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War with Russia? US politicians close to approving ‘no-fly zone’ in Syria

The rushed passing of HR5732 without debate is indicative that the US establishment has not yet given up on the idea of regime change in Syria.

Rick Sterling

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Late in the day Tuesday November 15, Congress convened in a special session. With normal rules suspended, they passed House Resolution 5732 – the “Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act”. The resolution calls for intensifying already harsh sanctions on Syria, assessing implementation of No Fly Zone in Syria and escalating efforts to press criminal charges against Syrian officials.

HR5732 claims to promote a negotiated settlement in Syria but, as analyzed by Friends Committee for National Legislation, imposes preconditions which would actually make that more difficult.

There was 40 minutes of “debate” with six representatives (Royce, Engel, Ros-Lehtinen, Kildee, Smith, and Curbelo) speaking in favor of the resolution. There were few other Congressional representatives present in Congress. The House Foreign Affairs Committee stated that the resolution was passed “unanimously” without mentioning the special conditions.

The “Non Controversial” Resolution that could lead to World War III

According to wikipedia:

 “Suspension of the rules is a procedure generally used to quickly pass non-controversial bills in the United States House of Representatives ….such as naming Post Offices…”

In this case, the resolution calls for evaluating and developing plans for a“No Fly Zone” which is an act of war. This is obviously controversial and it seems clear the resolution should have been debated and discussed under normal rules with a normal amount of Congressional presence and debate.

The motivation for bypassing normal rules and rushing the bill through without debate was articulated by the bill’s author and ranking Democrat Eliot Engel, who said:

“We cannot delay action on Syria any further…. if we don’t get this legislation across the finish line in the next few weeks, we are back to square one.”

The current urgency may be related to the election results, since Trump has spoken out against “regime change” foreign policy. As much as they are critical of Obama for not doing more, Congressional neoconservatives are concerned about the prospect of a President who might move toward peace and away from war.

The Caesar Fraud

HR5732 is titled the “Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act”. Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ed Royce (R-Ca) explained that the resolution is named after “the brave Syrian defector known to the world as Caesar, who testified to us the shocking scale of torture being carried out within the prisons of Syria.”

In reality, the Caesar story was a grand deception involving the CIA with funding from Qatar to sabotage the 2014 Geneva negotiations. The 55,000 photos which were said to show 11,000 torture victims have never been publicly revealed. Only a tiny number of photos have been publicized.

However, in 2015 Human Rights Watch was granted access to view the entire set. They revealed that almost one half the photos show the opposite of what was claimed: instead of victims tortured by the Syrian government, they actually show dead Syrian soldiers and civilian victims of car bombs and other terror attacks!

The “Caesar” story, replete with masked ‘defector’, was one of the early propaganda hoaxes regarding Syria.

False Claims that the US has been doing nothing

One of the big lies regarding Syria is that the US has been inactive. Royce says:

“The administration has decided not to decide. And that itself, unfortunately, has set a course where here we sit and watch and the violence only worsens. Mr. Speaker, America has been sitting back and watching these atrocities for far too long. Vital U.S. national security interests are at stake.”

The ranking Democrat Eliot Engel said:

“Four years ago I thought we should have aided the Free Syrian Army. They came to us in Washington and begged us for help… they were simply looking for weaponry. I really believe if we had given it to them, the situation in Syria would have been different today.”

This is nonsense. The US was actively coordinating, training and supplying armed opposition groups beginning in late 2011. When the Qadaffi government was toppled in Fall 2011, the CIA oversaw the theft of the Libyan armories and shipment of weapons to Syrian armed opposition as documented in the Defense Intelligence Agency report of October 2012.

These weapons transfers were secret. For the public record it was acknowledged that the US was supplying communications equipment to the armed opposition while Saudi Arabia and Qatar were supplying weaponry. This is one reason that Saudi purchases of weapons skyrocketed during this time period; they were buying weapons to replace those being shipped to the armed opposition in Syria. It was very profitable for US arms manufacturers.

Huge weapons transfers to the armed opposition in Syria have continued to the present. This past Spring, Janes Defense reported the details of a U.S. delivery of 2.2 million pounds of ammunition, rocket launchers and other weaponry to the armed opposition.

Claims that the US has been inactive are baseless. In reality the US has done everything short of a direct attack on Syria. And the US military is starting to cross that barrier. On September 17 the US air coalition did a direct attack on the Syrian Army in Deir Ezzor, killing 80 Syrian soldiers and enabling ISIS to launch an attack on the position.

Claims that it was a “mistake” are highly dubious.

The claims by Congressional hawks that the US has been ‘inactive’ in the Syrian conflict are part of the false narrative suggesting the US must “do something” which leads to a No Fly Zone and full scale war. Ironically, these calls for war are masked as “humanitarian”. And never do the proponents bring up the case of Libya where the US and NATO “did something”: destroyed the government and left chaos.

Congress as a Fact-Free House of Propaganda

With only a handful of representatives present and no debate, the six Congress members engaged in unrestrained propaganda and misinformation. The leading Democrat, Eliot Engel, said “We’re going into the New Year 2017, Assad still clings to power, at the expense of killing millions of his citizens.”

That number is way off anyone’s charts.

Rep Kildee said “The world has witnessed this terrible tragedy unfold before our eyes. Nearly half a million Syrians killed. Not soldiers – men, women, children killed.”

The official text of the resolution says:

“It is the sense of Congress that–
(1) Bashar al-Assad’s murderous actions against the people of Syria have caused the deaths of more than 400,000
civilians…”

The above accusations – from “millions of citizens” to “half a million” to “400,000 civilians” – are all preposterous lies.

Credible estimates of casualties in the Syrian conflict range from 300,000 to 420,000. The opposition supporting Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates the documented 2011-2016 death toll as follows:

killed pro Syrian forces – 108,000
killed anti government forces – 105,000
killed civilians – 89,000

In contrast with Congressional and media claims, civilians comprise a minority of the total death count and the largest casualty group is those fighting in defense of the the Syrian state. These facts are ignored and never mentioned because they point to the reality versus the propaganda narrative which allows the USA and allies to continue funding terrorism and a war of aggression against Syria.

The Congressional speakers were in full self-righteous mode as they accused the Syrian government of “committing crimes against humanity and war crimes against civilians including murder, torture and rape. No one has been spared from this targeting, even children.”

A naive listener would never know that the Syrian government is primarily fighting the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda, including thousands of foreigners supplied and paid by foreign governments.

The Congressional speakers go on to accuse the Syrian military of “targeting” hospitals, schools and markets. A critical listener might ask why they would do that instead of targeting the Al-Qaeda terrorists and their allies who launch dozens and sometimes hundreds of hell cannon missiles into government held Aleppo every day.

The Congressional propaganda fest would not be complete without mention of the “White Helmets”. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce said:

“We (previously) heard the testimony of Raed Saleh of the Syrian White Helmets. These are the doctors, nurses and volunteers who actually, when the bombs come, run towards the areas that have been hit in order to try to get the injured civilians medical treatment…They have lost over 600 doctors and nurses.”

This is more Congressional nonsense.

There are no nurses or doctors associated with the White Helmets. The organization was created by the USA and UK and heavily promoted by a “shady PR firm”. The White Helmets operate solely in areas controlled by Nusra and associated terrorist groups. They do some rescue work in the conflict zone but their main role is in the information war manipulating public opinion.

The White Helmets actively promote US/NATO intervention through a No Fly Zone. Recently the White Helmets has become a major source of claims of innocent civilian victims in east Aleppo. Given the clear history of the White Helmets, these claims should be treated with skepticism. What exactly is the evidence?

The same skepticism needs to be applied to video and other reports from the Aleppo Media Center. AMC is a creation of the Syrian Expatriates Organization whose address on K Street, Washington DC indicates it is a US marketing operation.

What is really going on?

The campaign to overthrow the Syrian government is failing and there is possibility of a victory for the Syrian government and allies. The previous flood of international jihadi recruits has dried up. The Syrian Army and allies are gaining ground militarily and negotiating settlements or re-locations with “rebels” who previously terrorized Homs, Darraya (outer Damascus) and elsewhere.

In Aleppo, the Syrian army and allies are tightening the noose around the armed opposition in east Aleppo. This has caused alarm among neoconservative lawmakers devoted to Israel, Saudi Arabia and U.S. empire. They are desperate to prevent the Syrian government from finally eliminating the terrorist groups which the West and allies have promoted for the past 5+ years.

“Pro Israel” groups have been major campaigners for the passage of HR5732. The name of Simon Wiesenthal is even invoked in the resolution. With crocodile tears fully flowing, Rabbi Lee Bycel wrote “Where is the Conscience of the World?” as he questioned why the “humanitarian” HR5732 was not passed earlier.

Israeli interests are one of the primary forces sustaining and promoting the conflict. Syria is officially at war with Israel which continues to occupy the Syrian Golan Heights; Syria has been a key ally of the Lebanese resistance; and Syria has maintained its alliance with Iran.

In 2010 Secretary of State Clinton urged Syria to break relations with Hezbollah, reduce relations with Iran and come to settlement with Israel. The Syrian refusal to comply with these Washington demands was instrumental in solidifying Washington’s hostility.

Congressional proponents of HR5732 make clear the international dimension of the conflict. Royce explains:

“It is Russia, it is Hezbollah, that are the primary movers of death and destruction…it is the IRGC fighters from Iran.”

Engel echoes the same message:

“Yes, we want to go after Assad’s partners in violence…along with Iranian and Hezbollah forces.”

These statements are in contrast with the analysis of some writers who believe Israel is not deeply opposed to the Damascus government. For example Phyllis Bennis recently wrote that belief in an “arc of resistance” has been “long debunked” and that “the Syrian regime …. often plays a useful role for US and Israeli interests.”

It’s remarkable that this faulty analysis continues to be propounded. In words and deeds Israel has made its position on Syria crystal clear. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren explained in an interview:

“We always wanted [President] Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran … the greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc.”

These statements have been fully backed up by Israeli actions bombing Syrian positions in southern Syria and providing medical treatment for Nusra/Al-Qaeda and other armed opposition fighters.

What Will Happen Now?

If the Syrian government and allies continue to advance in Aleppo, Deir Ezzor, outer Damascus and the south, the situation will come to a head. The enemies of Syria – predominately the USA, Gulf Countries, NATO and Israel – will come to a decision point. Do they intervene directly or do they allow their regime project to collapse?

HR5732 is an effort to prepare for direct intervention and aggression.

One thing is clear from the experience of Libya: Neoconservatives do not care if they leave a country in chaos. The main objective is to destabilize and overthrow a government which is too independent. If the USA and allies cannot dominate the country, then at least they can destroy the contrary authority and leave chaos.

What is at stake in Syria is whether the USA and allies – Israel, Saudi Arabia, etc. are able to destroy the last secular and independent Arab country in the region and whether the US goal of being the sole superpower in the world prevails.

The rushed passing of HR5732 without debate is indicative that:

– “regime change” proponents have not given up their war on Syria;
– they seek to escalate US aggression;
– the US Congress is a venue where blatant lies are said with impunity and where violent actions are advanced behind a cynical and amoral veneer of “humanitarianism” and crocodile tears.

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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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