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Donald Trump thanks Vladimir Putin for kicking out US Embassy staff

Trump said that Russia’s move helped reduce the cost of funding a cumbersome Embassy staff.

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Originally published on RussiaFeed

Russia has recently kicked out 755 US diplomats and staff from the US Embassy facilities in Moscow after the United States failed to settle the crisis caused by Barack Obama’s seizure of legally owned property of the Russian Federation in the United States. The move came as the US passed new sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea.

Today, Trump thanked Putin for the measure in the following way,

“I want to thank (Putin) because we’re trying to cut down our payroll”.

That’s one way to cut down on bureaucratic salaries.

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The Ukrainian Election: When No News Is Bad News

The reason why Poroshenko continuously tries to redirect the attention of voters away from the country’s real problems and toward Russia’s ostensible “invasion” is obvious.

Dmitry Babich

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Authored by Dmitry Babich via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


As the Ukrainian presidential election, scheduled to take place on March 31, draws ever closer, Western politicians are going out of their way to protect it from “Russian meddling.” This protection, which became a sort of peculiar Anglo-Saxon sport in the United States and the UK, will figure highly on the agenda of the meeting of the European Union’s foreign ministers on February 18, slated for a discussion of the coming Ukrainian election. A naïve reader of the Western press might wonder why the president of the “newly Westernized” Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, has an approval rating of just 14%, trailing the comedian Vladimir Zelensky with his 21.9% and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko with her 19%. Obviously, some “meddling” must have taken place…

A COUNTRY THAT’S A THREAT TO ITSELF

Upon a closer look, however, the Ukrainian election appears to be more in need of protection from its own forms of Ukrainian extremism and what to the untrained eye might appear to be idiocies, rather than from any meddling from the Russian side. Suffice it to present a brief list of the recent suggestions and real policy moves (some of them coming from the very top echelon of government) which were made in the heat of electoral hysteria. Not surprisingly, most of these suggestions and moves are tied to Russia.

Presidential candidate Vitaly Kupryi simply suggested that Ukraine should officially declare war on Russia, obliging president Petro Poroshenko to announce an immediate mobilization and to use a special law to start moving troops against the “aggressor.” Since Kupryi is a deputy in the Supreme Rada (the Ukrainian parliament), his draft bill, which enjoys the support of a group of equally belligerent deputies, has been officially registered and waits to be reviewed by parliamentarians. Until now, the Supreme Rada has demurred from traveling along this somewhat suicidal path, preferring other, longer, more oblique routes toward a catastrophe. Last week, the Rada made Ukraine’s road towards NATO and the EU legally binding through another special law, altering Ukraine’s constitution, where the neutral, non-bloc status of the country had been enshrined since the 1990s. The parliamentarians also continued working on a draft bill, which makes “denial of Russian aggression against Ukraine” (that is, stating the truth that the war in the Russian-speaking eastern regions of Ukraine is a civil conflict) a criminal offence, punishable by several years in jail. The leading candidate, acting President Petro Poroshenko, has not allowed his parliament to outpace him in belligerent idiocies. He declared the visits by Russian citizens of the Russian-speaking Crimean peninsula to be “heinous crimes — breaches of the Ukrainian border,” which should all be punished by several years in Ukrainian jail. (6.8 million Russian tourists visited Crimea in 2018 alone, so theoretically Poroshenko could land Ukraine into the Guinness Book of World Records as the country with the highest potential prison population).

FAKE CHOICE: “EITHER PUTIN OR POROSHENKO”

As for “Russian meddling” in the elections, some of the candidates, including Poroshenko, are manufacturing this “meddling” themselves, by continuously campaigning not for Ukraine, but rather against Russia and its president Vladimir Putin. For example, Poroshenko’s campaign ad, which was unveiled on the day his candidacy officially launched on January 29, showed a Photoshopped image of the acting Ukrainian president confronting his Russian colleague, with the caption: “Either Poroshenko or Putin.”

The reason why Poroshenko continuously tries to redirect the attention of voters away from the country’s real problems and toward Russia’s ostensible “invasion” is obvious. “Ukraine’s catastrophic economic situation does not leave Poroshenko any room for self-promotion. Economically, this candy billionaire, who became rich working in all the governments, from Kuchma’s to Yanukovich’s, turned up to be rather helpless,” says Mikhail Pogrebinsky, the head of the Kiev-based Center for Political Research and Conflict Studies.

In the last quarter of the year 2018, the average income of a Ukrainian household was 9,400 hryvnas (about $350). This prompted the IMF to declare Ukraine the poorest country in Europe: Ukraine has even bested Moldova for this dubious honor, a nation that was previously at the top of the poverty rankings with an average salary of $375. Oleg Lyashko, a flamboyant nationalist candidate from Ukraine’s Radical party, accused Poroshenko of “taking us to Europe via Africa.”

A SAD END FOR THE FOREIGN “SAVIORS”

No wonder Poroshenko stopped talking about fighting corruption and introducing Western standards of state management, the two pillars of his plans for Ukraine at the beginning of his presidency in 2014. The “parachuting” of foreign specialists into the government (the Georgians Mikheil Saakashvili and Alexander Kvitashvili, the Lithuanian national Aivaras Abromavicius, as well as an American citizen, Natalie Jaresko) ended in dishonorable resignations, coupled with scandals and mutual accusations. When he quit, former Minister of Economy and Trade Abromavicius and former Governor of Odessa Saakashvili accused Poroshenko’s entourage of far-reaching corruption, much worse than the practices under the former president, Viktor Yanukovich. It is interesting to note that both Saakashvili and Poroshenko’s first prosecutor general, Vitaly Yarema, initially justified violent protests against the “corrupt” Yanukovich in 2013 and 2014, when 38 policemen were killed by the US-supported “peaceful protesters” from Maidan. But they both now acknowledge that “corruption schemes have become even more intricate and harmful” for society today compared to the Yanukovich era. Not surprisingly, Yarema was fired days after making such statements.

“The rule of oligarchs over the economy and the extortion of bribes from citizens by state officials have not diminished since Yanukovich’s rule,” writes a popular Kiev-based blogger and political expert Viktor Datsyuk. “What is even worse, the greediness of the ruling elite destroyed the ‘oligarchic consensus’ that had existed in Ukraine for years.” In Datsyuk’s opinion, this may lead to a new Hobbesian “war of all against all” in Ukraine.

SUBMISSION TO THE WEST AS THE NEW CONSENSUS

Upon a closer look, again, a certain “oligarchic consensus” still exists in Ukraine, and that consensus is based on the total submission of the local oligarchs to the “overseers” of Ukraine, who operate from Washington and Brussels.

At the peak of the presidential campaign, Ukraine simply exploded with anger when Poroshenko refused to obey a ruling from Kiev’s administrative court. The court removed Ulyana Suprun from her office — an American of Ukrainian descent, the last of the “foreign specialists” still operating in the Ukrainian government with an American passport. Legally, the ruling of the court was correct: Suprun has been “performing the duties” of the country’s health minister without being officially appointed in due course and in violation of a law that prohibits non-citizens of Ukraine from occupying government positions.

“I gave her citizenship through my own decree,” Poroshenko said, brushing off questions about Suprun NOT relinquishing her American citizenship, as required by the Ukrainian law.

The last time the Western elite was so up in arms to protect a “foreign specialist” inside the Ukrainian elite was in 2017, when Poroshenko suddenly canceled his own decree granting Ukrainian citizenship to Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president. At the time, Saakashvili was in Western Europe, but somehow he made his way back to Ukraine through a border checkpoint inside a crowd of supporters in September 2017, and was met “by chance” on the Ukrainian side of the border by the heads of influential Rada factions Yulia Tymoshenko (the “Fatherland” party) and Andrei Sadovoy (from the Samooborona, or “Self-Defense” movement). Somehow, the border checkpoint was also visited at that moment by Valentin Nalivaichenko, the former head of the fearsome Ukrainian Security Service (SBU).

They all embraced Saakashvili with grim faces, not quite in keeping with a miraculous and “spontaneous” breakthrough across the heavily guarded border.

A few months later, when Saakashvili somehow fell out of grace with his Western supervisors and was evicted from Ukraine by Poroshenko’s special forces via a chartered flight to Europe, his “friends” Tymoshenko and Nalivaichenko did not lift a finger in his defense.

THE INEVITABLE INCUMBENT

Obviously, after the US and the EU allowed Poroshenko to eject Saakashvili from Ukraine without punishment, it became clear that they had no other serious alternative to Poroshenko. Most likely, they will “allow” Poroshenko to win, using the hugely negative public image of Tymoshenko (70% of Ukrainians do not want to see her as their president under any circumstances).

As for the people who are suggesting realistic alternatives to the current disastrous course, they are being stigmatized as “Russian agents” or, worse, “Putin’s friends.”

This is not a situation in which no news is good news, though. Poroshenko’s continued hold on power in Ukraine means the continued threat of another war in the Donbass, the persecution of political opponents, and dispossession and the loss of legal status for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate. So, Poroshenko should not complain, when, as he himself told journalists, Vladimir Putin refused to take his phone call. “I did not want to help Poroshenko in his electoral campaign,” Putin explained. He had a good reason to say so.

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Can Maduro Emulate Castro and Assad to Keep NATO’s Imperialist Hands Off Venezuela?

There are many others examples in history where in a David versus Goliath fight, the little guy who did not stand a chance eventually won on the battlefield.

Gilbert Mercier

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Authored by Gilbert Mercier, via News Junkie Post…


Imperial logic I: External crises distract from internal ones

Empires with internal problems tend to create external crises to distract the public opinion and unite their political and economical ruling class in a fictitious nationalistic fervor. The current United States policy of overt regime change in Venezuela, backed entirely by its NATO vassals, follows an evergreen imperial playbook of creating new crises to obscure failures and divisions.

In addition to the administration’s overall incompetence, the legal investigations through the Mueller inquiry, and the failure to deliver to its MAGA sycophants their big wall, it has passed unnoticed, and it will never be admitted by US officials or media that the US imperial wars in Afghanistan and Syria are in fact lost. Assad will remain in power, and the US administration has publicly admitted that it was negotiating with the Taliban. The temptation for the empire’s ideologues is too strong not to follow the precept: when you have lost a war, you declare victory and you leave. And next time around, you try to pick a weaker target.

Imperial logic II: A state of war must be permanent

A prime example of this in recent history was the way the events of September 11, 2001 were used internally to justify the emergence of a police state, using far-reaching legislation like thePatriot Act and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

Externally, 911 was successfully used by the US to trigger, almost immediately, an invasion of Afghanistan with the entire NATO membership under the hospice of the military alliance’s Article 5, which stipulates that an attack on one member is an attack on all. This was the very first time, since the creation of NATO in 1949, that Article 5 was put into force.

With the US public opinion still largely revengeful, misinformed by media manipulations, and eager to wage war, two years later, in 2003, it was fairly simple for the Bush administration and its neocons to sell the invasion of Iraq as a war of necessity, and not for what it truly was: a war of choice, for oil and greater control of the Middle East. Cynically, the aftermath of 9/11/2001 gave the empire and its powerful military-industrial complex two wars for the price of one.

Imperial logic III: People are collateral damage of realpolitiks

Great moral principles of altruistic universal humanitarian concerns are almost never at stake in these instances. They are mainly smoke screens to hide the board of a cold, Machiavellian, and complex chess game where innocent bystanders often perish by the millions. They are the acceptable collateral damage of realpolitik’s grand strategists. Until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the true guiding principle of US imperial realpolitik, and all US foreign policy decisions that derived from it, was to stop the so-called communist domino effect.

Communist domino effect: three simple words for a game that killed millions of innocent people worldwide, first in Korea in the early 1950s, then in Vietnam in the 60s and 70s, and later, under the tutelage of some of the very same criminal architects, in Central and South American countries like Chile. Now in their golden years, most of these murderous policymakers, like Henry Kissinger, enjoy an active retirement with honors, respect and, unlike their colleague Robert McNamara, not a hint of remorse.

One of these policymakers, a veteran of US imperialism in Central America and also one of the staunchest advocates of Iraq’s invasion in 2003, has made a come back. He is neocon extraordinaire Elliot Abrams. Abrams has been rewarded for his actions in the Iran-Contra affair, El Salvador, and Nicaragua with a nomination as Special Envoy of the Trump administration for Venezuela. In other words, Abrams is in charge of the US-sponsored coup task force against Venezuela’s legitimately elected President Nicolas Maduro.

Defeating imperial logic: The Cuban and Syrian lessons

There are many others examples in history where in a David versus Goliath fight, the little guy who, on paper, did not stand a chance eventually through sheer determination, organization and vast popular support, won on the battlefield. Vietnam is obviously a special case in this regard, as the Vietcong of Ho Chi Minh managed to defeat, almost back to back, the old colonial masters of the French empire in the 1950s, and of course soon thereafter, the US empire.

In the early 1960s, during the Cuban missile crisis, Castro’s days seemed to be numbered. More recently, in Syria, all the lips of the NATO coalition, Israel and Gulf State allies were chanting in unison that as a precondition for resolving the Syrian crisis, “Assad must go!” By 2017, however, some coalition members such as Qatar, France and Germany were not so adamant about the “Assad must go” mantra. Not only did Bashar al-Assad not go, but also, as matter of fact, he is regaining control of his entire country, on his own terms.

Castro outsmarted the empire’s CIA hitmen 600 times

Nicolas Maduro’s predecessor and mentor, Hugo Chavez, had in Fidel Castro a source of inspiration and the guidance of a father figure. Chavez, like other neo-Marxists, looked up to Fidel for leading a successful revolution, through military action, which had toppled the corrupt regime of Fulgencio Batista. This regime was not only a docile servant of the US government but was also directly associated with the Mafia’s criminal activities in Cuba in the era of Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky. With Batista’s complicity, American gangsters had turned Cuba into a gambling and prostitution paradise where the US’ unscrupulous rich went to play. Castro shut down the bordello that had become Cuba and proudly rebuilt his island, and he consciously set out to transform Cuba slowly and steadily into a socialist country.

Needless to say, the shutdown of their depraved and lucrative tropical paradise was unacceptable for the US empire’s ruling elites. Against all odds, the Cuban communist leader managed to defy one US administration after another, and without compromise remained at the helm of the Cuban revolution. It was not for a lack of trying either to invade Cuba, as in the Bay of Pigs botched invasion episode, or to cook up countless assassination attempts on Castro’s person. Starting almost immediately after he took power in 1959, Castro was the target of CIA assassination attempts. From the Kennedy era all the way to the Clinton administrations, Fidel Castro survived more than 600 plots to kill him. Some of the attempts involved collaborations of the Mafia with the CIA. Castro once said, “if surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event, I would win the gold medal!” It has to be added that, at least so far, Fidel Castro has also won a posthumous gold medal for ensuring the legacy of the Cuban revolution.

Assad: military might and striking the right alliances

Almost eight years ago, some people in quiet mansions, regal palaces or discrete offices in Washington, Riyadh, Doha, London, Paris, and Tel Aviv or undisclosed locations came up with what appeared to be an excellent plan. They would hijack some of the genuine energy of the Arab Spring then quickly sponsor it with a huge arsenal, while hiring some supposed good Djihadists soldiers-of-fortune as the main muscle to get rid of the uncooperative Bashar al-Assad. In what I called in May 2013, an “unholy alliance to wreck and exploit,” the Western and Gulf States coalition to topple Assad was born. In the US, the late Senator John McCain was one of the cheerleaders of the so-called Free Syrian Army.

Eight years later, with Syria in ruins, 350,000 people dead, around 4.5 million refugees still scattered principally in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, Assad has prevailed in a bittersweet victory, considering that his country has been wrecked as a battleground for proxy wars. Bashar al-Assad did not win on his own. He managed to retain complete loyalty from the Syrian army during the past eight gruesome years. Assad also could count on the military involvement of dependable allies Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iran and, of course, a critical impact of Russia once Putin’s administration decided to commit military assets and troops.

Maduro can keep Uncle Sam’s hands off Venezuela

One can only hope that Venezuela’s US-sponsored coup attempt using the subterfuge of a phony revolution does not follow the track of Syria in terms of the mayhem. However, the analogies are numerous between Maduro’s situation today and that of Assad in 2011. First, Maduro has at his disposal a reasonably well-equipped military as well as the Chavista militia. To defeat the unfolding coup attempt, the loyalty of the armed forces has to be ironclad. Second, just as Assad has done, Maduro must work to cultivate, in pragmatic ways, both regional and worldwide alliances.

Cuba will do a lot to help and might turn out to be Maduro’s Hezbollah. But will Mexico, Bolivia, and Uruguay go beyond diplomatic posturing in their solidarity with Maduro against NATO’s imperialism? How involved and how far, either economically or, in a worse-case scenario, militarily are Russia, China, Turkey, and Iran willing to go? In geopolitics, unlike diplomacy, only actions talk. Venezuela has a massive bargaining chip in the form of the mostly untapped biggest oil reserve in the world. This is Maduro’s ultimate ace in this game, and it should be used shrewdly. In realpolitiks, friends might be temporary, and they always want something. This is not an altruistic environment.


Editor’s Notes: Gilbert Mercier is the author of The Orwellian Empire. Composite one by Lance Page; photographss two from the archive of Jakob Reimann, three from the archive of Dawei Ding, four from the archive of Lezumbalaberenjena, five from the archive of Globovision, and seven from the archive of Ryota Nakanishi.

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Russia’s Lukoil Halts Oil Swaps In Venezuela After U.S. Sanctions

Under the new wide-ranging U.S. sanctions, Venezuela will not be able to import U.S. naphtha which it has typically used to dilute its heavy crude grades.

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Via Oilprice.com


Litasco, the international trading arm of Russia’s second-biggest oil producer Lukoil, stopped its oil swaps deals with Venezuela immediately after the U.S. imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry and state oil firm PDVSA, Lukoil’s chief executive Vagit Alekperov said at an investment forum in Russia.

Russia, which stands by Nicolas Maduro in the ongoing Venezuelan political crisis, has vowed to defend its interests in Venezuela—including oil interests—within the international law using “all mechanisms available to us.”

Because of Moscow’s support for Maduro, the international community and market analysts are closely watching the relationship of Russian oil companies with Venezuela.

“Litasco does not work with Venezuela. Before the restrictions were imposed, Litasco had operations to deliver oil products and to sell oil. There were swap operations. Today there are none, since the sanctions were imposed,” Lukoil’s Alekperov said at the Russian Investment Forum in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Another Russian oil producer, Gazprom Neft, however, does not see major risks for its oil business in Venezuela, the company’s chief executive officer Alexander Dyukov said at the same event.

Gazprom Neft has not supplied and does not supply oil products to Venezuela needed to dilute the thick heavy Venezuelan oil, Dyukov said, noting that the Latin American country hadn’t approached Gazprom Neft for possible supply of oil products for diluents.

Under the new wide-ranging U.S. sanctions, Venezuela will not be able to import U.S. naphtha which it has typically used to dilute its heavy crude grades. Analysts expect that a shortage of diluents could accelerate beginning this month the already steadily declining Venezuelan oil production and exports.

Venezuela’s crude oil production plunged by another 59,000 bpd from December 2018 to stand at just 1.106 million bpd in January 2019, OPEC’s secondary sources figures showed in the cartel’s closely watched Monthly Oil Market Report (MOMR) this week.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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