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Boris Johnson rips Russia just one day before landing in Moscow

The British foreign secretary has virtually named Russia enemy No.1 just 24 hours before he is supposed to lead diplomatic efforts with the Kremlin

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(Strategic Culture Foundation) – Boris Johnson arrives in Moscow on Dec. 21 to hold talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov the next day – the first visit to Russia by a British foreign minister in five years. International security issues are to top the agenda, including North Korea, Iran and regional stability in the Middle East as well as security for the 2018 World Cup soccer tournament in Russia. This is the time the bilateral relationship is at the lowest ebb due to the differences over Ukraine, Syria, and the allegations of Moscow’s meddling in the politics of various European countries. UK Prime Minister Theresa May has dramatically escalated attacks on Russia recently, accusing it of malign influence and hostile intentions.

Mr. Johnson gave an interview to the Sunday Times as he prepares for the trip to Moscow, in which he said that “Russia has not been so hostile to the UK or to Western interests since the end of the Cold War.” According to him, “In the Crimea, capturing a part of sovereign, besides, European territory from someone else’s country and holding it for the first time since 1945.” But the Crimean War, in which the UK and Russia fought each other, ended in 1856. Crimea was reunited with Russia in 2014. How does this reunification hurt British interests and where are the examples of hostility Mr. Johnson is talking about?

Besides, the minister is off base here. The first territory captured from someone else’s country was Kosovo forcibly taken away from Serbia by NATO in 1999 and declared “independent” in 2008.

He also mentions Montenegro. “We literally have Russian fingerprints on an assassination attempt in Montenegro,” the top British diplomat states. Mr. Johnson says “we” talking about an independent state, not a part of British Empire. And how does this example illustrate Russia’s hostility toward the UK?

Then finally Mr. Johnson addresses something Great Britain has an immediate relation to, saying “Look at what they’re doing with cyber- warfare, with attempted disruption of democratic processes in the UK.” The foreign secretary says he has “seen no evidence”that Russian meddling affected the outcome of the EU referendum but adds: “There’s some evidence that there has been Russian trolling on Facebook.” It begs the question how much did Russian Facebook activity target the Brexit vote? The Russia’s Internet Research Agency operatives placed three adverts on Facebook in the run-up to Britain’s 2016 referendum on EU membership, spending just 97 cents to allegedly raise the issue of immigration. “We have determined that these accounts associated with the IRA spent a small amount of money ($0.97) on advertisements that delivered to UK audiences during that time,” Facebook said. And there is nothing else to confirm the allegation that Russia was involved in any meddling.

So, that’s what all the talks about Russia’s hostility boils down to: Crimea, where not a single shot was fired, Montenegro, a murky story, which has no relation to the UK anyway, and the $0,97 cents allegedly spent to prompt Brexit.

“When I was a kid, Russia was a very scary proposition. The idea of friendship with Russia seemed to be absurd because Russia was threatening us with nuclear warheads,” Mr. Johnson continues. But it was the US, not Russia, who used a nuclear weapon. And it was nobody else but British PM Winston Churchill who urged to “wipe out” Moscow – the city Mr. Johnson is going to visit – with an A-bomb.

The minister made a historical allusion: “I was reading Thucydides’ history of the Peloponnesian war. It was obvious to me that Athens and its democracy, its openness, its culture and civilisation was the analogue of the United States and the West. Russia for me was closed, nasty, militaristic and antidemocratic — like Sparta. There was an extraordinary moment of hope and change when the [Berlin] wall came down and suddenly everything felt very different. It now feels as if that was a total illusion.” The country he compares with Sparta is not the Russian Federation but the Soviet Union, which does not exist anymore. The territory and political system were different. The times have changed. It should be noted that the wars between Sparta and Athens weakened Classical Greece to make it vulnerable to the conquests of Persia and Macedonia.

Of course, Mr. Johnson could not leave Syria out. “We need to talk to Russia about how they see the endgame in Syria. They have managed to maintain their client Bashar al-Assad in power in Damascus but they have not produced a political solution for Syria,” he says. Is the power of jihadists – the same people who commit terrorist acts in Europe – better that the power of President Assad? No political solution? But the only initiative that has brought tangible results is the Astana peace process with Moscow playing the first fiddle. Are the de-escalation zones, where cease-fire is established, worse than the battlefields, where fierce fighting seemed to last forever? Was it not Russia who organized and is going to host the meeting of “Congress of Syrian National Dialogue” in Sochi? Has the UK ever launched any diplomatic initiative of its own to stop the bloodshed?

Actually, there is nothing new in the views presented by Mr. Johnson in the interview. It’s the same old song and dance – whatever it is, Russia is behind it.

True, the divisions over Ukraine, the expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders and the differences over Syria have greatly deteriorated the relationship between the two countries.

Under the circumstances, it would be naïve to expect a diplomatic breakthrough at the upcoming meeting in Moscow. But as permanent members of the UN Security Council the UK and Russia have a special responsibility for global peace and security. Nothing prevents dialogue on specific issues where there is scope for at least partial alignment of the interests, such as Syria, Afghanistan, counter-terrorism, aviation security, the 2018 World Cup and business ties. As the Russian-British Business Forum 2017 held on 28−29 November 2017 showed, there are lucrative prospects for economic cooperation even despite the sanctions war. The two countries can fruitfully cooperate. Just a few days ago, Sir Alan Duncan, the Minister for Europe and the Americas, visited Moscow. The event showed that responsible dialogue is possible. According to him, it is “vital for the UK & Russia, as permanent members of UN Security Council, to engage. Especially where we disagree on international security issues.” That’s the kind of approach that should prevail during Boris Johnson’s visit. It’s more beneficial to talk shop than exchange unfounded accusations emphasizing the divisions instead of concentrating on the areas where cooperation is vital for both nations.

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Russia Lures International Arms Buyers With Half-Priced, More Effective Missile System

The Russian S-400 mobile long-range surface-to-air missile system costs around $500 million, vs. the $1 billion price tag for a US-made Raytheon Patriot Pac-2 battery.

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Via Zerohedge


Russia has been pitching a rival missile platform that costs half of those made by US companies, reports CNBC, which has resulted in several countries dealing with the Kremlin “despite the potential for blowback.”

Sefa Karacan | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The Russian S-400 mobile long-range surface-to-air missile system costs around $500 million, vs. the $1 billion price tag for a US-made Raytheon Patriot Pac-2 battery, while a THAAD battery made by Lockheed Martin costs just about $3 billion, according to people with first-hand knowledge of a US intelligence assessment.

Nearly 13 countries have expressed interest in buying Russia’s S-400, a move that could trigger potential U.S. sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which President Donald Trump signed in August 2017. In September, the U.S. slapped sanctions on China  for buying fighter jets and missiles from Russia. However, the U.S. could grant sanction waivers. –CNBC

Turkey, meanwhile, may be hit with US sanctions over their decision to purchase the S-400 defense system, which the United States says poses a risk to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform.

Meanwhile, India called the United States’ bluff over sanctions in late Ocotber, standing its ground in its decision to buy the S-400.

One of the reasons Russian systems are generally considered less expensive than their American counterparts is because they don’t include pricey ongoing maintenance.

“When foreign militaries buy American, above and beyond the purchase, they are buying a partnership with the U.S. military,” Andrew Hunter, director of the Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told CNBC. “And that plus the maintenance and technical assistance is a big part of the cost difference.

The S-400 system made its debut in 2007, succeeding the S-200 and S-300 missile systems. According to CNBC, “the Russian-made S-400 is capable of engaging a wider array of targets, at longer ranges and against multiple threats simultaneously,” vs. US-made systems.

In terms of capability, one source noted that while there is no perfect weapon, the S-400 eclipses even THAAD, America’s missile defense crown jewel.

When asked why nations seek to buy the S-400 instead of America’s Patriot or THAAD systems, one of the people with knowledge of the intelligence report explained that foreign militaries aren’t willing to stick with the cumbersome process of buying weapons from the U.S. government. –CNBC

“Many of these countries do not want to wait for U.S. regulatory hurdles,” said a CNBC source with first hand knowledge of the assessment. “The S-400 has less export restrictions and the Kremlin is willing to expedite sales by skipping over any regulatory hurdles.

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Britain’s Enemy Is Not Russia But It’s Own Ruling Class, UN Report Confirms

In austerity Britain, who the enemy is has never been more clear.

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Authored by John Wright. op-ed via RT.com:


As the UK political establishment rips itself to pieces over Brexit, a far greater crisis continues to afflict millions of victims of Tory austerity…

A devastating UN report into poverty in the UK provides incontrovertible evidence that the enemy of the British people is the very ruling class that has gone out of its way these past few years to convince them it is Russia.

Professor Philip Alston, in his capacity as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, spent two weeks touring the United Kingdom. He did so investigating the impact of eight years of one of the most extreme austerity programs among advanced G20 economies in response to the 2008 financial crash and subsequent global recession.

What he found was evidence of a systematic, wilful, concerted and brutal economic war unleashed by the country’s right-wing Tory establishment against the poorest and most vulnerable section of British society– upending the lives of millions of people who were not responsible for the aforementioned financial crash and recession but who have been forced to pay the price.

From the report’s introduction:

“It…seems patently unjust and contrary to British values that so many people are living in poverty. This is obvious to anyone who opens their eyes to see the immense growth in foodbanks and the queues waiting outside them, the people sleeping rough in the streets, the growth of homelessness, the sense of deep despair that leads even the Government to appoint a Minister for Suicide Prevention and civil society to report in depth on unheard of levels of loneliness and isolation.”

Though as a citizen of the UK I respectfully beg to differ with the professor’s claim that such social and economic carnage seems “contrary to British values,” (on the contrary it is entirely in keeping with the values of the country’s Tory establishment, an establishment for whom the dehumanization of the poor and working class is central to its ideology), the point he makes about it being “obvious to anyone who opens their eyes,” is well made.

For it is now the case that in every town and city centre in Britain, it is impossible to walk in any direction for more than a minute before coming across homeless people begging in the street. And the fact that some 13,000 of them are former soldiers, casualties of the country’s various military adventures in recent years, undertaken in service to Washington, exposes the pious platitudes peddled by politicians and the government as reverence for the troops and their ‘sacrifice,’ as insincere garbage.

Overall, 14 million people in the UK are now living in poverty, a figure which translates into an entire fifth of the population. Four million of them are children, while, according to Professor Alston, 1.5 million people are destitute – that is, unable to afford the basic necessities of life.

And this is what the ruling class of the fifth largest economy in the world, a country that parades itself on the world stage as a pillar of democracy and human rights, considers progress.

The values responsible for creating such a grim social landscape are compatible with the 18th not 21st century. They are proof positive that the network of elite private schools – Eton, Harrow, Fettes College et al. – where those responsible for this human carnage are inculcated with the sense of entitlement and born to rule ethos that defines them, are Britain’s hotbeds of extremism.

Professor Alston:

“British compassion for those who are suffering has been replaced by a punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous approach apparently designed to instill discipline where it is least useful, to impose a rigid order on the lives of those least capable of coping with today’s world, and elevating the goal of enforcing blind compliance over a genuine concern to improve the well-being of those at the lowest levels of British society.”

Here, set out above in bold relief, is the barbarism that walks hand in hand with free market capitalism. It is the same barbarism that was responsible for pushing post-Soviet Russia into a decade-long economic and social abyss in the 1990s, and the values that have pushed 14 million people in the UK into the same economic and social abyss in our time.

Austerity, it bears emphasizing, is not and never has been a viable economic response to recession in a given economy.

Instead, it is an ideological club, wielded on behalf of the rich and big business to ensure that the price paid for said economic recession is borne exclusively by those least able to bear it – namely, the poor and working people. It is class war by any other name, packaged and presented as legitimate government policy.

However, in Britain’s case in 2018, this is a war like no other because, as Professor Philip Alston’s report lays bare, only one side in this war has been throwing all the punches and only one side has been taking them.

With Christmas season upon us, the scale of human suffering across the UK ensures that the elaborate ad campaigns inviting us to shop and indulge to our heart’s content – ads depicting the middle class dream of affluence and material comfort – take on the character of a provocation. In fact, they call to mind the truism that wars take place when the government tells you who the enemy is, while revolutions take place when you work it out for yourself.

In austerity Britain, who the enemy is has never been more clear.

 

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‘Iron’ Mike Pence Stares-Down Putin In APEC Showdown

Vice President Mike Pence and National Security Advisor John Bolton were seen shaking hands and chatting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Singapore.

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Via Zerohedge


Forget the All-Blacks ‘Haka’, ignore Foreman-Frasier, Drago-Balboa, and Ortiz-Liddell, the honor of the greatest (or perhaps most awkward) staredown in history now goes to US Vice President Mike Pence…

Having been blamed for everything from Trump’s election victory to USA soccer team’s loss to England last week, Russia faced accusations all weekend and was reportedly confronted by the US contingent over “meddling.”

As The Sun reports, Pence and Putin “discussed the upcoming G20 Summit and touched on the issues that will be discussed when President Trump and President Putin are both in Argentina for the summit,” according to the vice president’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah.

An NBC reporter tweeted: “New per the @VP’s Office—> The VP’s office says Vice President Pence directly addressed Russian meddling in the 2016 election in a conversation with Vladimir Putin on Thursday in Singapore.

“The conversation took place following the plenary session this afternoon at ASEAN.”

But, it was the following clash of the titans that caught most people’s attention.

As the Russian president joined the that Pence shook Putin’s ‘deadly’ hand, met his ‘steely KGB-trained’ gaze, and desperately tried not to smile or blink for 20 seconds as Putin appeared to chat amicably with the US VP…

While Putin has (if his accusers are to be believed) grappled his opponents to death with his bare hands (remember he is a sinister KGB agent and jiu-jitsu expert); we suspect the only thing VP Pence has gripped tightly in his hands is his bible.

Sadly, John Bolton then blew the tough guy act (or is he Mike Pence’s ‘good cop’) as he does his best impression of a teenage girl meeting their popstar idol for the first time…

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