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Financial Times: Russia’s oil and gas industry booming BECAUSE of sanctions

Financial Times shows sanctions have triggered a technological boom and a successful restructuring within Russia’s oil and gas industry

Alexander Mercouris

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The sectoral sanctions the Western powers imposed on Russia in July 2014 because of the conflict in the Donbass continue to have paradoxical results.

The financial sanctions, which effectively prevented Russian companies from borrowing in Western financial markets, instead of causing the Russian economy to implode, have caused it to deleverage at an unprecedented rate, hugely strengthening Russia’s financial sector and the balance sheets of Russia’s companies, setting the scene for a coming investment boom.

The counter-sanctions Russia imposed prohibiting the importation of Western foodstuffs into Russia have led to a huge boom in Russia’s agriculture sector, as even the Financial Times was recently forced to admit, making Russia almost completely self-sufficient in food, and making it a major food exporter.

However perhaps the most paradoxical result of all has been in Russia’s oil and gas industry.

Western sanctions were supposed to cripple this industry – wrongly assumed in the West to be existentially important for Russia’s very existence – by depriving it of the technology it needed to develop the huge untapped oil and gas reserves Russia is known to have in the Arctic, and making development of its huge shale reserves, which are known to dwarf those of the US, impossible.

In the event the Financial Times has now admitted in a lengthy article that within less than three years of the sanctions being imposed the Russian oil and gas industry is in the throes of a technological boom, as Russian companies forge ahead with Arctic drilling, successfully replicating the very same Western technologies which were supposed to be beyond them

………..a drill began its 5,000m journey downwards, in search of oil deposits that the country is banking on to provide more than a quarter of its future output. Perched on the edge of a peninsula deep in the Arctic Circle, Tsentralno- Olginskaya-1 will be Russia’s northernmost oil well. Closer to the North Pole than to any city, it is a feat of engineering that uses equipment shipped 3,600km through icy waters navigable only for two months of the year.

The well is one of the most technologically challenging ever attempted in Russia. With the deposits located beneath the icy, frequently frozen waters of the Laptev Sea, cutting-edge horizontal drilling techniques will be used to reach up to 15,000m from the main site.

But it was also a moment of triumph for Mr Putin, who was beamed in via video conference from St Petersburg as Mr Sechin braved the frigid elements and who celebrated the start of drilling as an act of homegrown ingenuity.

Three years ago, when the US and EU imposed sanctions on the country that restricted companies such as Rosneft from foreign capital and technology, complex wells were exactly the kind of ambitious projects that were supposed to be rendered impossible. Western governments hoped that pressure on Russia’s main energy companies would help change Mr Putin’s political calculations. But as projects like Tsentralno-Olginskaya-1 attest, Russia’s oil and gas majors have found ways to carry on regardless.

“Horizontal drilling is a complex and high-tech operation. This is just the first well. There is much more work ahead,” Mr Putin told Mr Sechin in the heavily scripted conversation.

It seems according to the same article that the Russians are forging ahead with shale technology as well

……..2,000km south-west of Tsentralno-Olginskaya-1 in western Siberia, Gazprom Neft, Russia’s third-largest oil producer, is showing few ill effects. Late last year, it became the first Russian company to demonstrate shale oil fracking expertise with a 1km-long horizontal well 2.3km below ground at a site in the vast Bazhenov field, estimated to be the world’s largest shale oil deposit.

Gazprom Neft was able to use homegrown technology that it was forced to develop after the sanctions prompted its international partners to walk away from the project.

“We are like a snowball,” says Sergey Vakulenko, head of strategy and innovation at the company, a unit of gas giant Gazprom. “The harder you squeeze, the harder we get.” ……

“Sure, in terms of shale technology, we are a little behind the Americans. But in time, and definitely before we absolutely need to, we will get to where we need to be, sanctions or no sanctions,” says Mr Vakulenko.

“We could do it now, but we don’t need to,” he adds, referring to even more complex fracking techniques that will be required to fully exploit the Bazhenov field’s 75bn barrels of estimated reserves. “Why go after the high-hanging fruit when there is lower stuff available right now?”

The point about Russia not needing to go after the high-hanging fruit when there is an abundance of lower-hanging fruit for it to exploit is not bragging or propaganda.  It was made to me a few months ago in person by a Russian scientist who is an expert in hydraulic fracking.

Perhaps even more striking than this news of technological advances is the Financial Times’s admission that the effect of the sanctions has been to make the Russian oil and gas industry financially stronger and more efficient

“In terms of today’s projects, we are not at all affected [by the sanctions],” [Yakulenko] says in an interview at the company’s St Petersburg offices, where engineers use vast computer screens to remotely control drills at more than 600 wells across the country. “At their current configuration, they aren’t and won’t be painful, irrelevant of how long they are in place.”

Between 2013 and 2016, Russian crude oil production rose almost 6 per cent, more than twice as much as the rise in combined output from the Opec group of countries. Revenues at the country’s three largest producers have risen 11 per cent in that period.

The curtailment of foreign cash forced many to restructure their balance sheets with the help of domestic lenders, cut loss-making or costly new projects, and increase their efficiency.

Acquisitions and international expansion projects have followed. “The accepted narrative is that there is only upside risk from sanctions [being lifted] as the majority of the companies affected have shown few ill effects,” says the head of a western bank in Moscow. “In fact, lots of them have been forced to be smarter and have increased their competitiveness.”

Articles such as this one in the Financial Times are still comparatively rare.  The orthodoxy amongst Western governments and in the Western media is that Russia is suffering badly from the sanctions.  That is one reason why there is still so much resistance to any move whether by the Trump administration or by anyone else to lift them.

The truth is that though the sanctions caused the Russian economy genuine difficulties in late 2014, when Russian companies had to repay debts they struggled to finance because of the sanctions and the oil price fall, once Russia got through those initial difficulties the effect of the sanctions on the Russian economy has been entirely beneficial, and is becoming more so.

The West seriously underestimated Russia in 2014.  It failed to realise to what an extent the country had advanced beyond the disastrous times of the 1990s.

Whereas the sort of sanctions the West imposed on Russia in 2014 would have crushed the Russian economy if they had been imposed in say 2000, today Russia is fully capable of developing its economy by drawing on its own financial resources and its own technology, both of which it has in abundance.

What the West did in 2014, by imposing the sanctions at a time when there was an oil price fall, was force the Russians to do this more efficiently and more quickly than they would have done if they had been left alone.

Westerners always seem to cling on to their idea of Russia as a poor, technologically backward, ill-governed, irredeemably corrupt, ‘third world’ country (“Upper Volta with missiles”).  This is what leads them to make foolish decisions, such as the decision to impose sectoral sanctions, which they took in July 2014.

On the subject of Russia being ill-governed, the Financial Times quotes Apurva Sanghi, lead economist for Russia at the World Bank in Moscow, as having this to say

There is a pretty uniform consensus that the oil price shock dwarfed the sanctions.  If you look at what the authorities have done over the past few years for macro stability, it has been pretty outstanding and the results are there to be seen.

On the macro-economic facts, it is impossible to disagree with this assessment, and on the oil and gas industry facts as described in the Financial Times article, it is impossible to say anything different.

On 27th May 2016, when I discussed the West’s failed attempt to stop Russia floating a eurobond, I made this point in relation to how the West’s actions had actually strengthened Russia’s financial system

Truly Western governments when it comes to Russia seem intent on proving Nietzsche’s dictum true: that which does not break us makes us stronger.  Certainly that has been true of Russia’s eurobond sale.  By trying and failing to sabotage it the West has only managed to make Russia stronger.

The same it turns out is true of Russia’s oil and gas industry.

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DS Analysis
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DS Analysis

Most people understand the basic theory of “free” trade and how it theoretically is better for everyone. That would be true if trade was actually free like it is in the micro economy. The reality is, international trade is anything but free. The whole system is based on the US dollar monopoly and Federal reserve cartel that the US controls at gunpoint. Increased production by a country leads to a higher value currency which leads to cheaper food and energy which leaves more discretionary income to save or spend on other things. That is how free trade is supposed to… Read more »

Simon
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Simon

Excellent article. But that FT – as ever, so condescending, even in praise. Didn’t the Russian barbarians do well. All by themselves. Who would have thought it. It must be stolen technology (nudge nudge wink wink). But hold on – Rosneft’s output is bigger than Exxon. Gazprom alone is like BP+Shell+Total combined. It seems those Russians do know something about extracting oil and gas from below the ground after all. Still – it’s Russia, so their companies must be worth less. Much less. Just don’t look at Big Oil’s balance sheet debt or worry about their ridiculous share prices pumped… Read more »

Le Ruscino
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Le Ruscino

This list is the Industry Joke !

Why is it a Joke ? Just look at the reserves to asset value ratios as can be seen – Rosneft in truth sits on more crude oil reserves than any oil company on the planet & Gazprom is massively bigger.

What’s more interesting is that Russia has always under declared their assets & by how much is anyone’s guess but its minimum 30% but could be over 100% ?

Simon
Guest
Simon

Agreed. Those numbers are actually production, but your point about reserves is also absolutely correct. The Russian companies are massively undervalued.

Stavros Hadjiyiannis
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Stavros Hadjiyiannis

Several factors contribute so that Russian corporations are so grotesquely undervalued: a) The state has controlling stakes, this makes some undervaluation legitimate. b) RUS energy corporations don’t have the downstream business that Western and Chinese corporations do. c) Active economic sabotage from “Western partners”

Simon
Guest
Simon

You are right of course.
But I’d still rather own 10% of Surgutneftagas than 1 % of Conoco, and take my chances (and Surgut is the darkest horse of the lot!) 😉

Stavros Hadjiyiannis
Guest
Stavros Hadjiyiannis

Those are excellent stats. Good work.

Stavros Hadjiyiannis
Guest
Stavros Hadjiyiannis

This is of course not the first time that the “West” has grossly underestimated Russia. On the article itself, these are my observations/comments: a) In my opinion, the oil and gas industry is indeed of existential importance to Russia, on this NATO was correct. What they failed to fully integrate into their calculations is that Russia is in fact the world’s most efficient and low-cost producer of hydrocarbons. If Russia’s oil & gas reserves were not easily and cheaply exploitable, then the oil price crash would have bankrupted Russia very quickly, there would have been no need for NATO to… Read more »

Kimppis
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Kimppis

I wouldn’t necessarily say that the oil and gas sector is existentially important for Russia. After all, it’s something like 15-20% of the overall GDP. That said, it’s certainly the single most important sector. Also, Russia’s GDP per capita isn’t actually low. It’s reasonably high, something like $25 000. I’m obviously talking about purchasing power parity here. And that is for almost 150 million people, so the PPP GDP is comparable to Germany. That explains it all, really. So the per capita GDP is considerably higher than the world average. If you look at the list of countries that have… Read more »

DS Analysis
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DS Analysis

Yeah as you said, oil/gas is 15% of the economy now. It was 40% in the 90’s.

And the west uses dollar bloc GDP figures that don’t account for production that is consumed within Russia. This is where all of this “California has a bigger econ”nonsese comes from.

Alex Popoff
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Alex Popoff

Russian standards of accounting GDP varie from the western. For example till recent times military inner payments between army and military factories weren’t acoountable into GDP.

Large gvmnt sector in economy is badly accountable regarding GDP issue, because whole GDP concept was invented for other type of economy.

So Russia could be estimated as Poland with high technologies, 3,5 times population higher and endless resourses.

Le Ruscino
Guest
Le Ruscino

Agree wholeheartedly with your well informed comment. There is a sad point to note & its that the US would cut off its arm to bleed on Russia’s shirt & this is exactly what they have done. US oil reserves are high cost for lifting as are Canada’s (Shale & Tar) & as you say Russian lifting costs are low mainly due to traditional nature of underground caverns being tapped aided by good tech. The BIG double whammy here is that Global oil consumption never stopped marching toward 100mio bbls per day & with low prices investment in new projects… Read more »

AMHants
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AMHants

Didn’t Obama and Saudi miscalculate oil/gas GDP and the Russian economy, when they decided to play with the oil market? Believing it made 50% of Russian GDP, rather than 16%? Together with forgetting that Russia could produce a barrel of oil for $12 dollars, production costs being in ruble and selling in $USD. So how much does it cost the US to produce a barrel of oil? How many of their oil companies ended up facing bankruptcy?

DS Analysis
Guest
DS Analysis

There was shale oil plays that were not profitable at $100 a barrel. The whole shale industry in the US has not yet even faced a US recession. Just like US banks, there is tons of zombie shale producers out there that will be taken out back and shot in the next recession.

AMHants
Guest
AMHants

Nice one as Russia gets stronger at the expense of those who decided to have a teenage or perhaps toddler temper trantrum, based on envy and greed. Also, with Exxon begging the US to let them ignore the sanctions and help Russia offload the oil in The Black Sea, would Russia actually need there help?

Has anybody seen the latest Ukraine hissy fit?

Ukraine demands confiscation of Gazprom property… http://www.fort-russ.com/2017/04/ukraine-demands-confiscation-of-gazprom.html

Gary Sellars
Guest
Gary Sellars

“Has anybody seen the latest Ukraine hissy fit?”

Does anyone really care what the 404 nation says, wants, thinks or does?

AMHants
Guest
AMHants

Sadly the idiots that run our nations and those so supportive of the failed state.

Kyler Phoenix
Guest
Kyler Phoenix
AMHants
Guest
AMHants

Hahahaha -Newsweek. Really and who controls Newsweek? Personally I look at what the debt clock has to say. Russia Foreign Exchange Reserves US Foreign Exchange Reserves Russia Gold Reserves Russia National Debt: $155,410,825,045 Interest per Year $9,541,556,000 Interest per Second $303 Debt per Citizen $1,062 Debt as % of GDP 15.59% GDP $997,000,000,000 Population 146,300,000 United States National Debt: $19,853,203,835,571 Interest per Year $442,585,040,366 Interest per Second $14,034 Debt per Citizen $61,209 Debt as % of GDP 106.31% GDP $18,675,300,000,000 Population 324,352,551 Russia, a creditor nation, in control of their vast wealth of natural resources. The middle class sector on… Read more »

Kyler Phoenix
Guest
Kyler Phoenix

The information shared can be verified online on myriad sites. Your info comes from?

AMHants
Guest
AMHants

A myriad of sites? Can you site them in an academic paper? National Debt Clock … http://www.nationaldebtclocks.org/ US Foreign Exchange Reserves http://www.tradingeconomics.com Federal Reserve (America) Russia Foreign Exchange Reserves http://www.tradingeconomics.com Russia Central Bank Russian Central Bank Gold Reserves… Your article, just happend to cite Moscow Times. Did you know that the paper has no loyalty to Russia? However, doesn’t Genie Energy Murdoch still have shares in Moscow Times, despite who he sells it to? There was no facts in that article that could be substantiated. Except for GDP. However, they ignore GDP Debt. Russia, as shown by the debt clock… Read more »

Kyler Phoenix
Guest
Kyler Phoenix

That is not an argument nor does it speak to their current economy. Are you a dropout? You are quoting Russian government sources.

AMHants
Guest
AMHants

Are you a dropout? Russian Government Sources? When has the National Debt Clock been Russian? Russian Gold Reserves Since when has Trading Economics been part of the Russian Government? ‘… ABOUT US Trading Economics provides its users with accurate information for 196 countries including historical data for more than 300.000 economic indicators, exchange rates, stock market indexes, government bond yields and commodity prices. Our data is based on official sources, not third party data providers, and our facts are regularly checked for inconsistencies. TradingEconomics.com has received more than 270 million page views from more than 200 countries. ..’ http://www.tradingeconomics.com/about-te.aspx http://goldsilverworlds.com… Read more »

Kyler Phoenix
Guest
Kyler Phoenix

So, BS right wing blogs huh? Any credible sources? You look like a fool, cretin.

AMHants
Guest
AMHants

You argue with legality. You argue with fact. Failing that you spit you dummy out, throw your toys out of the pram and use personal abuse. That is so media disinformation agent style. What is the script they are given? Besides the 5Ds? Deny, discourse, disagree, derail, discredit. ‘…5. Sidetrack opponents with name calling and ridicule. This is also known as the primary attack the messenger ploy, though other methods qualify as variants of that approach. Associate opponents with unpopular titles such as “kooks”, “right-wing”, “liberal”, “left-wing”, “terrorists”, “conspiracy buffs”, “radicals”, “militia”, “racists”, “religious fanatics”, “sexual deviates”, and so forth.… Read more »

Kyler Phoenix
Guest
Kyler Phoenix

No, you share irrelevant, cherry picked facts. No one denies the facts about the Russian economy. It is easily verifiable. You discredited yourself with obvious BS, cretin.

AMHants
Guest
AMHants

Pot, kettle, black, cutie.

‘…You discredited yourself with obvious BS, cretin…’

Kyler Phoenix
Guest
Kyler Phoenix

I shared verifiable facts. You shared fantasy.

AMHants
Guest
AMHants

Rothschilds darling. Can you cite cnbc in an academic paper, based on assumption? The same article as the Moscow Times. World Bank – Rothshcild and who has minimal debt and is not in need of a Rothschild loan? Didn’t the World Bank fail to notice the crash of 2008? The Diplomat – 2016 Time.com – 2015 Well, all I can say is BRICS. Now what is happening there, besides the AIIB Bank and the BRICS Bank? The $6 trillion, currency reserves, between the 5 nations. The New Silk Road Project. Not forgetting their dominance in the manufacturing and service industries.… Read more »

Kyler Phoenix
Guest
Kyler Phoenix

Everyone is lying except you and some blogs huh? You must be proud. Is that why you hide. Or is there another reason. Let’s find out…https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us

AMHants
Guest
AMHants

Everybody is lying except me? Hahahaha. Darling, one makes up their own opinion, whatever side of the argument. I am more than happy to own my opinion, but, have no desire to take the responsibility of others. I actually care nought about who believes what. However, owing to simple facts, I do not believe Russia is on her knees.

Now why on earth would I wish to contact the FBI?

Kyler Phoenix
Guest
Kyler Phoenix

Iam contacting them. I get a weirdfeeling about youraccount. You definitely are not American and you are spewing pro-Russia propaganda that flies in the face of facts. Good luck.

AMHants
Guest
AMHants

Contact them and I have never said I am American.

I am English. Like the people of America, one gets sick and tired of living in the land of the free, with fascist rules. You explain it perfectly. Report me to the FBI because I had the audacity to poste the findings of the National Debt Clock and Russian and American Foreign Exchange Reserves, with a chart showing how much Russian Gold they have in their vaults.

Excuse me whilst I laugh and have a good day.

Kyler Phoenix
Guest
Kyler Phoenix

No, you aren’t. You posted cherry picked facts that inno way disproved what anyone can easily research and see, the Russian economy is bad. It is forwarded.

AMHants
Guest
AMHants

Yeeah, whatever cutie pie. They have had a file on me since the 70s, am I bovvered? Not at all. If I walk out the door and end up in dead in a briefcase, three bullet holes in the head or worse, but, arranged as a suicide, it is covered. Who cares, I can walk across the road, but, it does not mean I will get to the other side. Death does not bother me, what does bother me, is keeping my mouth shut and being frightened to open it. What a waste of a life. We all come with… Read more »

Kyler Phoenix
Guest
Kyler Phoenix

You seem mentally ill. It is forwarded. You can stop replying now, if you have the ability to control yourself.

Kyler Phoenix
Guest
Kyler Phoenix

Oh, and what would you know of any academic paper, wantwit?

Isabella Jones
Guest
Isabella Jones

Ah, that wonderful Law of Unintended Consequences. All we need now is a couple more plus a Black Swan event against America and that will be the end of the Empire of Cowards and it’s blood money $.

Kyler Phoenix
Guest
Kyler Phoenix
Bente Petersen
Guest
Bente Petersen

very good reporting thank you… The Duran delivers !!!!!

Aby
Guest

Well, sanctions are not the solution of any conflicts and this have to be understand to the nation. The global trade is open momentum & this shouldn’t be blocked.

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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

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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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It’s Back to the Iran-Contra Days Under Trump

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela.

Strategic Culture Foundation

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Authored by Wayne Madsen, via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Showing that he is adopting the neoconservative playbook every day he remains in office, Donald Trump handed the neocons a major win when he appointed Iran-contra scandal felon Elliott Abrams as his special envoy on Venezuela. Abrams pleaded guilty in 1991 to two counts of withholding information on the secret sale of US weapons for cash to help illegally supply weapons to the Nicaraguan right-wing contras, who were battling against the government of President Daniel Ortega. Abrams would have headed to a federal prison, but President George H. W. Bush, an unindicted co-conspirator in the scandal, issued pardons to Abrams and his five fellow conspirators – former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, and former Central Intelligence Agency officials Alan Fiers, Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, and Clair George – on Christmas Eve 1991, during the final weeks of Bush’s lame duck administration.

Abrams escaped being charged with more serious crimes by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh because he cut a last-minute deal with federal prosecutors. Trump, who has made no secret of his disdain for cooperating federal witnesses, would have normally called Abrams a “rat,” a gangster term meaning informant. The man who helped engineer the pardons for Abrams and his five convicted friends was none other than Bush’s Attorney General, William Barr, who has just been sworn in as Trump’s Attorney General. Trump, who is always decrying the presence of the “deep state” that thwarts his very move, has become the chief guardian of that entity.

During a recent hearing of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, newly-minted congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, reminded her colleagues and the world about the sordid background of Abrams.

Omar zeroed in on Abrams’s criminal history:

“Mr. Abrams, in 1991 you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony you give today to be truthful.”

Abrams, as is the nature of neocons, refused to respond to Omar and cited her comments as “personal attacks.”

Abrams’s and his fellow criminals’ use of mercenaries and “death squads” to conduct secret wars in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala during the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s has made a re-entrance under Trump. Abrams was brought on board by neocons like National Security Adviser John Bolton, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to oversee a US military build-up in Colombia, said to be 5000 US troops, to support Venezuelan paramilitary and military efforts to topple President Nicolas Maduro. Abrams and Bolton are also believed to have retained the services of another unindicted conspirator in the Iran-contra affair, Michael Ledeen, a colleague of the disgraced and convicted former Trump National Security Adviser, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. Ledeen and Flynn co-authored a book titled, “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and its Allies.” The book contains nothing more than the standard neocon tripe one might expect from the likes of Ledeen.

An official investigation of the Iran-contra scandal by the late Republican Senator John Tower of Texas concluded that Abrams’s and Ledeen’s friend, Iranian-Jewish middleman Manucher Ghorbanifar, a long-time Mossad asset and well-known prevaricator, was extremely instrumental in establishing the back-channel arms deals with Iran. Ghorbanifar has long been on the CIA “burn list” as an untrustworthy charlatan, along with others in the Middle East of similar sketchy credentials, including the Iraq’s Ahmad Chalabi, Syria’s Farid “Frank” Ghadry, and Lebanon’s Samir “Sami” Geagea. These individuals, however, were warmly embraced by neocons like Abrams and his associates.

Abrams, whose links with Israeli intelligence has always been a point of consternation with US counter-intelligence officials, is part of an old cabal of right-wing anti-Soviet Democrats who coalesced around Senator Henry Jackson in the 1970s. Along with Abrams, this group of war hawks included Richard Perle, Frank Gaffney, William Kristol, Douglas Feith, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Abram Shulsky, and Paul Wolfowitz. Later, this group would have its fingerprints on major US foreign policy debacles, ranging from Nicaragua and Grenada to Lebanon, Iraq, and Libya. Later, in December 2000, these neocons managed to convince president-elect George W. Bush of the need to “democratize” the Middle East. That policy would later bring not democracy but disaster to the Arab Middle East and North Africa.

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela. They have old scores to settle with Nicaraguan President Ortega. The initiation of “regime change” operations in Nicaragua, supported by the CIA and the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in Miami, have been ongoing for more than a year.

The Trump administration has already achieved a regime change victory of sorts in El Salvador. Nayib Bukele, the former mayor of San Salvador, who was expelled from the formerly-ruling left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation (FMLN) party and joined the right-wing GANA party, was recently elected president of El Salvador. Bukele has quickly re-aligned his country’s policies with those of the Trump administration. Bukele has referred to President Maduro of Venezuela as a “dictator.” He has also criticized the former FMLN government’s recognition of China and severance of diplomatic ties with Taiwan. It will be interesting to see how a sycophant like Bukele will politically survive as Trump continues to call hapless asylum-seeking migrants from his country, who seek residency in the United States, “rapists, gang monsters, murderers, and drug smugglers.”

Another country heading for a US-installed “banana republic” dictator is Haiti. President Jovenal Moise has seen rioting in the streets of Port-au-Prince as the US State Department removed all “non-essential” personnel from the country. Moise, whose country has received $2 billion in oil relief from Venezuela, to help offset rising fuel prices, has continued to support the Maduro government. However, at the US-run and neo-colonial artifice, the Organization of American States (OAS), Moise’s envoys have been under tremendous pressure to cut ties with Venezuela and recognize the US puppet Juan Guaido as Venezuelan president. Moise’s refusal to do so resulted in armed gangs hitting the streets of Port-au-Prince demanding Moise’s resignation. It is the same neocon “regime change” playbook being used in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

There will be similar attempts to replace pro-Maduro governments in his remaining allies in the region. These include Suriname, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Abrams was also brought in as an adviser on Middle East policy in the George W. Bush administration. The carnage of Iraq is a stark testament to his record. In 2005, it was reported that two key Bush White House officials – Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliot Abrams – gave a “wink and a nod” for the assassinations by Israeli-paid operatives of three key Lebanese political figures seeking a rapprochement with Syria and Lebanese Hezbollah – Member of Parliament Elie Hobeika, former Lebanese Communist Party chief George Hawi, and former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

In 2008, a United Nations panel headed by former Canadian prosecutor Daniel Bellemare later concluded Hariri was assassinated by a “criminal network” and not by either Syrian and Lebanese intelligence or Lebanese Hezbollah as proffered by Abrams and his friends in Washington.

Representative Omar was spot on in questioning why Abrams, whose name is as disgraced as his two fellow conspirators – Oliver North and John Poindexter – whose criminal convictions were overturned on appeal, is working for the Trump administration on Venezuela. The answer is that the neocons, who can sense, like raptors, Trump’s political weakness, have filled the vacuum left by top-level vacancies in the administration.

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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.

RT

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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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