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5 questions for Peter Lavelle: Does Russia want war?

The Kremlin has resigned itself to having to deal with an interlocutor that is deaf and dumb. Russia is preparing for the worst.

Peter Lavelle

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Question: The first and most important question: does Russia want a war against the west, against the U.S.?

Answer: Most emphatically no! During the Cold War the primary adversaries went to great lengths to understand the other side’s position – to put themselves in the other guy’s shoes. Today this is not happening. This is why the current situation is so unstable and dangerous. Washington is not interested in resolving conflicts; in fact, it only inflames them, i.e. Syria, Ukraine and the South China Sea. More broadly, Americans refuse to recognize that Russia has its own national security interests – its own “red lines.” The Kremlin has resigned itself to having to deal with an interlocutor that is deaf and dumb. Russia is preparing for the worst.

Q.: How to do you respond to the claim that Russia is determined to undermine NATO, western alliances, and return to the Middle East as a major player? Is Putin’s Russia determined to restore the power and influence of the Soviet Union?

A.: We have to remember the Cold War was never properly ended. Mikhail Gorbachev naively believed Washington would keep its word (a gentlemen’s agreement given verbally – not in writing) NATO would not move eastward with the dissolution of the Warsaw Part. Russia was lied to. NATO did expand eastward and does pose a security threat to Russia. The Kremlin reflects on this every single day as it is endlessly accused of behaving “aggressively.” Does Russia want to see NATO collapsed or reformed in a way that identifies 21st century security realities? Of course it does. This is acting like a rational nation-state actor.

When it comes to the Middle East, it is clear what is happening. Washington has shown itself to be erratic, incredibly violent, and unreliable. Too much of America’s foreign policy behavior is influenced by its unholy alliances with Israel and Saudi Arabia – countries that are only security liabilities for the U.S., its alliance partners in the Middle East and further afield. The illegal regime change in Iraq and the other wars of choice in the region have all ended in disastrous failures. Russia doesn’t want to see the same to happen in Syria. Doing so has made Russia an enemy of the west. Washington’s plans to overthrow the secular regime in Damascus are nothing less than insanity.

On the issue of re-building the Soviet Union or Russian Empire: this is fantasy. Russia was a net loser in the Soviet Union. There are many Russians who do miss the Soviet Union, but not for its empire. They miss certainty and stability – the all-encompassing welfare state. The vast majority of Russians never give Estonia a thought. Even if a majority of Estonians voted to join Russia, I bet the vast majority of Russians would say no. Russian designs on the Baltic States are a western media illusion.

 Q.: Why does the west’s media portray Russia as an enemy if you say Russia has no interest in a conflict?

A.: What Russia is, does and says is really not at issue – Russia is merely a bit player in a much greater drama. Washington’s obsession with Russia is about how America sees its place in the world – and that place is at the center. It must have sway everywhere and all the time. Once this hegemonic practice faces resistance all resources are marshaled to assault this “threat.” Because Russia has the resources and will to resist it is automatically labeled an enemy. All the more so as Russia conducts its foreign policy based on its defined interests – this course infuriates Washington’s foreign policy establishment, particularly when the U.S. goes from one policy failure to another. Someone has to be blamed! Just read some of the statements coming from Defense Secretary Ash Carter and State Secretary John Kerry – “if Russia agrees,” if the Russians only cooperated” etc. Translation: Russia doesn’t do what it is told. Viewed from Moscow, Washington acts like an addicted and violent adolescent who can’t accept being told “no.”  

Q.: What are the chances the simmering conflict in Ukraine will escalate? Is this where a hot conflict could start? What about Syria?

A.: I have mentioned elsewhere Ukraine could be used as a kind of “October Surprise” in the American presidential campaign – start a war in Ukraine and then blame Russia. The Kiev regime has already signaled it is more than willing to play its part. The recent incident in Crimea is a message to me the American public is being prepared to be inflamed to justify a NATO intervention. This will result in utter failure. Crimea is now part of Russia. The Kremlin will have no choice but to use ALL means available to it to protect Russian sovereignty.

An attack on Crimea will ignite a conflict that could escalate into a general war – including the use of nuclear weapons. Regarding Syria: we already know a Clinton presidency will target Syria for regime change starting the first day of the new administration. Any attack on Syria will also be designed to undermine and end Russia’s legal intervention there. Again, this is very risky. It needs to be remembered Washington only attacks countries that cannot defend themselves. Syria with Russian and Iranian support is something completely different. Syria has the will and means to resist. And I have no doubt Syria and its allies are preparing for such an eventuality.

Q.: You say it is Washington that desires a conflict with Russia, so what can Russia do?

A.: Russia will keep doing what it has been doing – preparing for a conflict. There is no evidence Washington is interested in negotiations to resolve conflicts. It won’t force its client state Ukraine to implement the Minsk agreements, thus maintaining conditions for a greater conflict with Russia. The U.S. and its NATO allies continue to aid and protect terrorist groups in Syria. Washington is far more interested in removing Assad from power – and the Islamic State is a useful tool toward that end. One thing I am convinced of: if the west continues on the path of direct military conflict, it will eventually happen. Confronted to with an overwhelming existential threat Russia will resist and will be determined not to be defeated. It is up to Washington – it must decide whether it wants to pursue another war of choice.  

Peter Lavelle is host of RT’s political debate program CrossTalk. His views may or may not reflect those of his employer.

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BREAKING: Explosion in Crimea, Russia kills many, injuring dozens, terrorism suspected

According to preliminary information, the incident was caused by a gas explosion at a college facility in Kerch, Crimea.

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“We are clarifying the information at the moment. Preliminary figures are 50 injured and 10 dead. Eight ambulance crews are working at the site and air medical services are involved,” the press-service for the Crimean Ministry of Health stated.

Medics announced that at least 50 people were injured in the explosion in Kerch and 25 have already been taken to local hospital with moderate wounds, according to Sputnik.

Local news outlets reported that earlier in the day, students at the college heard a blast and windows of the building were shattered.

Putin Orders that Assistance Be Provided to Victims of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The president has instructed the Ministry of Health and the rescue services to take emergency measures to assist victims of this explosion, if necessary, to ensure the urgent transportation of seriously wounded patients to leading medical institutions of Russia, whether in Moscow or other cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said.

The president also expressed his condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.

Manhunt Underway in Kerch as FSB Specialists Investigate Site of Explosion – National Anti-Terrorist Committee

The site of the blast that rocked a city college in Kerch is being examined by FSB bomb disposal experts and law enforcement agencies are searching for clues that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, the National Anti Terrorism Committee said in a statement.

“Acting on orders from the head of the NAC’s local headquarters, FSB, Interior Ministry, Russian Guards and Emergency Ministry units have arrived at the site. The territory around the college has been cordoned off and the people inside the building evacuated… Mine-disposal experts are working at the site and law enforcement specialists are investigating,” the statement said.

Terrorist Act Considered as Possible Cause of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The tragic news that comes from Kerch. Explosion. The president was informed … The data on those killed and the number of injured is constantly updated,” Peskov told reporters.

“[The version of a terrorist attack] is being considered,” he said.

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10 percent of American F-22 fighter jets damaged by Hurricane Michael

Part of the reason the F-22’s were left in the path of the storm is that they were broken and too expensive to fix or fly.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Note to the wise: When a hurricane comes, move your planes out of the way. Especially your really expensive F-22 fighter planes. After all, those babies are $339 mil apiece. Got the message?

Apparently the US Air Force didn’t get this message. Or, did they find themselves unable to follow the message?

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The Washington Times reported Tuesday that between 17 and 20 of these top-of-the-line fighter jets were damaged, some beyond the point of repair, when Hurricane Michael slammed ashore on Mexico Beach, Florida, not far from the Tyndall Air Force Base in the same state. The Times reports that more than a dozen of the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the extremely fierce storm:

President Trump’s tour Monday of devastation wrought by Hurricane Michael took him close to Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base, where more than a dozen F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the powerful storm.

The pricey fighter jets — some possibly damaged beyond repair — were caught in the widespread destruction that took at least 18 lives, flattened homes, downed trees and buckled roads from Florida to Virginia.

The decision to leave roughly $7.5 billion in aircraft in the path of a hurricane raised eyebrows, including among defense analysts who say the Pentagon’s entire high-tech strategy continues to make its fighter jets vulnerable to weather and other mishaps when they are grounded for repairs.

“This becomes sort of a self-defeating cycle where we have $400 million aircraft that can’t fly precisely because they are $400 million aircraft,” said Dan Grazier, a defense fellow at Project on Government Oversight. “If we were buying simpler aircraft then it would be a whole lot easier for the base commander to get these aircraft up and in working order, at least more of them.”

This is quite a statement. The F-22 is held to be the tip of the American air defense sword. A superb airplane (when it works), it can do things no other plane in the world can do. It boasts a radar profile the size of a marble, making it virtually undetectable by enemy radars. It is highly maneuverable with thrust-vectoring built into its engines.

However, to see a report like this is simply stunning. After all, one would expect that the best military equipment ought to be the most reliable as well. 

It appears that Hurricane Michael figuratively and physically blew the lid off any efforts to conceal a problem with these planes, and indeed with the hyper-technological basis for the US air fighting forcesThe Times continues:

Reports on the number of aircraft damaged ranged from 17 to 22 or about 10 percent of the Air Force’s F-22 fleet of 187.

The Air Force stopped buying F-22s, considered the world’s most advanced fighter jets, in 2012. The aircraft is being replaced by the F-35, another high-tech but slightly less-expensive aircraft.

Later in the tour, at an emergency command center in Georgia, Mr. Trump said the damage to the F-22s couldn’t be avoided because the aircraft were grounded and the storm moved quickly.

“We’re going to have a full report. There was some damage, not nearly as bad as we first heard,” he said when asked about the F-22s, which cost about $339 million each.

“I’m always concerned about cost. I don’t like it,” Mr. Trump said.

Still, the president remains a fan of the high-tech fighter jet.

“The F-22 is one of my all-time favorites. It is the most beautiful fighter jet in the world. One of the best,” he said.

The Air Force managed to fly 33 of the F-22s to safety, but maintenance and repair issues kept 22 of the notoriously finicky aircraft on the ground when the powerful storm hit the base.

About 49 percent of the F-22s are out of action at any given time, according to an Air Force report this year.

This is a stunning statistic. This means that of the 187 planes in existence, 90 of them are not working. At their cost, that means that over thirty billion dollars worth of military equipment is sitting around, broken, just in airplanes alone.

As a point of comparison, the entire Russian military budget for 2017 was $61 billion, with that budget producing hypersonic missiles, superb fighter aircraft and tanks. Russian fighter planes are known for being able to take harsh landing and take-off conditions that would cripple the most modern American flying machines.

It would seem that Hurricane Michael exposed a serious problem with the state of readiness of American armed forces. Thankfully that problem did not arise in combat, but it is no less serious.

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Saudi Arabia trying to squirm free of Khashoggi murder (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 2.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a quick look at Saudi Arabia’s possible admission to killing journalist Jamal Khashoggi…accidentally, while they were torturing the man inside the consulate in Istanbul.

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Via Zerohedge

Even before the publication of last night’s Saudi trial balloon hinting that the kingdom would soon acknowledge that the extrajudicial killing of Jamal Khashoggi – the insider-turned dissident journalist who walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week and never walked back out – was the result of a “botched” kidnapping attempt carried out by “rogue killers” (despite reports that the US intelligence community knew that Khashoggi was being “targeted”), two realities had become increasingly clear. One: That the Saudis would avoid responsibility for the killing by pinning it on some unfortunate underling, and two: that there would be few, if any, lasting diplomatic repercussions.

And as more media organizations confirmed reports about Saudi’s plans to spin Khashoggi’s murder as a botched interrogation (we can only imagine what was said in that room to justify the use of such extreme violence), CNN calculated the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh for approximately 15 minutes early Tuesday, following his 12-hour-plus flight to the kingdom.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s meeting with King Salman of Saudi Arabia lasted no more than 15 minutes, CNN estimates based on the time the top US diplomat’s motorcade arrived at the royal court and departed.

The motorcade arrived at the royal court at 11:42 a.m. (4:42 a.m. ET) and left 26 minutes later. There is a fair distance to walk from where the motorcade dropped Pompeo off to where he met the king.

While Trump said on Monday that Pompeo would travel to Turkey “if necessary”, the Saudi’s decision to “come clean” about Khashoggi’s death pretty much rendered Pompeo’s fact-finding mission unnecessary.More important are developments in Turkey, where the joint Saudi-Turkish “investigation” is turning its attention toward the home of the Saudi consul, where a black diplomatic van that departed the Saudi consulate just under two hours after Khashoggi entered was captured on camera disappearing into a garage. Some speculate that this is where the killers finished disposing of Khashoggi’s body. This comes after a “nine-hour” search of the Saudi consulate building that, according to leaks published in Al-Jazeera, turned up “evidence of tampering” by the Saudis. On Tuesday, Turkey’s foreign minister clarified that Saudi had yet to admit its role in Khashoggi’s disappearance and probable death.

Turkish investigators will carry out a search of the Saudi Consul General’s residence on Tuesday as the probe into the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi continues, according to a Turkish diplomatic source.

CCTV footage released to the media from the day the Washington Post writer vanished show movement of vehicles from the consulate building to the Consul General’s residence nearby.

As speculation mounts that the incident could unseat the increasingly authoritarian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (who has already marginalized or incapacitated nearly every threat to his rule), it’s looking more likely that neither the US nor the rest of the Western world will do much to punish the world’s most important oil exporter, which can “weaponize” the oil market seemingly on a whim.

Any punishment for this flagrant violation of human rights will need to come, therefore, from the private sector, which, according to Bloomberg, could sabotage MbS’s grand Vision 2030 plan, which aims to remake the Saudi economy via a flood of foreign direct investment:

The economic strategy of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, known as MBS, is to make investment the main engine of economic growth instead of government spending, but the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi could frustrate these ambitions. Foreign direct investment, a key part of the plan to reinvent Saudi Arabia’s economy, declined sharply in 2017 and is unlikely to return to previous levels, leaving the government’s target for 2020 beyond reach, according to analysis by Bloomberg Economics. Increased policy uncertainty and, after the Khashoggi incident, the risk of reputational damage to foreign companies working in Saudi Arabia won’t help.

 

 

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