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India and Russia: a friendship enduring and passionate

Russian President Putin and Indian Prime Minister Modi showed at SPIEF in St. Petersburg a continued determination to preserve a strong mutual relationship between India and Russia which for all the continued tensions also ties India and China together.

Alexander Mercouris

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The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (“SPIEF”) which Russia holds every year in early summer in St.Petersburg invariably highlights Russia’s relations with one particular country.  This year that country was India.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended SPIEF at the head of a strong Indian delegation.  He had a bilateral meeting with Russian President Putin, and together with Putin attended SPIEF’s plenary session.

Putin and Modi then attended together a meeting with Indian business people who had come with Modi to SPIEF, a package of economic and other agreements focused mainly on upgrades to India’s infrastructure followed, and Putin and Modi rounded up their series of meetings with public statements reaffirming in fulsome terms the close friendship between the two countries.

This very friendly relationship between India and Russia is in many ways surprising.

The two countries do not have a close economic relationship, though part of the purpose of the meetings between Putin and Modi was to try to make it closer.

The two countries do cooperate in defence related matters, with Russia apparently in advanced talks to supply India with S-400 surface to air missiles to India.  However defence cooperation between the two countries is no longer as close as it once was.  India has pulled out of the joint IL-214 medium transport aircraft programme, has chosen to buy Rafale fighter jets from France in preference to MiG-35 fighters from Russia, and is reported to be having doubts about its joint development of a two seat fifth generation fighter based on Russia’s SU-T50, which is currently on flight test.

On international questions India has a fractious relationship with Russia’s great ally China, regards China’s ally Pakistan – with which Russia is improving relations – as its primary enemy, and has been improving its relations with the US, with which Russia’s relationship is extremely difficult.

Nonetheless political relations between India and Russia remain close, and the personal relationship between Putin and Modi appears to be extremely warm.

What explains this in some ways surprisingly strong relationship?

A major factor is sentiment.

The Russians have an enduring fascination with India extending far back into the nineteenth century, as reflected for example in Rimsky Korsakov’s Song of the Indian Guest, the Russian ballet La Bayadère (“the Indian Temple dancer”), and the curious Indian influenced Theosophical ideas of Madame Blavatsky.

These expressions of nineteenth century Orientalism took place in Russia alongside rigorous academic study of Indian culture and philosophy, in which Russia continues to excel to this day.  One of the best and most complete translations in any European language of the great Indian liturgical poem the Rigveda is in Russian, made in Russia by the great Russian scholar Tatyana Elizarenkova as part of a huge translation project starting in the 1970s.

Tsarist Russia however had no political relationship with India, which would in fact have been impossible during this period when India was part of the British empire.  Subsequently, after the 1917 Revolution, the Soviets took a strong interest in the Indian independence movement but disapproved of the pacifist and religiously oriented line followed by India’s two independence leaders, Gandhi and Nehru.

However following Indian independence relations between the USSR and India became extremely close.

The USSR lost no time establishing diplomatic relations with India after India gained independence in 1948, and Krishna Menon, India’s ambassador at large, was the last foreign guest to be received by Stalin on 17th February 1953, two weeks before his death (Krishna Menon has left a vivid and insightful account of the meeting).

Krishna Menon’s meeting with Stalin was followed two years later by Indian Prime Minister Nehru’s first visit to the USSR in June 1955, and – a few months later, in November 1955 – by the reciprocal visit of Khrushchev and Bulganin to India.

Very friendly ties were established as a result of these visits.  Following his trip to the USSR Nehru supposedly spoke of having left ‘part of his heart’ there, whilst Khrushchev during his visit is reported to have said that if India ever got into trouble all it needed to do was “shout across the Himalayas”.

Unquestionably the Indians were influenced by the Russians’ enthusiasm for India, but there is no doubt that Prime Minister Nehru, a socialist, also felt a strong ideological affinity for the USSR, as shown for example in these passages in his book Discovery of India

The Soviet revolution has moved human society forward by a great leap and sparked a fire that can never be extinguished. It laid the foundation of that new civilisation, towards which the world would move…..The October revolution was  undoubtedly  one of the great events of world history, the greatest since the first French revolution, and its story is more  absorbing from a human and dramatic  point of view, than any tale or phantasy….It is difficult to feel indifferent towards Russia, and it is more difficult to judge her achievements and her failures impartially….

Unsurprisingly Nehru the socialist also tended to look to the USSR for economic development models for India, as shown for example by this comment

Russia thus interests us, because it may help  us to find some solution  for the serious problems which the world faces today.. It interests us especially because conditions there have not  been, and are not even now, very dissimilar to conditions in India.  Both are vast agricultural countries with only the  beginning of industrialisation, and both have to face poverty and illiteracy.  If Russia finds a satisfactory solution for these, our work in India would be made easier.

It should be said however that despite expressing these sentiments Nehru never attempted to reproduce in India anything that remotely resembled the Soviet economic model.

Beyond these sentiments, Soviet-Indian friendship from the 1950s was consolidated by certain very clear shared geostrategic interests.

For the USSR India was a key friend during the Cold War.  Though never exactly an ally, during difficult periods in the Cold War when the USSR appeared to be threatened with international isolation the fact that the USSR had a close friend in India – by population the world’s second largest country, and a major power – was for the Soviets always psychologically reassuring.

For the Indians friendship with the USSR gave India important leverage in its relations with the US, and protection from the two countries which from the 1960s India came to see as increasingly hostile: Pakistan and China.

Indeed the simultaneous collapse of India’s and the USSR’s once close relationships with China after 1960 became a key factor in consolidating their friendship, with the pivotal event being the USSR’s decision to side with India against China in the Indo-Chinese border war of 1962.

The decade after 1962 was the heyday of Indian-Soviet friendship, with the USSR re-equipping the Indian armed forces, building after 1964 a huge complex in India to build MiG-21 fighters, and making major investments in India’s heavy industry and technology base.

Soviet political, diplomatic and military assistance was also crucial in enabling India to win the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971, which conclusively established India as the dominant power on the Indian subcontinent.

Inevitably such an intense relationship between India and the USSR created conditions for a strong friendship, which has never ceased.

The Russians during this period became accustomed to thinking of India as a friend, whilst the Indians for their part could not ignore or overlook the fact that in every major crisis India faced after independence it could always rely on support from the USSR.

This close relationship between the USSR and India however always had a somewhat artificial character.

Though the USSR played a major role in the 1960s in upgrading India’s industrial and technological base, the economic relationship was never reciprocal since the centrally planned Soviet economy was ill adapted to trade relationships with third countries outside the Soviet sphere, and India anyway at this time had little to offer which was of interest to the USSR’s planners.

The result was that when the USSR disintegrated in 1991 there was no firm basis for the economic links which had been forged in the 1960s to continue.  Economic contacts between the two countries dwindled and have never since then been strong.  Today the trade relationship between Russia and India is barely significant, with neither country featuring amongst the significant trading partners of the other.

It has also been the case that since 1991 the two countries have become significantly less important to each other politically.

The disintegration of the USSR in 1991 led to a steep decline in Russian power at precisely the time when the Indian economy began to put on speed and when India began to forge strong diplomatic ties with other states, notably since 2000 with the US.

Moreover whereas in the 1960s the USSR’s economy dwarfed India’s, today India’s economy is larger than Russia’s, though the standard of living in India continues to be lower than in Russia.  Inevitably that reduces the attraction for India of economic ties with Russia.

Overshadowing everything is the rise of China and the change in attitude of the two countries towards China.

Whereas India continues to have a prickly and often rivalrous relationship with China, Russia has become China’s ally.

The paradox in this is that whilst India’s economic relationship with Russia is extremely limited, its political relations with Russia remain friendly, whereas India’s economic relationship with China – its biggest trade partner – is very strong, but its political relations are very uneasy.

The talks between Putin and Modi at SPIEF were mainly intended to find some way to renew the economic relationship between the two countries and to bring it back to something approaching its earlier level.  Given that the two countries are not however obvious trade partners it is uncertain whether this can succeed.

The political relationship between the two countries however remains important.  The history of friendly ties forged during the heyday of Soviet-Indian friendship in the 1960s, and the fact that the two countries have never had serious conflicts with each other, means that at a political level they continue to get on well with each other.  Moreover though their friendship has less value to each country than it did in the 1960s, the fact that they are still friends continues to give them diplomatic leverage in their respective relations with the US and China whilst acting as a generally stabilising factor in international affairs.

The friendship between Russia and China also has one other potentially important advantage for India especially.  It provides a bridge between India and China, enabling India and China to use their good relations with Russia to manage their sometimes difficult relationship with each other.

Putin – with Modi sitting right beside him – discussed this at length during during the plenary session at SPIEF

You know, disagreements always have been and still are part of the fabric of our world. Our task – mine, and President Xí Jinping’s and Prime Minister Modi’s – is to find streets, two-way streets, despite all these disagreements, rather than get stuck in dead ends.

Once the three of us – the President of Russia, and the leaders of China and India – got together here some time in 2005 despite all the difficulties, including regional disagreements. We agreed to get together and resolve common problems. This work was launched despite all the difficulties and disagreements.

It was launched and went so well that Brazil and the South African Republic wanted to join us. This led to the emergence of BRICS, which is a major factor in international affairs today. I believe this is a very positive process, and that is how it is viewed by the People’s Republic of China, by the Chinese leaders.

I spoke about this fairly recently, maybe at yesterday’s meeting with the heads of news agencies – we conducted border talks with China for forty years but owing to the atmosphere that was created in our bilateral relations we managed to find a compromise. Of course, one could say that we gave in on something or China gave in on something, but we got it done and it created more opportunities for advancing relations.

We have never had any problems with India. I hope we never will have any. On the contrary, we have only positives, and there are a great many. I am referring to our historical cooperation. Yesterday we signed a number of agreements that are aimed at developing the already traditional areas of cooperation as well as new ones.

We are trying to find new forms of interaction and, naturally, we want to focus on innovative sectors of the modern economy first and foremost. This certainly applies to the nuclear industry, as you mentioned. A number of units are already operating in India and we have ambitious plans for future cooperation. There are very interesting and promising areas for us to work in.

We will provide comprehensive support to those who are involved in this because such cooperation will benefit the people of both India and Russia and, actually, the entire region. This will also facilitate the implementation of the Chinese leadership’s projects related to the Silk Road. We spoke about coordinating efforts of the Eurasian Economic Union and China’s Silk Road plans. There are always issues that require additional study. But we want to follow this path and we will follow it, and provided there is goodwill, we most certainly will achieve success.

(bold italics added)

Though India and China have a prickly relationship, it is in neither of their interests to become outright enemies, a fact fully understood by both.  It therefore suits each of them to have in Russia a powerful country which is friendly to both of them, providing a link between them.

This is the reverse of the situation in the 1960s when what brought the USSR and India together was their shared enmity with China.  Today on the contrary it is the fact that Russia is an ally of China’s that makes its friendship valuable to India.

Whether the Russians can continue to act successfully as a link between the Chinese and the Indians will depend on how successfully these three Great Powers manage their relations with each other.

The interactions between the Russians and the Indians at SPIEF show that they both understand the nature of this relationship and that they both seem determined to maintain it on a strong level with each other.

That in turn promises well for future relations between India and China for all the continuing difficulties which exist between the two of them.

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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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