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Russia gives Serbia free MiG-29 fighter jets

China holds the key to the Balkans more than Russia or the United States.

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Russia has delivered the first two of six MiG-29 fighter jets to Serbia in a free exchange of military aircraft to a traditional ally and fraternal people.

In the late-modern period, Serbia’s connection to Russia became most clear during the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78. It was during this war that Russia liberated much of the Orthodox Balkans after centuries of Ottoman Turkish imperial rule. Serbia which first declared independence from Ottoman Turkey in 1804, became a fully independent state as a result of the Russian victory over Turkey. Bulgaria also became de-facto free of Turkish rule as a result of the war.

While the Soviet-Yugoslav alliance ended in 1948, Serbs and Russians continued to view one another as a fraternal peoples in spite of the intricacies of Cold War power politics.

Today, Serbia is in an increasingly difficult position. Serbia currently seeks to join the European Union, in spite of the fact that leading EU states, including and especially Germany, strongly advocated for and funded the insurgencies against Yugoslavia in the 1990s, which in most cases ended up being little more than ultra-nationalistic militant upheavals directed at ethnic Serb civilians.

Were Serbia to join the EU, much of its trade with Russia would be curtailed by Brussels due to its current sanctions policy. Furthermore, the issue regarding the Serbian Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija complicates things further. Russia, like much of the world, continues to view Kosovo and Metohija as an integral part of the Republic of Serbia. However, most EU countries view the so-called Kosovo as an independent state, recognising the leaders of a NATO occupying regime as statesmen, in spite of their lack of global recognition and their use of terrorism to achieve regional domination.

This issue is generally cited as the main reason why Serbia’s ascension process to the EU has been unusually long. NATO member Albania which supports its effective puppet regime in occupied Kosovo and Metohija, is also vying for EU membership. Worryingly, the Albanian leader Edi Rama recently stated that Albania would annex parts of Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro if his state was not allowed into the EU.

Serbia responds to Albanian threats to annex its territory

Russia’s recent delivery of fighter jets to Belgrade was praised by Serbian Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin in the following way,

“We are proud to say that our aviation is obtaining new equipment for the first time since 1987. We are glad to make our military more powerful, well-organised and up-to-date”.

In reality, while Russia has gifted Serbia six jets and runs a humanitarian centre in Serbia, Russia’s military links to Serbia are more limited than NATO propaganda would suggest and also more limited than many Russian and Serbian patriots would like.

Russia’s military aid to Serbia amounts to gestures of good will, but it does not amount to making Serbia’s armed forces a kind of ‘proxy-Russian force’ in the Balkans. Many Serbs continue to reject the notion of EU membership and would like closer relations with Russia, but the mainstream parties in Belgrade are attempting a balancing act between Russia and the EU which is ultimately impossible, as former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych found out the hard way. Many Russians who remember the shared experience of an Orthodox people bound by a similar history, seek to do more for Serbia, but ultimately, geo-political realities limit Russia’s ability to do more for Serbia, unless Russia seeks to establish a permanent military presence in southern Europe. Currently, Russia has no such plans.

While Russia’s aid to Serbia is well intentioned and limited, Serbia is rapidly being encircled by NATO. Unlike Russia which has no military presence in southern Europe, NATO has effectively encircled Serbia from all sides. Albania which has a history of profound hostility against Serbia has been a NATO member since 2009 and NATO troops have occupied the Serbian Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija since 1999. Meanwhile, Croatia is also in NATO. Furthermore, against the wishes of most of its citizens, Montenegro joined NATO this year.

NATO is currently working towards making Macedonia into a member state while the US and its European allies continue to encourage Albanian extremism as a means of destabilising Macedonia, in the hope of forcing the hand of Skopje.

100 years later, the west has authored a new Balfour Declaration for the Balkans

While NATO’s vast presence in the region means that the US has direct military access to the Balkans, Russia does not have direct access to Serbia. Furthermore, due to geographical distance, NATO could effectively shut Russia out of the Balkans in the event of a new Balkan war.

While Russia’s strong military could still aid Serbia in the event of a war, Russia is not interested in fighting a war in the Balkans. By contrast, NATO seeks to draw Russia into a Balkan war for the following reasons:

–By forcing Russia to fight a new European war, NATO could distract Russia from her geo-strategic interests in Asia and the wider ‘global east and south’

–NATO would be able to more easily bring harm to Serbia and its Russian ally due to its heavy presence in the region.

–NATO would try and in some regions, succeed in once again slandering Serbia and Russia as aggressors even though neither Serbia nor Russia has any remote interest in starting a new Balkan war.

NATO is trying to draw Russia into a new Balkan war

Ultimately, the key to the Balkans is not Russia, but China. The western Balkans in particular forms an important part of China’s One Belt–One Road and already, China is quietly investing in the region, including in both Serbia and Albania.

China’s views on the region are based on geographical and economic pragmatism, although China has certainly not forgotten that during the illegal NATO war on Yugoslavia in 1999, the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade was bombed, thus heightening tensions between Beijing and Washington.

Because of this, China is all too aware of the dangers inherent in investing in the region. But rather than exercise caution, China is instead interested in encouraging regional stability for the sake of One Belt–One Road. Inversely, the US has been doing anything it can to disrupt progress along One Belt–One Road whether it be the war in Afghanistan which impacts China’s relationship with Pakistan, US meddling in East and South East Asian Affairs, US destabilisation of the Middle East, and the Kiev-Donbass conflict.

US troops in Europe and the Middle East are there to provoke China more than Russia or Iran

In this sense, while some see the current Balkans crisis as a test of will between NATO and Russia, the reality is that it is a battle between Chinese economic pragmatism that could potential;y bring both increased prosperity and increased political stability to the region versus the United States which seeks to encircle Serbia with hostile western backed client states.

Russia could benefit from the Chinese business model coming to the Balkans just as sure as Russia would face uncomfortable calls to defend Serbia in the event of a new war.

The fact that such a war could break out at any moment is a reality that Serbia fears, Russia detests and China seeks to avoid.

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Foreign Banks Are Embracing Russia’s Alternative To SWIFT, Moscow Says

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative.

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Via Zerohedge


On Friday, one day after Russia and China pledged to reduce their reliance on the dollar by increasing the amount of bilateral trade conducted in rubles and yuan (a goal toward which much progress has already been made over the past three years), Russia’s Central Bank provided the latest update on Moscow’s alternative to US-dominated international payments network SWIFT.

Moscow started working on the project back in 2014, when international sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea inspired fears that the country’s largest banks would soon be cut off from SWIFT which, though it’s based in Belgium and claims to be politically neutral, is effectively controlled by the US Treasury.

Today, the Russian alternative, known as the System for Transfer of Financial Messages, has attracted a modest amount of support within the Russian business community, with 416 Russian companies having joined as of September, including the Russian Federal Treasury and large state corporations likeGazprom Neft and Rosneft.

And now, eight months after a senior Russian official advised that “our banks are ready to turn off SWIFT,” it appears the system has reached another milestone in its development: It’s ready to take on international partners in the quest to de-dollarize and end the US’s leverage over the international financial system. A Russian official advised that non-residents will begin joining the system “this year,” according to RT.

“Non-residents will start connecting to us this year. People are already turning to us,”said First Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Russia Olga Skorobogatova. Earlier, the official said that by using the alternative payment system foreign firms would be able to do business with sanctioned Russian companies.

Turkey, China, India and others are among the countries that might be interested in a SWIFT alternative, as Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed out in a speech earlier this month, the US’s willingness to blithely sanction countries from Iran to Venezuela and beyond will eventually rebound on the US economy by undermining the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency.

To be sure, the Russians aren’t the only ones building a SWIFT alternative to help avoid US sanctions. Russia and China, along with the European Union are launching an interbank payments network known as the Special Purpose Vehicle to help companies pursue “legitimate business with Iran” in defiance of US sanctions.

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative. For one, much of Europe is dependent on Russian natural gas and oil.

And as Russian trade with other US rivals increases, Moscow’s payments network will look increasingly attractive,particularly if buyers of Russian crude have no other alternatives to pay for their goods.

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US leaving INF will put nuclear non-proliferation at risk & may lead to ‘complete chaos’

The US is pulling out of a nuclear missile pact with Russia. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty requires both countries to eliminate their short and medium-range atomic missiles.

The Duran

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Via RT


If the US ditches the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), it could collapse the entire nuclear non-proliferation system, and bring nuclear war even closer, Russian officials warn.

By ending the INF, Washington risks creating a domino effect which could endanger other landmark deals like the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and collapse the existing non-proliferation mechanism as we know it, senior lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev said on Sunday.

The current iteration of the START treaty, which limits the deployment of all types of nuclear weapons, is due to expire in 2021. Kosachev, who chairs the Parliament’s Upper House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that such an outcome pits mankind against “complete chaos in terms of nuclear weapons.”

“Now the US Western allies face a choice: either embarking on the same path, possibly leading to new war, or siding with common sense, at least for the sake of their self-preservation instinct.”

His remarks came after US President Donald Trump announced his intentions to “terminate” the INF, citing alleged violations of the deal by Russia.

Moscow has repeatedly denied undermining the treaty, pointing out that Trump has failed to produce any evidence of violations. Moreover, Russian officials insist that the deployment of US-made Mk 41 ground-based universal launching systems in Europe actually violates the agreement since the launchers are capable of firing mid-range cruise missiles.

Leonid Slutsky, who leads the Foreign Affairs Committee in parliament’s lower chamber, argued that Trump’s words are akin to placing “a huge mine under the whole disarmament process on the planet.”

The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The deal effectively bans the parties from having and developing short- and mid-range missiles of all types. According to the provisions, the US was obliged to destroy Pershing I and II launcher systems and BGM-109G Gryphon ground-launched cruise missiles. Moscow, meanwhile, pledged to remove the SS-20 and several other types of missiles from its nuclear arsenal.

Pershing missiles stationed in the US Army arsenal. © Hulton Archive / Getty Images ©

By scrapping the historic accord, Washington is trying to fulfill its “dream of a unipolar world,” a source within the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“This decision fits into the US policy of ditching the international agreements which impose equal obligations on it and its partners, and render the ‘exceptionalism’ concept vulnerable.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov denounced Trump’s threats as “blackmail” and said that Washington wants to dismantle the INF because it views the deal as a “problem” on its course for “total domination” in the military sphere.

The issue of nuclear arms treaties is too vital for national and global security to rush into hastily-made “emotional” decisions, the official explained. Russia is expecting to hear more on the US’ plans from Trump’s top security adviser, John Bolton, who is set to hold talks in Moscow tomorrow.

President Trump has been open about unilaterally pulling the US out of various international agreements if he deems them to be damaging to national interests. Earlier this year, Washington withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program. All other signatories to the landmark agreement, including Russia, China, and the EU, decided to stick to the deal, while blasting Trump for leaving.

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Converting Khashoggi into Cash

After two weeks of denying any connection to Khashoggi’s disappearance, Riyadh has admitted that he was killed by Saudi operatives but it wasn’t really on purpose.

Jim Jatras

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Authored by James George Jatras via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The hazard of writing about the Saudis’ absurd gyrations as they seek to avoid blame for the murder of the late, not notably great journalist and Muslim Brotherhood activist Jamal Khashoggi is that by the time a sentence is finished, the landscape may have changed again.

As though right on cue, the narrative has just taken another sharp turn.

After two weeks of denying any connection to Khashoggi’s disappearance, Riyadh has ‘fessed up (sorta) and admitted that he was killed by Saudi operatives but it wasn’t really on purpose:

Y’see, it was kinda’f an ‘accident.’

Oops…

Y’see the guys were arguing, and … uh … a fistfight broke out.

Yeah, that’s it … a ‘fistfight.’

And before you know it poor Jamal had gone all to pieces.

Y’see?

Must’ve been a helluva fistfight.

The figurative digital ink wasn’t even dry on that whopper before American politicos in both parties were calling it out:

  • “To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement,” tweeted Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “First we were told Mr. Khashoggi supposedly left the consulate and there was blanket denial of any Saudi involvement. Now, a fight breaks out and he’s killed in the consulate, all without knowledge of Crown Prince. It’s hard to find this latest ‘explanation‘ as credible.”
  • California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the new Saudi explanation is “not credible.” “If Khashoggi was fighting inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, he was fighting for his life with people sent to capture or kill him,” Schiff said. “The kingdom and all involved in this brutal murder must be held accountable, and if the Trump administration will not take the lead, Congress must.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan must think he’s already died and gone to his eternal recreation in the amorous embraces of the dark-eyed houris. The acid test for the viability of Riyadh’s newest transparent lie is whether the Turks actually have, as they claim, live recordings of Khashoggi’s interrogation, torture, murder, and dismemberment (not necessarily in that order) – and if they do, when Erdogan decides it’s the right time to release them.

Erdogan has got the Saudis over a barrel and he’ll squeeze everything he can out of them.

From the beginning, the Khashoggi story wasn’t really about the fate of one man. The Saudis have been getting away with bloody murder, literally, for years. They’re daily slaughtering the civilian population of Yemen with American and British help, with barely a ho-hum from the sensitive consciences always ready to invoke the so-called “responsibility to protect” Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo, Libya, Syria, Xinjiang, Rakhine, and so forth.

Where’s the responsibility not to help a crazed bunch of Wahhabist head-choppers kill people?

But now, just one guy meets a grisly end and suddenly it’s the most important homicide since the Lindbergh baby.

What gives?

Is it because Khashoggi was part of the MSM aristocracy, on account of his relationship with the Washington Post?

Was it because of his other, darker, connections? As related by Moon of Alabama: “Khashoggi was a rather shady guy. A ‘journalist’ who was also an operator for Saudi and U.S. intelligence services. He was an early recruit of the Muslim Brotherhood.” This relationship, writes MoA, touches on the interests of pretty much everyone in the region:

“The Ottoman empire ruled over much of the Arab world. The neo-Ottoman wannabe-Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdogan would like to regain that historic position for Turkey. His main competition in this are the al-Sauds. They have much more money and are strategically aligned with Israel and the United States, while Turkey under Erdogan is more or less isolated. The religious-political element of the competition is represented on one side by the Muslim Brotherhood, ‘democratic’ Islamists to which Erdogan belongs, and the Wahhabi absolutists on the other side.”

With the noose tightening around Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS), the risible fistfight cock-and-bull story is likely to be the best they can come up with. US President Donald Trump’s having offered his “rogue killers” opening suggests he’s willing to play along. Nobody will really be fooled, but MbS will hope he can persuade important people to pretend they are fooled.

That will mean spreading around a lot of cash. The new alchemy of converting Khashoggi dead into financial gain for the living is just one part of an obvious scheme to pull off what Libya’s Muammar Kaddafi managed after the 1988 Lockerbie bombing: offer up some underlings as the fall guys and let the top man evade responsibility. (KARMA ALERT: That didn’t do Kaddafi any good in the long run.)

In the Saudi case the Lockerbie dodge will be harder, as there are already pictures of men at the Istanbul Consulate General identified as close associates of MbS. But they’ll give it the old madrasa try anyway since it’s all they’ve got.Firings and arrests have started and one suspect has already died in a suspicious automobile “accident.” Heads will roll!

Saving MbS’s skin and his succession to the throne of his doddering father may depend on how many of the usual recipients of Saudi – let’s be honest – bribery and influence peddling will find sufficient pecuniary reason to go along. Saudi Arabia’s unofficial motto with respect to the US establishment might as well be: “The green poultice heals all wounds.”

Anyway, that’s been their experience up to now, but it also in part reflects the same arrogance that made MbS think he could continue to get away with anything. (It’s not shooting someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, but it’s close.) Whether spreading cash around will continue to have the same salubrious effect it always has had in the past remains to be seen.

To be sure, Trump may succeed in shaking the Saudi date palm for additional billions for arms sales. That won’t necessarily turn around an image problem that may not have a remedy. But still, count on more cash going to high-price lobbying and image-control shops eager to make obscene money working for their obscene client. Some big American names are dropping are dropping Riyadh in a sudden fit of fastidiousness, but you can bet others will be eager to step into their Guccis, both in the US and in the United Kingdom. (It should never be forgotten how closely linked the US and UK establishments are in the Middle East, and to the Saudis in particular.)

It still might not work though. No matter how much expensive PR lipstick the spinmeisters put on this pig, that won’t make it kissable. It’s still a pig.

Others benefitting from hanging Khashoggi’s death around MbS’s neck are:

  • Qatar (after last year’s invasion scare, there’s no doubt a bit of Schadenfreude and (figurative) champagne corks popping in Doha over MbS’s discomfiture. As one source close to the ruling al-Thani family relates, “The Qataris are stunned speechless at Saudi incompetence!” You just can’t get good help these days).

Among the losers one must count Israel and especially Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. MbS, with his contrived image as the reformer, was the Sunni “beard” he needed to get the US to assemble an “Arab NATO” (as though one NATO weren’t bad enough!) and eliminate Iran for him. It remains to be seen how far that agenda has been set back.

Whether or not MbS survives or is removed – perhaps with extreme prejudice – there’s no doubt Saudi Arabia is the big loser. Question are being asked that should have been asked years ago. As Srdja Trifkovic comments in Chronicles magazine:

“The crown prince’s recklessness in ordering the murder of Khashoggi has demonstrated that he is just a standard despot, a Mafia don with oil presiding over an extended cleptocracy of inbred parasites. The KSA will not be reformed because it is structurally not capable of reform. The regime in Riyadh which stops being a playground of great wealth, protected by a large investment in theocratic excess, would not be ‘Saudi’ any longer. Saudia delenda est.”

The first Saudi state, the Emirate of Diriyah, went belly up in 1818, with the death of head of the house of al-Saud, Abdullah bin Saud – actually, literally with his head hung on a gate in Constantinople by Erdogan’s Ottoman predecessor, Sultan Mahmud II.

The second Saudi state, Emirate of Nejd, likewise folded in 1891.

It’s long past time this third and current abomination joined its antecedents on the ash heap of history.

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