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Does anyone still seriously think that Russia and Israel aren’t allies

Israel’s latest bombing raid on Syria is confirmation that the Putin-Netanyahu Summit in Sochi was a lot more successful than some Alt-Media voices have led people to believe.

Andrew Korybko

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There’s no use for anyone to seriously deny it anymore at this stage – Russia and Israel are allies in Syria, and Tel Aviv’s latest bombing raid proves it. None of Russia’s impressive world-class and state-of-the-art S-400 anti-air defense units were activated to stop it, but this shouldn’t be a surprise for those who have even an elementary understanding of contemporary Russia-Israeli relations. While it’s true that Moscow used to oppose Israel during the days of the Cold War, that all changed ever since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the two sides are closer nowadays than at any time in their history. The author wrote about the specifics of this high-level but largely unspoken-about partnership in a series of articles earlier this year that are listed below, which he recommends that the reader at least skim through if they’re totally unfamiliar with this topic:

21 March: “Israel And Russia Are NOT On The Verge Of War. They Are Allies!”

22 March: “What Russia Said To Israel After The Palmyra Raid

6 June: “Russia’s Mideast Energy Diplomacy: Boom Or Bust?

27 June: “Syria’s 10-Day Countdown Begins

10 July: “A Syrian ‘Ceasefire’ For Whom?

The prevailing idea is that the Russian “deep state” (permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies) is joined at the hip with Israel because of its ethnic diaspora in the latter which connects them both, and that this in turn set the firm foundation for the multidimensional development of this relationship into the eventual military and strategic spheres. It might be strange to countenance the idea of Israel being Russia’s ally in Syria when Tel Aviv worked together with the US and other countries to create the very same terrorism inside that triggered Moscow’s intervention, but it’s here where it’s worthwhile to quote a relevant passage from the author’s 27 June analysis:

“Moscow is strictly abiding by its anti-terrorist military mandate in Syria and isn’t interested whatsoever in doing anything more than fighting Daesh, but it’s just that there was a prevailing unstated perception surrounding its commitments to the country that made many people believe that it was there to implicitly oppose all of the US and “Israel’s” geostrategic objectives.

 While there’s veritably an overlap between Russia’s mission in defeating Daesh and therefore destroying Washington and Tel Aviv’s initial plans in Syria, the fact that Moscow already achieved most of that original mission and its purported “adversaries” have since adapted their strategies in response to instead promote the “federalization” (internal partition) of the country as their “Plan B” shouldn’t be taken to mean that Russia will also expand its responsibilities in order to once again oppose those two actors.”

There is no scenario, whatsoever, that Russia will directly oppose Israel in Syria, and to the contrary, it welcomes its occasional “surgical strikes” there because they play into Moscow’s strategy to indirectly counter Iran. Nobody in Russia will ever openly say it, and all public statements by official representatives claim the complete opposite, but Russia is developing a growing sense of distrust towards Iran and vice-verse, and this has been hitherto unfolding in Syria largely away from the media eye. A keen observer, however, would rightly note that each of Israel’s attacks in the Arab Republic were done under the pretext of attacking some sort of Iranian or Iranian-allied unit or infrastructure, and that Russia never lifted a finger to oppose or condemn it.

The reasons for this are several, but the most important has to do with Russia’s foreign policy progressives wanting to take advantage of their country’s dominant position in Syria in order to establish and strengthen new international partnerships, all with the intent of fulfilling their envisioned 21st-century geostrategic role in becoming the supreme balancing force in Eurasia. This strategy and the “deep state” faction driving it were described more in detail in the author’s Oriental Review analysis titled “Russia’s Foreign Policy Progressives Have Trumped The Traditionalists”, which can be summarized as Russia clinching non-traditional partnerships such as the one with Israel in order to “balance out” the traditional ones that it has with countries like Iran.

This doesn’t mean that Russia is “anti-Iranian” per se, but just that the grand strategy of the two civilization-states contradicts one another on certain fronts such as the one related to Tehran’s hoped-for post-war role in Syria vis-à-vis its hated Israeli rival, which as anyone who has even cursory knowledge about this knows is designed to strengthen Iran’s overall position against Israel through its own forces and those of its allied militia Hezbollah. Russia, however, doesn’t seem to agree with this policy because it believes that it will only “trigger” more Israeli raids into Syria which could eventually contribute to more destabilization in the country and inadvertently endanger the safety of Russia’s forces there, whether through direct action or the indirect facilitation of terrorism.

Although it may pain many in the Alt-Media to read, Russia’s actions in passively allowing Israel to bomb what it claims (whether accurately or not) are Iranian-related infrastructure and troops (whether its own or allied) in Syria indicate that Moscow believes that Tehran “deserved it”, or put more gently, that Iran is “provoking” Israel through its presence in western and southern Syria and that Tel Aviv is therefore “justified” in militarily responding to it with “surgical strikes”. This explanation shouldn’t be taken as the author’s personal endorsement of this policy, but just as an empirical observation acquired from analyzing all of the Israeli bombing raids on Syria over just this year alone. The implicit cooperation, albeit even if passive, that Moscow extends to Tel Aviv in this regard might also have to do with its decision makers wanting to keep Iran on the overall strategic defensive so that the existing support that Russia provides to it acquires a relatively more heightened importance by comparison.

For better or for worse, Russia believes that Iran needs it more than the reverse, and that no matter how begrudgingly it might do so, Tehran will continue to cooperate with Moscow no matter what happens because it has no possibility to replace it in the strategic spheres of nuclear energy cooperation and the Syrian peace process, et al. Moreover, as the troika of Israel, the US, and Saudi Arabia (conceptualized by the author as “Cerberus”) pile on the pressure against their rival and ceaselessly work to encourage their partners to do so as well, the Russian vector of Iranian economic policy will continue to look more attractive as a “pressure valve”, especially in view of the planned North-South Transport Corridor that both sides are working on together with India and Azerbaijan. So long as Russia isn’t directly (key word) hostile to Iran, whether in Syria or elsewhere, and continues to rely on Israel as its “cat’s paw” out of both Moscow and Tel Aviv’s self-interested reasons in doing so, there’s little reason to expect Tehran to “play hardball” in downscaling its existing cooperation with Russia.

Moreover, to touch upon the aforementioned geostrategic contradictions between Russia and Iran, if Iran were to successfully fulfill its grand strategic vision of establishing a “Resistance Arc” between itself, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, then Russia would lose its newfound role as the supreme balancing force in this pivotal space. Rather, Moscow reasons, it’s better for Russia to remain the most powerful actor here in order for it to cut deals with all partners that could potentially play out to its larger benefit, such as in this case possibly participating in the Israeli-Cypriot-Greek pipeline to Europe. This was described in the author’s earlier-mentioned work about “Russia’s Mideast Energy Diplomacy: Boom Or Bust?”, and the idea is that joint Russian-Israeli cooperation in countering Iran’s growing post-war role in Syria might be the condition for Moscow’s involvement in this energy project. It could also be reasonably speculated that Russia expects wealthy Israeli businessmen (likely those of Russian background) to invest in their former homeland as part of this quid-pro-quo arrangement in order to help Moscow deal with the Western sanctions against it, which Tel Aviv crucially declined to partake in.

Again, it can’t be emphasized enough how none of this should come as a surprise for objective observers, but it’s just that the Alt-Media Community has been treated to an incessant barrage of “wishful thinking” over the years in coming to actually believe that Russia is somehow “against” Israel in general, and particularly in Syria. A perfect example of this which took place only recently was the premature triumphalism about the purported failure that the Netanyahu-Putin Summit in Sochi allegedly was, though the wisdom of hindsight has now disproven all of that commentary since it’s very likely that the two leaders discussed what would soon thereafter be the Israeli raid on Homs. This allows one to view the oft-repeated analysis that Putin snubbed Netanyahu, and the even more regularly repeated though constantly debunked theory that Russia set up an S-400 “air bubble” against Israel in Syria, as nothing more than an Alt-Media “echo chamber” amplified by Iranian-friendly voices.

The intention in pointing this out isn’t at all to “defend Israel” or “denigrate Iran”, but just to draw attention to the psychology of groupthink which has taken over Alt-Media and frequently leads to the creation of unrealistically high and almost always false hopes, thereby calling into question the professional accuracy of some of the leading forces who constantly promote such views despite being contradicted on countless occasions by the cold hard truth of reality. It’s tacitly understood that there’s a certain “political correctness” involved in denying Russia’s very close and comprehensive strategic partnership with Israel, especially if one is speaking on Mideast-based media platforms that are traditionally friendly or at the very least respectful towards Moscow, but this will have to change if pundits and aspiring analysts genuinely desire to reflect the objective reality of what’s happening in the world and why…unless, of course, they’re content with putting their reputation on the line in order to advance a certain narrative.

DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution. 

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EU and Japan ink free trade deal representing over 30% of global GDP

The free trade agreement represents a victory for free trade in the face of growing protectionism

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In a bid to preserve free trade and strengthen their trade partnership, the European Union and Japan have finished a free trade zone agreement that has been sitting in the pipeline for years.

The present global economic outlook provided the needed spur to action to get the ball rolling again and now it has finally reached the end zone and scored another point for free and open trade against the growing influence of protectionism, which has been creeping up with alarming rapidity and far reaching consequences in recent months.

Under the deal, Japan will scrap tariffs on some 94% of goods imported from Europe and the EU in turn is canning 99% of tariffs on Japanese goods.

Between the European Union and Japan, the trade deal impacts about 37% of the world’s GDP, making it one of the largest and impactful of such agreements.

The Japan Times reports:

Top European Union leaders and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signed an economic partnership agreement Tuesday in Tokyo, a pact that will create a massive free trade zone accounting for 37 percent of the world’s trade by value.

European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker hastily arranged their visit to Tokyo after Abe was forced to abruptly cancel plans to attend a July 11 signing ceremony in Brussels in the aftermath of flooding and mudslides in western Japan.

Japanese officials said the signing is particularly important to counter intensifying protectionism worldwide triggered by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Negotiations on the pact between Japan and the EU, which started in 2013, had stagnated for a time but regained momentum after Trump took office in January 2017.

“We are sending a clear message that we stand together against protectionism,” Tusk said at a joint news conference with Abe after they signed the agreement.

“The relationship between the EU and Japan has never been stronger. Geographically we are far apart, but politically and economically we could be hardly any closer,” Tusk said. “I’m proud today we are taking our strategic partnership to a new level.”

Tusk stressed that the EU and Japan are partners sharing the same basic values, such as liberal democracy, human rights and rule-based order.

Abe also emphasized the importance of free and fair trade.

“Right now, concerns are rising over protectionism all around the world. We are sending out a message emphasizing the importance of a trade system based on free and fair rules,” he said.

The pact will create a free trade bloc accounting for roughly 30 percent of the world’s gross domestic product. Japan and the EU hope to have the agreement, which still needs to be ratified by both parties, come into force by March.

Under the EPA, tariffs on about 99 percent of Japan’s exported goods to the EU will eventually be eliminated, while duties on 94 percent of EU’s exported items to Japan will be abolished, according to the Foreign Ministry.

The EPA will eliminate duties of 10 percent on Japan’s auto exports to the EU seven years after the pact takes effect. The current 15 percent duties on wine imports from the EU will be eliminated immediately, while those on cheese, pork and beef will be sharply cut.

In total, the EPA will push up domestic GDP by 1 percent, or ¥5 trillion a year, and create 290,000 new jobs nationwide, according to the government.

“The world is now facing raging waves of protectionism. So the signing ceremony at this time is particularly meaningful,” a senior Foreign Ministry official said earlier this month on condition of anonymity.

“The impact for Japan is big,” the official said.

Fukunari Kimura, an economics professor at Keio University, said the EU is now trying to accelerate the ratification process.

“This is a repercussion of President Trump’s policies. They will try to ratify it before Brexit in March of next year,” he said in an interview with The Japan Times last week.

But the deal has raised concerns among some domestic farmers, in particular those from Hokkaido, the country’s major dairy producer.

According to an estimate by the Hokkaido Prefectural Government, the EPA will cut national production in the agriculture, fishery and forestry industries by up to ¥114.3 billion a year, with Hokkaido accounting for 34 percent of the predicted losses.

“The sustainable development of the prefecture’s agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries is our top priority. We need to make efforts to raise our international competitiveness,” Hokkaido Gov. Harumi Takahashi said during a news conference July 10.

Japan and the EU had reached a basic agreement on the EPA in December.

Tokyo also led negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact after Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal in January 2017.

In March, 11 countries including Japan signed the so-called TPP11, or a revised TPP pact that does not include the U.S.

“The Japan-EU EPA is another important step for Japan to strengthen its trade relationship with key trading partners, and demonstrate that trade liberalization is alive and well, even if the United States is taking a different stance,” wrote Wendy Cutler, a former acting deputy U.S. Trade Representative, in an email sent to The Japan Times last week.

“The EU deal also reduces Japanese dependence on the U.S. market and thus increases its leverage to resist unreasonable trade demands by the United States,” she wrote.

According to the Foreign Ministry, the EU, which accounts for 22 percent of the world’s GDP, was the destination for 11.4 percent of Japanese exports in 2016. In the same year, the figure for the U.S. was 20.2 percent and 17.7 percent for China.

In 2016, Japan’s exports to the EU totaled ¥8 trillion, while reciprocal trade was ¥8.2 trillion.

The deal provides tariff relief for both parties and can improve the quantity of trade between them, expand the economy and create many jobs. It also helps to further diversify their trade portfolios in order to mitigate the prospect of a single global trade partner wielding too much influence, which in turn provides a certain amount of cover from any adverse actions or demands from a single actor. In this way, current trade dependencies can be reduced and free and diversified trade is further bolstered.

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The man behind Ukraine coup is now turning Greece against Russia (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 57.

Alex Christoforou

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On July 11, Greece said it would expel two Russian diplomats and barred the entry of two others.

The Duran reported that the formal reason is alleged meddling in an attempt to foment opposition to the “historic” name deal between Athens and Skopje paving the way for Macedonia’s NATO membership. Moscow said it would respond in kind.

Nothing like this ever happened before. The relations between the two countries have traditionally been warm. This year Moscow and Athens mark the 190th anniversary of diplomatic relations and the 25th anniversary of the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Hellenic Republic. They have signed over 50 treaties and agreements.

Greek news daily, Kathimerini says the relationship started to gradually worsen behind the scenes about a couple of years ago. What happened back then? Geoffrey Pyatt assumed office as US Ambassador to Greece. Before the assignment he had served as ambassador to Ukraine in 2013-2016 at the time of Euromaidan – the events the US took active part in. He almost openly contributed into the Russia-Ukraine rift. Now it’s the turn of Greece. The ambassador has already warned Athens about the “malign influence of Russia”. He remains true to himself.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris connect the dots between the Ukraine coup and Greece’s recent row with Russia, and the man who is in the middle of it all, US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt.

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Via Sputnik News

Actions similar to the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Greece do not remain without consequences, said spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova.

“We have an understanding that the people of Greece should communicate with their Russian partners, and not suffer from dirty provocations, into which, unfortunately, Athens was dragged,” Zakharova said at a briefing.

“Unfortunately, of course, we are talking about politics. Such things do not remain without consequences, do not disappear without a trace. Of course, unfortunately, all this darkens bilateral relations, without introducing any constructive principle,” she added.

On July 11, the Greek Kathimerini newspaper reported that Athens had decided to expel two Russian diplomats and ban two more from entering the country over illegal actions that threatened the country’s national security. The publication claimed that the diplomats attempted to intervene in a domestic issue, namely the changing of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to the Republic of North Macedonia, the agreement for which was brokered by Skopje and Athens last month.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has vowed to give a mirror response to Greece’s move.

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Russia just DUMPED $80 billion in US debt

The US Treasury published a report naming those countries that are the largest holders of US bonds. The list includes 33 countries, and for the first time Russia is no longer in it.

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Russia has stopped “inching towards de-dollarization” as I wrote about on July 3rd, and has now energetically walked out of the list of largest holders of US government bonds, hence this update. For the two months ending in May 2018, Moscow has offloaded more than $80 billion in US Government debt obligations.

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The $30 billion “minimum” listing Rubicon has been crossed by Russia.

As of the end of May, Russia had bonds worth only $ 14.9 billion. For comparison: in April, Russia was on the Treasury list with bonds totaling $48.7 billion. Even then it was offloading US$ debt securities as Russia owned in March over $96 billion. At the end of 2017, Russia had US treasury securities worth $102.2 billion. It is anyones guess what Russia will own when the June and July figures are released in August and September – probably less than today.

This simply serves as a confirmation that Russia is steadfastly following a conservative policy of risk diversification in several areas such as financial, economic, and geopolitical. The US public debt and spend is increasingly viewed as a heightened risk area, deserving sober assessment.

So where have all the dollars gone? The total reserves of the Russian Central Bank have not changed and remain at approximately the equivalent of $ 457 billion, so what we are seeing is a shift of assets to other central banks, other asset classes, just not US$ government bonds.

During the same time (April-May) as this US$ shift happened, the Russian Central Bank bought more than 1 million troy ounces of gold in 60 days, and continues.

For comparison sake, the maximum Russia investment in US public debt was in October 2010 totaling $176.3 billion. Today it is $14.9 billion.

The largest holders of US government bonds as of May are China ($ 1,183.1 billion), Japan ($ 1048.8 billion), Ireland ($ 301 billion), Brazil ($ 299.2 billion), Great Britain ($ 265 billion).

Using the similar conservative metrics that the Russian Central Bank has been rather successfully applying through this geopolitically and economically challenging period with the US and the US Dollar, it may not stretch the imagination too much that other countries such as China may eventually follow suit. Who will finance the debt/spend then?

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