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Why the political situation in Russia is so calm

Personnel changes and reforms of the police and internal security agencies point to a calm situation with the government fully in control and the political system functioning normally.

Alexander Mercouris

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The recent reshuffle in the Kremlin discussed by Nathaniel Habibullin and by me, and the very low-key parliamentary election campaign recently discussed by Adam Garrie, all serve to underline the same point: the political situation in Russia is stable and calm.

Whatever the reasons for the Ivanov reshuffle (and in addition to the points previously made by Nathaniel Habibullin and myself it is worth adding that Ivanov recently suffered the tragedy of the death of his son in an accident, which may have diminished his capacity for work) there is no reason to think it implies any sudden shift in policy or that it is the result of any power struggle in the Kremlin. 

Whatever Sergey Ivanov’s faults as a manager Putin would be unlikely to agree to the removal of so loyal a man if he felt that his own position was coming under challenge or if he thought that the situation in the country was becoming unstable.  On the contrary the fact that Putin agreed to Ivanov’s removal is a sign of his confidence in the stability of the political situation in the country.

As for the parliamentary election campaign, my opinion is that domestic factors are more important in deciding how Russians vote than foreign policy ones.  However early indications are that United Russia by riding on Putin’s coat-tails will maintain or even increase its share of the vote, with less reason to worry that the vote is going to be manipulated than was the case in the parliamentary elections in 2011. 

What is striking about this election is how much more low-key the campaign has been by comparison with 2011.  During the 2011 election campaign media talk then centred on Navalny’s description of United Russia as the “Party of Crooks and Thieves”, though how much impact that had on how Russians actually voted is open to doubt.  There has been nothing like that this time largely because, with no prospect of a tandem switch between Medvedev and Putin and with Putin firmly in control and enjoying stratospheric poll ratings, prospects of a major political change are so much lower.

In the quest to prove that there are hidden stirrings of unrest beneath the placid surface some media commentators as is their wont have connected together entirely unrelated things to create a narrative of a darkening picture.  Thus the Ivanov reshuffle, a reshuffle of certain regional governors and of other regional officials, the appointment of Kudrin to an advisory post, and the recent announcement of the formation of a National Guard, are all taken as signs of a gathering political crisis.

A reshuffle of regional governors and officials is however a routine event in Russia.  There is nothing unusual or interesting about the latest one.  It is in fact impossible to see in any of the recent personnel changes whether at the centre or in the regions any evidence of a systematic purge of the power structure in one direction or another. 

Sergey Ivanov and Vladimir Yakunin (who in January stepped down from his position as head of the Russian Railways) are generally thought of as anti-Western hardliners.  Nikita Belykh, recently sacked as Governor of the Kirov Region following his arrest on corruption charges, is however a prominent liberal, as is Mikhail Zurabov who was recently sacked in disgrace from his post as ambassador to Ukraine.  It is impossible to see in these dismissals any evidence either of a liberal or of a conservative shift on the part of the government.

As for the National Guard, its formation has been ably discussed by the Saker and by Gordon Hahn.  In my opinion it is a purely administrative reorganisation of no political significance.  Certainly it is not a case of the setting up of some sort of Praetorian Guard to defend “Putin and the regime” from the people.  On the contrary it has been under discussion in Russia since at least 2012, and follows logically from the police reform of 2011. 

That attempted to increase public confidence in the police and to improve its work as a law enforcement agency by civilianising it (thus the change in its name from “militsia” to “politsia”) and by centralising it at a federal level.  It made total sense therefore, and is fully in line with the philosophy of the 2011 police reform, to separate from the police and the Interior Ministry (which administers the police) the various paramilitary formations (the Interior Ministry troops, the OMON riot police, the MVD Spetsnaz units etc) that the Interior Ministry had acquired during the Soviet period, and to consolidate them in a new agency, which would be called the National Guard.  

That way the police and the Interior Ministry become purely civilian law enforcement agencies – as the police reform of 2011 intended they should be.

What both the reshuffle of the governors and the reorganisation of the Interior Ministry and the setting up of the National Guard in fact show is how stable the situation in the country is.  No government that felt itself under serious threat would reshuffle its personnel in the regions or embark on a complex reorganisation of its internal security agencies on the eve of parliamentary elections if there was a serious danger of public unrest.  That the Russian government feels able to do both things is a sign of how secure it feels itself to be.

The degree of misunderstanding there is in relation to these issues is shown by some of the discussions that have centred on the person of Vladimir Kolokolstev, Russia’s Interior Minister.  There have been suggestions that Putin set up the National Guard because he does not fully trust Kolokoltsev and does not feel he can rely on him in case of public unrest.  It was also widely reported that Kolokoltsev was so upset by the setting up of the National Guard that he offered to resign.

If Putin genuinely feared public unrest and distrusted Kolokoltsev he would presumably sack him and replace him with someone more reliable, not leave someone he doesn’t trust in his post whilst carrying out a complicated reorganisation of the country’s internal security agencies which in the short term can only disorganise them and make them less able to cope with public unrest. 

In reality Kolokoltsev was made Interior Minister in May 2012 directly following the 2011 police reform precisely because he is a veteran police officer (he has served continuously in the police since 1982) and is therefore the obvious man to head the Interior Ministry as it is converted into a strictly civilian police agency.  Far from opposing the setting up of the National Guard Kolokoltsev must have anticipated it when he was appointed.  Almost certainly he was involved in creating it.

The episode of the police reform and of the setting up of the National Guard shows something else: that when Russia does carry out a reform of the sort its critics constantly demand, such as one intended to make its police more accountable and responsive and better suited for work in a modern democratic society, it gets no credit for doing it.  Instead the reform gets interpreted in the most sinister imaginable way.

Lastly, on the subject of Kudrin, I have discussed his appointment previously, and made clear my doubts that his appointment to a purely consultative post has any great relevance to the overall political situation in the country.  Whilst it is possible and even likely that following the elections a government reshuffle of some sort will occur, I personally doubt that Putin will appoint Kudrin – a deeply unpopular and highly polarising figure – either Prime Minister or Finance Minister as some people fear and other people hope.  Nor on the strength of what I heard Kudrin say during the SPIEF conference in St. Petersburg in June do I see why Putin would want to do so given that Kudrin’s programme seems to differ little from that of the existing government.

Overall and for whatever reason, Russia on the eve of the parliamentary elections is stable.  There is much criticism of the government – unsurprising given that there has been a recession (see my discussion here) – but its legitimacy and authority are not in doubt, whilst Putin’s popularity is stratospheric and his authority is unchallenged.  Any Western officials or commentators hoping for signs that the situation in Russia is slipping out of control are going to be disappointed.

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Germany Wants Nuclear Bombers

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

The Duran

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Via VoltaireNet.org:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RT

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Via RT…


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Macron’s address will be held on Thursday.

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O Canada! The True North Strong and Free – Not

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

Jim Jatras

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Authored by James George Jatras via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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