrians themselves who must formulate this process, its principles and final goals, what they want and how they will achieve it. By the Syrians themselves, I am referring to the lawful government and the opposition forces.

Of course, we take the view that the root causes of the conflict in Syria are not just the fight against terrorism and terrorist attacks, though terrorist aggression is clear and the terrorists are simply taking advantage of Syria’s internal difficulties. We need to separate the terrorist threat from the internal political problems. Certainly, the Syrian government must establish working contact with those opposition forces that are ready for dialogue. I understood from my meeting with President al-Assad the day before yesterday (Tuesday 20th October 2015; separate text here) that he is ready for such dialogue.

(Subject: Russian airstrikes on terrorist targets in Syria) I can tell you, I watch the video reports after the strike and they make an impression. Such a quantity of ammunition goes off there that it flies practically all the way up to the planes. You get the impression that they have collected arms and ammunition from throughout the entire Middle East. They have put together a colossal amount of arms. You can’t help but wonder where they get the money from. It’s really a tremendous amount of firepower they’ve accumulated. Now, of course, it is less than it was. The Syrian army really is making gains with our support. The results are modest for now, but they are there, and I am sure that there will be more.

(Subject: Possible Russian participation in an operation in Iraq) We have no such plans and cannot have them because the Iraqi government has not made any such request of us. We are providing assistance to Iraq in the form of arms supplies. This is something we were already doing, and we make our contribution to fighting terrorism in Iraq this way – by supplying weapons and ammunition. But the Iraqi government has not made any request for other aid, though we work together with them not just through supplies of arms and military equipment, but through information exchanges too.

As you know, it was in Baghdad that Iran, Syria, Russia and Iraq established an information centre, where we exchange information and set the main directions in the fight against terrorism, including against the Islamic State, but we have no plans to expand military operations involving Russia’s Aerospace Forces.

The aim of Russia’s military operations and diplomatic efforts in this area is to fight terrorism and not to mediate between representatives of the different currents of Islam. We value equally our Shiite friends, our Sunni friends, and our Alawite friends. We do not make distinctions between them.

We have very good relations with many countries where the Sunni branch of Islam is dominant. We also have very good relations with majority Shiite countries, and we therefore make no distinction between them. Let me say again that our sole and primary aim is to fight terrorism.

At the same time, we are aware of the realities on the ground. Of the 34, I think (it’s around that number, anyway), cabinet members in Syria, more than half are Sunnis, and Sunnis are just as broadly represented in the Syrian army as in the government. Syria was always primarily a secular state, after all.

But let me say again that we are aware of the real circumstances we are working in, and of course, if our actions could help to give discussion between the different religious groups a more civilised, good-neighbourly and friendly nature and help to settle various conflicts and unite efforts in the fight against terrorism, we would consider our mission fulfilled.

Let me raise the curtain a little on our talks with President al-Assad. I asked him: “How would you react if we see that there is an armed opposition in Syria today that is ready to genuinely fight terrorism, fight the Islamic State, and we were to support their efforts in this fight against terrorism just as we are supporting the Syrian army?” He said: “I think it would be positive.” We are reflecting on this now and will try, if it all works out, to translate these agreements into practical steps.

(Subject: Russia’s role in the future world) The answer is simple: in the modern world, in the near future and, I think, in the more distant future, the rôle and significance of any state in the world will depend on the level of a particular nation’s economic development. It will depend on how modern the economy is and how much it strives toward the future, the extent to which it is based on the newest technologies, and how quickly it adopts the new technological order.

And here, I am not talking about the territory, population, or military component – all that is very important, and without it, a nation cannot claim to hold one of the leading positions in the world. But in this respect, the economy and its development as well as the economic growth rates based on the new technological foundation lie at the heart of everything.

I feel that Russia has every chance of becoming one of the leaders, in the sense of having a high level of education among the population and a high level of fundamental science development. We have many problems here. We have always had them and will continue to have them – the same as other nations. But we are giving more and more attention not only to reviving fundamental and applied science, but also giving new momentum to developing these important areas. If we take into account these circumstances and absolutely natural competitive advantages, then Russia will certainly play a notable rôle.

I think it’s very difficult to identify a specific ranking. This is not an athletic competition, however, it is entirely clear to me that Russia has good prospects and a strong future – but it will certainly involve developing relations with our neighbours. First and foremost, these are our closest neighbours, partners and allies within such organisations as the Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO).

This includes developing relations with neighbours like China, the nation with which we have the highest turnover, at over $80 billion. And, of course, a great nation like India. And we certainly cannot imagine our development without developing relations with Europe.

Christian culture lies at the foundation of our unity, but we also have an advantage in that nearly 20% of our population is Muslim, and in this respect, we can be a link between many of our partners and the Islamic world. And, of course, we count on developing relations with the United States – if our partners will want it.

(Subject: The possibility of air defence missile systems getting into the hands of the Syrian opposition) This is an entirely valid question, I do not see anything here that could be translated into another category of wrong questions, and I will answer very pragmatically.

As far as we know – although it would be great if I am mistaken – the American military are already providing anti-tank and anti-armour weapons systems and are training gunners. I think this is a major mistake. I believe that this weaponry will certainly fall into the hands of terrorist organisations.

Moreover, as you know, our American colleagues simply chose to airdrop weapons and ammunition in certain areas. Who will receive this weaponry and ammunition? Who will use it? Against whom? There is no certainty; I simply know 100% that nobody can be certain of this, including those who do it. Even if it initially makes it into the right hands, tomorrow, it might and very likely will end up in the hands of ISIS or Jabhat al-Nusra or other similar organisations. I feel this is a big mistake.

Is it possible to transfer anti-aircraft weapons or MANPADs? I hope not, because American leaders, although we disagree on many positions, are nevertheless sensible people and realise that these weapons could end up in the hands of those who will aim them against the American pilots who also fly over Syria – granted, they’re doing it unlawfully, but still do it. And I think at least this should stop them from transferring this kind of weaponry.

As for certain types of aircraft – I have flown on them, I know what they are. Overall, I’m surprised that pilots are doing this. With those G-forces you can hardly move your head. And they need to not only control the aircraft but also control the weapons. Because the strikes are primarily made visually. The G-forces you experience with the aircraft’s sharp declines and rapid ascents are enormous; you can only move your fingers. This is the highest level of aerobatics, figuratively speaking. And these people certainly deserve our respect.

Our service members in Syria, of course, are fighting terrorism and in this respect, protect the interests of the Syrian people, but not only that. First and foremost, they protect the interests of Russia and the Russian people. They are striking the militants and militant groups that are a threat to our nation. Of course, they are risking their health and their lives. And in this regard, they are all heroes, but they chose this profession of their own free will. It was their choice. I am proud of them.

There is one more thing I want to say. Fifty years ago, I learnt one rule in the streets of Leningrad: if the fight is inevitable, be the first to strike. And I assure you, the threat of terrorist strikes against Russia has not become greater or less due to our actions in Syria. It was already there and it still is, unfortunately. We were not taking any action in Syria. What caused the terrorists to strike the railway station in Volgograd? Nothing. Simply their people-hating mentality, their attitude toward people’s lives, the fight against Russia itself. And so it is better for us to fight them there, as I already said, rather than await them here.

(Subject: Ukraine) Regarding the Minsk Agreements. I believe that there is no other way if we want to achieve lasting peace in the southeast of Ukraine and restore the country’s territorial integrity, there is no other way but to comply with the Minsk Agreements. Can Germany play a positive part here? It can.

I believe that the Federal Chancellor of Germany and the President of France are being sufficiently objective today, and though it is obvious that for political reasons they support the current Kiev authorities, in my opinion they have a sufficiently fair assessment of the situation. They already have the understanding that the problems that have accumulated there are not only black and white – it is much more complicated.

I spoke about this in New York at the meeting with my American colleague and partner – the President of the United States of America. I said that without the participation of Europe and the United States it would hardly be possible to resolve the situation.

There is no point in accusing Russia of non-compliance or failure to motivate the authorities of the unrecognised republics in the southeast of Ukraine to some action to implement the Minsk Agreements, if the Kiev authorities fail to comply with the key terms of those agreements. And the Kiev authorities are not in compliance.

This is no secret, it is something we often speak about, but I will say again what I mean when I say that the Kiev authorities are not complying with the Minsk Agreements.

The first thing that needs to be done to achieve a political settlement is amending the Constitution of Ukraine, this is stated directly in the Minsk Agreements, it is important: upon agreement – as it says – with these territories, the unrecognised republics. The authorities in Kiev amended the Constitution without any agreement with these unrecognised republics, insisting that they have reached agreement with the Venice Commission. Fine, but the Minsk Agreements say nothing about the Venice Commission, they require agreement with Donbass – something that has not been reached.

Second, the amendments should be permanent. Actually, they are made in transitional provisions, and in our view this means that it is a temporary measure. Our opponents speak of the opposite. How exactly was the Constitution amended? In essence the law on special status for these territories has been added to it, which has already been passed. When I ask what law is that, the German Chancellor, the French President and the Ukrainian President all confirm this is the law that the Ukrainian Rada has already passed. I asked if this was permanent, and they said it was.

So then, I ask them if they know that the law was passed for only three years, and one year has already passed, and Mr Poroshenko confirmed this. My European partners expressed their view that if the law was added to the Constitution, it should be permanent, but then this should be fixed in the Constitution.

Next, there was an argument about elections in the unrecognised republics. The Minsk Agreements say the Rada should pass a law on elections and they should be held in accordance with Ukrainian law. However, this law should also be agreed upon with these unrecognised republics. They sent in their proposals three times, but received no reply.

Moreover, the law that was passed says clearly that it will not apply to elections on these territories. Then what should they do? That is why they declared they would hold the elections on their own. We have managed to convince both territories to postpone the elections. We agreed that the law should be drafted together with Kiev. But this has to be done.

Finally, the Minsk Agreements say clearly: within 30 days of their signing the Rada should pass a resolution to introduce a law on special status. As I have said, it was passed by the Rada earlier. What did our partners in Kiev do? They approved the resolution passed by the Rada and formally, they were in compliance with the Minsk Agreements.

At the same time, without agreement with Donbass, they passed another article – article 10 of that law that says that it would only come into effect after the elections there, in other words they again put it off. These are simply manipulations. This is exactly what I said to my Ukrainian partner. These are nothing more but manipulations. Formally, they seem to have complied. As the classics of Marxism-Leninism used to say, correct in form but mockery in essence.

Finally, they should pass a law on amnesty. If everyone keeps telling us that the elections have to be conducted in line with OSCE standards, they should not forget that OSCE standards envisage one important condition of the election campaign: nobody can be criminally persecuted, while all the leaders of the Lugansk and Donetsk people’s republics are under criminal persecution. However, this is something everyone agrees on – both our American and European partners: that the law on amnesty needs to be passed. It has not been passed.

The Minsk Agreements say this directly. The reference to the fact that it is covered in the law on special status does not work because the law is not in effect. A reference to having it covered in the law on future elections does not work either because there is no such law. There should be a separate amnesty law. I doubt that anyone here would say this is impossible. This is an international standard – you cannot have elections where people with active or passive voting rights are subject to criminal persecution.

There are a number of other issues, but they are not being resolved; the ball, so to speak, is on the side of the Kiev authorities. This needs to be done and it can only be done by the Kiev Government and the Kiev President together with their European and American partners, not with Moscow. I apologise for taking such a long time, but I had to make my position clear.

(Subject: Russia's economy) The first question deals with the crisis, problems in the economy and its development.

As we all know from the forecasts of respectable international organisations, including economic and political ones, like the UN, the World Bank and the IMF, the global economy is not developing at the rate we all dreamed of. In this sense, the entire world economy is experiencing problems.

Russia’s economy is experiencing several problems at once, going through a number of trials. These have to do not only with the limitations that are often mentioned, the politicised limitations on the economy, the so-called sanctions, which do play a certain part, though not a decisive one.

The most important factor limiting growth, reducing economic growth rates is of course the fall in prices of our traditional exports. However all this does not apply to Russia alone – it concerns practically all developing markets. The Russian market is also affected, though possibly slightly less than some other developing markets are if we look at statistics.

What should we do? You have already said it yourself and mentioned that here in Russia we frequently and consistently speak of the need to diversify the economy, making it more diversified focusing on high technology sectors. True, progress here is slow. Is there anything positive happening here? There is. Here is an illustration. If, say, some 5–7 years ago the oil-and-gas sector accounted for 14 percent of the GDP, today its share in Russia’s GDP, in the national economy is 9 percent.

For comparison, I would like to say that the oil-and-gas sector, say, in Saudi Arabia accounts for 45 percent, if I remember correctly, while in some states of the Gulf it reaches 50 percent, while in Venezuela it is 30 percent, and in this country it is 9 percent. As you see, the difference is great.

For the first time, despite all the difficulties we encountered in the last quarter – unexpectedly for us, maybe, but such was the effect of our efforts, and I will explain about the efforts in a moment – we saw a growth in engineering product exports against the overall drop in production in this sector of the economy. However, exports of engineering products have grown.

What are the current problems? The thing is that our economy, having come across this situation on the external market, is not structurally ready to maintain the required growth rates. Certain industries were affected and we believe this requires special attention. I will tell you what we are doing here. Primarily, this is the industry. In some branches, the drop reaches 10 and more percent. This causes special concern, but we know what to do here as well. Finally, we need to focus on the national currency, something the Central Bank is doing quite confidently.

In this connection, I believe that those experts and Government members who say that we have passed the peak of the crisis are right. Now we need to focus on the factors I have just mentioned, on supporting the most affected sectors – this includes construction, engineering, car manufacturing and some high-tech construction branches. For this purpose the Government has allocated an additional 150 billion rubles, another 300 billion rubles have been allocated to agriculture; therefore, there is sufficient financial support.

We have to carry on with the work we have been doing over the past years. The Central Bank, as I said, is doing its part to stabilise the national currency – another factor that allows us to say we have achieved certain stability. The exchange rate of the national currency does fluctuate along with the changing oil prices, but overall it has stabilised. We are maintaining a positive trade balance despite all the difficulties.

The Central Bank has rather significant gold and currency reserves – over $370 billion. We have significant reserves in the Government funds – over $70 billion in one reserve fund and $74 billion in another one. True, the way we are structuring the tactics of our economic development, we will be cutting into those a little, but nevertheless, by the end of 2018 I am certain we will have sufficient Government reserves in addition to those of the Central Bank.

Over the previous period, the previous quarter, the budget deficit was only 1.5 percent. Inflation is going down: last month it was 0.5 percent, I believe, the end-of-year figure will be significant, around 11.9 or possibly 12 percent. However, we proceed from the assumption that in the following years there will be a downward trend. Actually, the trend has begun and we need to maintain it.

Generally, we will try to maintain the macroeconomic indices using a very conservative approach to budget spending, bearing in mind that salaries have gone down a little in real terms. I am certain they will grow along with economic growth. However, with this in view we need to switch over (we will be making appropriate legal decisions now) to a more targeted approach to social support. This is a rough set of instruments that we intend to use to ensure further diversification and economic growth rates that we clearly need.

Now about Syria. You said the goal of the USA is to get rid of al-Assad, while Russia’s goal is to support al-Assad, right? It may be true that the USA have the goal to get rid of al-Assad. Our goal is to combat terrorism and to help President al-Assad gain victory over terrorism, which in turn would create conditions for the beginning and, hopefully, successful implementation of a political settlement. I believe this is the only right way out.

Source here (22.10.15).

Picture: Assad. Lavrov. Medvedev. Putin. Shoigu. Moscow, Russia. 20th Oct 2015.

On Tuesday 20th October 2015, the President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, made a working visit to Moscow, Russia, to meet the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and his senior colleagues.

Vladimir Putin: Mr President, let me wish you a warm welcome to Moscow. Despite the dramatic situation in your country, you have responded to our request and come here to Russia, and we thank you for this.

We took the decision upon your request to provide effective aid to the Syrian people in fighting the international terrorists who have unleashed a genuine war against Syria.

The Syrian people have been practically alone in putting up resistance and fighting these international terrorists for several years now, and has suffered great losses. Lately though, there have been some major positive results in this fight.

The attempts by international terrorists to bring whole swathes of territory in the Middle East under their control and destabilise the situation in the region raise legitimate concerns in many countries around the world.

This is a matter of concern for Russia too, given that sadly, people from the former Soviet Union, around 4,000 people at least, have taken up arms and are fighting on Syrian territory against the government forces. Of course, we cannot let these people gain combat experience, and go through ideological indoctrination, and then return to Russia.

On the question of a settlement in Syria, our position is that positive results in military operations will lay the base for then working out a long-term settlement based on a political process that involves all political forces, ethnic and religious groups. Ultimately, it is the Syrian people alone who must have the deciding voice here.

Syria is Russia’s friend and we are ready to make our contribution not only to the military operations and the fight against terrorism, but also to the political process. We would do this, of course, in close contact with the other global powers and with the countries in the region that want to see a peaceful settlement to this conflict. Once again, I wish you welcome, Mr President.

Bashar al-Assad: Thank you very much, Mr President. First of all, I want to express our tremendous gratitude to the Russian leadership and people for the help they are providing Syria. Thank you for supporting Syria’s unity and independence. Most important of all is that this is being done within the framework of international law.

I must say that the political steps the Russian Federation has been taking since the start of the crisis made it possible to prevent events in Syria from taking an even more tragic turn.

If it were not for your actions and decisions, the terrorism that is spreading through the region now would have made even greater gains and spread to even wider territories. You have confirmed your course of action by joining in the military operations as part of a common front in the fight against terrorism.

Of course, we all know that any military action must be followed by political steps. Of course, our common goal is to bring about the vision the Syrian people have of their own country’s future.

We must be particularly aware that military strikes against the terrorists are essential above all because we must fight terrorism, and also because terrorism is a real obstacle on the road to reaching a political settlement.

Of course, the entire nation wants to take part in deciding the country’s fate, and not just the government.

I want to thank the Russian people once more for the help they are giving Syria and express the hope that we will vanquish terrorism and continue working together to rebuild our country economically and politically and ensure peaceful life for everyone.

Source here (21.10.15).
Picture: President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad. 20th Oct 2015. Moscow.

Picture: Latuff cartoon. Aggressor. Palestine Intifada. October 2015.,+Palestine.+November+2012.+A+response+to+Zionist+oppression.+%231ab..jpg?SSImageQuality=Full

Picture: Palestinian with a knife. Palestine Intifada. October 2015.

Picture: Palestine Intifada. Israel. IDF. October 2015.

Picture: Cartoon: Terrifying terror. US. Israel. Daesh ISIS. UN. Syria.

Picture: Russian info leaflet dropped on ISIS in Syria. Arabic. October 2015.

Picture: Israel, ISIS and the US CIA Rogue Faction.

Picture: US. Ben and Candy Carson.

Picture: Rupert Murdoch. Twitter. 7th Oct 2015. Ben Carson. Barack Obama.

Picture: Russian warplanes in Syria. Daesh ISIS mercenaries. October 2015.

Picture: Putin speaks at reopening of Moscow’s Cathedral Mosque. September 2015.

On Wednesday 23rd September 2015, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, spoke at the reopening of Moscow’s Cathedral Mosque:

Mr Erdogan, Mr Abbas, members of the clergy, foreign guests, friends,

Let me congratulate you from all my heart on the opening of Moscow’s rebuilt Cathedral Mosque. This is a big event for all Muslims in Russia.

One of Moscow’s oldest mosques stood on this historical site and has undergone reconstruction which now makes it the biggest in Europe.

It was given a magnificent modern new look worthy of the capital of our united, multi-ethnic and multi-confessional country. This new mosque is worthy of Russia, in which, I want to stress, Islam, under our country’s law, is one of Russia’s traditional religions, with millions of our citizens counting themselves among its followers.

I want to thank everyone who took part in the work on this magnificent building and all of the Muslims in Russia and abroad who donated to this effort. We are grateful to the governments of Turkey and Kazakhstan for their contributions to the mosque’s reconstruction.

I am sure that the mosque will become a major spiritual centre for Muslims in Moscow and throughout Russia, providing education and spreading humanistic ideas and the true and authentic values of Islam.

It will spread knowledge and spirituality and will help to unite the efforts of Muslims and people of other faiths too in common worthy causes. The Qur'an tells us to try to outdo each other in doing good.

Right from its creation, Russia has always been a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional country. This mutual enrichment of different cultures, traditions and religions has always been our country’s distinguishing feature and strength.

Moscow’s Muslim community, for example, emerged back in mediaeval times, and this is reflected in the Tatar roots of many of the capital’s street names.

The traditions of enlightened Islam developed over many centuries in Russia.

The fact that different peoples and religions live peacefully together in Russia is in large part thanks to the Muslim community, which has made a worthy contribution to preserving harmony in our society and has always strived to build relations within and between religions based on tolerance for each other’s faiths.

Today, traditional Islam is an integral part of Russia’s spiritual life. Islam’s humanist values, like the values of our other traditional religions, teach people compassion, justice and care for our loved ones. We place great value on these things.

The number of mosques and Islamic cultural centres has increased greatly in Russia over the last 20 years. Amazingly beautiful mosques have been built in Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Chechnya and other Russian regions.

In 2003, our country became a permanent observer in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. Thousands of pilgrims from Russia make the hajj, and the number of madrasas and schools attached to mosques has also increased greatly.

It is important to educate Muslim youth in traditional Islamic values and prevent attempts to impose on us world outlooks that are alien to us and have nothing to do with genuine Islam. Let me say that the authorities will continue to assist in reviving Russia’s system of Islamic theological schools and religious education.

As you know, I supported the Tatarstan authorities and the principal Muslim spiritual bodies on the issue of establishing the Bulgar Islamic Academy, thus reviving this ancient Russian Muslim centre of religion and learning.

Of course, we must continue expanding the network of Muslim cultural and educational centres. Their aim is to bring Muslims together, impart to them the spiritual, cultural and moral code inherent to traditional Islam in Russia, help to resolve common problems, and take part in youth education.

I note the big rôle that Muslims and above all their spiritual leaders play in strengthening interethnic and interfaith harmony. Their rejection and condemnation of all forms of fundamentalism and radicalism have made a major contribution to the fight against nationalism and religious extremism.

Work in this area is all the more important today, when we see attempts to cynically exploit religious feelings for political aims.

We see what is happening in the Middle East, where terrorists from the so-called Islamic State are compromising a great world religion, compromising Islam, sowing hatred, killing people, including clergy, and barbarically destroying monuments of world culture. Their ideology is built on lies and blatant distortions of Islam.

They are trying to recruit followers here in Russia too.

Russia’s Muslim leaders are bravely and fearlessly using their own influence to resist this extremist propaganda. I want to express my tremendous respect for these people who carry out their work heroically and have suffered losses. I have no doubt that they will continue to educate the faithful in the spirit of humanism, compassion and justice.

Friends, this new mosque is opening as the Muslim community is about to celebrate the big holiday of Eid al-Adha. Let me congratulate all of Russia’s Muslims on this joyful holiday and wish you all goodness, happiness and prosperity.

I congratulate you on the mosque’s opening.

Source here (23.09.15).

Picture: Alcuin and Flutterby. Index of blog contents.

Picture: The Art of the New Spirituality. "Boar head" by Ai Weiwei.

The bronze sculpture above, entitled "Boar head", and the clickthrough image underneath it ("I.O.U.") are by the Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei. More examples of artwork by Ai Weiwei, and by seventy other artists and illustrators, are linked from this blog page here.

There is a major Ai Weiwei exhibition on at the moment at the Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly, London (UK). It runs until Sunday 13th December 2015. Ticket information is here. And useful reviews of the show can be found here, here and here.
Picture: UK politics begins to mature. David Cameron. Jeremy Corbyn.

Picture: Western régime change gets visible in Australia. IN Turnbull. OUT Abbott.

Picture: Why do we have wars, Mummy?

Picture: US Federal Reserve Money Laundry. Janet Yellen. William Dudley.

The US Federal Reserve Money Laundry

Bank-sponsored Treason in Washington DC and New York City

Arrests of élite criminal financiers imminent

Civil actions join the legal ferment
The technical detail of the US Federal Reserve's illegal and anti-Consitutional money laundry is now known to the the US Supreme Court, the US Congress, the US Pentagon and the US Provost Marshal.

The individuals, agents, agencies, constituent corporations, primary dealers and private owners of the US Federal Reserve nexus now have no lawful or legitimate claim to legal immunity. Nor do the individuals acting for the law enforcement authorities who are tasked with the arrest and proper public prosecution, in open court, of the accused persons.

The Washington-backed US establishment system of banking embezzlement is outlined in the following summary of a current Legal Complaint by Federal Reserve whistleblower James Carter, a US resident of Cass County, Missouri.

The US Federal Reserve banking syndicate (the Federal Reserve Bank of New York  and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve) is explicitly accused of hiding a trillion dollars a year using its exclusive handling of records and disbursement of the US Treasury security auction accounts.

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve is exposed as operating as a US government contractor as defined by the US Supreme Court, and not as an agency of the US government .

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve's violation of the law that all profit of the Federal Reserve (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve + Federal Reserve Bank of New York) belongs to the US government, negates any claim to US government immunity.

Treble damages and civil penalties are sought from the Federal Reserve (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve + Federal Reserve Bank of New York).

These damages and penalties arise from the Federal Reserve's hiding of profit from Congress, and from the lack of reporting such profit to Congress. These actions are violations of the (civil) False Claims Act (the "Lincoln Law").

The violations of the False Claims Act arise because the Federal Reserve (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve + Federal Reserve Bank of New York) knowingly and intentionally conceals from the US government approximately six hundred times a year, a total amount of money equal to the value of the total deficit spending of the US government.

The Federal Reserve (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve + Federal Reserve Bank of New York) is knowingly engaged in a contorted accounting scam. Hidden records are used by the Federal Reserve (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve + Federal Reserve Bank of New York) to conceal the perfidy.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has exclusive control of the redemption records. This authority is used to control the receipts and disbursements of all US Treasury security auctions. These records have never been independently audited.

The profit is hidden from the United States in violation of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, which specifies that all net profit of the Federal Reserve system is the property of the United States.

The statutory requirement for a complete report of the system to be periodically made to Congress is routinely violated.

Private Federal Reserve corporations can be sued
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York is a privately-owned corporation operating on a franchise granted by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. It has the statutory authority to sue or to be sued.

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve is a privately-held corporation owned by select Primary Dealers. It operates as a US government contractor that has assumed the guise of a US federal agency. It has the statutory authority to sue or to be sued.

Twenty-one Primary Dealers own the private corporation which is called the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. These Primary Dealers include Barclays Capital, Citigroup Global Markets, Credit Suisse Securities (USA), Deutsche Bank Securities, Goldman Sachs, HSBC Securities (USA), J.P.Morgan Securities, Morgan Stanley, RBS Securities, and UBS Securities.

The full list of Primary Dealers which own the private corporation called the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve is here.

Each Primary Dealer has violated the False Claims Act by receiving and hiding profit from the Federal Reserve's operations.

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve has administrative control and regulatory authority over each Federal Reserve Bank. The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve has the legislated responsibility for auditing and reporting to Congress an annual "complete report" of the Federal Reserve System.

A systemic violation of the Charter law of the Federal Reserve legislation by any Federal Reserve Bank, which is not corrected or reported to Congress, makes that bank an entity which conspires to commit a violation of the False Claims Act.

An unlawful practice by any US government employee or entity negates any claim of sovereign immunity.

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve maintains the guise of a US Federal agency. In fact, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve operates as a US government contractor. It has no lawful claim to sovereign immunity.

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve is subject to court process as respondent superior, and as an indispensable party for any systemic unlawful operation of any Federal Reserve bank.

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve is a privately-held corporation secretly owned by select Primary Dealers. Its primary allegiance is to its owners. A US government agency, in contradistinction, is established for the benefit of society. A US government agency which is established for the benefit of a corporate enterprise in violation of its charter of creation is a legal nullity. It is void from its inception and negates any claim to sovereign immunity.

Federal Rule of Procedure 19 authorises joinder of the owners of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve as indispensible parties and recipients of purloined funds.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve were created by legislation in 1913 which was formulated at a clandestine meeting of Wall Street and European bankers secluded on Jekyll Island.

The new economic structure settled in that 1913 legislation was modeled on historic European systems which had benefited various rulers and financiers, but left the nations concerned in financial ruin, with widespread riots, confiscation of estates and physical harm to the perpetrators. The model thus conceals the perpetrators.

Ownership of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve has been alleged by various authors, but requests pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for verification of ownership are stonewalled with uninformative website links. The ownership of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve is not a matter of public record.

Since the trail of money leads to the Primary Dealers, each member of that group (named here) is an owner of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for the identities of those responsible for compiling the screened lists (and the original 1913 list) submitted for US government appointment as Federal Reserve officers are rebuffed. Those parties are the owners of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve.

Supervisory and regulatory control of all Federal Reserve banks is vested in the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve; the Federal Reserve banks are franchises controlled by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve banks operate as private corporations.

The object of the Federal Reserve system is to embezzle the hidden profit. The source of initial funds to establish operations in 1913 was from the owners of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve.

Unlawful exploitation of US deficit spending by the US Federal Reserve system
Deficit spending occurs when Congress approves such an act. The US Treasury can then send a US Treasury security (a marketable security such as a bill, bond or note) as collateral to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York then increases the US government's line of credit (book entry money) by that amount. The act is identified as a "loan" from the Federal Reserve. The source of the loan is never identified as having the value before the "loan", but somehow the money comes from an unknown source.

The US government pays for services by vendors from the account thus established. When a vendor requests "cash" from a commercial bank after depositing the cheque, the vendor will receive Federal Reserve Notes (FRNs), i.e. a voucher acknowledging debt from the Federal Reserve system identified as a legal tender.

A legal tender is an alternate item from that which was contracted. The vendor requests "dollars" when the cheque is cashed, but is given Federal Reserve Notes as a substitute which, by law, must be accepted for the requested item.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York will sell the US Treasury security (as a component of a roll-over security) by auction, with a superficial appearance at the auction by the US Treasury.

Bids for auctions of US Treasury Marketable securities are jointly received by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and select US government branches. The auctions are open to the public. Approximately 70% of sales are to the Primary Dealers who place bids with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Each security is accompanied by papers which identify how much of it goes for roll-over and how much is for deficit spending. Approximately 85% of auctioned securities are used to fund roll-over for maturing or redeemed US Treasury securities. Security value for deficit spending is about 15%.

Funds received by auctioning securities for redemption of securities in the market may be received by the US government or the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. They are credited to a US government account by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Since the funds are credited to the US government, there is no increase in the National Debt, nor is there any increase in the amount of currency in circulation. The US government balance sheet lists these funds as assets under Marketable securities.

The US Treasury makes a list of securities that are being recalled before maturity with the price that they will pay. The Primary Dealers are largely responsible for collecting the listed or maturing securities for redemption.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has exclusive management and accounting control of redemption accounts for the US government. The accounts have never been independently audited, nor are they reported to Congress as required by law.

Deficit spending securities are auctioned off as a small component of each roll-over security. While temporarily shown on US government balance sheets, the funds are not available to pay for US government services.

If the funds belonged to the US government, there would be no increase in the US National Debt, nor would there be an increase in the money in circulation (inflation). The retention of the value within the Federal Reserve system is deliberately concealed.

Revenue from both deficit and roll-over auctioned securities appears on the US government balance sheet as "Marketable" securities. Purchases of maturing securities are listed under "Redemptions". The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has exclusive control of the accounts for redemption. This authority is used to pay the owners of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve their share of profit from deficit spending.

While the funds from all auctions appear on the balance sheet of the US government, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has exclusive authority to handle disbursements of redeemed securities. This authority is used to cover paying funds from deficit spending to the owners of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve.

Funds received from auctioning deficit spending securities are ostensibly used to pay back the "loan" which created the book-entry money - while concealing the payment from the public records.

The owners of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve advance no consideration for the above "loan" or transactions. If the owners of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve had advanced value in the "loan", there would have been no increase in the amount of money in circulation (inflation) and no increase in the US National Debt, i.e. no book-entry creation of money.

The owners of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve receive the entire value of deficit spending as a net profit by this handling. There is no consideration advanced by the owners of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. The net profit of the Federal Reserve system belongs to the US government, not to the owners of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve.

It is impossible to pay off the US National Debt which is created by the above transactions. Every "dollar" in circulation has been created as the principal of a "loan", but requires repayment of principal plus interest. The interest itself is never created; it does not exist. It is a loan which cannot be culminated.

The ancestors of the 21 Primary Dealers who own the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, contrived and established the scam to acquire vast profit (to receive funds from deficit spending securities) with the full knowledge that this money is the fruit of a scam.

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve is a full and willing accomplice in the scam and deliberately provides concealment of its action from public awareness.

The US National Debt in February 2009 was £10.6 trillion; the US National Debt in February 2015 was $18.1 trillion. The total amount of funds deliberately concealed within the statutory limit of six years exceeded $7.4 trillion.

There are approximately 600 auctions of US Treasury securities each year. Assuming that each of these has a deficit spending component, each auction is a violation of the Primary Dealers' obligation to transfer such money to the US government. A six-year period would involve approximately 3,600 such violations subject to a statutory civil penalty of up to $10,000 for each violation.

Wherefore, the Plaintiff/Relator in this case requests judgment against the Primary Dealers (the owners of the private corporation called the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve) for three times the amount improperly concealed by the Federal Reserve system; for the maximum civil penalty for each violation of the False Claims Act; for the minimum statutory amount authorised to the Plaintiff/Relator; for court costs and expenses; and for such further relief as the Court deems just and proper.

Case No: 12-0129-CV W hfs in A United States District Court, Western District of Missouri, Western Division.

The full text of James Carter's March 2015 court document can be found here. The Plaintiff/Relator, James Carter, is a resident of Cass County, Missouri, USA.

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Picture: Greece. Greferendum. When debt is fraudulent .... debt forgiveness.

Picture: Greece. Greferendum. No. Tsipras. Merkel. Hollande. Juncker.


Greece has been, and still is, the victim of an attack premeditated and organised by the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission. This violent, illegal, and immoral mission was aimed exclusively at shifting private debt on to the public sector.

Truth Committee on the Greek Public Debt
Executive Summary
17th June 2015

In June 2015 Greece stands at a crossroad of choosing between furthering the failed macroeconomic adjustment programmes imposed by the creditors or making a real change to break the chains of debt.

Five years since the economic adjustment programmes began, the country remains deeply cemented in an economic, social, democratic and ecological crisis.

The black box of debt has remained closed, and until now no authority, Greek or international, has sought to bring to light the truth about how and why Greece was subjected to the Troika régime. The debt, in whose name nothing has been spared, remains the rule through which neoliberal adjustment is imposed, and the deepest and longest recession experienced in Europe during peacetime.

There is an immediate need and social responsibility to address a range of legal, social and economic issues that demand proper consideration. In response, the Hellenic Parliament established the Truth Committee on Public Debt in April 2015, mandating the investigation into the creation and growth of public debt, the way and reasons for which debt was contracted, and the impact that the conditionalities attached to the loans have had on the economy and the population.

The Truth Committee has a mandate to raise awareness of issues pertaining to the Greek debt, both domestically and internationally, and to formulate arguments and options concerning the cancellation of the debt.

The research of the Committee presented in this preliminary report sheds light on the fact that the entire adjustment programme, to which Greece has been subjugated, was and remains a politically orientated programme. The technical exercise surrounding macroeconomic variables and debt projections, figures directly relating to people’s lives and livelihoods, has enabled discussions around the debt to remain at a technical level mainly revolving around the argument that the policies imposed on Greece will improve its capacity to pay the debt back. The facts presented in this report challenge this argument.

All the evidence we present in this report shows that Greece not only does not have the ability to pay this debt, but also should not pay this debt first and foremost because the debt emerging from the Troika’s arrangements is a direct infringement on the fundamental human rights of the residents of Greece. Hence, we came to the conclusion that Greece should not pay this debt because it is illegal, illegitimate, and odious.

It has also come to the understanding of the Committee that the unsustainability of the Greek public debt was evident from the outset to the international creditors, the Greek authorities, and the corporate media. Yet, the Greek authorities, together with some other governments in the EU, conspired against the restructuring of public debt in 2010 in order to protect financial institutions. The corporate media hid the truth from the public by depicting a situation in which the bailout was argued to benefit Greece, whilst spinning a narrative intended to portray the population as deservers of their own wrongdoings.

Bailout funds provided in both programmes of 2010 and 2012 have been externally managed through complicated schemes, preventing any fiscal autonomy. The use of the bailout money is strictly dictated by the creditors, and so, it is revealing that less than 10% of these funds have been destined to the government’s current expenditure.

This preliminary report presents a primary mapping out of the key problems and issues associated with the public debt, and notes key legal violations associated with the contracting of the debt; it also traces out the legal foundations, on which unilateral suspension of the debt payments can be based. The findings are presented in nine chapters structured as follows:

Chapter 1, Debt before the Troika, analyses the growth of the Greek public debt since the 1980s. It concludes that the increase in debt was not due to excessive public spending, which in fact remained lower than the public spending of other Eurozone countries, but rather due to the payment of extremely high rates of interest to creditors, excessive and unjustified military spending, loss of tax revenues due to illicit capital outflows, state recapitalisation of private banks, and the international imbalances created via the flaws in the design of the Monetary Union itself.

Adopting the Euro led to a drastic increase of private debt in Greece to which major European private banks as well as the Greek banks were exposed. A growing banking crisis contributed to the Greek sovereign debt crisis. George Papandreou’s government helped to present the elements of a banking crisis as a sovereign debt crisis in 2009 by emphasizing and boosting the public deficit and debt.

Chapter 2, Evolution of Greek public debt during 2010-2015, concludes that the first loan agreement of 2010, (was) aimed primarily to rescue the Greek and other European private banks, and to allow the banks to reduce their exposure to Greek government bonds.

Chapter 3, Greek public debt by creditor in 2015, presents the contentious nature of Greece’s current debt, delineating the loans’ key characteristics, which are further analysed in Chapter 8.

Chapter 4, Debt System Mechanism in Greece reveals the mechanisms devised by the agreements that were implemented since May 2010. They created a substantial amount of new debt to bilateral creditors and the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF), whilst generating abusive costs thus deepening the crisis further. The mechanisms disclose how the majority of borrowed funds were transferred directly to financial institutions. Rather than benefitting Greece, they have accelerated the privatization process, through the use of financial instruments.

Chapter 5, Conditionalities against sustainability, presents how the creditors imposed intrusive conditionalities attached to the loan agreements, which led directly to the economic unviability and unsustainability of debt. These conditionalities, on which the creditors still insist, have not only contributed to lower GDP as well as higher public borrowing, hence a higher public debt/GDP making Greece’s debt more unsustainable, but also engineered dramatic changes in the society, and caused a humanitarian crisis. The Greek public debt can be considered as totally unsustainable at present.

Chapter 6, Impact of the “bailout programmes” on human rights, concludes that the measures implemented under the “bailout programmes” have directly affected living conditions of the people and violated human rights, which Greece and its partners are obliged to respect, protect and promote under domestic, regional and international law. The drastic adjustments, imposed on the Greek economy and society as a whole, have brought about a rapid deterioration of living standards, and remain incompatible with social justice, social cohesion, democracy and human rights.

Chapter 7, Legal issues surrounding the MOU and Loan Agreements, argues there has been a breach of human rights obligations on the part of Greece itself and the lenders, that is the Euro Area (Lender) Member States, the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, who imposed these measures on Greece. All these actors failed to assess the human rights violations as an outcome of the policies they obliged Greece to pursue, and also directly violated the Greek constitution by effectively stripping Greece of most of its sovereign rights.

The agreements contain abusive clauses, effectively coercing Greece to surrender significant aspects of its sovereignty. This is imprinted in the choice of the English law as governing law for those agreements, which facilitated the circumvention of the Greek Constitution and international human rights obligations. Conflicts with human rights and customary obligations, several indications of contracting parties acting in bad faith, which together with the unconscionable character of the agreements, render these agreements invalid.

Chapter 8, Assessment of the Debts as regards illegitimacy, odiousness, illegality, and unsustainability, provides an assessment of the Greek public debt according to the definitions regarding illegitimate, odious, illegal, and unsustainable debt adopted by the Committee.

Chapter 8 concludes that the Greek public debt as of June 2015 is unsustainable, since Greece is currently unable to service its debt without seriously impairing its capacity to fulfill its basic human rights obligations. Furthermore, for each creditor, the report provides evidence of indicative cases of illegal, illegitimate and odious debts.

Debt to the IMF should be considered illegal since its concession breached the IMF’s own statutes, and its conditions breached the Greek Constitution, international customary law, and treaties to which Greece is a party. It is also illegitimate, since conditions included policy prescriptions that infringed human rights obligations. Finally, it is odious since the IMF knew that the imposed measures were undemocratic, ineffective, and would lead to serious violations of socio-economic rights.

Debts to the ECB should be considered illegal since the ECB over-stepped its mandate by imposing the application of macroeconomic adjustment programs (e.g. labour market deregulation) via its participation in the Troïka. Debts to the ECB are also illegitimate and odious, since the principal raison d’etre of the Securities Market Programme (SMP) was to serve the interests of the financial institutions, allowing the major European and Greek private banks to dispose of their Greek bonds.

The EFSF engages in cash-less loans which should be considered illegal because Article 122(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) was violated, and further they breach several socio-economic rights and civil liberties. Moreover, the EFSF Framework Agreement 2010 and the Master Financial Assistance Agreement of 2012 contain several abusive clauses revealing clear misconduct on the part of the lender. The EFSF also acts against democratic principles, rendering these particular debts illegitimate and odious.

The bilateral loans should be considered illegal since they violate the procedure provided by the Greek constitution. The loans involved clear misconduct by the lenders, and had conditions that contravened law or public policy.

Both EU law and international law were breached in order to sideline human rights in the design of the macroeconomic programmes. The bilateral loans are furthermore illegitimate, since they were not used for the benefit of the population, but merely enabled the private creditors of Greece to be bailed out. Finally, the bilateral loans are odious since the lender states and the European Commission knew of potential violations, but in 2010 and 2012 avoided to assess the human rights impacts of the macroeconomic adjustment and fiscal consolidation that were the conditions for the loans.

The debt to private creditors should be considered illegal because private banks conducted themselves irresponsibly before the Troika came into being, failing to observe due diligence, while some private creditors such as hedge funds also acted in bad faith.

Parts of the debts to private banks and hedge funds are illegitimate for the same reasons that they are illegal; furthermore, Greek banks were illegitimately recapitalized by tax-payers. Debts to private banks and hedge funds are odious, since major private creditors were aware that these debts were not incurred in the best interests of the population but rather for their own benefit.

The report comes to a close with some practical considerations.

Chapter 9, Legal foundations for repudiation and suspension of the Greek sovereign debt, presents the options concerning the cancellation of debt, and especially the conditions under which a sovereign state can exercise the right to unilateral act of repudiation or suspension of the payment of debt under international law.

Several legal arguments permit a State to unilaterally repudiate its illegal, odious, and illegitimate debt. In the Greek case, such a unilateral act may be based on the following arguments: the bad faith of the creditors that pushed Greece to violate national law and international obligations related to human rights; preeminence of human rights over agreements such as those signed by previous governments with creditors or the Troika; coercion; unfair terms flagrantly violating Greek sovereignty and violating the Constitution; and finally, the right recognised in international law for a State to take countermeasures against illegal acts by its creditors, which purposefully damage its fiscal sovereignty, oblige it to assume odious, illegal and illegitimate debt, violate economic self-determination and fundamental human rights.

As far as unsustainable debt is concerned, every state is legally entitled to invoke necessity in exceptional situations in order to safeguard those essential interests threatened by a grave and imminent peril. In such a situation, the State may be dispensed from the fulfilment of those international obligations that augment the peril, as is the case with outstanding loan contracts. Finally, states have the right to declare themselves unilaterally insolvent where the servicing of their debt is unsustainable, in which case they commit no wrongful act and hence bear no liability.

People’s dignity is worth more than illegal, illegitimate, odious and unsustainable debt

Having concluded a preliminary investigation, the Committee considers that Greece has been and still is the victim of an attack premeditated and organised by the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission. This violent, illegal, and immoral mission aimed exclusively at shifting private debt onto the public sector.

Making this preliminary report available to the Greek authorities and the Greek people, the Committee considers to have fulfilled the first part of its mission as defined in the decision of the President of Parliament of 4 April 2015.

The Committee hopes that the report will be a useful tool for those who want to exit the destructive logic of austerity and stand up for what is endangered today: human rights, democracy, peoples’ dignity, and the future of generations to come.

In response to those who impose unjust measures, the Greek people might invoke what Thucydides mentioned about the constitution of the Athenian people: "As for the name, it is called a democracy, for the administration is run with a view to the interests of the many, not of the few” (Pericles’ Funeral Oration, in the speech from Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War).

Source of Executive Summary here (17.06.15). Full report here (18.06.15 - pdf 64pp).

Picture: Greece versus Europe 2015. Tsipras. Varoufakis. Merkel. Putin.


The Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras:

The EU, of which Greece is a member, must rediscover its true course by returning to its founding statutory principles and declarations: Solidarity, democracy, social justice. This will be impossible, though, if the EU persists with austerity policies and the disruption of social cohesion, which only serve to further the recession.

Let us not fool ourselves: the so-called Greek problem is not a Greek problem. It is a European problem. The problem is not Greece. The problem is the EuroZone, and its very structure.

And the question remains, whether the EU will allow room for growth, social cohesion and prosperity. Whether it will allow room for political solidarity, instead of policies imposing dead ends and failed projects. Source here.

The Greek government submitted specific proposals concerning the social security system’s reorganisation. We agreed to the immediate abolition of the early retirement option that increases the average retirement age, and we are committed to moving forward immediately with the consolidation of the pension funds, thus reducing their operating expenses and restricting special arrangements.

As we analysed in detail during our discussions with the institutions, these reforms function decisively in favor of the sustainability of the system. And like all reforms, their results will not be apparent from one day to another. Sustainability requires a long-term perspective and cannot be subject to narrow, short-term fiscal criteria (e.g. reducing expenditure by 1% of GDP in 2016).

Benjamin Disraeli used to say that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. Let us not allow an obsessive-compulsive use of indices to destroy the comprehensive agreement that we prepared over the previous period of intensive negotiations. The duty rests on all of our shoulders. Source here.

The Finance Minister of Greece, Yanis Varoufakis:

Last Thursday’s EuroGroup meeting (18th June 2015) went down in history as a lost opportunity to produce an already belated agreement between Greece and its creditors.

The EuroZone moves in a mysterious way. Momentous decisions are rubber- stamped by finance ministers who remain in the dark on the details, while unelected officials of mighty institutions are locked into one-sided negotiations with a solitary government-in-distress.

It is as if Europe has determined that elected finance ministers are not up to the task of mastering the technical details; a task best left to “experts” representing not voters but the institutions. One can only wonder to what extent such an arrangement is efficient, let alone remotely democratic.

What Greece now needs desperately is serious, proper reforms. We need a new tax system that helps defeat evasion and curtail political or corporate interference, a corruption-free procurement system, business-friendly licensing procedures, judicial reforms, elimination of scandalous early retirement practices, proper regulation of the media and of political party finances. Source here.

The only antidote to propaganda and malicious ‘leaks’ is transparency. After so much disinformation on my presentation at the EuroGroup of the Greek government’s position, the only response is to post the precise words uttered within. Read them and judge for yourselves whether the Greek government’s proposals constitute a basis for agreement.

Five months have gone by, the end of the road is nigh, but this finely balancing act has failed to materialise. Yes, at the Brussels Group we have come close. How close? On the fiscal side the positions are truly close, especially for 2015. For 2016 the remaining gap amounts to 0.5% of GDP. We have proposed parametric measures of 2% versus the 2.5% that the institutions insist upon. This 0.5% gap we propose to bridge over by administrative measures. It would be a major error to allow such a minuscule difference to cause massive damage to the Eurozone’s integrity. Convergence had also been achieved on a wide range of issues.

At this, the 11th hour, stage of the negotiations, before uncontrollable events take over, we have a moral duty, let alone a political and an economic one, to overcome this impasse. This is no time for recriminations and accusations. European citizens will hold collectively responsible all those of us who failed to strike a viable solution. Source here.

What were the causes of the Euro Crisis? News media and politicians love simple stories. Like Hollywood, they adore morality tales featuring villains and victims. Aesop’s fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper proved an instant hit.

From 2010 onwards the story goes something like this: The Greek grasshoppers did not do their homework and their debt-fuelled summer one day ended abruptly. The ants were then called upon to bail them out. Now, the German people are being told, the Greek grasshoppers do not want to pay their debt back. They want another bout of loose living, more fun in the sun, and another bailout so that they can finance it.

It is a powerful story. A story underpinning the tough stance that many advocate against the Greeks, against our government. The problem is that it is a misleading story. A story that casts a long shadow on the truth. An allegory that is turning one proud nation against another. With losers everywhere. Except perhaps the enemies of Europe and of democracy who are having a field day.

To maintain a nation’s trade surpluses within a monetary union the banking system must pile up increasing debts upon the deficit nations. Yes, the Greek state was an irresponsible borrower. But for every irresponsible borrower, there corresponds an irresponsible lender. Take Ireland or Spain and contrast it with Greece. Their governments, unlike ours, were not irresponsible. But then the Irish and the Spanish private sectors ended up taking up the extra debt that their government did not. Total debt in the Periphery was the reflection of the surpluses of the Northern, surplus nations.

This is why there is no profit to be had from thinking about debt in moral terms. We built an asymmetrical monetary union with rules that guaranteed the generation of unsustainable debt. This is how we built it. We are all responsible for it. Jointly. Collectively. As Europeans. And we are all responsible for fixing it. Source here.

Picture: The Art of the New Spirituality. "Still Life with Mirror" by Hao Aiqiang.

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Picture: Athens, Greece. Everlasting austerity.Yanis Varoufakis.

On Friday 6th September 1946, the US Secretary of State, James F. Byrnes, travelled to Stuttgart to deliver his historic Speech of Hope.

Byrnes’ address marked America’s post-war change of heart vis-à-vis Germany, and gave a fallen nation a chance to imagine recovery, growth, and a return to normalcy. Seven decades later, it is my country, Greece, that needs such a chance.

Until Byrnes’ Speech of Hope, the Allies were committed to converting “…Germany into a country primarily agricultural and pastoral in character.” That was the express intention of the Morgenthau Plan, devised by US Treasury Secretary, Henry Morgenthau Jnr, and co-signed by the United States and Britain two years earlier, in September 1944.

Indeed, when the US, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom signed the Potsdam Agreement in August 1945, they agreed on the “reduction or destruction of all civilian heavy-industry with war potential” and on “restructuring the German economy toward agriculture and light industry.”

By 1946, the Allies had reduced Germany’s steel output to 75% of its pre-war level. Car production plummeted to around 10% of pre-war output. By the end of the decade, 706 industrial plants were destroyed.

Byrnes’ speech signalled to the German people a reversal of that punitive de-industrialization drive.

Of course, Germany owes its post-war recovery and wealth to its people and their hard work, innovation, and devotion to a united, democratic Europe. But Germans could not have staged their magnificent post-war renaissance without the support signified by the Speech of Hope.

Prior to Byrnes’ speech, and for a while afterwards, America’s allies were not keen to restore hope to the defeated Germans. But once President Harry Truman’s administration decided to rehabilitate Germany, there was no turning back. Its rebirth was underway, facilitated by the Marshall Plan, the US-sponsored 1953 debt write-down, and by the infusion of migrant labor from Italy, Yugoslavia, and Greece.

Europe could not have united in peace and democracy without that sea change.

Someone had to put aside moralistic objections and look dispassionately at a country locked in a set of circumstances that would only reproduce discord and fragmentation across the continent. The US, having emerged from the war as the only creditor country, did precisely that.

Today, it is my country that is locked in such circumstances and in need of hope. Moralistic objections to helping Greece abound, denying its people a shot at achieving their own renaissance.

Greater austerity is being demanded from an economy that is on its knees, owing to the heftiest dose of austerity any country has ever had to endure in peacetime. No offer of debt relief. No plan for boosting investment. And certainly, as of yet, no Speech of Hope for this fallen people.

It is the mark of ancient societies, like those of Germany and of Greece, that contemporary tribulations revive old fears and foment new discord. So we must be careful. Teenagers should never be told that, due to some 'prodigal sin', they deserve to be educated in cash-strapped schools and weighed down by mass unemployment, whether the scene is Germany in the late 1940s or Greece today.

As I write these lines, the Greek government is presenting the European Union with a set of proposals for deep reforms, debt management, and an investment plan to kick-start the economy. Greece is indeed ready and willing to enter into a compact with Europe that will eliminate the deformities that caused it to be the first domino to fall in 2010.

But, if Greece is to implement these reforms successfully, its citizens need a missing ingredient: Hope. A Speech of Hope for Greece would make all the difference now - not only for us, but also for our creditors, as our renaissance would terminate the default risk.

What should such a declaration include? Just as Byrnes’ address was short on detail but long on symbolism, a Speech of Hope for Greece does not have to be technical. It should simply mark a sea change, a break with the past five years of adding new loans on top of already unsustainable debt, conditional on further doses of punitive austerity.

Who should deliver it? In my mind, the speaker should be German Chancellor Angela Merkel, addressing an audience in Athens or Thessaloniki, or any Greek city of her choice. She could use the opportunity to hint at a new approach to European integration: one that starts in the country that has suffered the most, a victim both of the EuroZone’s faulty monetary design and of its society’s own failings.

Hope was a force for good in post-war Europe, and it can be a force for positive transformation now. A speech by Germany’s leader in a Greek city could go a long way toward delivering it.

The original text of this piece by the Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoukafis, can be found at Project Syndicate here (04.06.15).

Picture: Greece. PM Alexis Tsipras. May 2015. Athens. EU.

Europe is at a crossroads.
The issue of Greece does not only concern Greece; it is at the very epicentre of a conflict between two diametrically opposing strategies concerning the future of European unification.
Alexis Tsipras

On 25th January 2015, the Greek people made a courageous decision. They dared to challenge the one-way street of the Memorandum’s tough austerity, and to seek a new agreement. A new agreement that will keep the country in the Euro, with a viable economic program, without the mistakes of the past.

The Greek people paid a high price for these mistakes; over the past five years the unemployment rate climbed to 28% (60% for young people), average income decreased by 40%, while according to Eurostat’s data, Greece became the EU country with the highest index of social inequality.

And the worst result: Despite badly damaging the social fabric, this Program failed to invigorate the competitiveness of the Greek economy. Public debt soared from 124% to 180% of GDP, and despite the heavy sacrifices of the people, the Greek economy remains trapped in continuous uncertainty caused by unattainable fiscal balance targets that further the vicious cycle of austerity and recession.

The new Greek government’s main goal during these last four months has been to put an end to this vicious cycle, an end to this uncertainty.

Doing so requires a mutually beneficial agreement that will set realistic goals regarding surpluses, while also reinstating an agenda of growth and investment. A final solution to the Greek problem is now more mature and more necessary than ever.

Such an agreement will also spell the end of the European economic crisis that began 7 years ago, by putting an end to the cycle of uncertainty in the Eurozone.

Today, Europe has the opportunity to make decisions that will trigger a rapid recovery of the Greek and European economy by ending Grexit scenarios, scenarios that prevent the long-term stabilization of the European economy and may, at any given time, weaken the confidence of both citizens and investors in our common currency.

Many, however, claim that the Greek side is not cooperating to reach an agreement because it comes to the negotiations intransigent and without proposals.

Is this really the case?

Because these times are critical, perhaps historic - not only for the future of Greece but also for the future of Europe - I would like to take this opportunity to present the truth, and to responsibly inform the world’s public opinion about the real intentions and positions of Greece.

The Greek government, on the basis of the Eurogroup’s decision on February 20th, has submitted a broad package of reform proposals, with the intent to reach an agreement that will combine respect for the mandate of the Greek people with respect for the rules and decisions governing the Eurozone.

One of the key aspects of our proposals is the commitment to lower - and hence make feasible - primary surpluses for 2015 and 2016, and to allow for higher primary surpluses for the following years, as we expect a proportional increase in the growth rates of the Greek economy.

Another equally fundamental aspect of our proposals is the commitment to increase public revenues through a redistribution of the burden from lower and middle classes to the higher ones that have effectively avoided paying their fair share to help tackle the crisis, since they were for all accounts protected by both the political élite and the Troika who turned 'a blind eye'.

From the very start, our government has clearly demonstrated its intention and determination to address these matters by legislating a specific bill to deal with fraud caused by triangular transactions, and by intensifying customs and tax controls to reduce smuggling and tax evasion.

While, for the first time in years, we charged media owners for their outstanding debts owed to the Greek public sector.

These actions are changing things in Greece, as evidenced by the speeding up of work in the courts to administer justice in cases of substantial tax evasion. In other words, the oligarchs who were used to being protected by the political system now have many reasons to lose sleep.

In addition to these overarching goals that define our proposals, we have also offered highly detailed and specific plans during the course of our discussions with the institutions that have bridged the distance between our respective positions that separated us a few months ago.

Specifically, the Greek side has accepted to implement a series of institutional reforms, such as strengthening the independence of the General Secretariat for Public Revenues and of the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT), interventions to accelerate the administration of justice, as well as interventions in the product markets to eliminate distortions and privileges.

Also, despite our clear opposition to the privatization model promoted by the institutions that neither creates growth perspectives nor transfers funds to the real economy and the unsustainable debt, we accepted to move forward, with some minor modifications, on privatizations to prove our intention of taking steps towards approaching the other side.

We also agreed to implement a major VAT reform by simplifying the system and reinforcing the redistributive dimension of the tax in order to achieve an increase in both collection and revenues.

We have submitted specific proposals concerning measures that will result in a further increase in revenues. These include a special contribution tax on very high profits, a tax on e-betting, the intensification of checks of bank account holders with large sums - tax evaders, measures for the collection of public sector arrears, a special luxury tax, and a tendering process for broadcasting and other licenses, which the Troika coincidentally forgot about for the past five years.

These measures will increase revenues, and will do so without having recessionary effects since they do not further reduce active demand or place more burdens on the low and middle social strata.

Furthermore, we agreed to implement a major reform of the social security system that entails integrating pension funds and repealing provisions that wrongly allow for early retirement, which increases the real retirement age.

These reforms will be put into place despite the fact that the losses endured by the pension funds, which have created the medium-term problem of their sustainability, are mainly due to political choices of both the previous Greek governments and especially the Troika, who share the responsibility for these losses: the pension funds’ reserves have been reduced by 25 billion through the PSI and from very high unemployment, which is almost exclusively due to the extreme austerity program that has been implemented in Greece since 2010.

Finally - and despite our commitment to the workforce to immediately restore European legitimacy to the labor market that has been fully dismantled during the last five years under the pretext of competitiveness - we have accepted to implement labour reforms after our consultation with the ILO, which has already expressed a positive opinion about the Greek government’s proposals.

Given the above, it is only reasonable to wonder why there is such insistence by Institutional officials that Greece is not submitting proposals.

What end is served by this prolonged liquidity moratorium towards the Greek economy? Especially in light of the fact that Greece has shown that it wants to meet its external obligations, having paid more than 17 billion in interest and amortizations (about 10% of its GDP) since August 2014 without any external funding.

And finally, what is the purpose of the coordinated leaks that claim that we are not close to an agreement that will put an end to the European and global economic and political uncertainty fueled by the Greek issue?

The informal response that some are making is that we are not close to an agreement because the Greek side insists on its positions to restore collective bargaining and refuses to implement a further reduction of pensions.

Here, too, I must make some clarifications:

Regarding the issue of collective bargaining, the position of the Greek side is that it is impossible for the legislation protecting employees in Greece to not meet European standards or, even worse, to flagrantly violate European labor legislation. What we are asking for is nothing more than what is common practice in all Eurozone countries. This is the reason why I recently made a joint declaration on the issue with President Juncker.

Concerning the issue on pensions, the position of the Greek government is completely substantiated and reasonable. In Greece, pensions have cumulatively declined from 20% to 48% during the Memorandum years; currently 44.5% of pensioners receive a pension under the fixed threshold of relative poverty while approximately 23.1% of pensioners, according to data from Eurostat, live in danger of poverty and social exclusion.

It is therefore obvious that these numbers, which are the result of Memorandum policy, cannot be tolerated - not simply in Greece but in any civilized country.

So, let’s be clear:

The lack of an agreement so far is not due to the supposed intransigent, uncompromising and incomprehensible Greek stance. It is due to the insistence of certain institutional actors on submitting absurd proposals and displaying a total indifference to the recent democratic choice of the Greek people, despite the public admission of the three Institutions that necessary flexibility will be provided in order to respect the popular verdict.

What is driving this insistence?

An initial thought would be that this insistence is due to the desire of some to not admit their mistakes and instead, to reaffirm their choices by ignoring their failures.

Moreover, we must not forget the public admission made a few years ago by the IMF that they erred in calculating the depth of the recession that would be caused by the Memorandum.

I consider this, however, to be a shallow approach. I simply cannot believe that the future of Europe depends on the stubbornness or the insistence of some individuals.

My conclusion, therefore, is that the issue of Greece does not only concern Greece; rather, it is the very epicentre of conflict between two diametrically opposing strategies concerning the future of European unification.

The first strategy aims to deepen European unification in the context of equality and solidarity between its people and citizens.

The proponents of this strategy begin with the assumption that it is not possible to demand that the new Greek government follows the course of the previous one - which, we must not forget, failed miserably. This assumption is the starting point, because otherwise, elections would need to be abolished in those countries that are in a Program. Namely, we would have to accept that the institutions should appoint the Ministers and Prime Ministers, and that citizens should be deprived of the right to vote until the completion of the Program.

In other words, this means the complete abolition of democracy in Europe, the end of every pretext of democracy, and the beginning of disintegration and of an unacceptable division of United Europe.

This means the beginning of the creation of a technocratic monstrosity that will lead to a Europe entirely alien to its founding principles.

The second strategy seeks precisely this: The split and the division of the Eurozone, and consequently of the EU.

The first step to accomplishing this is to create a two-speed Eurozone where the 'core' will set tough rules regarding austerity and adaptation and will appoint a 'super' Finance Minister of the EZ with unlimited power, and with the ability to even reject budgets of sovereign states that are not aligned with the doctrines of extreme neoliberalism.

For those countries that refuse to bow to the new authority, the solution will be simple: Harsh punishment. Mandatory austerity. And even worse, more restrictions on the movement of capital, disciplinary sanctions, fines and even a parallel currency.

Judging from the present circumstances, it appears that this new European power is being constructed, with Greece being the first victim. To some, this represents a golden opportunity to make an example out of Greece for other countries that might be thinking of not following this new line of discipline.

What is not being taken into account is the high amount of risk and the enormous dangers involved in this second strategy. This strategy not only risks the beginning of the end for the European unification project by shifting the Eurozone from a monetary union to an exchange rate zone, but it also triggers economic and political uncertainty, which is likely to entirely transform the economic and political balances throughout the West.

Europe, therefore, is at a crossroads. Following the serious concessions made by the Greek government, the decision is now not in the hands of the institutions, which in any case - with the exception of the European Commission - are not elected and are not accountable to the people, but rather in the hands of Europe’s leaders.

Which strategy will prevail? The one that calls for a Europe of solidarity, equality and democracy, or the one that calls for rupture and division?

If some, however, think or want to believe that this decision concerns only Greece, they are making a grave mistake. I would suggest that they re-read Hemingway’s masterpiece, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”.

The original English translation of this piece by Alexis Tsipras is here. It first appeared in the Le Monde newspaper (Paris) on Sunday 31st May 2015.

Picture: Greece. Alexis Tsipras. May 2015. Athens. Greece. EU.

Picture: Yanis Varoufakis. May 2015. Athens. Greece. EU.

Picture: Zoe Konstantopoulou. May 2015. Athens. Greece. EU.

Picture: Zoe Konstantopoulou of Syriza. Wednesday 20th May 2015. Athens.

Picture: EuroZone breakup? New Drachma notes. Old Deutsche Mark notes.

Picture: Greece: Until 2015, an unholy alliance between oligarchs & politicians?

Blue for you: Athens and the power of weakness

Has Syriza just become the most powerful political entity in the Western world?

Greece's vast debts to international institutions and zombiebanks mean that the Syriza government in Athens is now more powerful than the IMF, the ECB & the G7 banking cartel put together.

Debt or credit which cannot be paid back is never an asset; it is always a liability. And when much of that debt has been fraudulently imposed, debt forgiveness is the logical and only remedy.

The Nazi-continuum money laundries at the ECB and the US Fed, and the puppet-politicians they control, all know that one false move on their part, in dealing with the Syriza leaders, will bring the whole Western fiat finance system down like a sharpster's house of cards.

The house of cards is currently kept standing by covert rigging of the Western financial markets into a counterintuitive bull mode. Any major, unmanageable, surprise shock to do with sovereign debt or default, given the transparent oxygen of publicity, will turn bull into bear. The bond bubble will burst. It's all about the bonds. When that bubble bursts, the old world ends.

One of the reasons Germany is so nervous about Greece is that Frankfurt's Deutsche Bank is staring down the last abyss. Insiders say it has a massive overhang of out-of-the-money, cross-collateralised derivatives hiding on its books, off-ledger. Any sharp word from Athens about non-payment of a strategically positioned visible debt might bring the bank down. The UK financial community knows the risk. Deutsche Bank was kicked out of the London Gold Fix syndicate in May 2014.

Notwithstanding 2008 and all that, several US & EU banks are still quietly using mortgage-backed securities as collateral in derivatives trades.

In the G7 fiat finance system, about $100 trillion of bonds are in play. Most of these are also pledged as collateral for derivatives. So, at a conservative estimate, because of the leveraging involved, the downside risk attached to the G7's bonds is about $555 trillion. This is ten times greater than the downside risk in the CDS market in 2008. And, according to the story told, a single bank failure brought that lot down very quickly.

The G7 bankers' worst nightmare is on the cusp of manifesting. How many Western banks hold Greek sovereign bonds as collateral for out-of-the-money, cross-collateralised derivatives? Quite a few, it would appear. Why else has the G7 banking cartel been so eager to hedge its books with stolen pension funds used as collateral?

The global sovereign bond index is flashing alarms. Between late March and early June 2015, it lost $625 billion. The potential chances for catastrophic Western wealth destruction at short notice are very real. More here.

In Greece, Syriza knows all this. The Syriza finance & economics people may be useless at, and impatient with, vested-interest oligarch politics, but in terms of pure pragmatic economics they are brighter, brainier and freer than the frightened people across the table from them in Europe. And they have nothing to lose. Anything of value which Greece once had has already been lost to externally-imposed, everlasting austerity.

Syriza has also been talking to Vladimir Putin. He has told them how the world works. They have learned that it is a game of chess. And in a game of chess, sometimes it's the waiting move which kills. Slow the clock down and threaten stalemate.

On a chessboard, sometimes you win, not by piling energy into a dynamic situation faster than your opponent can think, but by withdrawing energy to the point of excruciating boredom. Your apparent inactivity obliges your opponent to kick the can down the road yet again. The clock ticks. Stuff happens. Jam tomorrow.

On other occasions, however, a gambit may gain a telling advantage. Several quite big gambits are prepared in Athens.

The White Spiritual Boy issue, concerning the fraudulent start-up funding of the Euro currency from off-ledger, black screen accounts in the late 1990s, has been referenced elsewhere on this blog. It has to do with putative titles to Asian gold and the Nazi-continuum Committee of 300's Black Book of banking codes. This is a powerful piece on the board. It is only a pawn, still. But it is on the seventh rank and is well-defended. More here.

On Thursday 7th May 2015, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, had a telephone conversation with Alexis Tsipras, the Prime Minister of Greece. Putin said that Moscow was willing to provide financing to Greek companies involved in constructing the GreekStream link to the TurkStream gas pipeline. This will carry Russian gas into Europe.

On Friday 8th May 2015, an American DC corporation apparatchik called Amos J. Hochstein (US State Department) arrived in Athens to talk to Panagiotis Lafazanis, the Greek Energy Minister. But he was a day late. The board had changed. More here and here.

Also in play on the same board is a knight, enthusiastic about German World War II reparations due to Greece. The idea here is simple: the total amount of reasonably audited war reparations as yet unpaid by Germany to Greece is close to, or a little more than, Greece's total national debt. The war reparations due have been calculated at €280 - €340 billion (source here). Greece's total national debt is between €332 & €345 billion (depending upon what you call debt and how you do the sums).

Athens can therefore quite reasonably say to its creditors: "OK, we'll pay off all our debts to you, but not until Germany has paid off all its war reparations to us. Deal?"

Until recently, this potential move was being reported as a baseless fantasy by the Western mainstream media. But then two things happened. First, Russia got on the phone again. Moscow could help Greece in its investigation into possible Second World War reparations from Germany by providing access to previously unused archives. A list of the relevant Russian records, including documents, photographs and documentary footage was duly passed to Athens. More here.

Second, something much more public happened within the Greek capital itself. Large screens all across the Athens metro, usually reserved for weather forecasts, began to loop video footage of the Nazi occupation of Greece in World War Two. It was a government-backed video demanding German war reparations. More here.

A day or two later, on Sunday 10th May 2015, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, was in Russia to lay a wreath at the Grave of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, and to talk with Vladimir Putin. She wasn't a happy bunny. She wasn't supposed to be. Look at the official Kremlin-circulated picture of the meeting. A man's got to do what a man's got to do. And these days, in Northern Hemisphere geopolitics outside China, most of the real men are in Moscow, Tehran and Athens.

On Thursday 14th May 2015, in Athens, the place to be was the Athenaeum InterContinental Hotel. The Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, was speaking at an Economist Conference called the 19th Roundtable with the Government of Greece. Varoufakis was straightforward and honest: “I wish we (still) had the Drachma; I wish we had never entered this (European) monetary union. And I think that deep down all member states with the EuroZone would agree with that now. Because it was very badly constructed. But once you are in, you don’t get out without a catastrophe.”

During his address, Varoufakis referred to the idea that the ECB’s SMP-program Greek government (pre-2012) bonds (face value €27B) could be repaid through the ESM, with a parallel swap between new Greek government bonds and the ESM. But he warned that such a bond swap, designed to ease Athens’ cash-crunch, was likely to be rejected, because it struck "fear into the soul" of the European Central Bank president, Mario Draghi. However, Varoufakis stressed that whatever other stratagem might be proposed by Europe and the IMF, the Greek government would not sign up to any bailout plan that would send Greece into a “death spiral”. More here and here.

As if on cue, later that afternoon, Moscow reported a pertinent development in the Russian media. On the previous Monday, the 11th May 2015, Greece's ruling party, Syriza, had published a statement saying that Russia had invited Greece to become the sixth member of the BRICS New Development Bank, joining Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa in that initiative.

The invitation was made by the Russian Deputy Finance Minister, Sergei Storchak, during a telephone conversation with the Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras. According to the Syriza statement, Tsipras received the proposal with interest and promised to consider it thoroughly. Subsequently, an unnamed Greek government source told Sputnik News (Moscow) that Tsipras would have an opportunity to discuss potential Greek accession to the bank with the leaders of the BRICS group in Saint Petersburg next month, where he is scheduled to participate in a high-level Economic Forum on the 18th to 20th June.

"It was a pleasant surprise," the Greek source said, noting that Greece’s foreign policy is very diversified. "We are members of the European Union and of the EuroZone, but at the same time we acknowledge that there are also other powers in the world, and we will make our decisions taking into account our own interests, while fulfilling the commitments we have in other international organisations we are part of." More here.

On the World War II reparations issue, a further development was articulated inside Germany. On Saturday 16th May 2015, in a piece in Der Spiegel magazine, Dieter Deiseroth, a senior judge at Germany’s Supreme Administrative Court, offered a legal perspective.

He said that Greece’s demand that Germany pays back a loan the country was forced to give under Nazi occupation during WW2, is just. The loan in question is now worth €11 billion. Greece should appeal to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, if it wants to claim the loan. This would require the agreement of Berlin or, alternatively, the agreement of the OSCE’s Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.

Deiseroth went on to say that the request for individual war compensation for Greek victims could also be granted. There cannot be a limitation period for Greece's claims as a result of the Two Plus Four Agreement. 2+4 is a classic example of an agreement against a third party.

“Greece has not waived its demands.” Just because the claim(s) have never been expressed in writing, does not negate Greece's case. "There’s no waver through silence.” More here and here.

In Athens, one of the Syriza MPs is Zoe Konstantopoulou. She is the speaker of the Greek parliament. Konstantopoulou, a Sorbonne-educated human rights lawyer, has set up a Debt Truth committee in her office.

In addition to overseeing Greece's WWII reparation claims, she is taking on Germany in another way. There is a slew of élite corruption cases focussing on dodgy Greek public sector contracts with German firms. Some of these, it now appears, may have been signed under unlawful duress earlier in the EuroZone crisis.

Konstantopoulou's committee has also identified other apparently fraudulent papers. These concern coercive loans pressed on, and accepted by, other Greek administrations since 2008. One particular tranche of Greek debt has been described as 'unconstitutional'.

Konstantopoulou comments: “There is strong evidence of the illegitimacy, odiousness and unsustainability of a large part of what is purported to be the Greek public debt.” She has been warning Greece's creditors that the Greek people have the right to demand the writing-off of the part which is not owed.

“Pending the audit, it is unethical on the part of creditors to demand further payments, while refusing disbursements and, at the same time, exercising extortionate pressure for the implementation of policies contrary to the public mandate. More here.

With regard to The Doctrine of Odious Debts, and the developing debate about Transnational Debt Forgiveness, we have summarised the core principles on another blog page here. Until Greece, and now Ukraine, came along, these issues were thought in the West to be tribal salon discussions confined to Africa and South America. As such, they could be easily managed by a handful of accurately-deployed bribes and a few unexplained car crashes. Whether these tried and tested remedies will work in Syriza's Athens in 2015 appears to be in doubt.
Joint statement: Jean-Claude Juncker (EC) and Alexis Tsipras (Greece)
Wednesday 6th May 2015

President Juncker and Prime Minister Tsipras spoke on the phone this morning. They took stock of progress made in the talks between Greece and its partners over the last days on a comprehensive set of reforms to achieve a successful completion of the review.

They notably discussed the importance of reforms to modernise the pension system so that it is fair, fiscally sustainable and effective in averting old age poverty.

They also discussed the need for wage developments and labour market institutions to be supportive of job creation, competitiveness and social cohesion.

In this context, they concurred on the role of a modern and effective collective bargaining system, which should be developed through broad consultation and meet the highest European standards.

Constructive talks should continue within the Brussels Group.

Original text here (06.05.15).

A Blueprint for Greece’s Recovery - Yanis Varoufakis
Wednesday 6th May 2015

Months of negotiations between our government and the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, and the European Central Bank have produced little progress.

One reason is that all sides are focusing too much on the strings to be attached to the next liquidity injection and not enough on a vision of how Greece can recover and develop sustainably. If we are to break the current impasse, we must envisage a healthy Greek economy.

Sustainable recovery requires synergistic reforms that unleash the country’s considerable potential by removing bottlenecks in several areas: productive investment, credit provision, innovation, competition, social security, public administration, the judiciary, the labor market, cultural production, and, last but not least, democratic governance.

Seven years of debt deflation, reinforced by the expectation of everlasting austerity, have decimated private and public investment and forced anxious, fragile banks to stop lending.

With the government lacking fiscal room, and Greek banks burdened by non-performing loans, it is important to mobilize the state’s remaining assets and unclog the flow of bank credit to healthy parts of the private sector.

To restore investment and credit to levels consistent with economic escape velocity, a recovering Greece will require two new public institutions that work side by side with the private sector and with European institutions: A development bank that harnesses public assets and a “bad bank” that enables the banking system to get out from under their non-performing assets and restore the flow of credit to profitable, export-oriented firms.

Imagine a development bank levering up collateral that comprises post-privatization equity retained by the state and other assets (for example, real estate) that could easily be made more valuable (and collateralized) by reforming their property rights.

Imagine that it links the European Investment Bank and the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s €315 billion ($350 billion) investment plan with Greece’s private sector. Instead of being viewed as a fire sale to fill fiscal holes, privatization would be part of a grand public-private partnership for development.

Imagine further that the “bad bank” helps the financial sector, which was recapitalized generously by strained Greek taxpayers in the midst of the crisis, to shed their legacy of non-performing loans and unclog their financial plumbing. In concert with the development bank’s virtuous impact, credit and investment flows would flood the Greek economy’s hitherto arid realms, eventually helping the bad bank turn a profit and become “good.”

Finally, imagine the effect of all of this on Greece’s financial, fiscal, and social-security ecosystem: With bank shares skyrocketing, our state’s losses from their recapitalisation would be extinguished as its equity in them appreciates.

Meanwhile, the development bank’s dividends would be channeled into the long-suffering pension funds, which were abruptly de-capitalized in 2012 (owing to the “haircut” on their holdings of Greek government bonds).

In this scenario, the task of bolstering social security would be completed with the unification of pension funds; the surge of contributions following the pickup in employment; and the return to formal employment of workers banished into informality by the brutal deregulation of the labour market during the dark years of the recent past.

One can easily imagine Greece recovering strongly as a result of this strategy.

In a world of ultra-low returns, Greece would be seen as a splendid opportunity, sustaining a steady stream of inward foreign direct investment. But why would this be different from the pre-2008 capital inflows that fueled debt-financed growth? Could another macroeconomic Ponzi scheme really be avoided?

During the era of Ponzi-style growth, capital flows were channeled by commercial banks into a frenzy of consumption, and by the state into an orgy of suspect procurement and outright profligacy. To ensure that this time is different, Greece will need to reform its social economy and political system. Creating new bubbles is not our government’s idea of development.

This time, by contrast, the new development bank would take the lead in channeling scarce homegrown resources into selected productive investment. These include startups, IT companies that use local talent, organic-agro small and medium-size enterprises, export-oriented pharmaceutical companies, efforts to attract the international film industry to Greek locations, and educational programs that take advantage of Greek intellectual output and unrivaled historic sites.

In the meantime, Greece’s regulatory authorities would be keeping a watchful eye over commercial lending practices, while a debt brake would prevent our government from indulging in old, bad habits, ensuring that our state never again slips into primary deficits.

Cartels, anti-competitive invoicing practices, senselessly closed professions, and a bureaucracy that has traditionally turned the state into a public menace would soon discover that our government is their worst foe.

The barriers to growth in the past were an unholy alliance among oligarchic interests and political parties, scandalous procurement, clientelism, the permanently broken media, overly accommodating banks, weak tax authorities, and a weighed-down, fearful judiciary.

Only the bright light of democratic transparency can remove such impediments; our government is determined to help it shine through.

Original text here (06.05.15). #

Picture: Has Greece got a lot more hidden money than it thinks?

Picture: #BrettonWoodsOver. AIIB. Xi (China). Putin (Russia). Obama (US).

Picture: Democratic deficit in DC. How did the US become an oligarchs' playground?

Ellen Brown writes:
According to a new study from Princeton University, American democracy no longer exists.

Using data from over 1,800 policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page concluded that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of - or even against the will of - the majority of voters.

America’s political system has transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where power is wielded by wealthy élites.

“Making the world safe for democracy” was President Woodrow Wilson’s rationale for World War I, and it has been used to justify American military intervention ever since. Can we justify sending troops into other countries to spread a political system we cannot maintain at home?

The Magna Carta, considered the first Bill of Rights in the Western world, established the rights of nobles as against the king. But the doctrine that “all men are created equal” - that all people have “certain inalienable rights,” including “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” - is an American original. And those rights, supposedly insured by the Bill of Rights, have the right to vote at their core. We have the right to vote but the voters’ collective will no longer prevails.

In Greece, the left-wing populist Syriza Party came out of nowhere to take the presidential election by storm; and in Spain, the populist Podemos Party appears poised to do the same. But for over a century, no third-party candidate has had any chance of winning a US presidential election.

The US has a two-party winner-takes-all system, in which our choice is between two candidates, both of whom necessarily cater to big money. It takes big money just to put on the mass media campaigns required to win an election involving 240 million people of voting age.

In state and local elections, third party candidates have sometimes won. In a modest-sized city, candidates can actually influence the vote by going door to door, passing out flyers and bumper stickers, giving local presentations, and getting on local radio and TV. But in a national election, those efforts are easily trumped by the mass media. And local governments too are beholden to big money.

When governments of any size need to borrow money, the megabanks in a position to supply it can generally dictate the terms.

Even in Greece, where the populist Syriza Party managed to prevail in January, the anti-austerity platform of the new government is being throttled by the moneylenders who have the government in a chokehold.

How did Americans lose their democracy? Were the Founding Fathers remiss in leaving something out of the Constitution? Or have we simply gotten too big to be governed by majority vote?

Democracy’s Rise and Fall in the USA (aka 'US')
The stages of the capture of democracy by big money are traced in a paper called “The Collapse of Democratic Nation States” by theologian and environmentalist Dr. John Cobb. Going back several centuries, he points to the rise of private banking, which usurped the power to create money from governments: The influence of money was greatly enhanced by the emergence of private banking. The banks are able to create money and so to lend amounts far in excess of their actual wealth. This control of money-creation ....  has given banks overwhelming control over human affairs. In the United States, Wall Street makes most of the truly important decisions that are directly attributed to Washington.

Today the vast majority of the money supply in Western countries is created by private bankers. That tradition goes back to the 17th century, when the privately-owned Bank of England, the mother of all central banks, negotiated the right to print England’s money after Parliament stripped that power from the Crown. When King William needed money to fight a war, he had to borrow. The government as borrower then became servant of the lender.

In America, however, the colonists defied the Bank of England and issued their own paper scrip; and they thrived. When King George forbade that practice, the colonists rebelled.

They won the Revolution but lost the power to create their own money supply, when they opted for gold rather than paper money as their official means of exchange.

Gold was in limited supply and was controlled by the bankers, who surreptitiously expanded the money supply by issuing multiple banknotes against a limited supply of gold.

This was the system euphemistically called “fractional reserve” banking, meaning that only a fraction of the gold necessary to back the banks’ privately-issued notes was actually held in their vaults.

These notes were lent at interest, putting citizens and the government in debt to bankers who created the notes with a printing press. It was something the government could have done itself debt-free, and the American colonies had done with great success until England went to war to stop them.

President Abraham Lincoln revived the colonists’ paper money system when he issued the Treasury notes called “Greenbacks” that helped the Union win the Civil War. But Lincoln was assassinated, and the Greenback issues were discontinued.

In every American presidential election between 1872 and 1896, there was a third national party running on a platform of financial reform. Typically organized under the auspices of labor or farmer organizations, these were parties of the people rather than the banks. They included the Populist Party, the Greenback and Greenback Labor Parties, the Labor Reform Party, the Antimonopolist Party, and the Union Labor Party. They advocated expanding the national currency to meet the needs of trade, reform of the banking system, and democratic control of the financial system.

The Populist movement of the 1890s represented the last serious challenge to the bankers’ monopoly over the right to create the nation’s money.  According to monetary historian Murray Rothbard, politics after the turn of the century became a struggle between two competing banking giants, the Morgans and the Rockefellers. The parties sometimes changed hands, but the puppeteers pulling the strings were always one of these two big-money players.

In All the Presidents’ Bankers, Nomi Prins names six banking giants and associated banking families that have dominated politics for over a century. No popular third party candidates have a real chance of prevailing, because they have to compete with two entrenched parties funded by these massively powerful Wall Street banks.

American democracy succumbs to globalisation
In an earlier era, notes Dr. Cobb, wealthy landowners were able to control democracies by restricting government participation to the propertied class. When those restrictions were removed, big money controlled elections by other means.

First, running for office became expensive, so that those who seek office require wealthy sponsors to whom they are then beholden.  Second, the great majority of voters have little independent knowledge of those for whom they vote or of the issues to be dealt with. Their judgments are, accordingly, dependent on what they learn from the mass media. These media, in turn, are controlled by moneyed interests.

Control of the media and financial leverage over elected officials then enabled those other curbs on democracy we know today, including high barriers to ballot placement for third parties and their elimination from presidential debates, vote suppression, registration restrictions, identification laws, voter roll purges, gerrymandering, computer voting, and secrecy in government.

The final blow to democracy, says Dr. Cobb, was “globalization” - an expanding global market that overrides national interests: Today’s global economy is fully transnational.  The money power is not much interested in boundaries between states and generally works to reduce their influence on markets and investments .... Thus transnational corporations inherently work to undermine nation states, whether they are democratic or not.

The most glaring example today is the secret twelve-country trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. If it goes through, the TPP will dramatically expand the power of multinational corporations to use closed-door tribunals to challenge and supersede domestic laws, including environmental, labor, health and other protections.

What democratic alternatives are there for America?
Some critics ask whether our system of making decisions by a mass popular vote easily manipulated by the paid-for media is the most effective way of governing on behalf of the people. In an interesting Ted Talk, political scientist Eric Li makes a compelling case for the system of “meritocracy” that has been quite successful in China.

In America Beyond Capitalism, Prof. Gar Alperovitz argues that the US is simply too big to operate as a democracy at the national level.

Excluding Canada and Australia, which have large empty landmasses, the United States is larger geographically than all the other advanced industrial countries of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) combined.

Alperovitz proposes what he calls “The Pluralist Commonwealth”: a system anchored in the reconstruction of communities and the democratization of wealth. It involves plural forms of cooperative and common ownership beginning with decentralization and moving to higher levels of regional and national coordination when necessary.

Alperovitz is co-chair along with James Gustav Speth of an initiative called The Next System Project, which seeks to help open a far-ranging discussion of how to move beyond the failing traditional political-economic systems of both Left and Right.

Prof. Donald Livingston asked in 2002: What value is there in continuing to prop up a union of this monstrous size? .... There are ample resources in the American federal tradition to justify states’ and local communities’ recalling, out of their own sovereignty, powers they have allowed the central government to usurp.

Taking back our sovereign power
If governments are recalling their sovereign powers, they might start with the power to create money, which was usurped by private interests while the people were asleep at the wheel. State and local governments are not allowed to print their own currencies; but they can own banks, and all depository banks create money when they make loans, as the Bank of England recently acknowledged.

The federal government could take back the power to create the national money supply by issuing its own Treasury notes as Abraham Lincoln did. Alternatively, it could issue some very large denomination coins as authorized in the Constitution; or it could nationalize the central bank and use quantitative easing to fund infrastructure, education, job creation, and social services, thus responding to the needs of the people rather than to the needs of the banks.

The freedom to vote carries little weight without economic freedom: the freedom to work and to have food, shelter, education, medical care and a decent retirement.

President Franklin Roosevelt maintained that Americans need an Economic Bill of Rights. If our elected representatives were not beholden to the moneylenders, they might be able both to pass such a bill and to come up with the money to fund it.

Ellen Brown's full text (plus supporting links) is on her Web of Debt blog here (06.04.15). #
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