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Here’s how Russian athletes were unfairly banned from the Olympics

Problems with WADA’s McLaren Report are too big to be ignored whilst the whole chain of events points to a set up.

Rick Sterling

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With the Rio Summer Olympics starting on August 5, there is huge controversy about Russian participation.  On the basis of the report of the so called Independent Person (IP) headed by a Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren (further called McLaren Report), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has recommended to impose a blanket ban on all Russian athletes, barring them from the Rio Games.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), however, did not go with this recommendation 100 percent, delegating the final decision on individual athletes to sports’ federations and to a panel of three people appointed by the IOC. Dozens of athletes out of the 387 strong Russian Olympic team, however, are already barred from the competitions. The heaviest losses were inflicted by the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF), which banned all Russian track and field athletes, including those who never failed any doping tests, in Russia or outside it.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been under heavy pressure to ban all Russian athletes from the Rio Olympics. The New York Times has carried many reports and editorials.  The Daily Mail in London went so far as to publish a front page story falsely claiming the “entire Russian team banned from Olympics” two days before the IOC’s  decision to the contrary.

Some Canadian and American athletes and sports associations launched campaigns to exclude all Russian athletes. This was condemned by the President of the European Olympic Committees. Here is what he said: “I have to question on what authority the US and Canadian anti-doping agencies prepared their letter and what mandate they have to lead an international call for a ban of another nation in the Olympic family.”

SO, HOW DID WE GET HERE?

The following time-line shows the sequence of events. 

* February 2014 – Winter Olympics was held in Sochi, a city in southern Russia.

* December 2014 – German TV network ARD showed a documentary alleging widespread Russian doping violations including during the Sochi Games.

* January 2015 – World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) established Independent Commission to look into allegations in the ARD documentary.

* November 2015 – WADA’s Independent Commission published 300+ page report asserting (but not documenting) some “widespread” use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) in Russian athletics. The report recommends the prohibition of numerous athletes, coaches and trainers. It identifies the former director of Moscow-based anti-doping lab, the future defector Grigory Rodchenkov, as being “at the heart of the positive drug test cover-up.” The Commission even recommends Mr.Rodchenkov to be permanently removed as director and his laboratory be to be de-certified (several months later McLaren’s report will call Mr. Rodchenkov “a truthful, honest man”).   

* The end of 2015 – Dr. Rodchenkov without problem leaves Russia and goes to USA with support from  an American filmmaker Bryan Fogel and other supporters of the idea of pervasive nature of “Russian doping program.”

* Early May 2016 – American TV program “Sixty Minutes” broadcast Bryan Fogel’s report on Russian doping while the New York Times published articles about Russian doping, which were based on Rodchenkov’s allegations.

* 19 May 2016 – WADA appointed Richard McLaren to investigate media allegations.

* 17 June 2016 – Influenced by a confidential letter from McLaren, the IAAF decided to ban all Russian track and field athletes from the upcoming Rio Olympic Games

* 16 July 2016 – WADA published the Mclaren report.

* 24 July 2016 – International Olympic Committee decided against banning all Russian athletes. Instead, the IOC imposed unique requirements on all Russian athletes, making them fit the criteria which other athletes were not required to fit (such as NEVER failing their previous doping tests and getting an approval of their candidacies by individual sports federations and a special panel of three members).

PROBLEMS WITH THE MCLAREN REPORT

The McLaren Report, released on July 16, has strongly influenced media reports, public opinion and official decisions regarding Russian participation in the Olympics. 

The purpose of Mr. McLaren’s (named an “independent person” in the official documents) investigation was to establish whether there has been Russian manipulation of the doping control process, how it was done, which athletes might have benefited, whether it was happening in the Moscow Laboratory somewhere else.

Following are significant problems with McLaren’s report:

* The report relies primarily on the testimony of the chief culprit, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov.  While it is possible that Rodchenkov was indeed telling the truth when answering McLaren’s questions, it is also possible that he was lying or misleading to redirect responsibility away from himself.  Rodchenkov has a strong interest in portraying himself as ‘just following orders’.  The report says there is extensive documentation that corroborate Rodchenkov’s claims, but these “documents” have never been shown to the public, so believing or not believing Rodchenkov is a matter of faith. Where is the evidence?

* The report concludes that Rodchenkov is credible and truthful with little demonstrated proof.  In contrast, the November 2015 Independent Commission report concluded that Dr. Rodchenkov was not credible. The fact that Rodchenkov knew techniques of manipulating test results is not evidence of “state controlled doping program,” especially since he was the main culprit. The information spread in previous reports on Russian doping that Rodchenkov was involved in extorting money from athletes – this information suggests opportunism on his part rather than integrity. The former director of Moscow Laboratory has admitted his involvement in urine sample swapping, design of a steroid cocktail not easily traced, and more. He was instrumental in helping some athletes cheat the system. He is also the person with most motivation to implicate others, even if unjustly.  His testimony obviously needs careful scrutiny and cross-checking.

* The investigation did not hear the factual corrections or counter-arguments of Russian authorities.  McLaren says: “The IP did not seek to interview persons living in the Russian Federation …. I did not seek to meet with Russian government officials and did not think it necessary…”  Since the Russian Ministry of Sport and other agencies are accused of serious violations in this report, such words provide strong evidence of bias on Mr. McLaren’s part. It is a basic standard of fairness to hear from the accused.

* The investigation excluded a written rebuttal supplied by one of the accused Russian individuals.  McLaren says: “I also received, unsolicited, an extensive narrative with attachments from one important government representative described in this report. In the short span of 57 days that I was given to conduct this IP investigation it was simply not practical and I deemed such interviewing would not be helpful.” (Page 21)  Since one of the main purposes of the investigation was to determine the truthfulness of Rodchenkov’s accusations, this decision to not consider the ‘unsolicited’ information is shocking. It should have been mandatory to evaluate the arguments and information coming from al sources, including the Russian side.  

* There are inconsistencies in the description of how urine sample bottles were associated with an individual athlete. As reported by Sports Integrity Initiative, “The IP report appears to contain two different versions – both from Rodchenkov – about how ‘protected’ Russian athlete samples were made recognizable at the laboratory.”

* There are inconsistencies in the description of how ‘protected’ Russian athlete samples were identified, separated and then delayed in shipping to the laboratory.  As identified by Sports Integrity Initiative, “The IP Report and IO Report contain conflicting accounts of how samples taken at the Sochi 2014 Olympics were consolidated for shipment to the laboratory.”  One of the descriptions stretches credulity.  In a tightly monitored environment, under supervision of international authorities, would it really be possible to identify Russian test samples among the hundreds being processed, separate them out, then delay their shipment till the end of the day? All of these actions would be necessary if the plan indeed was to make a manipulation in the middle of the night.

* The western media and McLaren report put the blame on all Russian athletes instead of the guilty ones (which could be very few). For example, the “Sixty Minutes” story claims that “numerous Russian athletes were doped at Sochi, including 4 gold medalists that were using steroids.” If we accept that this accusation is true, the next question should be: Why are you not identifying who these 4 athletes are? It would make sense to reveal the culprits’ identities  for two reasons: first, to identify and punish the guilty parties, and second,  not to punish those Russian athletes who were clean. With pairs and team events, there were 25 Russian gold medal winners at Sochi. Why are all of the athletes being smeared because of the wrongdoing of a few? 

* The report claims to have evidence but does not reveal it. For example, on page 14 the report states “Dr. Rodchenkov provided credible evidence that the A and B bottles would pass through the ‘mouse hole’ … into an adjacent room, outside the security perimeter.”  We are left to wonder where is this “credible evidence.”

* The investigation was neither thorough nor comprehensive.  The McLaren investigation had a mandate to carry out a “thorough and comprehensive investigation” which would corroborate or refute the public allegations of Dr. Rodchenkov.  Prof. Mclaren summarizes the situation as follows: “The compressed time frame in which to compile this Report has left much of the possible evidence unreviewed. This report has skimmed the surface of the data… However, we are confident that what we have found meets the highest evidentiary standard and can be stated with confidence.” McLaren thus acknowledges that the investigation was hasty and he did not even review all the evidence, but at the same time he demands absolute trust in his conclusions. By relying primarily on the testimony and evidence provided by Rodchenkov, and excluding testimony and data from Russian Ministry of Sports officials, Mr. McLaren invalidates himself from providing a balanced story. So, his investigation cannot be called neither thorough nor comprehensive.

* McLaren’s description of the “disappearing positive methodology” (his own term), presumably used by the Russians, does not describe a realistic way to hide positive results of anti-doping tests. Here is how this methodology is supposed to work, in McLaren’s view. The culprits would have to:

– conduct an ‘initial analytical screen’ of the athlete;

– if it is a positive result, match the screen with the athlete;

– communicate the information to the Russian Deputy Minister of Sports;

– the Deputy Minister responds with coded message indicating either “save” or “quarantine”;

– if the response is “save”, the test result should be manipulated to become negative;

– if the response is “quarantine” the test can proceed normally.

This description raises questions. Can an officially mandated test be delayed to conduct an ‘initial analytical screen’?  Can a scientifically determined positive result be manipulated and later put on record as a negative result? The report does not explain the time limits during which the presumable illegal operations were conducted. IN this situation a very substantial doubt – could the culprits operate fast enough not to arouse suspicions? – that doubt is left unanswered. 

*The McLaren report makes strong assertions propped up by weak or incomplete evidence. For example, the report says: “It can be made to appear that the laboratory was acting alone. However, given the examination and the insights obtained from evidence available to the IP investigation, it is correct to place the Moscow Laboratory within the ambit of state control.” (P30)  This assertion goes to the core of the case. Unfortunately, McLarren seems to think it is adequate to make this assertion without providing the evidence that is the basis of his “insights”.  The primary evidence of state control of the process seems to be the alleged presence of  “save” and “quarantine” directives as described in the “disappearing positive methodology.” How do the Russian authorities explain or contradict the description of this “save-quarantine” business given in the McLaren report? This is why an objective investigation needs to hear the Russian authorities’ explanation before coming to conclusion.

* The McLaren report casts suspicion on all Russian athletes instead of identifying specific cheaters. The mandate of the investigation was to “Identify any athlete that might have benefited from those alleged manipulations to conceal positive doping tests.” (P3) Instead of doing that, the McLaren report fails to identify any specific athletes who benefited and instead casts suspicion on all Russian athletes. The report does this in many places. The McLaren report says “The IP investigative team has developed evidence identifying dozens of Russian athletes who appear to have been involved in doping. The compressed time-line of the IP investigation did not permit compilation of data to establish an anti-doping rule violation.”  By failing to identify the athletes suspected of benefiting, they cast a cloud of suspicion over all Russian athletes. If we assume that McLaren’s claim is correct, that means “dozens” of cheaters compared to hundreds of clean athletes. Not very fair or sporting. 

Questions for WADA and the IOC 

  1. For WADA: It is claimed that tamper evident urine sample bottles were opened and ‘dirty’ urine exchanged with ‘clean’ urine. Mr. McLaren says that he was witness to a demonstration of this.  Meanwhile the bottle manufacturer has effectively challenged this claim and stands by its product which has been in use for 20 years. What has been done to verify that the bottles can be opened as witnessed by Mclaren?  What has been done to improve the bottles so that this is not possible? 
  2. For WADA: It is claimed that select urine samples were matched to an individual athlete, separated from other samples, then delayed in shipment to the laboratory, then smuggled out of the holding area so that ‘dirty’ urine could be replaced with ‘clean’. Assuming that McLaren report description is true, what has been done to prevent this from happening in future?
  3. For WADA: Fundamental principle #2 of the Olympic Charter is to promote a “peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity”.  Does it not damage this important goal to single out one nation’s athletes and impose collective punishment on all?
  4. For the IOC: Fundamental principle #6 of the Olympic Charter speaks against “discrimination of any kind”.  Are you not discriminating against clean Russian athletes by imposing special conditions and requirements based on nationality?  Isn’t the IAAF violating this principle by banning all Russian track and field athletes from competing at the Olympics including a world record holder who has been tested hundreds of times internationally and never tested positive? 

Conclusion

Following WADA’s Independent Commission report in late 2015,  Russian athletes have been tested through international certified laboratories. The frequency of testing has increased in an effort to demonstrate compliance with anti-doping rules and regulations. If there was still concern that Russian athletes were somehow cheating, the testing regime at the Rio Olympics could have been escalated even more. Instead, WADA and the Mclaren Report have recommended banning all Russian athletes from the Olympics, presumably to embarrass and punish Russian authorities. 

Instead of fighting doping in athletics, this looks like a politically motivated action. We are all the losers as it will increase international tension while decreasing the inclusiveness and quality of the Rio Olympic Games.  We all lose, except those who want to demonize Russia.

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Russia calls on US to put a leash on Petro Poroshenko

The West’s pass for Mr. Poroshenko may blow up in NATO’s and the US’s face if the Ukrainian President tries to start a war with Russia.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Russia called on Washington not to ignore the Poroshenko directives creating an active military buildup along the Ukrainian-Donbass frontier, this buildup consisting of Ukrainian forces and right-wing ultranationalists, lest it “trigger the implementation of a bloody scenario”, according to a Dec 11 report from TASS.

The [Russian] Embassy [to the US] urges the US State Department to recognize the presence of US instructors in the zone of combat actions, who are involved in a command and staff and field training of Ukraine’s assault airborne brigades. “We expect that the US will bring to reason its proteges. Their aggressive plans are not only doomed to failure but also run counter to the statements of the administration on its commitment to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine by political and diplomatic means,” the statement said.

This warning came after Eduard Basurin, the deputy defense minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic noted that the Ukrainian army was massing troops and materiel for a possible large-scale offensive at the Mariupol section of the contact line in Donbass. According to Basurin, this action is expected to take place on 14 December. TASS offered more details:

According to the DPR’s reconnaissance data, Ukrainian troops plan to seize the DPR’s Novoazovsky and Temanovsky districts and take control over the border section with Russia. The main attack force of over 12,000 servicemen has been deployed along the contact line near the settlements of Novotroitskoye, Shirokino, and Rovnopol. Moreover, more than 50 tanks, 40 multiple missile launcher systems, 180 artillery systems and mortars have been reportedly pulled to the area, Basurin added. Besides, 12 BM-30 Smerch heavy multiple rocket launchers have been sent near Volodarsky.

The DPR has warned about possible provocations plotted by Ukrainian troops several times. Thus, in early December, the DPR’s defense ministry cited reconnaissance data indicating that the Ukrainian military was planning to stage an offensive and deliver an airstrike. At a Contact Group meeting on December 5, DPR’s Foreign Minister Natalia Nikonorova raised the issue of Kiev’s possible use of chemical weapons in the conflict area.

This is a continuation of the reported buildup The Duran reported in this article linked here, and it is a continuation of the full-scale drama that started with the Kerch Strait incident, which itself appears to have been staged by Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko. Following that incident, the president was able to get about half of Ukraine placed under a 30-day period of martial law, citing “imminent Russian aggression.”

President Poroshenko is arguably a dangerous man. He appears to be desperate to maintain a hold on power, though his approval numbers and support is abysmally low in Ukraine. While he presents himself as a hero, agitating for armed conflict with Russia and simultaneously interfering in the affairs of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Church, he is actually one of the most dangerous leaders the world has to contend with, precisely because he is unfit to lead.

Such men and women are dangerous because their desperation makes them short-sighted, only concerned about their power and standing.

An irony about this matter is that President Poroshenko appears to be exactly what the EuroMaidan was “supposed” to free Ukraine of; that is, a stooge puppet leader that marches to orders from a foreign power and does nothing for the improvement of the nation and its citizens.

The ouster of Viktor Yanukovich was seen as the sure ticket to “freedom from Russia” for Ukraine, and it may well have been that Mr. Yanukovich was an incompetent leader. However, his removal resulted in a tryannical regíme coming into power, that resulting in the secession of two Ukrainian regions into independent republics and a third secession of strategically super-important Crimea, who voted in a referendum to rejoin Russia.

While this activity was used by the West to try to bolster its own narrative that Russia remains the evil henchman in Europe, the reality of life in Ukraine doesn’t match this allegation at all. A nation that demonstrates such behavior shows that there are many problems, and the nature of these secessions points at a great deal of fear from Russian-speaking Ukrainian people about the government that is supposed to be their own.

President Poroshenko presents a face to the world that the West is apparently willing to support, but the in-country approval of this man as leader speaks volumes. The West’s blind support of him “against Russia” may be one of the most tragic errors yet in Western foreign policy.

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Second Canadian Citizen Disappears In China

According to the he Globe and Mail, the man was identified as Michael Spavor, a Canadian whose company Peaktu Cultural Exchange brings tourists and hockey players into North Korea.

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Via Zerohedge…


For a trade war that was supposed to be between the US and China, Canada has found itself increasingly in the middle of the crossfire. And so after the arrest of a former Canadian diplomat in Beijing in retaliation for the detention of the Huawei CFO in Vancouver, Canada said a second person has been questioned by Chinese authorities, further heightening tensions between the two countries.

The second person reached out to the Canadian government after being questioned by Chinese officials, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said, at which point Canada lost contact with him. His whereabouts are currently unknown and Global Affairs Canada said they are in contact with his family.

“We haven’t been able to make contact with him since he let us know about this,” Freeland told reporters Wednesday in Ottawa. “We are working very hard to ascertain his whereabouts and we have also raised this case with Chinese authorities.”

According to the he Globe and Mail, the man was identified as Michael Spavor, a Canadian whose company Peaktu Cultural Exchange brings tourists and hockey players into North Korea. He gained fame for helping arrange a visit to Pyongyang by former NBA player Dennis Rodman, and he met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on that trip, the newspaper reported. Attempts to reach Spavor on his contact number either in China, or North Korean went straight to voicemail.

Spavor’s personal Facebook page contains several images of him with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un including one of him with both Jong-un and former Dennis Rodman at an undisclosed location.

Michael P. Spavor, right, pictured here with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, second from right, and Dennis Rodman.

Another image shows the two sharing a drink on a boat.

The unexplained disappearance takes place after China’s spy agency detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig in Beijing on Monday, who was on leave from the foreign service. The arrest came nine days after Canada arrested Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou at the request of U.S. DOJ. While Canada has asked to see the former envoy after it was informed by fax of his arrest, Canada is unaware of Kovrig current whereabouts or the charges he faces.

“Michael did not engage in illegal activities nor did he do anything that endangered Chinese national security,” Rob Malley, chief executive officer of the ICG, said in a written statement. “He was doing what all Crisis Group analysts do: undertaking objective and impartial research.”

One possibility is that Kovrig may have been caught up in recent rule changes in China that affect non-governmental organizations, according to Bloomberg. The ICG wasn’t authorized to do work in China, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said during a regular press briefing in Beijing Wednesday.

“We welcome foreign travelers. But if they engage in activities that clearly violate Chinese laws and regulations, then it is totally another story,” he said, adding he had no information on Kovrig specifically.

As Bloomberg further notes, foreign non-governmental organizations are now required to register with the Chinese authorities under a 2017 law that subjects them to stringent reporting requirements. Under the law, organizations without a representative office in China must have a government sponsor and a local cooperative partner before conducting activities. ICG said this is the first time they’ve heard such an accusation from the Chinese authorities in a decade of working with the country. The company closed its Beijing operations in December 2016 because of the new Chinese law, according to a statement. Kovrig was working out of the Hong Kong office.

Meanwhile, realizing that it is increasingly bearing the brunt of China’s retaliatory anger, Trudeau’s government distanced itself from Meng’s case, saying it can’t interfere with the courts, but is closely involved in advocating on Kovrig’s behalf.

So far Canada has declined to speculate on whether there was a connection between the Kovrig and Meng cases, with neither Freeland nor Canadian Trade Minister Jim Carr saying Wednesday that there is any indication the cases are related. Then again, it is rather obvious they are. Indeed, Guy Saint-Jacques, who served as ambassador to China from 2012 to 2016 and worked with Kovrig, says the link is clear. “There’s no coincidence with China.”

“In this case, they couldn’t grab a Canadian diplomat because this would have created a major diplomatic incident,” he said. “Going after him I think was their way to send a message to the Canadian government and to put pressure.”

Even though Meng was granted bail late Tuesday, that did not placate China, whose foreign ministry spokesman said that “The Canadian side should correct its mistakes and release Ms. Meng Wanzhou immediately.”

The tension, according to Bloomberg,  may force Canadian companies to reconsider travel to China, and executives traveling to the Asian country will need to exercise extra caution, said Andy Chan, managing partner at Miller Thomson LLP in Vaughan, Ontario.

“Canadian business needs to look at and balance the reasons for the travel’’ between the business case and the “current political environment,’’ Chan said by email. Chinese officials subject business travelers to extra screening and in some case reject them from entering, he said.

Earlier in the day, SCMP reported that Chinese high-tech researchers were told “not to travel to the US unless it’s essential.”

And so, with Meng unlikely to be released from Canada any time soon, expect even more “Chinese (non) coincidences”, until eventually China does detain someone that the US does care about.

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Multipolar World Order in the Making: Qatar Dumps OPEC

Russia and Qatar’s global strategy also brings together and includes partners like Turkey.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The decision by Qatar to abandon OPEC threatens to redefine the global energy market, especially in light of Saudi Arabia’s growing difficulties and the growing influence of the Russian Federation in the OPEC+ mechanism.

In a surprising statement, Qatari energy minister Saad al-Kaabi warned OPEC on Monday December 3 that his country had sent all the necessary documentation to start the country’s withdrawal from the oil organization in January 2019. Al-Kaabi stressed that the decision had nothing to do with recent conflicts with Riyadh but was rather a strategic choice by Doha to focus on the production of LNG, which Qatar, together with the Russian Federation, is one of the largest global exporters of. Despite an annual oil extraction rate of only 1.8% of the total of OPEC countries (about 600,000 barrels a day), Qatar is one of the founding members of the organization and has always had a strong political influence on the governance of the organization. In a global context where international relations are entering a multipolar phase, things like cooperation and development become fundamental; so it should not surprise that Doha has decide to abandon OPEC. OPEC is one of the few unipolar organizations that no longer has a meaningful purpose in 2018, given the new realities governing international relations and the importance of the Russian Federation in the oil market.

Besides that, Saudi Arabia requires the organization to maintain a high level of oil production due to pressure coming from Washington to achieve a very low cost per barrel of oil. The US energy strategy targets Iranian and Russian revenue from oil exports, but it also aims to give the US a speedy economic boost. Trump often talks about the price of oil falling as his personal victory. The US imports about 10 million barrels of oil a day, which is why Trump wrongly believes that a decrease in the cost per barrel could favor a boost to the US economy. The economic reality shows a strong correlation between the price of oil and the financial growth of a country, with low prices of crude oil often synonymous of a slowing down in the economy.

It must be remembered that to keep oil prices low, OPEC countries are required to maintain a high rate of production, doubling the damage to themselves. Firstly, they take less income than expected and, secondly, they deplete their oil reserves to favor the strategy imposed by Saudi Arabia on OPEC to please the White House. It is clearly a strategy that for a country like Qatar (and perhaps Venezuela and Iran in the near future) makes little sense, given the diplomatic and commercial rupture with Riyadh stemming from tensions between the Gulf countries.

In contrast, the OPEC+ organization, which also includes other countries like the Russian Federation, Mexico and Kazakhstan, seems to now to determine oil and its cost per barrel. At the moment, OPEC and Russia have agreed to cut production by 1.2 million barrels per day, contradicting Trump’s desire for high oil output.

With this last choice Qatar sends a clear signal to the region and to traditional allies, moving to the side of OPEC+ and bringing its interests closer in line with those of the Russian Federation and its all-encompassing oil and gas strategy, two sectors in which Qatar and Russia dominate market share.

In addition, Russia and Qatar’s global strategy also brings together and includes partners like Turkey (a future energy hub connecting east and west as well as north and south) and Venezuela. In this sense, the meeting between Maduro and Erdogan seems to be a prelude to further reorganization of OPEC and its members.

The declining leadership role of Saudi Arabia in the oil and financial market goes hand in hand with the increase of power that countries like Qatar and Russia in the energy sectors are enjoying. The realignment of energy and finance signals the evident decline of the Israel-US-Saudi Arabia partnership. Not a day goes by without corruption scandals in Israel, accusations against the Saudis over Khashoggi or Yemen, and Trump’s unsuccessful strategies in the commercial, financial or energy arenas. The path this doomed

trio is taking will only procure less influence and power, isolating them more and more from their opponents and even historical allies.

Moscow, Beijing and New Delhi, the Eurasian powerhouses, seem to have every intention, as seen at the trilateral summit in Buenos Aires, of developing the ideal multipolar frameworks to avoid continued US dominance of the oil market through shale revenues or submissive allies as Saudi Arabia, even though the latest spike in production is a clear signal from Riyadh to the USA. In this sense, Qatar’s decision to abandon OPEC and start a complex and historical discussion with Moscow on LNG in the format of an enlarged OPEC marks the definitive decline of Saudi Arabia as a global energy power, to be replaced by Moscow and Doha as the main players in the energy market.

Qatar’s decision is, officially speaking, unconnected to the feud triggered by Saudi Arabia against the small emirate. However, it is evident that a host of factors has led to this historic decision. The unsuccessful military campaign in Yemen has weakened Saudi Arabia on all fronts, especially militarily and economically. The self-inflicted fall in the price of oil is rapidly consuming Saudi currency reserves, now at a new low of less than 500 billion dollars. Events related to Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) have de-legitimized the role of Riyadh in the world as a reliable diplomatic interlocutor. The internal and external repression by the Kingdom has provoked NGOs and governments like Canada’s to issue public rebukes that have done little to help MBS’s precarious position.

In Syria, the victory of Damascus and her allies has consolidated the role of Moscow in the region, increased Iranian influence, and brought Turkey and Qatar to the multipolar side, with Tehran and Moscow now the main players in the Middle East. In terms of military dominance, there has been a clear regional shift from Washington to Moscow; and from an energy perspective, Doha and Moscow are turning out to be the winners, with Riyadh once again on the losing side.

As long as the Saudi royal family continues to please Donald Trump, who is prone to catering to Israeli interests in the region, the situation of the Kingdom will only get worse. The latest agreement on oil production between Moscow and Riyad signals that someone in the Saudi royal family has probably figured this out.

Countries like Turkey, India, China, Russia and Iran understand the advantages of belonging to a multipolar world, thereby providing a collective geopolitical ballast that is mutually beneficial. The energy alignment between Qatar and the Russian Federation seems to support this general direction, a sort of G2 of LNG gas that will only strengthen the position of Moscow on the global chessboard, while guaranteeing a formidable military umbrella for Doha in case of a further worsening of relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

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