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Russia and Japan finally coming together

With no peace treaty since 1945, realtions between the two nations have long been strained, but progress is being made




Courteous and professional diplomacy may not be entirely dead in our brave new world. To appreciate the nuances of this sentence one only has to look back a bit into history.

Since World War II ended, there still is no peace treaty between Moscow and Tokyo to this day. The key fly in the ointment to peace has been the unresolved territorial dispute around the southern part of the Kuril Islands chain – Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and the Habomai group. This matter has been both emotional and pragmatic over the years, rising and ebbing like tides influenced by a geopolitical moon.

The Kuril Islands impasse gathered steam during the cold war in the aftermath of World War II and finds its roots in the wording and intent of the Yalta agreement (February 1945), the Potsdam Declaration (July 1945) and the Treaty of San Francisco (September 1951). The Soviet Union refused to sign the Treaty of San Francisco and stated that the Kuril Islands issue and the new iterations were one of the reasons for its opposition to that Treaty.

The original Yalta Agreement, signed by the major allied powers set out the following:

The leaders of the three great powers – the Soviet Union, the United States of America and Great Britain – have agreed that within two or three months after Germany has surrendered and the war in Europe is terminated, the Soviet Union shall enter into war against Japan on the side of the Allies on condition that

  1. The former rights of Imperial Russia violated by the attack by Japan in 1904 will be restored.
  2. The southern part of Sakhalin as well as the islands adjacent to it shall be returned to the Soviet Union.
  3. The Kurile Islands shall be handed over to the Soviet Union.

In the years following the dissolution of the “Great Alliance” other factors came into play, geopolitics, domino theories, wars in Korea and Vietnam, and spheres of influence. In sum the whole cold war bouquet of changing military perceptions, viewpoints, evolving economics, and shifting political positions. The initial clarity of the Potsdam Declaration was picked at, amended and interpreted by a gaggle of legislators, resulting in these various declarations becoming “clear as mud”.

Fast forward – the “communist threat” posed by the Soviet Union disappeared over 25 years ago along with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Out of the ruins of the USSR, a number of sovereign nations emerged, the largest of which is the Russian Federation, which also is the inheritor of the rights, and obligations of what was once the Soviet Union. Still, no peace treaty with Japan.

Meanwhile, historical enemies such as Japan and China with the blessings of the USA managed to come to terms in developing a working relationship. Today there are over 30,000 Japanese businesses registered and doing business with China. With Russia the number fluctuates between 300 and 400 which I am sure has something to do with the lack of a defined and clear relationship, partly to do with the Islands, and partly due to western geopolitical pressures to keep the relationship a long term work in process, usefully for some to remain unresolved and unblessed.

That being said, almost all of the major Japanese companies (just like the USA) are well represented in Russia, have a very active trading relationship with everything from automobiles, electronics to oil, and gas developments for more than a quarter century. What has been missing are the midsized and small Japanese companies who are at the cutting edge of agriculture, alternative energy and a host of niche businesses, which would find ready cooperation and markets in Russia.

The unparalled beauty of the Kurils

At the start of this February the Japanese government made it known that it has prepared and will present to the Russian government an urban development project for the city of Vladivostok in the Far East of Russia. This is part of the two countries’ economic partnership planning which is an outgrowth from the meetings between Putin and Abe these past two years. It has come together as there are national interests involved best addressed between two sovereign nations, and not by a multinational committee.

The Vladivostok project includes several subsets, among which are a Japanese AI traffic signal system that automatically adjusts signals in real time to reduce congestion, a technology to renew old sewage pipes without the need for excavation and a new Japanese technology for ecologically responsible garbage incineration that reduces air pollution. These projects, together with improving urban infrastructure, aquaculture, wind energy, greenhouse agriculture, tourism and property development form a strong and serious business foundation. The Japan Bank for International Cooperation and other sources within both Russia and Asia shall provide funding and financing.

It looks like common sense and pragmatic business can in fact lead the diplomatic horse to water. Without the noise, show, spin and drama so popular today. Both the Russians and Japanese are actively preparing to engage in new consultations at the deputy minister level specifically to iron out ways to expand joint economic activities in the southern Kurile Islands. It is hoped that by enhancing two-way business and joint investments in these common territories that the political and diplomatic frictions will over time be resolved to the benefit and interests of both.

A great deal of planning and development work is ongoing in the Far East of Russia that is not making news in the western world. Partly because some of the projects like the Power of Siberia pipelines extending into China and planned for Japan, or the mainland to Sakhalin then to Hokkaido land bridge, may not meet the narrative desired by the various press services. Perhaps it is because these initiatives do not have a US Dollar component, or are not being led by US supported initiatives. Whatever the reasons, this region will be a global economic game changer for the 21st century and the parts needed to make it a reality are now finally coming together.

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Photos of swastika on Ukrainian mall stairway creates a stir [Video]

Ukrainian nationalist press in damage-control mode to explain away the Nazi sign, but they forgot the name of the street the mall is on.

Seraphim Hanisch



One of the aspects of news about Ukraine that does not make it past the gatekeepers of the American and Western news media is how a significant contingent of Ukrainian nationalists have espoused a sense of reverence for Nazis. The idea that this could even happen anywhere in the world in an open manner makes the claim seem too absurd to be taken seriously. Gone are the days when the Nazi swastika adorned streets and buildings in Europe. Right?

Well, maybe, wrong.

This was seen in Kyiv’s Gorodok (or Horodok, if you insist) Gallery, a shopping center in that city, located on Bandera Avenue.

The pro-nationalist news service UNIAN wasted no time going to press with their explanation of this incident, which admittedly may be accurate:

Children and teenagers who participated in the All-Ukrainian break dance festival held in the Kyiv-based Gorodok Gallery shopping mall were shocked to see a swastika image projected onto an LED staircase.

The mall administration apologized to visitors, explaining saying that their computer system had apparently been hacked.

“The administration and staff have no relation to whatever was projected onto the LED-staircase, and in no way does it support such [an] act. Now we are actively searching for those involved in the attack,” it said in a statement.

According to Gorodok Gallery’s administrative office, it was not the first time a cyber breach took place.

As reported earlier, Ukraine is believed to be a testing ground for cyberattacks, many of which are launched from Russia. Hackers have earlier targeted critical energy infrastructure, state institutions, banks, and large businesses.

This time, it appears, hackers aimed to feed the Kremlin’s narrative of “Nazis in power in Ukraine” and create a relevant hype-driving viral story for Russian media to spread it worldwide.

The Gorodok Gallery also apologized on its Facebook page and said that this was a result of hacking.

But what about the street that the mall is on? From the self-same Facebook page, this is what we see:

To translate, for those who do not read Ukrainian or Russian, the address says the following:

23 Steven Bandera Prospekt, Kyiv, Ukraine 04073

This street was formerly called “Moscow Avenue.” Big change, as we shall see.

Steven Bandera got his birthday designated as a national holiday in Ukraine last December. He is known in Ukraine’s history for one thing. According to the Jerusalem Post:

The street where the shopping mall is located is named for Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist who briefly collaborated with Nazi Germany in its fight against Russia.

His troops are believed to have killed thousands of Jews.

Several Israeli papers picked this bit of news up, and of course, the reasons are understandable. However, for the West, it appears possible that this news event will largely go unnoticed, even by that great nation that is often called “Israel’s proxy”, the United States.

This is probably because for certain people in the US, there is a sense of desperation to mask the nature of events that are happening in Ukraine.

The usual fare of mainstream news for the West probably consists of things like “Putin’s military seizes innocent Ukrainian sailors in Kerch incident” or, “Ukraine’s Orthodox Church declared fully independent by Patriarch of Constantinople” (not that too many Americans know what a Constantinople even is, anyway), but the overriding narrative for the American people about this country is “Ukraine are the good guys, and Russia are the bad guys,” and this will not be pushed aside, even to accommodate the logical grievance of Israel to this incident.

If this article gets to Western papers at all, it will be the UNIAN line they adhere to, that evil pro-Russia hackers caused this stairway to have a swastika to provoke the idea that Ukraine somehow supports Naziism.

But UNIAN neglected to mention that the street name was recently changed to Stephan Bandera (in 2016), and no one appears to have hacked this. Nor does UNIAN talk about the Azov fighters that openly espoused much of the Nazi ideology. For nationalist Ukrainians, this is all for the greater good of getting rid of all things Russia.

A further sad fact about this is the near impossibility of getting assuredly honest and neutral information about this and other similar happenings. Both Ukrainian nationalists and Russian media agencies have dogs in the race, so to speak. They are both personally connected to these events. However, the Russian media cannot be discounted here, because they do offer a witness and perspective, probably the closest to any objective look at what is going on in Ukraine. We include a video of a “torchlight march” that took place in 2017 that featured such hypernationalist activity, which is not reported in the West.

More such reports are available, but this one seemed the best one to summarize the character of what is going on in the country.

While we do not know the motive and identities of whoever programmed the swastika, it cannot really be stated that this was just a random publicity stunt in a country that has no relationship with Nazi veneration.

The street the mall is on bears witness to that.

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Putin: If mid-range missiles deployed in Europe, Russia will station arms to strike decision centers

Putin: If US deploys mid-range missiles in Europe, Russia will be forced to respond.





Via RT…

If the US deploys intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Moscow will respond by stationing weapons aimed not only against missiles themselves, but also at command and control centers, from which a launch order would come.

The warning came from President Vladimir Putin, who announced Russia’s planned actions after the US withdraws from the INF Treaty – a Cold War-era agreement between Washington and Moscow which banned both sides form having ground-based cruise and ballistic missiles and developing relevant technology.

The US is set to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty in six months, which opens the possibility of once again deploying these missiles in Europe. Russia would see that as a major threat and respond with its own deployments, Putin said.

Intermediate-range missiles were banned and removed from Europe because they would leave a very short window of opportunity for the other side to decide whether to fire in retaliation after detecting a launch – mere minutes. This poses the threat of an accidental nuclear exchange triggered by a false launch warning, with the officer in charge having no time to double check.

“Russia will be forced to create and deploy weapon systems, which can be used not only against the territories from which this direct threat would be projected, but also against those territories where decision centers are located, from which an order to use those weapons against us may come.” The Russian president, who was delivering a keynote address to the Russian parliament on Wednesday, did not elaborate on whether any counter-deployment would only target US command-and-control sites in Europe or would also include targets on American soil.

He did say the Russian weapon system in terms of flight times and other specifications would “correspond” to those targeting Russia.

“We know how to do it and we will implement those plans without a delay once the relevant threats against us materialize,”he said.

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Russia’s Lukoil Halts Oil Swaps In Venezuela After U.S. Sanctions

Under the new wide-ranging U.S. sanctions, Venezuela will not be able to import U.S. naphtha which it has typically used to dilute its heavy crude grades.




Litasco, the international trading arm of Russia’s second-biggest oil producer Lukoil, stopped its oil swaps deals with Venezuela immediately after the U.S. imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry and state oil firm PDVSA, Lukoil’s chief executive Vagit Alekperov said at an investment forum in Russia.

Russia, which stands by Nicolas Maduro in the ongoing Venezuelan political crisis, has vowed to defend its interests in Venezuela—including oil interests—within the international law using “all mechanisms available to us.”

Because of Moscow’s support for Maduro, the international community and market analysts are closely watching the relationship of Russian oil companies with Venezuela.

“Litasco does not work with Venezuela. Before the restrictions were imposed, Litasco had operations to deliver oil products and to sell oil. There were swap operations. Today there are none, since the sanctions were imposed,” Lukoil’s Alekperov said at the Russian Investment Forum in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Another Russian oil producer, Gazprom Neft, however, does not see major risks for its oil business in Venezuela, the company’s chief executive officer Alexander Dyukov said at the same event.

Gazprom Neft has not supplied and does not supply oil products to Venezuela needed to dilute the thick heavy Venezuelan oil, Dyukov said, noting that the Latin American country hadn’t approached Gazprom Neft for possible supply of oil products for diluents.

Under the new wide-ranging U.S. sanctions, Venezuela will not be able to import U.S. naphtha which it has typically used to dilute its heavy crude grades. Analysts expect that a shortage of diluents could accelerate beginning this month the already steadily declining Venezuelan oil production and exports.

Venezuela’s crude oil production plunged by another 59,000 bpd from December 2018 to stand at just 1.106 million bpd in January 2019, OPEC’s secondary sources figures showed in the cartel’s closely watched Monthly Oil Market Report (MOMR) this week.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for

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