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CONFIRMED: UN inquiry clears Russia of Aleppo convoy attack

UN Board of Inquiry rejects US assertions of Russian involvement in attack on convoy. Report suggests convoy attacked by Syrian air force in error because as a result of a communications failure Syrian pilots believed it was a legitimate military target.

Alexander Mercouris

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On 19th September 2016 an attack took place on a joint UN-Red Crescent convoy transporting humanitarian supplies near Aleppo in Syria.

The attack provoked a huge media storm, with the US issuing statements attributing the attack to the Russian and Syrian air forces, and with senior US officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, and General Dunford, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, all holding Russia responsible.

Thus Ashton Carter, US Defence Secretary, said the following

The Russians are responsible for this strike whether they conducted it or not.

(bold italics added)

And here is what General Dunford said

I don’t have the facts.  There is no doubt in my mind that the Russians are responsible

(bold italics added)

At the time of the attack I pointed out that this rush to condemn the Russians was made before any investigation of the incident had taken place, before any attempt had been made to secure the place where the attack happened, and in the absence of any inspection of the area.  Here are some of the things I said

Since the attack is being called by some a war crime, it would seem a basic step first to secure and inspect what in that case would be a crime scene before drawing any inferences and making any accusations.  Almost a week after the attack not only has that not been done, but no one seems to be in any hurry to do it.

With the crime scene not secured, the possibility of contamination or outright manipulation of the evidence is very real, especially given the strong incentive to do so of the Jihadi fighters who are in physical control of it.  After all that is what many claim the Jihadi fighters did to the scene of the chemical attack on Ghouta in August 2013.

I was also openly skeptical about the chances of any inquiry into the incident being set up

Sadly I must also say that I do not think that how the convoy came to be attacked or by whom will ever be known.  Quite simply those who are in a position to find out the truth are not interested in doing so.

On the last point it turns out I was wrong, because on 21st October 2016 – more than a month after the attack on the convoy had taken place and with minimal publicity – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon did set up a Board of Inquiry.

That Board of Inquiry has now reported, though its report too is being barely reported.  Ban Ki-moon has however provided a summary of its report, and it can be found here.

In brief, the reason the Inquiry and its report are receiving minimal publicity is because its results satisfy do not satisfy certain powerful governments.

It says the convoy was destroyed as the result of an air attack.  It completely exonerates the US and the other Western powers.  It also completely exonerates the Jihadis of staging the incident. However it also indirectly but nonetheless clearly exonerates the Russians.

Whilst it puts the blame for the attack – though only indirectly – on the Syrians, it makes it clear that it believes they attacked the convoy unintentionally and in error.

It also confirms that Western governments pressured the Board of Inquiry to try to get it to implicate the Russians in the attack on the convoy, which however the Inquiry refused to do.

The Board of Inquiry’s findings are open to challenge.  This is because of the delay in setting up the inquiry and the failure to secure the crime scene.  As a result the Board of Inquiry was unable to carry out a physical inspection of the crime scene.  Here is what the report says about this

The Board was not allowed to visit the scene of the incident in Urem al-Kubra, the [Syrian] Government stating that it was unable to ensure the safety of the Board, given the ongoing military operations at that location. In this regard, the Board noted that 11 weeks had already elapsed by then since the date of the incident, by which time damaged vehicles had been removed and some destroyed structures had been repaired or rebuilt. Subsequent actions had therefore adversely affected the integrity of the site of the incident and consequently the availability of physical evidence. A visit to the site might therefore not have yielded commensurate results.  The Board accordingly developed alternative methods of evidence collection.

All this is true but it is also deeply regrettable.  As I said in my article of 26th September 2016 (see above) securing the crime scene immediately following the attack ought to have been the immediate priority.  Realistically that would have required cooperation by all the Great Powers (including the US, Russia, Syria and Turkey) and probably a Resolution of the UN Security Council.  The way the Western powers politicised the incident and sought to make political capital out of it made all that impossible, which is why an inspection of the crime scene has never happened.

Unfortunately without a proper inspection of the crime scene the Inquiry report is incomplete, and its findings open to challenge.

The Board of Inquiry has set out how in the absence of an inspection of the crime scene it undertook its investigation

The Board was not allowed to visit the scene of the incident in Urem al-Kubra, the Government stating that it was unable to ensure the safety of the Board, given the ongoing military operations at that location. In this regard, the Board noted that 11 weeks had already elapsed by then since the date of the incident, by which time damaged vehicles had been removed and some destroyed structures had been repaired or rebuilt. Subsequent actions had therefore adversely affected the integrity of the site of the incident and consequently the availability of physical evidence. A visit to the site might therefore not have yielded commensurate results.  The Board accordingly developed alternative methods of evidence collection.

 The Board was only able to travel to the Syrian Arab Republic from 5 to 9 December 2016, as the issuance of visas by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic was only confirmed on 28 November 2016.  The Board travelled to Damascus, where the Board met with the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, including the High Relief Committee, SARC Damascus and the United Nations Country Team.  At the Russian Embassy in Damascus, the Board also met military officers from the Russian Military airbase in Hmeimim.  In West Aleppo City, the Board met the Governor of Aleppo, members of the local relief committee and the Commanding General of the Russian Reconciliation Centre, Hmeimem. The Board also interviewed primary witnesses in West Aleppo.

The Board also met with the members of the High Negotiations Committee for the Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces (HNC) and the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces (SOC). Furthermore, the Board met with representatives of armed opposition groups. It interviewed primary witnesses (eye witnesses) in Gaziantep and Reyhanli.

The Board also collaborated with UNITAR-UNOSAT, which provided technical capabilities to analyse satellite imagery and ground photography.

The Board used the following materials and methods to arrive at its findings: (i) satellite images; (ii) over 370 photographs and videos; (iii) interviews conducted by the Board of a total of 16 persons who were either eye witnesses to the incident or who were in the vicinity of Urem al-Kubra on the evening of 19 September 2016; (iv) interviews conducted by the Board of a total of 19 secondary witnesses, including United Nations personnel and  representatives of armed opposition groups; (v) information from Member States, including information on their air assets; (vi) air tracks shared with it by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic; (vii) an oral briefing by the Syrian Government regarding their national investigation into the incident, which was still on-going, together with copies of autopsy reports;  (viii) information from the SARC.; (ix) documents from the United Nations Country Team for Syria; and (x) open-source information.

The Board declined to accept physical evidence, such as munitions remnants that were alleged to be from the site of the incident, as the chain of custody for these items could not be established.

This speaks of a proper and thorough investigation, with the opinions of all parties carefully sought and all the right questions asked.  However it cannot fully make up for the failure to examine the crime scene.

What however are the Inquiry’s conclusions, and on what are they based?

Firstly, they are wholly based on the Inquiry’s finding that the convoy was destroyed as the result of an air attack rather than a ground attack.  Here is what the report says about this

The Board found that, between 19:15 and 19:45 hours local time on 19 September 2016, the SARC compound was subject to an attack from the air, using multiple types of munitions deployed from more than one aircraft and aircraft type. The munitions used included non-precision unitary bombs and/or smaller blast-incendiary air-to-ground weapons, which could have been missiles, rockets or sub-munition bomblets.

In reaching this conclusion, the Board considered and rejected the possibilities that the incident was caused by direct fire or ground assault, whether by Syrian Government forces or by armed opposition groups, or by ground-delivered improvised explosive devices (IEDs), or by indirect fire, whether by Syrian Government forces or by armed opposition groups.  It also considered and rejected the possibility that it was a staged or hoax event.

A total of eight possible major impact points within and near the compound were identified by the Board, with further multiple smaller impacts to the northwest.  The southwestern, southern and eastern walls of the compound were damaged and buildings collapsed.  Extensive damage was also done to a wall on the opposite side of Highway 60.

Since the Board of Inquiry was unable to inspect the crime scene, it arrived at this conclusion that the convoy was attacked from the air by relying on the following evidence

The primary evidence for this conclusion came from an analysis of satellite and ground imagery, videos and eyewitness statements. Corroboration came from information provided by Member States and other witness interviews, as well as open-source research conducted by the Board.

(bold italics added)

When reviewing investigations of this sort I long ago realised that eyewitness evidence is unsafe.  Probably the Inquiry relied mostly on the “satellite and ground imagery” and the “corroboration provided by Member States”.

Unfortunately this immediately begs the questions: whose “satellite and ground imagery”, and which Member States?

On the question of the analysis of the “satellite and ground imagery”, we know this was provided by UNITAR-UNOSAT because the Board of Inquiry report tells us so (see above), but as to who provided the “satellite and ground imagery”, that is an entirely different matter, and that is something which the report is careful not to tell us.

As for which Member States provided the “corroboration”which supported the air attack conclusion, the Member States listed in the report are

 France, Iran (Islamic Republic of), the Russian Federation, the Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Only evidence provided by Syria and Russia is mentioned in the report, none of which however appears to “corroborate” the air attack conclusion.  Almost certainly the “corroboration” comea from the four NATO powers (“France, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States of America”) since it most unlikely Iran would have done so, or would have had the information to do so.

None of this however means that the air attack conclusion is wrong.  However since “satellite and ground imagery” is always subject to interpretation, and since the “corroboration” almost certainly comes from the same NATO powers that in the immediate aftermath of the attack and before the Board of Inquiry was set up were already accusing Syria and Russia of responsibility for the attack, it is inevitable that some people are already taking issue with the Board of Inquiry’s findings, and are calling its report a whitewash.

I do not go that far.  On the contrary, I think the Board of Inquiry’s findings are almost certainly correct, and that the convoy was indeed destroyed by an attack from the air.

I also think that the Board of Inquiry is almost certainly correct in pointing to the Syrian air force as the perpetrator of the attack, even if the nature of its remit prevents it from saying so.

As the Board of Inquiry correctly says, since no one is accusing the US and the Western powers of carrying out the attack they can be safely excluded, as for different reasons can the Russians (see below).  Since the Board of Inquiry says the convoy was destroyed as a result of an air attack, and as the Jihadis do not have an air force, by elimination that means it must have been the Syrian air force which carried out the attack.

However, before discussing this further, it is essential to read carefully what the Board of Inquiry’s conclusions actually are

The area immediately around the SARC compound had been hit on at least two occasions between 26 June 2016 and 1 September 2016, with two separate groups of buildings, located between 55m and 140m away, having been attacked, most likely from the air. The Board considered that the location of the SARC compound, on the outskirts of a populated area, in an industrial zone and astride one of the two primary roads leading to southwestern Aleppo, made it a realistic possibility that the buildings around it were used by armed opposition groups prior to the date of the incident. Therefore the Board considered that it had most likely been attacked by pro-Government forces.

The Board noted that aircraft operating as part of the forces of the International Coalition Forces and aircraft of the Russian Federation and of the SAAF all had the capabilities needed to carry out an attack of the kind that had occurred on 19 September 2016, including at night.   Armed opposition groups did not have the capability to carry out air attacks.

The Board further noted that no party had alleged the involvement of International Coalition Forces aircraft and, as such, their involvement was highly unlikely.

The Board stated that it had received reports that information existed to the effect that the SAAF was highly likely to have perpetrated the attack, and even that the attack was carried out by three Syrian Mi-17 model helicopters, followed by three unnamed fixed-wing aircraft, with a single Russian aircraft also suspected of being involved. However, the Board did not have access to raw data to support these assertions and, in their absence, it was unable to draw a definitive conclusion. Moreover, the Governments of both the Russian Federation and Syrian Arab Republic denied all allegations of their involvement in the incident.

The Board noted in this connection that there were technical issues pertaining to a hypothesis of the incident being a result of a joint Syrian Arab Air Force/Russian Federation strike. The Board had been informed that that the Russian Federation did not conduct joint strikes. A high degree of interoperability and co-ordination would also be required for two air forces to operate in the same airspace, targeting the same location.

(bold italics added)

These are very carefully chosen words, which show the intense behind-the-scenes pressure from the Western powers on the Board of Inquiry.

Firstly, the first paragraph all but confirms that the convoy was attacked in error.

It seems the convoy was attacked because it was inside a compound located astride two main roads, one of which was one of the two main routes used by the Jihadis to send supplies and fighters to the battlefields near Aleppo.  It was also located next to buildings which were almost certainly occupied by the Jihadis and used by them for their own purposes.

That one of the two roads next to the compound in which the convoy was located was a major supply route used by the Jihadis sending supplies and reinforcements to Aleppo is confirmed in an earlier part of the report

The SARC compound, the incident site, is located approximately 1.5 km east of the town of Urem al-Kubra.  It consists of mixed light industry and dwellings.  The compound is located alongside Highway 60 — the primary Aleppo-to-Idlib road.  Highway 60 was one of the two primary lines of communication — the other being the M5 highway, which runs South to Hama and Homs — that could be used by armed opposition groups to move military materiel, equipment and personnel to frontline areas in Aleppo.

Jihadi military convoys moving down Highway 60 and Jihadi fighters based in the buildings immediately adjoining the compound where the convoy was located, are legitimate military targets.  Almost certainly the Syrian aircraft which attacked the convoy mistook it for part of the military traffic the Jihadis were sending down Highway 60 to reinforce the fighters in Aleppo.

Whilst the report is careful to say that the UN and Red Crescent had kept the Syrian and Russian authorities fully informed of the convoy’s movements, it seems this information was not passed on to the Syrian air force pilots who carried out the attack on what they clearly assumed was a legitimate military target located inside a Jihadi base.  Such tragedies are unfortunately all too common in war.  That there was a communications breakdown which meant that the Syrian authorities failed to pass on to the Syrian air force information about the whereabouts of the convoy is strongly hinted in the report in the following paragraph

The Board noted that it could not gain a full understanding of the coordination measures employed by the Syrian authorities and that it was not evident from the answers that it had received to its questions that the Syrian Arab Air Force (SAAF) was informed of the convoy.

There is however unfortunately possibly more to it than that.

Recently I speculated that some of the attacks on hospitals in eastern Aleppo had happened because the Jihadis had intentionally located hospitals next to military sites, which were legitimate military targets for air attack.  Here is what I wrote about this

I will here set out my own view, which is that though certain hospitals were indeed bombed in eastern Aleppo, this was either done unintentionally, or was the result of the Al-Qaeda led Jihadis deliberately positioning hospitals and medical facilities close to their ammunition depots, firing positions, and assembly areas, putting them intentionally in the line of fire, so as to cause attacks on them, which could be exploited for their propaganda value.

Unfortunately the report at least leaves open the possibility that this was what was done to the convoy.

The report shows that it was the Jihadis who ‘escorted’ the convoy in the days before it was attacked, and that they were even pilfering its supplies along the way.  It is possible that it was the  Jihadis who positioned the convoy inside a compound near what was apparently a Jihadi military base.

If this is correct then the Jihadis placed the convoy in danger, either because they hoped to use it to give cover to their adjoining military base and to the military traffic they were sending down Highway 60, or because they hoped to milk a possible attack on the convoy for propaganda purposes by intentionally locating it somewhere where it was likely to be attacked, or possibly because they also made a mistake.

In any case, if – as is overwhelmingly likely and as the Board of Inquiry clearly believes – the Syrian air force attacked the convoy in error because it was either intentionally or negligently placed next to a military target, and because as a result of a communications failure the Syrian pilots who carried out the attack believed it was a legitimate target, then there was no war crime, and no grounds to allege one.

It is however in what the report says about alleged Russian involvement in the attack that the report becomes most interesting.

In the days immediately following the attack two US government officials were prowling around the offices of Western news media agencies, anonymously making claims that the convoy was destroyed as a result of a Russian air strike, and talking of the supposed presence of two Russian SU24 aircraft in the area at the time of the attack.  Here is what I had to say about this at the time

Instead of the US publicly identifying who they say attacked the convoy, two US officials are doing  so anonymously, in comments to the BBC and Reuters, spreading a story of two Russian SU24 fighter bombers supposedly being seen in the air (by whom?) in the area of the convoy.  These same two unnamed US officials are also claiming that the attack on the convoy was revenge for the US air strike on the Syrian troops defending Deir Ezzor.

Given the choice between straightforward public and categorical statements of denial from the Syrians and the Russians, and elliptical semi-secret off-the-record insinuations of Russian guilt from the US, the Western media without hesitation preferred the elliptical semi-secret off-the-record insinuations of Russian guilt from the US.  As a result it was reporting all of yesterday as fact that it was the Russian air force which attacked the convoy.

This is the reverse of what responsible journalism would do.  It should hardly need saying that a straightforward public denial ought always to carry more weight than elliptical semi-secret off-the-record insinuations of guilt.

(bold italics added) 

In its carefully chosen words the Board of Inquiry has not only trashed the claims of the two US officials, effectively saying they were untrue, but has exposed the pressure it came under from the US.

Firstly, the Board of Inquiry says that it was told by some party, which it fails to name but which can only have been the US, that a “single Russian aircraft was also suspected of being involved”.  However the Board of Inquiry pointedly refused to accept this claim, pointing out that it had not been given “access to raw data to support these assertions”.

In other words the Board of Inquiry is implicitly saying that in the absence of evidence it is not prepared to accept the US’s word on this issue.

Having made this point, the Board of Inquiry then went on in its report to go much further, making it crystal clear, albeit indirectly, that it believes US claims of Russian involvement in the attack are untrue.

Not only does the report say that the Russian and Syrian air forces do not conduct joint air strikes (a fact which as an observer of the Syrian conflict I had already noticed) but it also says there is insufficient interoperability between the Russian and Syrian air forces to make such a thing possible (“to operate in the same airspace, targeting the same location.”)

Whilst evidence for this second assertion must have come from the Syrians and the Russians, the highly professional individuals who made up the Board of Inquiry (the chief of whom is an Indian general) are undoubtedly competent enough to verify it.  That they did so is shown by the way the report reports this assertion as true.

The Board of Inquiry’s very limited remit means that it was under no duty to disclose that it had rejected information about Russian involvement provided by the US.  Nonetheless it chose to do so – a sure sign of the pressure it came under from the US, and the anger this caused amongst some of its members.  In the process it has exonerated the Russians of involvement in the attack and exposed US claims of Russian involvement, which circulated so widely and so publicly in the days following the attack, as untrue.

As a result of the Board of Inquiry’s work it is now possible to arrive at a reasonable conclusion of what happened to the convoy.

The convoy was almost certainly attacked in error by the Syrian air force because the Jihadis, whether intentionally or not, placed it next to their own military facilities, which were not only a legitimate target for attack, but which the Syrian air force actually had attacked on 1st September 2016 ie. just a few weeks before.

Since the attack was almost certainly an error, no war crime was committed.

All claims of Russian involvement in the attack are untrue.

Not only is the US unable to provide information to support this claim, but the Syrians and the Russians have provided technical information which proves it to be untrue.

All in all, this is a careful and good report, which has cast a clear light over this incident.  Whilst in the absence of an inspection of the crime scene its conclusions are open to challenge, everything suggests the Board of Inquiry went about its work properly and responsibly.  Overall there is no strong reason to doubt its conclusions, and for my part I accept them.

This marks a refreshing change from the way certain other Inquiries involving Russia have gone about their business.  The one headed by Professor McLaren, the one into the Litvinenko murder, and the two into the MH17 shoot-down, are cases in point.

It shows what can be achieved when an Inquiry carries out its work impartially and responsibly, refusing to be pressured or led by the nose into accepting wild assertions as facts, whilst taking care to listen to all the parties.

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Russia ranks HIGHER than Switzerland in these areas of doing business

Some curious things happened with several businesspeople who attended World Cup events in Russia.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin

One of them was a distinctly renewed interest in doing business inside the country, and another was the realization to what extent perceptions have been tainted by media and political rhetoric directed against any real or imagined nastiness attributed to Russia these days.

These past few weeks have been invaluable, at the very least by affording a clear picture of Russia through which almost all anxiety-ridden preconceptions were illuminated and dispelled. More disturbing was the fact that the several businesspeople I was dealing with were furious. They were livid for being played for fools, and felt victimized by the dismally untrue picture painted about Russia and Russians in their home countries, both by their own politicians and the press.

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Most felt that they have been personally sanctioned by their own countries, betrayed through lack of clear unbiased information enabling them to participate and profit from Russia opportunities these past three growth years in spite of “sanctions”.

The door to doing good business in Russia has been and is open, and has been opening wider year after year. That is not just “highly likely”, but fact. Consistently improving structures, means and methods to conduct business in Russia sustainably, transparently and profitably are now part of the country’s DNA. It is a process, which has been worked on in the west for more than a century, and one, which Russia has only started these past 18 years.

True, there are sanctions, counter-sanctions, and regulations governing them that must be studied carefully. However if you are not a bank or doing business with those persons deemed worthy of being blacklisted by some countries “sanctions list”, in reality there are no obstacles that cannot be positively addressed and legally overcome despite the choir of political nay-sayers.

READ MORE: Russia just dumped $80 BILLION in US debt

The days of quickly turning over Russia opportunities into short-term cash are rapidly fading, they are a throwback to the 1990’s. Today the major and open opportunities are in the areas for Foreign Direct Investments. The nature of FDI is long term to make regularly recurring sustainable returns on investment.

Long term, Russia always was and increasingly confirms that it is a vibrant and attractive market. There is a significant consumer market with spending power, a well-educated workforce, a wealth of resources and the list goes on. The economic obstacles encountered have largely been imposed from without, and not from the dynamics and energies of the Russian economy itself.

Eventually sanctions will end, although the timeline is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile business continues, and any long-term engagement within Russia by establishing a working presence will yield both short and long-term investment rewards. These will only be amplified when the sanctions regimes are removed. In any event, these aspects are long-term investment decisions and one of the criteria in any risk assessment.

For some added perspective, Russia is ranked by the Financial Times as the No.2 country in Europe in terms of capital investments into Europe. It has a 2017 market share of 9% (US$ 15.9 billion) and includes 203 business projects. This is 2% higher than 2016 and better that 2014/2015 when sanctions were imposed.

Another item of perspective is the Country Risk Premium. All investors consider this when calculating the scope for long-term return on investments. What may surprise some is that Russia is no longer ranked as a very high-risk country. For comparisons sake: The risk premium for Germany is zero (no extra risk), the risk premium for Italy is 2.19%, and for Russia, it is 2.54%. When compared to politically popular investment destinations like Ukraine the risk premium is 10.4%  – food for thought. Bottom line is that the risks of investing in Russia are a smidge higher than investing in Italy.

Russia is ranked 35 among 190 economies in the ease of doing business, according to the latest World Bank annual ratings. The ranking of Russia improved to 35 in 2017 from 40 in 2016 and from 124 in 2010. It may also surprise some to learn that as concerns protecting the rights of minority investors, paying taxes, registering property and some other aspects of the World Bank comparisons, Russia comes out better than Switzerland (See: Rankings).

From operational standpoints, establishing an invested presence in Russia does not mean one must adopt Russian managerial methods or practices. The advantages for established foreign companies is that their management culture is readily applied and absorbed by a smart and willing workforce, enabling a seamless integration given the right training and tools.

The trend towards the ultimate globalization of business despite trade wars, tariffs, sanctions and counter-sanctions is clear. The internet of the planet, the blockchain and speed of information exchange makes it so whether we wish it or not. Personally, I hope that political globalization remains stillborn as geopolitics has a historical mandate to tinker with and play havoc with international trade.

Russia occupies a key strategic position between Europe and Asia. The “west” (US/Europe) have long had at times rather turbulent relationships with China. At the same time the Chinese are quite active investors in both the US and Europe, and western companies are often struggling to understand how to deal with China.

The answer to this conundrum is Russia: this is where East and West will ultimately come together with Russia playing a pivotal role in the relations between the west and China. At the end of the day, and taking the strategic long-term economic view, is what both Chinese and Western companies are investing in when they open their activities in Russia.

If long-term commitment and investment in Russia were simply a matter of transferring funds then I would not be bothering with this opinion article. Without a doubt, there are structural issues with investing in Russia. A still evolving and sometimes unclear rule of law, difficulties obtaining finance for investments directed towards Russia, the unique language and culture of business in the country. Nevertheless, companies that have an understanding and vision of global strategy will manage with these issues and have the means to mitigate them.

Money and other invested resources do not and should not play politics; any investment case when evaluated on objective financial criteria will reveal its fit, or lack of, within a company’s global strategic business objectives. The objective criteria for Russia over any long term horizon is both convincing and strong. This has been repeated by all of the businesspeople I have met with these past few weeks. Without doubt we shall see some new companies coming into the Russian market and objectively exploring the gains their playing fair business football here will yield.

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Media meltdown hits stupid levels as Trump and Putin hold first summit (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 58.

Alex Christoforou

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It was, and still remains a media meltdown of epic proportions as that dastardly ‘traitor’ US President Donald Trump decided to meet with that ‘thug’ Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Of course these are the simplistic and moronic epitaphs that are now universally being thrown around on everything from Morning Joe to Fox and Friends.

Mainstream media shills, and even intelligent alternative news political commentators, are all towing the same line, “thug” and “traitor”, while no one has given much thought to the policy and geo-political realities that have brought these two leaders together in Helsinki.

RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou provide some real news analysis of the historic Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki, without the stupid ‘thug’ and ‘traitor’ monikers carelessly being thrown around by the tools that occupy much of the mainstream media. Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

And if you though that one summit between Putin and Trump was more than enough to send the media into code level red meltdown, POTUS Trump is now hinting (maybe trolling) at a second Putin summit.

Via Zerohedge

And cue another ‘meltdown’ in 3…2…1…

While arguments continue over whether the Helsinki Summit was a success (end of Cold War 2.0) or not (most treasonous president ever), President Trump is convinced “The Summit was a great success,” and hints that there will be a second summit soon, where they will address: “stopping terrorism, security for Israel, nuclear proliferation, cyber attacks, trade, Ukraine, Middle East peace, North Korea and more.”

However, we suspect what will ‘trigger’ the liberal media to melt down is his use of the Stalin-esque term “enemy of the people” to describe the Fake News Media once again…

 

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While US seeks to up the ante on pressure on the DPRK, Russia proposes easing sanctions

These proposals show the dichotomy between the philosophy of US and Russian foreign policy

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The United States last week accused the DPRK of violating refined petroleum caps imposed as a part of UN nuclear sanctions dating back to 2006, and is therefore submitting a proposal to cut all petroleum product sales to North Korea.

The Trump administration is keen on not only preserving pressure on North Korea over its nuclear arms development, but in increasing that pressure even as DPRK Chairman, Kim Jong-Un, is serially meeting with world leaders in a bid to secure North Korea’s security and potential nuclear disarmament, a major move that could deescalate tensions in the region, end the war with the South, and ease global apprehensions about the North’s nuclear arsenal.

Meanwhile, Russia is proposing to the UNSC sanctions relief in some form due to the North’s expressed commitment to nuclear disarmament in the light of recent developments.

Reuters reports:

MOSCOW/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Russia’s envoy to North Korea said on Wednesday it would be logical to raise the question of easing sanctions on North Korea with the United Nations Security Council, as the United States pushes for a halt to refined petroleum exports to Pyongyang.

“The positive change on the Korean peninsula is now obvious,” said the ambassador, Alexander Matsegora, according to the RIA news agency, adding that Russia was ready to help modernize North Korea’s energy system if sanctions were lifted and if Pyongyang can find funding for the modernization.

The U.N. Security Council has unanimously boosted sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, banning exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capping imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

China tried late last month to get the Security Council to issue a statement praising the June 12 Singapore meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and expressing its “willingness to adjust the measures on the DPRK in light of the DPRK’s compliance with the resolutions.”

North Korea’s official name is Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

But the United States blocked the statement on June 28 given “ongoing and very sensitive talks between the United States and the DPRK at this time,” diplomats said. The same day, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi about the importance of sanctions enforcement.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due to informally brief U.N. Security Council envoys along with South Korea and Japan on Friday.

Diplomats say they expect Pompeo to stress the need to maintain pressure on North Korea during his briefing on Friday.

In a tweet on Wednesday Trump said he elicited a promise from Russian President Vladimir Putin to help negotiate with North Korea but did not say how. He also said: “There is no rush, the sanctions remain!”

The United States accused North Korea last week of breaching a U.N. sanctions cap on refined petroleum by making illicit transfers between ships at sea and demanded an immediate end to all sales of the fuel.

The United States submitted the complaint to the U.N. Security Council North Korea sanctions committee, which is due to decide by Thursday whether it will tell all U.N. member states to halt all transfers of refined petroleum to Pyongyang.

Such decisions are made by consensus and some diplomats said they expected China or Russia to delay or block the move.

When asked on June 13 about whether sanctions should be loosened, Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said: “We should be thinking about steps in that direction because inevitably there is progress on the track that should be reciprocal, that should be a two-way street. The other side should see encouragement to go forward.”

The proposals of both the United States and Russia are likely to be vetoed by each other, resulting no real changes, but what it displays is the foreign policy positions of both nuclear powers towards the relative position of the DPRK and its rhetorical move towards denuclearization. The US demonstrates that its campaign of increased pressure on the North is necessary to accomplishing the goal of a denuclearized Korean peninsula, while Russia’s philosophy on the matter is to show a mutual willingness to follow through on verbal commitment with a real show of action towards an improved relationship, mirroring on the ground what is happening in politics.

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