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Italy challenges the Western order

The EU is under a lot of strain

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With a massive influx of immigrants from across Africa and the Middle East, and growing poverty, Italy voted in a populist government representing policies which would seem to virtually overturn the postwar European order.

The austerity measures which have been imposed upon the Italian people have pushed more and more of them down into poverty, with the poverty rate doubling over the course of the past decade.

Relative to migration, Italy is one of the Southern European countries taking the brunt of the migrants who are flooding into Europe by the thousands, helped along by various NGOs which seek to alter the demographic makeup and economic and political order of Europe under the guise of humanitarianism.

The present economic metrics tend to perceive the profits of multinational corporations as a gauge of the health of the economy, rather than the economic situation on the ground level, faced by the Italian citizen. All of these and more are things which this new government has a view towards radically changing.

To combat Austerity, which may be tossed out the window, the option on the table is to review treaties to which Italy is partied which impose or advise them. Rather than gutting the population for the money which the government needs in order to cover obligations to multinational financial interests, a proposal was broached of launching a universal basic income, reduction in the pension age, as well as a flat tax system.

And while the migrant policy is still evolving, it has had a view towards repatriating the migrants which are already within Italy’s borders. Italy has already flexed its will on the migrants issue over refusing a ship full of migrants port in Italy, forcing it to set sail for Spain.

Foreign policy aims at softening the approach towards Russia by eliminating sanctions and by putting the focus on improving relations, benefitting Italy both by allowing a resumption of trade, and the perspective of Russia’s will and capacity to help get a handle on the situation in the Middle East, which is part of what prompts the migration issue, due to the region’s instability.

What this could mean is that an already strained relationship between Italy and the EU could be put to the test, or altered in a significant manner if these proposals are put into play after the fashion in which they were introduced during the elections cycle.

Alessandra Bocchi over at First Things observes:

Italy’s new government represents the most radical challenge yet to the order that has dominated Europe since World War II. Comprising the populist-left Five Star Movement and the populist-right League, the coalition is often described as a combination of alt-left and hard-right, but in fact it moves beyond conventional ideological categories. No wonder its members have been darkly described as “barbarians” by the Financial Times and “insurgents” by the Telegraph.

Something in the project of European integration is not working, and the elites who lead it have refused to adjust. The euro is failing miserably in southern Europe, yet the European commission wants to deepen economic and monetary union. The euro has powered German economic growth while saddling countries like Italy and Greece with austerity and debt. According to official government statistics by Istat, absolute poverty in Italy has doubled in the past decade, a few years after the euro was introduced as the country’s currency.

The new government’s eclectic program emphasizes environmentalism, claiming that “man and the environment are two sides of the same coin,” and calls for a reduction of carbon emissions and an end to fossil fuels. The mixed ideological character of the new coalition is illustrated by Alberto Bagnai, a left-wing euroskeptic economist who represents the League in the Italian Senate. His book, The Sunset of the Euro, decries the single currency as a means for Germany to exert its dominance in the Eurozone. Bagnai also strongly opposes mass immigration, calling it a tool to drive down wages and increase exploitation of workers: “It’s no surprise that ‘left-wing’ ‘intellectuals’ don’t care about immigrants’ impact on wages—it’s because they’re not low skilled workers.”

Even more radically, the 31-year-old leader of the Five Star Movement, Luigi Di Maio, has challenged the tyranny of economic metrics. In a speech prior to the election, he said: “The economic indicator for growth will no longer be GDP.” This represents a fundamental challenge to the free-trade post-war order, which has culminated in the rule of multi-national corporations over small businesses and enterprises.

To address Italy’s public debt crisis, the program rejects austerity measures and seeks to revisit EU treaties that recommend them. In place of austerity, the coalition has proposed a minimum salary, a universal basic income, and a lowering of the pension age. What has raised some eyebrows is the League’s proposal for a more libertarian flat-tax system. How can the government increase spending while also decreasing its revenue? The coalition claims that the program will be paid for by eliminating bureaucratic inefficiencies and by subsidies from the EU. And Italy does indeed have a problem with corruption—Five Star built its popularity by campaigning against it.

The new government also has a traditionalist family minister, the League’s Lorenzo Fontana, who opposes abortion and same-sex civil unions. Italy passed a law for same-sex civil unions only last year and is one of the few countries that has not legalized gay marriage. Fontana strongly opposes the civil-unions law, claiming: “They want to dominate us and erase our people.”

In another traditionalist initiative, the Five Star–League program seeks to reverse Italy’s plummeting birth rates. “It’s necessary to provide family welfare,” the program says. The program proposes measures to help women manage their motherly and professional roles by providing free child-care facilities, thus addressing one of the main reasons for the declining birthrate: the financial penalty imposed by childbirth. The case of Valeria Ferrara, a mother who was denied a Sunday per month to spend with her family by the multi-national Calvin Klein, Inc., is exemplary of this crisis. Both Five Star and the League have, in the past few years, proposed to end Sunday labor. Luigi Di Maio, the leader of Five Star, said, “unrestrained liberalization is making us poorer.”

The Five Star–League program also states that it will oversee the deportation of 500,000 illegal migrants currently living in Italy. Matteo Salvini, the head of the League, who holds the strongest position on immigration, will become minister of the interior under the new government. But even Di Maio, the head of Five Star, has indicated his opposition to mass migration. Last summer he said that the center-left government that has ruled Italy for the past five years had transformed the country into “Europe’s biggest port” for migrants. Di Maio also criticized the activities of NGOs operating in the Mediterranean and transporting migrants to Italian shores: “The EU doesn’t care about saving migrant lives, they just want the money.” The Five Star–League program has accordingly promised to “stop the business of smuggling” and take down “criminal organizations responsible for human trafficking,” which have caused “countless deaths in the Mediterranean.” As for financing the deportation of illegal migrants, the government would accomplish this by “directing funds used for hospitality towards repatriations.”

This would be the toughest stance yet taken by an EU member in Western Europe. (It is interesting to note that Switzerland, which is not part of the EU, has maintained very strict immigration controls and received very little criticism for it.) The measures proposed by the coalition prompted the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, to say that the European Commission will now “monitor the rights of African migrants in Italy.” This comment suggests that a collision over migration is imminent, particularly given the EU’s stance toward countries that have taken a tough stance on migration, such as Poland and Hungary.

On foreign policy, the Five Star–League program says it wants to “end sanctions on Russia.” Indeed, the coalition sees Russia as a strategic partner in combating “Islamic terrorism” in the region and in ending the conflicts in Syria, Libya, and Yemen. Despite the great displays of alarm over this fact, it merely reflects a growing consensus in Europe that relationships with Russia must change. “I do think we have to reconnect with Russia,” Juncker said at a conference in Brussels this week. “This Russia-bashing has to be brought to an end.”

Religion also plays a strong role in the program, a role often overlooked by the media. The League has pushed for the registering and monitoring of mosques in Italy. There have also been increasing appeals to a Catholic identity. Di Maio and Salvini have both shown uncommon reverence toward the Catholic Church. In September, Di Maio launched his campaign by observing the old Catholic custom of kissing the vial containing the blood of St. Januarius and bowing before the cardinal of Naples. In 2016, in front of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, Di Maio said: “The Church is my home. I am a Catholic.” Leftwing papers have responded by calling him “retrograde.”

Salvini may be even more outspoken about his faith. In March, just before the election, he held up a rosary at one of his rallies, “swearing allegiance to the Gospel and my people.” The chosen prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, a previously unknown figure, is a former leftist who turned to the Five Star Movement. Conte is devoted to Padre Pio, a Catholic saint famous for his stigmata and bilocation.

The Five Star–League program combines euroskepticism, environmentalism, strong borders, protection of families and small businesses against globalization, and respect for religion. It combines elements of left and right in a way that scandalizes well catechized political elites. If it succeeds, it will be the first real sign that we are moving beyond the postwar order.

The EU is under a lot of strain. German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, might be looking at a weaker governing coalition if she isn’t able to get a solid grip on the migration problem in Germany. Britain’s Brexit continues to trek along, albeit at a sluggish pace, without much of a road map as to how it is going to be accomplished, and how the UK’s relationship with the EU will be positioned once the deadline finally comes. Italy here is considering renegotiating its relationship with the EU after a fashion, France is facing internal conflicts over migrants and the economic situation of average citizens, while Poland and Hungary are both defying the Union’s will on the migration matter. And last, but not least, the populace of Greece still isn’t too happy about the austerity measures it is undergoing, while international investors gobble up the nation’s infrastructure at an alarming rate, with a government that is just barely hanging onto power.

Then there are the security and energy issues to be solved. Germany, and some others, are moving forward with a pipeline to import Russian gas, which some Eastern European nations are apathetic about, leading to some disagreement about where Europe’s energy security looks to. To top it all off, there are Trump’s tariffs and secondary sanctions threats relative to commerce conducted with Iran, a necessary component of the JCPOA’s survival, and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which puts Germany between the US and its Eastern neighbors over its energy policy.

But Trump, not merely a wild card in the deck, could pose as Europe’s saving grace, serving as a unifying factor for the bloc. While Europeans are facing lots of centrifugal issues which threaten to break it apart, Trump is the one problem which they all have in common, and is one which would offer a rallying point around which the Europeans can gather together to combat, after a fashion. The situation in Europe, therefore, is one which necessitates a revision of its constituent relationships, a common plan to deal with migrants, both those already in Europe and with those yet to arrive, look out for the interests of the common person, a common policy towards the East, and a common political will to oppose unilateralism and extreme nationalism.

 

 

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Maria Butina, her crime: A love of the NRA and being Russian (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 61.

Alex Christoforou

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has communicated to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Russian national Maria Butina must be set free and allowed to return to Russia, after she was arrested by US officials on dubious spy charges.

Lavrov said that the US should immediately release the Russian gun activist, who is being held in the US on espionage charges, after a phone conversation with his US counterpart.

Lavrov called the charges levied against Butina “fabricated.”

In his conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday, “Lavrov stressed that the actions of the US authorities that arrested Russian citizen Butina on fabricated charges are unacceptable.”

In an official statement the Russian Foreign Ministry called for her “immediate release.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the oddly timed, out of the blue arrest of Maria Butina, who is being held by US authorities for what they claim to be a violation of the FARA act.

In reality Maria Butina’s crime is much more troubling than simply failing to register as a foreign agent.

Maria made the double mistake of being in the United States of America as a Russian citizens who loves guns, at a time when racism and bigotry against Russians and NRA supporters is surpassing McCarthyite levels.

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Via RT

The Foreign minister raised the issue during phone conversations that were made at the request of the US and aimed at “further normalization of the US-Russian relations” following the summit between the US President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. Lavrov and Pompeo also discussed the process of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, as well as the situation in Syria.

The 29-year-old Russian student and a gun activist was arrested in the US about a week ago and charged with acting as a foreign agent without registering her activities with the authorities. Butina has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

On July 16, a DC Federal Court rejected Butina’s bail plea and ordered her to be placed in custody pending trial over fears that she could flee or contact Russian intelligence officials. Her lawyer says the trial is being politicized and Russian embassy staff were only allowed to visit her in jail on Thursday.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has called Butina’s arrest politically motivated, adding that it could have been aimed at disrupting the Helsinki summit between Putin and Trump. On Thursday, the ministry also launched a campaign hashtagged #FreeMariaButina on Twitter to raise awareness of her case.

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Ugly breakup at FBI: Lisa Page throws ex-lover, Peter Strzok, under the bus (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 60.

Alex Christoforou

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While Peter Strzok’s testimony put a face on the deceptive and secretive Deep State, GOP lawmakers who were present at Lisa Page’s closed-door deposition said they learned a lot of new information from the ex-FBI lawyer, and ex-lover of Peter Strzok.

Lisa Page confirmed to GOP lawmakers that the text messages sent between her and her lover Strzok “meant exactly what they said,” contrary to Strzok’s testimony.

According to The Gateway Pundit, one damning text message in particular sent from Strzok on May 19th, 2017, just two days after Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel, intrigued investigators and the public alike.

“There’s no big there there,” Strzok texted.

According to investigative reporter, John Solomon, Lisa Page confirmed that text from Peter Strzok did indeed refer to the Trump-Russia case.

Strzok knew it was a nothing-burger yet he forged ahead.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou, RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle, and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss how Peter Strzok’s testimony has undoubtedly contradicted Lisa Page’s cooperative deposition, as the ex-FBI lawyer is preparing to save herself, while throwing her ex-lover under the bus.

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Via The Epoch Times

Representatives John Ratcliffe and Louie Gohmert of Texas recently shared their observations of the closed-door testimony of former high-ranking FBI lawyer Lisa Page, which concluded on July 16.

One of the major questions regarding the testimony was whether it would match the one given by FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok.

But while Ratcliffe said he found a mismatch, Gohmert wouldn’t go so far.

Page and Strzok played major roles in the investigations on both 2016 presidential candidates: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia. During the same period, Page and Strzok had an affair and exchanged thousands of text messages expressing a strong bias against Trump and in favor of Clinton.

“When I questioned Lisa Page on Friday about the anti-Trump text messages that were sent between herself and Peter Strzok, there were significant differences in her testimony and Strzok’s as it relates to what she thought some of these text messages meant,” Ratcliffe said in a July 16 tweet, shortly before the second round of questioning.

“Page gave us new information that Strzok either wouldn’t or couldn’t, confirming some of the concerns we had about these investigations and the people involved in running them,” he wrote.

On July 17, Ratcliffe expanded on his further statements about Page’s testimony. Radcliffe told Fox News…

“There are differences in their testimony.”

“In many cases, she admits that the text messages mean exactly what they say, as opposed to agent Strzok, who thinks that we’ve all misinterpreted his own words on any text message that might be negative.”

Via The Epoch Times

In one of the texts, Strzok vowed to “stop” Trump from becoming president. In another, the two discussed having an “insurance policy” in the “unlikely” event that Trump would win the election.

Strzok, who gave a closed-door testimony on June 27 and a public one on July 12, said the first message meant he and the American people would stop Trump. The second, he said previously, meant he wanted to pursue the Russia investigation aggressively, in case Trump won.

GOP lawmakers were furious with Strzok’s attitude and unwillingness to answer questions. In a scathing monologue, Gohmert even linked Strzok’s credibility to the fact that he was unfaithful to his wife.

President Donald Trump repeatedly called Strzok’s testimony a “disgrace.”

The lawmakers said Page was comparatively more cooperative.

“There were times the FBI lawyers would be reaching to the button to mute her comment, and she would answer before they could mute her comment,” Gohmert told Fox News.

He said Page didn’t contradict Strzok “so much,” but “has given us insights into who was involved in what.”

“I think she’ll be a good witness,” he said.

Page ditched her first testimony appointment on July 11, prompting GOP lawmakers to threaten her with contempt of Congress. She then agreed to appear on July 13, which gave her the opportunity to review Strzok’s public testimony before giving hers.

The lawmakers are probing the FBI’s and Justice Department’s decisions before the election, suspecting they were influenced by political considerations.

Texts between Strzok and Page suggest that the FBI initiated an offensive counterintelligence operation against the Trump campaign as early as December 2015.

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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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