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Vladimir Putin ‘sad’ about not being included in US ‘Kremlin List’

The US has published its ominous sounding “Kremlin List”, as the no-effect document briefly raises nerves in Moscow

Seraphim Hanisch

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At twelve minutes before midnight on Monday, President Donald Trump authorized the release of the expected list of politicians and business leaders in the Russian Federation who have “benefited” from President Vladimir Putin’s rule of the Russian Federation.  However, President Trump also specified that no sanctions against any of these people were to be imposed.

The text of the non-classified part of the document, shown here, specifically notes that:

It is not a sanctions list, and the inclusion of individuals or entities in this report, its appendices, or its annex does not and in no way should be interpreted to impose sanctions on those individuals or entities.  Inclusion in this report also does not constitute the determination by any agency that any of those individuals or entities meet the criteria for designation under any sanctions program.  Moreover, the inclusion of individuals or entities in this report, its appendices, or its classified annexes does not, in and of itself, imply, give rise to, or create any other restrictions, prohibitions, or limitations on dealings with such persons by either U.S. or foreign persons.

It doesn’t stop the disclaimer train here.  It goes on:

Neither does inclusion on the unclassified list indicate that the U.S. Government has information about the individual’s involvement in malign activities.

Although the document does note that some persons were already subject to sanctions, it is very clear that this document doesn’t extend any sanctions in any way.

Of course, the spin doctors, unfortunately in the USA and the Russian Federation, did go to work on this document.

Among them appears to be Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who told some lawmakers that the classified report will result in more sanctions.

But wait – we just showed that the document itself says this is not so.  Interesting?

Still more interesting is that the whole context of this list is being portrayed in some US government circles as a “sanctions list.”

This document was creating some nervousness among some people in the Russian Federation.  For example, Moscow-based Kaspersky Labs has long been beleaguered by unfair, and frankly, illegal treatment by elements in the US government that are more interested in Russia-damning rhetoric than they are the truth.  The worry was that this company would be affected by further slander and maybe lose business in Europe, which thus far it has not.

It is probably not realized in the United States just how fabricated this disinformation campaign against Kaspersky Labs actually is.  While American retailers have been scared into removing KL products from store shelves, thus far the European customers, both private and public, have continued to use their products undeterred by such propaganda.

Eugene Kaspersky himself has filed a suit against the US ban of its products.  He has as good a basis to make his case as anyone does, because all the action taken against his products was done without due process, and according only to slander and hearsay.

Still, this issue created some worry until the document was actually released.  Although Eugene’s name is on the list, he simply resides there along with 95 other “oligarchs” who simply are successful Russian businessmen and women.

President Putin gave the best response so far, indicating that the release of this list borders on “stupidity” because it reveals the inconsistency in the American government’s policies.  He noted, probably with some sarcasm, that “it’s a pity” that he himself was not included on the list.  However, he also noted that this action is certainly unfriendly, and he expressed some wonder, saying,

“What do they want?  They must decide for themselves… The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on…”

President Putin maintained that Russia is eager to build long-term relations which are “stable and based on international law.”

The document does receive a fair dose of condemnation from Russian Federation officials and MP’s, noting that the action reflects a true breakdown in ties between Moscow and Washington.

On the American side, Trump is sure to be criticized for not enacting more sanctions by the Russophobes / Obama Deep Staters within the DC establishment, and their Russian counterparts are in their own way, amazed and dismayed.

However, one still hopes that with the Russiagate investigation nearing its final paroxysm of self-destruction, more productive steps can be taken by the Trump Administration to fix this problem. It must be understood that President Trump was required by law to release this document, and that the encouraging sign lies in the fact that he said there would be no actions taken to impose sanctions based on this list.

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Even a Vacuous Mueller Report Won’t End ‘Russiagate’

Too many reputations and other interests are vested in the legend for it to vanish from American politics anytime soon.

Stephen Cohen

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Authored by Stephen Cohen via The Nation:


Russiagate allegations that the Kremlin has a subversive hold over President Trump, and even put him in the White House, have poisoned American political life for almost three years. Among other afflictions, it has inspired an array of media malpractices, virtually criminalized anti–Cold War thinking about Russia, and distorted the priorities of the Democratic Party. And this leaves aside the woeful impact Russiagate has had in Moscow—on its policymakers’ perception of the US as a reliable partner on mutually vital strategic issues and on Russian democrats who once looked to the American political system as one to be emulated, a loss of “illusions” I previously reported.

Contrary to many expectations, even if the Mueller report, said to be impending, finds, as did a Senate committee recently, “no direct evidence of conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia,” Russiagate allegations are unlikely to dissipate in the near future and certainly not before the 2020 presidential election.

There are several reasons this is so, foremost among them the following:

  1. The story of a “Kremlin puppet” in the White House is so fabulous and unprecedented it is certain to become a tenacious political legend, as have others in American history despite the absence of any supporting evidence.
  2. The careers of many previously semi-obscure Democratic members of Congress have been greatly enhanced—if that is the right word—by their aggressive promotion of Russiagate. (Think, for example, of the ubiquitous media coverage and cable-television appearances awarded to Representatives Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, and Maxine Walters, and to Senators Mark Warner and Richard Blumenthal.) If Mueller fails to report “collusion” of real political substance, these and other Russiagate zealots, as well as their supporters in the media, will need to reinterpret run-of-the-mill (and bipartisan) financial corruption and mundane “contacts with Russia” as somehow treasonous. (The financial-corruption convictions of Paul Manafort, Mueller’s single “big win” to date, did not charge “collusion” and had to do mainly with Ukraine, not Russia.) Having done so already, there is every reason to think Democrats will politicize these charges again, if only for the sake of their own careers. Witness, for example, the scores of summonses promised by Jerrold Nadler, the new Democratic chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
  3. Still worse, the top Democratic congressional leadership evidently has concluded that promoting the new Cold War, of which Russiagate has become an integral part, is a winning issue in 2020. How else to explain Nancy Pelosi’s proposal—subsequently endorsed by the equally unstatesmanlike Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, and adopted—to invite the secretary general of NATO, a not-very-distinguished Norwegian politician named Jens Stoltenberg, to address a joint session of Congress? The honor was once bestowed on figures such as Winston Churchill and at the very least leaders of actual countries. Trump has reasonably questioned NATO’s mission and costs nearly 30 years after the Soviet Union disappeared, as did many Washington think tanks and pundits back in the 1990s. But for Pelosi and other Democratic leaders, there can be no such discussion, only valorization of NATO, even though the military alliance’s eastward expansion has brought the West to the brink of war with nuclear Russia. Anything Trump suggests must be opposed, regardless of the cost to US national security. Will the Democrats go to the country in 2020 as the party of investigations, subpoenas, Russophobia, and escalating cold war—and win?

Readers of my new book War With Russia?, which argues that there are no facts to support the foundational political allegations of Russiagate, may wonder how, then, Russiagate can continue to be such a major factor in our politics. As someone has recently pointed out, the Democrats and their media are now operating on the Liberty Valance principle: When the facts are murky or nonexistent, “print the legend.”

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Patriarch Bartholomew slaps down effort to solve Ukrainian Church crisis

Seraphim Hanisch

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Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I has a problem.

In October last year, by his order, two schismatic churches and their leaders were “rehabilitated” and the schismatic churches were combined and relaunched as a new national church, ostensibly for the people of Ukraine.

However, everything about this action was wrong.

The Patriarch attempted to reinterpret Church history and assumed the power to take over the situation in Ukraine, when Orthodox Christian ecclesiology says that no bishop (even a Patriarch) is permitted to impose his will outside his own See. Ukraine was not the territory of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, nor has it been for hundreds of years.

The people he lifted into power – Filaret Denisenko and Makary Maletich, both were formerly out of communion with canonical Orthodoxy, and Filaret is notable for having a terrible record with his priests, a common-law wife (forbidden for a bishop) and most notably, Filaret was also anathematized by the Russian Church for his actions.

Thirdly, the new church has yet to go on record with any statement at all about how its formation serves the will of God. This is because it cannot do so. The Orthodox Church in Ukraine exists as an ultranationalist thumb in the eye of Russia, even to the point some people in the new community said “now we have our own God. We don’t need the Russian God.”

This is a very bad sentiment because in the Orthodox Church there is only one God, and he does not pick between nations because of national identity.

To date, none of the other fourteen universally recognized Local Orthodox Churches has accepted the new Church and none of the local Churches are in communion with the OCU (Orthodox Church in Ukraine). Everyone who has said anything at all about this matter has rejected communion with schismatics, though a few monasteries on Athos did allow services with these people.

In essence, at this time the Patriarch has a new church on his back that no one wants but him. His statements that the other local Churches, namely Russia, will have no choice but to accept the OCU have not been proven right so far.

In fact, the pressure is running in the opposite direction.

Patriarch John X of Antioch, the oldest Christian Church in continuous existence, received a letter from Patriarch Bartholomew in response to the request by many leaders of local Churches to hold a pan-Orthodox discussion to resolve the dispute in Ukraine. According to the Union of Orthodox Journalists, the letter amounted to a slap in the face, borne of Patriarch Bartholomew’s own petulance, arrogance, and pettiness (We have added emphasis):

In a letter to the Primate of the Antiochian Orthodox Church, Patriarch John X, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople declared that “he has good reasons” to refrain from a general Orthodox meeting on the Ukrainian church issue, reports the official website of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Patriarch Bartholomew called the discussion of the religious situation in Ukraine “useless” and reminded the Primate of the Antiochian Church of his refusal to participate in the Crete Council of 2016, which Constantinople had been prepar[ing] for a long time.

“After the four Orthodox Churches, from a church and theological point of view without a reason, refused to be present at the Ecumenical Sacred Council, for which there are no excuses, and your ancient Church was one of them, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has good reasons to refrain from such a meeting at the pan-Orthodox a level that will be useless since it will only lead to the agreement that the participants will disagree with each other,” wrote the Patriarch of Constantinople.

According to him, the autocephalous nature of the OCU became a reward for the Church of Ukraine, and the Phanar returned “to the fold of the canonical Church” the members of the UOC KP and the UAOC who were “unfairly” outside it. At the same time, Patriarch Bartholomew assures that he returned the schismatics to the bosom of Orthodoxy exclusively “following church traditions and canons.”

In other words, the Patriarch appears to be digging in. This situation is entirely wrong according to Church canons. The Patriarch is acting as though he has jurisdiction over all other Orthodox Churches, which is a position remarkably similar to that perceived by the Bishop of Rome prior to the Great Schism of 1054 which split the Roman Catholic Church apart from the other ancient Orthodox Patriarchates.

The result of that split was a slow disintegration of Christian integrity in the Roman Church, the eventual development of Protestantism and the present result of a severely degraded form of Christianity in the West, where the law of God is not considered at all, and one can essentially believe or act however they want and find a “church” that will back them up, or they will start their own.

The current actions of the Ecumenical Patriarch have caused concerns, even fears, of a new split in the Orthodox Church, and with the present geopolitical climate being strongly anti-Russian, there is a lot of thought that the United States is influencing and encouraging the split in order to isolate both Russia and its Orthodox Church, which is the largest and strongest in the world at this time.

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Venezuela rhetoric heats up after US attempt to invoke Monroe Doctrine

Once again, Russia wishes to play by the book, pressing the US to do the same in regards to the life and future of Venezuela.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had a discussion over the situation in Venezuela over the phone with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday, 2 March. The conversation, according to TASS, indicated Russia’s readiness for talks regarding its ally, but only if conducted in strict compliance with the United Nations Charter. However, the United States appears to be fanning the flames of the next Russian – US diplomatic row.

Venezuela has become a flashpoint as the socialist government of the country was brought to a state of collapse. At present, the results of the country’s presidential elections are hotly disputed, with the US allying itself behind Juan Guaidó, the rival to incumbent President Nicolás Maduro, who is backed by Russia.

This situation created a new stage for conflict between the interests of the Russian Federation and the United States, with that conflict living on at least two levels:

  • According to the Monroe Doctrine, the resolution the US made in the 1820’s to prevent European colonization or intervention in Western nations, the Russian involvement amounts to a breach of trust.
  • According to the US press, Venezuela is a socialist cesspool, with Maduro the present instrument of that grief as the hand-picked successor to Hugo Chavez. The country is reportedly in severe economic crisis, even to the point where waves of immigrants are reported to be fleeing Venezuela to the United States in caravans.

What remains unclear, at least from the point of view of the press in both countries, is how much of the Venezuelan crisis was manufactured by US interference at overt and covert levels. As the country is a Russian ally, naturally, this is a concern to the Russian Federation.

Several months ago, the first significant incident calling the Monroe Doctrine into question was the stationing of two Russian supersonic bombers on an island just off the Venezuelan coast.

The results of the presidential elections are presently in dispute. Wikipedia offers this chronology of events (emphases added):

Presidential elections were held in Venezuela on 20 May 2018,[3] with incumbent Nicolás Maduro being re-elected for a second six-year term.[4] Considered a snap election, the original electoral date was scheduled for December 2018 but was subsequently pulled ahead to 22 April before being pushed back to 20 May.[5][6][7] Some analysts described the poll as a show election,[8][9] with the elections having the lowest voter turnout in the country’s democratic era.[4][10]

Several Venezuelan NGOs, such as Foro Penal Venezolano, Súmate, Voto Joven [es], the Venezuelan Electoral Observatory and the Citizen Electoral Network, expressed their concern over the irregularities of the electoral schedule, including the lack of the Constituent Assembly‘s competencies to summon the elections, impeding participation of opposition political parties, and the lack of time for standard electoral functions.[11]

Because of this, the European Union,[12][13] the Organization of American States, the Lima Group[14] and countries including Australia and the United States rejected the electoral process.[15][16] However, countries including China, South Africa, Cuba, Iran, Egypt, Russia, Syria, Turkey and others recognized the election result.[17]

The two leading candidates opposing Maduro, Henri Falcón and Javier Bertucci, rejected the results, saying that the election was critically flawed by irregularities. Bertucci asked that the elections be repeated without Maduro.[18][19] Maduro was inaugurated on 10 January 2019. In the days thereafter, Albania, Canada, Iceland, Israel, Kosovo, the United States, and a number of Latin American countries recognized National Assembly Speaker Juan Guaidó as the legitimate Venezuelan President after the start of the 2019 Venezuelan presidential crisis.[20]

The situation here is rather tense, but Russia wished to have discussions with the US authorities provided those discussions were in the spirit of the United Nations Charter, which the US is on record for disregarding time and again as the situation warrants.

TASS reported that FM Lavrov and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed Venezuela over the phone, with the Russian side appearing to express a grievance against the United States’ activity in regard to the Venezuelan nation:

“In connection with Washington’s proposal to hold bilateral consultations on Venezuela, it was pointed out that we were ready for them but only in strict accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter, since only the people of Venezuela have the right to determine their future,” the foreign ministry said.

In his conversation with Pompeo, Lavrov condemned US threats against Venezuela’s legitimate leadership, which represent “undisguised interference in domestic affairs of a sovereign state and a gross violation of international law.”

“Instigation and destructive influence from outside, under the hypocritical pretext of humanitarian aid deliveries, have nothing in common with the democratic process,” the foreign ministry stressed.

This last statement is related to the US effort to send “aid” to Venezuela, ostensibly under the direction of Guaido, to bolster his position as the real leader of the country. However, Nicolas Maduro is on record as having actually won the election. That claim is disputed, with the usual charges that “the election was irregular”, alluding to the notion that it was not valid.

But more took place on March 4th, regarding a series of statements by US foreign policy adviser John Bolton, who invoked the Monroe Doctrine in regards to Venezuela (code for “Russia, keep out of this…”). This move appears to be the diplomatic equivalent of pulling a rabbit out of a hat, and it is not being viewed as a favorable move. In a new report from TASS we learn:

White House National Security Adviser John Bolton’s statement that Washington is not afraid of pursuing the Monroe Doctrine against Venezuela is a slap in the face to the entire Latin American region, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after talks with his Qatari counterpart Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani.

Lavrov recalled that after the United Nations was established in 1945, international law has been ensured through the Charter of this universal and the most legitimate organization. “The theory and practice of ‘backyards’ is insulting, to a large extent,” Russia’s top diplomat stressed.

“I believe that Latin American states will react to John Bolton’s statement. He mentioned that the Monroe Doctrine could be used in Venezuela, insulting the entire Latin America,” he noted. “Moreover, several days ago Washington threatened that Venezuela is not the end of the story, and Cuba and Nicaragua would be next.”

Earlier, John Bolton said Washington planned to create a broad coalition to topple Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The White House adviser also said the US was sticking to the principles of the Monroe Doctrine.

The Monroe Doctrine’s applicability here is certainly in question. After all, Soviet-allied activities took place in Central America for decades in Nicaragua, Cuba, Brazil, Mexico and other places, (even as American-allied manipulation was in play in Eastern Europe), but now, suddenly a nearly 200-year old statement is pulled into use as the founding principle why the US should have jurisdiction over the nation with the largest known oil reserves in the world?

Venezuela, then is a place with enormous strategic importance, and is therefore a potential flashpoint diplomatically and maybe even worse.

What appears to be unfolding is another page in a regrettably well-known playbook. The geopolitics of oil are in play, and it is highly possible that all the suffering and crisis in Venezuela is not simply the result of socialism, but perhaps socialism plus interference from the outside. What appears to be different this time is that US efforts seem to be a bit more frail than in the past, and it is possible that the United States will not get its way here.

If so, this will be a major blow for the image of power of the US, and how the powers that be there react to this is the next question.

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