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Has Barack Obama already ceded his Syria policy to Hillary Clinton?

Though US President Barack Obama has managed to restrain the more belligerent voices in the US administration demanding military intervention in Syria, he has never succeeded in fully imposing his authority on them, and he now anyway appears to be ceding control of Syrian policy to the much more hawkish Hillary Clinton.

Joe Lauria

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Throughout five years of war in Syria President Obama has been in a constant internal struggle with hawks in his administration who want the U.S. to directly intervene militarily to overthrow the Syrian government.

On at least four occasions Obama has stood up to them. At other times has has compromised and gone half way. With less than three months to go in office, Obama appears to be leaving his Syria policy to those aligned with the lead hawk who might soon take Obama’s place.

When she was secretary of state, Hillary Clinton failed to convince Obama to consistently take a tough line on Syria.  She wanted him to realize her two main policies, which she still clings to:  a safe zone on the ground and a no-fly zone in the air.

Both would protect rebels seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which she calls her top foreign policy priority. It was the model Clinton had convinced a reluctant Obama to adopt in Libya. It led to the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi but ultimately turned that county into a failed state.

Libya was emblematic of the disarray following regime change that has marked nearly two decades of neoconservative influence in Washington: dividing and weakening defiant states, while American contractors profit from the chaos that bleeds the locals to death.

Obama learned from Libya. He said his biggest regret was having no plan for the aftermath. It left him deeply skeptical about intervention in Syria.  But given his opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he should have already understood what happens after the U.S. overthrows regimes these days.

In the early years of the CIA, in Syria in 1949, Iran in 1953, and Guatemala in 1954, as illegal and as unjustified as those coups were, the agency had viable leaders groomed to take over in competition with the Soviet Union. But all that changed after the Cold War ended.  “We can use our military in the Middle East and the Soviets won’t stop us,” arch-neocon Paul Wolfowitz boasted before the Iraq invasion.

Today neoconservatives and liberal interventionists (such as Clinton) act like gamblers who can’t leave the table. Disaster for Iraqis and Libyans hasn’t dissuaded them from wagering on Syria.  It seems to have only encouraged them.

That regime change in the guise of “spreading democracy” in the Middle East instead spawns chaos and terrorism only gives the hawks further reason to intervene, create more chaos and make more money, while weakening nations defying Washington.

Clinton began laying a bet on regime change in Damascus by pushing to arm rebels in the summer of 2012. One of her leaked emails explains her motive:  to break up the Tehran to Damascus to southern Lebanon supply line to Hezbollah—a long standing Israeli objective.

Obama refused at this point to arm the rebels. But an August 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency document showed that U.S. intelligence agencies were up to their own designs in Syria, with or without Obama’s approval.

Ret. Gen. Mike Flynn, who headed the DIA at the time, said it was a “willful decision” in Washington to support a “Salafist principality”—a safe area for jihadist rebels—in eastern Syria to put pressure on Damascus.  He didn’t say who in Washington ultimately decided. The DIA document made public last year warns that these Salafists could join with jihadists from Iraq to form an “Islamic State.” And indeed two years later they did.

While this was gestating in August 2013 Obama again showed some independence on Syria after seeing the consequences of the Clinton-led disaster in Libya: a failed state radiating arms and jihadis to Syria and the Sahel. 

This time Obama compromised with the hawks. He eventually agreed to arm the rebels. But he resisted pressure to launch cruise missiles against Syrian government targets after his “redline” was supposedly crossed by a chemical weapons attack outside Damascus that killed hundreds of people.

As we now know, the CIA did not think it a “slam dunk” that Syria did it. Evidence has pointed to the rebels. So Obama instead took Russia’s offer to have Syria give up its chemical weapons stocks, which in time it did, infuriating the neocons.

An Even Bolder Putin Offer

Russian President Vladimir Putin followed with another offer to the United States in September 2015, delivered from the podium of the U.N. General Assembly:  He proposed joint U.S.-Russian airstrikes against the now fully formed Islamic State and associated jihadists.

These extremists were seeking to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an undemocratic leader in a police state, but who posed no threat to the West. The jihadists had by now clearly become the greater evil in Syria. In time ISIS would plan or inspire attacks in France, Belgium, Germany, Egypt and the United States.

More than three years earlier I reported that Russia’s motive to support Assad to was stop the spread of jihadism that threatened the West and Russia.  Now Putin put it on the record in his U.N. speech. He invoked the World War II alliance between enemies that together faced a greater threat. “Similar to the anti-Hitler coalition, it could unite a broad range of parties willing to stand firm against those who, just like the Nazis, sow evil and hatred of humankind,” Putin said. 

This time Obama sided with the hawks and immediately rejected the offer. We now know why. In a leaked audio conversation with Syrian opposition figures in September, Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S., rather than fight ISIS, or Daesh, in Syria, was instead ready to use its growing strength to pressure Assad to resign—the original intention outlined in the DIA document.

“We know that this was growing, we were watching, we saw that Daesh was growing in strength, and we thought Assad was threatened….ah, we thought however we could probably manage that Assad might then negotiate, but instead of negotiating he got Putin to support him,” Kerry said.

Moscow began its military intervention in late September 2015 without the United States. Russia’s motives have been made abundantly clear by Putin and other Russian officials.

For instance, last month Putin told French TV channel TF1: “Remember what Libya or Iraq looked like before these countries and their organisations were destroyed as states by our Western partners’ forces? … These states showed no signs of terrorism. They were not a threat for Paris, for the Cote d’Azur, for Belgium, for Russia, or for the United States. Now, they are the source of terrorist threats. Our goal is to prevent the same from happening in Syria.”

Such clear explanation are rarely reported seriously by Western corporate media. Instead it peddles the line from officials and think tanks that Russia is trying to recover lost imperial glory in the Middle East.

But Kerry knew why Russia intervened. “The reason Russia came in is because ISIL was getting stronger, Daesh was threatening the possibility of going to Damascus, and that’s why Russia came in because they didn’t want a Daesh government and they supported Assad,” he said in the leaked discussion. That seems to indicate the U.S. would have tolerated ISIS coming to the verge of power if it meant ousting Assad.   

Washington may have then intended to turn its firepower on ISIS once Assad was gone. But this presumes Assad would have stepped down, rather than make a last stand in Damascus. Had it gone that far the U.S. was risking an Islamic State government in Syria.

Putin had warned the General Assembly about such a gamble with terrorism: “The Islamic State itself did not come out of nowhere. It was initially developed as a weapon against undesirable secular regimes.” He said it was irresponsible “to manipulate extremist groups and use them to achieve your political goals, hoping that later you’ll find a way to get rid of them or somehow eliminate them.”

Pipelines

There may another motive for Russia’s intervention in Syria beyond a sincere goal of crushing jihadism. There’s the argument that the uprising against Assad financed by the Arab Gulf came after he turned down a proposed gas pipeline running from Qatar in 2009.

A year later Syria was in flames. There is precedent for such a motive. The first coup led by the two-year old CIA in 1949 in Syria came when the elected government rejected a Saudi pipeline deal. The government was removed and replaced by a military leader who let the pipeline be built.

A Qatar gas pipeline through Syria to supply Europe would compete with Russia’s sales of natural gas to the continent. Keeping Assad in power prevents that.

Perhaps Assad had to chose between the Gulf or Russia, not understanding that the sore losers  would launch a jihadist war to oust him. It reminds one of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s choice between the EU or Russia. He also didn’t count on that decision leading to his violent downfall.

The Safe Area

Hillary Clinton has been pushing for a no-fly zone and a safe area in Syria since she ran the State Department.  She has called for both as recently as the last presidential debate, despite the inherent dangers of confronting Russia. 

The safe area is supposed to shelter internally displaced Syrians to prevent them from becoming refugees. But it could also be used as a staging ground to train and equip jihadists intent on regime change, as was employed in Libya. A safe area would need ground troops to protect it. Clinton says there will be no US ground troops in Syria.

Turkey has also been clamoring for a safe area on the ground for the past few years. Erdoğan called for it (as well as a no-fly zone in northern Syria) as recently as last September in his address to the U.N. General Assembly.

Erdoğan has had neo-Ottoman tendencies for some time but in August he acted on them, invading Syria with U.S. air cover on the exact 500th anniversary of the Ottoman’s first foreign invasion, also of Syria. Now Erdogan is openly making claims on Mosul based on a World War One-era Turkish claim. And he’s massing troops on the Iraqi border threatening war with Baghdad. [See the related Duran article “Will Turkey and Iraq Go to War?”]

The hawks appear to have bested Obama this time. He has not stood in the way of Clinton-allies in his administration letting Erdoğan pursue his neo-Ottoman fantasy (even fighting U.S.-backed Kurds) in exchange for Turkish NATO forces establishing a safe area without U.S. ground troops. Turkey and its rebel forces already control about 490 square miles in northern Syria.

With less than three months left in office, Obama, who had opposed a safe area and a  Turkish invasion, appears to have relinquished his Syria policy to who he wants to be the next president. 

Again with Plan B?

Since American officials rarely explain fully what they are up to beyond slogans like “Fighting ISIS” and “the War on Terror”, understanding U.S. policy in the Middle East is reduced to educated guesses based on official and leaked statements and assessments of complex developments on the ground.

For instance, the U.S. is publicly opposing Turkey by backing Syrian Kurds in their just launched offensive to take Raqqa, the ISIS capital in Syria. Erdogan has vowed to send Turkish troops, or Turkish-backed rebels there. How will Washington solve this contradiction as events on the ground would indicate that Washington is effectively letting Turkey create Clinton’s safe area on territory taken mostly from ISIS. It could eventually stretch from northeast Syria into western Iraq.

A safe area in eastern Syria stretching to western Iraq could implement the so-called Plan B:  dividing Syria to weaken it, while also creating a corridor for the pipeline from Qatar. Settling for Plan B, or partition, would be an admission that Plan A, regime change, had failed.

There might also be another crucial task for Turkey on behalf of the Washington hawks in both Syria and Iraq. Erdogan may well target the Turkman-majority Iraqi Tal Afar area, a Shia   area that the Iraqi government wants to control. It would open a corridor from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. But Turkey could also cut this passage in northern Syria.

Is the U.S. allowing Turkish troops to create these facts on the ground?  It’s impossible to know for sure because of the lack of transparency coming out of Washington. But in this scenario Erdoğan gets to control Syrian Kurdish areas and possibly parts of Iraq, satisfying his neo-Ottoman fantasies, while Clinton gets her safe area with NATO troops, but without deploying U.S. soldiers on the ground.

Aleppo

Obama stood up to the hawks for the third time this summer by allowing Kerry to negotiate with Russia on Putin’s offer at the U.N.: to form a military alliance against ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria. Russia’s entry had turned the tide of the war in Syria’s favor but the defensive war against the insurgency has stalled in Aleppo, where a third of the city remains largely under al-Qaeda control.

While Obama publicly slammed the Russians, projecting that they were on an imperial venture that would wind up in a quagmire (exactly what has afflicted U.S. imperial ventures in various theaters), he kept plans for a safe area and no-fly zone on hold.

Then nearly a year after Putin’s offer and months of intermittent talks, Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Sept. 9 finally reached a deal to jointly fight terrorists in Syria. Though it was clear the agreement would ground the Syrian air force, resume humanitarian aid and agree on the identity of rebels to be jointly attacked, the U.S. insisted the terms remain secret.

But Defense Secretary Ash Carter made no secret of his objection. On Sept. 8 he said: “In the current circumstance, it is not possible for the United States to associate itself with — let alone to cooperate in — a venture that is only fueling violence and civil war.”

It was an extraordinary act of insubordination for which Carter was not punished. Once again Obama did not completely stand up to the hawks. But then Carter’s objection to the deal went beyond words. Two days before it was to go into effect, his Pentagon’s planes killed more than 60 Syrian soldiers near Deir ez Zor in an air strike the Pentagon later said was an “accident.” U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power was hardly repentant as she condemned Russia’s attempt to discuss the incident at the Security Council as a “stunt.”

Four days later a U.N. aid convoy was attacked near Aleppo, killing more than 20 aid workers. The U.S. immediately blamed Russian air strikes without presenting any evidence. Russia says rebels were responsible. The U.S.-Russia deal was dead.

Moscow eventually revealed its terms. At its heart was the separation of U.S.-backed rebels from al-Qaeda, which dominates a third of Aleppo. But once again, despite repeated pledges to do so, the U.S. failed to separate them.

Syria and Russia had enough and declared all rebels fighting with al-Qaeda to be fair game. They commenced a furious bombardment of east Aleppo to crush the insurgency there once and for all.  Putting all of Aleppo back into government hands would be a major turning point in the war. It has not proven easy. Instead the fierce aerial assaults have claimed numerous civilian lives, handing Russia’s opponents a public relations coup.

Washington, London and Paris are leading the chorus of war crimes accusations against Russia (though the U.S. and Britain invaded Iraq without Security Council authorization in an act of aggression that can reasonably be seen as the supreme war crime.)

Russia’s actions in Aleppo have been compared to Israel’s in Gaza. Though two U.N. reports have said Israel may have been guilty of war crimes in 2012 and 2014 attacks on Gaza, Israel has not been prosecuted at the International Criminal Court.

The differences between Gaza and Aleppo are stark, however. Gazans are an indigenous people attacked by an Occupying Power. Syria and Russia are attacking the occupiers–largely foreign-backed mercenaries. People in Gaza cannot escape the city because of their attackers, while people in east Aleppo can’t escape because of the attacked.

The area of bombardment and number of people under fire (and so far casualties) were much higher in Gaza than in east Aleppo. Rebel rockets from east Aleppo actually kill large numbers of civilians in the west of the city, unlike Hamas’ rockets into Israel. The biggest difference is that the West defends Israel and deflects charges of war crimes while it accuses Russia and Syria of the same. 

Isolated from the context of the entire war against a foreign-backed rebellion, the battle for east Aleppo ( usually reported as the whole city) has been framed by Western liberal media in the same way Sarajevo was in the 1990s. Then a highly complex war was boiled down to one battle alone, where Bosnian Serbs fired (indiscriminately) into civilian areas.  Today it is Russia that is accused of acting out of the pure intent to kill civilians with no other motive. 

The tactic of intense bombardment in Aleppo by Russia is troubling.  A Syrian army ground invasion of eastern Aleppo without heavy bombardments would minimize civilian causalities, but increase the government’s. It might be the price that has to be paid.

Nuclear Chicken

The reaction to the bombardment of eastern Aleppo has led to a severe increase in rabid calls for Western military intervention against the Syrian government, and possibly against Russia. 

The British parliament held a Russia-bashing session in October with calls for war against Moscow. Neocon newspaper like the Washington Post are itching for battle. A British general said the U.K. would be ready to fight Russia in two years—enough time for a Clinton administration to prepare.

The U.S. and its allies are planning for a post-Putin Russia in which a Wall Street-friendly leader like Boris Yeltsin can be restored to reopen the country to Western exploitation. But Putin is no Yeltsin. Washington’s modus operandi is to continually provoke and blame an opponent until it stands up for itself, as Putin’s Russia has done, then falsely accuse it of “aggression” and attack in “self-defense.”   

We see this being prepared in Ukraine, the Baltics, Poland, the Balkans and in Syria, where neocon calls are increasing for the U.S. to strike the Syrian government. Apparently Obama for the fourth time kept the hawks at bay after a White House meeting last month in which military action was turned down in the face of Russia’s warning that it would target attacking U.S. aircraft.

The neocons appear to much prefer coups to direct military action, but are not averse to blundering into war.

Obama has been the only brake on keeping Syria—and relations with Russia—from spiraling out of control. But his voice is fading as he prepares to leave office.

Into this fevered environment steps Hillary Clinton who may win the White House on Tuesday. She continues to call for a safe area and ominously for a no-fly zone, despite the warning last month from Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the joint chiefs, that that would mean war with Russia.

“I’m going to continue to push for a no-fly zone and safe havens within Syria….not only to help protect the Syrians and prevent the constant outflow of refugees, but to gain some leverage on both the Syrian government and the Russians,” Clinton said at the last debate after Dunford’s warning.­

She also said this after admitting in one of her paid speeches, released by Wikileaks, that a no-fly zone will “kill a lot of Syrians.”

Russia’s reaction has been defiant, setting up an ominous game of chicken that could go nuclear. Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Russia would shoot down any American plane attacking the Syrian government.

Russia has also deployed sophisticated air defenses in the country. This has given U.S. brass deep pause about confronting Russia in Syria.  Congress is not disposed to authorize war against Syria. So far Russia has come out on top there, lessening the risks of confrontation that could escalate to the most dangerous levels.

But will Hillary Clinton back down from her harsh rhetoric if she’s elected? Will she appoint more hawkish military leaders? Obama’s half-way measures in Syria have left the door open to a Clinton administration that appears determined to ratchet up the regime change operation, perhaps calling Putin’s bluff.

What happens if she miscalculates and he doesn’t backdown? Would she count on Putin retreating to save the world from a US-Russia war?  Is she ready to back away or smart enough not to even try?

Would Congressional and FBI investigations in the Clinton Foundation and the emails lead her to cause an international crisis to take the heat off, the way her husband bombed Iraq on the very day his impeachment proceedings were to begin?  Some astute analysts, like Alexander Mercouris, think she is rational enough to not provoke such a crisis. That remains to be seen.

Clinton also seems poised to arm the Ukrainian government and perhaps give Putin another ultimatum: give back Crimea or else. What if Putin calls Clinton’s bluff there?  It’s a roll of the dice the hawks, in their fanaticism to rule the world, might be ready to toss.   

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Russia makes MASSIVE progress on its ‘super-weapons’

Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle moves into serial production, nuclear-engine powered cruise missile tests continue, and more as Russia continues to outdo all Western military tech

Seraphim Hanisch

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On July 19th and 20th, The Russian Defense Ministry announced several milestones of progress in its advanced weapons systems programs. These programs were revealed to the world in March of this year, when Russian President Vladimir Putin gave the State of the Russian Federation speech.

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While at first the Western onlookers did not believe the amazing announcements of hypersonic weapons and nuclear-powered cruise missiles with unlimited range, subsequent releases and concurrent observation by the American military experts has shown these developments to be as real as Mr. Putin claimed they are.

TASS, the Russian News Agency, released information on these weapons systems in separate reports:

Kinzhal

The Kinzhal hypersonic missile:

Squadrons of MiG-31 fighter jets armed with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles should enter combat duty in the Black Sea region and at other Russian fleets and flotillas, said Russian military expert Viktor Murakhovsky, the editor-in-chief of the Arsenal Otechestva magazine.

Besides, a squadron (between 12 and 16 aircraft) of MiG-31 fighter jets armed with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles entered combat duty in the Caspian Sea region in April.

“I think at least one squadron of those complexes should be deployed at any fleet, in other words – at all regions where we have fleets and flotillas. We need to deploy them in the regions of the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Northern Fleet. The Pacific region also should not be forgotten,” Murakhovsky said.

He said that such systems can become a “good instrument” against not only vessels equipped with high-precision weapons, but also for countering carrier attack groups.

“We know how expensive a carrier attack group can be. By employing this asymmetric method, which is unbelievably cheap in comparison with building a carrier attack group, we can neutralize this threat almost completely,” the expert said.

Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile trials:

The Burevestnik is an entirely new cruise missile, powered by a nuclear engine. This gives the missile unlimited range. In theory, such a missile could be launched at a target and spend days or weeks in hidden flight using advanced guidance systems, and then close on its target at the optimal time to assure destruction of that target with maximum surprise. The TASS piece goes on to say:

The Russian Defense Ministry announced that Russia was preparing to test upgraded test prototypes of the nuclear-powered Burevestnik cruise missile with an unlimited range.

According to the expert, it is highly likely that the prototype of the missile “has already made a flight.”

“Clearly, it was something like the pop-up trials of Sarmat – a launch without the nuclear-powered engine, in other words, with an ordinary missile booster, conducted in order to assess the possibility of a launch, aerodynamics and the operability of the entire system in general,” [Murakhovsky] said.

Further reporting from TASS had this to add about the Burevestnik program:

Russia is getting ready for flight tests of the Burevestnik nuclear powered cruise missile, an official at the Defense Ministry told reporters on Thursday.

“The missile’s component makeup is being improved based on clarified requirements, while ground tests continue and preparations are being made for experimental flight tests of the improved missile,” the official said.

According to the Defense Ministry, “work on an unlimited-range missile is going according to plan.”

“In the meantime, launching systems are also being designed, while technological processes to manufacture, assemble and test the missile are being improved. This range of work will make it possible to start designing a totally new sort of weapon – a strategic nuclear complex armed with a nuclear powered missile,” the ministry official noted.

[The head] of the 12th Central Research Institute at Russia’s Defense Ministry Sergey Pertsev, in turn, said that the tests of the new cruise missile equipped with a small nuclear power unit had confirmed the accuracy of the technical decisions that Russian researchers, engineers and designers had made. In addition, the tests enabled the researchers “to receive valuable experimental data necessary for specifying a number of requirements.”

“A low-flying and low-observable cruise missile carrying a nuclear warhead, with an almost unlimited range, an unpredictable trajectory and capability to bypass interception lines is invincible to all the existing and advanced air and missile defense systems,” the Russian Defense Ministry stressed.

A further use of the nuclear engine technology is also expected in the Poseidon underwater drone, Mr. Murakhovsky stated that separate systems for the craft have been successfully tested. He further noted that the next task is to design the entire layout, build a test model and begin testing the whole platform.

The Avangard Hypersonic Missile

While the Kinzhal is a Mach-10 capable hypersonic system that can be launched from a fighter, the Avangard is a Mach-20 capable system that has intercontinental reach. There is almost no footage of this system released to the public, but the concept videos show how the system works. TASS reports this status:

Russia’s Strategic Missile Force is preparing a position area for accepting the Avangard hypersonic missile system for service as part of the efforts to strengthen the country’s military security, the Defense Ministry announced on Thursday.

“The Russian defense industry has completed developing the Avangard missile system with the principally new armament – the gliding cruise warhead. Industrial enterprises have switched to its serial production,” the Defense Ministry said.

“A set of organizational and technical measures is underway in the position area of the Dombarovsky large unit of the Strategic Missile Force to accept the Avangard missile system for operation,” it added.

The development of new strategic weapon systems “is aimed at increasing Russia’s defense capability and preventing any aggression against our country and its allies,” the Defense Ministry stressed.

The infrastructural facilities of the large unit’s position area have already been prepared for the missile system’s operation, the ministry said.

“The position area has been prepared in geodesic and engineering terms to accommodate the missile system. Work is underway to build new and reconstruct old facilities to provide for the operation and the combat use of the system. Technical and utility supply lines are being modernized and electric power, communications and command and control cables are being laid. Work has been arranged to train personnel and prepare armament, military and special hardware,” Russia’s Defense Ministry said.

Deputy Commander of Russia’s Strategic Missile Force for Armament Sergei Poroskun has said that the Avangard hypersonic missile system features combat capabilities that “make it possible to reliably breach any anti-missile defenses.”

The Okhotnik attack drone

The Okhotnik (“Hunter”) attack drone is now being viewed as a prototype for Russia’s “sixth-generation” fighter plane. TASS describes this in more detail:

According to [a defense industry] official, although the sixth generation fighter jet project “has not yet taken full shape, its main features are already known.”

“First of all, it should be unmanned and capable of performing any combat task in an autonomous regime. In this sense, Okhotnik will become the prototype of the sixth generation fighter jet,’ the source said, adding that the drone will be able to “take off, fulfill its objectives and return to the airfield.”

“However, it will not receive the function of decision-making regarding the use of weapons – this will be decided by a human,” he said.

TASS was unable to officially confirm the information at the time of the publication.

Another defense industry source earlier told TASS that the prototype of Okhotnik (Hunter) was ready and would start test flights this year.

The Russian Defense Ministry and the Sukhoi Company signed a contract for developing the 20-ton Okhotnik (Hunter) heavy unmanned strike aircraft in 2011. The drone’s mock-up model was made in 2014. According to unconfirmed reports, composite materials and anti-radar coating were used to create the Okhotnik. The drone is equipped with a reaction-jet propulsion and is supposed to develop a speed of 1000 kilometers per hour.

Peresvet laser weapons systems

TASS reported that the Russian military forces are now training for the use of the Peresvet combat laser system:

Russian Aerospace Force has accepted for service the laser complexes Peresvet and the military are now taking drills that involve the novel combat technologies, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

“The Peresvet laser complexes have been placed at sites of permanent deployment,” the report said. “Active efforts to make them fully operational are underway.”

“To ensure their proper functioning, the necessary infrastructures and specialized facilities for housing the complexes and duty crews have been built,” the ministry said.

The crews assigned to the Peresvets have taken upgrader courses at the Alexander Mozhaisky Military-Space Academy in St Petersburg.

The Russian military strategy of “asymmetric response.”

The overall defense strategy is termed an “asymmetric response”, and Mr. Murakhovsky explained the principle in this way:

“This is an asymmetric response, in which new classes of weapons are created, instead of new types within the framework of the existing systems. Other states are not expected to have anything of this kind [in the near future],” he said.

The expert described this response as “quite an efficient one, all the more so because it requires no additional investment – all the works are being carried out within the framework of the state procurement program.”

He added that unlike the Soviet Union, Russia avoids being dragged into a direct arms race and searches for cutting-edge solutions instead of simply increasing the number of weapons.

“The development of counter-weapons to those arms [may be possible] in distant future, but it does not mean that they can be created at all,” Murakhovsky added.

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From McCain to Brennan, Deep State soft coup against Trump picks up steam (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 59.

Alex Christoforou

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After Trump’s meeting with Putin in Helsinki, the Deep State smells blood, and is moving quickly to depose of US President Donald Trump.

Government officials and mainstream media puppets from left and right are condemning the US President over his press conference with Vladimir Putin.

Leading the charge are the usual Deep State, suspects, starting with John McCain and ending with the man many believe is behind the entire Trump-Russia collusion hoax, former Obama CIA boss John Brennan.

RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou examine the soft coup aimed at removing US President Trump by the November 2018 midterms. Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via The Independent

Conservative John McCain, who is facing a rare and terminal brain cancer, unleashed a damning statement against Mr Trump’s conference with Mr Putin, describing it as “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory”.

“President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin,” he said.

“It is tempting to describe the press conference as a pathetic rout — as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician. These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realise his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin’s regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbours, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world.”

The conservative senator’s comments arrived after the US president declined to name Russia as the adversary behind coordinated attacks on the 2016 presidential election.

While discussing whether he thought Russia was behind hacks against the 2016 election — as the US intelligence community has determined —the president said: “I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

“Dan Coats [the US Director of National Intelligence] said its Russia. President Putin says its not Russia,” said Mr Trump. “I don’t know why it would be…..I have confidence in both parties. President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

That set off a wave of condemnations from Democrats and Republicans alike.

“President Trump’s press conference with Putin was an embarrassing spectacle,” Bernie Sanders wrote in a tweet. “Rather than make clear that interference in our elections is unacceptable, Trump instead accepted Putin’s denials and cast doubt on the conclusions of our intelligence community. This is not normal.”

Jeff Flake, one of the only frequent Republican critics of Mr Trump in Congress, said the conference was “shameful” in a statement he posted across social media.

“I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression,” he said. “This is shameful.”

Former CIA Director John Brennan released a statement calling for Mr Trump’s impeachment and describing his comments as “treasonous”.

“Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes and misdemeanours,'” Mr Brennan wrote on Twitter. “It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???”

Elizabeth Warren also slammed the president for failing to hold Mr Putin accountable, writing on Twitter: “Russia interfered in our elections & attacked our democracy. Putin must be held accountable – not rewarded.”

“Disgraceful,” she concluded.

However, Mr Trump’s typical roster of critics weren’t the only legislators rebuking his bizarre denials of US intelligence. Lindsey Graham also criticised Mr Trump’s performance, adding that his denial of US intelligence will “be seen by Russia as a sign of weakness and create far more problems than it solves”.

“Missed opportunity by President Trump to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling and deliver a strong warning regarding future elections,” he said.

The Republican senator added a suggestion to Mr Trump: review the soccer ball Mr Putin gave to him as a gift for “listening devices” and “never allow it in the White House.”

Thomas Pickering, a regarded statesman and the former US ambassador to Russia, told MSNBC that he was in utter disbelief after the press conference was held on Monday.

“It’s a breathtaking denial of something that clearly is so obviously true,” he said. ”it represents the epitome of President Trump’s effort at self-promotion over the notion of defending the national interest of the United States.”

Mark Warner, a Virginia senator, also suggested Mr Trump committed a clear violation of his responsibilities as president.

Mr Trump committed “a breach of his duty to defend our country against its adversaries,” Mr Warner said. ”If the President cannot defend the United States and its interests in public, how can we trust him to stand up for our country in private?”

Meanwhile the latest Deep State leak, via the NYT, claims that US President Trump was told by Obama holdovers that Putin was involved in cyberattacks during the 2016 election. US intelligence told Trump this information days before the inauguration.

Via The Gateway Pundit

The same liberal hacks who illegally leaked this information want Americans to trust them as they continue to destroy this duly elected president.

President Trump on Wednesday told CBS anchor Jeff Glor that he has no confidence in the tainted intelligence by far left hacks Clapper, Brennan and Comey.

And, once again, the timing of this leak is not an accident.

Liberals are outraged that President Trump refused to chest bump Putin in Helsinki.

The deep state leaked this information to pile on the Republican president.

The New York Times reported…

Two weeks before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had personally ordered complex cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election.

The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the C.I.A. how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation.

Mr. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who attended the intelligence briefing. But ever since, Mr. Trump has tried to cloud the very clear findings that he received on Jan. 6, 2017, which his own intelligence leaders have unanimously endorsed.

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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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