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Why Russia and the world should be grateful to the IOC

Despite the grossly unfair treatment of Russian athletes the most important fact about the doping scandal is that an attempt to expel a whole country from the Olympic movement has been defeated.

Alexander Mercouris

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There is understandable anger and bewilderment in Russia at the announcement by the IOC that Russian athletes who have been cleared to compete at the Olympic Games in Rio by their own sports federations must now also pass a separate check by a 3 person IOC panel.  It must indeed seem to the Russians that they are being asked to play against a constantly shifting set of goal posts.

I should say that the IOC decision is not actually unexpected and does not actually represent a retreat from its original decision.   However it is understandable that there is anger about it in Russia, and about the fact that whilst Russian athletes with completely clean records who have had the misfortune of merely been named in ways that might even theoretically connect them to doping are being banned from Rio, athletes from other countries who have actually been caught doping are being allowed to compete there.

I agree that this is all outrageous.  Indeed one of the most ugly aspects of this whole affair is the cruel bullying and mistreatment of young athletes who have done nothing wrong, simply because they happen to be Russian.  It goes without saying that the training programmes of even those Russian athletes who do finally get to Rio have been badly disrupted, and their chances of winning medals must now be seriously diminished.  Russians must prepare themselves for a drastically reduced medal haul from these Games.

However saying all this should not detract from the qualified political success Russia has nonetheless achieved by avoiding a blanket ban which would have prevented it from sending any sort of team to Rio at all.  I do not think the implications of a blanket ban, had it taken place, have been widely understood.  What it would have amounted to was Russia’s expulsion from the Olympic Games with no guarantee that it would be allowed to compete again at any Olympic Games in the future.  It would in effect have amounted to Russia’s expulsion from the Olympic movement, with its readmission dependent on it fulfilling requirements that have never been spelled out, and which could therefore be changed at any time.  Suffice to say that there would have been no guarantee that that would have ever happened, or that Russia would have been allowed to participate in the Olympic Games in 2020 in Tokyo, or in any Olympic Games thereafter.

That this was indeed the agenda is clear enough from the way the whole anti-doping campaign against Russia has been conducted.  It seems that a decision to expel Russia from the Olympic movement was taken probably around the time of the failure of the campaign to boycott the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014.  All the various allegations of doping in Russia that have circulated since 2010 and even before were then sifted through to construct a case.  Someone then put them all together in a dossier, spicing them up with witness testimony from people like Stepanova and Rodchenkov.  A series of lurid articles and documentaries then appeared in the Western media, reviving all the allegations and putting the worst possible spin on them.  A series of reports from WADA then followed in quick succession starting in the autumn of last year, timed to make the maximum possible impact and to leave the least possible time for proper independent fact checking or for any other steps to be taken before the start of the Rio Games.  That way the allegations could not be properly and independently assessed and no fully fair arrangements could be made to allow for the admission of all indisputably clean Russian athletes.  That opened the way, just as the Rio Games were about to start, for the IOC to be presented with a demand for a blanket ban.

To those who think I am going too far joining up the dots, consider the angry comments about WADA made by IOC President Thomas Bach on Sunday. He is reported by RT to have said the following:

“The IOC report isn’t responsible for the fact that the information, which was presented to WADA several years ago, did not lead to any action. Therefore, the IOC can’t be responsible for the timing and reason of what we we’re facing. Because we’re facing this with just a few days before the Olympic games.  Now is the time to resolve this situation. Before the Games start, and then after the Olympic Games, there will be more time to carefully analyse the whole situation, and I would advise everybody… to study this situation with a certain distance and not under this moment of very emotional and passionate debates.  Imagine the situation if we would not have taken the decision [to admit Russian team]… I trust the people that they will realise the difficulties we are in, they will realize that we did our best to address this situation in a way which allows protecting all clean athletes all over the world.”

Thomas Bach is making exactly the same point I made a few days ago: that the reason for the chaotic admission and checking process imposed on Russian athletes  –  with all the unavoidable problems of constantly shifting goalposts and deeply unfair practices which this is causing – is because WADA sprung its trap just before the Olympic Games in Rio were due to start, leaving no time to do the thing properly.  Here is what I said:

“Those who think the precautions already taken to prevent cheating by Russian athletes at Rio are insufficient despite involving British scientists and British officials should in fairness say so, and should also say what they think should be done over and above what has already been done to make cheating by Russian athletes in Rio impossible.  That is what proponents of the campaign do not do, but it is what the IOC – very properly – is now trying to do.  That it has been left so desperately late – with all the undoubted problems that will cause – is not the fault of the IOC or indeed of the Russians.  It is the fault of those like WADA who have wasted months of time campaigning for an illegal blanket ban instead of proposing a legal and workable solution to the problem, which the Russians could have worked towards.”

(bold italics added)

Bach was also indirectly making another point I have made before, when he spoke of how “after the Olympic Games, there will be more time to carefully analyse the whole situation”.  Here is what I said about that:

“In any rational world what ought to have happened is that when Stepanova’s and Rochenkov’s allegations became public a full and proper investigation ought to have been set up, with all the witnesses examined and represented by legal counsel, and with the forensic evidence examined by a variety of scientific experts, who could have been cross-examined and whose reports would have been made public.  Since this would have taken time – a year at least – arrangements of the sort now set up by the IOC should have been made in the meantime to ensure that there was no cheating by Russian athletes at Rio.”

Bach’s comments show that it is this rational approach he and the IOC are trying to work towards despite the desperately short time that has been given to them.

What Bach of course did not say, though I am sure it is what he privately thinks, is that the IOC were put into this position deliberately.  Those who are angry about the bullying and mistreatment of Russian athletes should not blame the IOC.  They should blame those who deliberately created the whole situation in order to put the IOC in a position where – as they thought – it would have no option but to impose a blanket ban.  It is a tribute to the strong-mindedness and integrity of the IOC that it didn’t buckle under the pressure and impose the blanket ban, wrong and illegal though that would have been.

It is not to detract from the individual tragedies of Russian athletes or the massive anger and disappointment many Russians must feel about the brutal and unfair treatment of their country and their athletes to say that one should nonetheless be grateful that something altogether more sinister and more dangerous did not happen.  For the first time in its history the Olympic movement was faced with an attempt to expel a whole nation from the Olympic family.  Not only would that have been a total violation of the Olympic movement’s whole ethos.  It was done in a veiled and underhand way, picking on individual athletes, in a way that makes the whole attempt more sinister still.  In the event the Olympic movement remained true to itself and the attempt failed, even if in the process terrible individual acts of injustice have been done.  That is something to be genuinely grateful for.  That the attempt was made at all however shows how far some people are prepared to go.   That can only provoke serious worry for the future.

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Maria Butina, her crime: A love of the NRA and being Russian (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 61.

Alex Christoforou

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has communicated to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Russian national Maria Butina must be set free and allowed to return to Russia, after she was arrested by US officials on dubious spy charges.

Lavrov said that the US should immediately release the Russian gun activist, who is being held in the US on espionage charges, after a phone conversation with his US counterpart.

Lavrov called the charges levied against Butina “fabricated.”

In his conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday, “Lavrov stressed that the actions of the US authorities that arrested Russian citizen Butina on fabricated charges are unacceptable.”

In an official statement the Russian Foreign Ministry called for her “immediate release.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the oddly timed, out of the blue arrest of Maria Butina, who is being held by US authorities for what they claim to be a violation of the FARA act.

In reality Maria Butina’s crime is much more troubling than simply failing to register as a foreign agent.

Maria made the double mistake of being in the United States of America as a Russian citizens who loves guns, at a time when racism and bigotry against Russians and NRA supporters is surpassing McCarthyite levels.

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Via RT

The Foreign minister raised the issue during phone conversations that were made at the request of the US and aimed at “further normalization of the US-Russian relations” following the summit between the US President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. Lavrov and Pompeo also discussed the process of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, as well as the situation in Syria.

The 29-year-old Russian student and a gun activist was arrested in the US about a week ago and charged with acting as a foreign agent without registering her activities with the authorities. Butina has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

On July 16, a DC Federal Court rejected Butina’s bail plea and ordered her to be placed in custody pending trial over fears that she could flee or contact Russian intelligence officials. Her lawyer says the trial is being politicized and Russian embassy staff were only allowed to visit her in jail on Thursday.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has called Butina’s arrest politically motivated, adding that it could have been aimed at disrupting the Helsinki summit between Putin and Trump. On Thursday, the ministry also launched a campaign hashtagged #FreeMariaButina on Twitter to raise awareness of her case.

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Ugly breakup at FBI: Lisa Page throws ex-lover, Peter Strzok, under the bus (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 60.

Alex Christoforou

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While Peter Strzok’s testimony put a face on the deceptive and secretive Deep State, GOP lawmakers who were present at Lisa Page’s closed-door deposition said they learned a lot of new information from the ex-FBI lawyer, and ex-lover of Peter Strzok.

Lisa Page confirmed to GOP lawmakers that the text messages sent between her and her lover Strzok “meant exactly what they said,” contrary to Strzok’s testimony.

According to The Gateway Pundit, one damning text message in particular sent from Strzok on May 19th, 2017, just two days after Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel, intrigued investigators and the public alike.

“There’s no big there there,” Strzok texted.

According to investigative reporter, John Solomon, Lisa Page confirmed that text from Peter Strzok did indeed refer to the Trump-Russia case.

Strzok knew it was a nothing-burger yet he forged ahead.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou, RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle, and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss how Peter Strzok’s testimony has undoubtedly contradicted Lisa Page’s cooperative deposition, as the ex-FBI lawyer is preparing to save herself, while throwing her ex-lover under the bus.

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Via The Epoch Times

Representatives John Ratcliffe and Louie Gohmert of Texas recently shared their observations of the closed-door testimony of former high-ranking FBI lawyer Lisa Page, which concluded on July 16.

One of the major questions regarding the testimony was whether it would match the one given by FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok.

But while Ratcliffe said he found a mismatch, Gohmert wouldn’t go so far.

Page and Strzok played major roles in the investigations on both 2016 presidential candidates: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia. During the same period, Page and Strzok had an affair and exchanged thousands of text messages expressing a strong bias against Trump and in favor of Clinton.

“When I questioned Lisa Page on Friday about the anti-Trump text messages that were sent between herself and Peter Strzok, there were significant differences in her testimony and Strzok’s as it relates to what she thought some of these text messages meant,” Ratcliffe said in a July 16 tweet, shortly before the second round of questioning.

“Page gave us new information that Strzok either wouldn’t or couldn’t, confirming some of the concerns we had about these investigations and the people involved in running them,” he wrote.

On July 17, Ratcliffe expanded on his further statements about Page’s testimony. Radcliffe told Fox News…

“There are differences in their testimony.”

“In many cases, she admits that the text messages mean exactly what they say, as opposed to agent Strzok, who thinks that we’ve all misinterpreted his own words on any text message that might be negative.”

Via The Epoch Times

In one of the texts, Strzok vowed to “stop” Trump from becoming president. In another, the two discussed having an “insurance policy” in the “unlikely” event that Trump would win the election.

Strzok, who gave a closed-door testimony on June 27 and a public one on July 12, said the first message meant he and the American people would stop Trump. The second, he said previously, meant he wanted to pursue the Russia investigation aggressively, in case Trump won.

GOP lawmakers were furious with Strzok’s attitude and unwillingness to answer questions. In a scathing monologue, Gohmert even linked Strzok’s credibility to the fact that he was unfaithful to his wife.

President Donald Trump repeatedly called Strzok’s testimony a “disgrace.”

The lawmakers said Page was comparatively more cooperative.

“There were times the FBI lawyers would be reaching to the button to mute her comment, and she would answer before they could mute her comment,” Gohmert told Fox News.

He said Page didn’t contradict Strzok “so much,” but “has given us insights into who was involved in what.”

“I think she’ll be a good witness,” he said.

Page ditched her first testimony appointment on July 11, prompting GOP lawmakers to threaten her with contempt of Congress. She then agreed to appear on July 13, which gave her the opportunity to review Strzok’s public testimony before giving hers.

The lawmakers are probing the FBI’s and Justice Department’s decisions before the election, suspecting they were influenced by political considerations.

Texts between Strzok and Page suggest that the FBI initiated an offensive counterintelligence operation against the Trump campaign as early as December 2015.

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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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