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Anne Applebaum’s — and the Pentagon’s take on Europe

Europe is a peninsula of Eurasia, and it is at last awaking up to the fact that its trans-Atlantic bonds are what threaten its future

Alex Christoforou

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(New Eastern Outlook) – I remember during how during World War II Americans anxiously tuned in to their radios to hear the news from the US’s two fronts: invariably, there were figures on how many miles our troops had advanced in the latest battles. Journalists, which later came to be referred to as ‘embedded’ with the fighting forces, competed to publish the figures first.

Nowadays, American journalists simply state that in 2014 Russia ‘invaded’ Ukraine, without reporting how many kilometers its troops covered on any given day. (Obviously, Western journalists were not ‘embedded’ with the invading Russian force, however three years later, we still do not have the faintest idea how the invasion they still refer to went down. The mighty Russian army that ‘threatens’ Europe never arrived in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, a mere 236 miles from the Russian border. In fact, its presence on Ukrainian territory is limited to supporting two Russian-inhabited rebel provinces.

And yet, serious writers like Anne Applebaum, (wife of former Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski and a scholar with a host of credentials), in a recent issue of the New York Review of Books, no differently than tv journalists, claims that ‘Russia invaded Ukraine’.

Applebaum’s marriage to a high-level Polish official (whose Wiki includes more details about his accomplishments than that of any international leader you can think of ), and her acquisition of Polish citizenship, (although dual nationality is officially frowned upon by the State Department), together with her professional focus on Eastern Europe, suggests the likelihood that she would write from a Polish perspective, which is tainted by centuries’ long enmity toward Russia.

Even allowing for that bias, Applebaum’s article, built around a review of six books on Europe, paints a dire picture, yet fails to mention the role US force-feeding of neo-liberal economic policies played in the EU’s downfall from worker paradise to a pariah ripe for Russian ‘taking’.

Applebaum’s list of problems includes the migrant crisis (which can be traced to US wars of aggression) terrorism (ditto) international corruption (which affects the entire world), the single currency, high youth unemployment and ‘Russian revan-chism’. Youth unemployment too can be laid at neo-liberalism’s door, as seen when France’s new president, a former banker and neo-liberal poster child, made it easier for companies to fire people, supposedly in order to boost employment: the breadth and violence of the reaction surpasses anything demo-prone France has seen since the 1968 Paris Spring.

While Applebaum laments the absence of a common foreign and defense policy between the EU’s member states, she knows that the US is probably lobbying to prevent this from happening. Quoting the author of ‘The Great Regression, Heinrich Geiselberger: “All the risks of globalization that were discerned (in the 90’s) actually became reality.” And “Many hoped (the EU and NATO) would also help integrate Russia and North Africa into Europe.’ (Note the hubris of that idea, as opposed to more cooperation between equals when it comes to Russia and the fact that much of Europe is viscerally opposed to welcoming ‘dark people’ especially if they are Muslims).

Applebaum goes on to muddy the waters by claiming that ‘the US and Great Britain, who see the EU as a ‘left-leaning’ institution, will be surprised to learn that many contributors to [Geiselberger’s] book see the EU as part of the same neo-liberal problem.” Applebaum practices here the neo-liberal sleight-of-hand that blames the victim for the problem. If the EU is part of the ‘neo-liberal problem’ it’s because its leaders are incapable of resisting the pressure of US-led globalization.

As for ‘Russian revanchism’, this claim is developed in detail in an article for the Department of Defense’s Center for Complex Operations, by John Herbst, the Director of the Atlantic Council’s Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center and a retired U.S. Ambassador toUkraine and Uzbekistan. In “PRISM Volume 6, Number 2 | July 18, 2016”, Herbst claims that:

For instance, Ossetia didn’t shell Georgia, it was invaded and a handful of Russian peacekeepers paid with their lives to buy Ossetians some time before “the cavalry” came. From the very first days of the post-Soviet world, Moscows security services developed the frozen conflict” tactic to limit the sovereignty of its neighbors. They supported Armenian separatists in the Azerbaijan region of Nagorno-Karabakh in order to exert pressure on Azeris, South Ossetians, and Ajarians; the Abkhaz in Georgia to pressure Tbilisi; and the Slavs in Transnistria in order to keep Chisinau, the Moldovan capital, in check. For those who mistakenly blame current tensions with Moscow on NATO enlargement, it is worth noting that Moscow had its frozen conflicts policy in place before talk of the first expansion of NATO.”

Herbst fails to admit that harking back to a basic socialist tradition, one of Russia’s core principles is the defense of national sovereignty, while the US has systematically organized ‘color revolutions’ in the nations on Russia’s border in order to draw them into its orbit with the goal of eventually rendering Russia vulnerable to a takeover, complete with its trove of precious minerals and other resources.

According to Herbst:

“ After the Rose Revolution in Georgia in the fall of 2003, which drove President Eduard Shevardnadze from power, the Kremlin instituted a trade embargo and undertook various military provocations. In late July 2008, Russias South Ossetian proxies began to shell Georgian positions. A sharp Georgian response gave Moscow the pretext to send in troops in August, which promptly defeated the Georgians.”

The official Russian version of the ‘Georgian War’ is that Georgian soldiers stormed into the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali, causing Russia to send in troops to restore South Ossetian sovereignty. Yet Herbst continues:

Led by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Western mediators established a diplomatic process that led to a ceasefire. The United States sent humanitarian assistance to Georgia and, as a caution to Moscow not to send its troops further into Georgia beyond South Ossetia, delivered it via the U.S. military. Moscow did not take the war beyond South Ossetia.”

This account is a bit silly, as if by delivering aid ‘via the US military’ — whatever that means — was sufficient to deter Russia from further action. Why would Russia want to ‘take action’ against Georgia, anyway?

That’s just part of the usual obfuscation: there was actually a series of color revolutions, starting with the 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia, the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the 2005 Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan. An American, Gene Sharp, is credited with providing the blueprint for the ‘color revolutions’ with his writings on non-violent change, and the US-educated and installed Sakashvili ruined Georgia all on his own, then sought refuge in Ukraine, where he was first given citizenship, then asked to leave. But Ukraine is another story.

Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution pitted a pro-Russian candidate against a nationalist, and was won by the nationalist. In the following election in that country, in 2010, the outcome was reversed, followed by EU efforts to woo Ukraine away from Russia by offering membership. American analysts never mention the reason why Russia opposed that membership: Russia has an economic treaty with Ukraine, that would not only result in EU and Ukrainian goods reciprocally circulating freely: EU goods would be able to enter Russia as well, with no reciprocity.

According to Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland in a speech to the Washington Press Club in December, 2013, the US spent five billion dollars encouraging Ukrainian demands for EU membership. That speech was uploaded to the internet the following February, when it became clear that violence in Kiev’s Maidan Square would culminate in a US-engineered coup against the elected pro-Russian President, Viktor Yanukovich. He fled on February, 22, 2014, after Neo-Nazi militiamen threatened an accord that had just been reached to end the clashes.

One of the militia leaders, Dmitri Yaros, who subsequently became Minister of the Interior, gave an expansive interview that Timepublished in its February 5, 2014 issue, and which was subsequently scrubbed from the internet. That interview, which can be accessed via the name of the interviewer, Simon Shuster is the most valuable document we have to prove that references to Neo-Nazis in Ukraine are vastly understated.

Yaros candidly traces the history of his movement from World War II, when Ukrainian nationalist Stepan Bandera organized militias to kill Russians, Poles and Jews alongside Hitler’s SS, hoping the Reich would reward them with independence when it defeated the Soviet Union. (Ukraine only existed as an indepen-dent territorial entity for two years after World War I, and since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.) Today, the Ukrainian government is still supported by the Neo-Nazi militias that provided the muscle on the Maidan.

Back to Herbst’s version of history:

Putin has escalated his intervention [into Ukraine] several times. It began in April 2015 with Russian leadership, arms, and money” (almost a year after the formation of the Peoples’ Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk…). When Ukraine launched its counter-offensive under newly elected President Petro Poroshenko in June 2015, the Kremlin sent in increasingly sophisticated weapons, more fighters (including the Vostok Battalion of Chechens), and finally, the regular Russian army itself in August.

According to Herbst:

Only the use of regular Russian forces stopped the Ukrainian counteroffensive. Throughout this period, the West was slow and weak in confronting the Kremlin. For instance, the G7 leaders had warned Putin in early June that if he did not cease his intervention in Ukraine by the end of the month, Russia would face sectoral sanctions. Yet by the end of June, despite the introduction of major Russian weapons systems into Ukraine, there was no more talk of sectoral sanctions. Only the July shooting-down of the Malaysian passenger jet, along with the invasion (sic) by Russian troops, persuaded the Europeans to put those sanctions in place.” (Once again, this is a doctored version of Russian history: MH17 was not shot down by “top of the line” Russian weapons, but is widely believed to have been brought down by a Buk, an old Soviet weapon no longer in use by the Russian military, but still used by Ukrainians at the time. Also, according to this paragraph, the so-called Russian ‘invasion’ took place more than a year after the Kiev coup and the Eastern provinces declarations of autonomy!)

After regular Russian forces defeated the Ukrainian army in early September 2015, Germany and France helped negotiate the Minsk I ceasefire, which Russia repeatedly violated by introducing more equipment and military supplies into Ukraine and taking an additional 500 square kilometers of Ukrainian territory. This escalated aggression, however, did not lead to any additional sanctions last year.”

Where are these 500 square kilometers of Ukrainian territory that have supposedly been ‘taken’ by Russia? Again, deliberate obfuscation reigns. The reference is to ‘regular Russian forces’ as in an invading army, when in reality Russian volunteers were aiding the citizen armies of the Russian-speaking Peoples Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, while President Putin discouraging their hopes for integration into Russia.

The case of Crimea is different: unlike Eastern Ukraine, it had always been part of Russia since Catherine the Great seized it from Turkey, and it hosts Russia’s only warm water fleet, per a long-term treaty with Kiev. Given the strong presence of fascists in the post-2014 government, Russia could not risk having its naval base confiscated. The ‘little green men’ so popular with journalists were part of the contingent regularly stationed in Sebastopol.

However, according to Herbst:

“Putin’s second vulnerability concerns the use of his army in Ukraine. While his media have conducted an extensive smear campaign against Ukraine and its leadership, they have not been able to persuade the Russian people that Russian troops should be used there. Since the summer of 2015, numerous polls by Moscow’s Levada Center have shown that a large majority of the Russian people oppose using troops in Ukraine. Because of this, Putin has denied the presence of Russian troops there, despite strong evidence to the contrary. For example, thousands of regular Russian troops were used in August and September of 2014 to stop Ukraines counter-offensive.” (We have heard nothing of these supposed military to military battles. Where were the journalists?)

In January 2015, Western intelligence estimates reported that there were anywhere between 250 to 1,000 Russian officers in Ukraine, while Ukrainian intelligence claimed that there were as many as 9,000 or 10,000 Russian troops. Even Putin finally acknowledged in December 2015 that there were “some” Russian military in the Donbass.”

Broadening his analysis, Herbst seemingly lets his imagina-tion run wild: in reality this is a shop-worn effort to present the US attitude toward Russia as being more than willing to engage in joint efforts:

The United States might also enhance cooperation with all interested Central Asian states to offset the potential destabilizing impact of its withdrawal from Afghanistan. While this may seem counterintuitive, this last initiative need not exclude the Kremlin. Indeed, NATO and the EU can also help strengthen some nations on Russias periphery by projects that include the Kremlin. This would also demonstrate that NATO and EU policies are designed not just to discourage Kremlin aggression, but also to resuscitate cooperation on matters of mutual interest.”

But then – inevitably:

Policy in the grey zone should also focus on state weaknesses that Moscow exploits to ensure its control. As discussed above, the Kremlin uses its intelligence services to recruit agents in the power ministries of the post-Soviet states. It also uses its firms to acquire key sectors of these countries’ economies and to buy political influence.

With interested countries, the United States and NATO should offer programs to help vet (sic) the security services and militaries to make clear that (or to ensure that?) they both are under the full control of the political leaders in these states. At the same time, the United States and the EU should expand programs to uncover corruption in the financial and other sectors of these countries’ economies.

It’s hard to decide whether this breezy program qualifies as mere hutzpa or beyond the pale delusion: to imagine that ‘the Stans’ that ring Russia’s southern border, where Muslims live peaceful and increasingly comfortable lives, would be interested in US hucksterism, is almost beyond belief. Clearly, the Pentagon’s imagination is running wild:

Two years after Russia began to tear Ukraine apart,(!) and seven years after it did the same in Georgia, (!!) the West is finally waking up to the danger of Kremlin revanchism.”

What do the Pentagon’s ‘experts’ know about the intricacies of South Ossetian, Abkhazian or Azerbaijani politics — much less these three small nations’ relations with Russia? (Do any of them even speak these countries’ languages?) We seem to have ended up a long way from Applebaum’s Europe, but only to the extent that we buy into her view of it as a superior ‘civilization’ which the countries that make up the major part of the Eurasian continent — as well as Africa —should emulate. Europe is a peninsula of Eurasia, and it is at last awaking up to the fact that its trans-Atlantic bonds are what threaten its future.

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High-ranking Ukrainian official reports on US interference in Ukraine

It is not usually the case that an American media outlet tells the truth about Ukraine, but it appears to have happened here.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The Hill committed what may well have been a random act of journalism when it reported that Ukrainian Prosecutor General, Yuriy Lutsenko, told Hill.tv’s reporter John Solomon that the American ambassador to that country, Marie Yovanovitch, gave him a “do not prosecute” list at their first meeting.

Normally, all things Russia are covered by the American press as “bad”, and all things Ukraine are covered by the same as “good.” Yet this report reveals quite a bit about the nature of the deeply embedded US interests that are involved in Ukraine, and which also attempt to control and manipulate policy in the former Soviet republic.

The Hill’s piece continues (with our added emphases):

“Unfortunately, from the first meeting with the U.S. ambassador in Kiev, [Yovanovitch] gave me a list of people whom we should not prosecute,” Lutsenko, who took his post in 2016, told Hill.TV last week.

“My response of that is it is inadmissible. Nobody in this country, neither our president nor our parliament nor our ambassador, will stop me from prosecuting whether there is a crime,” he continued.

Indeed, the Prosecutor General appears to be a man of some principles. When this report was brought to the attention of the US State Department, the response was predictable:

The State Department called Lutsenko’s claim of receiving a do not prosecute list, “an outright fabrication.” 

“We have seen reports of the allegations,” a department spokesperson told Hill.TV. “The United States is not currently providing any assistance to the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO), but did previously attempt to support fundamental justice sector reform, including in the PGO, in the aftermath of the 2014 Revolution of Dignity. When the political will for genuine reform by successive Prosecutors General proved lacking, we exercised our fiduciary responsibility to the American taxpayer and redirected assistance to more productive projects.”

This is an amazing statement in itself. “Our fiduciary responsibility to the American taxpayer”? Are Americans even aware that their country is spending their tax dollars in an effort to manipulate a foreign government in what can probably well be called a low-grade proxy war with the Russian Federation? Again, this appears to be a slip, as most American media do a fair job of maintaining the narrative that Ukraine is completely independent and that its actions regarding the United States and Russia are taken in complete freedom.

Hill.TV has reached out to the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine for comment.

Lutsenko also said that he has not received funds amounting to nearly $4 million that the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine was supposed to allocate to his office, saying that “the situation was actually rather strange” and pointing to the fact that the funds were designated, but “never received.”

“At that time we had a case for the embezzlement of the U.S. government technical assistance worth 4 million U.S. dollars, and in that regard, we had this dialogue,” he said. “At that time, [Yovanovitch] thought that our interviews of Ukrainian citizens, of Ukrainian civil servants, who were frequent visitors of the U.S. Embassy put a shadow on that anti-corruption policy.”

“Actually, we got the letter from the U.S. Embassy, from the ambassador, that the money that we are speaking about [was] under full control of the U.S. Embassy, and that the U.S. Embassy did not require our legal assessment of these facts,” he said. “The situation was actually rather strange because the funds we are talking about were designated for the prosecutor general’s office also and we told [them] we have never seen those, and the U.S. Embassy replied there was no problem.”

“The portion of the funds, namely 4.4 million U.S. dollars were designated and were foreseen for the recipient Prosecutor General’s office. But we have never received it,” he said.

Yovanovitch previously served as the U.S. ambassador to Armenia under former presidents Obama and George W. Bush, as well as ambassador to Kyrgyzstan under Bush. She also served as ambassador to Ukraine under Obama.

Former Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who was at the time House Rules Committee chairman, voiced concerns about Yovanovitch in a letter to the State Department last year in which he said he had proof the ambassador had spoken of her “disdain” for the Trump administration.

This last sentence may be a way to try to narrow the scope of American interference in Ukraine down to the shenanigans of just a single person with a personal agenda. However, many who have followed the story of Ukraine and its surge in anti-Russian rhetoric, neo-Naziism, ultra-nationalism, and the most recent events surrounding the creation of a pseudo-Orthodox “church” full of Ukrainian nationalists and atheists as a vehicle to import “Western values” into a still extremely traditional and Christian land, know that there are fingerprints of the United States “deep state” embeds all over this situation.

It is somewhat surprising that so much that reveals the problem showed up in just one report. It will be interesting to see if this gets any follow-up in the US press.

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President Putin signs law blocking fake news, but the West makes more

Western media slams President Putin and his fake news law, accusing him of censorship, but an actual look at the law reveals some wisdom.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The TASS Russian News Agency reported on March 18th that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed off on a new law intended to block distorted or untrue information being reported as news. Promptly after he did so, Western news organizations began their attempt to “spin” this event as some sort of proof of “state censorship” in the oppressive sense of the old Soviet Union. In other words, a law designed to prevent fake news was used to create more fake news.

One of the lead publications is a news site that is itself ostensibly a “fake news” site. The Moscow Times tries to portray itself as a Russian publication that is conducted from within Russian borders. However, this site and paper is really a Western publication, run by a Dutch foundation located in the Netherlands. As such, the paper and the website associated have a distinctly pro-West slant in their reporting. Even Wikipedia noted this with this comment from their entry about the publication:

In the aftermath of the Ukrainian crisis, The Moscow Times was criticized by a number of journalists including Izvestia columnist Israel Shamir, who in December 2014 called it a “militant anti-Putin paper, a digest of the Western press with extreme bias in covering events in Russia”.[3] In October 2014 The Moscow Times made the decision to suspend online comments after an increase in offensive comments. The paper said it disabled comments for two reasons—it was an inconvenience for its readers as well as being a legal liability, because under Russian law websites are liable for all content, including user-generated content like comments.[14]

This bias is still notably present in what is left of the publication, which is now an online-only news source. This is some of what The Moscow Times had to say about the new fake news legislation:

The bills amending existing information laws overwhelmingly passed both chambers of Russian parliament in less than two months. Observers and some lawmakers have criticized the legislation for its vague language and potential to stifle free speech.

The legislation will establish punishments for spreading information that “exhibits blatant disrespect for the society, government, official government symbols, constitution or governmental bodies of Russia.”

Insulting state symbols and the authorities, including Putin, will carry a fine of up to 300,000 rubles and 15 days in jail for repeat offenses.

As is the case with other Russian laws, the fines are calculated based on whether the offender is a citizen, an official or a legal entity.

More than 100 journalists and public figures, including human rights activist Zoya Svetova and popular writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya, signed a petition opposing the laws, which they labeled “direct censorship.”

This piece does give a bit of explanation from Dmitry Peskov, showing that European countries also have strict laws governing fake news distribution. However, the Times made the point of pointing out the idea of “insulting governmental bodies of Russia… including Putin” to bolster their claim that this law amounts to real censorship of the press. It developed its point of view based on a very short article from Reuters which says even less about the legislation and how it works.

However, TASS goes into rather exhaustive detail about this law, and it also gives rather precise wording on the reason for the law’s passage, as well as how it is to be enforced. We include most of this text here, with emphases added:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law on blocking untrue and distorting information (fake news). The document was posted on the government’s legal information web portal.

The document supplements the list of information, the access to which may be restricted on the demand by Russia’s Prosecutor General or his deputies. In particular, it imposes a ban on “untrue publicly significant information disseminated in the media and in the Internet under the guise of true reports, which creates a threat to the life and (or) the health of citizens, property, a threat of the mass violation of public order and (or) public security, or the threat of impeding or halting the functioning of vital infrastructural facilities, transport or social infrastructure, credit institutions, energy, industrial or communications facilities.”

Pursuant to the document, in case of finding such materials in Internet resources registered in accordance with the Russian law on the mass media as an online media resource, Russia’s Prosecutor General or his deputies will request the media watchdog Roskomnadzor to restrict access to the corresponding websites.

Based on this request, Roskomnadzor will immediately notify the editorial board of the online media resource, which is in violation of the legislation, about the need to remove untrue information and the media resource will be required to delete such materials immediately. If the editorial board fails to take the necessary measures, Roskomnadzor will send communications operators “a demand to take measures to restrict access to the online resource.”

In case of deleting such untrue information, the website owner will notify Roskomnadzor thereof, following which the media watchdog will “hold a check into the authenticity of this notice” and immediately inform the communications operator about the resumption of the access to the information resource.
The conditions for the law are very specific, as are the penalties for breaking it. TASS continued:

Liability for breaching the law

Simultaneously, the Federation Council approved the associated law with amendments to Russia’s Code of Administrative Offences, which stipulates liability in the form of penalties of up to 1.5 million rubles (around $23,000) for the spread of untrue and distorting information.

The Code’s new article, “The Abuse of the Freedom of Mass Information,” stipulates liability for disseminating “deliberately untrue publicly significant information” in the media or in the Internet. The penalty will range from 30,000 rubles ($450) to 100,000 rubles ($1,520) for citizens, from 60,000 rubles ($915) to 200,000 rubles ($3,040) for officials and from 200,000 rubles to 500,000 rubles ($7,620) for corporate entities with the possible confiscation of the subject of the administrative offence.

Another element of offence imposes tighter liability for the cases when the publication of false publicly significant information has resulted in the deaths of people, has caused damage to the health or property, prompted the mass violation of public order and security or has caused disruption to the functioning of transport or social infrastructure facilities, communications, energy and industrial facilities and banks. In such instances, the fines will range from 300,000 rubles to 400,000 rubles ($6,090) for citizens, from 600,000 rubles to 900,000 rubles ($13,720) for officials, and from 1 million rubles to 1.5 million rubles for corporate entities.

While this legislation can be spun (and is) in the West as anti-free speech, one may also consider the damage that has taken place in the American government through a relentless attack of fake news from most US news outlets against President Trump. One of the most notable effects of this barrage has been to further degrade and destroy the US’ relationship with the Russian Federation, because even the Helsinki Summit was attacked so badly that the two leaders have not been able to get a second summit together.

While it is certainly a valued right of the American press to be unfettered by Congress, and while it is also certainly vital to criticize improper practices by government officials, the American news agencies have gone far past that, to deliberately dishonest attacks, based in innuendo and everything possible that was formerly only the province of gossip tabloid publications. The effort has been to defame the President, not to give proper or due criticism to his policies, nor credit. It can be properly stated that the American press has abused its freedom of late.

This level of abuse drew a very unusual comment from the US president, who wondered on Twitter about the possibility of creating a state-run media center in the US to counter fake news:

Politically correct for US audiences? No. But an astute point?

Definitely.

Freedom in anything also presumes that those with that freedom respect it, and further, that they respect and apply the principle that slandering people and institutions for one’s own personal, business or political gain is wrong. Implied in the US Constitution’s protection of the press is the notion that the press itself, as the rest of the country, is accountable to a much Higher Authority than the State. But when that Authority is rejected, as so much present evidence suggests, then freedom becomes the freedom to misbehave and to agitate. It appears largely within this context that the Russian law exists, based on the text given.

Further, by hitting dishonest media outlets in their pocketbook, rather than prison sentences, the law appears to be very smart in its message: “Do not lie. If you do, you will suffer where it counts most.”

Considering that news media’s purpose is to make money, this may actually be a very smart piece of legislation.

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US continues to try to corner Russia with silence on Nukes

Moscow continues to be patient in what appears to be an ever more lopsided, intentional stonewalling situation provoked by the Americans.

Seraphim Hanisch

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TASS reported on March 17th that despite Russian readiness to discuss the present problem of strategic weapons deployments and disarmament with its counterparts in the United States, the Americans have not offered Russia any proposals to conduct such talks.

The Kremlin has not yet received any particular proposals on the talks over issues of strategic stability and disarmament from Washington, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told TASS on Sunday when commenting on the statement made by US National Security Adviser John Bolton who did not rule out that such talks could be held with Russia and China.

“No intelligible proposals has been received [from the US] so far,” Peskov said.

Earlier Bolton said in an interview with radio host John Catsimatidis aired on Sunday that he considers it reasonable to include China in the negotiation on those issues with Russia as well.

“China is building up its nuclear capacity now. It’s one of the reasons why we’re looking at strengthening our national missile defense system here in the United States. And it’s one reason why, if we’re going to have another arms control negotiation, for example, with the Russians, it may make sense to include China in that discussion as well,” he said.

Mr. Bolton’s sense about this particular aspect of any arms discussions is correct, as China was not formerly a player in geopolitical affairs the way it is now. The now all-but-scrapped Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, was a treaty concluded by the US and the USSR leaders Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, back in 1987. However, for in succeeding decades, most notably since the fall of the Soviet Union, the US has been gradually building up weaponry in what appears to be an attempt to create a ring around the Russian Federation, a situation which is understandably increasingly untenable to the Russian government.

Both sides have accused one another of violating this treaty, and the mutual violations and recriminations on top of a host of other (largely fabricated) allegations against the Russian government’s activities led US President Donald Trump to announce his nation’s withdrawal from the treaty, formally suspending it on 1 February. Russian President Vladimir Putin followed suit by suspending it the very next day.

The INF eliminated all of both nations’ land based ballistic and cruise missiles that had a range between 500 and 1000 kilometers (310-620 miles) and also those that had ranges between 1000 and 5500 km (620-3420 miles) and their launchers.

This meant that basically all the missiles on both sides were withdrawn from Europe’s eastern regions – in fact, much, if not most, of Europe was missile-free as the result of this treaty. That is no longer the case today, and both nations’ accusations have provoked re-development of much more advanced systems than ever before, especially true considering the Russian progress into hypersonic and nuclear powered weapons that offer unlimited range.

This situation generates great concern in Europe, such that the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on both Moscow and Washington to salvage the INF and extend the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, or the New START as it is known.

“I call on the parties to the INF Treaty to use the time remaining to engage in sincere dialogue on the various issues that have been raised. It is very important that this treaty is preserved,” Guterres said at a session of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on Monday.

He stressed that the demise of that accord would make the world more insecure and unstable, which “will be keenly felt in Europe.” “We simply cannot afford to return to the unrestrained nuclear competition of the darkest days of the Cold War,” he said.

Guterres also urged the US and Russia to extend the START Treaty, which expires in 2021, and explore the possibility of further reducing their nuclear arsenals. “I also call on the United States and the Russian Federation to extend the so-called New START Treaty before it expires in 2021,” he said.

The UN chief recalled that the treaty “is the only international legal instrument limiting the size of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals” and that its inspection provisions “represent important confidence-building measures that benefit the entire world.”

Guterres recalled that the bilateral arms control process between Russia and the US “has been one of the hallmarks of international security for fifty years.”

“Thanks to their efforts, global stockpiles of nuclear weapons are now less than one-sixth of what they were in 1985,” the UN secretary-general pointed out.

The Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (the New START Treaty) entered into force on February 5, 2011. The document stipulates that seven years after its entry into effect each party should have no more than a total of 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and strategic bombers, as well as no more than 1,550 warheads on deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs and strategic bombers, and a total of 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers and strategic bombers. The new START Treaty obliges the parties to exchange information on the number of warheads and carriers twice a year.

The new START Treaty will remain in force during 10 years until 2021, unless superseded by a subsequent agreement. It may be extended for a period of no more than five years (that is, until 2026) upon the parties’ mutual consent. Moscow has repeatedly called on Washington not to delay the issue of extending the Treaty.

 

 

 

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