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Russia just tipped the balance of power in the Mediterranean

The agreement provides Russia with permanent base rights in Syria capable for the first time of challenging US strategic dominance in the eastern Mediterranean.

Alexander Mercouris

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Though there has been remarkably little discussion of the subject in the Western media, Russia last week quietly acquired for the first time in its modern history a proper permanent base in the Mediterranean.

Following negotiations between the Syrian government and Russia an agreement dating to 2015 has now been ratified by Russia turning the Russian air base at Khmeimim in Syria into a permanent base.  In other words Russia will retain the base at Khmeimim beyond the conclusion of the Syrian conflict, and its presence there has just been made permanent.

That the Syrian government has wanted to grant the base to Russia on a permanent basis has been known for some time.  From the Syrian point of view the Russian base not only guarantees Russia’s support for the present Syrian government but also provides Syria with a measure of protection it has never had before from Israeli air incursions.  These have been a continuous reality for decades with Syria lacking the capability to prevent them.  The Russians do have that capability and the Syrians will be hoping that because of the presence of the base they will now use it to protect Syria from Israeli air incursions.  As it happens reports suggest that the number of Israeli incursions of Syrian airspace have fallen off significantly since the Russian Aerospace Forces deployed to Syria last autumn, with the Israelis now careful to keep the Russians informed of their flights.

Whilst the Syrian government is known to have been keen to grant Russia a permanent base, the Russians have up to now been less sure.  Establishing a permanent foreign base in Syria is for the Russians a major departure from their former policy given the Russian military’s overwhelming focus on defending Russian territory rather than projecting Russian military power far beyond Russia’s borders. 

Some Russian military officials are also believed to have questioned the military utility of a Syrian base, pointing out that the eastern Mediterranean where the base is located is well within the range of Russian ballistic and cruise missiles.  Importantly, judging from comments he made in December last year, one of the leading skeptics was none other than Putin himself:

“about the base, opinions differ, you know. Some people in Europe and the US repeatedly said that our interests would be respected, and that our [military] base can remain there if we want it to. But I do not know if we need a base there. A military base implies considerable infrastructure and investment.

After all, what we have there today is our planes and temporary modules, which serve as a cafeteria and dormitories. We can pack up in a matter of two days, get everything aboard Antei transport planes and go home. Maintaining a base is different.

Some believe, including in Russia, that we must have a base there. I am not so sure. Why? My European colleagues told me that I am probably nurturing such ideas. I asked why, and they said: so that you can control things there. Why would we want to control things there? This is a major question.

We showed that we in fact did not have any medium-range missiles. We destroyed them all, because all we had were ground-based medium-range missiles. The Americans have destroyed their Pershing ground-based medium-range missiles as well. However, they have kept their sea- and aircraft-based Tomahawks. We did not have such missiles, but now we do – a 1,500-kilometre-range Kalibr sea-based missile and aircraft-carried Kh-101 missile with a 4,500-kilometre range.

So why would we need a base there? Should we need to reach somebody, we can do so without a base.

It might make sense, I am not sure. We still need to give it some thought. Perhaps we might need some kind of temporary site, but taking root there and getting ourselves heavily involved does not make sense, I believe. We will give it some thought.”

These comments, whilst carefully leaving the option open, suggest a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the idea of a permanent base and an ongoing debate on the subject within the Russian leadership.  Presumably it was these doubts and this debate that held up ratification of the base agreement for so long.  It is clear that that debate has now been settled, with the agreement finally ratified and with the decision finally made to make Khmeimim into a permanent base.

It should be said clearly that this is a major shift.  Tsarist Russia did operate naval bases in the Greek islands and in Piedmont in Italy in the nineteenth century, and the USSR negotiated naval and air facilities at various times with Albania, Yugoslavia, Syria and Egypt, which however all fell well short of being true permanent naval and air bases.  The USSR did seek at the end of the Second World War Western agreement for a Russian base in Libya, but unsurprisingly this was refused. 

All these previous projects proved ephemeral or stillborn, with whatever temporary arrangements the Russians negotiated with the various Mediterranean powers always reversed whenever these powers realigned towards the West, as they invariably did.  The one exception was the Russian naval facility in the Syrian port of Tartus which dates back to 1971.  Though it has attracted huge attention during the Syrian conflict, like all the other facilities the USSR acquired in the Mediterranean during the Cold War it is in no sense a base.  As even the BBC has been obliged to admit, the facility at Tartus is at best a support and resupply station for Russian ships in the Mediterranean.  It is too small to host Russian naval warships of frigate size and upwards, and has no facilities to host large numbers of Russian sailors or personnel such as a true base would need to do. 

The military reality is that since 1943 it is the US Navy which together with its naval allies (primarily Britain and France) has been the overwhelmingly dominant military power in the Mediterranean.  Since the Second World War the Mediterranean has been in military terms an American lake.

The base at Khmeimin however is different from anything that has existed before.  Not only does it already host a formidable strike force of aircraft roughly equivalent to that of a US Navy carrier strike group, but it is heavily defended by formidable air defence assets including S400, BUK and Pantsir anti aircraft missiles, and contains a host of radar, electronic warfare and command facilities.  It is also defended by a formidable force of Russian ground troops, said to be of battalion strength.  Moreover there is talk the base is going to be significantly expanded to make it capable of hosting much heavier strike aircraft, possibly TU22M3s.  Khmeimim also forms part of what is becoming a very powerful complex of Russian military bases and facilities in Syria, which obviously include the Tartus naval facility (which may also now be expanded) and a top secret Russian listening post which has long been rumoured to exist somewhere in Latakia province.

In aggregate this is a base complex of a sort the Russians have never had in the Mediterranean before, and one that has now been made permanent.

The Russian base in Syria cannot challenge the supremacy of the US Navy in the whole of the Mediterranean area.  However it does have the potential to change drastically political and military perceptions in its eastern half.  There is now the prospect of Russian fighters flying over the eastern Mediterranean in regular patrols, monitoring US warships and aircraft in the area, and making Russia’s presence felt in the area as it has never been felt before.  It is one thing to know in the abstract that Russian ballistic and cruise missiles can reach this area.  It is quite another actually to be able to see Russian military aircraft physically present there.  The psychological and political impact on the countries that border the eastern Mediterranean (Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Lebanon and Israel) and on the US Navy (in an area where it has long been accustomed to sailing unchallenged) cannot be overstated, and would be tremendous.

All this of course depends on the eventual outcome of the conflict in Syria.  By establishing a permanent base there Russia has just raised the stakes, a fact that undoubtedly explains the intensity of the conflict.

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May Forces Brexit Betrayal to its Crisis Point

We’re 29 months later and the U.K. is no closer to being out of the EU than the day of the vote. 

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Authored by Tom Luongo:


The only words that were left out of Theresa May’s announcement of achieving Cabinet approval over her Brexit deal were Mission Accomplished.

Theresa May was put in charge of the U.K. to betray Brexit from the beginning.  She always represented the interests of the European Union and those in British Parliament that backed remaining in the EU.

No one in British ‘high society’ wanted Brexit to pass.   No. One.

No one in Europe’s power elite wanted Brexit to pass.  No. One.

No one in the U.S.’s power elite wanted Brexit to pass.  No. One.

When it did pass The Davos Crowd began the process of sabotaging it.  The fear mongering has done nothing but intensify.  And May has done nothing but waffle back and forth, walking the political tight rope to remain in power while trying to sell EU slavery to the both sides in British Parliament.

We’re 29 months later and the U.K. is no closer to being out of the EU than the day of the vote.  Why?

Because Theresa May’s 585 page ‘deal’ is the worst of all possible outcomes.  If it passes it will leave the EU with near full control over British trade and tax policy while the British people and government have no say or vote in the matter.

It’s punishment for the people getting uppity about their future and wanting something different than what had been planned for them.

Mr. Juncker and his replacement will never have to suffer another one of Nigel Farage’s vicious farragoes detailing their venality ever again.  YouTube will get a whole lot less interesting.

It’s almost like this whole charade was designed this way.

Because it was.

May has tried to run out the clock and scare everyone into accepting a deal that is worse than the situation pre-Brexit because somehow a terrible deal is better than no deal.  But, that’s the opposite of the truth.

And she knows it.  She’s always known it but she’s gone into these negotiations like the fragile wisp of a thing she truly is.

There’s a reason I call her “The Gypsum Lady.” She’s simply the opposite of Margaret Thatcher who always knew what the EU was about and fought to her last political breath to avoid the trap the U.K. is now caught in.

The U.K. has had all of the leverage in Brexit talks but May has gone out of her way to not use any of it while the feckless and evil vampires in Europe purposefully complicate issues which are the height of irrelevancy.

She has caved on every issue to the point of further eroding what’s left of British sovereignty.  This deal leaves the U.K. at the mercy of Latvia or Greece in negotiating any trade agreement with Canada.  Because for a deal between member states to be approved, all members have to approve of it.

So, yeah, great job Mrs. May.  Mission Accomplished.  They are popping champagne corks in Brussels now.

But, this is a Brexit people can be proud of.

Orwell would be proud of Theresa May for this one.

You people are leaving.  Let the EU worry about controlling their borders.  And if Ireland doesn’t like the diktats coming from Brussels than they can decide for themselves if staying in the EU is worth the trouble.

The entire Irish border issue is simply not May’s problem to solve.  Neither is the customs union or any of the other stuff.  These are the EU’s problems.   They are the ones who don’t want the Brits to leave.

Let them figure out how they are going to trade with the U.K.  It is so obvious that this entire Brexit ‘negotiation’ is about protecting the European project as a proxy for the right of German automakers to export their cars at advantageous exchange rates to the U.K. at everyone’s expense.

Same as it was in the days of The Iron Lady.

If all of this wasn’t so predictable it would be comical.

Because the only people more useless than Theresa May are the Tories who care only about keeping their current level of the perks of office.

The biggest takeaway from this Brexit fiasco is that even more people will check out of the political system. They will see it even more clearly for what it is, an irredeemable miasma of pelf and privilege that has zero interest in protecting the rights of its citizens or the value of their labor.

It doesn’t matter if it’s voter fraud in the U.S. or a drawn out betrayal of a binding referendum. There comes a point where those not at the political fringes look behind the veil and realize changing the nameplate above the door doesn’t change the policy.

And once they realize that confidence fails and systems collapse.

Brexit was the last gasp of a dying empire to assert its national relevancy.  Even if this deal is rejected by parliament the process has sown deep divisions which will lead to the next trap and the next and the next and the next.

By then Theresa May will be a distant memory, being properly rewarded by her masters for a job very well done.


Please support the production of independent and alternative political and financial commentary by joining my Patreon and subscribing to the Gold Goats ‘n Guns Investment Newsletter for just $12/month.

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The DOJ Is Preparing To Indict Julian Assange

Ecuador’s relationship with Assange has deteriorated considerably with the election of President Lenin Moreno.

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Via Zerohedge…


The US Justice Department is preparing to indict WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange which, after sensitive international negotiations, would likely trigger his extradition to the United States to stand trial, according to the Wall Street Journalciting people in Washington familiar with the matter.

Over the past year, U.S. prosecutors have discussed several types of charges they could potentially bring against Mr. Assange, the people said. Mr. Assange has lived in the Ecuadorean embassy in London since receiving political asylum from the South American country in 2012.

The people familiar with the case wouldn’t describe whether discussions were under way with the U.K. or Ecuador about Mr. Assange, but said they were encouraged by recent developments.

The exact charges Justice Department might pursue remain unclear, but they may involve the Espionage Act, which criminalizes the disclosure of national defense-related information. –WSJ

In short, the DOJ doesn’t appear to have a clear charge against Assange yet. Then there’s the optics of dragging Assange out of Ecuador’s London Embassy and into the United States, then prosecuting him, and if successful – jailing him.

Prosecuting someone for publishing truthful information would set a terrible and dangerous precedent,” said Assange lawyer Barry Pollack – who says he hasn’t heard anything about a US prosecution.

“We have heard nothing from authorities suggesting that a criminal case against Mr. Assange is imminent,” he added.

Moreover, assuming that even if the DOJ could mount a case, they would be required to prove that Russia was the source of a trove of emails damaging to Hillary Clinton that WikiLeaks released in the last few months of the 2016 election.

An indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller that portrayed WikiLeaks as a tool of Russian intelligence for releasing thousands of hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 presidential campaign has made it more difficult for Mr. Assange to mount a defense as a journalist. Public opinion of Mr. Assange in the U.S. has dropped since the campaign.

Prosecutors have considered publicly indicting Mr. Assange to try to trigger his removal from the embassy, the people said, because a detailed explanation of the evidence against Mr. Assange could give Ecuadorean authorities a reason to turn him over. –WSJ

It’s no secret that Assange and Hillary Clinton aren’t exactly exchanging Christmas cards, however would WikiLeaks’ release of damaging information that was hacked (or copied locally on a thumb drive by a well-meaning American), be illegal for Assange as a publisher?

Despite scant clues as to how the DOJ will prosecute Assange aside from rumors that it has to do with the Espionage Act, the US Government is cooking on something. John Demers – head of the DOJ’s national security division, said last week regarding an Assange case: “On that, I’ll just say, we’ll see.”

The U.S. hasn’t publicly commented on whether it has made, or plans to make, any extradition request. Any extradition request from the U.S. would likely go to British authorities, who have an outstanding arrest warrant for Mr. Assange related to a Swedish sexual assault case. Sweden has since dropped the probe, but the arrest warrant stands.

Any extradition and prosecution would involve multiple sensitive negotiations within the U.S. government and with other countries. –WSJ

Beginning in 2010, the Department of Justice beginning under the Obama administration has drawn a distinction between WikiLeaks and other news organizations – with former Attorney General Eric Holder insisting that Assange’s organization does not deserve the same first amendment protections during the Chelsea Manning case in which the former Army intelligence analyst was found guilty at a court-martial of leaking thousands of classified Afghan War Reports.

US officials have given mixed messages over Assange, with President Trump having said during the 2016 election “I love WikiLeaks,” only to have his former CIA Director, Mike Pompeo label WikiLeaks akin to a foreign “hostile intelligence service” and a US adversary. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said that Assange’s arrest is a “priority.”

Ecuador’s relationship with Assange, meanwhile, has deteriorated considerably with the election of President Lenin Moreno – who called the WikiLeaks founder a “stone in our shoe,” adding that Assange’s stay at the London embassy is unsustainable.

Ecuador has been looking to improve relations with the U.S., hosting Vice President Mike Pence in 2018 amid interest in increasing trade.

Ecuador’s Foreign Relations Ministry declined to comment. This month, Foreign Relations Minister José Valencia told a radio station the government hadn’t received an extradition request for Mr. Assange.

Mr. Assange has clashed with his Ecuadorean hosts in over internet access, visitors, his cat and other issues. Last month, he sued Ecuador over the conditions of his confinement. At a hearing last month, at which a judge rejected Mr. Assange’s claims, Mr. Assange said he expected to be forced out of the embassy soon.  –WSJ

Assange and Ecuador seem to have worked things out for the time being; with his months-long communication blackout mostly lifted (with strict rules against Assange participating in political activities that would affect Ecuador’s international relations). Assange is now allowed Wi-Fi, but has to foot the bill for his own phone calls and other communication.

In October, a judge threw out a lawsuit Assange filed against Ecuador from implementing the stricter rules,.

“Ecuador hasn’t violated the rights of anyone,” Attorney General Íñigo Salvador said after the court ruling. “It has provided asylum to Mr. Assange, and he should comply with the rules to live harmoniously inside Ecuador’s public installations in London.”Assange’s attorneys say he will appeal the ruling – however it may be a moot point if he’s dragged into a US courtroom sooner than later.

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Trump Understands The Important Difference Between Nationalism And Globalism

President Trump’s nationalism heralds a return to the old U.S. doctrine of non-intervention.

The Duran

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Authored by Raheem Kassam, op-ed via The Daily Caller:


President Macron’s protests against nationalism this weekend stand in stark contrast with the words of France’s WWII resistance leader and the man who would then become president: General Charles de Gaulle.

Speaking to his men in 1913, de Gaulle reminded them:

“He who does not love his mother more than other mothers, and his fatherland more than other fatherlands, loves neither his mother nor his fatherland.”

This unquestionable invocation of nationalism reveals how far France has come in its pursuit of globalist goals, which de Gaulle described later in that same speech as the “appetite of vice.”

While this weekend the media have been sharpening their knives on Macron’s words, for use against President Trump, very few have taken the time to understand what really created the conditions for the wars of the 20th century. It was globalism’s grandfather: imperialism, not nationalism.

This appears to have been understood at least until the 1980s, though forgotten now. With historical revisionism applied to nationalism and the great wars, it is much harder to understand what President Trump means when he calls himself a “nationalist.” Though the fault is with us, not him.

Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism: nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism … By pursuing our own interests first, with no regard to others,’ we erase the very thing that a nation holds most precious, that which gives it life and makes it great: its moral values,” President Macron declared from the pulpit of the Armistice 100 commemorations.

Had this been in reverse, there would no doubt have been shrieks of disgust aimed at Mr. Trump for “politicizing” such a somber occasion. No such shrieks for Mr. Macron, however, who languishes below 20 percent in national approval ratings in France.

With some context applied, it is remarkably easy to see how President Macron was being disingenuous.

Nationalism and patriotism are indeed distinct. But they are not opposites.

Nationalism is a philosophy of governance, or how human beings organize their affairs. Patriotism isn’t a governing philosophy. Sometimes viewed as subsidiary to the philosophy of nationalism, patriotism is better described as a form of devotion.

For all the grandstanding, Mr. Macron may as well have asserted that chicken is the opposite of hot sauce,so meaningless was the comparison.

Imperialism, we so quickly forget, was the order of the day heading into the 20th century. Humanity has known little else but empire since 2400 B.C. The advent of globalism, replete with its foreign power capitals and multi-national institutions is scarcely distinct.

Imperialism — as opposed to nationalism — seeks to impose a nation’s way of life, its currency, its traditions, its flags, its anthems, its demographics, and its rules and laws upon others wherever they may be.

Truly, President Trump’s nationalism heralds a return to the old U.S. doctrine of non-intervention, expounded by President George Washington in his farewell address of 1796:

” … It must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of [Europe’s] politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.”

It should not have to be pointed out that the great wars of the 20th century could not be considered “ordinary vicissitudes”, but rather, that imperialism had begun to run amok on the continent.

It was an imperialism rooted in nihilism, putting the totality of the state at its heart. Often using nationalism as nothing more than a method of appeal, socialism as a doctrine of governance, and Jews as a subject of derision and scapegoating.

Today’s imperialism is known as globalism.

It is what drives nations to project outward their will, usually with force; causes armies to cross borders in the hope of subjugating other human beings or the invaded nation’s natural resources; and defines a world, or region, or continent by its use of central authority and foreign capital control.

Instead of armies of soldiers, imperialists seek to dominate using armies of economists and bureaucrats. Instead of forced payments to a foreign capital, globalism figured out how to create economic reliance: first on sterling, then on the dollar, now for many on the Euro. This will soon be leapfrogged by China’s designs.

And while imperialism has served some good purposes throughout human history, it is only when grounded in something larger than man; whether that be natural law, God, or otherwise. But such things are scarcely long-lived.

While benevolent imperialism can create better conditions over a period of time, humanity’s instincts will always lean towards freedom and self-governance.

It is this fundamental distinction between the United States’ founding and that of the modern Republic of France that defines the two nations.

The people of France are “granted” their freedoms by the government, and the government creates the conditions and dictates the terms upon which those freedoms are exercised.

As Charles Kesler wrote for the Claremont Review of Books in May, “As a result, there are fewer and fewer levers by which the governed can make its consent count”.

France is the archetypal administrative state, while the United States was founded on natural law, a topic that scarcely gets enough attention anymore.

Nationalism – or nationism, if you will – therefore represents a break from the war-hungry norm of human history. Its presence in the 20th century has been rewritten and bastardized.

A nationalist has no intention of invading your country or changing your society. A nationalist cares just as much as anyone else about the plights of others around the world but believes putting one’s own country first is the way to progress. A nationalist would never seek to divide by race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual preference, or otherwise. This runs contrary to the idea of a united, contiguous nation at ease with itself.

Certainly nationalism’s could-be bastard child of chauvinism can give root to imperialistic tendencies. But if the nation can and indeed does look after its own, and says to the world around it, “these are our affairs, you may learn from them, you may seek advice, we may even assist if you so desperately need it and our affairs are in order,” then nationalism can be a great gift to the 21st century and beyond.

This is what President Trump understands.

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