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Who will pay the $250+ billion reconstruction cost in Syria?

The United States Government says that Syria’s Government caused the U.N.-estimated “at least $250 billion” cost to restore Syria from the destruction that Syria’s war produced, and so Syria’s Government should pay those reconstruction costs.

Eric Zuesse

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That link is to a New York Times article, which explicitly blames Syrian “President Bashar al-Assad’s ruthless triumph” — which was won against all of the jihadist groups (which the U.S. and its allies had brought into Syria to overthrow and replace Assad’s Government) — for having caused the devastation in Syria; the U.S. and its allies say they aren’t to blame for it, at all, by their having organized and armed and trained and manned that 6-year invasion of Syria; and, so (they say, and the NYT article implicitly assumes it to be true), if the invaders-occupiers of Syria might ultimately agree to pay some portion of these $250B+ reconstruction costs, then this would be sheer generosity by the U.S. and its allies — nothing that these governments are obligated to pay to the surviving residents in Syria.

It would be charity — not restitution — according to them. The way that this NYT news-report presents this case is, first, to ask rhetorically, regarding the U.S. and its allies in the invasion of Syria, “Can they afford to pour money into a regime that has starved, bombed and occasionally gassed its own people?” and then promptly to proceed by ignoring this very question that they have asked, and instead to provide a case (relying heavily on innuendos) for the immorality of the U.S. and its allies to provide restitution to Syria’s Government to restore Syria. That’s how this Times’s news-report argues for the U.S. Government, against Syria’s Government, regarding Syria’s postwar reconstruction:

The Times news-report repeatedly simply assumes that Syria’s Government is evil and corrupt, and is to blame for the destruction of Syria, and thus shouldn’t receive any money from good and honest governments such as ours. It implicitly accepts the viewpoint of the U.S. Government — a viewpoint which blatantly contradicts the actual history of the case, as will here be documented by the facts:

America’s Government (including its press, such as the NYT) simply refuses to recognize the legitimacy of Syria’s Government (even after the first internationally monitored democratic election in all of Syria’s history, which was held in 2014, and which the incumbent candidate Bashar al-Assad (whom the U.S. alliance has been trying to overthrow) won, by 89%), and the U.S. Government has, itself, evilly been trying to conquer Syria (a country that never threatened the U.S.), ever since at least 1949, when the CIA perpetrated a coup there (the new CIA’s 2nd coup, the first one having been 1948 in Thailand — and here is the rest of that shocking history) and ousted Syria’s democratically elected President; but, then, in 1955, Syria’s army threw out the U.S.-imposed dictator, and restored to power that democratically elected Syrian President, who in 1958 accepted Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s offer to unify the two countries (Syria and Egypt) into the United Arab Republic (UAR), in order to protect Syria against a then-imminent invasion and attempted take-over by NATO member Turkey (which has traditionally been hostile toward Syria). It was a peaceful and voluntary transfer of power, to Nasser.

However, Nasser became an unpopular President in Syria, as the nation’s economy performed poorly during the UAR; and, so, on 28 September 1961, Syria’s army declared Syria’s secession from the UAR; and it then installed-and-replaced seven Presidents over the next decade, until 22 February 1971, when General Hafez al-Assad resigned from Syria’s military and was promptly endorsed by the Army for the Presidency; and, soon thereafter, on 12 March 1971, a yes-no national referendum on whether Assad should become President won a 99.2%”Yes” vote of the Syrian people. President Assad initiated today’s Syria, by assigning a majority of political posts to secular Sunnis, and a majority of military posts to secular Shiites. All of the Sunnis that he allowed into the Government were seculars, so as to prevent fundamentalist-Sunni foreign governments — mainly the Sauds — from being able to work successfully with America’s CIA to again take over Syria’s Government.

Assad’s Ba’athist democratic socialist Party chose his son Bashar, to succeed Hafez as President, upon Hafez’s death on 10 June 2000; and, when Barack Obama became U.S. President in 2009, Obama carried forward the CIA’s plan to overthrow Bashar al-Assad and to install a Saud-allied fundamentalist-Sunni Syrian government to replace the existing non-secular, but Iran-allied, Ba’athist Government. However, since Bashar had built upon Hafez’s secular, non-sectarian, governmental system, the old CIA plan, to apply fundamentalist Sunnis to destroy the basically non-sectarian state (which is the basis of the Assads’ political support), ultimately failed; and, so, America’s Government and media are trying to deal with the consequences of their own evil, as best they can, so as to have only Syria and its allies suffer the Syrian war’s aftermath. U.S. President Donald Trump has been continuing President Obama’s policy, and he loaded his Administration with rabidly anti-Syrian and anti-Iranian people.

In the American Government’s view, the least that Syria’s Government should now do is to pay all the costs for the consequences of America’s lengthiest-ever effort against Syria — or, if Syria’s Government won’t do that, then the U.S. Government will continue its occupation of Syria, and won’t help the Syrian people at all, to recover from the devastation, which they blame entirely on Assad (who never threatened the U.S.).

However, the Syrian Government says that the countries which invaded it with their weapons and their jihadists and their organization — not only the United States and its weapons-supplies to the jihadists, but also Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Turkey, UK, France, and other U.S. allies, the entire U.S. coalition who organized and supplied the six-year international jihadist invasion against Syria — are to blame for the destruction of Syria; and, “If you break it, you own it, and need to replace it.” So, Syrians think that the invaders — and not the people of Syria — must pay the reconstruction cost.

The U.S. Government blames Syrian President Bashar Assad for everything. That charge is, however, quite problematic, given the facts in the case. The U.S. CIA was behind the “Arab Spring” movements to overthrow and replace Assad and other Arab leaders who dissatisfied the U.S. regime, and it then fed into Syria the ‘rebels’ until now. Few of them are still remaining under U.S. protection — which is mostly east of the Euphrates River, where America’s Kurdish proxy-forces are in control, after having finally defeated, with American air power, Syria’s ISIS.

That NYT article used the word “rebel” six times to refer to the jihadists who were fighting against Syria’s Government, and didn’t even once use the word “jihadist” or “terrorist” or anything like that, to refer to even a single one of them. However, almost all of the anti-Assad fighters were, in fact, jihadists (or, some people call them, instead, “radical Islamic terrorists”).

Western-sponsored opinion polls have been taken of the residents of Syria, throughout the war, and they have consistently shown that Bashar al-Assad would easily win re-election there in any free and internationally monitored election, and that the Syrian people overwhelmingly (by 82%) blame the United States for having brought the tens of thousands of foreign fighters into Syria to overthrow and replace their nation’s Government.

Consequently, if Syrians will end up bearing the estimated $250B+ reconstruction cost of a war that 82% of them blame on the U.S., then the Syrian people will become even angrier against the U.S. Government than they are now. But, of course, the U.S. Government doesn’t care about the people of Syria, and won’t even allow in any of them as refugees to America; so, Syrians know whom their friends and enemies are. America’s absconding on its $250+B reparations-debt to them wouldn’t surprise them, at all. It’s probably what they’re expecting.

Some U.S. propaganda-media, such as Britain’s Financial Times, have field-tested an alternative, a blame-Russia approach, in case the U.S. team can’t get the blame-Syria story-line to gain sufficient international acceptance. For example, that newspaper’s Roula Khalaf headlined on 1 March 2017,  “The west to Russia: you broke Syria, now you fix it”, but most of the reader-comments were extremely hostile to that designation of villain in the case. Here were the most-popular comments:

COMMENTS, Most recommended:
Newest | Oldest | Most recommended 
Nomad_X Mar 1, 2017 What dreadful ‘analysis’ …. Russia finished the Syrian war because they had to. Syria was an artificial proxy war instigated by the USA, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – the Iranians and Russians joined in after the west tried to remove Assad, and failed. The UN also said publicly that Syria was not a civil war – it was a war of foreign mercenary groups trying to overthrow the Assad regime. Russia had no choice but to be there – Putin said publicly there was over 500 Russian nationals involved, and they would be going home once they were finished in Syria. Syria is another US foreign policy disaster which someone else had no choice but to clean up – it essentially created and legitimized ISIS and now we ALL have to pay for it …. ReportShare54Recommend
Reply Airman48 Mar 1, 2017 The usual Bogus Russian troll perspective that is devoid of the truth. Syria has been a Russian client state in the 1960s when Hafez al Assad invited the Soviets in. Russia took ownership of the Syrian Civil War the minute it intervened and deployed Military forces to that country and after waging a brutal campaign of indiscriminate bombing that killed many hundreds of innocent Syria Non combatants it now expects the West to pay to reconstruct Syria. Read the title of the article again “The West to Russia. You broke it, you FIX it” ReportShare35Recommend

Reply Nomad_X Mar 1, 2017 @Airman48 Some facts for your viewing pleasure – 1. Syria being a client state is not new news – just because they bought their weapons does not mean they wanted a war. 2. Russia cleaned up and finished the war – they did not initiate it – the USA did. 3. The title is a misnomer – the USA, Saudi Arabia and Turkey broke Syria. ReportShare27Recommend 

Although some readers, such as “Airman48,” seemed eager to blame anything on Russia, most of the readers, even at that rabidly anti-Russian, neoconservative-neoliberal (or, to use old terminology, pro-imperialist) publication, seemed to be somehow uncomfortable with that view. Perhaps that view would have been popular in 1900 (America and UK were proudly imperialistic at that time), but it seems to be unpopular today.

It’s not as easy to fool the American and British people into an invasion as it was, for example, when we invaded and destroyed Iraq on the basis of lies, in 2003. Barack Obama managed to win public support for a repeat of that performance in Libya in 2011, and, of course, for the anti-Syria campaign, and also for a very bloody coup overthrowing Ukraine’s democratically elected government in 2014 — a trifecta of U.S. invasions on the basis of lies (and all of which were invasions of countries that never endangered U.S. national security) — but the bipartisanship of that U.S. hyper-aggressiveness (first with the Republican Bush, and then with the Democratic Obama) has made clear to many Americans, that the U.S. Government itself is the problem, that this is not a partisan problem; it is a problem with the Government itself, by both Parties, which is evil in what it is bipartisan about (such as supporting invasions by lies, against countries that never threatened us).

Voice of America is no more propagandistic than all of America’s major media are, even though it’s openly a U.S. Government medium; and it headlined on 30 December 2017, “Pentagon Preparing for Shift in Syrian Strategy”and reported the latest variant of the U.S. regime’s plan to dump all the costs of the invasion of Syria, onto the Syrian people. Secretary of ‘Defense’ James Mattis said, “What we will be doing is shifting from what I call an offensive, terrain-seizing approach. … You’ll see more U.S. diplomats on the ground.” The article continued, “‘When you bring in more diplomats, they’re working that initial restoration of services.

They bring in the contractors. That sort of thing,’ the defense secretary said. ‘There’s international money that’s got to be administered so it actually does something and doesn’t go into the wrong people’s [the Syrian Government’s] pockets.’” He wants U.S. international corporations to be placed into position to skim off some of that reconstruction-money. (Some of this cash might then become recycled into Republican political campaign donations, which would please the Republican U.S. President, and Republicans in Congress. But the Democrats in Congress are ‘patriotic’, and so will not resist Republicans’ effort to continue crushing Syria.)

Mattis was threatening Syrians with America’s absconding with all the damages it left behind, unless Syria’s Government will give America’s Government at least some of what it wants (but never earned). This VOA article said, “There are questions about how the initial recovery efforts will work, given that much of Syria is now under the control of forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.” The implication there is that America has a right to overthrow Syria’s Government; and, that, unless Syria’s Government will bend at least part-way in recognizing this right, the U.S. Government will abscond totally from this matter. The U.S. regime is blaming everything on Assad, and expects him to be grateful for any financial assistance that the U.S.

Government, in its kindness and generosity, provides, to his land, which it has destroyed. (Of course, Syria’s Government has also bombed targets in Syria, but the only alternative that was available for President Assad would have been to surrender Syria to the jihadists whom the U.S. team had brought into and armed there.) However, VOA’s presumption that Syria’s Government is to blame and that the invading jihadists aren’t, isn’t likely to be accepted by any nations except some of America’s allies.

For example, Poland might back it, in order to retain the U.S. regime’s support, which is especially important to the Polish regime, because their support from some of the other European regimes has been fraying recently, and because beggars (such as Poland is, when it becomes widely criticized by the rest of the EU) can’t be choosers. Apparently, the Trump regime believes it can assemble a sufficient number of such regimes, so as to win its way.

Trump has the support of the entire U.S. aristocracy on this. A leading voice of the U.S. aristocracy (and funder of its agents — such as U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner — when they are in the revolving door between government-service and Wall Street or other private agencies of the aristocracy) is America’s Council on Foreign Relations, which publishes Foreign Affairs magazine, which is perhaps the chief public voice of America’s billionaires, concerning international relations. On 4 October 2017, it published an article, “Don’t Fund Syria’s Reconstruction: The West Has Little Leverage and Little to Gain”, which presumed that “The West” is democratic and its governments represent their publics, and that Syria’s Government isn’t and doesn’t; so, “The West” has a supposed right to ignore the plight it caused in Syria (and which “The West” constantly lies to deny that it caused, and to blame Syria’s Government for the devastation that “The West”s hirees actually produced there).

Here are key excerpts from this CFR Foreign Affairs article, showing the position that America’s billionaires collectively argue for, on this matter — displaying their guidance on this issue, for their vassal aristocracies, in America’s allied countries:

Now that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has successfully defeated or neutralized much of the insurgency in his country, domestic and international attention has begun to turn toward stabilization and reconstruction. …

Yet large sections of the international community — including, critically, key donor countries — continue to reject the legitimacy of Assad and his regime. …
There is a less complicated solution: Do not fund the reconstruction of Assad’s Syria. …
Syria’s reconstruction cannot be dictated or meaningfully shaped by Western donors — at least not to any satisfactory political ends. …

The cost of Syria’s reconstruction will be immense — between $200 billion and $350 billion, depending on the estimate. These sums are far beyond the capacity of Syria, or the willingness of its Iranian and Russian allies, to pay. The burden of reconstruction, then, is expected to fall on the United States, members of the EU, and Japan, as well as on multilateral institutions that are likely to take cues from their major Western donors, such as the World Bank. …

On September 21, a meeting of “like-minded” actors (including Saudi Arabia, the United States, and the EU) announced that “recovery and reconstruction support for Syria hinges on a credible political process leading to a genuine political transition that can be supported by a majority of the Syrian people.” Reconstruction funding is “the biggest lever” the United States and its allies have to push for a credible political process, said David Satterfield, a U.S. State Department official, after the meeting. And according to British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, “We have one big card left to play in a pretty poor hand and that is the cash we can provide for the reconstruction of Syria.”. …

The country, in other words, cannot be put back together by working around the regime that tore it apart. …
Some analysts believe that the West can use funding to win concessions short of regime change. …
The regime will end up trading away “things that don’t matter,” said one European diplomat. “But it will hold out for so long, they’ll seem like concessions when you get them. If there’s something that Damascus has that most others don’t, it’s time.”

Donors will not be permitted to do an end run around Assad. …

Westerners who want to drive a hard bargain will find that they have less leverage than they thought. To begin with, the international community — and the universe of possible donors and investors — is not limited to the West. Syrian officials are keen to advertise the country’s nascent economic recovery and attract investment, but they have also said that they will give priority to investors from countries that stood by Damascus. …

Western donors should not finance the regime-led reconstruction effort. …

The West does not get unlimited tries to remove Assad or to dictate Syria’s politics. Thinking otherwise will be an expensive delusion.

Or, in short: America’s billionaires view the entire question as a business deal between themselves and the ‘regime’ that they have hired the U.S. Government since 1949 to overthrow and control; and the advice that they are giving to their vassal aristocracies is: “The West does not get unlimited tries to remove Assad or to dictate Syria’s politics”; and, so, “The West” should just walk away from the matter: there shouldn’t be any deal — Syria should just become a failed state, such as Libya, or Afghanistan.

Another prominent institutional voice of America’s billionaires is the similarly solidly neoconservative-neoliberal (or pro-imperialistic) Brookings Institution, whose Steven Heydemann headlined on 24 August 2017, “Rules for reconstruction in Syria”, and he wrote:

For the Assad regime, however, reconstruction is not seen as a means for economic recovery and social repair, but as an opportunity for self-enrichment, a way to reward loyalists and punish opponents, and as central to its efforts to fix in place the social and demographic shifts caused by six years of violent conflict. Assad himself affirmed this intent in a speech he delivered to mark the inauguration of the Damascus Exhibition. Thanking Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah, Assad said that Syria had “lost its best youth and its infrastructure,” but had “won a healthier and more homogenous society.” The prominent Arab [Qatari-Palestinian-Israeli] political analyst Azmi Bishara described Assad’s claim as “Hitlerian” and as confirmation of the “genocidal” intent of the regime’s policies of displacement.

Thus, a statement by Assad expressing satisfaction that Syria has even a smaller percentage of its citizens who support jihadists today than it had prior to the U.S.-Saudi-UAE-Qatari-Turkish importation of the world’s jihadists into Syria, was there being called “Hitlerian.” America’s billionaires (or at least their policy-propagandists) view Assad’s loathing of jihadists as bigotry, just like Hitler’s loathing of Jews was.

Furthermore, Bishara, who was being cited there by Brookings as an authority about Assad, was a big supporter of the U.S. coalition against Syria: for example, he said about Assad’s Government, at 2:17 in this 20 May 2013 telecast on Syria’s enemy Qatar’s Al Jazeera television in Arabic (Al Jazeera is pro-jihadist in its Arabic broadcasts, but anti-jihadist in its English ones), “Now, it’s shelling its own people, ferociously, an ongoing massacre, and yet the people resist. They haven’t stopped.” He didn’t mention “jihadists” or “terrorists” at all (because he represents their backers).

There is no available evidence as to whether Bishara is being paid by the CIA, or perhaps by the Thani family who own Qatar, but Brookings’s failure to disclose information like that (Bishara’s statement’s falsely implying that Assad is anti-Syrian instead of anti-jihadist), in such a context as this passage by Heydemann, indicates the extent to which Brookings should be presumed to be merely an extension of the same international aristocratic group that ultimately controls the CIA, CFR, etc. (Bishara then went on there to use the phrase “we, the Israelis”; so, maybe he instead represents Israel’s Mossad. But that’s just as bad, and maybe even the same thing as the rest of them.)

The argument by America’s billionaires (via their agents), regarding restitution to the Syrian people, for the catastrophe that those billionaires (via their political contributions) spearheaded against Syrians, is: If anyone should pay it, then Syria’s Government should.

Apparently, “The West” intends simply to keep on destroying nations and leaving behind more and more failed states.

Of course, that long war to get rid of Russia’s allies might be a profitable policy for the owners of corporations such as Lockheed Martin, but there are big downsides to this policy, for the billions of people whom “The West” seems to care nothing about, such as in Syria, and in Libya, and in Ukraine. And this evil policy is also bad even for the American people, who are increasingly coming to loathe the Government that America’s billionaires have increasingly bought and impose upon us.

America’s corruption deserves a Nobel Prize, like was won by Henry Kissinger and Barack Obama; but, this one should be called the “Hypocrisy Prize” and awarded directly to the U.S. Government — an invoice, “amount due,” totaling the damages done by this Government to all of the governments that had posed no threat to U.S. national security but that the U.S. Government nonetheless overthrew, starting with Thailand in 1948. Of course, the rogue U.S. Government would not pay it, but the bill should still be presented, because that bill would be the first Hypocrisy Prize, and it would show what hypocrisy can amount to.

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Rod Rosenstein resigns from his post before President Trump can fire him

Rosenstein’s comments about secretly recording the President backfire, and resignation may throw the Mueller Russiagate probe into question.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The Washington Times broke the story that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein resigned from his post. He submitted his resignation to Chief of Staff John Kelly.  At present the breaking story says the following:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is out at the Department of Justice.

Axios reported that Mr. Rosenstein verbally resigned to White House Chief Of Staff John Kelly, but CNN said that he is expecting to be fired.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Department of Justice spokeswoman, declined to comment on the reports.

Mr. Rosenstein’s departure immediately throws Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian collusion probe into chaos.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation, leaving Mr. Rosenstein in charge.

President Trump mulled firing the No. 2 at the Department of Justice over the weekend.

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This report came after Fox News reported that the Deputy AG was summoned to the White House. Fox reported a little more detail:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is heading to the White House expecting to be fired, sources tell Fox News, in the wake of a report that he suggested wearing a wire against President Trump and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office last year.

This is a developing story, however one major factor that comes under consideration is the fate of Robert Mueller and his Russiagate investigation, which was authorized by Rosenstein. CNBC had this to say in their piece:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is resigning Monday, according to Axios, which cited a source familiar with the matter.

NBC News’ Pete Williams, however, reported that Rosenstein would not resign of his own accord, and that he will only depart if the White House fired him. He will refuse to resign if asked to do so, Williams added.

Rosenstein was at the White House when Williams reported this on the air. However, President Donald Trump is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

Bloomberg later reported that the White House accepted Rosenstein’s resignation, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Rosenstein’s expected resignation will immediately raise questions about the fate of the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump.

Rosenstein’s job security was called into question after The New York Times reported last week that the No. 2 DOJ official had discussed invoking the 25th amendment to remove Trump, and had also talked about surreptitiously recording the president.

Rosenstein oversees the special counsel investigation, and has appointed Mueller to run the Russia probe last year, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the case.

The special counsel’s office declined to comment on the report.

The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Axios’ report. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to CNBC’s inquiry.

Trump has repeatedly blasted Mueller’s inquiry, which also is focused on possible collusion with Russia by members of the Trump campaign.

He has called the investigation a “witch hunt,” and has repeatedly vented frustration about Sessions’ recusal, which directly led to Mueller’s appointment by Rosenstein.

Rosenstein’s expected departure comes on the heels of a guilty plea by Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort to conspiracy charges related to his consulting work in Ukraine, which predates his role on the campaign.

As part of the investigation, Mueller’s team has been locked in an ongoing back-and-forth with Trump’s legal team over an in-person interview with the president.

Trump’s lawyers, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, have signaled that Trump is unwilling to sit for an interview, calling it a “perjury trap” and setting up a potential challenge for Mueller to subpoena the president.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

 

 

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European Council crushes Theresa May’s soft Brexit dream (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 116.

Alex Christoforou

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UK Prime Minister Theresa May hoped that the European Council was ready to see things her way, in terms of proceeding with a soft Brexit, which was essentially no Brexit at all…at least not the hard Brexit that was voted on in a democratic referendum approximately two years ago.

Much to May’s surprise, European Council President Donald Tusk delivered a death blow verdict for May’s Brexit, noting that EU leaders are in full agreement that Chequers plan for Brexit “will not work” because “it risks undermining the single market.”

Without a miracle compromise springing up come during the October summit, the UK will drift into the March 29, 2019 deadline without a deal and out of the European Union…which was initially what was voted for way back in 2016, leaving everyone asking, what the hell was May doing wasting Britain’s time and resources for two years, so as to return back to the hard Brexit terms she was charged with carrying forward after the 2016 referendum?

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss what was a disastrous EU summit in Salzburg for UK PM Theresa May, in what looks to be the final nail in May’s tenure as UK Prime Minister, as a hard Brexit now seems all but certain.

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Via Zerohedge

Tusk was speaking at the end of an EU summit in Salzburg, where the leaders of the 27 remaining states in the bloc were discussing Brexit. He said that while there were “positive elements” in May’s Chequers plan, a deal that puts the single market at risk cannot be accepted.

“Everybody shared the view that while there are positive elements in the Chequers proposal, the suggested framework for economic co-operation will not work, not least because it is undermining the single market,” Tusk said. He also said that he could not “exclude” the possibility that the UK could exit the EU in March with no deal.

May has been urging her European counterparts to accept her controversial Chequers plan which has split both the Conservative party and the broader UK population after it was thrashed out back in July. However, despite the painfully-slow negotiation process, which appears to have made little headway with just a few months left, the UK is set to leave the EU on March 29 2019 – with or without an exit deal.

The main sticking point that has emerged, and left May and the EU at loggerheads, has been how to avoid new checks on the Irish border. May has claimed that her proposals were the “only serious, credible” way to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland. She said during a press conference after the Salzburg meeting that she would not accept the EU’s “backstop” plan to avoid a Northern Ireland hard border. She said the UK would shortly be bringing forward its own proposals.

May also said that there was “a lot of hard work to be done,” adding that the UK was also preparing for the eventuality of having to leave the EU without a deal. Tusk, meanwhile, said that the upcoming October summit would be the “moment of truth” for reaching a deal, and that “if the conditions are there” another summit would be held in November to “formalize” it.

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Russia makes HUGE strides in drone technology

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The US and Israel are universally recognized leaders in the development and use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. Thousands of American and Israeli UAVs are operating across the world daily.

The US military has recently successfully tested an air-to-air missile to turn its MQ-9 Reaper drone into an effective long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance unmanned spy aircraft capable of air-to-surface as well as air-to-air missions. This is a major breakthrough. It’s not a secret that Russia has been lagging behind in UAV development. Now its seems to be going to change with tangible progress made to narrow the gap.

Very few nations boast drones capable of high-altitude long endurance (HALE) missions. Russia is to enter the club of the chosen. In late 2017, the Russian Defense Ministry awarded a HALE UAV contract to the Kazan-based Simonov design bureau.

This month, Russian Zvezda military news TV channel showed a video (below) of Altair (Altius) heavy drone prototype aircraft number “03”, going through its first flight test.

Propelled by two RED A03/V12 500hp high fuel efficiency diesel engines, each producing a capacity of 500 hp on takeoff, the 5-ton heavy vehicle with a wingspan of 28.5 meters boasts a maximum altitude of 12km and a range of 10,000km at a cruising speed of 150-250km/h.

Wingspan: about 30 meters. Maximum speed: up to 950 km/h. Flight endurance: 48 hours. Payload: two tons, which allows the creation of a strike version. The vehicle is able to autonomously take off and land or be guided by an operator from the ground.

The UAV can carry the usual range of optical and thermal sensors as well as synthetic-aperture ground-surveillance radar with the resolution of .1 meter at the range of 35km and 1 meter at the range of 125km. The communications equipment allows real-time data exchange.

Russia’s UAV program currently underway includes the development of a range of large, small, and mid-sized drones. The Orion-E medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV was unveiled at the MAKS 2017 air show. Its developer, Kronstadt Technologies, claims it could be modified for strike missions. The one-ton drone is going through testing now. The Orion-E is capable of automatic takeoff and landing.

It can fly continuously for 24 hours, carrying a surveillance payload of up to 200 kg to include a forward looking infra-red (FLIR) turret, synthetic aperture radar and high resolution cameras. The drone can reach a maximum altitude of 7,500 m. Its range is 250 km.

The Sukhoi design bureau is currently developing the Okhotnik (Hunter) strike drone with a range of about 3,500km. The drone made its maiden flight this year. In its current capacity, it has an anti-radar coating, and will store missiles and precision-guided bombs internally to avoid radar detection.

The Kazan-based Eniks Design Bureau is working on the small T-16 weaponized aerial vehicle able to carry 6 kg of payload.

The new Russian Korsar (Corsair) tactical surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will be upgraded to receive an electronic warfare system. Its operational range will be increased from 150km to 250km. The drone was revealed at Victory Day military parade along with the Korsar unmanned combat helicopter version.

The rotary wing drone lacks the speed and altitude of the fixed wing variant, but has a great advantage of being able to operate without landing strips and can be sea-based. Both drones can carry guided and unguided munitions. The fixed-wing version can be armed with Ataka 9M120 missiles.

The first Russian helicopter-type unmanned aerial vehicle powered by hydrogen fuel cells was presented at the Army-2018 international forum. With the horizontal cruising speed of the drone up to 60 kph, the unmanned chopper can stay in the air at least 2.5 hours to conduct reconnaissance operations. Its payload is up to 5 kg.

Last November, the Kalashnikov Concern reported that it would start production of heavy unmanned aerial vehicles capable of carrying up to several tons of cargo and operating for several days at a time without needing to recharge.

All in all, the Russian military operate 1,900 drones on a daily basis. The multi-purpose Orlan-10 with a range of 600km has become a working horse that no military operation, including combat actions in Syria, can be conducted without. Maj. Gen. Alexander Novikov,
the head of the Russian General Staff’s Office for UAV Development, Russian drones performed over 23,000 flights, lasting 140,000 hours in total.

Russia’s State Armament Program for 2018-2027 puts the creation of armed UAVs at the top of priorities’ list. Looks like the effort begins to pay off. Russia is well on the way to become second to none in UAV capability.

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Via Strategic Culture

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