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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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Germany Wants Nuclear Bombers

Germany does not manufacture atomic weapons but has come to consider itself as a nuclear power because it has vectors to use them.

The Duran

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Via VoltaireNet.org:


Germany’s armed forces are currently studying the possibility of acquiring nuclear bombers capable of using the new American B61-12 atomic bombs.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon itself plans to deploy these new atomic bombs in the German region of Eifel, in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The German air force already has multi-tasking Tornado warplanes, which are already capable of deploying American atomic bombs. But those aircraft are going to be replaced, possibly, by European-developed Eurofighters, or by United States manufactured F/A-18 Super Hornets.

Either way, the warplane that Germany selects will have to be equipped with the AMAC (Aircraft Monitoring and Control) system, which allows the use of the new American atomic bombs and enables the regulation of the power of the explosion as well as at what height the bombs explode after they are launched.

Germany does not manufacture atomic weapons but has come to consider itself as a nuclear power because it has vectors to use them, and believes that this gives it the right to sit on the UN Security Council sharing the permanent member position occupied by France.

Both countries would thus represent the European Union, under the auspices of NATO.

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1st since Notre Dame: Yellow Vests back despite ‘unifying’ disaster & they are angry

‘Yellow Vests’ march in Paris for 23rd straight week.

RT

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Via RT…


Yellow Vests protests brought clashes and tear gas back to the streets of Paris, despite politicians’ calls for “unity” in the wake of the Notre Dame fire. For protesters, the response to the fire only showed more inequality.

Saturday’s protests mark the 23rd straight weekend of anti-government demonstrations, but the first since Notre Dame de Paris went up in flames on Monday. Officials were quick to criticize the protesters for returning to the streets so soon after the disaster.

“The rioters will be back tomorrow,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters on Friday. “The rioters have visibly not been moved by what happened at Notre-Dame.”

For many of the protesters, grief over the destruction of the 800-year-old landmark has made way for anger. With smoke still rising from Notre Dame, a group of French tycoons and businessmen pledged €1 billion to the cathedral’s reconstruction, money that the Yellow Vests say could be better spent elsewhere.

“If they can give dozens of millions to rebuild Notre Dame, they should stop telling us there is no money to respond to the social emergency,” trade union leader Philippe Martinez told France 24.

Saturday’s protests saw a return to scenes familiar since the Yellow Vests first mobilized in November to protest a fuel tax hike. Demonstrators in Paris’ Bastille district set barricades on fire and smashed vehicles, and police deployed tear gas to keep the crowds at bay.

Sporadic incidents of vandalism and looting were reported across the city, and some journalists even reported rioters throwing feces at police.

60,000 police officers were deployed across the country, and in Paris, a security perimeter was set up around Notre Dame. A planned march that would have passed the site was banned by police, and elsewhere, 137 protesters had been arrested by mid afternoon, police sources told Euronews.

Beginning as a show of anger against rising fuel costs in November, the Yellow Vests movement quickly evolved into a national demonstration of rage against falling living standards, income inequality, and the perceived elitism and pro-corporation policies of President Emmanuel Macron. Over 23 weeks of unrest, Macron has made several concessions to the protesters’ demands, but has thus far been unable to quell the rising dissent.

After Notre Dame caught fire on Monday, the president postponed a television address to the nation, during which he was expected to unveil a package of tax cuts and other economic reforms, another measure to calm the popular anger in France.

Macron’s address will be held on Thursday.

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O Canada! The True North Strong and Free – Not

Maybe it’s past time for Canadians to get serious again about their independence.

Jim Jatras

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Authored by James George Jatras via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Canadian visitors to Washington sometimes wonder why their embassy stands at the foot of Capitol Hill.

The answer? To be close to where Canada’s laws are made.

A main showcase of Ottawa’s craven servility to Washington is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s complicity in the US-led regime change operation being conducted against Venezuela. Not content with ruining his own country with multiculturalism, polysexualism, and the like, Li’l Justin has acted in lockstep with Big Brother to the south inslapping sanctions on Venezuelan officials and serving as a US agent of influence, especially with other countries in the western hemisphere:

‘A Canadian Press report published at the end of January revealed that Canadian diplomats worked systematically over several months with their Latin American counterparts in Caracas to prepare the current regime-change operation, pressing [Venezuelan President Nicolás] Maduro’s right-wing opponents to set aside their differences and mount a joint challenge to the government. “The turning point,” said the Canadian Press [Global News], “came Jan. 4, when the Lima Group … rejected the legitimacy of Maduro’s May 2018 election victory and his looming January 10 inauguration, while recognizing the ‘legitimately elected’ National Assembly.” The report cited an unnamed Canadian official as saying the opposition “were really looking for international support of some kind, to be able to hold onto a reason as to why they should unite, and push somebody like Juan Guaidó.”

‘One day prior to Maduro’s inauguration, [Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia] Freeland spoke to Guaidó, the newly-elected National Assembly speaker, by telephone to urge him to challenge the elected Venezuelan president.’

But that’s not all. Canada is out front and center in the “Five Eyes” intelligence agencies’ war on China’s Huawei – with direct prompting from US legislators and intelligence.  As explained by Col. Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Gen. Colin Powell, it’s not that Huawei violated any law when circumventing US sanctions but it is the US that is acting illegally by unilaterally imposing sanctions that were never agreed to internationally. But that’s OK – when it comes to Washington’s claims of jurisdiction over every human being on the planet, Justin and Chrystia are happy to oblige!

Also, let’s not forget Chrystia’s role in keeping the pot boiling in Ukraine. It would of course be cynical (and probably racist) to attribute anything relating to Ukraine to her own interesting family background …

To be fair, the lickspittle attitude of Canadian officials towards their masters south of the 49th parallel is hardly unique in the world. Also to be fair, it’s natural and would be generally beneficial for Canada to have a positive relationship with a powerful, kindred neighbor rather than a negative one. Think of Austria’s ties to Germany, or the Trans-Tasman relationship of Australia and New Zealand, or the links that still exist between Russia and Ukraine despite efforts by the west to set them against each other (as, for example, Spain and Portugal were at loggerheads for several centuries, when the latter was a loyal ally of Spain’s foe, Great Britain, to such an extent that Portugal was sometimes shown on maps and globes in the same pink as British possessions; a similar situation existed between Argentina and British ally Chile).

A close and mutually advantageous relationship is one thing, but Canada’s de facto loss of independence is another. Not only does the US control Canada’s diplomacy, military, and intelligence but also her financial system (with, among other levers, the notorious FATCA law, which places Canadian institutions under the supervision of the IRS, with Canada’s revenue service acting, care of the Canadian taxpayer, as a cat’s paw for not only the IRS but the NSA and other snooping agencies). As explained by one Canadian nationalist (yes, they do exist!), the redoubtable David Orchard, trade is also a critical issue:

‘Canada …, after almost three decades of “free trade” with the U.S., has more than $1.2 trillion in federal and provincial debt, large deficits at every level, no national child or dental care, high university tuition, miserly old age pensions, years of massive budget cuts, and giveaway prices for its exports of oil, gas, timber and minerals.

‘For 150 years, great Canadian leaders have warned that without an economic border with the United States, we would soon no longer have a political border.

‘We once owned the world’s largest farm machinery maker, Massey Harris, headquartered in Toronto; built the world’s largest and most respected marketer of wheat and barley, the Canadian Wheat Board, based in Winnipeg; created a great transcontinental railway system, beginning in Montreal, which tied our country together; and saw Vancouver’s shipyards produce the beautiful Fast Cat ferry.

‘Instead of spending hundreds of billions on foreign-made machinery, electronics, automobiles, ships, fighter jets and passenger aircraft (even payroll systems for federal employees!), we can build our own, both for the domestic and export market.

‘We once designed and built the world’s most advanced jet interceptor, the Avro Arrow, so we know it can be done. [Emphasis added] With Canada’s resources and ingenuity, it could create a prosperous, domestically controlled economy that would give Canadians multiple benefits, security and pride of ownership. All that is required is some of the will that drove our ancestors to create an alternate power in North America. As George-Étienne Cartier, the great Québécois Father of Confederation, put it, “Now everything depends on our patriotism.”’ [Note: Orchard is the author of the must-read book The Fight for Canada: Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism. To begin at the beginning, in the late 1680s, as part of English-French rivalry in North America, Massachusetts Puritans sought to root out the nest of popish deviltry known as Quebec. Following their disastrous 1690 defeat, they decided to fight Satan closer to home by hanging witches. The rest, as they say, is history…]

Scratch a Canadian patriot and you’ll hear about the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow. As a watershed moment in Canada’s downward slide into subservience, the cancellation of what by all accounts was a magnificent aircraft – and a snapshot of what Canada’s international competitiveness (including in advanced aerospace) could have looked like had it been able to develop independently – might have been the point of being sucked into the American vortex. As noted by one response to my suggestion that Ottawa’s stance on Venezuela amounted to Canada’s annexation by the US: “Canadian here…unfortunately, the above is true (not literally of course, but in practice). It goes back even before the time of Diefenbaker, who canceled our Avro Arrow program on demand from the US – thus destroying our aerospace industry and causing brain drain to the US/Europe.”

To this day, the decision of then-Prime Minister John Diefenbaker to kill the Arrow project (and “put 14,528 Avro employees, as well as nearly 15,000 other employees in the Avro supply chain of outside suppliers, out of work”) on what came to be known as “Black Friday,” February 20, 1959, remains controversial and shrouded in mystery. A mix of budgetary, political, technological, and personality factors has been cited, none of them conclusive. Pressure from the US side, including unwillingness of Washington to purchase a Canadian aircraft when the US could pressure them to buy American planes and missiles, no doubt played a key role: “Instead of the CF-105, the RCAF invested in a variety of Century Series fighters from the United States. These included the F-104 Starfighter (46 percent of which were lost in Canadian service), and (more controversial, given the cancellation of the Arrow) the CF-101 Voodoo. The Voodoo served as an interceptor, but at a level of performance generally below that expected of the Arrow.”

While we may never know reliably why Diefenbaker cancelled the Arrow or how Canada or Canadian industry might have followed a different path, there’s no question of the superior capabilities of the Arrow. As it happens, one of the few pilots who had a chance to test the Arrow in an impromptu friendly dogfight is now-retired USAF fighter pilot Col. George Jatras, later US Air Attaché in Moscow (also, this analyst’s father). As he related in 2017:

‘I’ve received a number of messages in the last couple days about this bird, including some that say it may be revived. I don’t know how The Arrow would compare to today’s aircraft, but I had a first-hand lesson on how it faired against the F-102.

‘In 1959, I was stationed at Suffolk County AFB on Long Island with the 2nd Fighter Interceptor Squadron. We had an informal exchange program with a Canadian fighter squadron stationed near Montreal. From time to time, two or four aircraft from one of the squadrons would fly to the other’s base on a weekend cross country.

‘On one such exchange, I was #3 in a four ship formation led by [former Tuskegee airmanErnie Craigwell (I don’t recall who the other pilots were). As we entered Canadian airspace, cruising at about 40,000 ft., we spotted a contrail well above our altitude (probably at 50,000ft.) and closing very fast.  As the other aircraft appeared to be passing by, we could clearly see the delta shaped wing and knew it was the Avro Arrow that the Canadian pilots had told us about. Then, instead of just passing by, he rolled in on us! Ernie called for a break and we split into elements. When we talked about the encounter afterwards we all agreed that our first thought was, “This guy is in for a surprise; he doesn’t know that he’s taking on the F-102.”  Well, we were the ones in for a surprise. Even with two elements covering each other, not one of us could get on his tail. His power and maneuverability were awesome.  After he had played with us for a few minutes, like a cat with four mice, he zoomed back up to about 50K and went on his way. What an aircraft! What a shame that it never went into production.’

What is perhaps most curious about the Arrow’s demise is that “everything was ordered brutally destroyed; plans, tools, parts, and the completed planes themselves were to be cut up, destroyed, scrapped and everything made to disappear.”  Why? Well, security of course! Don’t engage in conspiracy theories …

The Canadian national anthem finishes with a pledge: “O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.” It should be noted that understandably resentful Loyalists fleeing the US following the American Revolution were a major contribution to the growth of Canada’s English-speaking population. American troops – back when we were the plucky underdog fighting the mighty British Empire – invaded Canada in 1775 and during the War of 1812 but were defeated. Relations got testy during the American Civil War as well, and even afterwards the US was wary of a proposed united “Kingdom of Canada,” hence the choice of the name “Dominion” in 1967. If today’s Canadians think we-all down here don’t know whom they’ve mostly had in mind to “stand on guard” against all this time, they’d better think again.

Maybe it’s past time for Canadians to get serious again about their independence – eh?

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