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The Chilcot Inquiry Report is an Irrelevance

Chilcot cannot touch on the true reason why Britain invaded Iraq in 2003: the dominance of Atlanticist neocon thinking within Britain’s elite.

Alexander Mercouris

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The Chilcot Report into the Tony Blair’s government’s decision to involve Britain in the Bush administration’s war against Iraq is being oversold.  An Inquiry report that needs 12 volumes and an executive summary reported to be 200 pages long to answer a question the answer to which is obvious cannot be other than an exercise in obfuscation.

The question of why Britain invaded Iraq in 2003 has been grossly over-analysed.  There is no mystery about it or about why Blair took Britain to war.  Nor is the fact Britain went to war against Iraq in 2003 important except in Britain.  It is not even important in Iraq itself.

Blair is a grossly overrated politician.  Far from being the political genius his followers claim, the truth about Blair is that he was a shallow and conceited politician with no great political insight or experience who as Prime Minister was completely out of his depth.  Lazy and vain, he took no interest in the details of government, which bored him, and had no vision of the sort of country he wanted Britain to be, and no plan of how to bring that vision into effect.  In this he was completely different from the three other great post-war British Prime Ministers – Attlee, Wilson and Thatcher – who had electoral mandates comparable to his, and who by combining vision with hard work changed Britain for better or for worse in fundamental ways that mark it still.

What Blair did have was an obsession with public relations, which he always confused with having a political and electoral strategy.  What that amounted to in practice was always doing what the most powerful voices in the British media wanted.  In Britain the dominant voices in the media have for a long time been neocon and Atlanticist, and that therefore was where Blair positioned himself. 

Beyond that were three characteristics of Blair’s personality which over the time he was Prime Minister became increasingly dominant: his overweening vanity, his complete indifference to fact or detail and his preference at all times for “narrative”, and his very pronounced gambler’s streak.

When the question of invading Iraq was first posed to him – whenever or however it was done – it was axiomatic for such a personality that he would seize on it.  The image of himself as the great democratic crusader acting alongside his US ally to overthrow the evil tyrant – in this case Saddam Hussein – would for Blair have been irresistible, and the knowledge that the British media would overwhelmingly support him doing it meant that there was never any chance he would not do it.  The fact many people in Britain and in his own party – the Labour party – opposed him doing it, thereby giving him the perfect opportunity to strike a heroic pose in a battle with his party he knew he would win, would have strengthened his determination even more. 

Since Blair could not of course justify going to war on such a basis he hit on the readily available subject of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction and managed to persuade George W. Bush – who wanted to attack Iraq for quite different reasons – to base the case for war upon it.  That WMD was simply a rationalisation to justify a decision to go to war that had already been made for entirely different reasons is no longer really disputed by anyone, and Blair’s own convoluted justifications of his decision essentially admit as much.

As to the questions which ever since have vexed so many people – about what Blair really believed about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (“WMD”) and whether he consciously lied about them, and why he never insisted on a plan to reconstruct Iraq after it had been conquered (or “liberated”) – it is highly unlikely Blair ever gave any of these issues much thought. 

On WMD he almost certainly did think Saddam Hussein had such weapons without concerning himself about the evidence simply because in his mind having such weapons and lying about them is what evil tyrants like Saddam Hussein do.  Almost certainly he expected that once Iraq was conquered proof of the existence of these weapons would be quickly found, leaving him vindicated and his critics discredited. 

As for the absence of a plan to reconstruct Iraq, at no time whilst he was Prime Minister did Blair ever have a plan for anything.  Since the possibility the US might fail in Iraq almost certainly never crossed his mind the idea such a plan requiring his personal attention might be needed almost certainly never so much as occurred to him. 

As it happens there were plenty of reasons in 2002 and 2003 to question whether a war based on Saddam Hussein’s possession of WMD made sense.  Not only was the evidence for the existence of Saddam Hussein’s WMD unconvincing to say the least but in light of the failure of these weapons to protect Saddam Hussein’s regime or deter the US and Western attack during the Gulf War of 1991 there was no remotely credible reason why Saddam Hussein would want to keep them.  On the contrary given that Saddam Hussein’s overriding priority after the Gulf War was to get the sanctions imposed on Iraq lifted, his interests were overwhelmingly to get rid of them as soon as possible.  As we now know that is precisely what he did. 

As for the claim Saddam Hussein pretended for some incomprehensible reason to possess weapons of mass destruction he did not have, that is simply a myth fabricated by the war’s advocates and Blair’s apologists once it became clear after the war that the WMD did not exist.  On the contrary Saddam Hussein always categorically denied having them whilst he was in power, and that was always the public position of the Iraqi government.

It is incidentally also a myth that every single intelligence agency operating in Iraq was reporting that Saddam Hussein and Iraq were still in possession of such weapons.  The intelligence agency that was far and away the best informed about the situation in Iraq – because it was able to operate in Iraq in the open on the ground – Russia’s SVR – is known to have reported that Saddam Hussein no longer had such weapons, and it is known this information was passed on by the Russians to Western governments.

A properly conducted intelligence assessment and analysis of the situation concerning weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, bringing together not just intelligence officials but scholars, diplomats, military officials, scientists and other analysts, of the sort at which the British once excelled, would have quickly come to these obvious conclusions.  Such an intelligence assessment and analysis might also have questioned the prospects for a quick and easy military victory.  It would surely have reported the well-nigh insuperable problems of successfully administering a country like Iraq once it had been conquered.  It would also surely have reminded Blair that because of Britain’s colonial history in the region it was settled British policy never to send troops to the Middle East without a UN mandate.

Blair never sought such expert advice because it was not in his nature to.  Three years before he had gambled on a war against Yugoslavia.  Though that had almost ended in disaster in the end – because of the weakness of the Yugoslav political leadership – the gamble had come off.  As is always the case with a gambler, Blair’s narrow escape in Yugoslavia seems to have emboldened him more.  On WMD and the conduct of the war in Iraq he trusted to his luck, which up to that point had never let him down.

The real questions about Britain’s role in the invasion of Iraq are not about Blair.  They are about how an individual like Blair was able to land Britain in a such war whilst coming up against no institutional opposition to speak of.  In recent British history that is unprecedented.  The whole British constitutional structure – with its cabinet, politically independent civil service and parliament – is supposed to be designed to prevent a Prime Minister running amok in that way. Instead not only did Blair have the full support of almost his entire cabinet and of most of the members of the British parliament, but Britain’s “deep-state” – its diplomatic corps, its intelligence services, its civil service and its military – who might once have acted to restrain him, instead either actively cooperated with him or were swept along by him (the only officials in the British bureaucracy to speak out against the war were the Foreign Ministry’s lawyers who called it an act of aggression). 

How did it happen?  Most explanations in Britain rely on treating Blair as some sort of political wizard able through charm and guile to seduce the entire British political class and the British people to do his bidding against their own better judgement.

The truth is that Blair’s reputation was already in decline by the eve of the war in 2002 and early 2003.  It is true that it stood higher with the British political class than it did with the British people. However the extent of his influence and support at this time is overstated. 

Blair had briefly been popular after his landslide victory in 1997.  However by 2002 the British electorate in its usual tough-minded and cynical way had long since seen through him.   His popularity by 2002 was a thing of the past.  Between the general elections of 1997 and 2001 the Labour vote fell from 13.5 million votes to 10.7 million votes.  In 2005 – the last election in which Blair led Labour – the Labour vote fell further to 9.5 million votes, only slightly more than the 9.3 million votes Labour won in the supposedly disastrous general election of 2015. 

In 2003 Blair was still winning elections not because he was popular but because the Conservatives at that time were even more unpopular than he was. Far from being the commanding figure he is sometimes made out to be, the prevailing view of him in 2003 was one of cynicism.  Apart from a loyal claque of supporters inside the cabinet and the parliamentary Labour party it is doubtful that by 2003 Blair was persuading anybody.

The dismal truth – and one which the Chilcot report is not going to say – is that the reason the British political class and the British state rallied in 2003 to Blair’s call to go to war – in violation of all their traditional time-honoured procedures and principles – is because of the extent to which Atlanticist neocon thinking had by 2003 already become part of their essential DNA.  The idea of disobeying a US President’s call to arms had by then become unthinkable for huge numbers of British officials, politicians, journalists, intelligence officers and soldiers – just as it was of course for Blair himself.  Far from having to struggle to get these people to come onside and support the war, Blair on the contrary was simply going with the flow.

Since 2003, despite the debacle in Iraq, all the indications are that if anything the situation has got worse.  Whereas in 2003 a British Prime Minister who had opposed the war would have found some support within the British bureaucracy and political class, today – as the plight of Labour’s current leader Jeremy Corbyn shows – political leaders who set themselves against neocon thinking quickly become isolated and exposed to attack.  Former Labour leader Ed Miliband’s successful though opportunist opposition to the attack on Syria in 2013 undoubtedly consolidated hostility to him within the political class and was one of the reasons for the relentless media attacks on him which destroyed his reputation in the run up to the election of 2015.

Since Chilcot is not going to say anything about any of this – whether about Blair or about the rampant neocon Atlanticism within the British elite which is the true cause of Britain going to war – it is useless looking to his report for a genuine explanation of why Britain went to war.  At best gaps in some parts of the story might be filled though the extent to which even that will happen is doubtful.

Chilcot is anyway a distraction.  Blair’s and Britain’s role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq – which is the only subject Chilcot is going to report about – is a sideshow.  Even if Britain had held aloof from the war – something which would have required a different sort of Prime Minister than Blair – Iraq would still have been invaded and Saddam Hussein would still have been overthrown. The Bush administration would not have been swayed from the war simply because the British were not involved.  The Iraqi state would still have collapsed, there would still have been an anti American insurgency, the torture and mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib would still have happened, a sectarian war between Sunni and Shia would still have taken place in Baghdad and elsewhere, and Daesh/the Islamic State would still have emerged in Iraq’s western regions.  

The decision to go to war was ultimately made not in London but in Washington, and it was the US military not the British military which defeated Saddam Hussein’s army and conquered Baghdad, causing all the consequences which have followed.

Chilcot is not going to say anything about any of this because his Inquiry’s remit is to look purely at Britain.  He has no power or remit to hold US politicians and officials to account.  However it is to Washington not London – to people like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their aides, not Blair  – that one must look for the true answers to why the war happened.  When those answers are eventually provided – which one day they will be – what is already apparent will become obvious: what Chilcot tells is of little value and his whole Inquiry is ultimately an irrelevance.

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Putin Keeps Cool and Averts WWIII as Israeli-French Gamble in Syria Backfires Spectacularly

Putin vowed that Russia would take extra precautions to protect its troops in Syria, saying these will be “the steps that everyone will notice.”

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Authored by Robert Bridge via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


By initiating an attack on the Syrian province of Latakia, home to the Russia-operated Khmeimim Air Base, Israel, France and the United States certainly understood they were flirting with disaster. Yet they went ahead with the operation anyways.

On the pretext that Iran was preparing to deliver a shipment of weapon production systems to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israeli F-16s, backed by French missile launches in the Mediterranean, destroyed what is alleged to have been a Syrian Army ammunition depot.

What happened next is already well established: a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft, which the Israeli fighter jets had reportedly used for cover, was shot down by an S-200 surface-to-air missile system operated by the Syrian Army. Fifteen Russian servicemen perished in the incident, which could have been avoided had Israel provided more than just one-minute warning before the attack. As a result, chaos ensued.

Whether or not there is any truth to the claim that Iran was preparing to deliver weapon-making systems to Hezbollah in Lebanon is practically a moot point based on flawed logic. Conducting an attack against an ammunition depot in Syria – in the vicinity of Russia’s Khmeimim Air Base – to protect Israel doesn’t make much sense when the consequence of such “protective measures” could have been a conflagration on the scale of World War III. That would have been an unacceptable price to achieve such a limited objective, which could have been better accomplished with the assistance of Russia, as opposed to NATO-member France, for example. In any case, there is a so-called “de-confliction system” in place between Israel and Russia designed to prevent exactly this sort of episode from occurring.

And then there is the matter of the timing of the French-Israeli incursion.

Just hours before Israeli jets pounded the suspect Syrian ammunition storehouse, Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan were in Sochi hammering out the details on a plan to reduce civilian casualties as Russian and Syrian forces plan to retake Idlib province, the last remaining terrorist stronghold in the country. The plan envisioned the creation of a demilitarized buffer zone between government and rebel forces, with observatory units to enforce the agreement. In other words, it is designed to prevent exactly what Western observers have been fretting about, and that is unnecessary ‘collateral damage.’

So what do France and Israel do after a relative peace is declared, and an effective measure for reducing casualties? The cynically attack Syria, thus exposing those same Syrian civilians to the dangers of military conflict that Western capitals proclaim to be worried about.

Israel moves to ‘damage control’

Although Israel has taken the rare move of acknowledging its involvement in the Syrian attack, even expressing “sorrow” for the loss of Russian life, it insists that Damascus should be held responsible for the tragedy. That is a highly debatable argument.

By virtue of the fact that the French and Israeli forces were teaming up to attack the territory of a sovereign nation, thus forcing Syria to respond in self-defense, it is rather obvious where ultimate blame for the downed Russian plane lies.

“The blame for the downing of the Russian plane and the deaths of its crew members lies squarely on the Israeli side,” Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said. “The actions of the Israeli military were not in keeping with the spirit of the Russian-Israeli partnership, so we reserve the right to respond.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, took admirable efforts to prevent the blame game from reaching the boiling point, telling reporters that the downing of the Russian aircraft was the result of “a chain of tragic circumstances, because the Israeli plane didn’t shoot down our jet.”

Nevertheless, following this extremely tempered and reserved remark, Putin vowed that Russia would take extra precautions to protect its troops in Syria, saying these will be “the steps that everyone will notice.”

Now there is much consternation in Israel that the IDF will soon find its freedom to conduct operations against targets in Syria greatly impaired. That’s because Russia, having just suffered a ‘friendly-fire’ incident from its own antiquated S-200 system, may now be more open to the idea of providing Syria with the more advanced S-300 air-defense system.

Earlier this year, Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached an agreement that prevented those advanced defensive weapons from being employed in the Syrian theater. That deal is now in serious jeopardy. In addition to other defensive measures, Russia could effectively create the conditions for a veritable no-fly zone across Western Syria in that it would simply become too risky for foreign aircraft to venture into the zone.

The entire situation, which certainly did not go off as planned, has forced Israel into damage control as they attempt to prevent their Russian counterparts from effectively shutting down Syria’s western border.

On Thursday, Israeli Major-General Amikam Norkin and Brigadier General Erez Maisel, as well as officers of the Intelligence and Operations directorates of the Israeli air force will pay an official visit to Moscow where they are expected to repeat their concerns of “continuous Iranian attempts to transfer strategic weapons to the Hezbollah terror organization and to establish an Iranian military presence in Syria.”

Moscow will certainly be asking their Israeli partners if it is justifiable to subject Russian servicemen to unacceptable levels of danger, up to and including death, in order to defend Israeli interests. It remains to be seen if the two sides can find, through the fog of war, an honest method for bringing an end to the Syria conflict, which would go far at relieving Israel’s concerns of Iranian influence in the region.

 

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This Man’s Incredible Story Proves Why Due Process Matters In The Kavanaugh Case

Accused of rape by a fellow student, Brian Banks accepted a plea deal and went to prison on his 18th birthday. Years later he was exonerated.

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Authored by James Miller of The Political Insider:


Somewhere between the creation of the Magna Carta and now, leftists have forgotten why due process matters; and in some cases, such as that of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, they choose to outright ignore the judicial and civil rights put in place by the U.S. Constitution.

In this age of social media justice mobs, the accused are often convicted in the court of (liberal) public opinion long before any substantial evidence emerges to warrant an investigation or trial. This is certainly true for Kavanaugh. His accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, cannot recall the date of the alleged assault and has no supporting witnesses, yet law professors are ready to ruin his entire life and career. Not because they genuinely believe he’s guilty, but because he’s a pro-life Trump nominee for the Supreme Court.

It goes without saying: to “sink Kavanaugh even if” Ford’s allegation is untrue is unethical, unconstitutional, and undemocratic. He has a right to due process, and before liberals sharpen their pitchforks any further they would do well to remember what happened to Brian Banks.

In the summer of 2002, Banks was a highly recruited 16-year-old linebacker at Polytechnic High School in California with plans to play football on a full scholarship to the University of Southern California. However, those plans were destroyed when Banks’s classmate, Wanetta Gibson, claimed that Banks had dragged her into a stairway at their high school and raped her.

Gibson’s claim was false, but it was Banks’s word against hers. Banks had two options: go to trial and risk spending 41 years-to-life in prison, or take a plea deal that included five years in prison, five years probation, and registering as a sex offender. Banks accepted the plea deal under the counsel of his lawyer, who told him that he stood no chance at trial because the all-white jury would “automatically assume” he was guilty because he was a “big, black teenager.”

Gibson and her mother subsequently sued the Long Beach Unified School District and won a $1.5 million settlement. It wasn’t until nearly a decade later, long after Banks’s promising football career had already been tanked, that Gibson admitted she’d fabricated the entire story.

Following Gibson’s confession, Banks was exonerated with the help of the California Innocence Project. Hopeful to get his life back on track, he played for Las Vegas Locomotives of the now-defunct United Football League in 2012 and signed with the Atlanta Falcons in 2013. But while Banks finally received justice, he will never get back the years or the prospective pro football career that Gibson selfishly stole from him.

Banks’ story is timely, and it serves as a powerful warning to anyone too eager to condemn those accused of sexual assault. In fact, a film about Banks’s ordeal, Brian Banks, is set to premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival next week.

Perhaps all the #MeToo Hollywood elites and their liberal friends should attend the screening – and keep Kavanaugh in their minds as they watch.

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Clinton-Yeltsin docs shine a light on why Deep State hates Putin (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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Bill Clinton and America ruled over Russia and Boris Yeltsin during the 1990s. Yeltsin showed little love for Russia and more interest in keeping power, and pleasing the oligarchs around him.

Then came Vladimir Putin, and everything changed.

Nearly 600 pages of memos and transcripts, documenting personal exchanges and telephone conversations between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, were made public by the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Dating from January 1993 to December 1999, the documents provide a historical account of a time when US relations with Russia were at their best, as Russia was at its weakest.

On September 8, 1999, weeks after promoting the head of the Russia’s top intelligence agency to the post of prime minister, Russian President Boris Yeltsin took a phone call from U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The new prime minister was unknown, rising to the top of the Federal Security Service only a year earlier.

Yeltsin wanted to reassure Clinton that Vladimir Putin was a “solid man.”

Yeltsin told Clinton….

“I would like to tell you about him so you will know what kind of man he is.”

“I found out he is a solid man who is kept well abreast of various subjects under his purview. At the same time, he is thorough and strong, very sociable. And he can easily have good relations and contact with people who are his partners. I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the nearly 600 pages of transcripts documenting the calls and personal conversations between then U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, released last month. A strong Clinton and a very weak Yeltsin underscore a warm and friendly relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

Then Vladimir Putin came along and decided to lift Russia out of the abyss, and things changed.

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Here are five must-read Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges from with the 600 pages released by the Clinton Library.

Via RT

Clinton sends ‘his people’ to get Yeltsin elected

Amid unceasing allegations of nefarious Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election, the Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges reveal how the US government threw its full weight behind Boris – in Russian parliamentary elections as well as for the 1996 reelection campaign, which he approached with 1-digit ratings.

For example, a transcript from 1993 details how Clinton offered to help Yeltsin in upcoming parliamentary elections by selectively using US foreign aid to shore up support for the Russian leader’s political allies.

“What is the prevailing attitude among the regional leaders? Can we do something through our aid package to send support out to the regions?” a concerned Clinton asked.

Yeltsin liked the idea, replying that “this kind of regional support would be very useful.” Clinton then promised to have “his people” follow up on the plan.

In another exchange, Yeltsin asks his US counterpart for a bit of financial help ahead of the 1996 presidential election: “Bill, for my election campaign, I urgently need for Russia a loan of $2.5 billion,” he said. Yeltsin added that he needed the money in order to pay pensions and government wages – obligations which, if left unfulfilled, would have likely led to his political ruin. Yeltsin also asks Clinton if he could “use his influence” to increase the size of an IMF loan to assist him during his re-election campaign.

Yeltsin questions NATO expansion

The future of NATO was still an open question in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and conversations between Clinton and Yeltsin provide an illuminating backdrop to the current state of the curiously offensive ‘defensive alliance’ (spoiler alert: it expanded right up to Russia’s border).

In 1995, Yeltsin told Clinton that NATO expansion would lead to “humiliation” for Russia, noting that many Russians were fearful of the possibility that the alliance could encircle their country.

“It’s a new form of encirclement if the one surviving Cold War bloc expands right up to the borders of Russia. Many Russians have a sense of fear. What do you want to achieve with this if Russia is your partner? They ask. I ask it too: Why do you want to do this?” Yeltsin asked Clinton.

As the documents show, Yeltsin insisted that Russia had “no claims on other countries,” adding that it was “unacceptable” that the US was conducting naval drills near Crimea.

“It is as if we were training people in Cuba. How would you feel?” Yeltsin asked. The Russian leader then proposed a “gentleman’s agreement” that no former Soviet republics would join NATO.

Clinton refused the offer, saying: “I can’t make the specific commitment you are asking for. It would violate the whole spirit of NATO. I’ve always tried to build you up and never undermine you.”

NATO bombing of Yugoslavia turns Russia against the West

Although Clinton and Yeltsin enjoyed friendly relations, NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia tempered Moscow’s enthusiastic partnership with the West.

“Our people will certainly from now have a bad attitude with regard to America and with NATO,” the Russian president told Clinton in March 1999. “I remember how difficult it was for me to try and turn the heads of our people, the heads of the politicians towards the West, towards the United States, but I succeeded in doing that, and now to lose all that.”

Yeltsin urged Clinton to renounce the strikes, for the sake of “our relationship” and “peace in Europe.”

“It is not known who will come after us and it is not known what will be the road of future developments in strategic nuclear weapons,” Yeltsin reminded his US counterpart.

But Clinton wouldn’t cede ground.

“Milosevic is still a communist dictator and he would like to destroy the alliance that Russia has built up with the US and Europe and essentially destroy the whole movement of your region toward democracy and go back to ethnic alliances. We cannot allow him to dictate our future,” Clinton told Yeltsin.

Yeltsin asks US to ‘give Europe to Russia’

One exchange that has been making the rounds on Twitter appears to show Yeltsin requesting that Europe be “given” to Russia during a meeting in Istanbul in 1999. However, it’s not quite what it seems.

“I ask you one thing,” Yeltsin says, addressing Clinton. “Just give Europe to Russia. The US is not in Europe. Europe should be in the business of Europeans.”

However, the request is slightly less sinister than it sounds when put into context: The two leaders were discussing missile defense, and Yeltsin was arguing that Russia – not the US – would be a more suitable guarantor of Europe’s security.

“We have the power in Russia to protect all of Europe, including those with missiles,” Yeltsin told Clinton.

Clinton on Putin: ‘He’s very smart’

Perhaps one of the most interesting exchanges takes place when Yeltsin announces to Clinton his successor, Vladimir Putin.

In a conversation with Clinton from September 1999, Yeltsin describes Putin as “a solid man,” adding: “I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

A month later, Clinton asks Yeltsin who will win the Russian presidential election.

“Putin, of course. He will be the successor to Boris Yeltsin. He’s a democrat, and he knows the West.”

“He’s very smart,” Clinton remarks.

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