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2017: The Ukrainian economy’s dismal year

Ukrainian economy continued to weaken as inflation rose and living standards fell

Alexander Mercouris

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In an article which I wrote about Ukraine on 13th December 2017 and in which I spoke of Ukraine’s continuing downward spiral I speculated that the situation might be even worse than it appeared since conditions in Ukraine meant that Ukraine’s already dismal statistics could no longer be relied upon.

This is of course always assuming that the statistics are being collected and collated properly, which in countries such as Russia was in the 1990s and such as Ukraine is now they never are.

That Ukraine’s statistics are not reliable has in fact been confirmed by studies of its population statistics, which show massive distortions intended to conceal how bad the country’s demographic situation has become.  There is no reason to suppose that the same distortions do not affect the economic data.

This speculation has now been given weight by an article carried by the official Russian news agency TASS, which all but says that Ukraine’s already terrible inflation statistics are unreliable and are being manipulated

The year 2017 saw two basic tendencies in Ukraine, namely an economic slowdown (to two percent from 2.3% in 2016) and growing inflation. Thus, inflation stood at 14.4%, whereas the state budget had a figure of 8.1%

However, actual inflation, according to economics expert Viktor Skrashevsky, was likely to be still higher. “Most likely, it was 17-18%,” he said, adding that official statistics underreported inflation rates “by means of manipulating calculation methods” as they had been updated exactly in 2017.

According to Skrashevsky, the government is deliberately deceiving people by saying that living standards will be raised in 2018 as the state budget for 2018 provides for no indexation of pension allowances while price growth seems to be inevitable. “Social standards are showing no upward tendencies while inflation is skyrocketing. The government is not taking proper measures,” he added.

Another gap between the government’s statements and reality is situation with the living wage, said Yuri Gavrilechko, an expert from the Public Security Foundation. Whereas nominal living wage from January 1 is 3,723 hryvnias (132 US dollars under the current exchange rate), minus taxes people will actually have not more than 3,000 hryvnias (106.4 US dollars). “Inflation will be some 18%, however it is not ruled out that the government may underreport these figures through manipulation,” he said.
The claimed growth rate of 2% for an economy like Ukraine’s which experienced such a savage contraction in 2014-2015 is already extremely disappointing.
For those who doubt this bleak picture, I would point out that one of Ukraine’s staunchest supporters, the Swedish economist Anders Aslund in a recent article published by the Atlantic Council has said essentially the same thing
A year ago, I expressed my hope that “2017 should be the year when Ukraine’s economy takes off.” It should have been, but it was not. In the last quarter of 2016, Ukraine’s GDP grew by 4.8 percent. Alas, in each of the ensuing four quarters, the growth rate declined and GDP grew by only 2 percent in 2017, slightly less than the cautious official projections. Ukraine is actually growing more slowly than the EU economy, and certainly slower than the global economy. Therefore, it is difficult to be optimistic about Ukraine’s economic growth in 2018.
After a combined GDP fall of 17 percent in 2014-15, which was caused by Russian aggression, a swift recovery to 6-7 percent growth should have been natural. Instead, Ukraine is competing with Moldova for the title of Europe’s poorest country. In 2007, Ukraine’s GDP per capita in current US dollars was 160 percent larger than Moldova’s. Now it is only 8 percent larger according to IMF statistics, and Moldova is growing by 4 percent a year.
If what the article by TASS says is correct and the rate of inflation in Ukraine is actually 17-18% not 14.4% then it is doubtful that Ukraine has even achieved the 2% GDP growth in 2017 which it is claiming.
The IMF describes GDP as “the measure of the monetary value of final goods and services – that is, those that are bought by the final user – produced in a country in a given period of time”.
Obtaining an accurate measure of prices and of price growth is therefore essential if GDP and GDP growth are to be measured properly.  If the inflation figures are badly wrong then the GDP figures will be also.
That in turn begs the question of whether there was actually any GDP growth at all in Ukraine last year.
As to that, with the reliability of the statistics now being questioned, I am in no position to say.
As for the reasons for Ukraine’s economic failure, here again is what Anders Aslund has to say
The worst part is that Ukraine’s economic shortcomings in 2017 were preventable. The two dominant factors that aggravated Ukraine’s economic performance in 2017 were the trade blockade and botched judicial reform. Last February, leading politicians in Samopomich (Self-Reliance) instigated a blockade against trade with the occupied territories in the Donbas, which disrupted heavy industry leading to stagnation of industrial production. This act alone probably cost Ukraine 2 percent of its GDP in the first half of the year.

At the same time, exports, investment, and consumption rose nicely, but then gross investment slumped from a healthy ratio of 24 percent of GDP in the second quarter to a miserable 16 percent of GDP in the third quarter. Domestic and foreign investors lost their rising confidence in Ukraine. Investors began to realize that the complex judicial reform that was underway would not cleanse the judicial system and thus reliable property rights would not materialize.

These tendencies only got worse later in the year. Businessmen often complained that the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) engage in aggressive corporate raiding. The only Ukrainian institution that really fights corruption, the National Anticorruption Bureau (NABU), came under heavy attack from the ruling coalition in parliament and the Prosecutor General’s Office for that very reason, further undermining the credibility of the rule of law in Ukraine.

On the subject of the economic blockade of the Donbass mounted by Maidan radicals last year, here is what I wrote about it at the time
Far right groups and people who the Ukrainian and Western media euphemistically call “activists” have initiated a blockade of coal imports from the Donbass, claiming that such imports are “treasonous”.  Since the Ukrainian energy system depends heavily on Donbass coal the result is to cause an energy emergency in Ukraine, risking another downward spiral in Ukraine’s economy.  The government however appears too weak to do anything about it.
As to the collapse of investment in the second quarter, the likeliest cause was the closure of Russian banks, not the botched judicial reform Aslund refers to.
Here is what I wrote about the bank closures just before they happened.

Gryzlov’s reference to “the Ukrainian authorities destroying their own banking system” refers to action Ukraine is now contemplating against Russian banksoperating on Ukrainian territory.  This follows protests by Ukrainian ultra right radicals who since 13th March 2017 have blocking access to the central office in Kiev of the local branch of Sberbank, Russia’s biggest bank.

Gryzlov’s claim that the action Ukraine is contemplating against Russian banks operating in Ukraine would destroy Ukraine’s banking system may be overstated.  Russian banks account for roughly 10% of Ukraine’s banking sector, supposedly holding $425 million in private customer deposits and a further $276 million in deposits held on behalf of business customers.  Though these are large sums, they do not look large enough to cripple the Ukrainian economy as a whole, even if the money in the deposits were to disappear along with the banks, which of course is unlikely.

Having said this, launching an assault on Russian banks just 3 months after Ukraine nationalised PrivatBank, its own largely bank, hardly looks like a good idea, and at a time of economic crisis it is certainly not a move best calculated to inspire confidence in Ukraine’s banking system even if talk of it triggering a cascade effect may be overstated.

Given that Russia remains the biggest investor in Ukraine’s economy it is completely understandable why action against Russian banks would have had a chilling effect on investment.

That after all is what was predicted, so it should not be surprising that it happened.

Aslund does claim some economic successes for Ukraine

These negative factors overshadowed the positive developments. Ukraine’s macroeconomic performance has been stellar. Finance Minister Oleksandr Danyliuk has kept the budget deficit below 3 percent of GDP. The National Bank’s leadership has nurtured the international gold and currency reserves that have increased to $18 billion, corresponding to four months of imports. Naftogaz won its gigantic arbitration case against Gazprom in Stockholm and made a substantial profit. The parliament adopted Acting Health Care Minister Ulana Suprun’s impressive health care reform.

Most of this however is simply wrong.

The budget deficit may in reality be greater than 3% of GDP if GDP in reality is smaller than is being reported (see above).

The $18 billion of foreign currency reserves is less than the $20 billion Ukraine must pay to its creditors between 2017 and 2020, and with reserves only sufficient to cover four months imports and with Ukraine’s trade deficit widening the margin of safety is dangerously small.

To the $20 billion Ukraine must pay its creditors between 2017 and 2020 must now be added the $3 billion the High Court has recently ordered Ukraine to pay to Russia and the $2 billion the Stockholm Arbitration Tribunal has ordered Ukraine’s Naftogaz to pay to Gazprom.

As to Naftogaz supposedly “winning” the case against Gazprom in the Stockholm Arbitration Tribunal, Aslund’s extreme antipathy to President Putin, Gazprom and to Russia blinds him to the reality that it was Ukraine which lost the case (see my discussion of the Stockholm Arbitration Court’s award and this discussion of the award by Gazprom’s Vice President Alexander Medvedev and by Paul Goncharoff on RT).

Even the sum of $18 billion Ukraine has managed to put away in its reserves is less impressive than it looks.

The reserves have been boosted this year by a payment of $1 billion from the IMF, and a further $3 billion Ukraine borrowed in the international money markets at very high interest.

However the $1 billion payment from the IMF was supposed to be just one tranche out of $4 billion which the IMF was supposed to give to Ukraine over the course of the year.

Here is what Anders Aslund has to say about why the extra $3 billion was not paid

Thanks to its improved macroeconomic situation, Ukraine’s government sold $3 billion of Eurobonds in September. Unfortunately, this sign of economic health tipped the political balance against reform. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was supposed to give Ukraine credits of $4 billion in 2017. But since the government did not fulfill the IMF conditions, the country received only $1 billion, while it had to pay back $1.3 billion. The European Union canceled its last tranche of €600 million after Ukraine failed to fulfill four conditions.

At present, it looks doubtful whether either of these institutions will provide Ukraine with any funding in 2018, as their compassion has been replaced with distrust. The IMF is currently demanding five prior actions for further funding, namely the establishment of an independent anticorruption court, the legalization of private sales of agricultural land, the adoption of a privatization law, an improved pension reform, and adjustment of gas prices to market prices. The focal demand of all international creditors is an independent anticorruption court, since the court system has proved incapable of sentencing corrupt senior officials.

In reality the IMF almost certainly refused to provide Ukraine with the additional $3 billion not because Ukraine failed to perform its ‘reform’ obligations but because of the chilling effect of the High Court Judgment in London.

That threatens to declare Ukraine in a state of formal default, placing institutions like the IMF and the European Commission in unknown and potentially highly dangerous legal territory if they continue lending to Ukraine despite it.  I have discussed this previously at length for example here.

Since admitting this would be politically highly embarrassing given how much the IMF and the European Commission have loaned to Ukraine already, the IMF and the European Commission are hiding behind the fiction that it is Ukraine’s supposed failure to carry out its ‘reform’ programme which is causing them to stop lending.

The years 2016 and 2017 ought to have been economically favourable for Ukraine.

The weather was good, allowing for good harvests, the worst of the fighting in the Donbass was over, the country had restructured its debts and was obtaining support from the IMF and the European Union, and – most important of all – the oil price had more than halved, drastically reducing the country’s import bill and taking pressure off its budget.

Anders Aslund was not completely misguided when he predicted on 3rd January 2017 that 2017 would be Ukraine’s breakthrough year.

In truth 2016 and 2017 were for Ukraine as good as it is ever likely to get.

The favourable conditions of those years are now ending.

The situation in the Donbass is unresolved, the weight of debt repayment is once again increasing, and $5 billion of payments to Russia will shortly fall due.  Meanwhile IMF and EU lending has stopped.  Most serious of all, the oil price is rising again, and has now reached $70 a barrel.

As the TASS article I quoted at the beginning of this article says, Ukraine’s already very high inflation rate is likely to increase still further in 2018, putting even greater pressure on living standards and on the country’s economy and budget.

Even Anders Aslund is no longer optimistic about the future.

For once Anders Aslund puts his finger on the problem: Ukraine’s hopelessly dysfunctional political system, which makes rational decision making impossible

Sadly, the ruling coalition does not seem to be interested in a real independent anticorruption court or electoral reform even if legislation is under way. Absurdly, Ukraine’s politicians seem to be absorbed by the presidential election scheduled for May 2019. Instead, they should focus on securing real property rights so that Ukraine can boost its investment ratio to 25-30 percent of GDP and grow by 6-8 percent a year.

To which all I can say is that given Ukraine’s realities it is baffling Aslund ever expected otherwise.

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Photos of swastika on Ukrainian mall stairway creates a stir [Video]

Ukrainian nationalist press in damage-control mode to explain away the Nazi sign, but they forgot the name of the street the mall is on.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the aspects of news about Ukraine that does not make it past the gatekeepers of the American and Western news media is how a significant contingent of Ukrainian nationalists have espoused a sense of reverence for Nazis. The idea that this could even happen anywhere in the world in an open manner makes the claim seem too absurd to be taken seriously. Gone are the days when the Nazi swastika adorned streets and buildings in Europe. Right?

Well, maybe, wrong.

This was seen in Kyiv’s Gorodok (or Horodok, if you insist) Gallery, a shopping center in that city, located on Bandera Avenue.

The pro-nationalist news service UNIAN wasted no time going to press with their explanation of this incident, which admittedly may be accurate:

Children and teenagers who participated in the All-Ukrainian break dance festival held in the Kyiv-based Gorodok Gallery shopping mall were shocked to see a swastika image projected onto an LED staircase.

The mall administration apologized to visitors, explaining saying that their computer system had apparently been hacked.

“The administration and staff have no relation to whatever was projected onto the LED-staircase, and in no way does it support such [an] act. Now we are actively searching for those involved in the attack,” it said in a statement.

According to Gorodok Gallery’s administrative office, it was not the first time a cyber breach took place.

As reported earlier, Ukraine is believed to be a testing ground for cyberattacks, many of which are launched from Russia. Hackers have earlier targeted critical energy infrastructure, state institutions, banks, and large businesses.

This time, it appears, hackers aimed to feed the Kremlin’s narrative of “Nazis in power in Ukraine” and create a relevant hype-driving viral story for Russian media to spread it worldwide.

The Gorodok Gallery also apologized on its Facebook page and said that this was a result of hacking.

But what about the street that the mall is on? From the self-same Facebook page, this is what we see:


To translate, for those who do not read Ukrainian or Russian, the address says the following:

23 Steven Bandera Prospekt, Kyiv, Ukraine 04073

This street was formerly called “Moscow Avenue.” Big change, as we shall see.

Steven Bandera got his birthday designated as a national holiday in Ukraine last December. He is known in Ukraine’s history for one thing. According to the Jerusalem Post:

The street where the shopping mall is located is named for Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist who briefly collaborated with Nazi Germany in its fight against Russia.

His troops are believed to have killed thousands of Jews.

Several Israeli papers picked this bit of news up, and of course, the reasons are understandable. However, for the West, it appears possible that this news event will largely go unnoticed, even by that great nation that is often called “Israel’s proxy”, the United States.

This is probably because for certain people in the US, there is a sense of desperation to mask the nature of events that are happening in Ukraine.

The usual fare of mainstream news for the West probably consists of things like “Putin’s military seizes innocent Ukrainian sailors in Kerch incident” or, “Ukraine’s Orthodox Church declared fully independent by Patriarch of Constantinople” (not that too many Americans know what a Constantinople even is, anyway), but the overriding narrative for the American people about this country is “Ukraine are the good guys, and Russia are the bad guys,” and this will not be pushed aside, even to accommodate the logical grievance of Israel to this incident.

If this article gets to Western papers at all, it will be the UNIAN line they adhere to, that evil pro-Russia hackers caused this stairway to have a swastika to provoke the idea that Ukraine somehow supports Naziism.

But UNIAN neglected to mention that the street name was recently changed to Stephan Bandera (in 2016), and no one appears to have hacked this. Nor does UNIAN talk about the Azov fighters that openly espoused much of the Nazi ideology. For nationalist Ukrainians, this is all for the greater good of getting rid of all things Russia.

A further sad fact about this is the near impossibility of getting assuredly honest and neutral information about this and other similar happenings. Both Ukrainian nationalists and Russian media agencies have dogs in the race, so to speak. They are both personally connected to these events. However, the Russian media cannot be discounted here, because they do offer a witness and perspective, probably the closest to any objective look at what is going on in Ukraine. We include a video of a “torchlight march” that took place in 2017 that featured such hypernationalist activity, which is not reported in the West.

More such reports are available, but this one seemed the best one to summarize the character of what is going on in the country.

While we do not know the motive and identities of whoever programmed the swastika, it cannot really be stated that this was just a random publicity stunt in a country that has no relationship with Nazi veneration.

The street the mall is on bears witness to that.

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It’s Back to the Iran-Contra Days Under Trump

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela.

Strategic Culture Foundation

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Authored by Wayne Madsen, via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Showing that he is adopting the neoconservative playbook every day he remains in office, Donald Trump handed the neocons a major win when he appointed Iran-contra scandal felon Elliott Abrams as his special envoy on Venezuela. Abrams pleaded guilty in 1991 to two counts of withholding information on the secret sale of US weapons for cash to help illegally supply weapons to the Nicaraguan right-wing contras, who were battling against the government of President Daniel Ortega. Abrams would have headed to a federal prison, but President George H. W. Bush, an unindicted co-conspirator in the scandal, issued pardons to Abrams and his five fellow conspirators – former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, and former Central Intelligence Agency officials Alan Fiers, Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, and Clair George – on Christmas Eve 1991, during the final weeks of Bush’s lame duck administration.

Abrams escaped being charged with more serious crimes by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh because he cut a last-minute deal with federal prosecutors. Trump, who has made no secret of his disdain for cooperating federal witnesses, would have normally called Abrams a “rat,” a gangster term meaning informant. The man who helped engineer the pardons for Abrams and his five convicted friends was none other than Bush’s Attorney General, William Barr, who has just been sworn in as Trump’s Attorney General. Trump, who is always decrying the presence of the “deep state” that thwarts his very move, has become the chief guardian of that entity.

During a recent hearing of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, newly-minted congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, reminded her colleagues and the world about the sordid background of Abrams.

Omar zeroed in on Abrams’s criminal history:

“Mr. Abrams, in 1991 you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony you give today to be truthful.”

Abrams, as is the nature of neocons, refused to respond to Omar and cited her comments as “personal attacks.”

Abrams’s and his fellow criminals’ use of mercenaries and “death squads” to conduct secret wars in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala during the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s has made a re-entrance under Trump. Abrams was brought on board by neocons like National Security Adviser John Bolton, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to oversee a US military build-up in Colombia, said to be 5000 US troops, to support Venezuelan paramilitary and military efforts to topple President Nicolas Maduro. Abrams and Bolton are also believed to have retained the services of another unindicted conspirator in the Iran-contra affair, Michael Ledeen, a colleague of the disgraced and convicted former Trump National Security Adviser, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. Ledeen and Flynn co-authored a book titled, “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and its Allies.” The book contains nothing more than the standard neocon tripe one might expect from the likes of Ledeen.

An official investigation of the Iran-contra scandal by the late Republican Senator John Tower of Texas concluded that Abrams’s and Ledeen’s friend, Iranian-Jewish middleman Manucher Ghorbanifar, a long-time Mossad asset and well-known prevaricator, was extremely instrumental in establishing the back-channel arms deals with Iran. Ghorbanifar has long been on the CIA “burn list” as an untrustworthy charlatan, along with others in the Middle East of similar sketchy credentials, including the Iraq’s Ahmad Chalabi, Syria’s Farid “Frank” Ghadry, and Lebanon’s Samir “Sami” Geagea. These individuals, however, were warmly embraced by neocons like Abrams and his associates.

Abrams, whose links with Israeli intelligence has always been a point of consternation with US counter-intelligence officials, is part of an old cabal of right-wing anti-Soviet Democrats who coalesced around Senator Henry Jackson in the 1970s. Along with Abrams, this group of war hawks included Richard Perle, Frank Gaffney, William Kristol, Douglas Feith, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Abram Shulsky, and Paul Wolfowitz. Later, this group would have its fingerprints on major US foreign policy debacles, ranging from Nicaragua and Grenada to Lebanon, Iraq, and Libya. Later, in December 2000, these neocons managed to convince president-elect George W. Bush of the need to “democratize” the Middle East. That policy would later bring not democracy but disaster to the Arab Middle East and North Africa.

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela. They have old scores to settle with Nicaraguan President Ortega. The initiation of “regime change” operations in Nicaragua, supported by the CIA and the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in Miami, have been ongoing for more than a year.

The Trump administration has already achieved a regime change victory of sorts in El Salvador. Nayib Bukele, the former mayor of San Salvador, who was expelled from the formerly-ruling left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation (FMLN) party and joined the right-wing GANA party, was recently elected president of El Salvador. Bukele has quickly re-aligned his country’s policies with those of the Trump administration. Bukele has referred to President Maduro of Venezuela as a “dictator.” He has also criticized the former FMLN government’s recognition of China and severance of diplomatic ties with Taiwan. It will be interesting to see how a sycophant like Bukele will politically survive as Trump continues to call hapless asylum-seeking migrants from his country, who seek residency in the United States, “rapists, gang monsters, murderers, and drug smugglers.”

Another country heading for a US-installed “banana republic” dictator is Haiti. President Jovenal Moise has seen rioting in the streets of Port-au-Prince as the US State Department removed all “non-essential” personnel from the country. Moise, whose country has received $2 billion in oil relief from Venezuela, to help offset rising fuel prices, has continued to support the Maduro government. However, at the US-run and neo-colonial artifice, the Organization of American States (OAS), Moise’s envoys have been under tremendous pressure to cut ties with Venezuela and recognize the US puppet Juan Guaido as Venezuelan president. Moise’s refusal to do so resulted in armed gangs hitting the streets of Port-au-Prince demanding Moise’s resignation. It is the same neocon “regime change” playbook being used in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

There will be similar attempts to replace pro-Maduro governments in his remaining allies in the region. These include Suriname, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Abrams was also brought in as an adviser on Middle East policy in the George W. Bush administration. The carnage of Iraq is a stark testament to his record. In 2005, it was reported that two key Bush White House officials – Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliot Abrams – gave a “wink and a nod” for the assassinations by Israeli-paid operatives of three key Lebanese political figures seeking a rapprochement with Syria and Lebanese Hezbollah – Member of Parliament Elie Hobeika, former Lebanese Communist Party chief George Hawi, and former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

In 2008, a United Nations panel headed by former Canadian prosecutor Daniel Bellemare later concluded Hariri was assassinated by a “criminal network” and not by either Syrian and Lebanese intelligence or Lebanese Hezbollah as proffered by Abrams and his friends in Washington.

Representative Omar was spot on in questioning why Abrams, whose name is as disgraced as his two fellow conspirators – Oliver North and John Poindexter – whose criminal convictions were overturned on appeal, is working for the Trump administration on Venezuela. The answer is that the neocons, who can sense, like raptors, Trump’s political weakness, have filled the vacuum left by top-level vacancies in the administration.

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Putin: If mid-range missiles deployed in Europe, Russia will station arms to strike decision centers

Putin: If US deploys mid-range missiles in Europe, Russia will be forced to respond.

RT

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Via RT…


If the US deploys intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Moscow will respond by stationing weapons aimed not only against missiles themselves, but also at command and control centers, from which a launch order would come.

The warning came from President Vladimir Putin, who announced Russia’s planned actions after the US withdraws from the INF Treaty – a Cold War-era agreement between Washington and Moscow which banned both sides form having ground-based cruise and ballistic missiles and developing relevant technology.

The US is set to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty in six months, which opens the possibility of once again deploying these missiles in Europe. Russia would see that as a major threat and respond with its own deployments, Putin said.

Intermediate-range missiles were banned and removed from Europe because they would leave a very short window of opportunity for the other side to decide whether to fire in retaliation after detecting a launch – mere minutes. This poses the threat of an accidental nuclear exchange triggered by a false launch warning, with the officer in charge having no time to double check.

“Russia will be forced to create and deploy weapon systems, which can be used not only against the territories from which this direct threat would be projected, but also against those territories where decision centers are located, from which an order to use those weapons against us may come.” The Russian president, who was delivering a keynote address to the Russian parliament on Wednesday, did not elaborate on whether any counter-deployment would only target US command-and-control sites in Europe or would also include targets on American soil.

He did say the Russian weapon system in terms of flight times and other specifications would “correspond” to those targeting Russia.

“We know how to do it and we will implement those plans without a delay once the relevant threats against us materialize,”he said.

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