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Picture: Plenty of gold in Asia. Empty bank vaults in the West.
Picture: Can the Brussels Syndicate be made democratics by 2025?
Picture: Julian Assange (Wikileaks). Ecuador Embassy London. 5th Feb 2016.
Picture: Capitalism is over. Money is broken. Debt doesn't work.
Picture: How digital currency blockchains & gold can work together.
Precious metals such as gold have the physical properties which a medium must have to serve as legal tender in facilitating the exchange of goods and services.
Precious metals are scarce, homogenous, durable, divisible, mintable, and transportable. They are held in high esteem across the world. They represent considerable value per unit of weight.
Precious metals are not invented, generated or content-controlled by central banking authorities. They are real, visible, physical assets. They do not disappear when computers crash. They are not multiplied or diminished by élite computer algorithms.
The new digital currencies, such as the virtual unit called bitcoin, are different from precious metals. They are generated by decentralised, web-linked computers, but not by centralised élite bank computers.
Transactions through digital currencies, such as bitcoin, are validated by a decentralised consensus system which uses a blockchain.
A blockchain is a public digital ledger; an account record which details transactions among computers. The blockchain is saved on many different decentralised computers. Thus, the blockchain is practically impossible to manipulate.
Each major new digital currency introduced from now on will be even more secure than the one which preceded it. If this was not manifestly the case, it would not be used instead of bitcoin.
The blockchain ensures that only the bitcoin’s owner can make a transaction with his bitcoin; that same bitcoin cannot be created anew, multiplied or erased. That bitcoin has a unique digital fingerprint; it cannot be confused or overlaid with any other.
Real, visible, physical, gold can now be made available for day-to-day transactions (purchases and sales in supermarkets or on the web) simply by transferring a gold-backed bitcoin from the bitcoin wallet of the buyer to the bitcoin wallet of the seller. The wallets are chunks of unique, secure software, uniquely held on the computer of the buyer or seller.
Gold-on-the-blockchain technology appears to hold great potential when it comes to making possible a world of digital gold money transactions.
As the new asset-backed global currencies are being prepared for public release, there is no good reason why they should not include both digital currency and gold in their backing baskets.
More bitcoin, gold and fiat currency background here (03.02.16). Market performance chart of bitcoin versus gold here (self-updating). Actual bitcoin price here (self-updating).
Picture: China signatory on all US dollar bills by 2018.
Picture: Emergency chocolate cake pictures.
Picture: Syria. Russia and US. Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry.
On Monday 26th January 2016, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, spoke in Moscow and took questions from reporters. The topics covered concerned Russia's relationships with other nations.
Lavrov: The year 2015 was complicated. Most likely, it will be remembered for further intensification of the global rivalry for influencing ongoing processes of change, and the emergence of a new international system.
In this regard, there were two conflicting approaches. On one hand, there were attempts to slow down the objective trend toward forming a more equitable polycentric international system, to maintain dominance in global affairs and to impose one’s will on others. On the other hand, we witnessed a greater desire to channel this rivalry into a more civilised course and to prioritise the joint efforts against common challenges.
The global economy remained unstable in almost all countries, including Russia. President Putin and the Russian Government have covered this issue extensively. However, amid global economic turmoil, we saw attempts to secure one country’s own interests at the expense of the others, to create members-only economic and trade alliances, and split up the global economic space. In other words, we saw elements of de-globalisation.
Intensive media campaigns continued unabated. You're probably more aware of them more than most people. In a number of cases, genuine information wars broke out, seeking to prevent the spread of alternative information or opinions on ongoing processes. Sometimes drastic measures were applied, such as imposing outright bans on journalism as an occupation. You are also aware of this.
Numerous serious conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Ukraine continued and even got worse. Many African countries remain destabilised. All this created what can be referred to as a "crisis landscape." All of that was further aggravated by the risks of interfaith tensions and deepening inter-civilisational rifts, which are extremely dangerous for our entire civilisation.
These events were unfolding amid an unprecedented surge in the threat of terrorism. ISIS, which declared itself a state, and other extremist groups established their control over large swaths of land in Syria and Iraq, and sought, and in many cases succeeded, to gain a foothold in other countries, in particular, Libya, Afghanistan, and some sub-Saharan countries.
We witnessed terrible, inhuman terrorist attacks against the citizens of Russia, countries of Europe, Middle East, Africa, the United States and Asia, some of which forced large masses of people to leave their homes for other countries, including the European Union. As you may be aware, the terrorists openly declare their plans to establish a "caliphate" from Portugal to Pakistan. This is a real threat not only to regional, but also global security.
In these circumstances, Russia sought to be active, both as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and as one of the world’s largest states pursuing an active foreign policy. We acted not only in order to uphold our national interests, but also because we were cognizant of our responsibility for the unfolding international situation.
Our efforts focused on promoting President Putin’s initiative to form a broad-based anti-terrorist coalition in accordance with international law and under the aegis of the UN.
In response to the Syrian government’s request, Russia’s Aerospace Forces helped to turn around the situation in that country by reducing the territory controlled by terrorists. In doing so, we were able to get a much clearer picture of what was happening there. It became clear who was actually fighting the terrorists, and who was acting as their accomplices and in fact using them to promote their selfish interests.
Our active participation in fighting terrorists contributed to the adoption of a number of important UN Security Council resolutions aimed at preventing the financing of terrorism and ending the phenomenon of terrorists recruited from abroad, namely, resolutions 2199 and 2253.
We are pushing to make sure they are complied with in good faith and, no less importantly, we are seeking to have honest, detailed reports by the UN Secretariat about who is honouring their obligations and how they are being honoured as prescribed under these important documents.
Clearly, defeating terrorism exclusively by military means is impossible. We must combine military actions and political processes to settle the conflicts, also adopting measures aimed at preventing the use of economic infrastructure seized by terrorists, as ISIS did in Iraq and Syria, where it supplied contraband oil and other commodities to Turkey for further sale.
It is also important to think about the economic recovery of the countries in question after the terrorist threat has been dealt with, as well as to counter extremist ideology.
In September, when Russia chaired the UN Security Council, we held a special meeting at the foreign minister level for a comprehensive analysis of all of the threats and measures that must be taken to overcome them in the Middle East and North Africa. This was an interesting discussion. I think we need to continue this discussion in the UN Security Council to determine how to respond in a strategic and comprehensive manner rather than inconsistently.
At one time we facilitated the holding of the 2012 meeting in Geneva and the adoption of the Geneva Communique of June 30, 2012. Last year we were similarly very active in contributing to the creation of the International Syria Support Group and the launching of the so-called Vienna process as endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2254 that must be strictly observed.
President Vladimir Putin has said more than once that it is possible to find solutions to the most complicated issues only when we rely on international law and respect the diversity of cultures and civilisations and the right of nations to decide their own destinies.
We proceed from the premise that in general, in the 21st century, multilateral cooperation can only be based on genuine equality, mutual consideration for each other’s interests and joint efforts for common goals.
These principles form the foundation for the performance of integration associations in the post-Soviet space, including the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The same principles underlie such promising formats as BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) which held their summits in Ufa last July.
Importantly, in developing integration processes in the post-Soviet space, we do not set them against other integration efforts, as Russian leaders have repeatedly stated on the record. We are ready to work on harmonizing integration processes and building bridges, in particular, between Europe, Eurasia and the Asia-Pacific Region (APR).
Last year the EAEU and Vietnam signed an important agreement on a free trade area and many states (there are dozens of them) are interested in signing similar agreements. An agreement in principle was reached on integrating EAEU activities with China’s project of the Silk Road Economic Belt, which provides very broad opportunities for pooling efforts.
Apart from steadily developing our strategic partnership and all-round cooperation with the People’s Republic of China, we have been consolidating a strategic partnership with India, Vietnam and other Asia-Pacific countries and taking an active role in the efforts of APR multilateral mechanisms.
More prospects for cooperation are opened by President Vladimir Putin’s initiative to start, in cooperation with our EAEU partners, consultations with the SCO members and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the possibility of establishing a potential economic partnership. This issue will be on the agenda of the Russia-ASEAN summit to be held in Sochi in May to mark the 20th anniversary of our relations.
We are building our cooperation with Latin American, Caribbean and African countries, as well as with their associations and regional organisations. I’d like to mention, in particular, our traditional and close ties with the African Union, the Arab League (AL), the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
Guided by the principles of a balance of interests, supremacy of international law and the central role of the UN, Russian diplomacy facilitated the success of collective efforts to implement many very important tasks on the international agenda.
Among last year’s achievements, I would like to mention the elimination of the Syrian chemical arms potential and the agreement to settle the Iranian nuclear programme issue.
The provisions of the resolutions on sanctions by the UN Security Council and the IAEA Board of Governors as regards Iran were lifted several days ago, thereby leading to the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that will provide the guarantees for the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme carried out in full conformity with the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the IAEA rules on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. This is a large step towards the complete normalisation of the situation as regards Iran. We actively support this step, as well as any efforts to remove artificial obstacles in the way of international communication and the participation of any state in world affairs.
I think that the Minsk Agreements of February 12, 2015 were last year’s spectacular achievement. During the entire subsequent period, we persistently worked to achieve a conflict settlement in Ukraine, based on implementing precisely those commitments that are contained in the Package of Measures.
As you may know, not all of the agreements have been implemented; I’d even say far from all of them, and above all those related to Kiev’s commitments to establish a direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk in order to address the political aspects of the Ukrainian crisis. For that reason, it was decided to continue this work in 2016. But the goals remain unchanged, and all of them have been unequivocally included in the Minsk documents.
We will urge their meticulous implementation in keeping with the additional agreements and efforts that have been undertaken, specifically, within the framework of the Normandy Four leaders’ meetings. Generally, we will still be committed to a comprehensive and exclusively peaceful solution to the internal Ukrainian crisis and will continue helping the Ukrainians restore national harmony and return to the path of normal, sustained development.
Along with a buildup of costs resulting from some of our partners’ confrontational policies and with the expansion of problems in world affairs, our consistent course, I think, facilitated last year the heightened understanding by all parties to international intercourse that there is no alternative to broad-based cooperation in searching for a way out of crises. But it is not a fast or simple process. There are still inertia-driven attempts to contain Russia, even though this policy should have long been consigned to the archives of history, to derive unilateral advantages, and even to punish us for our independent foreign policy.
Of course, we take this into account in our actions and will do so in the future. This is not our choice. We are ready for the closest and most constructive cooperation with our Western partners, including Europe and the United States, and are open to a progressive development of cooperation with them. But solely and exclusively on an equitable and mutually beneficial basis, with parties refraining from interference in each other’s internal affairs and respecting each side’s fundamental interests.
Our Western colleagues sometimes say testily that there will be no “business as usual” with Russia. I am certain that this is the case, and we agree with them on this point: indeed, there’ll be no “business as usual” when they attempted to impose on us agreements that heeded primarily the interests of either the EU or the US, and sought to persuade us that this would not harm our interests. This story is over. A story is beginning that can only develop on the basis of equality and all other principles of international law.
So far, however, we note the continuation of a highly unconstructive and dangerous policy with regard to Russia, as I said, including the strengthening of NATO’s military potential in the vicinity of our borders and the creation of European and Asian segments of the US global missile defence system, an effort joined by European and South-East Asian countries. We regard these actions as destabilising and short-sighted. Attempts to rethink this situation do occur, but their results, regrettably, are unimpressive.
For example, a year ago the OSCE established a Wise Men’s Group that presumably should have coordinated recommendations on how to revive the spirit of the Helsinki Final Act and return to the principles of equal and indivisible security. Regrettably, nothing came out of that. The Western experts were toeing their governments’ official “contain Russia” line, for which reason the Russian expert had to distance himself from that document. Nothing good resulted from what was on the whole a sound idea.
Nevertheless, we hope that the OSCE is not an entirely lost organisation. It is operating actively in Ukraine, it’s got a second wind, and it has chances to conform to its original intended purpose. We hope that the search for truly collective, equitable approaches to putting into practice the ideals of European security will come under way after all.
Our foreign policy diplomatic activities prioritise the promotion of Russia’s international humanitarian presence and support for Russian compatriots, who reside abroad or are there for tourist or other purposes. We are focusing on dialogue with NGOs, academics, the Russian business community and civil society as a whole, as well as on interaction with the media.
I saw statistics yesterday: We (the Russian Foreign Ministry) are still second in terms of media activity and openness. This means there is something to work on. I hope that today’s news conference will help us move forward in what concerns media openness.
Geopolitics and Syria
Q: Stratfor, an American strategic centre, has published its 2015 annual report and forecasts for 2016. The experts believe that 2016 will be difficult for most countries. What are the main challenges for Russia and the world in 2016?
Lavrov: Speaking in general terms, creating a fair democratic international system is our major challenge. We cannot do that alone, it’s an objective process. There are new centres of economic growth and financial and political influence. The international system must adapt to what is really going on in the world.
This implies reforming institutions, the ones that deal with the international financial and monetary system, international economy and the ones that deal with global politics. I’m referring to the UN and its Security Council. The most important thing is not to simply reflect objective processes in the structure of particular international organisations, but to conduct world affairs according to the new situation, which means developing solutions, which will be supported by all the key countries.
Good examples include resolving the Iranian nuclear programme issue, chemical disarmament in Syria, establishing the International Syria Support Group, for which we have fought very long and hard, as a number of states directly involved in the Syrian conflict refused to sit down and talk with some countries, such as Iran, solely for ideological reasons. It’s a great achievement that, in conjunction with the United States (I give credit to Secretary Kerry and his position), we managed to insist on forming a truly representative group.
We need to approach other situations the same way. If we ensure inclusion in all processes, where all involved parties are not isolated, but are invited to the negotiating table, this will reflect the trends of the modern world and the need to take into account the new realities in the world, global politics and economy.
Perhaps this is the key to any conflict, to any situation which will have to be resolved whether in Ukraine, Syria, conflicts in Africa, the relationship between the Palestinians and Israelis, which should not be forgotten. This principle is absolutely necessary in confronting the main challenge today, that is fighting terrorism. When attempts are made to condition the collective nature of this fight on irrelevant things (e.g., "you agree to a régime change in Syria, then we will start fighting terrorism in earnest, collectively, and coordinate our actions"), I think it's a big mistake for politicians who assume such a position.
Another aspect, which is a challenge for world politics, is the negotiability of our partners, anyone who signs any agreement. In many cases, this is a problem. We have repeatedly seen such a stumbling block in our efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis, when they refused to comply with the Geneva communiqué only because the text failed to incorporate the requirement for Bashar al-Assad’s resignation, and the threat of sanctions if al-Assad does not leave.
As a result, more than a year later, our proposal still passed, and this document was approved by the UN Security Council. A long time after that, we could not resume talks, although we agreed on it, because, as I've said, someone would refuse to sit and talk with someone else.
Such whims in modern politics are not to be tolerated and are dangerous. There are major generic challenges for us as we work on establishing a new international system that will be based on the UN Charter and be essentially replenished resting on the same principles of the Charter, which, incidentally, is a very flexible instrument; there’s no need to change it.
If we can provide this consistency in the work of all the key players in the Group of 20 as it applies to the global economy and the world financial and monetary systems, as well as in the UN Security Council, the International Syria Support Group, in the groups that deal with conflicts in Yemen, Afghanistan, the Palestinian-Israeli settlement, and various parts of Africa, then it will certainly help us move forward.
Q: In the past three years, the relations with Canada have been fairly cool. Do you think the relations may improve with the new government in power in Canada? Do you see any signs of that?
Lavrov: We are interested in good relations with all countries. When we say that we are ready and open to cooperation with the West, including Europe and North America, we, of course, have Canada in mind as well. We have a good and long-standing relationship with that country. Canada is an influential and respected member in international relations.
We are facing largely common challenges and common interests with regard to the development of the Arctic and cooperation in the northern latitudes, good experience of practical cooperation in a number of areas: economy, trade, and the northern latitudes. There have been ups and downs in our relations, but in the end, common sense invariably prevailed. We saw some down periods during the Stephen Harper government.
I believe that the last two years were generally a period of lost opportunities in relations with Canada, as the previous government suddenly adopted a sharp Russophobic policy, rolled back bilateral ties, imposed sanctions against Russian individuals and legal entities, and suspended the cooperation of intergovernmental commission on trade and economic issues.
Naturally, we had to retaliate. You are aware of the well-known executive order by President Putin to restrict imports of food. No one has benefitted from it. We were surprised by the total lack of any pragmatism in the impulsive actions taken by the previous government, which took the course, as you can understand, of blindly following the demands of rabid representatives of the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada, simply ignoring their own national interests.
The fact that in October 2015 the elections were won by the Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau certainly is an important event, especially for Canadians. Based on the comments on foreign policy provided by Trudeau and his colleagues, we can expect that there will be opportunities to set our bilateral relations straight. They were completely artificially and pointlessly complicated. Again, the election rhetoric and the rhetoric of the new government following the elections indicate that they are ready to resume a dialogue on international issues and restore bilateral cooperation.
In November, President Putin spoke with Prime Minister of Canada Trudeau on the sidelines of the Group of 20 meeting. Both sides expressed a willingness and an interest in normalising relations. We believe that practical steps should now be taken by our Canadian partners who have volunteered and stated their intention to correct the mistakes of their predecessors. We’ll wait. We’re always ready for any positive changes.
Q: I would like to ask a question about Russian-German relations, which have, unfortunately, shown some noticeable cracks in recent years. Do you think these relations have gone into a deadlock, or in crisis? What do you expect your German partners to do to improve them? It's no secret that, mentioning Germany, we often mean the European Union, and speaking about relations between Russia and Germany, we actually mean the relationship between Russia and the European Union, considering Germany the driving force of Europe. I ask this question shortly before the visit of one of the leading German politicians, Horst Seehofer, to Russia, who will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a few days.
Lavrov: I would not say that Russian-German relations are in crisis, even less so in a deadlock. There is a very intensive high-level dialogue between Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as at the level of foreign ministers and other ministers.
I admit that the activities of certain mechanisms that help us move forward have been somewhat complicated, but not halted, thanks mainly to the stance taken by German businesses, which actively continued their efforts to strengthen their contacts with Russian partners. I have heard that a few dozen, or maybe a few hundred German companies have suspended their activities in Russia, but still they number in the thousands. Over the past two years, I met with the key players of German business at least two times, maybe three – once in Moscow, then in Munich, where Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel and I conducted a joint dialogue with German and Russian business leaders. I can see how pragmatic and sensible German entrepreneurs are about the situation.
If we remain pragmatic and think about our national interests, which do not violate any international obligations, a positive result is always reachable. One example is the recent start of the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline project – a purely economic, commercial enterprise, likely to benefit Germany, Europe and Russia.
The fact that the project was subjected to loads of ideological criticism and that the participants are being discouraged from cooperating with Russia as this would harm Ukraine (though we all know why Russia needed to ensure that it does not depend on transit via Ukraine in the first place) is nothing but an attempt to strain and complicate our relations by applying external pressure, by appealing to some kind of Atlantic or EU “solidarity.”
I would like Germany, and Europe for that matter, or any other country, to make their decisions based on considerations other than what some visiting foreign official told them to do, on a clear understanding of their national interests.
We can see how much effort it takes these days to work out a common EU policy on migration as well as on a number of other issues. We can see how important Germany’s role as the lead nation, the locomotive of the European Union, is, as Germany strives to take into account all the EU members’ interests. Doing this is becoming harder and harder.
We are not interested in seeing the EU weakened or split. We are interested in a united and strong European Union, a partner to work with comfortably on economic issues and other matters. But we cannot ignore what is happening.
We can see and appreciate Germany’s efforts to ensure that the EU’s aggressive minority keeps a lower profile on a range of issues, some related to Russia, and some to the EU’s internal structure, that they temper their appetites and ambitions and follow general rules adopted by consensus just like in any other regular peer organisation such as the EU. We wish Germany success in dealing with the enormous problems caused by migrants.
I hope these issues do not get swept under the rug, repeating the situation when a Russian girl's disappearance in Germany was hushed up for a long time for some reason. Now, at least, we are communicating with her lawyer, who is working with her family and with the Russian Embassy. It is clear that Lisa did not exactly decide voluntarily to disappear for 30 hours. Truth and justice must prevail here.
I truly hope that these migration problems will not lead to attempts to “gloss over” reality for political motives – that would be just wrong. Problems need to be laid out honestly and admitted to the voters, open and clear solutions need to be proposed.
We are genuinely interested in seeing this difficult period pass without significant losses, in seeing Germany find solutions to the migration problem, both within the country and in the EU, as well as for other problems the EU will need to consider in the near future, including how the UK referendum might affect the union’s future, or the referendum in the Netherlands on the Association Agreement with Ukraine.
These are serious challenges for the European Union. Those who are interested in the EU remaining an integral and effective whole – the only way it can be a comfortable partner for Russia and others to deal with – must encourage the EU to find appropriate solutions based on consensus and solidarity, but not at the expense of third countries, based on a balance of national interests of the EU members, and not on positions of “Trojan horses”.
Q: Yesterday, the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, announced the date when the intra-Syrian talks are expected to begin, while keeping everyone in suspense as to the composition of the opposition delegation. Could you shed some light on this issue, as well as comment on publications claiming that Russia and the United States have reached a compromise on this issue? Does this mean that Russia could sit at the same table with groups like the Army of Islam or Ahrar ash-Sham? What concessions could Washington agree to in this case?
Lavrov: Neither Russia, nor the United States had a mandate to form the opposition delegation. This mandate has been handed to the UN, represented by its Secretary-General and his Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura. UNSC Resolution 2254 clearly states that it is the latter’s task to send out invitations to the members of the Syrian opposition, taking note of the participants in the meetings in Cairo, Moscow and other locations, most recently in Riyadh.
Mr de Mistura has been in contact with countries that are in the International Syria Support Group, including Russia. We have shared with him our perspective, which is absolutely clear and obvious, as we believe that all those who attended meetings of the Syrian opposition in various capitals and cities should be invited.
However, he faced a serious challenge, as some countries represented in the International Syria Support Group insist that only those who were present in Riyadh in December 2015 are worthy to represent the Syrian opposition, leaving everyone else out in the cold. This is clearly a serious violation of Resolution 2254, while Russia, the United States and the UN, who as you know co-chair the International Syria Support Group, all support this approach.
I dismiss any claims or allegations that Staffan de Mistura has given in to this outright blackmail. He confirmed, including during yesterday’s news conference in Geneva, that a broad range of groups will be present at the talks. The resolution stipulates that the political process is meant to be inclusive, which implies bringing together the broadest possible spectrum of the opposition.
One of the members of the International Syria Support Group recently voiced misgivings over whether or not the Syrian Kurds, i.e. the Democratic Union Party, should be invited. I assume that if this party is left out of the negotiation process, it won’t yield the results that we all aspire to: a definitive political settlement in Syria.
The Syrian Kurds account for 15 percent of the population and are spread across a vast and very important part of the country. Do you know what reason was given so as not to invite them? We were told: “Why should we invite them if they are not fighting Bashar al-Assad?” Fighting Assad has never been mentioned as a criterion for taking part in the negotiations.
After all, the talks are expected to focus on reaching a ceasefire, confirming the commitment to and enhancing efficiency in fighting terrorism, as well as promoting political reforms in Syria. How can political reforms be discussed in a country, while ignoring the leading Kurdish party, quite a powerful force active in countering terrorism on the ground, including ISIS. By the way, political reforms, rather than efforts against terrorism, top the agenda of those behind this lopsided approach to the Syrian settlement.
It would be a serious mistake if the representatives of the Kurdish party did not get invited. Let me reiterate that Russia does not intend to impose any kind of veto. This right goes to Mr de Mistura. He should be aware of his responsibility and refrain from hiding behind Russia or the United States, or follow those who, unlike Russia, are trying to introduce the veto mechanism into the International Syria Support Group.
We expect the UN Secretary-General and his Special Envoy to grasp their responsibility and understand that it would be inadmissible, as I see it, to play into the hands of a single member of the International Syria Support Group that decided to leave the Kurds out of the negotiation process.
Q: The Kurds have been fighting against the “Islamic State” and other terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq for over 18 months, and many countries assisted them in this struggle. How did Russia help the Kurds combat ISIS? Does Russia intend to step up its support? What is the role of the Kurds in Russia’s strategy?
Lavrov: Of course, we attach great importance to the Kurdish people who have historically lived across a number of countries in the region, including Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey. Today, Kurds are quite good at fighting ISIS.
We support efforts by the Syrian and Iraqi governments to combat terrorism and have been doing so long before the so-called US-led coalition was formed in August 2014. The emergence of the terrorist threat was factored into our arms shipments to Syria and Iraq almost from the outset.
Seeing that in Iraq government troops and the Kurdish militia are fighting the ISIS, we took into account the needs of the Kurds when supplying weapons to the central government of Baghdad. We fully respect Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and are aware of the interactions between Baghdad and Erbil, the Arabs and Kurds and the Sunni and Shia in Iraq. We are also aware of the proposals that have surfaced recently to disintegrate Iraq.
Similar views have been expressed on Syria and Afghanistan. We know all too well who is behind this, including neighbouring countries that have long developed an idiosyncratic attitude towards the Kurds. These are dangerous trends which Russia opposes. All the assistance that has been or is delivered, including to the Kurds, is channelled through the central government.
That said, we know that a number of countries, primarily in the West, are providing direct assistance to the Kurds. As far as I know, Baghdad does not object to such initiatives. Specifically, the Kurds are receiving supplies directly from Germany. Salih Muslim’s Democratic Union Party (Syrian Kurds) is an ally of the United States, and is thus able to receive deliveries directly from the United States, while US instructors help the Kurds enhance their combat efficiency.
So, the proposal not to invite this group to the intra-Syrian talks means leaving out a party that actually fights ISIS and is a US ally, whose fighters are supported by Washington. In this situation, primarily, this is a matter of concern for all of us, as this would not just be unfair but also harmful and counterproductive. Second, this is a matter of concern for the United States, as, as I’ve already mentioned, it views this group as the most efficient and closest ally in fighting terrorism. I hope Washington will not leave it at that.
Q: Pyongyang’s statements regarding a successful hydrogen bomb test have alarmed countries in the region and across the world. The dangers of a growing nuclear threat on the Korean Peninsula have again come to the fore. Can the North Korean nuclear issue be resolved in the future based on the positive example of Iran? What challenges do the respective sides need to overcome first and foremost?
Lavrov: I believe it is possible to resolve the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula, which is how we describe it. The objective is not to deprive North Korea of nuclear weapons, but to denuclearise the Korean Peninsula, so that neither North Korea nor South Korea have nuclear weapons there, and so that the United States will not deploy there elements of its nuclear arsenal.
We made a statement to this effect after North Korea held another nuclear test in violation of the relevant UN Security Council resolution. We are in consultations on this issue with the United States, with our Chinese friends and with representatives of South Korea and Japan.
We are not sure that it was a hydrogen bomb test, as this would render ineffective the UN Security Council resolutions that introduced strict limitations on the delivery of any nuclear weapons materials to North Korea, and that additional materials and technology that make such a test possible have found their way into North Korea. If it is proved that it was just another nuclear test, like the two or three previous tests, this would mean that our restrictions are effective.
I’m not going to speak about the overall unacceptability of the proliferation of nuclear technology here. As I said, we should focus on establishing whether or not the UN Security Council decisions on preventing the further development of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme are effective. We are actively discussing this issue during our contacts with our colleagues, including China.
Politics-wise, the only possible action is to resume the six-nation talks. Several attempts to do this have been made in the past three years, but the Western countries of the six-nation group, primarily the United States, Japan and South Korea, rejected the proposed flexible approaches and demanded unconditionally that North Korea abandon its nuclear programme before they commence talking with it. It was probably the simplest solution that would have suited all sides, but it is also an unrealistic solution.
Russia and China believe that the six-nation talks should be resumed. South Korea proposed that we first meet in the six-minus-one format, without North Korea. I don’t think that this is a good idea, as it would amount to yet another attempt to keep someone isolated.
Nothing good came of the attempts by the so-called international community, namely our Western partners, to keep Iran in isolation, as Iran only accelerated the implementation of its nuclear programme. Since 2004, when this issue had a relatively simple solution, as Iran only had two dozen centrifuges, our Western partners stubbornly insisted that they would talk with Iran only after it stopped the operation of its centrifuges. As a result, when the talks resumed, Iran had thousands of these centrifuges and all of this because they tried to isolate Iran instead of talking with it. We must not repeat this mistake on the Korean Peninsula.
Q: Russia closed its border with Norway on Friday because of the refugees whom Norway attempted to send back to Russia. Bilateral talks are now underway on this issue. Can this issue be resolved so that Russia will accept the refugees whom, in principle, it agreed to accept?
Lavrov: I know the reasons for this problem. I don’t know the details, but essentially the issue concerns people who came to Russia in search of jobs or to visit their relatives. They didn’t write in their visa applications that they intended to transit to Norway. In other words, they lied about the real reason for entering Russia. We don’t want to let these people back into Russia because they broke our laws.
We have agreed with the Norwegian authorities that we’ll take a pause to find a formula for settling this issue in the interests of both Russia and Norway. Russia and Norway have a readmission agreement, and our Federal Migration Service is discussing with its Norwegian colleagues the possibility of drafting a supplement to this agreement as soon as possible to resolve the practical issues that arise as a result of these unscrupulous people.
Q: What lies in store for Russian-Bulgarian trade and economic relations? Is it possible to balance bilateral trade in mechanical engineering, the food sector, agriculture and shipbuilding? There has been a negative fallout from the South Stream project and earlier still, from the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance. Bulgaria and the Soviet Union cooperated in all of the above sectors. Can Russian universities admit more Bulgarian students at their state-subsidised departments; for otherwise the generations born in the 1990s and 2000s won’t know their history? Bulgarians are alarmed by the increasing deployment of NATO weapons in their country, including Abrams tanks. But, why buy a gun if you don’t intend to use it to kill?
Lavrov: I think you’ve confused the words of the saying: it wasn’t exactly ‘why’ and it wasn’t a ‘gun’ but something else entirely. Your question is somewhat emotional. I understand and mostly share your emotions. I believe that Russian and Bulgarian histories, cultures, mentalities and peoples are so closely tied together that of course, it is a shame that, to put it mildly, some politicians are willing to ruin and sacrifice all this for their own momentary election-related ambitions that are also often imposed from outside.
Russia has never initiated a decrease in trade, economic or any other cooperation with Bulgaria. Never. This is true for the Burgas–Alexandroupoli pipeline, the project Bulgaria left unilaterally back in 2013. This is true for the Belene nuclear power station and South Stream. Prime Minister Borissov admitted himself that it was the EU – particularly, Brussels, that blocked South Stream.
And I would like you to understand the difference between the EU and Brussels. There is the European Commission that consists of commissioners, an institution that, like any bureaucratic institution, wants to recreate and affirm itself. We often see how member countries are beginning to express more discontent with the steps taken by the European Commission without securing the approval of these countries.
This was what happened, by the way, in September 2014, when the first major package of sanctions was imposed. The European Commission did this while bypassing the agreements between the heads of state and government. Many EU leaders sent angry letters to Brussels. I don’t know if it helps but the bureaucracy problem has been increasingly discussed. This includes a discussion about how Germany feels as part of the EU.
We couldn’t wait for the wind of change in Brussels with regards to South Stream and started looking for an alternative because Europe needs Russian gas. The transit line via Ukraine is not reliable and you get a daily proof of that. Our Ukrainian neighbours issue new statements every day. Today they wish to increase the transit price ten times even though it is fixed in the contract. Tomorrow it’s something else.
Therefore, we need a direct path for Russian gas to reach the EU. Everybody agrees with this. We came up with Nord Stream 2 although it could still be South Stream if the European Commission was less interested in geopolitical games and more in doing its work honestly and securing the EU’s energy supply.
You brought up the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance but that was a different story in a different time. Today projects, of course, must be mutually beneficial, sustainable, market-oriented, with state support only provided in the forms acceptable in global economic relations. There is an opportunity to provide this support, including through the International Investment Bank, which is still there and comprises resources of our countries and other Eastern European states.
Speaking of education, I guess we should be looking to bring our systems together and participate in Bologna Process. Major Russian universities are joining the Bologna Process. At the same time, we are expanding the number of available government scholarships. There are also many students who come to study here and pay for it. This also indicates that our education has a good reputation and is popular in the world. These are not only countries that have traditionally sent their students to Russia and the Soviet Union, not only developing and Eastern European countries, but western countries as well.
We are ready to provide more scholarships to Bulgaria if there is interest and if Bulgaria thinks independently in this aspect of our relations.
Speaking of Russia taking actions so that Bulgaria remembers our past, I think it is the Bulgarian past too. And Bulgarians must make sure they do not forget their history. They should not forget who helped them get rid of the Ottomans and helped in other very difficult situations. I believe there are politicians and public figures in Bulgaria (when I was in Sofia some time ago I met with the public and saw these people), people who wouldn’t allow this history to be rewritten like it is done by certain figures in other countries, including brotherly Ukraine.
Finally, you mentioned NATO and the disposition of its military infrastructure near our border, including in Bulgaria. This is a matter of concern for us too. I saw the statistics and know that the Pentagon requested some 4 billion dollars for European operations in the 2017 fiscal year (the budget will be presented to Congress next month) instead of the current 790 million, which is almost four times higher. The money will be spent on the forward-based storage of equipment, machinery and a regular rotation of US troops. US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter confirmed this in his speech in Davos.
Bulgaria is a NATO member. Therefore, you must follow the rules of course. But don’t forget that their decisions require consensus to be enforced. Some of my counterparts, official representatives of their countries, are very concerned with NATO’s image as an enemy again. If you count their votes it will be an impressive group. However, for some reason, when they go to meetings in Brussels and vote, I see them acting under the treaty’s discipline instead of their national interests.
President Putin recently identified who is in charge of treaty discipline. The problem is not that these are NATO ideas and attempts to impose their will on everybody (Europe is a NATO member). The problem is that NATO decisions are decisions of the United States while Europe just salutes and follows orders.
The Russian World and Ukraine
Q: Another emotionally charged question. How will Russian diplomacy exonerate the “Russian world” concept? After all, you’ve showed the entire world that it is not the “Russian world” but the “Russian war” and “Russian death.” Amid the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, how can Russia’s neighbours possibly feel secure if Russia violates all agreements and obligations if it wants to?
Lavrov: If you’re referring to the Budapest memorandum, we have not violated it. It contains only one obligation – i.e. not to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine. No one has made any threats to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine. A threat came from other opposite direction. Yulia Timoshenko said the “quilted jackets” [pro-Russian forces] in Donbass should be punished with a nuclear bomb.
Regarding the “Russian world,” I cannot agree that the “Russian world” is just some Russian invention. The “Russian world” exists. It is not a project, but an objective reality, just as there is the objective reality of the “Ukrainian world” in Canada and other countries, and just as there is the reality of the Armenian diaspora.
The fact is that until recently − for various objective and subjective reasons − we were unable or lacked funding to establish stable contact and communication channels with these people to see how we can help them, above all to ensure that they are able to use their language, have mass media available in their native language, so that they can get together and hold various events to help preserve their culture and identity, ensuring their rights as citizens of the state where they live – rights that would not be infringed upon and be based on generally recognised norms of international law.
This also fully applies to Russian people who lived and still live in Ukraine. These Russian people had hope. President after president was elected in Ukraine, promising to make Russian an official state language. That did not happen. The best Viktor Yanukovych could do was to accede (although not completely) to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which, however, did not prioritise Russian but ensured it, as well as other minority languages of which there are plenty in Ukraine, corresponding rights in minority concentrated regions.
We adhere to all our obligations assumed in the Council of Europe and UN, including the principle of respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and noninterference in the internal affairs of states, including the UN Declaration of 1970 on principles of international law. It states that each government that is treated in keeping with the principle of respect for the territorial integrity is obligated in the framework of this territorial integrity to ensure the self-determination of the peoples living in this country, including with regard to their linguistic, cultural and other rights. The government should ensure its territorial integrity without the use of force.
Now, if, on the backdrop of these obligations, which apply to Ukraine, Russia and all others, we look at what has happened between the start of November 2013 and February 2014, it becomes clear who has violated which obligations and who has encroached upon what is known as the “Russian world.” I can cite Dmitry Yarosh (I’m not really thrilled to do so). The remarks he made long before the Crimea referendum are known to everyone.
In late February, he said a Russian will never understand a Ukrainian, will never speak Ukrainian, will never think like a Ukrainian and will never glorify Stepan Bandera or Roman Shukhevich, and this is why there is no place for Russians in Crimea and they should simply be kicked out. I believe he used even stronger language.
Then Yarosh organised “friendship trains,” as you remember, with young armed thugs to forcibly enter Crimea and organised a “fifth column” that seized Ukraine’s Supreme Council and so on.
When then regional leaders in Donbass, who were legitimately elected in accordance with Ukrainian laws and regulations, began to oppose the coup politically and morally, and when Kiev began to send its agents to replace them – commanders and commissars, when those commissars were rejected and when people began to elect mayors − the Ukrainian leadership, which had come to power as a result of a putsch, began to use the army and aviation against its own people. Remember how Lugansk was bombed?
I’m not even talking about Odessa. This will never be investigated. The Council of Europe has already drawn a conclusion, suggesting that the Ukrainian authorities will never allow the truth to be known. Incidentally, during the Maidan [revolution], NATO, the Americans and the UN secretary-general urged us to influence Yanukovych and persuade him not to use the army against his own people. He did not use the army against his own people. However, when the army was used in the so-called antiterrorist operation, with the air force and heavy weapons, against those who opposed the putsch and protested against it – by the way, nonviolently – to all our questions as to whether or not those citizens should also be advised not to use the army, we were told, on behalf of NATO: “You know, they’re defending their state.”
So this situation is understandable to all normal, impartial people, including journalists – who defended which world, who ensured the coexistence of the Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Hungarian, Bulgarian and Romanian “worlds” in one state and who re-carved electoral districts during recent elections so there is not a single Hungarian in parliament even though Budapest and the Hungarian community in Ukraine begged for an electoral district to be formed to enable them to have one representative in Verkhovna Rada. So all this talk about the “Russian world” – as well as about all other “worlds” – is a multidimensional story that needs looking into.
The most important point I’d like to make in conclusion, in response to your question, is that there are quite a few of those who try to analyse what is going on through the prism of the “Russian world” in an absolutely skewed interpretation – namely, as Russia’s obsession with the protection of Russians all over the world, including by force of arms, which is the main threat. This premise underlies the decisions that are now gleefully made by NATO, much to the joy of the military and industrial complex. As I said, US spending to move NATO borders closer to Russia alone will amount to not $700 million but $4 billion. This is the rationale.
It turns out that everyone is allowed to take care of its citizens, but only Russia – the moment it starts doing so – ends up in the category of aggressors and troublemakers, who violate all rules and laws of international communication. This is a red herring. Regarding the issue as to who has fulfilled what, I’ve already cited the example of the Budapest memorandum, which has not been violated, as we continue to act in accordance with it, but unlike the United States and UK, we do not undertake to support coups in Ukraine.
Speaking about the implementation of UN documents, I have already described to you broadly the declaration that defines the criteria for respecting the territorial integrity of these or other states under various governments.
As for more practical documents, I’d like to note that the text of the Minsk Agreements suggests that they must be primarily implemented by the Kiev authorities. You may read the agreements and see for yourself what they require again.
I believe it is necessary to seek the implementation of what the sides agreed upon. Replying to the question about the main challenges of the past year, I have already said that one of the most serious issues is to ensure our partners’ negotiability.
Q: What could you say about the recent statement by Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk on the referendum on the new Constitution? What are the chances of Ukraine timely amending the Constitution’s provisions on decentralisation as the Minsk Agreements require?
Lavrov: I find it difficult to comment on this because the Minsk Agreements were approved and signed by Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko, who assumed responsibility for their implementation. The course of this implementation is another matter. I’ve said this more than once. The Ukrainian authorities are trying to observe the Minsk Agreements but not by consistently and honestly carrying them out. Instead they are playing up to radicals who are trying either to question them or misinterpret them in bad faith.
I’m not a big expert on Ukraine’s Fundamental Law. The Ukrainian Constitution was amended many times and its current version, as Venice Commission experts observed, is fairly complicated and it is unclear what norms should eventually be valid.
The president is responsible for Ukraine’s foreign policy and nobody argues this for the time being. Ukraine’s President Pyotr Poroshenko has declared there will be no Minsk-3. Let me recall that a certain Roman Bessmertnykh spoke about a Minsk-3 in the Contact Group. He said Minsk-2 has already collapsed. A couple of days later President Poroshenko had to correct him by saying there is only Minsk-2 and there will be no Minsk-3.
After this Bessmertnykh declared what he thought of Minsk-2, getting back to his duties, that is, representing Ukraine in the Contact Group and being responsible for the fulfilment of the Minsk Agreements. Later on we actually heard a statement by Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk who said that a nationwide referendum was the only option. Verkhovna Rada Speaker Vasily Groisman has already said that this should not be done.
However, we proceed from the premise that the president is in charge of Ukraine’s foreign policy. Prime Minister Yatsenyuk has already said an awful lot. Just a year ago, that is, in our time, he was trying to scare Europe by saying that an attack on Germany and France will follow what is referred to as “aggression in Ukraine.” This is fairly strange because he was a good minister (for some time Yatsenyuk was Ukraine’s foreign minister). He seemed to me a sensible person who listened to arguments and took adequate steps. Maybe he changed because of bad outside influence. This is all I can say.
Bashar al-Assad (Syria)
Q: Did Russia offer Bashar al-Assad to resign? Was political asylum discussed?
Lavrov: These questions have already been answered. In both cases the answer is “no.” I read allegations that were spread with reference to Igor Sergun, the late chief of the Main Intelligence Directorate of Russia’s General Staff. Ostensibly, he made an express visit to Damascus to offer Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to leave. This is not true.
Such a conversation with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was unnecessary. Bashar al-Assad was in Moscow, spoke to President Vladimir Putin and what they came to terms on is public knowledge. We reaffirmed on the record and President Vladimir Putin repeatedly said this, that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed to the talks with members of the opposition, including the armed opposition and to the formation on the ground of a broader anti-terrorist front from the units of the Syrian army and the opposition, which will be ready to fight ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and the like.
It was also agreed in Moscow that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will be ready to consider the political reforms that were eventually enshrined in the decisions of the Vienna Group and UN Security Council Resolution 2254 as part of the political process, to take part in which he will send a delegation. Nobody asked for political asylum and nobody offered anything like it.
Q: Mr Lavrov, you’ve already mentioned UN Security Council resolutions 2199 and 2253, which prohibit the funding of terrorist activities. However, as we see Turkey and especially Saudi Arabia are violating these resolutions and thwarting political processes in Syria. Now the so-called “Syrian opposition” that gathered in Riyadh threatens to boycott the Geneva talks on January 29. Even if these talks take place and some agreements are adopted, what are the guarantees that these resolutions and agreements will be implemented?
Lavrov: We are also concerned over the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions; not only these but also many others are very often buried in oblivion. However, as regards the anti-terrorist resolutions on Syria, we are fully determined to prevent any games and are closely monitoring the activities of the UN Secretariat that should prepare information and subsequently a report on how these resolutions are carried out by various countries.
This is particularly important with respect to UN Security Council Resolution 2199 on the exchange of information and the coordination of actions on curbing the activities and arresting terrorist commandos. This is a problem for Russia, Europe, our neighbours in Central Asia and the Caucasus where ISIS recruits its bandits who operate in Syria and Iraq, doing their dirty business and returning home. This is a problem for everyone, including Europeans and Americans. Characters from Southeast Asia, Indonesia and Malaysia appeared in Syria.
If we want to undermine the funding of terrorists, the second vital document is UN Security Council Resolution 2253, which prohibits trade in illegal oil, and the purchasing of artefacts or anything at all from ISIS and the like, including oil from deposits that the terrorists seized on the territory of Syria and Iraq. These terrorists also appeared in oil-bearing areas in Libya, close to Sirte.
Speaking about other countries, ISIS’s influence is spreading like metastases in Afghanistan. The recent US decision to allow Americans servicemen to pursue terrorists is a de facto recognition of the fact that ISIS is taking deeper root there and is increasingly gaining influence, which it is taking away from the Taliban.
UN Security Council Resolution 2253 requires that the secretary-general prepare regular reports on its implementation. We are following the preparation of the first report. I’d like to use this news conference to send a signal to our colleagues in the UN Secretariat: according to our information (so far unofficial but we’d like to double-check), the report contains practically no information on the smuggling of oil from Syria to Turkey. Nothing at all. This is outrageous. The media have quoted more than enough facts in this regard and they should be reflected in this report. We will insist on this. We won’t allow anyone to drag it all out and bury it in oblivion.
Q: In 2007, speaking at the Munich international security conference, President Vladimir Putin said: “You need us more than we need you.” This year, as far as I know, you will represent Russia at the conference. Will there be any changes in this formulation?
Lavrov: If you work in Moscow, you must have heard the news that the Russian delegation will be led by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. I will also be in Munich and speak at one of the so-called panel discussions. I’m sure that Mr Medvedev will put forward our position and it will also be presented by other Russian participants.
If you’re interested specifically in whether or not we still believe that the West needs us more than we need the West, here is what I will tell you. Ideally, we should need each other, support each other and work together to eliminate all common threats. In reality, however, the West turns to us far more often than we turn to the West.
For example, take the sanctions that have been introduced. We do not even mention them. We simply start drawing our own conclusions regarding the extent to which our Western partners are reliable and faithful to their obligations and how far they are prepared to follow generally accepted approaches, namely that only the UN Security Council is authorised to apply enforcement measures. As we answer these questions in the negative, we develop import-substitution programmes and implement structural reform – call this whatever you like.
President Putin made this point in many of his speeches, including his remarks in Stavropol yesterday. The idea is that our economy should be self-sufficient, not isolated from the rest of the world, but just the contrary, open to cooperation with all those who are willing to cooperate on the basis of equality, not dictate.
However, economic self-sufficiency presupposes technological development and investment in human capital. We should do everything we can not to depend on the whims of a particular group of countries, above all, our Western partners (this happened after they felt “offended” because we supported the Russian people in Ukraine who did not accept the coup). I cited Dmitry Yarosh. They wanted either to eliminate them or deprive them of their rights in Ukraine. We want to be insured against such situations.
However, returning to the logic of your question, I’d like to point out that we are not chasing our European colleagues, saying: “Let’s do something to get the sanctions lifted.” No. We’ve focused on making ourselves independent of such zigzags in Western policy, of Europe saying, “Yes, sir,” to the United States.
However, in bilateral contacts, when they come here or when they meet us at international forums, our European colleagues say: “Let’s think of something. Help implement these Minsk agreements, as we’re sustaining serious losses as a result of these sanctions and we want this page to be turned as soon as possible.” It turns out that, in this case, they need us more than we need them, among other things, to implement the Minsk agreements.
The Minsk agreements concern the Ukrainian government and Donbass. Yes, we have influence on Donbass and we support it. Perhaps without our aid and humanitarian supplies, Donbass would have been in a deplorable state. However, it is also essential to influence the Kiev authorities. We need the West with regard to influencing the Kiev authorities, but this is not happening yet.
Or take the situation regarding Iran’s nuclear programme. In the final stage of these negotiations, we were literally bombarded by requests when it was necessary to resolve the issue of evacuating enriched uranium in exchange for natural uranium, which was a key condition for reaching the relevant agreements, when it was necessary to decide who will convert the enrichment facility at Fordow for research purposes, to produce medical isotopes and so on.
We received requests that carried, among other things, considerable financial implications, at least ones that bring us no financial benefit whatsoever. Nevertheless, we’ve done our part of the deal. Now, everyone is calling us and our Chinese colleagues with regard to the North Korean issue: “Help us do something to get North Korea to observe its obligations.”
Or take, for example, the recent developments regarding Syria. US Secretary of State John Kerry (I value our relations) constantly encounters difficulties with US partners in the region, including Turkey and other countries neighboring Syria, and every time he asks us to help find some compromise, some solution. This was also the case at the meeting of the Syria Support Group.
Right now, I’m unable to recall the requests that we recently addressed to our Western colleagues. We believe that it is not quite correct to make requests. We believe that if talks result in the signing of a document it is not a matter of request but obligations that need to be fulfilled.
I don’t want to sound immodest; I simply gave you some facts and you are free to draw your own conclusions.
Nagorno-Karabakh settlement and OSCE
Q: Mr Lavrov, lately, the media has been filled with rumours that there is “a Lavrov document” or “a Lavrov proposal” on the table regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement. What is this and does it exist?
Lavrov: There was no and there is no “Lavrov document” or any other such document. There are a number of documents (four or five or maybe six) that were drafted by the co-chairs at different stages of Nagorno-Karabakh talks as a first step in formulating the basic principles for resolving the conflict and then, based on these principles, drafting a peace agreement that would be legally binding, not political.
The co-chairs have submitted different versions of this document (it evolved from 2007 until 2010−2011) with the OSCE secretary general in Europe. They are now in the organisation’s files. These are the only papers that can be called documents, considering that none of these official documents have led to a practical resolution of all components of the Nagorno-Karabakh situation while the work is proceeding according to the “nothing is agreed on until everything is agreed on” principle.
As you know, ever since 2010, when Dmitry Medvedev was president, Russia has worked to find solutions to issues on which the parties have yet to reach agreement. This has helped make some progress. There was a prolonged hiatus, after the Kazan summit, in 2011, when contrary to our expectations we could not approve a document regarding the fundamental principles.
When Vladimir Putin was reelected as president he met with the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders. In keeping with the instructions from the three presidents, we sought to resume the efforts in search of a solution. We are now looking for these solutions on a conceptual level, in the process of discussions.
I’ve had several meetings with my Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts. We discuss all of this with the US and French co-chairs. There are no documents except for those that were left with the OSCE. Everything else is the search and brainstorming process.
Q: What is the outlook for Russian-Georgian ties this year? What can be achieved at this point considering that there are insurmountable differences between Russia and Georgia? Moscow has recognised the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and these countries have opened embassies in Moscow.
If there is no chance for a full-scale resumption of diplomatic ties between Moscow and Tbilisi, are there any other prospects and formats? How realistic is the lifting of visa requirements with Georgia? Talks are underway between Tbilisi and Gazprom on gas transit. The monetisation of this transit to Armenia is a controversial issue. If no agreement is achieved, will this issue have political implications? How can Russia distribute gas to Armenia in this case?
Lavrov: We believe in normal, good neighbourly relations with Georgia. We act on the assumption that the Georgian people must not pay for the rupture of ties with their Russian neighbours. Georgians and Russians are interested in these ties. It is unfair to have to pay for the criminal mistakes of former Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili. We were not the ones to break off diplomatic relations.
We acted fully in keeping with the standards of international law, including those that are stipulated in the declaration on the principles of relations between states that I mentioned earlier, whereby territorial integrity and respect for the territorial integrity of states imply that this state ensures the rights of all of its people and the unacceptability of using force to compel these people to remain within the state in question. All of these principles were grossly violated by President Saakashvili. I will not go into the history of the issue.
After the attack on South Ossetia, on his own citizens and on the Russian peacekeepers, Mr Saakashvili was defeated by Russia and the self-defence forces. Having lost hope in deciding their fate (there were a lot of options during these years, including federation and confederation) through negotiations, South Ossetia and Abkhazia declared independence.
We had no other option, no way out but to recognised their independence to ensure the security and survival of the South Ossetian and Abkhaz people. This is not a matter of debate but, to reiterate, this was the result of Mr Saakashvili’s criminal policy. He is notorious for such provocations, which, as we understand it, are organised on his own initiative, but quite often also on his express orders.
We are pleased with the fact that the Geneva discussions are ongoing. First of all, we are concerned with security issues to prevent such recurrences in the future. There are some ideas that enable all parties to the Geneva talks to subscribe to a document that will guarantee against such recurrences in the region. Naturally, we are interested in the Geneva discussions on humanitarian issues, including the repatriation of refugees and displaced persons. The humanitarian efforts are stalled by Georgia’s ongoing moves to submit to the UN General Assembly a [draft] resolution on the problem of refugees and displaced person unilaterally.
We are willing to discuss this at the UN but with the participation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as they are in fact the target of the demands in the resolution that Georgia is promoting at the UN. They [Abkhazia and South Ossetia] are absent, because they are not allowed: our US colleagues deny them visas even though representatives of unrecognised Kosovo not only receive visas but are granted most favoured treatment on UN territory. How’s that for double standards?
In addition to the Geneva discussions, we have bilateral ties with Georgia, which are now emerging from a state of deep freeze. Contact was established between the veterinary and plant disease oversight services and, to our mutual satisfaction, the trade in drinks and foodstuffs has resumed.
You were correct in saying that there are ongoing talks with Gazprom. I don’t think they should be expected to fail. I believe this is a pragmatic process that is in everyone’s interests. Armenia will also benefit from this. So I leave everything there to the discretion of the two countries’ companies and relevant ministries. I’m sure that they will find a solution.
We do all we can to facilitate humanitarian ties even when, after the breakoff of diplomatic relations with Georgia, we had to introduce visas and tighten visa requirements, largely because the terrorist threat coming from the Pankisi Gorge still exists. Incidentally, even now there are reports that ISIS is using this hard-to-access territory for training, recreation and replenishment of supplies.
Normalisation of our ties is reflected in the recent easing of visa requirements, whereby business, work, study and humanitarian visas are issued regardless of the circumstances. Even a private visa does not require an invitation from family members. A friend can invite you and you will receive a visa. We are willing in the future to lift the visa requirement. It would be a little strange to discuss this at a time when we have no diplomatic relations, but, to reiterate, we did not break them off.
I will say that recently we also managed to resolve a number of issues based on reciprocity. They concerned the registration of property rights on Georgia’s diplomatic mission here and Russia’s in Tbilisi. This was a useful move as well. We have the Grigory Karasin/Zurab Abashidze format that allows us to discuss any issue. They know each other well and have trustworthy relations that allow them to discuss anything. Incidentally, I’m open to contact with my Georgian counterpart. I’m sure other contact is possible as well. When asked about this, Russian President Vladimir Putin did not rule out any opportunities at all, if the occasion arises.
Q: I’d like to ask a question about relations between Russia and Japan. Recently Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that Tokyo wants to build relations with Russia and resolve various problems facing the world. What opportunities and perspectives do you see in this area? Serious differences on the territorial issue persist. Japan believes that the signing of the peace treaty is tantamount to resolving this territorial issue. Russia believes that this issue is closed.
Lavrov: We’re interested in close and friendly relations with Japan. This is our important neighbor with whom we have a diverse system of trade, economic, humanitarian and cultural ties, as well as many plans. Japanese companies operate in our market, mastering the processing of hydro carbons. They are also involved in auto manufacturing and other high-tech industries. We want these projects to multiply in the interests of our two countries and peoples.
There is an agreement between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that the peace treaty issue should by all means be on the list of questions that must be resolved. We do not consider the peace treaty to be synonymous with resolving the territorial issue. The treaty is a step that must be made for bilateral relations to be normal, not only de facto but also de jure.
Let me recall that the only document that was signed and ratified by the two countries in 1956 was the so-called Declaration that gives priority to the signing of the peace treaty in no uncertain terms, regardless of how the agreement on the islands will and may be reached in its final version. It reads: the peace treaty followed by the transfer, rather than the return, by the Soviet Union to Japan of the two southern islands as a goodwill gesture.
Let me repeat that this Declaration primarily proceeded from the main thesis: it recorded the recognition of the results of World War II by the Soviet Union and Japan. Without the confirmation of this position and recognition of the results of World War II, as they are recorded in the UN Charter, it is practically impossible for us to move forward. Our Japanese colleagues are aware of this.
Fulfilling the instructions of President Putin and the Japanese Prime Minister, we held a special discussion on the historical aspects of the peace treaty issue as part of our talks on the peace treaty last year. We must come to some common conclusion concerning these historical aspects. After all, we are not asking for something exorbitant.
We want only one thing from Japan: to say that it is committed to the UN Charter like all other countries that signed and ratified it, in all of its clauses, including Article 107 that says that the results of WWII are not subject to revision. I don’t think that these demands are too much. Japan has ratified this document.
Nevertheless, we are open to discussions and will continue with them. Yet another round will take place at the deputy foreign minister level as early as February. We’ll discuss the issues raised by Japan. We are not dodging any issues. I’d like to repeat that the historical aspect, first of all, the results of World War II are a part of the discussion that cannot be obviated, forgotten or set aside. We’ll continue bumping into this problem and our Japanese colleagues are aware of this.
The Russian president and the Japanese prime minister (Mr Abe’s predecessors and he himself) have repeatedly observed that to resolve the peace treaty issue, both sides need to substantially upgrade their cooperation across the board – in the trade, economic, humanitarian and cultural spheres and in world affairs.
I’ve already spoken about the trade and economic areas. Incidentally, Japanese business is ahead of politics. Some Japanese politicians say that if the peace treaty is concluded and the territorial issue resolved, Japanese business will become hugely involved in the Russian economy but it will play it safe if it doesn’t happen. We don’t feel that Japanese business is trying to play it safe. Maybe, attempts are being made to keep it in check.
Probably, much more can be done in trade, economic and investment cooperation For the most part, business is not waiting for any political stamp but is actively working. We support this. I’m convinced that the closer our cooperation is, the easier it will be to discuss and resolve any issues.
We’ve repeatedly proposed to the Japanese government to support Japanese business investment on these islands. We suggested creating some additional special conditions, a free trade zone. There are many options for cooperation on these islands without waiting for the full and final settlement of the peace treaty issue.
In many respects it reflects the form rather than the content because essentially we maintain peace and cooperation. In other words, we don’t feel the effects of the absence of the peace treaty. We are not a hostile state, although the absence of the peace treaty could be interpreted as if we still are. This is not so. Nonetheless, it goes without saying that signing the peace treaty would be a good thing.
Our humanitarian ties are making great progress. Every year Japan holds Russian culture festivals and Speaker of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly Sergey Naryshkin attends the openings. He will do so in 2016. Our people are looking forward to the arrival of Japanese performers.
To fulfil the agreement of our leaders and develop bilateral relations on an entirely new level across the board, including international activities, we would like to cooperate more closely in foreign policy affairs and see a more independent Japan, all the more so since it hopes to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council. We understand this desire.
We’d like those countries that are striving to receive permanent membership in the UN Security Council to bring added value and an additional element of balance in their positions. When a country takes the same position as the United States, it doesn’t contribute much to the political process or adjust the balance in the drafting of decisions.
In principle, we would like to see every country (President Putin spoke about this in detail as regards the European Union) to be independent in the world arena and be guided by its own national interests. This is not isolation, nor self-isolation but compliance with international law when making decisions for your country that reflect the interests of your own nation and that are free from pressure that is being exerted on you to make you forget a bit about your own advantage for the sake of pleasing someone else.
I hope that we will come to this one day, albeit the modern global diplomatic structure took shape at a time when the historical West dominated the world for centuries. It is very difficult to set these habits aside, but I hope this change is not far off.
Q: This is Barack Obama’s last year in office. What are the chances for a reset in Russian-US relations in 2016?
Lavrov: This question should not be addressed to us. Our bilateral ties had plunged extremely low against the backdrop of wonderful personal relations between former US President George W. Bush and President Vladimir Putin.
When Barack Obama became President and after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested a reset in our relations, this reflected the fact that the US side itself had realised an abnormal situation when Russia and the United States are not jointly addressing problems that cannot be solved without them. That time period was considered abnormal.
We responded very constructively to a reset in our relations. We said that we praised the new administration’s decision to correct the mistakes of their predecessors. We achieved numerous positive results, including the New START Treaty, Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organisation and a number of agreements on various conflict situations. But, for some reason, all this began to disintegrate rather quickly.
Currently, everyone, including our US colleagues, is telling us that the Minsk Agreements on Ukraine should be fulfilled, and that everything would normalise immediately. They are saying that sanctions would be lifted overnight, that lucrative prospects for Russia-US cooperation on much more pleasant issues (and not just the resolution of crises) would immediately open up, and that a constructive partnership programme would evolve in no time at all.
We are open for equitable and mutually beneficial cooperation with everyone. Of course, we don’t want anyone to build their policies on the assumption that Russia, rather than Ukraine, should honour the Minsk Agreements. The documents state expressly as to who should fulfil them. I hope the United States knows this well.
In any event, our latest contacts with US Secretary of State John Kerry, as well as contacts between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and Presidential Aide Vladislav Surkov, show that the US side knows all about the essence of the Minsk Agreements. In effect, everyone understands everything.
Kiev perceives the decision to extend the Western sanctions as the West’s consent to Kiev’s non-compliance with the Minsk Agreements. This fully confirms the developments in the Ukrainian corridors of power. So, why should they fulfil these agreements when the West agrees that Kiev doesn’t necessarily have to do it?
I’ve just mentioned an example implying that they’ have already started promising another reset in relations with Russia. We need to fulfil the Minsk Agreements, and everything will immediately become cheerful, beautiful, promising and lucrative.
Russia’s relations with the Obama Administration began to cool off long before the events in Ukraine, and the same can be said about the end of the period associated with a reset in our bilateral relations. Let’s recall how it all happened.
First, after we, at long last, secured the consent of our Western partners for acceptable terms regarding Russia’s accession to the WTO, the US side realised that the preservation of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment did not meet their interests because they would lose their privileges and benefits linked with Russia’s WTO membership. They moved to abolish this amendment.
But the Americans would not be themselves if they simply abolished the amendment and said that, from now on, our cooperation will return to a normal track. They invented the Magnitsky Act, although I’m sure that we have not seen the end of the Magnitsky case. I hope very much that everyone will learn the truth. It’s appalling that a provocation was staged, and that they took advantage of the man’s death. Nevertheless, this was done, and you know who had lobbied this act.
The Magnitsky Act immediately replaced the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. This happened at a time when there was no crisis in Ukraine, although they are now trying to accuse us of violating OSCE principles. Everything that is happening between the West and Russia is explained by the fact that Russia has allegedly failed to honour its obligations, and that it doesn’t respect the European order, which evolved after the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, etc. All these attempts aim to justify the containment policy and to find a pretext for continuing this policy. In fact, this policy never ended.
After the Magnitsky Act, we witnessed an absolutely exaggerated response to the Edward Snowden story. Snowden showed up in Russia against our will. We didn’t know about this, but his passport was cancelled while he was still in mid-air. He was unable to leave Russia because of the decisions made in Washington. We had no choice but to allow him to stay in Russia for safety reasons, considering the fact that the US side did not conceal the criminal charges brought up against him. We did this just to uphold his right to life.
President Obama called off his visit to Russia, an all-out scandal flared up, the FBI, the CIA and the Department of State made dozens of telephone calls, and the two presidents maintained direct contacts. They told us that our relations would be undermined, unless we let Snowden go. Although the US side called off the visit, President Obama attended the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg. By the way, we accomplished an important task there and agreed on the principles of chemical disarmament in Syria.
Ukraine was another pretext. The righteous indignation over the alleged violation of the Helsinki principles by Russia is not the only thing linked with the Ukrainian crisis (although everything began with Kosovo, air strikes against Yugoslavia, etc.). This reflected the irritation of those who backed the coup as it didn’t produce the desired results. To be honest, we are not feeling offended. We don’t have such traditions in relations with other states.
We understand that life is tougher than any idealistic romantic schemes, such as resetting relations and such things. We also realise that this world (with its brutal clashes of interests) which is emerging from the age of the West’s total domination and still has a long way to go towards a more stable system that would have several centres of power, rather than one or even two. This is a long and painful transitional period, and old habits die hard. We understand all this.
We understand that the United States wants to have as few rivals as possible, even among countries that compare with it in terms of size, influence, military might and the economy.
This is manifested in US-Chinese relations, in how the United States deals with the European Union, striving to make it part of the Transatlantic Partnership, while establishing the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Russia’s eastern regions that would not include Russia and China. President Vladimir Putin has discussed this in detail when he gave his analysis of global economic and political processes. We understand all this.
Every age brings new trends and attitudes among various élites, especially in large countries which have their own perspective on fighting for their own interests. It would be detrimental for all of us if these processes transcended the boundaries of generally recognised norms of international law. This would cause a huge mess, to put it simply, and we would be plunged into a world of anarchy and chaos.
That world would resemble the present-day Middle East, though perhaps without the bloodshed. Everyone would do what he wants, and nothing good would come of it. It’s very important to abide by some common rules of the game.
To answer your question, I would like the United States to reset its relations with the entire world, to initiate an all-out reset in relations, so that all of us would gather and reaffirm our commitment to the UN Charter and its principles, including non-interference in domestic affairs, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity and the right of nations to self-determination, the right of peoples to choose their own future without foreign interference.
We have already mentioned an example when the Soviet Union and the United States agreed to establish diplomatic relations in the mid-1930s. The US side insisted that this ceremony be formalised by an exchange of official letters between each nation’s foreign ministers. At the demand of the US side, these letters stipulated a mutual pledge not to interfere in the domestic affairs of partners, not to undermine their political and economic systems. This is what the United States demanded from the USSR in the 1930s. These letters were exchanged at the time and are currently posted on the Foreign Ministry website.
Some time ago, we suggested to the United States that we reaffirm these principles in our relations, but the US side shied away from this discussion. I repeat, this reset would be quite timely.
United Kingdom and the Litvinenko case
Q: Could you describe the relationship between the UK and Russia in the wake of a public inquiry that found that serving FSB officers were involved in his poisoning?
Lavrov: As a journalist, you should formulate your questions more carefully. You’ve asked, if I understood your English correctly, about relations between Russia and Britain in light of the conclusions of the inquiry that has established the FSB’s involvement in the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko.
I’d say that you went even further than Sir Robert Owen, a retired High Court judge, who, when reading his conclusions, has not made a single statement that was not accompanied by the words “possible,” “probable” or “it appears that.” I believe the media should at least accurately quote your legal representatives.
Sir Robert Owen’s statement was full of “possibles” and “probables.” He even said that there was open evidence that established a strong circumstantial case (against the Russian State). I consider this to be unprecedented in the legal practice, at least in a case that was allegedly investigated without bias or prejudice.
Very serious accusations have been made against top Russian leaders without any evidence whatsoever. The report’s conclusions are based on the testimony of selected witnesses such as Mr Alex Goldfarb, who is even mistrusted by many Britons, or on secret evidence that was both provided and received by completely unidentified individuals.
The inquest that was opened by a coroner in 2011 was based exclusively on facts rather than speculation. Russia’s Investigative Committee provided assistance in that inquest. It went on until 2014, when the inquest was suspended along with a procedure that had been based on facts and in which the Russian Investigative Committee could participate in full, openly and in all parts of the inquest without exception. But this is probably the reason why that inquest was stopped and a so-called public inquiry began.
In this case, the word “public” is ambiguous, because, if I’m not wrong, some key elements of a case may be kept secret in a public inquiry. And this is exactly what happened. The conclusions of Sir Robert Owen run counter to so many facts that it’s strange that serious media outlets, as well as politicians, quote him. But politicians are politicians. We’ve heard what Prime Minister David Cameron and other cabinet members have said on this issue. We especially enjoyed it when Mr Cameron said: “What happened was absolutely appalling and this report confirms what we've always believed.”
This is like what our American colleagues said about the Malaysian Boeing’s crash over Ukraine. They said they would wait for the Dutch Safety Board’s final report although they knew who did it anyway. The logic is definitely the same in the Boeing crash and in the Litvinenko case.
Why were the results of Litvinenko’s autopsy classified? Why were the requests filed by Litvinenko’s former wife, his brother and father for his exhumation and a second autopsy disregarded? Why didn’t they honour this request?
We have similar questions regarding the Malaysian Boeing investigation. The British law and the Dutch board have no answers to them. At the same time, it’s a fact, which the investigation has not overturned, that Andrei Lugovoi brought his son to the meeting with Litvinenko during which Lugovoi allegedly poisoned Litvinenko. There is no explanation why a man would subject his children to such danger.
There is also ample testimony on the air by people from Boris Berezovsky’s team, who are speaking about very interesting facts, which the investigation has completely disregarded. To say nothing of the causes of the death of Boris Berezovsky and bar owner David West, which we are unlikely to ever know, and many other mysteries. I’d say in this situation that if a smart lawyer took up this case and analysed all the facts and all the statements that have been made by British leaders, we would have a very strong case for filing a libel suit. There is sufficient material for this.
You’ve asked me about the future of Russian-British relations. We would like the British authorities to objectively investigate the increasing number of deaths of Russian citizens, which are not recalled 10 years after the fact but are simply forgotten several months later, and about which we don’t receive any information at all.
The only thing I agree with is the UK Foreign Office statement that the Litvinenko case “would further complicate bilateral relations.” But it’s not the Litvinenko case, but the song and dance around it that will seriously complicate our relations, and there is nothing “possible,” “probable” or “likely” about this.
Georgia, Chechnya, ISIS, Crimea and Dmitry Yarosh
Q: You’ve said that ISIS fighters have their training facilities in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge and are able to recuperate there. This takes place not far from Russia’s borders, right near Chechnya. What is Chechnya’s role in this? And what is the role of the head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov? What can be done in this respect? I take your words very seriously. If what you’ve said is true, this is a very serious situation.
You also mention a certain Dmitry Yarosh quite frequently. Does he have a rôle in the Ukrainian government? He has never been part of the executive; he’s a nobody. In this case, should statements on Russia-Ukraine relations coming from politicians that get a mere 2 percent during presidential elections be taken seriously? Could you explain why Dmitry Yarosh should serve as a point of reference for gauging Russia’s relations with Ukraine?
On March 28, the UN adopted a resolution saying that Russia annexed Crimea. Are you ready to hold discussions with Ukraine regarding the return of Crimea?
Lavrov: Don’t worry. I’ll answer all the questions you’ve asked. Regarding the Pankisi Gorge, there is information that ISIS is setting up its cells not only in Afghanistan and some Central Asian countries, but also in the Pankisi Gorge. There have been actual cases when terrorists were detained, and according to the investigation that was carried out, these people were linked to ISIS.
Operations of this kind are top secret during preparation and implementation, but once they are carried out, they are reported to the public. Television networks and other media regularly report on initiatives of this kind. We all face this calamity. ISIS has established its cells in many European countries.
In fact, ISIS fighters were behind the recent terrorist attacks, including in Paris. ISIS also claimed responsibility for the terrorist attacks on the west coast of the United States. This means that all resources should be used in this respect without waiting for someone to say: “Let’s get rid of the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, and after that we can agree on combining our efforts to fight ISIS.” We have already seen double standards of this kind.
The US-led coalition, of which Spain is a member, includes a number of countries whose track record in terms of relations with ISIS is anything but clean. When I referred to the Pankisi Gorge, I said that ISIS fighters are reportedly present there, trying to get through all the cracks and gaps. No one will be safe unless we fight them together.
So far, we have been quite efficient in sealing ourselves off from this threat, and cutting short any incursions into the Russian territory. I hope that all the proposals for cooperation we’ve made are not ignored, and the US-led coalition, which includes Spain, will do what it must to identify those in its ranks who are not entirely sincere in their commitment to fight ISIS and other terrorists.
As for Dmitry Yarosh and the assertion you’ve made on his being a “fringe politician,” whose actions and words are to be dismissed, this is not exactly the case. Dmitry Yarosh and his Right Sector party were one of the main, if not the main, force behind the Maidan movement, and I’m not talking here about the peaceful protest on the Kiev’s Independence (Maidan) Square, but about violent protests aimed at inciting violence, shedding blood and using it as a pretext for régime change.
If you look up news articles for November 2013 – March 2014 published by media outlets represented at this news conference, you will see that Dmitry Yarosh was not a marginal figure in Ukraine, quite the contrary. It was he who was behind the initiative to send the so-called “friendship trains” to Crimea. He was popular and the media often reported his statements. Moreover, he is now a member of the Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, and is not a solitary politician.
Only recently new information emerged about the true nature of Oleg Tyahnybok’s Freedom Party. He was a member of the opposition coalition, and in this capacity was among the signatories of a document (along with Arseny Yatsenyuk and Vitaly Klichko) with Viktor Yanukovych, a document co-signed by our European partners: Germany, France and Poland.
At the time, Oleg Tyahnybok was already known as a leader of the party that has wreaked havoc in Europe after its election to the Ukrainian parliament in December 2012. The EU adopted a special resolution demanding that Ukrainians oust this neo-Nazi political force from the parliament, just like in 2000, when the EU wanted to ban Jorg Haider from politics. They succeeded in Austria, but not in Ukraine.
Moreover, despite the fact that the EU said in December 2012 that Freedom is a neo-Nazi party and should be treated as a pariah, the EU supported the agreements involving Oleg Tyahnybok. The French Foreign Ministry even said that the Freedom Party can be situated in the political spectrum slightly to the right of mainstream parties, although its constituent documents contain direct quotes from Hitler regarding a new order in Europe and stipulate that Ukrainian nationalists who pledged allegiance to Hitler in June−July 1941 adhere to this vision. This shows who are those fringe forces in Ukraine that, as you think, have no influence in Ukrainian politics.
With respect to Crimea, we don’t have to return anything. Russia does not discus returning Crimea with anyone. Crimea is part of the Russian Federation in full compliance with the will expressed by the people of Crimea in its entirety, including those who were deprived of any rights under the Ukrainian rule, and who obtained these rights, including the status of a state language, after Crimea’s reunification with Russia following a referendum the results of which you all know.
Of course, you may choose to follow along the lines professed by our Ukrainian colleagues who say that “this year we’ll take Donbas, and next year we’ll recover Crimea.” It would be better if they focus on implementing the Minsk Agreements, which stipulate mandatory decentralisation for Donbas, while keeping it within Ukraine. It seems that the Verkhovna Rada has so far been unable to implement the agreements reached by Ukrainian President Petr Poroshenko.
When it comes to Crimea, it is always better to go there and see how things are first hand instead of being guided by some third party statements. Many journalists, including from Spain, France, Italy, the Czech Republic, as well as members of the European Parliament, have already done it. I have recently met with a group of French MPs on their way back from Crimea. It is always better to see things with your own eyes. In that case readers may be more interested in following how various media outlets cover the developments in Russia’s Republic of Crimea.
Q: Question: Mr Lavrov, how do you see the current status of Russian-Chinese relations? What are the prospects for this year? On February 8 China celebrates New Year. It’s a very important holiday for China. What would you say to the Chinese people?
Lavrov: We regularly assess Russian-Chinese relations since we have many contacts. Every year, there are several top-level meetings, meetings between the heads of government during special visits and various events, whether it’s the UN General Assembly, the G20, SCO, BRICS or other formats. Last year was no exception. President Xi Jinping visited Russia on May 9 for the 70th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. Later, President Vladimir Putin visited China on September 3 for the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII in the Pacific Ocean and China’s Victory in the Liberation War. And there were several other contacts.
Our relations are currently the best they’ve been in the entire history of our countries and peoples. We have a strategic partnership, diverse cooperation based on the 2001 Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation Between the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation. From the very first days as President of Russia, Vladimir Putin considered it a priority to maintain deep and diverse relations with our powerful neighbour.
We don’t have such an extensive network of contacts with any other partner. These include summits, meetings between prime ministers, four commissions responsible for various issues, such as investment, trade and the economy, energy and cultural cooperation, and chaired by deputy prime ministers, as well as various working groups. All this work is consistent and bringing impressive results.
Apparently, the current economic crisis is affecting the value of trade with China but not the actual amounts which are growing. We have many plans, which, besides energy and hydrocarbon-related projects, involve high technology. These include nuclear energy, space exploration, breakthrough projects in aircraft engineering and many others.
Let me also note that international cooperation between Russia and China is a very close partnership. It is perhaps one of the key factors that help us ensure stability in international affairs despite the recent turmoil. Our cooperation is based on strict compliance with international law, respect for the UN’s core rôle, the unacceptability of interference in domestic affairs. We are cooperating on all international issues including the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, Iran’s nuclear programme, the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula, and anti-missile defence.
Our cooperation helps strengthen the authority of institutions like BRICS, the SCO and the G20. The latter, in particular, is our format to jointly support a reform of the international monetary and financial system to make it more just. Just like international political relations, the current monetary and financial system must become more democratic and reflect the increased weight of the BRICS countries, to start with. The first step in this reform was recently made thanks to cooperation between Russia, China, India, Brazil and South Africa. The five-year process of increasing the quotas and votes of our countries is complete, and now the BRICS countries basically have the opportunity to veto IMF resolutions. This is a very important achievement.
Regarding cultural contacts between our nations, we have a good tradition of holding special events with our Chinese friends. In the middle of the last decade, we held the Year of Russia in China and the Year of China in Russia. Later, there were years of national languages, tourism and friendly youth exchanges. The latter just finished a few months ago. Soon, we’ll launch the Year of Russian Media in China and the Year of Chinese Media in Russia, another major programme. I believe many of you will find a place in the events programme.
Congratulations to you and your Chinese friends on the upcoming Chinese New Year. As always, I will send a special message to my colleague and friend, Foreign Minister of China, Wang Yi.
The West and Ukraine
Q: You’ve painted a grim enough picture of our relations with the West. As I see it, this primarily concerns the sanctions. A number of prominent Western politicians have expressed an optimistic view that the sanctions could be lifted within a few months. What are their grounds for making these forecasts? We’ve heard statements by Boris Gryzlov, Russia’s plenipotentiary representative to the Contact Group on Ukraine, that certain breakthrough solutions are quite possible.
The case in point is that the West may add a “Litvinenko list” to the “Magnitsky List”; there may be new arrests of state property towards payments supposedly owed to YUKOS, hanging over our head like the sword of Damocles. Can you speak to the likelihood of a turning point in relations with the West in 2016? Please indicate some kind of a “light at the end of the tunnel.”
Lavrov: I didn’t paint a grim picture. If you got this impression as I was describing our Western partners’ position, the blame is not ours. I’ve just tried to honestly describe what I see as I interact with them. Our approach is very simple: from time to time we reaffirm our openness to cooperation with everyone on an equitable and honest basis – on the basis of negotiability.
Some Western partners say that Russia must be isolated. The other day, a Polish colleague on his own initiative first sent his deputy to us in order to signal that they, our Polish neighbours, were ready to restore the mechanisms of cooperation, but then suddenly declared that if the Russians had requested this, they were ready. Even though it was completely the other way around! And he added right away, so as not to create the impression that the new Polish government was caving in, that Russia was the enemy of NATO and the EU and that they would proceed from this assumption in their relations with the Russian Federation.
It’s not us who are painting a grim picture. We see bright prospects towards which we’d like to proceed along with everyone, including our European and US colleagues. Prospects of progress towards a world where parties respect each other and each other’s interests on a reciprocal basis and where all parties equitably take part in solving different problems, where they do not hinder each other’s development on the sly, do not scheme, do not create artificial obstacles, nor force others to act against their will, imposing an agenda that does not proceed from the country’s own interests. The future, as I see it, is sufficiently bright, even though a shadow is being thrown on it by some of our partners.
In follow up to your question, let me say that an increasing number of these partners have come to realise that they can’t go on living like this and that they are being their own worst enemy. The following example gives us reason to talk about the likelihood of positive changes.
Our Western partners are increasingly aware that they’ve fallen into a trap they set for themselves by saying that they will lift sanctions after Russia complies with the Minsk Agreements. They must have realised that this was probably a slip of the tongue, but Kiev heard this and in no time at all interpreted it unequivocally as an indulgence permitting them not to implement the Minsk Agreements. Their non-implementation, aside from the fact that Kiev won’t have to take any action or undertake its commitments, means that the West will be obliged to keep up the sanctions against Russia – which needed to be proved to certain gentlemen, who continue to fan radical sentiments in Kiev today.
The fact that the West has fallen into its own trap is beginning to penetrate its conscience. There is just one way out of this predicament – to make Kiev perform what it has subscribed to. The Russian Federation’s plenipotentiary representative to the Contact Group for the settlement in Ukraine, Boris Gryzlov, with whom I talked after the Contact Group’s meeting, felt a certain mood change displayed by OSCE mediators heading the working groups as coordinators and involved in the Contact Group’s proceedings. I felt the same mood in the course of foreign ministerial contacts in the Normandy format.
As you may know, the presidents of Russia, France and Ukraine and the German Chancellor also held a teleconference on December 30. In the near future (perhaps even on February 8 – which is the Chinese New Year – the exact date hasn’t been set yet), a ministerial meeting is planned. The West understands that the current situation lacks prospects for success. I mean, when everyone pretends that Russia must implement the Minsk Agreements, while Ukraine sits back and does nothing – not changing the Constitution, not granting Donbass special status, or amnesty, not organising elections in consultation with Donbass.
Everyone knows that no one except Ukraine will solve these problems. Everyone knows that this is an anomaly, a pathological quirk that became manifest in the Ukraine crisis (which is the result of an absolutely illegal and unconstitutional coup d’état), that has turned it into a measuring stick for all relations between Russia and the West. Everyone knows that this is an absolutely abnormal and unhealthy situation that has been artificially blown out of proportion by countries more remote than Europe, and that Europe no longer wants to be held hostage to this situation. For me, it’s an obvious thing.
Q: We know from our own experience that the Russian Foreign Ministry holds second place in terms of direct contact with the media. For the first time ever our large regional newspapers can direct their questions to the Foreign Minister, although we have been cooperating for a long time.
Despite the souring of relations between Russia and Poland, ties between common Russians and Poles, in particular between people in the Kaliningrad Region and in the border regions of Poland, have remained rather close, largely thanks to their system of cross-border cooperation. Can this citizen diplomacy help improve relations between countries’ governments, and what role can the media play in this?
Lavrov: Of course it can. This is a rhetorical question, for it’s obvious that ties between people must not be affected under any circumstances. We don’t want ties between people to be damaged under any circumstances, not even when interstate relations crack or become tense for any reason.
The so-called small cross-border movement between Russia’s Kaliningrad Region and the comparable Polish regions is a major common achievement. I’d like to remind you that this was accomplished thanks to the persistent efforts of my colleague, Radoslaw Sikorski, the then foreign minister of Poland, who personally did much to force the Brussels bureaucracy, which, as we spoke about earlier today, did not always promote the development of positive trends, to make an exception for the Schengen regime provisions and to include a larger part of Poland into the visa-free area, a concession that would have been impossible had they mechanically complied with the Schengen norms. I believe it was one of the greatest contributions that Mr Sikorski has made in cooperation with us to develop ties between people. The more the media write about this and about how comfortable people feel in this situation, the better.
This cross-border movement includes a large economic element; Poles and Russians look for cheaper goods that they can buy, such as petrol, for future resale at home. So what? This is life, and we should just regulate this just as border guards and customs authorities are doing. But the majority of people travel because they want to interact with one another. They have established ties with people across the border. We welcome this and hope that you will write and speak about this more often.
Syria, the US and Iran
Q: Russia consistently advocated for the complete implementation of the agreements on Iran’s nuclear file, which also provided for the partial lifting of sanctions on energy exports. Many of our critics claimed that Russia was helping saw off the branch on which it was sitting. We now see that oil prices have plunged to a record low, and at a time when Iran is returning to the market. You mentioned financial losses in one of your answers. Did we have to risk our economic and national interests for this diplomatic victory?
It has been recently said on TV in the United States that they were willing to tolerate civilian casualties during the destruction of a vital ISIS target – the terrorists’ financial centre. Could Russia act likewise in Syria, tolerating civilian casualties during the destruction of an important target?
Lavrov: We’ve spoken about this many times, primarily during the daily Defence Ministry briefings during which we regularly remind you how targets are selected by our Aerospace Forces. We check and recheck these targets many times to establish that there are no civilians in the area where our aircraft will be working.
As for international law, the Geneva Conventions and Protocols preclude the use of military force against military targets with civilians. If what you’ve said about US plans is true, this amounts to a violation of international humanitarian law, although I’m not sure that the United States is signatory to these international agreements.
The US has not signed many universal human rights documents, for example, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. There are many complaints about the lack of a US commitment to the universal standards of human rights and humanitarian laws.
Of course, anything can happen in war. The Russian Defence Ministry reports absolutely openly and in detail about our actions in Syria. Not a single allegation that we bombed the wrong targets or that our bombs killed dozens of civilians has been corroborated.
Yesterday I talked with US Secretary of State John Kerry, who said again that we should make a certain gesture to help launch the talks in Geneva, because the Syrian opposition conference in Riyadh said they wouldn’t attend any other meetings because they are being bombed for no reason at all.
I told Mr Kerry that we had offered Washington, as the leader of the US-led coalition, many times since September 30, when we announced our decision to use our Aerospace Forces against terrorists in Syria at the request of the Syrian Government, the opportunity to develop coordination between our militaries., President Vladimir Putin has spoken about this many times as well.
When it is claimed that we bomb the wrong targets, we ask what targets should we bomb, but they refuse to tell us. Alright, tell us, then, what targets we should not bomb. But they don’t tell us that either. And ultimately they continue to claim that we are bombing the wrong targets. Frankly, I’m at a loss. This is not serious talk between serious grown-up people.
Yesterday we reaffirmed that our Defence Ministry proposals on daily coordination remain in force. If our partners really want to more effectively fight terrorists, we must develop this coordination rather than simply comply with basic procedures for preventing possible air accidents..
As for Iran and the economic benefits, I spoke on these issues some time ago in reply to a media question. Suppose an oil-producing country, or better still, several countries were isolated under current conditions, or a conflict prevented them from developing their oil production and export industries, or a disaster happened there, or sanctions were imposed on them banning their oil exports. In this case the market would resurge and oil prices would rise. Life would improve for a few days or months, and everyone would sigh with relief.
But if we want to live in a just world, should we plan our development based on the infringement of others’ rights, on sanctions or bombing raids? Living under such scenarios would, first, make your own development hostage to events that don’t depend on you, and second, it would amount to creating hothouse conditions or at least to choosing easy solutions to your current problems, whereas we need deep, strategic solutions, about which President Putin has spoken and which are long overdue in our economy.
It would be better, more honest and, in the long run, more effective to plan a development strategy that will take into account all factors of a normally developing world, without expecting that someone will be punished or that a more favourable market situation will await you.
We must proceed from what we say – that all countries stand for the free development of international relations and free and comprehensive development of all states without any restrictions. This would be a hundred per cent better for my country, at least in the long term.
Q: According to the UN, some 40,000 people are starving in the city of Madaya besieged by the Syrian government forces, and people are dying of hunger. I’m well aware of the fact that there are also cities besieged by the armed opposition. Moscow maintains good contracts with Damascus. Can it do anything to convince Damascus to lift the siege or at least provide humanitarian access?
Lavrov: Regarding the city of Madaya, it is true that an agreement was reached as part of a package deal, under which the Syrian Government was expected to allow a humanitarian convoy into Madaya, and fighters were to do the same with respect to two other communities. UN brokered this deal. In the end of the day, the Syrian Government provided access despite the fact that the fighters decided at the last moment not to do the same. This was done without any reciprocity whatsoever.
At this stage, in the run-up to the Geneva talks, Madaya has become an obsession. If humanitarian access to Madaya is provided, the talks will be off to a good start, if not, the opposition may refuse to participate. We raised this issue with our UN colleagues, including the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which drafted reports saying that Madaya was among the few, if not the only, matter of concern. We told them that they should be honest, act as UN officials, not executors of somebody’s orders, and refrain from speculating on human suffering.
Two hundred thousand people are unable to receive any kind of humanitarian aid or just normal food or medicine. I’m talking about the people trapped in Deir ez-Zor. Reports by our UN colleagues fail to mention this city, and we have pointed out this omission to them. This city is surrounded by fighters from ISIS and other terrorist groups. Nobody is trying to speak with them, as if these two hundred thousand people don’t exist. It is there that the Syrian cargo planes parachute Russian relief consignments.
I fully agree with you that the humanitarian dimension is always very important, emotionally charged and is perceived as such. Russia assumes that negotiations should begin without any preconditions even if some want to have it the other way round.
Humanitarian issues should take centre stage during negotiations between the Government and the opposition. We will use every opportunity to promote local truces until a full-fledged ceasefire is announced.
By the way, just like the United States, Russia wants a ceasefire. However, some Gulf nations are saying that they will be willing to order a ceasefire to those who heed their advice only if they feel that the political process is underway and Bashar al-Assad’s resignation is on the horizon.
So it is up to you to draw conclusions on who is concerned about civilian suffering, and who is seeking régime change in Syria at any cost, even by exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.
The full text of Sergey Lavrov's Q&A can be found here (26.01.16).
Picture: #TakeCTRL of our privacy. ACLU. Jan 2016.
#TakeCTRL of your data. 16 US states announce new privacy legislation.
Pennsylvania high school student, Blake Robbins, wanted to use his school-issued laptop for schoolwork and to communicate with his friends by email and video chat. He did not want his school remotely turning on the laptop’s webcam and taking hundreds of pictures of him, including when he was partially undressed or sleeping. But that is what happened.
Maryland Division of Corrections Officer, Robert Collins, wanted to use social media to share personal photos and thoughts with his friends and family. He did not want to allow his employer to view the personal information on his social media account. But this demand was placed upon him during his job recertification process.
Mississippi middle school student, Richard Wade, was a fun-loving 12-year-old boy. He wanted to use his phone to take and share pictures with his friends. He did not want his school to seize and search his phone after he got a text message from his father during football class. This intrusion snowballed into his expulsion. Administrators decided that one picture on the phone, showing him and a friend dancing in a bathroom while his friend held a BB gun, was 'gang-related.'
Kim Kardashian-West is a media celeb. She uses social media to interact with the general public. She does not, however, want unauthorized people to view her private hospital records. Nor does she want her young children to receive the same level of social media exposure as her.
Current national US privacy laws do not protect people like this from intrusive surveillance.
Sixteen US states have decided that if Congress is unable or unwilling to act to protect Americans’ privacy, or takes actions which are insufficient to achieve this, the states themselves are more than willing to step up and fill the void.
The sixteen states involved in this initial move are: Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. More details here.
Picture: Poland thinks EU in Brussels is Nazi. Front page of Wprost. Jan 2016.
Picture: Ukraine. Fisticuffs between Kyiv forces & Right Sector. Jan 2016.
Picture: Nazis & Fascists in Ukraine. Azov. Right Sector.
Picture: US protest. Legalize the Constitution. You can't arrest an idea. Texas.
Picture: US Bernie Sanders. Fraud is the business model on Wall Street.
Picture: HSBC White Spiritual Boy a/c 2010 + 3 Committee of 300 signatures.
Picture: Facebook & the MerPeople. Denmark’s Little Mermaid statue censored.
At Langelinje Pier in Copenhagen, Denmark, a free-range, organic mermaid perches on a rock by the sea. It is a sculpture made of bronze and granite.
In January 2016, Facebook censored a photo of this famous Little Mermaid statue for ‘sexual undertones’. The sexual undertones had been there since 1913.
If the mermaid been appropriately dressed in, say, sports bra and cargo trousers, or in a burqa and hotpants, there might have been less trouble.
Facebook has high standards when it comes to pictures of statues. It states that users cannot post images of people in positions showing or suggesting sex, or images of nakedness and cleavage. This applies even if the image has artistic or educational purposes.
Facebook elaborates: "We remove photographs of people displaying genitals or focusing in on fully exposed buttocks. We also restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple, but we always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring. We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures and other art that depicts nude figures."
Denmark is a small, obscure nation in northern Europe. It is not located within easy commuting distance of Menlo Park, California.
Picture: The UK Michael Shrimpton case (1)
On Friday 6th February 2015, in the UK, Michael Shrimpton (57), an English barrister, was jailed for one year. He was found guilty of two counts of communicating false information.
The trial took place at Southwark Crown Court (London). A jury of nine men and three women took six hours over their deliberations. The final decision was a majority (11-1) verdict.
The story which led to this legal outcome involved two telephone calls and a covert issue of UK national security.
In April 2012, four months before the London Olympics, Michael Shrimpton telephoned two of his contacts in the UK government.
The first person Shrimpton spoke to was Barry Burton, the principal private secretary to Philip Hammond (UK Secretary of State for Defence in 2012; later UK Foreign Secretary).
Michael Shrimpton explained that he had credibly-sourced information which suggested that a German Nazi-Continuum agency had secreted a nuclear weapon (or weapons) into an ambulance garaged near an East London hospital in Newham. The agency was the Dachau-based Deutsche Verteidigungs Dienst (DVD Dachau).
Their plan was to launch a nuclear attack on Queen Elizabeth II at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics or, failing this, on the Olympic Stadium itself at another time during the Games. The location of the ambulance garage in Newham was in blast distance of the stadium.
The information given to Barry Burton during the twenty-minute telephone call included a reference to the source of the nukes. They had been smuggled into the UK from Bremerhaven in Germany and had a traceable history.
German DVD Dachau agents had sabotaged the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk in the Barents Sea in April 2000, causing it to sink with the loss of all 118 lives on board. The agency, centrally involved in a putative international rescue attempt, then stole four of the twenty-four nuclear warheads from the wreck. These warheads were originally mounted on cruise missiles. One (or possibly two) of the warheads was smuggled into London.
Shrimpton explained that this intelligence had been blocked in official channels in the UK because Deutsche Verteidigungs Dienst had infiltrated MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.
Barry Burton suspected that the telephone call was a hoax, but was obliged to pass the information over to the Olympic security team and the police.
The following day, Michael Shrimpton telephoned the Aylesbury Conservative Association and asked to speak with Conservative MP David Lidington (Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office at the time) about the threat. The call was reported to officials, and Shrimpton was arrested by police on the same day.
Sometime afterwards, in a move which may or have may not been linked with Shrimpton's tip-off, or others like it, the UK authorities deployed surface to air missiles on the tops of a number of blocks of flats adjacent to the Olympic stadium.
The UK legal authorities waited eleven months until they formally charged Shrimpton with communicating false information. There was no nuclear attack on the Olympic stadium.
Examples of the UK mainstream media coverage of the Michael Shrimpton case can be found here (25.11.14), here (06.02.15) and here (07.02.15).
A commentary on the case by Gordon Duff of Veterans Today, the American alternative military intelligence website, is here (10.11.14).
Among the points which Duff made in Veterans Today were:
(1) The existence of a London Daily Mail newspaper hit-piece here (10.11.14). This, Duff suggested, seemed to add credibility to Shrimpton's information.
AB note: But is it actually a hit-piece? Or is it just an English-style court report styled for tabloid readers?
(2) The Kursk nuclear weapons theft cited in Shrimpton's intelligence, or the UK establishment reaction to it, had resonances with the Bush-era 9/11 Able Danger documentation.
(3) According to Duff's sources at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the US Department of Energy (America’s nuclear weapons design agency), Shrimpton was an expedient scapegoat tied to the exposure of very real establishment scandals, including nuclear blackmail.
AB note: Also in Michael Shrimpton's back catalogue was the hushed-up identification of two UK Prime Ministers (Edward Heath and Tony Blair) as being German (DVD) intelligence assets. Shrimpton and Christopher Edward Harle (Christopher Story) had also asserted that Tony Blair's establishment political mentor, Roy Jenkins (UK Chancellor of the Exchequer 1967-1970 and British Home Secretary 1974-1976), was a Deutsche Verteidigungs Dienst agent.
(4) Gag orders were executed against insiders with veridical information willing to back Shrimpton in court. These orders carried a realistic threat of prosecution in the UK if the people gagged were to come forward with pertinent evidence.
(5) The diplomatic relationship between the United States and the UK was significantly damaged following the receipt of Shrimpton's information. NEST Nuclear Emergency Support Teams from the US are said to have launched an operation which secured the nuclear weapon (or weapons) from the vicinity of the London Olympic stadium, apparently without official UK knowledge or approval.
A year after Duff's piece appeared in Veterans Today, information surfaced about one of the people who had been prevented from giving information in Shrimpton's court case. He was Benjamin Fulford, a professional financial & investigative journalist of thirty years standing, based in Tokyo, Japan.
Fulford placed it on the record, in a formal witness statement dated the 6th December 2015, that he had agreed to give evidence for the defence at Shrimpton’s trial in London in November 2014. He intended that this would be done by video-link from Tokyo. The application to hear Fulford's evidence in this way was refused by the court.
Learning this, Fulford arranged to attend the court in person. A seat on Virgin Atlantic Airways flight VA901 from Tokyo’s Narita Airport to London Heathrow Airport on Monday 17th November 2014 was booked in his Japanese name (古歩道ベンジャミン).
Fulford's ticket was arranged over the weekend of 15th & 16th November 2014. On the Sunday morning (16th November), he was forced to withdraw from the flight under pressure from the Japanese Finance Ministry. They had scheduled a surprise tax audit overnight.
Fulford believes that this official interference was deliberately timed to prevent him flying to London to give evidence. The evidence he would have given in court involved Japanese national security issues connected with Kursk-sourced nukes used in the tsunami attack on Fukushima in March 2011.
On Sunday 6th December 2015, Benjamin Fulford posted the text of his formal witness statement in the UK Michael Shrimpton case online. It runs as follows:
STATEMENT OF BENJAMIN FULFORD, TOKYO, JAPAN WITNESS STATEMENT
STATEMENT OF BENJAMIN FULFORD,
(CJA 1967, S.9: MC Rules 1981, 7 70.)
Magistrates’ Court Act 1980 S.102
Name: Benjamin Fulford, also known as 古歩道ベンジャミン
Date of birth: March 19, 1961
Address: 3-6-9 Kichijoji Higashi Machi, Musashino-Shi, Tokyo 180-0002 Japan
This statement is being made at the request of Mr. Michael Shrimpton, who is making an appeal against a conviction for making an untrue bomb hoax to the UK authorities.
I have been a professional journalist for 30 years, working as Tokyo based correspondent for such companies as Knight Ridder Newspapers, the Nikkei Newspaper, The South China Morning Post and as Asia Pacific Bureau Chief for Forbes Magazine. Currently I am editor and publisher of Weekly Geopolitical News and Analysis. I have also published 70 non-fiction books written in Japanese.
As a professional journalist I am well acquainted with libel laws and the need for fact checking. As such, the statement below is true to the best of my knowledge and belief.
Some articles of mine have appeared on the respected Veterans Today.com website, whose Editor-in-Chief is Gordon Duff. Mr Duff is well-connected, to my knowledge. I am aware, for example, that he recently travelled, under tight security, to Damascus, capital of the Syrian Arab Republic, for informal peace talks with President Assad.
Mr. Shrimpton has also been a commentator on Veterans Today.com and I have read his columns with interest. From my own knowledge I can say that Mr. Shrimpton is well-known in the Intelligence Community. I am aware that he holds himself out to be a specialist in the ‘black’ or covert German intelligence agency, the Deutsche Verteidigungs Dienst or DVD.
I have published books (in Japanese) and articles claiming that the tsunami and nuclear disaster that occurred in Fukushima, Japan on March 11, 2011, sometimes known as “3/11” was the result of a deliberate attack.
My sources for this assertion, and what I am about to write, include Japanese military intelligence, former Prime Minister Naoto Kan (whom I have known personally for many years), members of the crew that smuggled the nuclear weapons used in the attack on Fukushima into Japan, members of both the French and British branches of the Rothschild family, senior CIA agents and a member of the team that actually drilled the nuclear weapons into the seabed before the 3/11 attack.
I had no contact at all with Mr. Shrimpton before he was arrested. Mr Shrimpton and I have never met.
The first thing the court needs to know with respect to Fukushima is that the attack was planned many years before it happened.
The Japanese business magazine Zaikai Tembo, citing a CIA report, wrote in February of 2007 that the US had decided that Japan was getting too much of its energy from nuclear power and that if that trend continued, Japan would no longer be dependent on US controlled oil and thus would no longer have to obey the US.
The conclusion of the report was that the best way to ensure Japan remained a colony would be to destroy the Tokyo Electric Power company, the people who run the Fukushima plant.
The Zaikai Tembo report is in the public domain. It is not readily to hand, but in an endeavour to assist the court I shall try to obtain a copy and annex it to a further short statement, along with copies of any other documents to which I refer, although I have been careful not to refer to documents which are not in the public domain. No discourtesy to the court is intended by my not annexing documents at this time. The reporting of terrorist attacks in Paris, France on Friday November 13 and the aftermath has meant that this is a particularly busy time for me.
Former Senator John Davison ‘Jay’ Rockefeller (D-WV), great-grandson of John D. Rockefeller, whose family controls (through foundations) General Electric, the manufacturers of the plant, was deeply involved in the Fukushima operation.
As a preliminary to destroying Japan’s nuclear power generation capability, Westinghouse and General Electric sold their nuclear power plant manufacturing businesses to Toshiba and Hitachi. This was insider trading at the highest level.
It is in the public domain that Senator Rockefeller is or has been associated with the Trilateral Commission, which Mr Shrimpton identifies in his text Spyhunter: A Secret History of German Intelligence (Totnes: June Press, 2014) as a DVD front organisation.
The ongoing attempt in recent years by an Asian/Western secret society to wrest control of global finance from Western oligarch families is a bigger back-ground to the Fukushima sub-plot.
The ‘black’ or covert world is, almost by definition, opaque. I should explain that what Mr Shrimpton may identify as the DVD may operate in different parts of the world through fronts and secret societies. Intelligence agencies have long favoured the use of secret societies.
For example, Democratic Party of Japan Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa was asked at a G7 meeting in 2009 to hand over $100 billion to what I refer to as ‘the Cabal’, in order to finance an attempt to start a carbon tax scheme. He answered that he would raise the money by selling $100 billion worth of US Treasury bonds. He was going to say this at the press conference that followed the G7 meeting, so he was drugged to prevent him from doing so.
Later, when he returned to Japan, he was murdered by CIA death squads, although I note what Mr. Shrimpton says about the Frankfurt-based COREA Group, Allen Welsh Dulles and DVD penetration of the CIA.
Getting back to Fukushima, the refusal of the Japanese Democratic Party and authorities to hand over any real hard currency to the Western Oligarch families resulted in their decision to go ahead with the Fukushima operation as a way of intimidating the Japanese once again into surrender and obedience.
One key source of mine, who has variously gone by the names of Richard Sorge, Alexander Romanov, etc., was part of a multi-agency Western ring involved in smuggling drugs into Japan.
I have confirmed through a long-term acquaintance by the name of Steve McClure, a supposed music journalist, that ‘Richard Sorge’ was his long term supplier of drugs. ‘Sorge’, whose real name is, according to his identity papers, Sasha Zaric, says he was a member of the Australian secret service. He also claims to have been recruited into an organization known as the Illuminati by former Chess champion Bobby Fischer. The Illuminati claim to be a secret society established by the Greek Mathematician Pythagoras but having roots that go back to Atlantis. The organisation is real but shrouded in secrecy and self-propagated mythology.
In any case, ‘Sorge’ told me that he was summoned to Pattaya, Thailand, by a member of the British Special Air Service, a South African going by the name of Spencer, and told to bring 70 kilograms of “Thai stick” marijuana, heavily laced with mind destroying chemicals, into Japan and approach me.
He was told to tell me to introduce the Yakuza, or Japanese mafia, to him or else I would be killed. The Yakuza told me it was a trap and to keep away from it, which I did.
‘Sorge’ also told me that when he was in Thailand, he was shown a 500 kiloton nuclear warhead that he was told was stolen from the Russian submarine the Kursk (K-141) which sank in 2000. He claims that four such warheads were removed from the Kursk and that the Kursk was sabotaged for this purpose. This warhead was smuggled into Japan together with the drugs via a yacht from the Philippines.
The man overseeing the smuggling operation was a former Hong Kong deputy police commissioner by the name of Stephens, according to ‘Sorge’ and Spencer. This is the same Stevens, ‘Sorge’ says, who was later killed in Libya. The man in overall operational control of this operation against Japan was General Richard Myers, according to CIA and other sources.
Based on subsequent interviews with members of Pentagon military intelligence (the Defense Intelligence Agency, or DIA) and MI5, the route taken by the missile to Japan has been identified. It was part of the batch of four nuclear missiles stolen from the Kursk by Nazi-era underground forces, which Mr. Shrimpton identifies as the DVD, who took them to their submarine base in the Atlantic Island of Sao Tome, according to MI5. From there, it was taken to another submarine base in New Guinea, according to Pentagon Military intelligence.
From there it was taken to the Philippines Yacht Club where Stevens’ crew then took it by yacht to a remote island on the Okinawan archipelago. From there it was transported by fishing boat to the port of Kyushu. From Kyushu, the warhead was taken by van to a property owned by former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone in Hi No De Cho, in Western Tokyo. From there it was taken to the North Korean Citizen’s organization headquarters near the Yasukuni shrine, according to ‘Sorge’.
‘Sorge’ risked his life and has survived multiple murder attempts because he attempted to warn the Japanese authorities about the impending nuclear terror attack. He told them the warhead was at Nakasone’s property and he told me as well. The Japanese authorities ignored our warnings.
Later we again told them the warhead was located at the North Korean headquarters in Japan. He also went to the Australian embassy in Tokyo, Japan and provided them with similar warnings. As a result of this, he had all his Australian identity papers confiscated and is now, apparently, stateless.
For his efforts, ‘Sorge’ was arrested by plain clothes police who ignored his warnings about impending nuclear terror and instead asked him to testify falsely that I was a drug dealer. He was also forcibly confined to the Inagidai mental hospital in Musashino, Tokyo where he was heavily drugged.
This writer helped obtain his release by pressuring the Japanese authorities and threatening to take legal action against them for their illegal incarceration of ‘Sorge’ or Zaric. He remains undocumented and unable to leave Japan.
I do not have the slightest reason to suppose that ‘Sorge’ suffers from any form of mental illness. I should explain to the court that bad faith allegations of insanity are a standard intelligence tactic, refined in the USSR in the 1930s by the NKVD under the leadership or influence of the notorious Soviet spymasters Nikolai Yezhov and Lavrentiy Beria.
When intelligence is presented which contains an uncomfortable truth for the state it is sometimes easier for the state to discredit the source by locking him or her up than to deal with the intelligence on its merits. This is sometimes known as political psychiatry.
A South African/British agent by the name of Michael Meiring, who had both legs blown off in the Philippines by a bomb he said was set by George Herbert Walker Bush Senior also began contacting me prior to these events, starting around 2006. He came to me under the name of Dr. Michael Van de Meer and he showed me a bullet proof attaché case, 7 passports and an Uzi machine-gun.
Dr. Van de Meer told me that Tony Blair had bragged I would be arrested on drug charges. The reason for this contact was, in part I believe, because I held a press conference at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Japan where I presented evidence that the September 11, 2001 terror attacks were the work of a rogue faction inside the Israeli and US governments.
In any case, Japanese authorities failed to react to our warnings and the warhead was loaded onto the deep sea drilling ship Chikyu Maru. Local news reports place the Chikyu Maru drilling into the seabed off-shore from Sendai in the months before the March 11, 2011 tsunami and nuclear terror attack against Japan. Takamasa Kawase, of Japanese military intelligence, also told me about the Chikyu Maru drilling.
Furthermore, multiple witnesses have come forth to testify that the Prime Minister Naoto Kan was seen inside the Japan Freemason headquarters building near Tokyo tower on the day before the 3/11 attack. He was being shown a map of Japan missing the Tohoku region where the tsunami hit.
The Israeli company Magna BSP was in charge of security at the Fukushima nuclear plant at the time. A Miyagi prefectural government official says employees of this company loaded plutonium into the plant against his will in the months before 3/11.
Furthermore, on March 10th, 2011 Kurt Campbell, then Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs for the United States State Department, requested a meeting with Ichiro Ozawa, a senior member of the then ruling Democratic Party of Japan, according to DPJ officials.
At the meeting Campbell told Ozawa the world was “entering biblical end times,” and that as a result natural disasters were coming. Campbell offered Ozawa the rights to xeolite (a substance used in cleaning up radio-active waste) for Fukushima prefecture if he would abandon his plans to remove his political faction from the ruling party and cause Prime Minister Kan to lose power. Ozawa accepted the offer, according to several sources, including the above mentioned DPJ officials.
On the evening of March 10th, 2011, I was summoned by the daughter of Masaru Takumi, the former number two boss of the Yamaguchi Gumi, Japan’s largest crime syndicate, to meet a person she described to me as a Japanese style chiropractor (seitaishi). This so-called chiropractor identified himself to me as a Japanese professional assassin. He had somehow gained access to my private medical records and other knowledge about me that was not part of the public domain. He also wrapped me with a cloth that he said contained “traditional medicine” and told me to keep it on for 24 hours.
As soon as I left the meeting, I immediately removed it because I had the distinct unpleasant sensation that it contained a poison. In any case, Takumi’s daughter asked for my mobile phone because she wanted to set the alarm for 11 AM on March 11, 2011, the day of the tsunami. She now works for the Kroll detective agency in Tokyo, Japan. The very act of writing this information has put her life in danger and I would like to warn explicitly that any attempt to murder her in order to silence her will be met with serious repercussions.
Immediately after the tsunami and nuclear terror attack began, Prime Minister Naoto Kan was asked by officials from Tokyo Electric Power and others to order the evacuation of 40 million people from the Kanto plain, Kan said during a press conference at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Japan.
He also received a phone call from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the day after the attack demanding that he sign over ownership of all Japanese government holdings of US government bonds to cabal oligarchs, which he did, according to Japanese military intelligence.
Following the attacks, a member of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) who was involved in breaking up the nuclear warhead from the Kursk into several smaller nuclear devices and drilling them into the seabed, presumably for drill-bit diameter compliance, showed up at the Tachikawa Christian church, run by Pastor Paolo Izumi, asking for protection.
He said that 14 of his colleagues, who were involved in the drilling operation not understanding the purpose of what they were doing, had been murdered in order to silence them and that he feared for his life. The man was sheltered by the church and is now in the witness protection program.
After the 3/11 attack, this writer went to South Korea at the invitation of Dr. Van de Meer. While in Korea he was told the Rothschild family had planned the attack because they wanted to force 40 million Japanese refugees to take shelter in North and South Korea. The Rothschild family intended to move the base of their Asian operations from Tokyo to a planned new special economic zone in Korea, he said. He knew in advance about the 3/11 attack and looked deeply ashamed when he admitted he did not warn me about it.
Following the 3/11 attack, un-marked planes were spotted dumping radio-active industrial waste containing caesium, according to a Japanese gangster whose gang was sub-contracting for the CIA and Mossad around Fukushima.
The massive propaganda fear campaign following the 3/11 attack can be traced, in my opinion, to Mossad, and rogue factions in the Pentagon and the CIA.
In addition to the people named above, some of the individuals involved in this mass murder and fear propaganda campaign include Kenneth Curtis, the head of CIA Japan, Michael Green, the head of Mossad Japan and Richard Armitage, former Deputy Secretary of State.
According to my sources, other people involved in this mass murder campaign included George Bush Sr. and Jr., Michael Chertoff, James Baker, Paul Wolfowitz, Senator J. Rockefeller, Michael Hayden, Guy de Rothschild, Evelyn de Rothschild, Peter Hans Kolvenbach, former Pope Benedict, and others yet to be named.
The most convincing evidence in the public domain that 3/11 was a nuclear attack on Japan is probably seismic. I have seen the seismic records and hope to annex them to my follow-up statement. From them the court will be able see that the main event, triggering the deadly tsunami, is preceded by a smaller release of energy, consistent in my opinion with a nuclear detonation or detonations.
I went public with what I knew about 3/11 and hope to produce a sample of my writings in my next statement. I have no reason to believe that Mr Shrimpton was unaware of them. To my knowledge a man named Neil Jones in Folkestone, England was, and I now understand that he was in contact with Mr. Shrimpton. Mr. Jones and I have been in contact, although again we have never met.
Here is a copy of the first correspondence I had with Mr. Jones:
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: neil jones
Subject: Threat to London
Aplogies for repeating this message but the original has found it's
way onto the comments part of your typepad blog in the section titled
'RE: March 31st deadline. As my comments to you were not intended for
publication it would be great favour if that particular message from
me could be removed. I would be very happy to post another if so
required. Many thanks.
The real aim of both these mesages is to assure you that the threat
posed by the Kursk Granit warhead in London is being taken seriously.
Hopefully you gave the warning in part to help prevent the slaughter
of innocent people in London. To this end any information you have
about the planned attack would be passed to the relevant authorities.
It would be incomprehensible for you to be involved in such a plan
and so you must have some information which convinced you of the
credibilty of the threat. Such information would be useful and in
particular more about the present location of the weapon, the date it
was planted, whether it will be moved for the attack, and the location
and timing of the attack. Anything which convinced you that the
threat was real would be more than useful.
As you may realise, like Drake, it is my belief that civilians should
not be exposed to this kind of action. It is understood that your
Illuminati connections have a problem with the Royal family, Queen
Elizabeth in particular, but this does not seem to justify the mass
slaughter of innocents. This would directly contradict the good work
you are doing on energy, food, water and quality of life for the
planet and it's occupants.
Thanks for your attention
In or about March 2012, I was informed by my source code-named ‘Richard Sorge’ that one of the nuclear devices stolen from the Kursk had been smuggled into East London and that the intended target was the Olympic Games. Again I went public with this intelligence. Again, I hope to produce a sample of my writings on the nuclear threat to the London Olympics as an annex to my next statement.
I have no doubt that Neil Jones saw my comments.
From what I know of the case, Mr. Shrimpton appears to have passed to the British Ministry of Defence substantially the same information supplied by ‘Richard Sorge’ to me.
I do not doubt that ‘Sorge’ (the code-name was very obviously taken from the famous World War II Soviet double-agent in Tokyo, although I note that in Mr. Shrimpton’s published opinion, the original Richard Sorge was a treble-agent of the German Abwehr intelligence organisation headed by Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, the man he says founded the DVD) has sources in Russia, including inside Russian Military Intelligence (the GRU), as well as sources in British and Australian intelligence agencies.
I am also aware that the intelligence provided to me by ‘Richard Sorge’ has now been verified, amongst others by Veterans Today Editor-in-Chief Gordon Duff. I do not doubt that the United States recovered a total of two ex-Kursk warheads, which had been in East London. So far as I am aware, that is the position of Japanese Intelligence and, in private at least, is the position of the Japanese Government.
I did agree to give evidence for the defence at Mr. Shrimpton’s trial in London in November 2014. He and I had hoped that I could do that via video-link from Tokyo. When that application was refused, he put me in contact with a person in the United States, on the Eastern Seaboard, in possession of a large bank of frequent flyer miles on Delta Airlines.
That person arranged a confirmed seat for me, in my Japanese name, which appears in Hiragana script at the head of my statement, in Upper Class, on a Delta Airlines partner airline, Virgin Atlantic Airways, on their flight VA901 from Tokyo’s Narita Airport to London Heathrow Airport on Monday November 17 2014. Flight VA901 was scheduled to depart Narita at 1225 hours Japan Standard Time (JST).
My ticket was arranged over that weekend, i.e. the weekend of November 15 and November 16 2014. On Sunday morning November 16 I had to withdraw under pressure from the Japanese Finance Ministry, who arranged a tax audit overnight.
I have no reason to doubt that official pressure was applied to me to prevent me from flying to London to give evidence. I would have told the jury about 3/11 and what is written above, among other things.
In Mr. Shrimpton’s defense, I would also like to state that a simple internet search would have revealed that the WorldWide Web was full of articles about a nuclear terror threat to the London Olympics appearing long before Mr. Shrimpton made his warnings to the authorities. That alone should have been enough evidence to exonerate him.
I am prepared to attend Court and expand upon the above matters that I say are true and accurate to the best of my knowledge and belief.
The full text of Benjamin Fulford's witness statement in the UK Michael Shrimpton case can be found here (06.12.15).
Picture: Americans at work. The US police and institutional racism.
Picture: Megaphone Churchianity. My name is God and these are My instructions.
Picture: The opening of Pandora's suitcase. Agenda for disclosure.
Picture: The Morals of Cryptographic Work. Phillip Rogaway. AsiaCrypt 2015.
We live immersed in a parasitically interconnected world of nearly unavoidable electronic communications.
Most of the data we generate in that world is unknown to us. Our data is stolen and exploited by invisible Others who know much more about us than we know about them.
We have an agenda for our electronic lives; so do the Others.
Since WikiLeaks, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, we have learned that our electronic agenda and the electronic agenda of the invisible Others of BigData do not always coincide in perfect purity. There is good at work; but there is also evil. There are goodies and there are baddies.
This is one reason why, at the highest levels of state intelligence, Russia is said to be making and using manual typewriters again.
None of that sovereign state's most important planning, recording or analytical documentation is generated or stored electronically. Its paper-only documents are designed to exist beyond the reach of hackers or electronic surveillance.
Russia and others have moved in this direction because, in the world of computer networks, cryptography has failed.
The cryptographers are bought and paid for. As a species, they can no longer be trusted. As an intellectual culture, the cryptographic community has allowed itself to become fatally compromised by ulterior motives.
Cryptography is about code and about how to write it in covert functioning formats for computer networks.
Cryptography is supposed to employ methods of storing and transmitting data in particular forms so that only those for whom it is intended can read and process it. Peeping Toms, voyeurs and electronic tourists are supposed to be designed out. No access. Instead, unscrupulous cryptographers provide the lice with privileged back doors through which to creep in.
Privacy, cryptography and surveillance are overlapping domains.
In December 2015, at AsiaCrypt2015 in New Zealand, Phillip Rogaway of the Department of Computer Science at the University of California, Davis, US, delivered a lecture which raised urgent questions about the moral character of cryptographic work.
Cryptography, he argued, rearranges power; it congures who can do what, from what. This makes cryptography an inherently political tool, and it confers on the field an intrinsically moral dimension.
The Edward Snowden revelations, and others of a similar kind, motivate a reassessment of the political and moral positioning of cryptography. They lead professional cryptographers to ask if their inability to effectively address mass surveillance constitutes a failure of their specialist field.
Rogaway believes that it does. He calls for a community-wide effort by cryptographers to develop more effective means to resist mass surveillance.
He pleads for a reinvention of cryptographic culture to attend not only to puzzles and mathematics, but also to the societal implications of the coding work done.
The full text of Phillip Rogaway's lecture is here (12.12.15: pdf 48pp). And his lecture slides are here.
AsiaCrypt2015 took place from Sunday 29th November to Wednesday 2nd December 2015 in Auckland, New Zealand.
Picture: Torture does not work.
Food and sleep deprivation are standard fare for the US CIA torture masters.
One of their 'enhanced' interrogation techniques is to place their putative terrorist victim in a cramped confinement box with an insect. Abu Zubaydah, for example, was believed to have a fear of insects. Being at close quarters with one was supposed to be a route to breaking him.
Modern American torture methods are not rooted in a scientific understanding of stress. As a consequence, the torture is counterproductive. Under extreme stress, the mind and the body cave in, rendering any utterance unreliable.
Shane O’Mara's new book, Why Torture Doesn’t Work, is a synthesis of all the available scientific evidence on the effects of torture and stress.
O'Mara is a neuroscientist. His conclusion is that torture will give you a confession, if that is what you want, but it will not yield reliable, useful information.
What law enforcement and security agencies do not study enough is how to question suspects in a reliable, replicable and humane fashion. But the studies we do have suggest that skilled interrogators can use language as a tool to get detainees speaking freely about their motivations, memories and experiences.
One study, performed in 1993, showed that upwards of 95% per cent of people in police custody will answer questions, given the space to do so. “Suppressing disclosure about the self is remarkably difficult, and the phenomenon has deep roots in our own neurobiology,” O’Mara says.
Perhaps the most salient aspect of O’Mara’s work is the growing appreciation that torture has a detrimental effect on the perpetrator and on anyone watching.
Subjecting a fellow human being to torture is stressful for all but the most psychopathic.
American soldiers who tortured and abused prisoners in Iraq returned home with intense, enduring and disabling guilt. Many committed suicide.
Experiments indicate that observing distress brings out brain states which mirror those of the victim. Natural empathy has to be repressed in order to avoid sympathetic pain. Such repression cannot be sustained without damaging psychological costs for the observer.
Michael Brooks' original piece on this topic can be found here (03.12.15).
Picture: Tsipras (Greece) to Davutoğlu (Turkey) on Twitter. 29th Nov 2015.
On Sunday 29th November 2015, the Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, went handbags on Twitter with the Prime Minister of Turkey, Ahmet Davutoğlu.
The texts of the four Tweets can be seen in the screendump image above. Tsipras left them up for an hour or two and then removed them.
Alexis Tsipras's rhetorical initiative on social media followed repeated incursions into Greek airspace by Turkish warplanes, the shooting down of a Russian Su24 bomber in Syrian airspace by a Turkish warplane, a G20 Heads of Government meeting in Antalya (Turkey), and the emergence of incontrovertible evidence that the President of Turkey's private family syndicate (Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Necmettin Bilal Erdoğan, Berat Albayrak et al) was illegally trading Syrian oil stolen by ISIS.
This smuggled oil was being transported through Turkey by the Erdoğan syndicate, laundered into global markets, and sold on to, among others, Israel. The proceeds of the oil sales were being used to enrich the syndicate and to arm, supply and support ISIS in Syria.
Also in the background was the long-running covert rôle of Turkey in orchestrating Syrian refugee trafficking across the Aegean Sea into Greece and Europe. There had been robust exchanges on this topic at an EU-Turkey summit on refugees in Brussels on the Sunday that Alexis Tsipras posted his Tweets.
More here (30.11.15), here (30.11.15), here (30.11.15), here (30.11.15) and here (03.12.15).
Picture: Pope Francis. November 2015. Fundamentalism is a disease.
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.
Picture: AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION. AFFIDAVIT OF OBLIGATION.
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
Blythe Sally Jess Masters
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.
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.
Picture: European bloodlines face end-time vortex of exposure (2).
Picture: Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton. Listen, Hillary, your hair's no good.
Picture: Hillary Clinton's integrity. Her record. Her fitness for high office.
Picture: "Mother and Child" by Karl Persson
The picture above and the clickthrough image underneath it are by the artist, Karl Persson. More examples of artwork by Karl Persson, and by sixty-eight other artists and illustrators, are linked from this page here.
Picture: Why do we have wars, Mummy?
Picture: Western fiat paper capitalism begins its farewell tour.
Picture: IMF & Greece 2015. Christine Lagarde & Euclid Tsakalotos.
Picture: Debt or credit which cannot be paid back is never an asset.
Picture: Greece EU referendum. Greferendum. Athens 5th July 2015. Cartoon 1.
Picture: Greece EU referendum. Greferendum. Athens 5th July 2015. Cartoon 3.
Picture: Greece EU referendum. Greferendum. Athens 5th July 2015. Cartoon 5.
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
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.
The picture above and the clickthrough image underneath it are by the CG artist, Hao Aiqiang. More examples of artwork by Hao Aiqiang, and by sixty-eight other artists and illustrators, are linked from this page here.
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.
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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