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BREAKING: In Presidential Address Putin signals willingness to work with Trump, charts steady course for Russia

In a low key end of year address to Russia’s Parliament President Putin signalled his willingness to work with US President elect Trump, was cautiously optimistic about the Russian economy, and in general recommitted himself to his existing policies.

Alexander Mercouris

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Russia’s President Putin delivered today his usual end of year Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly, in other words to the joint session of the two houses – the Duma and the Federation Council – which together make up Russia’s parliament.

This Presidential Address is the direct equivalent to the US President’s State of the Union speech to Congress.  There however the similarity ends.  Whereas a typical State of the Union speech is heavy on rhetoric and rarely goes beyond generalities, the sort of Presidential Address Putin likes to give is the opposite: heavy on facts and statistics and short on rhetoric.

The greater part of this year’s Presidential Address – as of previous ones – was devoted to domestic issues. 

Putin gave a very large part of the Presidential Address to discussing education and healthcare, issues of great interest to Russians but of less interest to those abroad.  In both areas he reported significant progress – with Russians healthier, living longer and being better educated than they have ever been before – but both remain works in progress, as they doubtless always will.

What does stand out is the extent of Putin’s personal commitment to education and healthcare. 

Anyone whose memory extends back to the Soviet era will note that Putin accords healthcare more personal interest than any other Soviet or Russian leader in living memory.  If Russians today are healthier and living longer than they have ever done before, it is in part because he accords healthcare especially so much attention.

Putin also touched on historical topics, with 2017 being the centenary year of the Russian Revolution.  Here he went out of his way to emphasise that the commemoration of the Revolution should be a unifying experience for the whole country and not a source of division

“Next year, 2017, will mark the 100th anniversary of the February and October revolutions. This is a good moment for looking back on the causes and nature of these revolutions in Russia. Not just historians and scholars should do this; Russian society in general needs an objective, honest and deep-reaching analysis of these events.

This is our common history and we need to treat it with respect. This is something that the outstanding Russian and Soviet philosopher Alexei Losev wrote about. “We know the thorny road our country has travelled,” he wrote. “We know the long and tiring years of struggle, want and suffering, but for our homeland’s sons, this is all their native, inalienable heritage.”

I am sure that the vast majority of our people have precisely this attitude towards their homeland, and we need history’s lessons primarily for reconciliation and for strengthening the social, political and civil concord that we have managed to achieve.

It is unacceptable to drag the grudges, anger and bitterness of the past into our life today, and in pursuit of one’s own political and other interests to speculate on tragedies that concerned practically every family in Russia, no matter what side of the barricades our forebears were on. Let’s remember that we are a single people, a united people, and we have only one Russia.”

This has been Putin’s objective ever since he became Russia’s leader.  Whereas Soviet and Russian leaders who preceded him took sides in the Revolution’s struggles – identifying themselves either with the Reds or in Boris Yeltsin’s case with the Whites – thereby perpetuating the Revolution’s conflicts – Putin wants Russian society to internalise and historicise the Revolution, treating it as a historical as opposed to a political event, and one in which no-one today – himself included – is obliged to take sides. 

In other words he wants Russians to treat their Revolution in much the same way that the French Revolution is nowadays treated in France.

Most people who look at contemporary Russian society with any degree of objectivity would I think agree that Putin has been far more successful in this task than anyone would have thought possible when he came to power. 

Next year’s commemoration of the centenary of the Revolution will however challenge this approach as it has never been challenged before.  It will be interesting to see how Putin and the Russian government go about it.

Inevitably Putin also had much to say about the economy, though here he touched on no new ground. 

He confirmed Russia’s exit from recession, and reaffirmed his support for the counter-inflation policy of the Central Bank.  The objective remains to transition Russia from an economy based on consumption to one based on advanced manufacturing and export

“The examples I cited earlier show that we are already changing the economic structure in a focused way, modernising corresponding sectors and creating new ones, and establishing modern companies that can work on international markets. It is essential to continue moving in this direction systematically and assertively. What is needed are not abstract scenarios, which are mostly irrelevant, but a professional, thoroughly calculated development forecast. It is important to define clearly how a better business climate, major investment projects, an expansion of non-commodity exports, and support for small and medium-sized businesses will contribute to economic growth and what the role of regions and particular production sectors will be.”

The part of the Presidential Address which will attract the most international attention will however inevitably be the part which concerns foreign policy. 

Here also Putin also charted a steady course, reiterating Russia’s longstanding position that it is prepared to work with all countries on the basis of equality, but that it will be dictated to by none

“We do not want confrontation with anyone. We have no need for it and neither do our partners or the global community. Unlike some of our colleagues abroad, who consider Russia an adversary, we do not seek and never have sought enemies. We need friends. But we will not allow our interests to be infringed upon or ignored. We want to and will decide our destiny ourselves and build our present and future without others’ unasked for advice and prompting.”

Putin was careful to make clear that Russia will stick by its long term priorities: the alliance with China and the Eurasian Union. 

On China and the Chinese alliance he had this to say

“In today’s challenging environment, the comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation between Russia and China have become one of the key factors in ensuring global and regional stability. This partnership can be regarded as a model for shaping a world order free from the domination of a single country, no matter how strong it is, and taking into account the interests of all countries in harmony.

Today, China is about to become the world’s largest economy, so it is very important that every year adds new large-scale projects in various areas, including trade, investment, energy and high technology, to our mutually beneficial cooperation”.

On the Eurasian Union and the Greater Eurasia Project he had this

“Further strengthening cooperation within the Eurasian Economic Union and with other CIS countries has always been a foreign policy priority for Russia.

Russia attaches great importance to the idea of building a multi-level integration model for Eurasia in the form of a Greater Eurasian Partnership. We are already discussing this idea on various international and regional levels. I am confident that we can have conversation with the European Union countries, where the demand for political and economic independence is currently on the rise. This is what we see judging by election results.”

However it is his comments on relations with the US which will attract the most attention.  On these following the change in administration Putin appears cautiously optimistic

“Russia is also ready to work with the new US Administration. It is important to put bilateral relations back on track and to develop them on an equal and mutually beneficial basis.

Cooperation between Russia and the United States in addressing global and regional issues will benefit the whole world. We have a shared responsibility to ensure international security and stability, to strengthen non-proliferation regimes.

I would like to emphasise that attempts to break the strategic parity are extremely dangerous and can lead to a global catastrophe. We must not forget about it even for a second.

I certainly count on joining efforts with the United States in the fight against real rather than fictional threats, international terrorism being one of them. That is the task our servicemen are fulfilling in Syria. Terrorists have suffered significant losses. The Russian Army and Navy have shown convincingly that they are capable of operating effectively away from their permanent deployment sites.”

These are carefully chosen words, free of the tense rhetoric of recent years.  It is striking that NATO’s eastward expansion, missile defence, and the conflict in Ukraine are nowhere mentioned. Whilst Putin is making it quite clear that Russia insists on being treated by the US as an equal partner, and that it will not be pushed around, he is signalling clearly that he is ready to work constructively with Donald Trump if the will to do so is there.

By contrast with these comparatively conciliatory words addressed to the US, and reflecting the extent of Putin’s disillusion with the EU, Putin had nothing to say about relations with the EU, save to repeat his offer to the EU to participate in the Greater Eurasia Project.  About Germany and its Chancellor Angela Merkel he had nothing to say at all.

Compared with recent years the tone of this year’s Presidential Address was more low key.   Overall the overriding impression was of a sense that Russia has turned the corner, with the most fraught period in international relations and in the process of economic transition now behind it. 

On the strength of this Putin – and one suspects the rest of the Russian leadership also – clearly hope that they will be left alone at least for the next few years to focus on sorting out the problems of Russian society. 

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Is this man the puppet master of Ukraine’s new president or an overhyped bogeyman?

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

RT

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Via RT…


It doesn’t actually matter if Ukrainian-Israeli billionaire Igor Kolomoisky is the real power behind Volodymyr Zelensky – the president elect has to get rid of the oligarch if he is to make a break with the country’s corrupt past.

The plots, deceits and conflicts of interest in Ukrainian politics are so transparent and hyperbolic, that to say that novice politician Zelensky was a protégé of his long-time employer was not something that required months of local investigative journalism – it was just out there.

Zelensky’s comedy troupe has been on Kolomoisky’s top-rated channel for the past eight years, and his media asset spent every possible resource promoting the contender against incumbent Petro Poroshenko, a personal enemy of the tycoon, who hasn’t even risked entering Ukraine in the past months.

Similarly, the millions and the nous needed to run a presidential campaign in a country of nearly 50 million people had to come from somewhere, and Kolomoisky’s lieutenants were said to be in all key posts. The two issued half-hearted denials that one was a frontman for the other, insisting that they were business partners with a cordial working relationship, but voters had to take their word for it.

Now that the supposed scheme has paid off with Zelensky’s spectacular victory in Sunday’s run-off, Ukrainian voters are asking: what does Kolomoisky want now, and will he be allowed to run the show?

‘One-of-a-kind chancer’

Born in 1963, in a family of two Jewish engineers, Kolomoisky is the type of businessman that was once the staple of the post-Soviet public sphere, but represents a dying breed.

That is, he is not an entrepreneur in the established Western sense at all – he did not go from a Soviet bloc apartment to Lake Geneva villas by inventing a new product, or even setting up an efficient business structure in an existing field.

Rather he is an opportunist who got wealthy by skilfully reading trends as the Soviet economy opened up – selling Western-made computers in the late 1980s – and later when independent Ukraine transitioned to a market economy and Kolomoisky managed to get his hands on a large amount of privatisation vouchers that put many of the juiciest local metals and energy concerns into his hands, which he then modernised.

What he possesses is a chutzpah and unscrupulousness that is rare even among his peers. Vladimir Putin once called him a “one-of-a-kind chancer” who managed to “swindle [Chelsea owner] Roman Abramovich himself.” In the perma-chaos of Ukrainian law and politics, where all moves are always on the table, his tactical acumen has got him ahead.

Kolomoisky’s lifeblood is connections and power rather than any pure profit on the balance sheet, though no one actually knows how that would read, as the Privat Group he part-owns is reported to own over 100 businesses in dozens of Ukrainian spheres through a complex network of offshore companies and obscure intermediaries (“There is no Privat Group, it is a media confection,” the oligarch himself says, straight-faced.)

Unsurprisingly, he has been dabbling in politics for decades, particularly following the first Orange Revolution in 2004. Though the vehicles for his support have not been noted for a particular ideological consistency – in reportedly backing Viktor Yushchenko, then Yulia Tymoshenko, he was merely putting his millions on what he thought would be a winning horse.

Grasp exceeds reach

But at some point in the post-Maidan euphoria, Kolomoisky’s narcissism got the better of him, and he accepted a post as the governor of his home region of Dnepropetrovsk, in 2014.

The qualities that might have made him a tolerable rogue on TV, began to grate in a more official role. From his penchant for using the political arena to settle his business disputes, to creating his own paramilitary force by sponsoring anti-Russian battalions out of his own pocket, to his somewhat charmless habit of grilling and threatening to put in prison those less powerful than him in fits of pique (“You wait for me out here like a wife for a cheating husband,” begins a viral expletive-strewn rant against an overwhelmed Radio Free Europe reporter).

There is a temptation here for a comparison with a Donald Trump given a developing country to play with, but for all of the shenanigans, his ideological views have always been relatively straightforward. Despite his Russia-loathing patriotism, not even his fans know what Kolomoisky stands for.

The oligarch fell out with fellow billionaire Poroshenko in early 2015, following a battle over the control of a large oil transport company between the state and the governor. The following year, his Privat Bank, which at one point handled one in four financial transactions in the country was nationalized, though the government said that Kolomoisky had turned it into a mere shell by giving $5 billion of its savings to Privat Group companies.

Other significant assets were seized, the government took to London to launch a case against his international companies, and though never banished, Kolomoisky himself decided it would be safer if he spent as long as necessary jetting between his adopted homes in Switzerland and Tel Aviv, with the occasional trip to London for the foreseeable future.

But the adventurer falls – and rises again. The London case has been dropped due to lack of jurisdiction, and only last week a ruling came shockingly overturning the three-year-old nationalization of Privat Bank.

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

Own man

Zelensky must disabuse him of that notion.

It doesn’t matter that they are friends. Or what handshake agreements they made beforehand. Or that he travelled to Geneva and Tel-Aviv 13 times in the past two years. Or what kompromat Kolomoisky may or may not have on him. It doesn’t matter that his head of security is the man who, for years, guarded the oligarch, and that he may quite genuinely fear for his own safety (it’s not like nothing bad has ever happened to Ukrainian presidents).

Volodymyr Zelensky is now the leader of a large country, with the backing of 13.5 million voters. It is to them that he promised a break with past bribery, graft and cronyism. Even by tolerating one man – and one who makes Poroshenko look wholesome – next to him, he discredits all of that. He will have the support of the people if he pits himself against the puppet master – no one would have elected Kolomoisky in his stead.

Whether the oligarch is told to stay away, whether Ukraine enables the financial fraud investigation into him that has been opened by the FBI, or if he is just treated to the letter of the law, all will be good enough. This is the first and main test, and millions who were prepared to accept the legal fiction of the independent candidate two months ago, will now want to see reality to match. Zelensky’s TV president protagonist in Servant of the People – also broadcast by Kolomoisky’s channel, obviously, would never have compromised like that.

What hinges on this is not just the fate of Zelensky’s presidency, but the chance for Ukraine to restore battered faith in its democracy shaken by a succession of compromised failures at the helm.

Igor Ogorodnev

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Roger Waters – The People’s Champion for Freedom

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there.

Richard Galustian

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Submitted by Richard Galustian 

Roger Waters is one of Britain’s most successful and talented musicians and composers but more importantly is an outstanding champion for freedom in the world, beyond compare to any other artist turned political activist.

By way of background, he co-founded the rock band Pink Floyd in 1965.

A landmark turning point of his political activism occurred in 1990, when Waters staged probably the largest rock concert in history, ‘The Wall – Live in Berlin’, with an attendance of nearly half a million people.

In more recent years Waters famously narrated the 2016 documentary ‘The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States’ about the insidious influence of Zionist Israel to shape American public opinion.

Waters has been an outspoken critic of America’s Neocons and particularly Donald Trump and his policies.

In 2017, Waters condemned Trump’s plan to build a wall separating the United States and Mexico, saying that his band’s iconic famous song, ‘The Wall’ is as he put it “very relevant now with Mr. Trump and all of this talk of building walls and creating as much enmity as possible between races and religions.”

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there, or any place else for that matter.

Here below is a must see recent Roger Waters interview, via satellite from New York, where he speaks brilliantly, succinctly and honestly, unlike no other celebrity, about FREEDOM and the related issues of the day.

The only other artist turned activist, but purely for human rights reasons, as she is apolitical, is the incredible Carla Ortiz.

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ISIS Says Behind Sri Lanka Bombings; Was ‘Retaliation’ For New Zealand Mosque Massacre

ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. 

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Via Zerohedge…


Shortly after the death toll from Sunday’s Easter bombings in Sri Lanka climbed above the 300 mark, ISIS validated the Sri Lankan government’s suspicions that a domestic jihadi organization had help from an international terror network while planning the bombings were validated when ISIS took credit for the attacks.

The claim was made via a report from ISIS’s Amaq news agency. Though the group has lost almost all of the territory that was once part of its transnational caliphate, ISIS now boasts cells across the Muslim world, including in North Africa and elsewhere. Before ISIS took credit for the attack, a Sri Lankan official revealed that Sunday’s attacks were intended as retaliation for the killing of 50 Muslims during last month’s mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

However, the Sri Lankan government didn’t offer any evidence for that claim, or the claim that Sunday’s attacks were planned by two Islamic groups (though that now appears to have been substantiated by ISIS’s claim of responsibility). The group is believed to have worked with the National Tawheed Jamaath, according to the NYT.

“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene told the Parliament.

Meanwhile, the number of suspects arrested in connection with the attacks had increased to 40 from 24 as of Tuesday. The government had declared a national emergency that allowed it sweeping powers to interrogate and detain suspects.

On Monday, the FBI pledged to send agents to Sri Lanka and provide laboratory support for the investigation.

As the death toll in Sri Lanka climbs, the attack is cementing its position as the deadliest terror attack in the region.

  • 321 (as of now): Sri Lanka bombings, 2019
  • 257 Mumbai attacks, 1993
  • 189 Mumbai train blasts, 2006 166 Mumbai attacks, 2008
  • 151 APS/Peshawar school attack, 2014
  • 149 Mastung/Balochistan election rally attack, 2018

Meanwhile, funeral services for some of the bombing victims began on Tuesday.

Even before ISIS took credit for the attack, analysts told the Washington Post that its unprecedented violence suggested that a well-financed international organization was likely involved.

The bombings on Sunday, however, came with little precedent. Sri Lanka may have endured a ghastly civil war and suicide bombings in the past – some credit the Tamil Tigers with pioneering the tactic – but nothing of this scale. Analysts were stunned by the apparent level of coordination behind the strikes, which occurred around the same time on both sides of the country, and suggested the attacks carried the hallmarks of a more international plot.

“Sri Lanka has never seen this sort of attack – coordinated, multiple, high-casualty – ever before, even with the Tamil Tigers during the course of a brutal civil war,” Alan Keenan, a Sri Lanka expert at the International Crisis Group, told the Financial Times. “I’m not really convinced this is a Sri Lankan thing. I think the dynamics are global, not driven by some indigenous debate. It seems to me to be a different kind of ballgame.”

Hinting at possible ISIS involvement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a Monday press conference that “radical Islamic terror” remained a threat even after ISIS’s defeats in Syria.

Of course, ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. The extremist group said the attacks were targeting Christians and “coalition countries” and were carried out by fighters from its organization.

Speculation that the government had advanced warning of the attacks, but failed to act amid a power struggle between the country’s president and prime minister, unnerved citizens and contributed to a brewing backlash. Following the bombings, schools and mass had been canceled until at least Monday, with masses called off “until further notice.”

 

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