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How ‘dangerous’ is Putin’s Russia?

Despite the xenophobic and bellicose malarkey that passes for analysis these days, the U.S. president is hardly alone in desiring to seek better relations with Russia in order to safeguard U.S. national interests and also global security more generally.

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Enough about Russia already. If one likes ballet or nineteenth century literature, one could understand having a Russia obsession. Maybe some people have an unusual affinity for snow and cold, having a particular passion for ice hockey or luge. Perhaps then, this could be comprehended. If one trades in commodities, such as gas or wheat or timber, for a living maybe one could be forgiven.

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For those of us working in the national-security field, it’s true that there are some new developments, such as another successful test of the “Kinzhal” hypersonic missile—that can strike NATO ships at ranges up to eight hundred kilometers. But the system is most likely defensive in nature and, after all, Russia’s defense spending is a paltry 11 percent (or maybe even less) of U.S. military outlays.

That figure, of course, does not include the aggregate sum of NATO allies’ arms expenditures alongside of the United States that makes the total NATO-Russia asymmetry of power even more stunningly lopsided .

READ MORE: Russia’s T-80 Tank is No Joke

Yet none of the above explanations offer a plausible explanation for how it is that almost all major U.S. newspapers have written profusely, breathlessly, and—let’s be honest—nauseatingly on this subject, for at least the last two years, without any end in sight. By now, most Americans are likely convinced that Russia is a country full of hackers, homophobes, hooligans, hookers, and, lest anyone forget, spies.

In three decades of traveling to Russia, that is not what I have seen [Я сам этого не видел]. Has all the newsprint in our American papers on Russia in these years made us any wiser?

What if all that journalistic energy had been devoted to the complex nuances of the ongoing U.S. national crises in education and health care and infrastructure, not to mention the ultra sensitive and yet somehow perennially neglected issue of racial injustice ?

Journalists can perhaps be forgiven for taking a surficial view of the bilateral U.S.-Russia relationship—crisply dividing the subject into “good guys versus bad guys,” rather than adopting the realist framework of parsing national interests that actually reveals a decent alignment.

For the most part, those writing about Russia in the American media have no special training in Russia (language, history, etc.), nor any advanced schooling in the complexities of diplomacy either.

They, therefore, consistently fail to understand that some stolen emails constitute a minute and even trivial issue when compared with a nuclear arms rivalry that will cost both countries trillions of dollars and could also pave the road to global apocalypse.

They cannot seem to grasp that a single troll factory is just the tip of the iceberg in a larger “information war” that has continued for more than half a century, but that the resulting mindless blather is of little consequence against the all too real nuclear proliferation crises that continue to roil Northeast Asia and the Persian Gulf.

These reporters and their editors somehow do not comprehend that a campaign advisors’ financial dealings from long ago or a Russian graduate student’s liaisons with conservative political groups, while perhaps titillating and reinforcing TV-constructed stereotypes, are actually several quantum leaps more insignificant than the fate of tens of millions of miserable citizens of Syria (not to mention all the refugees), awaiting a genuinely viable truce among the great and regional powers.

Let’s not even pause to review other similarly tragic situation, such as Afghanistan or Yemen, which could also benefit from U.S.-Russia strategic cooperation (or at least a cooling of hot rivalry).

Enough about Helsinki already. Well, maybe not quite. I will attempt to take this analysis on a (brief) path not yet taken. Trump made an interesting and possibly revealing remark when he stated prior to the meeting with Putin that he intended to discuss, among several other issues, China and “our mutual friend President Xi.” It remains unknown what exactly it is about China that Trump wished to discuss with Putin.

That did not come up in any of the subsequent press conferences. However, one may justifiably speculate, given the current and intense bout of Sinophobia now fashionable at the White House (on issues ranging from trade to Taiwan to North Korea) that Trump may have sought to gauge Putin’s willingness to talk about possibly shared concerns regarding China’s rise.

As it happens, such an idea would not be completely far-fetched since there are Russians that are extremely concerned about the ascent of the eastern colossus. After all, the Middle Kingdom is much more proximate to Russia than to America—to state the obvious.

Indeed, the Russian national-security commentator Alexander Chramshikin wrote a fascinating, high-profile article a few months back that starkly warned the Kremlin against its pro-China inclinations.

The piece asserted that “too actively cooperating with Peking would lead to long-term problems for Moscow [Слишком активное сотрудничество с Пекином создает Москве долгосрочные проблемы].”

In a promising and refreshingly candid discussion about European security, this Russian analyst appears to admit that Kremlin strategic actions against Europe have been quite over the top: “If the goal is to intimidate Europe, then that is senseless. Europe is so intimidated by us that it is on the verge of fainting . . . but it is not in any way threatening us.” [Если целью было запугать Запад, то это бессмысленно. Европа и так запугана нами почти до обморока . . . но она нам . . . ничем не угрожает].”

READ MORE: Calling out The Guardian’s false, anti-Russian propaganda

Yet, Chramshikin is not quite a “softy” either, as he says Russia’s intervention in Syria was absolutely necessary and he even goes so far as to say Moscow must put aside sentimental attachments and treat Kiev as a genuine enemy, such that the “farce” of the Minsk Agreement can now be finally dispensed with, once and for all.

Yet, his overall conception (that is decidedly not politically correct in Moscow) may nevertheless have appeal for American conservatives since he maintains that “For us, China constitutes the most serious threat [Китай для нас—главная внешняя угроза].”

Chramshikin contends that China covets Russia’s resources and also territory. He claims that the supposed partnership between Moscow and Beijing has resulted in no benefit and only “troubles that are worse and worse because of the starkly unequal (in Beijing’s favor) bilateral relationship [вреда все больше и больше. Во-первых, из-за крайне неравноправного (в пользу Пекина, разумеется) характера двусторонних отношений].”

He views the pro-China tilt in Kremlin policy as a straight-jacket that inhibits better relations with other Asian powers, including both Japan and India, as well as the ASEAN countries. In working closely with China, he asserts that Russia is “digging its own grave [роем себе могилу].”

Above all, he is against the Kremlin having to make a dichotomous choice between the West and China, fearing that the choice may involve a dreaded capitulation to one or the other.

In the end, he seems to believe that Russia must resign itself to defense “in all directions [по всем азимутам],” noting that the newKinzhal and Sarmat missile programs are a good start on that ominous and obviously expensive project.

Again, many American strategists could be pleased to see Russian analysts opining about the “China threat” and hinting that the West is a logical partner within some kind of larger anti-China framework.

For my part, I would strongly caution against the seductions of the “Kissinger move in reverse”—if one harkens back to U.S. policy from the 1970s. First, Chramshikin may lack for an objective perspective. It is noteworthy that he presents no actual evidence regarding his assertions on Chinese revisionism with respect to Russian territory, nor Chinese foul play in commercial practices related to Russian resources.

To the contrary, it is worth asking what the Russian economy would look like today without trade and investment from China. I am told by various sources, for example, that Chinese investment in Russia is substantially underreported.

Indeed, there are signs of major new strategic synergies between Moscow and Beijing at present. Second, a related point is that Chramshikin’s perspective seems to be in the minority as most of the Russian foreign-policy elite accept the imperative for close ties with Beijing.

A rather more enlightened U.S. perspective will be one that recognizes that U.S. interests are not injured by close and continuing China-Russia cooperation, and the United States is actually more likely to be taken seriously as a partner if it ceases trying to play one Asian giant off the other—a variation of the old British colonial tactic of “ divide and rule .”

Returning to the subject of the crisis in U.S.-Russian relations, most everyone somehow considers the Helsinki summit a travesty or worse, but they are wrong.

To the contrary, the president’s decision to go ahead with the summit was actually brave and obviously supports the broader goal of world peace—not exactly a minor issue. If there was a major problem with the Summit, it was way too short.

Could the presidents be expected to make progress on nuclear arms control, nuclear proliferation, regional crises, counterterrorism, and commercial ties in the space of a few hours? Such important summits should take place over a few days not hours (and the same goes for U.S.-China summits, of course), spending more time on substantive talks and less distracted by the media circus.

American journalists, along with the “Blob” seem to want badly that American presidents spend more time with “friends” and less time with competitors.

Yet, that approach belies the obvious point that there is less to discuss among countries that are generally agreed on issues, world views, etc. In other words, U.S. presidents need to spend more time with competitors (or adversarial) regimes in order to bring about change on key issues of importance.

That would indeed constitute the “Art of the Deal” and yet the jury is still certainly out on whether this administration can “walk the walk” on that score—with doubts mounting that they have the requisite attention for detail and institutional competence.

For his part, President Trump may wish for advisors less interested in contradicting his agenda and more focused on delivering actual policy results for the American people, whether arms control agreements or creative and realistic peace proposals to mitigate regional crises.

Trump has been excoriated for daring to articulate that some U.S. policies with respect to Russia have been misguided and also for publicly laying bare his doubts about assessments by the various U.S. intelligence agencies. Yet, it has been quite common among U.S. national-security specialists to suggest that NATO expansion was a major mistake .

Was George Kennan, one of America’s greatest ever diplomats and geopolitical thinkers, a “traitor” for suggesting that such a move would engender a Russian nationalist backlash? Obvious not. Kennan’s perspective has proven prophetic and so Trump’s rendering was simply correct.

As for the intelligence agencies, an observer with vast experience (from inside the U.S. government) of U.S. intelligence practices, Russia and U.S. diplomacy generally cast serious doubt on that the intelligence community’s conclusions regarding alleged meddling in the 2016 election.

If former Ambassador James Matlock has grave doubts, then so can the American president. Indeed, anyone remotely familiar with the rather mixed record of the U.S. intelligence agencies over the last several decades should actually hope that the president would meet their conclusions with pronounced skepticism.

From a legal perspective, moreover, Daniel McCarthy rightly notes : “If Trump decides that Russia will not be our enemy, the intelligence community has no standing to challenge him. To do so, would be a coup d’état.”

Despite the xenophobic and bellicose malarkey that passes for analysis these days, the U.S. president is hardly alone in desiring to seek better relations with Moscow in order to safeguard U.S. national interests and also global security more generally.

Via National Interest

Lyle J. Goldstein is a research professor in the China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) at the United States Naval War College in Newport, RI. In addition to Chinese, he also speaks Russian and he is also an affiliate of the new Russia Maritime Studies Institute (RMSI) at Naval War College. You can reach him at [email protected].

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AM HantsJNDillardWillDippelVeeNarian (Yerevan)uncle tungsten Recent comment authors
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JNDillard
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JNDillard

I am leery about giving a minority anti-Chinese Russian voice (Chramshikin) the prominence this article and author are giving it. While interesting and serving the purpose of reminding us that an Atlanticist contingent still is fighting Putin, on the whole it is not responsible to highlight Chramshikin’s viewpoint, due to a number of obvious untruths and exaggerations in it, prominently that the EU has not made any threatening moves toward Russia (Sanctions and Supporting neo-nazis in Kiev anyone?) and that China has designs on Russian territory. This type of article feeds those voices like The Saker and Roberts, not to… Read more »

WillDippel
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WillDippel

As shown in this article, members of the United States Congress have additional plans in place to further sanction Russia through the establishment of a new anti-propaganda center:

http://viableopposition.blogspot.com/2018/07/poking-russian-bear-proposed-national.html

The saddest thing about Washington’s whole anti-Russia narrative is that these legislative desk-jockey warriors won’t be anywhere near the front lines should hostilities break out between the United States and Russia.

AM Hants
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AM Hants

Too much waffle, that said nought, which switched me off from reading the rest of the article. China and Russia are working well together, both, needing what the other has. When did either nation last invade anybody, that was not related to defending their territory/dependent territories? How old are both Empires, compared with the ‘new kid on the block’ US? With regards the hysteria in the US, where does it all come from? Why has the US privatised her intelligence services, with those, with minimal intelligence knowledge? Ukrainian Intel Tall Tales- When Bellingcat Lied… https://www.opednews.com/articles/Ukrainian-Intel-Tall-Tales-by-George-Eliason-Counterintelligence_Hacktivism_Intelligence-Agencies_Propaganda-180626-646.html Fancy Bear Exposed Showing the… Read more »

VeeNarian (Yerevan)
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VeeNarian (Yerevan)

Goldstein is peeing in the wind, hoping for a US induced Russia-China fracture.
The US/EU/NATO Borg Collective assimilation games are up. There is NOTHING positive this dying empire can offer Russia. The only thing to work out is how to avoid nuclear war. That would be enough for the world.
This is the world that will develop on a new axis:
Russia>China>India>Pakistan>Iran>Iraq>Syria>Turkey, with the BRICS linking with the rest of the free world.

uncle tungsten
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uncle tungsten

There is simply no way that the russia/china alliance will be weakened or fractured by the dribble coming from the USA mouthpieces. The alliance building across the entire asian landmass is really unstoppable no matter how hard the zionazis and their puppets sqeal. It is end times for the USA hegemony and its people are mighty restless and feeling badly used. Thankfully there are still sane voices to be heard in the USA not so much in its subservient client states.

Guy
Guest
Guy

Good article ,just a nit pick on the term “walk the walk” .I have heard this many times but the correct term should be “walk the talk” , as in do what you say .
Cheers.

Wayne Blow
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Wayne Blow

Goldstein, give it a rest, you lieing asshole, US and EU have driven Russia to partner up with those who can be relied upon and trusted to work together to make a better world for all, Asian interests ,EFFING-JOO !!!!!

Spike Munch
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Spike Munch

russia is only dangerous to countries which are smaller militarily that it. hence the repeated “NATO are encircling us. what can we do” cries from the tambov mafia and the crooks & thieves who rule the country

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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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BBC producer admits Douma attack was false flag that nearly sparked Russia – U.S. hot war (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 176.

Alex Christoforou

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BBC producer Riam Dalati believes that the scenes caught on video from a hospital in Douma, Syria were staged, all in an effort driven by jihadist terrorists and White Helmet “activists” to draw the U.S. and its allies into full on confrontation with Syria, and by extension Russia.

The viral images caused a media firestorm in 2018, showing children allegedly suffering from chemicals, as main stream media channels, like the BBC itself, called for war with Assad.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the BBC producer’s stunning admission, after a 6 month investigation, that reveals the “‘chemical attack” hospital scenes in Douma were completely staged.

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Via RT


Emotive scenes of Syrian civilians, among them crying, choking, half-naked children, dominated the airwaves in April last year after rebel-affiliated mouthpieces reported yet another “chemical attack by the Assad regime” in the town of Douma. Disturbing reports, including some from the controversial White Helmets, claimed scores of people had been killed and injured.

Mainstream media quickly picked up the horrific (but unverified) videos from a Douma hospital, where victims were treated after this “poison attack.” That hospital scene was enough to assemble a UN emergency session and prompt the US-led ‘coalition of the willing’ to rain down dozens of missiles on Damascus and other locations.

But Riam Dalati, a reputable BBC producer who has long reported from the Middle East, took the liberty of trying to sift through the fog of the Syrian war.

He believes Assad forces did attack the town, but that the much-publicized hospital scenes were staged.

After almost 6 months of investigations, I can prove without a doubt that the Douma Hospital scene was staged. No fatalities occurred in the hospital.

Anticipating further queries, he said no one from the White Helmets or opposition sources were present in Douma by the time the alleged attack had happened except for one person who was in Damascus.

Dalati also says that an attack “did happen” but that sarin, a weapons-grade nerve agent, was not used. He said, “we’ll have to wait for OPCW [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] to prove chlorine or otherwise.”

However, everything else around the attack was manufactured for maximum effect.

The journalist said Jaysh al-Islam, an Islamist faction that fought the Syrian army there, “ruled Douma with an iron fist. They co-opted activists, doctors and humanitarians with fear and intimidation.”

Dalati’s revelations could have become a bombshell news report, but instead it was met with a deafening media silence. His employer preferred to distance itself from his findings. The BBC told Sputnik in a statement that Dalati was expressing “his personal opinions about some of the video footage that emerged after the attack but has not claimed that the attack did not happen.” 

After a while, Dalati restricted access to his Twitter account which is now open only to confirmed followers.

Interestingly, his previous inputs did not sit well with the official narrative either. “Sick and tired of activists and rebels using corpses of dead children to stage emotive scenes for Western consumption. Then they wonder why some serious journos are questioning part of the narrative,” he said in a tweet which he later deleted over “the breach of editorial policy.”

In all, Dalati is not a lone voice in the wilderness. The Intercept has recently run a story that also cast doubt on the mainstream coverage of Douma, although it doesn’t doubt that the attack itself happened. While a veteran British reporter Robert Fisk suggested there was no gas attack at all, saying people there were suffering from oxygen starvation. Witnesses of the “chemical attack,” for their part, told international investigators the story was a set-up.

Moscow, which supports Damascus in its fight against terrorists, has long stated the Douma incident was staged, calling for an international OPCW inquiry. Last year, the Defense Ministry presented what it said was proof the “provocation” was to trigger Western airstrikes against Syrian government forces.

This time, the military recalled a similar 2017 incident in Khan Sheikhoun, where an alleged chemical attack took place. The ministry’s spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Friday that a closer inspection of footage from that location clearly shows this was a set-up as well.

Now the Foreign Ministry has suggested Dalati is being silenced for voicing inconvenient views, with spokeswoman Maria Zakharova asking on Facebook: “A telling story. How about Western advocates of rights and freedoms? Had they accused BBC of censorship and pressuring the journalist?”

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