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Syria update: Syrian army advances in East Ghouta; Turkish army advances in Afrin

Syrian and Turkish army advances strengthen the positions in the conflict of both Damascus and Ankara

Alexander Mercouris

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In the last few days the pattern the Syrian conflict has been taking is one of continuing advances by the Syrian army against the Jihadi fighters in East Ghouta, and by the Turkish army against the Kurdish militia in Afrin.

Reports from East Ghouta suggest that 40% of the former Jihadi enclave has now been recaptured by the Syrian army, up from the 30% of the enclave which the Syrian controlled just two days ago.

It seems that Jihadi resistance in the enclave is crumbling even faster than most expected, with the Jihadi fighters in the enclave unable despite their desperate resistance to stop or slow down the advance of the Syrian army.

Latest reports from the normally reliable Al-Masdar news agency speak of further planned advances by the Syrian army in the enclave, with the Syrian army now preparing to storm the strategically important Jihadi controlled town of Mesraba within the enclave.

These rapid Syrian army advances in East Ghouta are taking place despite the daily five hour bombing halts which have been insisted on – much I suspect to the Syrian leadership’s frustration – by Russian President Putin.

This is despite the fact that the daily bombing halts are failing to achieve their stated purpose, as the Jihadi fighters refuse to leave and refuse to allow the civilians trapped in the enclave to leave.

The main effect of the bombing halts is therefore to give the Jihadi fighters in East Ghouta a daily respite from the bombing, and to force the Syrian army to carry out many of its operations at night.

Nonetheless, despite these obstacles, the Syrian army continues its advance, and as I said previously there appears to be nothing that the Jihadi fighters can do to slow it down or stop it.

Simultaneously with the advance of the Syrian army in East Ghouta, the Turkish army has been pressing ahead with its offensive against the Kurdish controlled enclave of Afrin.

Despite the Kurdish militia sending strong reinforcements to Afrin, and despite the arrival of pro-Syrian government militia there, latest reports speak of the Turkish army and its Jihadi allies advancing to within seven kilometres of the town of Afrin.

The Kurdish militia’s response to this Turkish advance in Afrin appears however to be to double down.  Instead of withdrawing from Afrin and handing over what remains of the canton to the Syrian government, it seems that the Kurdish militia is redeploying 1,700 Kurdish fighters from the Euphrates river valley to Afrin, and is also redeploying other fighters from Raqqa province to Afrin.

That risks creating a vacuum in the Euphrates river valley, which if it is not filled quickly by the Syrian army risks being filled by ISIS instead, which Al-Masdar already reports is preparing to launch a major offensive in the area.

In fact reports that a pro Syrian government militia unit is being formed for operations in Raqqa province may suggest that the Syrian government is already preparing to fill the gaps caused by Kurdish withdrawals from the Euphrates river valley and Raqqa.

As I have discussed previously, neither the Syrian government nor the Russians welcome the Turkish operation in Afrin.

President Erdogan’s barely concealed plan to link up Afrin, the Jarablus corridor which he already controls, and Jihadi controlled Idlib province, in a large zone of Turkish controlled territory, taken together with the Turkish military’s ongoing work to build up a 25,000 strong Turkish trained Jihadi force in this zone, represents a major ongoing threat to the Syrian government.

The advance of pro-Syrian government militia fighters into Afrin was intended to forestall that move, and President Putin’s repeated conversations with Turkish President Erdogan (another took place yesterday) are at least in part intended to dissuade Erdogan from continuing with it.

However the reality is that with President Erdogan seemingly determined to press ahead, and with the Kurds showing no willingness to retreat or to make concessions even as their military position deteriorates, there is little that Russian diplomacy can for the moment do.

Needless to say the option of a direct clash between the Syrian and Turkish militaries, with the Russians providing air support to the Syrian military, is one which the Russians are extremely anxious to avoid, and they will be acting to prevent it taking place.  Here is how I discussed Russian thinking about that two weeks ago

The Russians will however be anxious to prevent an open clash between the Turkish and Syrian militaries from taking place in Afrin.

The Russians and the Syrian government are of course fully aware that in any one to one clash between the Turkish and Syrian militaries the advantage lies with the Turkish army.  The Russians would be loathe to see such a clash happen not just because it is likely that the Syrian military would be defeated, but because were it to happen they would come under immense pressure from Syria and Iran to come to the Syrian army’s aid.

Were they to do so their relationship with President Erdogan and Turkey would however be damaged probably beyond repair, thereby ending any prospect of their securing President Erdogan’s help to end the conflict in Syria.

This explains the understated nature of Russia’s moves.

It is known that the Russians tried to preempt Turkey’s Afrin operation by trying to persuade the Kurds to hand over Afrin to the Syrian government.  The Kurds however refused, so when the Turks attacked the Russians gave them the green light.

Now that the Kurds in Afrin are coming under pressure they have been forced to turn to the Syrian government.  The Russians have therefore given the Syrian government the green light to deploy its forces there.  At the same time they have almost certainly brokered an agreement whereby the Kurds in return for Syrian help will surrender districts they control in Aleppo and the town of Manbij to the Syrian government.

At the same time the Russians – anxious to maintain a dialogue with President Erdogan and to help him save face – have ensured that the Syrian deployment to Afrin is of a limited nature, being made up exclusively of pro-government militia forces, with no involvement by the Syrian army

The Al-Masdar news agency has confirmed that no Syrian troops are actually present in Afrin, showing that the deployment of pro-government militia forces to Afrin is intended first and foremost as a piece of positioning in advance of negotiations

If the Russians cannot for the moment broker a deal between the Turks, the Syrian government and the Kurds to end the fighting in Afrin – which is undoubtedly their preferred course – they can nonetheless use the crisis in Afrin to improve the position of the Syrian government in other ways.

The Kremlin’s summary of the latest conversation between Putin and Erdogan shows that the Russians are using Turkey’s focus on Afrin to get Turkey to accept the Syrian army’s ongoing offensive in East Ghouta, and to get the Turks to persuade their Jihadi allies to quit East Ghouta

The situation in Eastern Ghouta in the context of implementation of UN Security Council’s resolution 2401 was discussed. The importance of settling the humanitarian problems and the necessity of further uncompromising fight against the terrorist groups in this region was underlined.

The Russians have made it repeatedly clear that they see the removal of “terrorist groups” (ie. the Jihadi fighters fighting the Syrian army in East Ghouta) as the precondition for the imposition of the 30 day ceasefire that UN Security Council Resolution 2401/18 requires.

The Kremlin’s summary of Putin’s latest conversation with Erdogan suggests that this is what Putin told Erdogan, and that Erdogan accepted this logic.

The fact that once the Jihadi fighters had left East Ghouta there would be no one there for the Syrian government to agree a ceasefire with – enabling the Syrian government to take over complete control of the whole enclave – is of course something that all the parties to the conflict – the Syrians, the Russians, the US and the Turks – are fully aware.

That of course is precisely what happened in December 2016 in Aleppo, and as I predicted previously, we are now seeing a rerun of it now in East Ghouta.

Moreover just as happened during the final stages of the fighting in Aleppo, so now in East Ghouta it is becoming increasingly clear that some at least of the civilians trapped in East Ghouta actually want to see the Syrian government return there (see these two reports from Al-Masdar; here and here).

In all this diplomacy with the Turks the Russians have been handed a gift by the West in the form of Western insistence to the Turks that UN Security Council Resolution 2401/18 covers the fighting in Afrin as well as the fighting in East Ghouta, and that the Turks must therefore cease fighting the Kurds in Afrin and observe a 30 day ceasefire in Afrin, just as the Syrian army should cease fighting and observe a 30 day ceasefire in East Ghouta.

Here is how the US based Al-Monitor describes this

Turkey may have to pay a steep diplomatic price for ignoring a UN-ordered cease-fire in Syria. UN Security Council Resolution 2401, passed Feb. 24, calls on parties in Syria to observe a 30-day cease-fire. Ankara initially supported the decision, until realizing the resolution applies to it as well.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had said, “All the actors in Syria must comply with the 30-day cease-fire call of the UN all over the country.” But now Ankara is pretending the call wasn’t meant for Turkey.

The cease-fire aims to permit humanitarian aid to reach civilians. However, the resolution does allow for continued combat against the Islamic State (IS), al-Qaeda, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and their affiliates. Turkey is seeking to drive out of Afrin the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which it considers a terrorist-affiliated group.

But the United States, France and Germany soon made it clear that the cease-fire indeed includes Afrin. As the disagreement with its Western partners continued, Turkey deployed its special operations teams for the second phase of the operation.

On Feb. 26, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke by phone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. According to a statement from Macron, he told Erdogan that the “humanitarian agreement covers all of Syria, including Afrin, and has to be implemented all over without delay.”

The next day, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert also said the resolution applies to all of Syria and called on Turkey to read the text again. This was followed by the German Foreign Ministry calling on Turkey to respect the resolution. Statements from the European Union also called on Turkey to stop its Afrin operations.

The Western claim that Resolution 2401/18 covers Afrin as well as East Ghouta is strictly speaking true based on a narrow reading of its text.  However it is difficult to imagine saying anything more likely to infuriate President Erdogan than saying this.  Not surprisingly, as Al-Monitor says, his response has been harsh

Turkey’s response to all these warnings was equally harsh: Its Foreign Ministry said Afrin was not mentioned in the conversation with Macron and accused France of lying. Ankara also said Nauert’s remarks had no basis and that she either didn’t understand the resolution or was being intentionally misleading in her interpretation.

Erdogan said Turkey will struggle against anyone confronting it. He pointed out that cement-mixing machinery from Paris-based company Lafarge can be seen in Afrin — insinuating that France supports the YPG. France has investigated Lafarge’s role in financing IS and other extremist groups in Syria.

As it happens President Erdogan has a right to be angry.  In the run up to the vote in the UN Security Council for Resolution 2401/18 nothing at all was said about Afrin, with the all the discussion being about East Ghouta.

President Erdogan – who supported the Resolution – therefore has a right to feel that the Western powers tricked him, getting him to support a Resolution which he thought was about East Ghouta whereas the way it was drafted has made it possible for the Western powers to argue that it is also about Afrin.

The Western powers are of course acting in this way because in accordance with the US’s Plan C the US wants to keep the Kurdish militia intact in order to further its objective of undermining the Syrian government.

However President Erdogan cannot fail to contrast this further example of Western duplicity (as he is bound to see it) with the careful respect and consideration he always gets from the Russians.

That inevitably is going to predispose him to listen more carefully to what the Russians are telling him, not just about Afrin but about East Ghouta.

That presumably explains his muted response to the fighting in East Ghouta and – according to the Kremlin’s summary of their conversation – his agreement with Putin as to “the necessity of further uncompromising fight against the terrorist groups in this region”.

In summary, it seems that over the next few days or weeks both the Syrian government and the Turkish government will achieve their immediate objectives in Syria.

It is now only a question of time before the Syrian government achieves total control over East Ghouta, and it is likely though still not absolutely certain that the Turkish government will also shortly achieve total control over Afrin.

Both the Syrian and the Turkish governments will have moved closer to fulfilment of their medium term objectives in Syria.

The Syrian government will have finally secured the countryside around the Syrian capital of Damascus and will have increased its leverage over the Kurds.

The Turkish government will have prevented the continued growth of Kurdish power in northern Syria, and will have strengthened the zone under its control, in which it is continuing to build up a Jihadi force loyal to itself.

The struggle for Syria continues, with the two strongest players in the game – Turkey and the Syrian government backed by Russia – having improved their positions.

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Putin Keeps Cool and Averts WWIII as Israeli-French Gamble in Syria Backfires Spectacularly

Putin vowed that Russia would take extra precautions to protect its troops in Syria, saying these will be “the steps that everyone will notice.”

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Authored by Robert Bridge via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


By initiating an attack on the Syrian province of Latakia, home to the Russia-operated Khmeimim Air Base, Israel, France and the United States certainly understood they were flirting with disaster. Yet they went ahead with the operation anyways.

On the pretext that Iran was preparing to deliver a shipment of weapon production systems to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israeli F-16s, backed by French missile launches in the Mediterranean, destroyed what is alleged to have been a Syrian Army ammunition depot.

What happened next is already well established: a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft, which the Israeli fighter jets had reportedly used for cover, was shot down by an S-200 surface-to-air missile system operated by the Syrian Army. Fifteen Russian servicemen perished in the incident, which could have been avoided had Israel provided more than just one-minute warning before the attack. As a result, chaos ensued.

Whether or not there is any truth to the claim that Iran was preparing to deliver weapon-making systems to Hezbollah in Lebanon is practically a moot point based on flawed logic. Conducting an attack against an ammunition depot in Syria – in the vicinity of Russia’s Khmeimim Air Base – to protect Israel doesn’t make much sense when the consequence of such “protective measures” could have been a conflagration on the scale of World War III. That would have been an unacceptable price to achieve such a limited objective, which could have been better accomplished with the assistance of Russia, as opposed to NATO-member France, for example. In any case, there is a so-called “de-confliction system” in place between Israel and Russia designed to prevent exactly this sort of episode from occurring.

And then there is the matter of the timing of the French-Israeli incursion.

Just hours before Israeli jets pounded the suspect Syrian ammunition storehouse, Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan were in Sochi hammering out the details on a plan to reduce civilian casualties as Russian and Syrian forces plan to retake Idlib province, the last remaining terrorist stronghold in the country. The plan envisioned the creation of a demilitarized buffer zone between government and rebel forces, with observatory units to enforce the agreement. In other words, it is designed to prevent exactly what Western observers have been fretting about, and that is unnecessary ‘collateral damage.’

So what do France and Israel do after a relative peace is declared, and an effective measure for reducing casualties? The cynically attack Syria, thus exposing those same Syrian civilians to the dangers of military conflict that Western capitals proclaim to be worried about.

Israel moves to ‘damage control’

Although Israel has taken the rare move of acknowledging its involvement in the Syrian attack, even expressing “sorrow” for the loss of Russian life, it insists that Damascus should be held responsible for the tragedy. That is a highly debatable argument.

By virtue of the fact that the French and Israeli forces were teaming up to attack the territory of a sovereign nation, thus forcing Syria to respond in self-defense, it is rather obvious where ultimate blame for the downed Russian plane lies.

“The blame for the downing of the Russian plane and the deaths of its crew members lies squarely on the Israeli side,” Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said. “The actions of the Israeli military were not in keeping with the spirit of the Russian-Israeli partnership, so we reserve the right to respond.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, took admirable efforts to prevent the blame game from reaching the boiling point, telling reporters that the downing of the Russian aircraft was the result of “a chain of tragic circumstances, because the Israeli plane didn’t shoot down our jet.”

Nevertheless, following this extremely tempered and reserved remark, Putin vowed that Russia would take extra precautions to protect its troops in Syria, saying these will be “the steps that everyone will notice.”

Now there is much consternation in Israel that the IDF will soon find its freedom to conduct operations against targets in Syria greatly impaired. That’s because Russia, having just suffered a ‘friendly-fire’ incident from its own antiquated S-200 system, may now be more open to the idea of providing Syria with the more advanced S-300 air-defense system.

Earlier this year, Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached an agreement that prevented those advanced defensive weapons from being employed in the Syrian theater. That deal is now in serious jeopardy. In addition to other defensive measures, Russia could effectively create the conditions for a veritable no-fly zone across Western Syria in that it would simply become too risky for foreign aircraft to venture into the zone.

The entire situation, which certainly did not go off as planned, has forced Israel into damage control as they attempt to prevent their Russian counterparts from effectively shutting down Syria’s western border.

On Thursday, Israeli Major-General Amikam Norkin and Brigadier General Erez Maisel, as well as officers of the Intelligence and Operations directorates of the Israeli air force will pay an official visit to Moscow where they are expected to repeat their concerns of “continuous Iranian attempts to transfer strategic weapons to the Hezbollah terror organization and to establish an Iranian military presence in Syria.”

Moscow will certainly be asking their Israeli partners if it is justifiable to subject Russian servicemen to unacceptable levels of danger, up to and including death, in order to defend Israeli interests. It remains to be seen if the two sides can find, through the fog of war, an honest method for bringing an end to the Syria conflict, which would go far at relieving Israel’s concerns of Iranian influence in the region.

 

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This Man’s Incredible Story Proves Why Due Process Matters In The Kavanaugh Case

Accused of rape by a fellow student, Brian Banks accepted a plea deal and went to prison on his 18th birthday. Years later he was exonerated.

The Duran

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Authored by James Miller of The Political Insider:


Somewhere between the creation of the Magna Carta and now, leftists have forgotten why due process matters; and in some cases, such as that of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, they choose to outright ignore the judicial and civil rights put in place by the U.S. Constitution.

In this age of social media justice mobs, the accused are often convicted in the court of (liberal) public opinion long before any substantial evidence emerges to warrant an investigation or trial. This is certainly true for Kavanaugh. His accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, cannot recall the date of the alleged assault and has no supporting witnesses, yet law professors are ready to ruin his entire life and career. Not because they genuinely believe he’s guilty, but because he’s a pro-life Trump nominee for the Supreme Court.

It goes without saying: to “sink Kavanaugh even if” Ford’s allegation is untrue is unethical, unconstitutional, and undemocratic. He has a right to due process, and before liberals sharpen their pitchforks any further they would do well to remember what happened to Brian Banks.

In the summer of 2002, Banks was a highly recruited 16-year-old linebacker at Polytechnic High School in California with plans to play football on a full scholarship to the University of Southern California. However, those plans were destroyed when Banks’s classmate, Wanetta Gibson, claimed that Banks had dragged her into a stairway at their high school and raped her.

Gibson’s claim was false, but it was Banks’s word against hers. Banks had two options: go to trial and risk spending 41 years-to-life in prison, or take a plea deal that included five years in prison, five years probation, and registering as a sex offender. Banks accepted the plea deal under the counsel of his lawyer, who told him that he stood no chance at trial because the all-white jury would “automatically assume” he was guilty because he was a “big, black teenager.”

Gibson and her mother subsequently sued the Long Beach Unified School District and won a $1.5 million settlement. It wasn’t until nearly a decade later, long after Banks’s promising football career had already been tanked, that Gibson admitted she’d fabricated the entire story.

Following Gibson’s confession, Banks was exonerated with the help of the California Innocence Project. Hopeful to get his life back on track, he played for Las Vegas Locomotives of the now-defunct United Football League in 2012 and signed with the Atlanta Falcons in 2013. But while Banks finally received justice, he will never get back the years or the prospective pro football career that Gibson selfishly stole from him.

Banks’ story is timely, and it serves as a powerful warning to anyone too eager to condemn those accused of sexual assault. In fact, a film about Banks’s ordeal, Brian Banks, is set to premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival next week.

Perhaps all the #MeToo Hollywood elites and their liberal friends should attend the screening – and keep Kavanaugh in their minds as they watch.

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Clinton-Yeltsin docs shine a light on why Deep State hates Putin (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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Bill Clinton and America ruled over Russia and Boris Yeltsin during the 1990s. Yeltsin showed little love for Russia and more interest in keeping power, and pleasing the oligarchs around him.

Then came Vladimir Putin, and everything changed.

Nearly 600 pages of memos and transcripts, documenting personal exchanges and telephone conversations between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, were made public by the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Dating from January 1993 to December 1999, the documents provide a historical account of a time when US relations with Russia were at their best, as Russia was at its weakest.

On September 8, 1999, weeks after promoting the head of the Russia’s top intelligence agency to the post of prime minister, Russian President Boris Yeltsin took a phone call from U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The new prime minister was unknown, rising to the top of the Federal Security Service only a year earlier.

Yeltsin wanted to reassure Clinton that Vladimir Putin was a “solid man.”

Yeltsin told Clinton….

“I would like to tell you about him so you will know what kind of man he is.”

“I found out he is a solid man who is kept well abreast of various subjects under his purview. At the same time, he is thorough and strong, very sociable. And he can easily have good relations and contact with people who are his partners. I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the nearly 600 pages of transcripts documenting the calls and personal conversations between then U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, released last month. A strong Clinton and a very weak Yeltsin underscore a warm and friendly relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

Then Vladimir Putin came along and decided to lift Russia out of the abyss, and things changed.

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Here are five must-read Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges from with the 600 pages released by the Clinton Library.

Via RT

Clinton sends ‘his people’ to get Yeltsin elected

Amid unceasing allegations of nefarious Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election, the Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges reveal how the US government threw its full weight behind Boris – in Russian parliamentary elections as well as for the 1996 reelection campaign, which he approached with 1-digit ratings.

For example, a transcript from 1993 details how Clinton offered to help Yeltsin in upcoming parliamentary elections by selectively using US foreign aid to shore up support for the Russian leader’s political allies.

“What is the prevailing attitude among the regional leaders? Can we do something through our aid package to send support out to the regions?” a concerned Clinton asked.

Yeltsin liked the idea, replying that “this kind of regional support would be very useful.” Clinton then promised to have “his people” follow up on the plan.

In another exchange, Yeltsin asks his US counterpart for a bit of financial help ahead of the 1996 presidential election: “Bill, for my election campaign, I urgently need for Russia a loan of $2.5 billion,” he said. Yeltsin added that he needed the money in order to pay pensions and government wages – obligations which, if left unfulfilled, would have likely led to his political ruin. Yeltsin also asks Clinton if he could “use his influence” to increase the size of an IMF loan to assist him during his re-election campaign.

Yeltsin questions NATO expansion

The future of NATO was still an open question in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and conversations between Clinton and Yeltsin provide an illuminating backdrop to the current state of the curiously offensive ‘defensive alliance’ (spoiler alert: it expanded right up to Russia’s border).

In 1995, Yeltsin told Clinton that NATO expansion would lead to “humiliation” for Russia, noting that many Russians were fearful of the possibility that the alliance could encircle their country.

“It’s a new form of encirclement if the one surviving Cold War bloc expands right up to the borders of Russia. Many Russians have a sense of fear. What do you want to achieve with this if Russia is your partner? They ask. I ask it too: Why do you want to do this?” Yeltsin asked Clinton.

As the documents show, Yeltsin insisted that Russia had “no claims on other countries,” adding that it was “unacceptable” that the US was conducting naval drills near Crimea.

“It is as if we were training people in Cuba. How would you feel?” Yeltsin asked. The Russian leader then proposed a “gentleman’s agreement” that no former Soviet republics would join NATO.

Clinton refused the offer, saying: “I can’t make the specific commitment you are asking for. It would violate the whole spirit of NATO. I’ve always tried to build you up and never undermine you.”

NATO bombing of Yugoslavia turns Russia against the West

Although Clinton and Yeltsin enjoyed friendly relations, NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia tempered Moscow’s enthusiastic partnership with the West.

“Our people will certainly from now have a bad attitude with regard to America and with NATO,” the Russian president told Clinton in March 1999. “I remember how difficult it was for me to try and turn the heads of our people, the heads of the politicians towards the West, towards the United States, but I succeeded in doing that, and now to lose all that.”

Yeltsin urged Clinton to renounce the strikes, for the sake of “our relationship” and “peace in Europe.”

“It is not known who will come after us and it is not known what will be the road of future developments in strategic nuclear weapons,” Yeltsin reminded his US counterpart.

But Clinton wouldn’t cede ground.

“Milosevic is still a communist dictator and he would like to destroy the alliance that Russia has built up with the US and Europe and essentially destroy the whole movement of your region toward democracy and go back to ethnic alliances. We cannot allow him to dictate our future,” Clinton told Yeltsin.

Yeltsin asks US to ‘give Europe to Russia’

One exchange that has been making the rounds on Twitter appears to show Yeltsin requesting that Europe be “given” to Russia during a meeting in Istanbul in 1999. However, it’s not quite what it seems.

“I ask you one thing,” Yeltsin says, addressing Clinton. “Just give Europe to Russia. The US is not in Europe. Europe should be in the business of Europeans.”

However, the request is slightly less sinister than it sounds when put into context: The two leaders were discussing missile defense, and Yeltsin was arguing that Russia – not the US – would be a more suitable guarantor of Europe’s security.

“We have the power in Russia to protect all of Europe, including those with missiles,” Yeltsin told Clinton.

Clinton on Putin: ‘He’s very smart’

Perhaps one of the most interesting exchanges takes place when Yeltsin announces to Clinton his successor, Vladimir Putin.

In a conversation with Clinton from September 1999, Yeltsin describes Putin as “a solid man,” adding: “I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

A month later, Clinton asks Yeltsin who will win the Russian presidential election.

“Putin, of course. He will be the successor to Boris Yeltsin. He’s a democrat, and he knows the West.”

“He’s very smart,” Clinton remarks.

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