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The Olympic betrayal of Russia

Alexander Mercouris

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In the first half of 2016, shortly before the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Professor Richard McLaren at the request of WADA published his preliminary report on sports doping in Russia.

No one – least of all the Russian authorities – disputed that there had been a significant problem with doping in Russia.  The Russian authorities moreover singled out the person who they said was the prime suspect – Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov – the head of RUSADA, Russia’s principal WADA affiliated anti-doping laboratory.

Rodchenkov had come under suspicion of involvement in doping before.  Though he had previously been cleared of involvement in doping, after the Winter Olympics in 2014 in Sochi in Russia he fell under suspicion again.  He fled abroad to the United States, where he is now the subject of a witness protection programme.

Though Rodchenkov’s deep involvement in the doping which had taken place in Russian sport was universally accepted, Professor McLaren nonetheless made him his star witness.

On Rodchenkov’s evidence and without first consulting with the Russian authorities McLaren declared that the doping amongst Russian athletes which had taken place during the Sochi Olympics was the result of a massive state sponsored conspiracy organised by the Russian government and carried out by Rodchenkov in collaboration with the FSB.  McLaren moreover said that this had been proved “beyond reasonable doubt”.

To that end, reversing the burden of proof, McLaren campaigned for all Russian athletes to be prevented from participating in the Rio Olympics irrespective of whether there was actual evidence against them of doping or not.

In the event, though several sports federations including crucially the International Association of Athletics Federations (“IAAF”) did prevent Russian athletes affiliated to them from participating in the Rio Olympics, the International Olympic Committee refused to impose a blanket ban.

The International Paralympic Committee on the strength of McLaren’s report however did so, preventing Russian paralympic athletes from participating in the Paralympic Games in Rio.

A few months later, after the Rio Olympics were over, Professor McLaren published the complete version of his report.

This broke no new ground and made the same allegations that his preliminary report had made before.

The International Olympic Committee on the eve of the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang has now gone a step further.

It has banned Russian athletes from competing in the Winter Olympics under their own flag, is preventing them from participating in the Opening Ceremony, and has prohibited the playing of the Russian national anthem if they win gold medals.

Instead selected Russian athletes may attend the Winter Olympics but only if invited by the International Olympic Committee to do so, and can only compete as ‘athletes from Russia’ under the Olympic flag.

In addition a number of Russian sports officials including the former Minister of Sport Vitaly Mutko are banned for life from any involvement in the Olympic Games, whilst the Russian Olympic Committee – one of the founder Committees of the Olympic Movement – has had its membership suspended.

What are the grounds for this extraordinary set of decisions?  I ask this question because from a legal and sports point of view I do not understand them.

As I have always understood it, the Olympic Movement seeks to be inclusive and non-discriminatory.  Whilst it is obviously right and proper to ban athletes from participating in the Olympic Games if they have been found guilty of drugs taking, surely if they have not been found guilty of drugs taking they should compete in the Games under their own flag on the same terms as everyone else?

If the Russian Olympic Committee is to be suspended surely that should be because its members have been found guilty of something?

If Russian government officials like Vitaly Mutko are to be banned from the Olympic Movement for life, then that too should be because they have been found to be guilty of something?

I ask these questions because the decision of the International Olympic Committee purports to be based on an independent investigation of the claims made by Professor McLaren in his two reports carried out by former Swiss President and Federal Council member Samuel Schmid.

Schmid’s report however not only fails to support the allegations of a gigantic government organised doping conspiracy in Russia, but it actually confirms that there is no evidence of such a conspiracy in Russia.  Moreover it also confirms that there is no evidence of any wrongdoing either by the Russian Olympic Committee or by a number of the people who have been banned.

Schmid’s report can be read here.

It turns out that the entirety of the evidence relied upon by Professor McLaren to support his claim of a gigantic government organised doping conspiracy in Russia is apart from Rodchenkov’s unsupported testimony a number of emails which passed between Rodchenkov and his co-conspirators and which were provided to Professor McLaren by Rodchenkov himself.

The problem is that the emails do not show the involvement of any senior government officials in the doping conspiracy.

Not a single email originates from a senior government official.  One official of the Sports Ministry – Vice-Minister Yury Nagornykh – was copied into some of the emails, though Schmid admits that he himself wrote none of them.

Schmid concludes that the fact Nagornykh was copied into some of the emails means that he “must have known” about Rodchenkov’s scheme.

Since however Schmid does not provide copies of the emails and hints that he may not have even read some of them, it is impossible to accept this claim with any confidence

In all these email exchanges produced, many names in the address bar (from, to and cc) have been blacked out by the IP in order to protect the confidentiality of these persons.  For this reason, Professor Richard McLaren was unable to share with the IOC DC the original messages.  As a consequence, the IOC DC is not able to confirm who was really aware of the information exchanged in the various emails.

(bold italics added)

It is quite clear from these words that none of the individuals who have now been penalised on the strength of the emails have been shown them either.

In other words they have been condemned on the strength of evidence they were not shown and which they were not therefore in a position to comment on or refute.

That is a shocking offence against due process, and I am astonished that it is happening and no-one is complaining about it.

One person who even McLaren now admits was not part of the email chain – and against whom no evidence of involvement in the doping scheme therefore exists – is Russia’s former Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko.

Here is what Schmid has to say about him

In one exchange of emails between Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov and Mr. Alexey Velikodniy regarding a footballer, Mr. Velikodniy mentioned that “the decision is with VL for consideration and approval”.  This single reference could not be considered as sufficient to demonstrate the personal involvement of the then Minister of Sport.

(bold italics added)

Even McLaren himself now admits (though very grudgingly) that there is no evidence against Mutko.  His whole case against Mutko it turns out is based entirely on a guess

Your question about Mr. Mutko was: did he know?  information is provided to the ministry and like any hierarchical organisation it flows upwards in the organisational structure.  So I would think that the information came to him through the ministry.  But it was the deputy minister (Nagornykh – AM) who was in charge of the process I described.  I don’t have any direct evidence as to whether he knew or didn’t know.  I have met with him, I have discussed the matter with him, he didn’t indicate that he knew.

(bold italics added)

Not only is McLaren’s case against Mutko based entirely on a guess, but it is a guess which is completely unwarranted.

Given that Rodchenkov and his associates were engaging in a criminal conspiracy would the information about it really flow effortlessly up the organisational structure of the ministry until it reached Mutko himself?  The only circumstance where that would happen would be if Mutko and the entire staff of the ministry were also part of the conspiracy.  That obviously is what McLaren believes, but of which he admits he has no evidence.

The fact that McLaren believes such a thing without having any evidence for it incidentally exposes the extent of his bias.  It also shows why his entire theory is not just unwarranted but almost certainly wrong.

Most of the rest of the Schmid report is concerned with the evidence of the existence of extensive and organised doping before and during the Sochi Olympics in Russia.  Since no one least of all the Russian authorities deny that this took place, it is not obvious why this information has been provided in such detail.

What however of the individual at the centre of this scandal – RUSADA’s doping mastermind and McLaren’s key witness Dr. Rodchenkov – what does Schmid have to say about him?

It turns out that Rodchenkov not only was instrumental in carrying out the doping but that he did at least some of it for money

One of the major actors identified was Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, director of the Moscow Laboratory; he was at the heart of the doping activities and of the positive drugs test cover-up; he had direct access within the Ministry of Sport to request funds for the laboratory equipment.  The Report showed that in his position he was not only accepting but also requesting money in order to execute the concealment of positive tests of Russian athletics athletes.  Furthermore, he admitted during an interview to have intentionally destroyed 1,417 samples at the end of 2014 in order to limit the extent of the WADA’s audit, of which he was previously informed by WADA.

(bold italics added)

In other words Rodchenkov was not just a cheat but was corrupt as well.

Elsewhere Schmid discusses how Rodchenkov insinuated himself into the international anti-doping system

Within the evolution of the system, the analysis of the evidence as well as the movie Icarus, shows that Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov played a key role.  Due to his scientific abilities he was able to set-up detection methods to improve the fight against doping, to publish scientific articles and participate to experts’ observatory programmes, winning so a great international credibility.  This enabled him on one hand, as an anti-doping expert, to gain access to the international expertise and strategy, in particular, during the Olympic Games London 2012, which helped him to contribute to the development of the specific system to be operational during the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014.

Yet this is the corrupt and scheming individual whose largely uncorroborated claims of a government organised state sponsored doping conspiracy McLaren accepts as true.

Schmid – somewhat grudgingly but nonetheless conclusively – admits that there is in fact no evidence of a government organised state sponsored doping conspiracy in Russia

….the independent and impartial evidence do not allow the IOC DC to establish with certitude either who initiated or who headed this scheme.

On many occasions, reference was made on the involvement at the Minister of Sport’s level, but no indication, independent or impartial evidence appeared to corroborate any involvement or knowledge at a higher level of the State.

Elsewhere Schmid admits that the doping scheme in Russia did not involve all Russian athletes – a sure indication by the way that it was not government organised or state sponsored – and that it was different from the doping scheme in the former German Democratic Republic, which of course was both government organised and state sponsored.

Given that this is so, why is former Sports Minister Mutko against whom no evidence of wrongdoing exists being banned from participating in the Olympic Games for the rest of his life?

Why is the Russian Olympic Committee being suspended, when no evidence of the involvement of any of its members in the doping scheme exists?

The IOC DC notes that neither the IC’s nor the IP’s Reports mentioned the participation of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) in the system.  No findings appeared during the IOC DC’s investigation to contradict these statements.

In order to justify the IOC’s actions against Mutko, the ROC and other Russian individuals and sports institutions against whom no evidence of wrongdoing exists, Schmid comes up with a complicated theory of their legal responsibility for the doping scheme even though there is no evidence that they knew about it.

All I would say about that is that I have never heard of a case where individuals against whom no evidence of wrongdoing exists and who must therefore be presumed to have acted at all times in good faith are punished because of a criminal conspiracy carried out by others of which there is no evidence they had any knowledge.

That truly is guilt by association, and it is wrong.

Right at the very start of the Russian Olympic Doping Scandal in an article for Sputnik dated 12th November 2015, I said that the right way forward was not to impose discriminatory and unlawful blanket bans on Russian athletes which ignored the presumption of innocence and which contradicted the humanitarian and inclusive principles of the Olympic Games, but to work with the Russians to ensure that anti-doping systems in Russia were made as strong as possible so that large scale doping of the sort organised by Dr. Rodchenkov could no longer take place

….it seems to me utterly wrong to ban athletes from competing simply because they are Russian.

That goes utterly against the humanitarian principles upon which the Olympics were founded. It is also contrary to the non-discriminatory principles in most national laws.

The Russian authorities are challenging some of the allegations — as it is their right to do — but look to be genuinely offering cooperation to help solve the problem.

For example they have offered to appoint a foreign specialist to head their laboratory. The right thing to do is not to impose a blanket ban but to work with the Russian authorities so that the problem can be solved.

That may involve bringing criminal charges and imposing individual bans on specific persons, barring them from involvement in international sports training and competition.

If that does not happen and a blanket ban on Russian athletes is imposed instead, then it seems to me that the world’s sporting bodies will not only have retreated from their ideals but will open themselves up to questions about what their real motives are.

‘Solving the problem’ in this way is exactly the approach the Russian authorities – who do not deny the existence of large scale doping problem in Russia – have taken.

The anti-doping systems now put in place in Russia are now universally acknowledged to be just about the best in the world.  Here is how Steve Scott, sports editor of the ITN news channel in Britain, describes them

A lot has changed at the Russia Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) in the past 18 months and, according to some close to this transformation, if you employ objective criteria, the Moscow laboratory is as good as it gets.

“The quality of testing and planning is very high.” a senior anti-doping source told me.

The Agency has doubled in size, has had its budget doubled too and is carrying out twice as many tests. It has also built up a team of 50 trained doping control officers, whereas before it had none. As for a much needed cultural shift, there has also been a significant changeover of staff; few remain who were immersed in the bad old ways of doing things.

Given that this is so and that there is now longer any possibility of Russian athletes engaging in a massive doping conspiracy in the coming Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, why is action being taken to prevent them competing on the same basis as everyone else?

It turns out that WADA is refusing to certify RUSADA – Russia’s radically reorganised anti-doping laboratory – for no other reason than that the Russian authorities are refusing to accept the McLaren report.

Why however should the Russian authorities accept the McLaren report when McLaren’s claims of a massive government organised state sponsored doping conspiracy in Russia have been shown to have no evidence behind them?

Is it anyway right and proper to coerce someone into confessing a crime for which no evidence exists?  Is that not the action of a blackmailer or of a police state?  Is that the sort of behaviour the International Olympic Committee – guardian of the Olympic Movement and upholder of its ideals – wants to associate itself with?

In reality the decision of the International Olympic Committee to ban certain Russians from involvement in the Olympic Movement, to suspend the Russian Olympic Committee, and to allow only specially invited Russian athletes to compete in the Winter Olympics and then only under the Olympic flag, has nothing to do either with sport or doping or the principles of legality.

It is entirely the product of politics, and the Russians are right to say it is.

Though this is the worst decision the International Olympic Committee has taken in its whole history, it is just possible that we may be approaching the end of this tawdry affair.

It seems that if the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang end without scandals then the Russian Olympic Committee will be readmitted to the Olympic Movement on the last day of the Games, allowing Russian athletes to celebrate the last day of the Games under their own flag.

Presumably that means that restrictions on the participation by Russian athletes in future Olympic Games will be lifted.

That presumably is why the Russian authorities are encouraging their athletes to participate in the PyeongChang Games under the Olympic flag, humiliating though they say they find it.

Whilst I understand this reasoning, I am not sure I share it.

An Olympic Movement capable of making such a grossly discriminatory and frankly unlawful decision is obviously no longer fit for purpose.

In light of this I think that the Russians and the many other national teams that must privately think this should now set about setting up their own alternative sports competitions, initially in parallel to those of the Olympic Movement but eventually as alternatives to them.

Since I doubt that this will be the last of these scandals that seems to me the only way forward.

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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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De-Dollarization Tops Agenda at Russia’s Eastern Economic Forum

The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) was held in Vladivostok on Sept.11-13. Founded in 2015, the event has become a platform for planning and launching projects to strengthen business ties in the Asia-Pacific region.

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This year, the EEF brought together delegations from over 60 countries to discuss the topic “The Far East: Expanding the Range of Possibilities”. A total of 100 business events involving over 6,000 participants were held during the three days.

1,357 media personnel worked to cover the forum. Last year, the number of participants was 5,000 with 1,000 media persons involved in reporting and broadcasting. The EEF-18 gathered 340 foreign and 383 Russian CEOs. Nearly 80 start-ups from across South-East Asia joined the meeting.

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This year, a total of 175 agreements worth of 2.9 trillion rubles (some $4.3 billion) were signed. For comparison, the sum was 2.5 trillion rubles (roughly $3.7 billion) in 2017.

They included the development of the Baimsky ore deposits in Chukotka, the construction of a terminal for Novatek LNG at Bechevinskaya Bay in Kamchatka and the investment of Asian countries in Russia’s agricultural projects in the Far East.

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Mail.Ru Group, Megafon and Chinese Alibaba inked an agreement on establishing AliExpress trade joint venture. Rosneft and Chinese CNPC signed an oil exploration agreement.

The Chinese delegation was the largest (1,096 people), followed by the Japanese (570 members). The list of guests included the president of Mongolia and prime ministers of Japan and South Korea.

It was also the first time Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the event to meet his Russian counterpart. The issue of de-dollarization topped the agenda. Russia and China reaffirmed their interest in expanding the use of national currencies in bilateral deals.

During the forum, Kirill Dmitriev, the head of RDIF, said the fund intends to use only national currencies in its transactions with China starting from 2019. It will cooperate with the China Development Bank.

This “yuanification” is making visible progress with Shanghai crude futures increasing their share of oil markets up to 14 percent or even more. China has signed agreements with Canada and Qatar on national currencies exchange.

READ MORE: Eastern Economic Forum opens new chapter in US-Russia dialogue

De-dollarization is a trend that is picking up momentum across the world. A growing number of countries are interested in replacing the dollar. Russia is leading the race to protect itself from fluctuations, storms and US-waged trade wars and sanctions.

Moscow backs non-dollar trade with Ankara amid the ongoing lira crisis. Turkey is switching from the dollar to settlements in national currencies, including its trade with China and other countries. Ditching the US dollar is the issue topping the BRICS agenda. In April, Iran transferred all international payments to the euro.

The voices calling for de-dollarization are getting louder among America’s closest European allies. In August, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for the creation of a new payments system independent of the US.

According to him, Europe should not allow the United States to act “over our heads and at our expense.” The official wants to strengthen European autonomy by establishing independent payment channels, creating a European Monetary Fund and building up an independent SWIFT system.

Presenting his annual program, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Sept. 12 for the European Union to promote the euro as a global currency to challenge the dollar.

According to him, “We must do more to allow our single currency to play its full role on the international scene.” Mr. Juncker believes “it is absurd that Europe pays for 80 percent of its energy import bill – worth 300 billion euros a year – in US dollars when only roughly 2 percent of our energy imports come from the United States.” He wants the raft of proposals made in his state of the union address to start being implemented before the European Parliament elections in May.

70% of all world trade transactions account for the dollar, while 20% are  settled in the euro, and the rest falls on the yuan and other Asian currencies. The dollar value is high to make the prices of consumer goods in the US artificially low. The demand for dollars allows refinancing the huge debt at low interest rates. The US policy of trade wars and sanctions has triggered the global process of de-dollarization.

Using punitive measures as a foreign policy tool is like shooting oneself in the foot. It prompts a backlash to undermine the dollar’s status as the world reserve currency – the basis of the US economic might. The aggressive policy undermines the US world standing to make it weaker, not stronger.

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Putin and Erdogan Plan Syria-Idlib DMZ

What the Putin-Erdogan DMZ decision means is that the 50,000 Turkish troops occupying Idlib will take control over that land, and have responsibility over the largest concentration of jihadists anywhere on the planet.

Eric Zuesse

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As I recommended in a post on September 10th, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan jointly announced on September 17th, “We’ve agreed to create a demilitarized zone between the government troops and militants before October 15. The zone will be 15-20km wide,” which compares to the Korean DMZ’s 4-km width. I had had in mind the Korean experience, but obviously Putin and Erdogan are much better-informed about the situation than I am, and they have chosen a DMZ that’s four to five times wider. In any case, the consequences of such a decision will be momentous, unless U.S. President Donald Trump is so determined for there to be World War III as to stop at nothing in order to force it to happen no matter what Russia does or doesn’t do.

What the Putin-Erdogan DMZ decision means is that the 50,000 Turkish troops who now are occupying Idlib province of Syria will take control over that land, and will thus have the responsibility over the largest concentration of jihadists anywhere on the planet: Idlib. It contains the surviving Syrian Al Qaeda and ISIS fighters, including all of the ones throughout Syria who surrendered to the Syrian Army rather than be shot dead on the spot by Government forces.

For its part, the U.S. Government, backed by its allies and supported in this by high officials of the United Nations, had repeatedly threatened that if there occurs any chemical-weapons attack, or even any claimed chemical-weapons attack, inside Idlib, the U.S. and its allies will instantaneously blame the Syrian Government and bomb Syria, and will shoot down the planes of Syria and of Russia that oppose this bombing-campaign to conquer or ‘liberate’ Syria from its Government. The U.S. has announced its determination to protect what one high U.S. official — who is endorsing what Trump is doing there — “the largest Al Qaeda safe haven since 9/11.” He admits it, but he wants to protect them from being bombed by Syria and by Russia.

During recent weeks, the U.S. military has increasingly said that even if the jihadists they’ve been assisting to assemble the materials for a chemical-weapons attack fail to carry it out or to stage one, any attempt by Syrian and Russian forces to destroy the jihadists (which the U.S. side calls ‘rebels’) in Idlib will be met with overwhelming U.S.-and-allied firepower. That would spark WW III, because whichever side — Russia or U.S. — loses in the Syrian battlefield will nuclear-blitz-attack the other side so as to have the lesser damage from the nuclear war and thus (in military terms) ‘win’ WW III, because the blitz-attack will destroy many of the opposite side’s retaliatory weapons. In a nuclear war, the first side to attack will have a considerable advantage — reducing the number of weapons the other side can launch.

If, on the other hand, the DMZ-plan works, then Turkey’s forces will be responsible for vetting any of Idlib’s residents who try to leave, in order to prohibit jihadists and their supporters from leaving. Once that task (filtering out the non-dangerous inhabitants and retaining in Idlib only the jihadists and their supporters) is done, the entire world might be consulted on whether to exterminate the remaining residents or to set them free to return to the countries from which they came or to other countries. Presumably, no country would want those ‘refugees’. That would answer the question.

America’s Arab allies, the oil monarchies such as the Sauds who own Saudi Arabia and the Thanis who own Qatar, and which have funded Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, would then be put on a spot, because if they say “Exterminate them!” then their clergy who have provided the moral imprimatur upon those families’ ownership of those nations, will either be in rebellion or else will themselves become overthrown either by their own followers or else by their monarch — overthrown from below or from above.

Alternatively, after Turkey’s forces in Idlib will have allowed release from Idlib of all who will be allowed out, Syria’s and Russia’s bombers will simply go in and slaughter the then-surrounded jihadists and take upon themselves the responsibility for that, regardless of what the leaders of the U.S. and its allied governments might say.

On the night of September 17th in Syria, there were missile-attacks “from the sea” against several Syrian cities; and those attacks could have come from either Israel’s or America’s ships, or from other U.S.-allied ships. Russian Television bannered, “Russian plane disappears from radars during Israeli attack on Syria’s Latakia – MoD” and reported:

A Russian military Il-20 aircraft with 14 service members on board went off the radars during an attack by four Israeli jets on Syria’s Latakia province, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Air traffic controllers at the Khmeimim Air Base “lost contact” with the aircraft on Wednesday evening, during the attack of Israeli F-16 fighters on Latakia, said the MOD.Russian radars also registered the launch of missiles from a French frigate in the Mediterranean on the evening of September 17. …
The attack on Latakia came just hours after Russia and Turkey negotiated a partial demilitarization of the Idlib province

If the missiles were authorized by President Trump, then WW III has already begun in its pre-nuclear stage. However, if the attacks were launched by Israel’s Netanyahu, and/or by France’s Macron, without U.S. authorization, then the U.S. President might respond to them by siding against that aggressor(s) (and also against what he used to call “Radical Islamic Terrorists”), so as to prevent a nuclear war.

Late on September 17th, Al Masdar News bannered “NATO warships move towards Syrian coast” and reported “The NATO flotilla cruising off the Syrian coast reportedly consists of a Dutch frigate, the De Ruyter, a Canadian frigate, the Ville de Quebec, and a Greek cruiser, the Elli.” Al Qaeda and ISIS have influential protectors.

Ultimately, the decision will be U.S. President Trump’s as to whether he is willing to subject the planet to WW III and to its following nuclear winter and consequent die-off of agriculture and of everyone, in order to ‘win’ a nuclear war, such as America’s aristocracy has especially championed since the year 2006. The nuclear-victory concept is called “Nuclear Primacy” — the use of nuclear weapons so as to win a nuclear war against Russia, instead of to prevent a nuclear war. That concept’s predecessor, the “Mutually Assured Destruction” or “M.A.D.” meta-strategy, predominated even in the U.S. until 2006. Trump will have to decide whether the purpose of America’s nuclear-weapons stockpiles is to prevent WW III, or is to win WW III.

In Russia, the purpose has always been to have nuclear weapons in order to prevent WW III. But America’s President will be the person who will make the ultimate decision on this. And Idlib might be the spark. Netanyahu or Macron might be wanting to drag the U.S. into war even against Russia, but the final decision will be Trump’s.

The ultimate question is: How far will the U.S. go in order to continue the U.S. dollar as being the overwhelmingly dominant global currency?

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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