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Russia challenges Britain on Skripal: insists on proper procedures being followed; demands answers

Russia publishes detailed rebuttal of British claims on Skripal case, demands British answers to host of unanswered questions

Alexander Mercouris

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The Russian Foreign Ministry has published a formal statement responding to British claims of Russian involvement in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal, and demanding that Britain answer questions about its conduct of the Skripal case

The complete text of the statement – known in diplomatic language as an Aide-memoire – is as follows

21 March 2018    21:33
Aide-memoire to clarify the state of affairs as regards the so-called ‘Skripal case’

1. On 12 March 2018, Prime Minister of Great Britain Theresa May, addressing the House of Commons, said it was “highly likely” that the Russian Federation was responsible for the poisoning of former GRU colonel, double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal on 4 March 2018 in Salisbury, with a nerve agent identified according to British classification as A-234.

The United Kingdom has publicly raised a question about Russia’s “concealing” and “using” part of its chemical arsenal, thus alleging that Russia has “violated” its obligations under the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (CWC) – one of the most effective multilateral treaties in the disarmament and non-proliferation field, which was initiated, among others, by our country.

Thus, the United Kingdom has come out against Russia as well as against the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) itself and the tremendous work that has been done within this organization during the last two decades, including with participation of the United Kingdom.

Pursuant to the requirements of Article III of the CWC, the Russian Federation submitted a full and complete declaration of all its chemical weapons stockpiles. That data was thoroughly checked and verified by the inspection teams of the OPCW Technical Secretariat. The fact of the full elimination of Russia’s chemical arsenal has been officially confirmed by the authorized international institution – the OPCW.

2. On 12 March 2018, given the gravity of the accusations brought against our country, the Russian Embassy in London sent a note verbale to the Foreign Office of Great Britain requesting access to the investigation materials, including samples of the chemical agent that British investigators were referring to, so that it could be tested by our experts in the framework of joint investigation.

Thus, we proposed to act in accordance with paragraph 2 of Article IX of the CWC. It stipulates that States Parties to the Convention should first make every effort to clarify and resolve, through exchange of information and consultations among themselves, any matter which may cause doubt about compliance with the CWC. Under the provisions of that Article, Russia would be ready to respond to the United Kingdom’s request within 10 days.

Unfortunately, the British side rejected that option and, instead of following the existing norms of international law, chose to unscrupulously politicize the issue.

3. British Prime Minister Theresa May suggested that a special Security Council meeting to discuss the matter be held on 14 March 2018.  Suspecting that London would play dirty, Russia insisted on making the Security Council’s meeting open.

It is incomprehensible what the British side was trying to achieve by bringing the issue to the UNSC. This matter by no means falls within the mandate of the UNSC. It is quite obvious that all discussions are pointless until the OPCW gives its assessment of the Salisbury incident (it is important to know whether a nerve agent was actually used; if it was, how the likely origin of the chemicals was determined; what, and on what basis, actions were taken with regard to the victims, etc.).

4. On 14 March 2018, British Prime Minister Theresa May, apparently having come to senses, finally sent a letter to Director-General of the Technical Secretariat of the OPCW Ahmet Üzümcü (circulated to all OPCW Executive Council Member States on 15 March 2018) inviting the OPCW Technical Secretariat “to independently verify the analysis” of the British investigation into the Salisbury incident.

As indicated in the press release by the British Foreign Office of 18 March 2018, following the letter by Ms Theresa May, the UK’s Permanent Representative to the OPCW invited experts of the OPCW Technical Secretariat to visit the United Kingdom to carry out an independent analysis of the findings of the British Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down in connection with the Salisbury incident. On 19 March 2018, OPCW experts arrived in the United Kingdom.

Russia expects the OPCW to make an official detailed account of developments around the ‘Skripal case’. We proceed from the understanding that the OPCW Technical Secretariat shall conduct a full-fledged independent investigation in accordance with all relevant provisions of the CWC.

5. Russia has more and more questions both in legal and practical terms. And we intend to seek answers through the OPCW.

Russia states that it has not used chemical weapons against Great Britain. We suppose that the attack on the Skripals with toxic chemicals shall be deemed a terrorist act. As Yulia Skripal, a Russian citizen, is among the victims to the incident, we propose cooperation with the British Side under Article IX of the CWC.

We would like to ascertain the following issues.

Where, how, and by whom were the samples collected from Sergei and Yulia Skripal? How was it all documented? Who can certify that the data is credible? Was the chain of custody up to all the OPCW requirements when evidence was collected?

Which methods (spectral analysis and others) were used by the British side to identify, within such a remarkably short period of time, the type of the substance used (“Novichok” according to the western classification)? As far as we know, to do that, they must have had a standard sample of such agent at their disposal.

And how do these hasty actions correlate with Scotland Yard’s official statements that “the investigation is highly likely to take weeks or even months” to arrive at conclusions?

What information and medical effects led to a hasty decision to administer antidotes to the aggrieved Skripals and the British policeman? Could that hastiness lead to grave complications and further deterioration of their health status?

Which antidotes exactly were administered? What tests had been conducted to make the decision to use these drugs?

How can the delayed action of the nerve agent be explained, given that it is a fast-acting substance by nature? The victims were allegedly poisoned in a pizzeria (in a car, at the airport, at home, according to other accounts). So what really happened? How come they were found in some unidentified time on a bench in the street?

We need an explanation why it is Russia who was accused on the ‘Skripal case’ without any grounds whatsoever, while works to develop the agent codenamed “Novichok” in the West had been carried out by the United Kingdom, the USA, Sweden and the Czech Republic. There are more than 200 open sources publications in the NATO countries, highlighting the results that those countries achieved in the development of new toxic agents of this type.

6. Even from purely humanitarian perspective London’s action appears simply barbaric. On 4 March 2018 (as British authorities themselves claim) a nerve agent attack against Russian citizen Yulia Skripal was committed in the territory of the United Kingdom.

Russian Federation has demanded exhaustive information on the course of investigation into the Salisbury incident involving a Russian citizen (the Russian Embassy in London sent the relevant note verbale on 12 March 2018).

The United Kingdom is breaching elementary rules of inter-State relations and is still denying, without any explanation, Russian officials’ consular access to Yulia Skripal envisaged by the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. For more than two weeks now, we have not been able to credibly ascertain what happened to our citizen and what condition she is actually in.

On 16 March, the Main Directorate for High-Priority Cases of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation initiated a criminal investigation into the attempted willful murder of Russian citizen Yulia Skripal committed by dangerous means in the territory of the United Kingdom.

The investigation will be conducted in accordance with the Russian legislation and the norms of international law. Highly qualified experts will contribute to the investigation.

The investigators stand ready to work together with the competent authorities of the United Kingdom. We expect a cooperative approach of the British side.

7. In the UN Security Council as well as in the OPCW and at other international fora, the Russian Federation has been a consistent and insistent proponent of thorough, comprehensive and professional investigation of all crimes involving toxic chemicals, and of bringing perpetrators to justice.

We are ready to engage in full-scale and open cooperation with the United Kingdom in order to address any concerns whether in bilateral format or within the OPCW and other international instruments, working within the purview of international law.

As a responsible member of the international community and a bona fide State Party to the CWC Russia will never speak the language of ultimatums or answer informal and word-of-mouth questions.

The Western countries’ action on the fabricated ‘Skripal case’ contravenes the norms of international law and the general practice of inter-State relations, as well as the common sense itself. Naturally, we run a detailed record of all that, and when time comes, those guilty will inevitably be brought to justice.

Compare this careful statement with this infantile video published by the British Foreign Office, which conflates speculations about the case appearing on Russian television channels and in Russian newspapers with formal statements of the Russian government

To be clear, the Russians have provided a full explanation of their position: they were not involved in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal, they do not possess any stocks of Novichok chemicals, and the Novichok chemical used in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal cannot therefore have come from their stocks, which do not exist.

It is perverse and mendacious for the British to go on pretending that the Russians have not fully answered the question Theresa May put to them in her notorious ultimatum of a week ago.  Not only have the Russians fully answered the question; they have done so repeatedly.  It is another matter that the British do not like the answer.

The Russian statement or Aide-memoire speaks for itself, but I will just add two further points to it:

(1) Former British ambassador Craig Murray, whose articles on the Skripal case have been quite simply outstanding, has made the point that the British have never actually said that the chemical agent used in the attack on Skripal was made in Russia.

Instead the formula always used in all British and Western statements about the chemical agent used in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal is that it was of a type developed by Russia.

I have now received confirmation from a well placed FCO source that Porton Down scientists are not able to identify the nerve agent as being of Russian manufacture, and have been resentful of the pressure being placed on them to do so. Porton Down would only sign up to the formulation “of a type developed by Russia” after a rather difficult meeting where this was agreed as a compromise formulation. The Russians were allegedly researching, in the “Novichok” programme a generation of nerve agents which could be produced from commercially available precursors such as insecticides and fertilisers. This substance is a “novichok” in that sense. It is of that type. Just as I am typing on a laptop of a type developed by the United States, though this one was made in China.

To anybody with a Whitehall background this has been obvious for several days. The government has never said the nerve agent was made in Russia, or that it can only be made in Russia. The exact formulation “of a type developed by Russia” was used by Theresa May in parliament, used by the UK at the UN Security Council, used by Boris Johnson on the BBC yesterday and, most tellingly of all, “of a type developed by Russia” is the precise phrase used in the joint communique issued by the UK, USA, France and Germany yesterday:

This use of a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War.

When the same extremely careful phrasing is never deviated from, you know it is the result of a very delicate Whitehall compromise.

To which I would add that the formula of a type developed by Russia is actually wrong.

The family of chemical agents the Western powers call “Novichoks” (apparently it is not a Russian term) were not “developed by Russia”.  They were developed by the USSR, which was a different and much bigger country than Russia.

The main production facility was allegedly in Uzbekistan, which is not part of Russia, though there is actually doubt about whether any “Novichok” agents were ever made there.

The British have apparently tried to get round this problem by saying that Russia is the USSR’s successor state and “assumed responsibility” for all the USSR’s programmes.

This is absurd.  Russia does not control everything that happens across the whole territory of the former USSR and it is absurd to say that it “responsible” for some of the things that might go on there.

Three former constituent republics of the USSR – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – are now members of NATO.  Ukraine and Georgia are on bad terms with Russia and are regarded by NATO as NATO aspirant states. Uzbekistan, though currently friendly to Russia, has not always been so.  Moldova is deeply split between a pro-Russian President and a fervidly anti-Russian and pro-Western government.

To suppose that Russia is responsible for what goes on within these countries is ridiculous.  Yet they were part of the USSR – the country where development of the Novichok chemical agents took place – to the same extent that Russia was, and it is at least possible (indeed it is highly likely) that knowledge about the Novichok programme is dispersed across some or all of these countries, just as it is now dispersed in the West.

It seems that the facility where most of the research into Novichok chemical agents was done was located in Saratov which is now in Russia.

However given that the USSR was a different and much bigger country than Russia, it cannot be said that Novichok chemical agents are “of a type developed by Russia”.  It is false and misleading to go on saying so.

(2) An article in the Guardian today contains this quite extraordinary sentence

A Russian official said on Wednesday that Moscow would not accept the results of an inquiry into the source of the poison being undertaken by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

The official in question is Vladimir Yermakov, a deputy head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s department for non-proliferation, who the Guardian also reports in the same article saying the following

It is not possible to evaluate what happened in Salisbury within the framework of the [chemical weapons] convention and within the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Deeper expert evaluations will be needed, and in any case we need to conduct our own investigations for Russia to be able to draw any conclusions

The sentence in the Guardian article saying that “Moscow would not accept the results of the inquiry into the source of the poison being undertaken by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons” is therefore wrong.

Yermakov simply made the point that the OPCW is not a police agency and its role is limited to confirming the identity of the chemical agent used in the attack. In order to find out who actually carried out the attack, and to understand fully what took place in Salisbury, a proper and thorough criminal investigation of the entire incident is needed.

That is obviously correct.

I would add that one of the most troubling aspects of this case is the way the British are trying to present the identity of the chemical agent as “proof” both of its origins and of who was responsible for the attack, when in fact it is no such thing.

To reiterate a point repeatedly made – including by Craig Murray (see above) and by the Moon of Alabama – the mere fact that a Novichok chemical agent might have been used in the attack does not prove that Russia was responsible for the attack because Novichok chemical agents can be made – and have been made – in places other than Russia.

The paragraph in the Guardian is doubly misleading because as the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Aide-memoire shows, it was Russia not Britain which originally insisted that the OPCW become involved in establishing which chemical agent was used in the attack, with the British initially resisting all outside involvement.

On the subject of the actual criminal investigation – which alone can determine who was responsible for the attack – the Russian Aide-memoire makes clear that Russia demands that it participate fully in the investigation since the attack being investigated was an attack on its citizens

The United Kingdom is breaching elementary rules of inter-State relations and is still denying, without any explanation, Russian officials’ consular access to Yulia Skripal envisaged by the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. For more than two weeks now, we have not been able to credibly ascertain what happened to our citizen and what condition she is actually in.

On 16 March, the Main Directorate for High-Priority Cases of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation initiated a criminal investigation into the attempted willful murder of Russian citizen Yulia Skripal committed by dangerous means in the territory of the United Kingdom.

The investigation will be conducted in accordance with the Russian legislation and the norms of international law. Highly qualified experts will contribute to the investigation.

The investigators stand ready to work together with the competent authorities of the United Kingdom. We expect a cooperative approach of the British side.

The Aide-memoire only refers to Yulia Skripal.  However since the Aide-memoire was published the Russians appear to have discovered that Sergey Skripal was a Russian citizen as well.  Apparently he never formally gave up his Russian citizenship, so that so far as the Russians are concerned he has dual citizenship: Russian as well as British.

Here is what Alexander Yakovenko, Russia’s ambassador to Britain, has to say about this

I must make it clear: Sergei Skripal has dual citizenship – Russian and British. Britons said that as he has British citizenship, they will be reporting nothing on his condition to us

Accordingly the Russians will presumably now also demand full consular access to Sergey Skripal as well as to his daughter Yulia Skripal, and no doubt they will also now extend their own investigation to look into the circumstances of the attack on Sergey Skripal, as well as into the attack on his daughter, Yulia Skripal.

This may prove important since it may make it easier for the Russians to obtain – or demand – information about what Sergey Skripal has been up to since he left Russia.

I retain an open mind about who was responsible for the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal.  I genuinely do not know who carried out the attack and why, and since I do not know I think it is improper to guess.

What I will say is this: the Russians are offering clear explanations, are posing relevant questions, are insisting on established procedures being followed in accordance with international treaties and with the Chemical Weapons Convention, and are offering their full cooperation to the OPCW, whose involvement they were the first to insist upon.

They are also offering – indeed insisting – on their full participation in the criminal investigation of the attack on two people they say are their citizens.

By contrast the British are keeping what they know secret, initially resisted calling in the OPCW, are blocking the Russians from having consular access to two of their citizens, and are denying the Russians information about the investigation of an attack on two of their citizens.

They are also saying things about a supposed Russian failure to answer questions and a Russian failure to cooperate which are simply untrue.

I leave it to the readers of this article to decide for themselves who – the Russians or the British – is behaving more suspiciously in the conduct of this case.

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Russia makes MASSIVE progress on its ‘super-weapons’

Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle moves into serial production, nuclear-engine powered cruise missile tests continue, and more as Russia continues to outdo all Western military tech

Seraphim Hanisch

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On July 19th and 20th, The Russian Defense Ministry announced several milestones of progress in its advanced weapons systems programs. These programs were revealed to the world in March of this year, when Russian President Vladimir Putin gave the State of the Russian Federation speech.

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While at first the Western onlookers did not believe the amazing announcements of hypersonic weapons and nuclear-powered cruise missiles with unlimited range, subsequent releases and concurrent observation by the American military experts has shown these developments to be as real as Mr. Putin claimed they are.

TASS, the Russian News Agency, released information on these weapons systems in separate reports:

Kinzhal

The Kinzhal hypersonic missile:

Squadrons of MiG-31 fighter jets armed with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles should enter combat duty in the Black Sea region and at other Russian fleets and flotillas, said Russian military expert Viktor Murakhovsky, the editor-in-chief of the Arsenal Otechestva magazine.

Besides, a squadron (between 12 and 16 aircraft) of MiG-31 fighter jets armed with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles entered combat duty in the Caspian Sea region in April.

“I think at least one squadron of those complexes should be deployed at any fleet, in other words – at all regions where we have fleets and flotillas. We need to deploy them in the regions of the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Northern Fleet. The Pacific region also should not be forgotten,” Murakhovsky said.

He said that such systems can become a “good instrument” against not only vessels equipped with high-precision weapons, but also for countering carrier attack groups.

“We know how expensive a carrier attack group can be. By employing this asymmetric method, which is unbelievably cheap in comparison with building a carrier attack group, we can neutralize this threat almost completely,” the expert said.

Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile trials:

The Burevestnik is an entirely new cruise missile, powered by a nuclear engine. This gives the missile unlimited range. In theory, such a missile could be launched at a target and spend days or weeks in hidden flight using advanced guidance systems, and then close on its target at the optimal time to assure destruction of that target with maximum surprise. The TASS piece goes on to say:

The Russian Defense Ministry announced that Russia was preparing to test upgraded test prototypes of the nuclear-powered Burevestnik cruise missile with an unlimited range.

According to the expert, it is highly likely that the prototype of the missile “has already made a flight.”

“Clearly, it was something like the pop-up trials of Sarmat – a launch without the nuclear-powered engine, in other words, with an ordinary missile booster, conducted in order to assess the possibility of a launch, aerodynamics and the operability of the entire system in general,” [Murakhovsky] said.

Further reporting from TASS had this to add about the Burevestnik program:

Russia is getting ready for flight tests of the Burevestnik nuclear powered cruise missile, an official at the Defense Ministry told reporters on Thursday.

“The missile’s component makeup is being improved based on clarified requirements, while ground tests continue and preparations are being made for experimental flight tests of the improved missile,” the official said.

According to the Defense Ministry, “work on an unlimited-range missile is going according to plan.”

“In the meantime, launching systems are also being designed, while technological processes to manufacture, assemble and test the missile are being improved. This range of work will make it possible to start designing a totally new sort of weapon – a strategic nuclear complex armed with a nuclear powered missile,” the ministry official noted.

[The head] of the 12th Central Research Institute at Russia’s Defense Ministry Sergey Pertsev, in turn, said that the tests of the new cruise missile equipped with a small nuclear power unit had confirmed the accuracy of the technical decisions that Russian researchers, engineers and designers had made. In addition, the tests enabled the researchers “to receive valuable experimental data necessary for specifying a number of requirements.”

“A low-flying and low-observable cruise missile carrying a nuclear warhead, with an almost unlimited range, an unpredictable trajectory and capability to bypass interception lines is invincible to all the existing and advanced air and missile defense systems,” the Russian Defense Ministry stressed.

A further use of the nuclear engine technology is also expected in the Poseidon underwater drone, Mr. Murakhovsky stated that separate systems for the craft have been successfully tested. He further noted that the next task is to design the entire layout, build a test model and begin testing the whole platform.

The Avangard Hypersonic Missile

While the Kinzhal is a Mach-10 capable hypersonic system that can be launched from a fighter, the Avangard is a Mach-20 capable system that has intercontinental reach. There is almost no footage of this system released to the public, but the concept videos show how the system works. TASS reports this status:

Russia’s Strategic Missile Force is preparing a position area for accepting the Avangard hypersonic missile system for service as part of the efforts to strengthen the country’s military security, the Defense Ministry announced on Thursday.

“The Russian defense industry has completed developing the Avangard missile system with the principally new armament – the gliding cruise warhead. Industrial enterprises have switched to its serial production,” the Defense Ministry said.

“A set of organizational and technical measures is underway in the position area of the Dombarovsky large unit of the Strategic Missile Force to accept the Avangard missile system for operation,” it added.

The development of new strategic weapon systems “is aimed at increasing Russia’s defense capability and preventing any aggression against our country and its allies,” the Defense Ministry stressed.

The infrastructural facilities of the large unit’s position area have already been prepared for the missile system’s operation, the ministry said.

“The position area has been prepared in geodesic and engineering terms to accommodate the missile system. Work is underway to build new and reconstruct old facilities to provide for the operation and the combat use of the system. Technical and utility supply lines are being modernized and electric power, communications and command and control cables are being laid. Work has been arranged to train personnel and prepare armament, military and special hardware,” Russia’s Defense Ministry said.

Deputy Commander of Russia’s Strategic Missile Force for Armament Sergei Poroskun has said that the Avangard hypersonic missile system features combat capabilities that “make it possible to reliably breach any anti-missile defenses.”

The Okhotnik attack drone

The Okhotnik (“Hunter”) attack drone is now being viewed as a prototype for Russia’s “sixth-generation” fighter plane. TASS describes this in more detail:

According to [a defense industry] official, although the sixth generation fighter jet project “has not yet taken full shape, its main features are already known.”

“First of all, it should be unmanned and capable of performing any combat task in an autonomous regime. In this sense, Okhotnik will become the prototype of the sixth generation fighter jet,’ the source said, adding that the drone will be able to “take off, fulfill its objectives and return to the airfield.”

“However, it will not receive the function of decision-making regarding the use of weapons – this will be decided by a human,” he said.

TASS was unable to officially confirm the information at the time of the publication.

Another defense industry source earlier told TASS that the prototype of Okhotnik (Hunter) was ready and would start test flights this year.

The Russian Defense Ministry and the Sukhoi Company signed a contract for developing the 20-ton Okhotnik (Hunter) heavy unmanned strike aircraft in 2011. The drone’s mock-up model was made in 2014. According to unconfirmed reports, composite materials and anti-radar coating were used to create the Okhotnik. The drone is equipped with a reaction-jet propulsion and is supposed to develop a speed of 1000 kilometers per hour.

Peresvet laser weapons systems

TASS reported that the Russian military forces are now training for the use of the Peresvet combat laser system:

Russian Aerospace Force has accepted for service the laser complexes Peresvet and the military are now taking drills that involve the novel combat technologies, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

“The Peresvet laser complexes have been placed at sites of permanent deployment,” the report said. “Active efforts to make them fully operational are underway.”

“To ensure their proper functioning, the necessary infrastructures and specialized facilities for housing the complexes and duty crews have been built,” the ministry said.

The crews assigned to the Peresvets have taken upgrader courses at the Alexander Mozhaisky Military-Space Academy in St Petersburg.

The Russian military strategy of “asymmetric response.”

The overall defense strategy is termed an “asymmetric response”, and Mr. Murakhovsky explained the principle in this way:

“This is an asymmetric response, in which new classes of weapons are created, instead of new types within the framework of the existing systems. Other states are not expected to have anything of this kind [in the near future],” he said.

The expert described this response as “quite an efficient one, all the more so because it requires no additional investment – all the works are being carried out within the framework of the state procurement program.”

He added that unlike the Soviet Union, Russia avoids being dragged into a direct arms race and searches for cutting-edge solutions instead of simply increasing the number of weapons.

“The development of counter-weapons to those arms [may be possible] in distant future, but it does not mean that they can be created at all,” Murakhovsky added.

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From McCain to Brennan, Deep State soft coup against Trump picks up steam (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 59.

Alex Christoforou

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After Trump’s meeting with Putin in Helsinki, the Deep State smells blood, and is moving quickly to depose of US President Donald Trump.

Government officials and mainstream media puppets from left and right are condemning the US President over his press conference with Vladimir Putin.

Leading the charge are the usual Deep State, suspects, starting with John McCain and ending with the man many believe is behind the entire Trump-Russia collusion hoax, former Obama CIA boss John Brennan.

RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou examine the soft coup aimed at removing US President Trump by the November 2018 midterms. Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via The Independent

Conservative John McCain, who is facing a rare and terminal brain cancer, unleashed a damning statement against Mr Trump’s conference with Mr Putin, describing it as “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory”.

“President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin,” he said.

“It is tempting to describe the press conference as a pathetic rout — as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician. These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realise his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin’s regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbours, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world.”

The conservative senator’s comments arrived after the US president declined to name Russia as the adversary behind coordinated attacks on the 2016 presidential election.

While discussing whether he thought Russia was behind hacks against the 2016 election — as the US intelligence community has determined —the president said: “I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

“Dan Coats [the US Director of National Intelligence] said its Russia. President Putin says its not Russia,” said Mr Trump. “I don’t know why it would be…..I have confidence in both parties. President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

That set off a wave of condemnations from Democrats and Republicans alike.

“President Trump’s press conference with Putin was an embarrassing spectacle,” Bernie Sanders wrote in a tweet. “Rather than make clear that interference in our elections is unacceptable, Trump instead accepted Putin’s denials and cast doubt on the conclusions of our intelligence community. This is not normal.”

Jeff Flake, one of the only frequent Republican critics of Mr Trump in Congress, said the conference was “shameful” in a statement he posted across social media.

“I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression,” he said. “This is shameful.”

Former CIA Director John Brennan released a statement calling for Mr Trump’s impeachment and describing his comments as “treasonous”.

“Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes and misdemeanours,'” Mr Brennan wrote on Twitter. “It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???”

Elizabeth Warren also slammed the president for failing to hold Mr Putin accountable, writing on Twitter: “Russia interfered in our elections & attacked our democracy. Putin must be held accountable – not rewarded.”

“Disgraceful,” she concluded.

However, Mr Trump’s typical roster of critics weren’t the only legislators rebuking his bizarre denials of US intelligence. Lindsey Graham also criticised Mr Trump’s performance, adding that his denial of US intelligence will “be seen by Russia as a sign of weakness and create far more problems than it solves”.

“Missed opportunity by President Trump to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling and deliver a strong warning regarding future elections,” he said.

The Republican senator added a suggestion to Mr Trump: review the soccer ball Mr Putin gave to him as a gift for “listening devices” and “never allow it in the White House.”

Thomas Pickering, a regarded statesman and the former US ambassador to Russia, told MSNBC that he was in utter disbelief after the press conference was held on Monday.

“It’s a breathtaking denial of something that clearly is so obviously true,” he said. ”it represents the epitome of President Trump’s effort at self-promotion over the notion of defending the national interest of the United States.”

Mark Warner, a Virginia senator, also suggested Mr Trump committed a clear violation of his responsibilities as president.

Mr Trump committed “a breach of his duty to defend our country against its adversaries,” Mr Warner said. ”If the President cannot defend the United States and its interests in public, how can we trust him to stand up for our country in private?”

Meanwhile the latest Deep State leak, via the NYT, claims that US President Trump was told by Obama holdovers that Putin was involved in cyberattacks during the 2016 election. US intelligence told Trump this information days before the inauguration.

Via The Gateway Pundit

The same liberal hacks who illegally leaked this information want Americans to trust them as they continue to destroy this duly elected president.

President Trump on Wednesday told CBS anchor Jeff Glor that he has no confidence in the tainted intelligence by far left hacks Clapper, Brennan and Comey.

And, once again, the timing of this leak is not an accident.

Liberals are outraged that President Trump refused to chest bump Putin in Helsinki.

The deep state leaked this information to pile on the Republican president.

The New York Times reported…

Two weeks before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had personally ordered complex cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election.

The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the C.I.A. how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation.

Mr. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who attended the intelligence briefing. But ever since, Mr. Trump has tried to cloud the very clear findings that he received on Jan. 6, 2017, which his own intelligence leaders have unanimously endorsed.

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Russia ranks HIGHER than Switzerland in these areas of doing business

Some curious things happened with several businesspeople who attended World Cup events in Russia.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin

One of them was a distinctly renewed interest in doing business inside the country, and another was the realization to what extent perceptions have been tainted by media and political rhetoric directed against any real or imagined nastiness attributed to Russia these days.

These past few weeks have been invaluable, at the very least by affording a clear picture of Russia through which almost all anxiety-ridden preconceptions were illuminated and dispelled. More disturbing was the fact that the several businesspeople I was dealing with were furious. They were livid for being played for fools, and felt victimized by the dismally untrue picture painted about Russia and Russians in their home countries, both by their own politicians and the press.

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Most felt that they have been personally sanctioned by their own countries, betrayed through lack of clear unbiased information enabling them to participate and profit from Russia opportunities these past three growth years in spite of “sanctions”.

The door to doing good business in Russia has been and is open, and has been opening wider year after year. That is not just “highly likely”, but fact. Consistently improving structures, means and methods to conduct business in Russia sustainably, transparently and profitably are now part of the country’s DNA. It is a process, which has been worked on in the west for more than a century, and one, which Russia has only started these past 18 years.

True, there are sanctions, counter-sanctions, and regulations governing them that must be studied carefully. However if you are not a bank or doing business with those persons deemed worthy of being blacklisted by some countries “sanctions list”, in reality there are no obstacles that cannot be positively addressed and legally overcome despite the choir of political nay-sayers.

READ MORE: Russia just dumped $80 BILLION in US debt

The days of quickly turning over Russia opportunities into short-term cash are rapidly fading, they are a throwback to the 1990’s. Today the major and open opportunities are in the areas for Foreign Direct Investments. The nature of FDI is long term to make regularly recurring sustainable returns on investment.

Long term, Russia always was and increasingly confirms that it is a vibrant and attractive market. There is a significant consumer market with spending power, a well-educated workforce, a wealth of resources and the list goes on. The economic obstacles encountered have largely been imposed from without, and not from the dynamics and energies of the Russian economy itself.

Eventually sanctions will end, although the timeline is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile business continues, and any long-term engagement within Russia by establishing a working presence will yield both short and long-term investment rewards. These will only be amplified when the sanctions regimes are removed. In any event, these aspects are long-term investment decisions and one of the criteria in any risk assessment.

For some added perspective, Russia is ranked by the Financial Times as the No.2 country in Europe in terms of capital investments into Europe. It has a 2017 market share of 9% (US$ 15.9 billion) and includes 203 business projects. This is 2% higher than 2016 and better that 2014/2015 when sanctions were imposed.

Another item of perspective is the Country Risk Premium. All investors consider this when calculating the scope for long-term return on investments. What may surprise some is that Russia is no longer ranked as a very high-risk country. For comparisons sake: The risk premium for Germany is zero (no extra risk), the risk premium for Italy is 2.19%, and for Russia, it is 2.54%. When compared to politically popular investment destinations like Ukraine the risk premium is 10.4%  – food for thought. Bottom line is that the risks of investing in Russia are a smidge higher than investing in Italy.

Russia is ranked 35 among 190 economies in the ease of doing business, according to the latest World Bank annual ratings. The ranking of Russia improved to 35 in 2017 from 40 in 2016 and from 124 in 2010. It may also surprise some to learn that as concerns protecting the rights of minority investors, paying taxes, registering property and some other aspects of the World Bank comparisons, Russia comes out better than Switzerland (See: Rankings).

From operational standpoints, establishing an invested presence in Russia does not mean one must adopt Russian managerial methods or practices. The advantages for established foreign companies is that their management culture is readily applied and absorbed by a smart and willing workforce, enabling a seamless integration given the right training and tools.

The trend towards the ultimate globalization of business despite trade wars, tariffs, sanctions and counter-sanctions is clear. The internet of the planet, the blockchain and speed of information exchange makes it so whether we wish it or not. Personally, I hope that political globalization remains stillborn as geopolitics has a historical mandate to tinker with and play havoc with international trade.

Russia occupies a key strategic position between Europe and Asia. The “west” (US/Europe) have long had at times rather turbulent relationships with China. At the same time the Chinese are quite active investors in both the US and Europe, and western companies are often struggling to understand how to deal with China.

The answer to this conundrum is Russia: this is where East and West will ultimately come together with Russia playing a pivotal role in the relations between the west and China. At the end of the day, and taking the strategic long-term economic view, is what both Chinese and Western companies are investing in when they open their activities in Russia.

If long-term commitment and investment in Russia were simply a matter of transferring funds then I would not be bothering with this opinion article. Without a doubt, there are structural issues with investing in Russia. A still evolving and sometimes unclear rule of law, difficulties obtaining finance for investments directed towards Russia, the unique language and culture of business in the country. Nevertheless, companies that have an understanding and vision of global strategy will manage with these issues and have the means to mitigate them.

Money and other invested resources do not and should not play politics; any investment case when evaluated on objective financial criteria will reveal its fit, or lack of, within a company’s global strategic business objectives. The objective criteria for Russia over any long term horizon is both convincing and strong. This has been repeated by all of the businesspeople I have met with these past few weeks. Without doubt we shall see some new companies coming into the Russian market and objectively exploring the gains their playing fair business football here will yield.

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