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German president makes landmark visit to Moscow

Europe, and particularly Germany, is moving to extricate itself from the sanctions war imposed by the USA

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(Strategic Culture Foundation) – German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Germany and Russia needed to improve badly frayed bilateral relations. He met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on October 25. It was the first visit to Russia by a German president since 2010. Steinmeier pointed out that it was “very important” to establish dialogue with Moscow, in contrast to the cooling of relations over the past years. “We live in Europe together and it’s our duty to our people to always keep looking for a bond despite existing disagreements,” he said, adding: “These relations are too important to leave them without a dialogue.” According to Steinmeier, the time is right to “find a way out of the negative spiral.”

The German president believes the contacts should be maintained despite the differences over Ukraine. The talks ranged from economic ties to the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria as well as other international crises. President Putin for his part said Moscow was ready to develop ties with Germany, adding that German businesses were interested in expanding their footprint in Russia. “Despite some certain political difficulties Russian-German ties are not at a standstill,” he added.

German direct investments in Russia are growing to reach $312 million in the first quarter of 2017. It significantly exceeded the total volume of German investments in 2016, which amounted to $225 million. Over 5,500 companies with the German capital are operating in Russia.

Steinmeier has long called for increased engagement with Moscow, and has advocated the easing of EU sanctions against Russia over events in Ukraine. The German president is also behind a disarmament initiative designed to push Russia and the US into reducing their arsenals of conventional weapons. In November, 2016, he came out with a proposal to launch discussions with Russia on a new arms control agreement. The idea was backed by fifteen other members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Before that he slammed NATO for «saber-rattling and war cries» and provocative military activities in the proximity of Russia’s borders.

Steinmeier is not the only politician in Germany who calls for better relations with Moscow. Christian Lindner, the leader of Germany’s Free Democratic Party (FDP), which is a likely candidate for joining a ruling coalition, has called for setting the problems related to Ukraine aside to make progress in the relations with Russia. According to him, “The security and prosperity of Europe depends on its relationship with Moscow.” The President of the Socialist Party in the German parliament, Sahra Wagenknecht, supported Lindner in his demand for a rapprochement with Russia. ‘We should return to a policy of relaxation in relations with Russia in order to preserve peace and security in Europe,’ Wagenknecht said.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also advocates better relations between the West and Russia. He believes that Europe must improve its relationship with Russia, and should not let this be something decided by Washington. The countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) are calling for changing the European policy on Russia.

Speaking after the NATO-Russia Council meeting on October 26, Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance’s Secretary General, said, “Our dialogue is not easy, but that is exactly why our dialogue is so important.” The NATO chief described the latest session of the NATO-Russia Council as a “frank and open discussion” on Ukraine, Afghanistan, transparency, and risk reduction. It was the third time the council met this year. Despite the deterioration of relations with Russia, the West realizes the need for dialogue.

Russia and Germany have a history of special relationship. Steinmeier’s arms control initiative should not be swept under the rug. Outlines of a possible document can be worked out. The Russian-German dialogue could contribute to working out step-by-step measures to address the issues of European security and restore a climate of mutual trust and cooperation.

Russian and NATO unofficial experts could explore the outlines of future Euro-Atlantic security architecture and the ways to address the challenges on this path. They could come up with a program to gradually ease the present-day tensions. They could also discuss how the OSCE’s Vienna Document could be expanded to include a broader agenda.

With Islamic State routed, the problem of Syria’s future comes to the fore. The situation in Libya and other places may dictate the need for joint action. Russia and NATO need to cooperate in Afghanistan. Taking into consideration the desire of CEE states to improve the relations with Russia, it would be interesting to examine the possibility of a non-nuclear zone in Central (Eastern) Europe.

Russia and NATO could launch discussions on sub-regional transparency and confidence-building measures, especially in the Black Sea and the Baltic region, where tensions are running high. The talks could focus on developing new steps to prevent incidents, establishing constant channels of communication between the militaries, and on developing new rules of conduct to prevent dangerous military activity. No military exercises or stationing forces close to each other borders (no forces increase zone) can also be added to the security agenda. The very fact that the discussion process is launched could stabilize the situation in Europe.

Russia remains an indispensable part of European security. Like it or not, it will remain a key European state and thus an inevitable partner and interlocutor for NATO despite all persistent problems in the relations. There is increasing realization of this reality in the West. Steinmeier’s visit and the resumption of NATO-Russia Council’s regular meetings confirm this fact.

Credit: Alex Gorka

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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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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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Russia’s Lukoil Halts Oil Swaps In Venezuela After U.S. Sanctions

Under the new wide-ranging U.S. sanctions, Venezuela will not be able to import U.S. naphtha which it has typically used to dilute its heavy crude grades.

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Via Oilprice.com


Litasco, the international trading arm of Russia’s second-biggest oil producer Lukoil, stopped its oil swaps deals with Venezuela immediately after the U.S. imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry and state oil firm PDVSA, Lukoil’s chief executive Vagit Alekperov said at an investment forum in Russia.

Russia, which stands by Nicolas Maduro in the ongoing Venezuelan political crisis, has vowed to defend its interests in Venezuela—including oil interests—within the international law using “all mechanisms available to us.”

Because of Moscow’s support for Maduro, the international community and market analysts are closely watching the relationship of Russian oil companies with Venezuela.

“Litasco does not work with Venezuela. Before the restrictions were imposed, Litasco had operations to deliver oil products and to sell oil. There were swap operations. Today there are none, since the sanctions were imposed,” Lukoil’s Alekperov said at the Russian Investment Forum in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Another Russian oil producer, Gazprom Neft, however, does not see major risks for its oil business in Venezuela, the company’s chief executive officer Alexander Dyukov said at the same event.

Gazprom Neft has not supplied and does not supply oil products to Venezuela needed to dilute the thick heavy Venezuelan oil, Dyukov said, noting that the Latin American country hadn’t approached Gazprom Neft for possible supply of oil products for diluents.

Under the new wide-ranging U.S. sanctions, Venezuela will not be able to import U.S. naphtha which it has typically used to dilute its heavy crude grades. Analysts expect that a shortage of diluents could accelerate beginning this month the already steadily declining Venezuelan oil production and exports.

Venezuela’s crude oil production plunged by another 59,000 bpd from December 2018 to stand at just 1.106 million bpd in January 2019, OPEC’s secondary sources figures showed in the cartel’s closely watched Monthly Oil Market Report (MOMR) this week.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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