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Aftershocks from Putin’s State of the Nation address: Russia, China, the US and the return of the ‘balance of power’

Putin’s speech shows that the Russians consider the restoration of geostrategic parity and of the military balance of power as the key to preserving peace

Alexander Mercouris

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As the repercussions of President Putin’s State of the Nation address sink in, it is useful to highlight those words in the address which set out Russian thinking on international relations, and which explain Russian actions, including first and foremost the military build up President Putin discussed during the address.

Western orthodoxy about Russia – repeated in endless media articles and position papers – is that Russia is a ‘revisionist’ power, with Putin set on re-creating the USSR and reversing Russia’s ‘defeat’ in the Cold War, and prepared in order to achieve this to overturn the ‘rules based international order’ the US supposedly established following the end of the Second World War.

The Russians do not conceive of themselves in that way at all.  Nor do they recognise the above paragraph as an accurate reflection of the current state of international relations.

As the Russians see it, far from Russia being a ‘revisionist’ power, it is Russia which is the prime upholder of the international law and of a ‘rules based international order’, and it is the US which as it seeks to pursue its objective of spreading everywhere ‘liberal democracy’  – something which the Russians see as code for ‘US hegemony’ – is the ‘revisionist’ power.

Far from Russia wanting to recreate the USSR or having globalist or hegemonic ambitions, the Russians see themselves as overwhelmingly focused on their own internal development and in the process of Eurasian construction – ie. in the peaceful and voluntary reintegration of the countries which once formed the USSR – which they are pursuing in cooperation with China.

Claims that the Russians are insulted by US descriptions of Russia as a ‘regional’ as opposed to a ‘global’ power completely miss the point.

The Russians are fully conscious of the limitations of their power, and have no interest in expanding it globally.

Russia does not have a vast ocean going fleet as the US does, and does not have or aspire to have the huge global network of military bases that the US has.

Nor does Russia play the central role in the world economy that the US does.

The Russians have neither the resources nor the wish to challenge the US globally, or to set themselves up as a global competitor to the US, as the USSR once was.

What the Russians want is to be left in peace so that they can sort out their economic and social problems, and so that they can peacefully re-establish the social and economic connections within the territory of the former USSR which were shattered when the USSR fell apart.

Not only does Russia not have the resources or the wish to mimic the US’s global role; it has a pronounced philosophical aversion to doing so.

It is the US not Russia which claims for itself a global role as the ‘exceptional’ country, and it is the US not Russia which exempts itself through its doctrine of ‘exceptionalism’ from observance of the global rules and of international law which are supposed to underpin the entire ‘rules based international order’ which so far from wanting to undermine the Russians value as they see in it the key to peace.

That this is so is shown – the Russians argue – by US disregard for the UN Security Council – whose authority when it suits it the US ignores – by US contempt for state sovereignty – as shown by its regime change/’humanitarian intervention’ and ‘democracy promotion’ policies – by the US’s regime change wars in Iraq and Libya, by the US’s attack in 1999 on Yugoslavia, by the US’s support for the Jihadi insurgency against the legitimate government of Syria, by the US’s constant meddling in the domestic policies of other countries through its support for ‘democracy promotion’ and ‘colour revolution’ strategies in those countries – with Ukraine being for the Russians the outstanding example, and with Russia itself being a clear target – and by the (as the Russians see it) illegal sanctions the US constantly imposes on various countries including Russia in order to coerce those countries to do its bidding.

Russia by contrast does none of these things, and opposes all of them.

Moreover it is the US which the Russians see as constantly encroaching on themselves – not vice versa – through the US’s expansion of NATO into eastern Europe, its instigation of the coup in Ukraine, its continuing meddling in the affairs of Eurasia, its meddling in Russian internal politics, its sanctions policy against Russia, and its siting – contrary to previous treaties and agreements – of ballistic missile interceptors close to Russia’s borders.

What Putin’s address shows is that the Russians have finally given up hope of persuading the US to change its behaviour.

Moreover the address also shows what the Russians believe to be the cause of this (as they see it) US misbehaviour.

This is the disappearance of the geostrategic military balance which existed between the US and the USSR during the Cold War.

With the USSR gone the US – with its huge military superiority over all other countries – felt that it could do as it liked, and sought to leverage its position of military superiority over all other countries to change the world to conform to its ideology and interests.

It follows from this analysis that the Russians believe that the only way that this pattern of US misbehaviour can be ended is through the restoration of the geostrategic military balance which existed between the US and the USSR during the Cold War.

According to this analysis, the Cold War was not properly speaking a ‘war’ at all, but was rather a ‘long peace’, with the USSR because of its military power able to act as the sheet anchor of the international system through its ability to restrain the US, thereby ensuring that the Great Powers respected each other’s interests, thus preserving peace.

By restoring the geostrategic military balance which existed during the Cold War the Russians believe that the US will be put under restraint again, so that the proper functioning of the international system can be restored, and so that countries like Russia and China will be left alone so that they can press ahead in peace with their plans for their social and economic development.

All of this is clearly outlined in President Putin’s State of the Nation address

I should note that we have conducted the work to reinforce Russia’s defence capability within the current arms control agreements; we are not violating anything. I should specifically say that Russia’s growing military strength is not a threat to anyone; we have never had any plans to use this potential for offensive, let alone aggressive goals.

We are not threatening anyone, not going to attack anyone or take away anything from anyone with the threat of weapons. We do not need anything. Just the opposite. I deem it necessary to emphasise (and it is very important) that Russia’s growing military power is a solid guarantee of global peace as this power preserves and will preserve strategic parity and the balance of forces in the world, which, as is known, have been and remain a key factor of international security after WWII and up to the present day.

And to those who in the past 15 years have tried to accelerate an arms race and seek unilateral advantage against Russia, have introduced restrictions and sanctions that are illegal from the standpoint of international law aiming to restrain our nation’s development, including in the military area, I will say this: everything you have tried to prevent through such a policy has already happened. No one has managed to restrain Russia.

Now we have to be aware of this reality and be sure that everything I have said today is not a bluff ‒ and it is not a bluff, believe me ‒ and to give it a thought and dismiss those who live in the past and are unable to look into the future, to stop rocking the boat we are all in and which is called the Earth……

…….There is no need to create more threats to the world. Instead, let us sit down at the negotiating table and devise together a new and relevant system of international security and sustainable development for human civilisation. We have been saying this all along. All these proposals are still valid. Russia is ready for this.

Our policies will never be based on claims to exceptionalism. We protect our interests and respect the interests of other countries. We observe international law and believe in the inviolable central role of the UN. These are the principles and approaches that allow us to build strong, friendly and equal relations with the absolute majority of countries.

(bold italics added)

Much Western commentary has sought to contrast the first part of President Putin’s State of the Nation address, which focused on the Russian government’s plans for Russia’s social and economic development, with the second part of President Putin’s State of the Nation address, in which President Putin unveiled Russia’s new weapons systems.

In my opinion this is to misunderstand the address.

In Putin’s mind and in those of other Russian officials the second part of the address is not intended to be a contrast to the first part of the address.

Rather the two parts of the address compliment each other, with the military build up described in the second part of the address making possible the peace and independence Russia needs so that it can carry out the social and economic plans discussed in the first part of the address.

It further follows from this that Putin also does not see his address as a threat to the US.

Putin has no interest in threatening the US, and of course he entertains no ambitions – as the Soviet leaders perhaps once did – of changing the political, economic and social system of the US, and nor of course does anyone else in the Russian government entertain such ambitions either.

However Putin has come to believe that without the restoration of the geostrategic military balance which existed during the Cold War there is no possibility of the US changing its behaviour and taking into account Russia’s opinions and interests, and leaving Russia alone so that Russia can finally go about the task of developing its society and economy in peace.

As such, Russia’s military build up is intended over time – by creating constraints on US behaviour, and by forcing the US to respect and listen to Russia – to create eventually the conditions for what Putin hopes will be a sustained improvement in US-Russian relations based this time on equality and mutual respect.

Will it work?  Will the build up of Russia’s strategic weapons really restrain the US and secure world peace?  Can Russia achieve the restoration of the geostrategic military balance of the Cold War?  Will Russia’s military build up really create the conditions for a sustained improvement in US-Russian relations?

During the detente era of the Cold War a similar Soviet build up did for a time lead to a brief thaw in US-Soviet relations.  However it proved short lived because the US ultimately found it conceptually impossible to accept the USSR as an equal partner.

No sooner was the detente framework between the US and the USSR established through a series of agreements painstakingly negotiated between 1963 and 1975, then powerful forces in the US set to work to undermine it.  By 1980 when Ronald Reagan was elected US President they had largely succeeded in doing so.

What proved impossible to sustain in the binary system of the 1970s, when the USSR was far more powerful than Russia is today, is much less likely to happen today, all the more so as ‘exceptionalist’ thinking is far more dominant in the US today than it was in the 1970s.

Moreover though Russia can certainly afford the cost of sustaining a nuclear arms race – nuclear weapons and specifically the weapons Putin outlined in his State of the Nation address are as Putin says “modestly priced” – experience shows that achieving a proper military balance also requires achieving a balance in conventional forces, where by comparison with the US’s global forces Russia is badly outmatched.

The ace in Russia’s pack is however Russia’s alliance with China to which – along with Russia’s friendly relations with India – Putin pointedly referred in his address

Our comprehensive strategic partnership with the People’s Republic of China is one example. Russia and India also enjoy a special privileged strategic relationship.

(bold italics added)

Note the careful distinction in the nature of Russia’s relations with China and India – whose relations with each other are currently going through a (probably temporary) bad patch – in these words.

With China Russia has a “comprehensive strategic partnership” ie. a de facto alliance.  With India Russia has a “special privileged strategic relationship” ie. a close and enduring friendship.

In his State of the Nation address Putin did not speak for China – he has no right to – but it is the Russian-Chinese alliance which as much as – or arguably much more so than – Russia’s strategic weapons build up is changing the world’s geostrategic balance, and which is placing increasing constraints on US behaviour.

Indeed with no sign of any Chinese strategic weapons build up comparable to the one Putin has just announced despite the steady deterioration in US-Chinese relations, it cannot be excluded that there has been some sort of agreement being Beijing and Moscow whereby Moscow counters the US at a strategic nuclear level whilst China concentrates on the far more costly task of challenging US naval supremacy in the Pacific and in the South China Sea.

That would be an obvious way for the two countries to use their “comprehensive strategic partnership” to complement each other by playing to their respective strengths.

Whether a Chinese naval build up in the Pacific, complimenting a Russian strategic weapons build up and a Russian ground forces build up in Europe, will persuade the US to modify its behaviour is another matter.  I have to say that I have my doubts.

The US’s Nuclear Posture Review suggests on the contrary a continued commitment to policies intended to perpetuate US dominance, with the emphasis being on detaching Russia from China by increasing pressure upon it.

Having said this, Putin’s State of the Nation address does provide further confirmation of what the US’s Nuclear Posture Review has already admitted: the US’s ‘unipolar moment’ is over.  

Great Power competition has returned and with it the concept of the ‘balance of power’.

Before long I expect we will also be hearing about ‘spheres of influence’ again.

Depending on what happens next in the Pacific region, this may also be the moment when the Russian-Chinese alliance finally starts to come out of the shadows.

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Putin Keeps Cool and Averts WWIII as Israeli-French Gamble in Syria Backfires Spectacularly

Putin vowed that Russia would take extra precautions to protect its troops in Syria, saying these will be “the steps that everyone will notice.”

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Authored by Robert Bridge via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


By initiating an attack on the Syrian province of Latakia, home to the Russia-operated Khmeimim Air Base, Israel, France and the United States certainly understood they were flirting with disaster. Yet they went ahead with the operation anyways.

On the pretext that Iran was preparing to deliver a shipment of weapon production systems to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israeli F-16s, backed by French missile launches in the Mediterranean, destroyed what is alleged to have been a Syrian Army ammunition depot.

What happened next is already well established: a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft, which the Israeli fighter jets had reportedly used for cover, was shot down by an S-200 surface-to-air missile system operated by the Syrian Army. Fifteen Russian servicemen perished in the incident, which could have been avoided had Israel provided more than just one-minute warning before the attack. As a result, chaos ensued.

Whether or not there is any truth to the claim that Iran was preparing to deliver weapon-making systems to Hezbollah in Lebanon is practically a moot point based on flawed logic. Conducting an attack against an ammunition depot in Syria – in the vicinity of Russia’s Khmeimim Air Base – to protect Israel doesn’t make much sense when the consequence of such “protective measures” could have been a conflagration on the scale of World War III. That would have been an unacceptable price to achieve such a limited objective, which could have been better accomplished with the assistance of Russia, as opposed to NATO-member France, for example. In any case, there is a so-called “de-confliction system” in place between Israel and Russia designed to prevent exactly this sort of episode from occurring.

And then there is the matter of the timing of the French-Israeli incursion.

Just hours before Israeli jets pounded the suspect Syrian ammunition storehouse, Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan were in Sochi hammering out the details on a plan to reduce civilian casualties as Russian and Syrian forces plan to retake Idlib province, the last remaining terrorist stronghold in the country. The plan envisioned the creation of a demilitarized buffer zone between government and rebel forces, with observatory units to enforce the agreement. In other words, it is designed to prevent exactly what Western observers have been fretting about, and that is unnecessary ‘collateral damage.’

So what do France and Israel do after a relative peace is declared, and an effective measure for reducing casualties? The cynically attack Syria, thus exposing those same Syrian civilians to the dangers of military conflict that Western capitals proclaim to be worried about.

Israel moves to ‘damage control’

Although Israel has taken the rare move of acknowledging its involvement in the Syrian attack, even expressing “sorrow” for the loss of Russian life, it insists that Damascus should be held responsible for the tragedy. That is a highly debatable argument.

By virtue of the fact that the French and Israeli forces were teaming up to attack the territory of a sovereign nation, thus forcing Syria to respond in self-defense, it is rather obvious where ultimate blame for the downed Russian plane lies.

“The blame for the downing of the Russian plane and the deaths of its crew members lies squarely on the Israeli side,” Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said. “The actions of the Israeli military were not in keeping with the spirit of the Russian-Israeli partnership, so we reserve the right to respond.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, took admirable efforts to prevent the blame game from reaching the boiling point, telling reporters that the downing of the Russian aircraft was the result of “a chain of tragic circumstances, because the Israeli plane didn’t shoot down our jet.”

Nevertheless, following this extremely tempered and reserved remark, Putin vowed that Russia would take extra precautions to protect its troops in Syria, saying these will be “the steps that everyone will notice.”

Now there is much consternation in Israel that the IDF will soon find its freedom to conduct operations against targets in Syria greatly impaired. That’s because Russia, having just suffered a ‘friendly-fire’ incident from its own antiquated S-200 system, may now be more open to the idea of providing Syria with the more advanced S-300 air-defense system.

Earlier this year, Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached an agreement that prevented those advanced defensive weapons from being employed in the Syrian theater. That deal is now in serious jeopardy. In addition to other defensive measures, Russia could effectively create the conditions for a veritable no-fly zone across Western Syria in that it would simply become too risky for foreign aircraft to venture into the zone.

The entire situation, which certainly did not go off as planned, has forced Israel into damage control as they attempt to prevent their Russian counterparts from effectively shutting down Syria’s western border.

On Thursday, Israeli Major-General Amikam Norkin and Brigadier General Erez Maisel, as well as officers of the Intelligence and Operations directorates of the Israeli air force will pay an official visit to Moscow where they are expected to repeat their concerns of “continuous Iranian attempts to transfer strategic weapons to the Hezbollah terror organization and to establish an Iranian military presence in Syria.”

Moscow will certainly be asking their Israeli partners if it is justifiable to subject Russian servicemen to unacceptable levels of danger, up to and including death, in order to defend Israeli interests. It remains to be seen if the two sides can find, through the fog of war, an honest method for bringing an end to the Syria conflict, which would go far at relieving Israel’s concerns of Iranian influence in the region.

 

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This Man’s Incredible Story Proves Why Due Process Matters In The Kavanaugh Case

Accused of rape by a fellow student, Brian Banks accepted a plea deal and went to prison on his 18th birthday. Years later he was exonerated.

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Authored by James Miller of The Political Insider:


Somewhere between the creation of the Magna Carta and now, leftists have forgotten why due process matters; and in some cases, such as that of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, they choose to outright ignore the judicial and civil rights put in place by the U.S. Constitution.

In this age of social media justice mobs, the accused are often convicted in the court of (liberal) public opinion long before any substantial evidence emerges to warrant an investigation or trial. This is certainly true for Kavanaugh. His accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, cannot recall the date of the alleged assault and has no supporting witnesses, yet law professors are ready to ruin his entire life and career. Not because they genuinely believe he’s guilty, but because he’s a pro-life Trump nominee for the Supreme Court.

It goes without saying: to “sink Kavanaugh even if” Ford’s allegation is untrue is unethical, unconstitutional, and undemocratic. He has a right to due process, and before liberals sharpen their pitchforks any further they would do well to remember what happened to Brian Banks.

In the summer of 2002, Banks was a highly recruited 16-year-old linebacker at Polytechnic High School in California with plans to play football on a full scholarship to the University of Southern California. However, those plans were destroyed when Banks’s classmate, Wanetta Gibson, claimed that Banks had dragged her into a stairway at their high school and raped her.

Gibson’s claim was false, but it was Banks’s word against hers. Banks had two options: go to trial and risk spending 41 years-to-life in prison, or take a plea deal that included five years in prison, five years probation, and registering as a sex offender. Banks accepted the plea deal under the counsel of his lawyer, who told him that he stood no chance at trial because the all-white jury would “automatically assume” he was guilty because he was a “big, black teenager.”

Gibson and her mother subsequently sued the Long Beach Unified School District and won a $1.5 million settlement. It wasn’t until nearly a decade later, long after Banks’s promising football career had already been tanked, that Gibson admitted she’d fabricated the entire story.

Following Gibson’s confession, Banks was exonerated with the help of the California Innocence Project. Hopeful to get his life back on track, he played for Las Vegas Locomotives of the now-defunct United Football League in 2012 and signed with the Atlanta Falcons in 2013. But while Banks finally received justice, he will never get back the years or the prospective pro football career that Gibson selfishly stole from him.

Banks’ story is timely, and it serves as a powerful warning to anyone too eager to condemn those accused of sexual assault. In fact, a film about Banks’s ordeal, Brian Banks, is set to premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival next week.

Perhaps all the #MeToo Hollywood elites and their liberal friends should attend the screening – and keep Kavanaugh in their minds as they watch.

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Clinton-Yeltsin docs shine a light on why Deep State hates Putin (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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Bill Clinton and America ruled over Russia and Boris Yeltsin during the 1990s. Yeltsin showed little love for Russia and more interest in keeping power, and pleasing the oligarchs around him.

Then came Vladimir Putin, and everything changed.

Nearly 600 pages of memos and transcripts, documenting personal exchanges and telephone conversations between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, were made public by the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Dating from January 1993 to December 1999, the documents provide a historical account of a time when US relations with Russia were at their best, as Russia was at its weakest.

On September 8, 1999, weeks after promoting the head of the Russia’s top intelligence agency to the post of prime minister, Russian President Boris Yeltsin took a phone call from U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The new prime minister was unknown, rising to the top of the Federal Security Service only a year earlier.

Yeltsin wanted to reassure Clinton that Vladimir Putin was a “solid man.”

Yeltsin told Clinton….

“I would like to tell you about him so you will know what kind of man he is.”

“I found out he is a solid man who is kept well abreast of various subjects under his purview. At the same time, he is thorough and strong, very sociable. And he can easily have good relations and contact with people who are his partners. I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the nearly 600 pages of transcripts documenting the calls and personal conversations between then U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, released last month. A strong Clinton and a very weak Yeltsin underscore a warm and friendly relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

Then Vladimir Putin came along and decided to lift Russia out of the abyss, and things changed.

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Here are five must-read Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges from with the 600 pages released by the Clinton Library.

Via RT

Clinton sends ‘his people’ to get Yeltsin elected

Amid unceasing allegations of nefarious Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election, the Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges reveal how the US government threw its full weight behind Boris – in Russian parliamentary elections as well as for the 1996 reelection campaign, which he approached with 1-digit ratings.

For example, a transcript from 1993 details how Clinton offered to help Yeltsin in upcoming parliamentary elections by selectively using US foreign aid to shore up support for the Russian leader’s political allies.

“What is the prevailing attitude among the regional leaders? Can we do something through our aid package to send support out to the regions?” a concerned Clinton asked.

Yeltsin liked the idea, replying that “this kind of regional support would be very useful.” Clinton then promised to have “his people” follow up on the plan.

In another exchange, Yeltsin asks his US counterpart for a bit of financial help ahead of the 1996 presidential election: “Bill, for my election campaign, I urgently need for Russia a loan of $2.5 billion,” he said. Yeltsin added that he needed the money in order to pay pensions and government wages – obligations which, if left unfulfilled, would have likely led to his political ruin. Yeltsin also asks Clinton if he could “use his influence” to increase the size of an IMF loan to assist him during his re-election campaign.

Yeltsin questions NATO expansion

The future of NATO was still an open question in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and conversations between Clinton and Yeltsin provide an illuminating backdrop to the current state of the curiously offensive ‘defensive alliance’ (spoiler alert: it expanded right up to Russia’s border).

In 1995, Yeltsin told Clinton that NATO expansion would lead to “humiliation” for Russia, noting that many Russians were fearful of the possibility that the alliance could encircle their country.

“It’s a new form of encirclement if the one surviving Cold War bloc expands right up to the borders of Russia. Many Russians have a sense of fear. What do you want to achieve with this if Russia is your partner? They ask. I ask it too: Why do you want to do this?” Yeltsin asked Clinton.

As the documents show, Yeltsin insisted that Russia had “no claims on other countries,” adding that it was “unacceptable” that the US was conducting naval drills near Crimea.

“It is as if we were training people in Cuba. How would you feel?” Yeltsin asked. The Russian leader then proposed a “gentleman’s agreement” that no former Soviet republics would join NATO.

Clinton refused the offer, saying: “I can’t make the specific commitment you are asking for. It would violate the whole spirit of NATO. I’ve always tried to build you up and never undermine you.”

NATO bombing of Yugoslavia turns Russia against the West

Although Clinton and Yeltsin enjoyed friendly relations, NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia tempered Moscow’s enthusiastic partnership with the West.

“Our people will certainly from now have a bad attitude with regard to America and with NATO,” the Russian president told Clinton in March 1999. “I remember how difficult it was for me to try and turn the heads of our people, the heads of the politicians towards the West, towards the United States, but I succeeded in doing that, and now to lose all that.”

Yeltsin urged Clinton to renounce the strikes, for the sake of “our relationship” and “peace in Europe.”

“It is not known who will come after us and it is not known what will be the road of future developments in strategic nuclear weapons,” Yeltsin reminded his US counterpart.

But Clinton wouldn’t cede ground.

“Milosevic is still a communist dictator and he would like to destroy the alliance that Russia has built up with the US and Europe and essentially destroy the whole movement of your region toward democracy and go back to ethnic alliances. We cannot allow him to dictate our future,” Clinton told Yeltsin.

Yeltsin asks US to ‘give Europe to Russia’

One exchange that has been making the rounds on Twitter appears to show Yeltsin requesting that Europe be “given” to Russia during a meeting in Istanbul in 1999. However, it’s not quite what it seems.

“I ask you one thing,” Yeltsin says, addressing Clinton. “Just give Europe to Russia. The US is not in Europe. Europe should be in the business of Europeans.”

However, the request is slightly less sinister than it sounds when put into context: The two leaders were discussing missile defense, and Yeltsin was arguing that Russia – not the US – would be a more suitable guarantor of Europe’s security.

“We have the power in Russia to protect all of Europe, including those with missiles,” Yeltsin told Clinton.

Clinton on Putin: ‘He’s very smart’

Perhaps one of the most interesting exchanges takes place when Yeltsin announces to Clinton his successor, Vladimir Putin.

In a conversation with Clinton from September 1999, Yeltsin describes Putin as “a solid man,” adding: “I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

A month later, Clinton asks Yeltsin who will win the Russian presidential election.

“Putin, of course. He will be the successor to Boris Yeltsin. He’s a democrat, and he knows the West.”

“He’s very smart,” Clinton remarks.

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