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Aftershocks from Putin’s State of the Nation address: Russia, China, the US and the return of the ‘balance of power’

Putin’s speech shows that the Russians consider the restoration of geostrategic parity and of the military balance of power as the key to preserving peace

Alexander Mercouris

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As the repercussions of President Putin’s State of the Nation address sink in, it is useful to highlight those words in the address which set out Russian thinking on international relations, and which explain Russian actions, including first and foremost the military build up President Putin discussed during the address.

Western orthodoxy about Russia – repeated in endless media articles and position papers – is that Russia is a ‘revisionist’ power, with Putin set on re-creating the USSR and reversing Russia’s ‘defeat’ in the Cold War, and prepared in order to achieve this to overturn the ‘rules based international order’ the US supposedly established following the end of the Second World War.

The Russians do not conceive of themselves in that way at all.  Nor do they recognise the above paragraph as an accurate reflection of the current state of international relations.

As the Russians see it, far from Russia being a ‘revisionist’ power, it is Russia which is the prime upholder of the international law and of a ‘rules based international order’, and it is the US which as it seeks to pursue its objective of spreading everywhere ‘liberal democracy’  – something which the Russians see as code for ‘US hegemony’ – is the ‘revisionist’ power.

Far from Russia wanting to recreate the USSR or having globalist or hegemonic ambitions, the Russians see themselves as overwhelmingly focused on their own internal development and in the process of Eurasian construction – ie. in the peaceful and voluntary reintegration of the countries which once formed the USSR – which they are pursuing in cooperation with China.

Claims that the Russians are insulted by US descriptions of Russia as a ‘regional’ as opposed to a ‘global’ power completely miss the point.

The Russians are fully conscious of the limitations of their power, and have no interest in expanding it globally.

Russia does not have a vast ocean going fleet as the US does, and does not have or aspire to have the huge global network of military bases that the US has.

Nor does Russia play the central role in the world economy that the US does.

The Russians have neither the resources nor the wish to challenge the US globally, or to set themselves up as a global competitor to the US, as the USSR once was.

What the Russians want is to be left in peace so that they can sort out their economic and social problems, and so that they can peacefully re-establish the social and economic connections within the territory of the former USSR which were shattered when the USSR fell apart.

Not only does Russia not have the resources or the wish to mimic the US’s global role; it has a pronounced philosophical aversion to doing so.

It is the US not Russia which claims for itself a global role as the ‘exceptional’ country, and it is the US not Russia which exempts itself through its doctrine of ‘exceptionalism’ from observance of the global rules and of international law which are supposed to underpin the entire ‘rules based international order’ which so far from wanting to undermine the Russians value as they see in it the key to peace.

That this is so is shown – the Russians argue – by US disregard for the UN Security Council – whose authority when it suits it the US ignores – by US contempt for state sovereignty – as shown by its regime change/’humanitarian intervention’ and ‘democracy promotion’ policies – by the US’s regime change wars in Iraq and Libya, by the US’s attack in 1999 on Yugoslavia, by the US’s support for the Jihadi insurgency against the legitimate government of Syria, by the US’s constant meddling in the domestic policies of other countries through its support for ‘democracy promotion’ and ‘colour revolution’ strategies in those countries – with Ukraine being for the Russians the outstanding example, and with Russia itself being a clear target – and by the (as the Russians see it) illegal sanctions the US constantly imposes on various countries including Russia in order to coerce those countries to do its bidding.

Russia by contrast does none of these things, and opposes all of them.

Moreover it is the US which the Russians see as constantly encroaching on themselves – not vice versa – through the US’s expansion of NATO into eastern Europe, its instigation of the coup in Ukraine, its continuing meddling in the affairs of Eurasia, its meddling in Russian internal politics, its sanctions policy against Russia, and its siting – contrary to previous treaties and agreements – of ballistic missile interceptors close to Russia’s borders.

What Putin’s address shows is that the Russians have finally given up hope of persuading the US to change its behaviour.

Moreover the address also shows what the Russians believe to be the cause of this (as they see it) US misbehaviour.

This is the disappearance of the geostrategic military balance which existed between the US and the USSR during the Cold War.

With the USSR gone the US – with its huge military superiority over all other countries – felt that it could do as it liked, and sought to leverage its position of military superiority over all other countries to change the world to conform to its ideology and interests.

It follows from this analysis that the Russians believe that the only way that this pattern of US misbehaviour can be ended is through the restoration of the geostrategic military balance which existed between the US and the USSR during the Cold War.

According to this analysis, the Cold War was not properly speaking a ‘war’ at all, but was rather a ‘long peace’, with the USSR because of its military power able to act as the sheet anchor of the international system through its ability to restrain the US, thereby ensuring that the Great Powers respected each other’s interests, thus preserving peace.

By restoring the geostrategic military balance which existed during the Cold War the Russians believe that the US will be put under restraint again, so that the proper functioning of the international system can be restored, and so that countries like Russia and China will be left alone so that they can press ahead in peace with their plans for their social and economic development.

All of this is clearly outlined in President Putin’s State of the Nation address

I should note that we have conducted the work to reinforce Russia’s defence capability within the current arms control agreements; we are not violating anything. I should specifically say that Russia’s growing military strength is not a threat to anyone; we have never had any plans to use this potential for offensive, let alone aggressive goals.

We are not threatening anyone, not going to attack anyone or take away anything from anyone with the threat of weapons. We do not need anything. Just the opposite. I deem it necessary to emphasise (and it is very important) that Russia’s growing military power is a solid guarantee of global peace as this power preserves and will preserve strategic parity and the balance of forces in the world, which, as is known, have been and remain a key factor of international security after WWII and up to the present day.

And to those who in the past 15 years have tried to accelerate an arms race and seek unilateral advantage against Russia, have introduced restrictions and sanctions that are illegal from the standpoint of international law aiming to restrain our nation’s development, including in the military area, I will say this: everything you have tried to prevent through such a policy has already happened. No one has managed to restrain Russia.

Now we have to be aware of this reality and be sure that everything I have said today is not a bluff ‒ and it is not a bluff, believe me ‒ and to give it a thought and dismiss those who live in the past and are unable to look into the future, to stop rocking the boat we are all in and which is called the Earth……

…….There is no need to create more threats to the world. Instead, let us sit down at the negotiating table and devise together a new and relevant system of international security and sustainable development for human civilisation. We have been saying this all along. All these proposals are still valid. Russia is ready for this.

Our policies will never be based on claims to exceptionalism. We protect our interests and respect the interests of other countries. We observe international law and believe in the inviolable central role of the UN. These are the principles and approaches that allow us to build strong, friendly and equal relations with the absolute majority of countries.

(bold italics added)

Much Western commentary has sought to contrast the first part of President Putin’s State of the Nation address, which focused on the Russian government’s plans for Russia’s social and economic development, with the second part of President Putin’s State of the Nation address, in which President Putin unveiled Russia’s new weapons systems.

In my opinion this is to misunderstand the address.

In Putin’s mind and in those of other Russian officials the second part of the address is not intended to be a contrast to the first part of the address.

Rather the two parts of the address compliment each other, with the military build up described in the second part of the address making possible the peace and independence Russia needs so that it can carry out the social and economic plans discussed in the first part of the address.

It further follows from this that Putin also does not see his address as a threat to the US.

Putin has no interest in threatening the US, and of course he entertains no ambitions – as the Soviet leaders perhaps once did – of changing the political, economic and social system of the US, and nor of course does anyone else in the Russian government entertain such ambitions either.

However Putin has come to believe that without the restoration of the geostrategic military balance which existed during the Cold War there is no possibility of the US changing its behaviour and taking into account Russia’s opinions and interests, and leaving Russia alone so that Russia can finally go about the task of developing its society and economy in peace.

As such, Russia’s military build up is intended over time – by creating constraints on US behaviour, and by forcing the US to respect and listen to Russia – to create eventually the conditions for what Putin hopes will be a sustained improvement in US-Russian relations based this time on equality and mutual respect.

Will it work?  Will the build up of Russia’s strategic weapons really restrain the US and secure world peace?  Can Russia achieve the restoration of the geostrategic military balance of the Cold War?  Will Russia’s military build up really create the conditions for a sustained improvement in US-Russian relations?

During the detente era of the Cold War a similar Soviet build up did for a time lead to a brief thaw in US-Soviet relations.  However it proved short lived because the US ultimately found it conceptually impossible to accept the USSR as an equal partner.

No sooner was the detente framework between the US and the USSR established through a series of agreements painstakingly negotiated between 1963 and 1975, then powerful forces in the US set to work to undermine it.  By 1980 when Ronald Reagan was elected US President they had largely succeeded in doing so.

What proved impossible to sustain in the binary system of the 1970s, when the USSR was far more powerful than Russia is today, is much less likely to happen today, all the more so as ‘exceptionalist’ thinking is far more dominant in the US today than it was in the 1970s.

Moreover though Russia can certainly afford the cost of sustaining a nuclear arms race – nuclear weapons and specifically the weapons Putin outlined in his State of the Nation address are as Putin says “modestly priced” – experience shows that achieving a proper military balance also requires achieving a balance in conventional forces, where by comparison with the US’s global forces Russia is badly outmatched.

The ace in Russia’s pack is however Russia’s alliance with China to which – along with Russia’s friendly relations with India – Putin pointedly referred in his address

Our comprehensive strategic partnership with the People’s Republic of China is one example. Russia and India also enjoy a special privileged strategic relationship.

(bold italics added)

Note the careful distinction in the nature of Russia’s relations with China and India – whose relations with each other are currently going through a (probably temporary) bad patch – in these words.

With China Russia has a “comprehensive strategic partnership” ie. a de facto alliance.  With India Russia has a “special privileged strategic relationship” ie. a close and enduring friendship.

In his State of the Nation address Putin did not speak for China – he has no right to – but it is the Russian-Chinese alliance which as much as – or arguably much more so than – Russia’s strategic weapons build up is changing the world’s geostrategic balance, and which is placing increasing constraints on US behaviour.

Indeed with no sign of any Chinese strategic weapons build up comparable to the one Putin has just announced despite the steady deterioration in US-Chinese relations, it cannot be excluded that there has been some sort of agreement being Beijing and Moscow whereby Moscow counters the US at a strategic nuclear level whilst China concentrates on the far more costly task of challenging US naval supremacy in the Pacific and in the South China Sea.

That would be an obvious way for the two countries to use their “comprehensive strategic partnership” to complement each other by playing to their respective strengths.

Whether a Chinese naval build up in the Pacific, complimenting a Russian strategic weapons build up and a Russian ground forces build up in Europe, will persuade the US to modify its behaviour is another matter.  I have to say that I have my doubts.

The US’s Nuclear Posture Review suggests on the contrary a continued commitment to policies intended to perpetuate US dominance, with the emphasis being on detaching Russia from China by increasing pressure upon it.

Having said this, Putin’s State of the Nation address does provide further confirmation of what the US’s Nuclear Posture Review has already admitted: the US’s ‘unipolar moment’ is over.  

Great Power competition has returned and with it the concept of the ‘balance of power’.

Before long I expect we will also be hearing about ‘spheres of influence’ again.

Depending on what happens next in the Pacific region, this may also be the moment when the Russian-Chinese alliance finally starts to come out of the shadows.

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BREXIT deal reached? May prepares to turn UK into EU vassal state

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 15.

Alex Christoforou

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Theresa May will convene her cabinet “a historic meeting” on Brexit after the UK and EU reportedly agreed on the text of a withdrawal treaty according to the Financial Times.

The Brexit text has been agreed upon in Brussels, and now Theresa May has to sell it to her cabinet.

The FT reports that ministers have been summoned to May’s residence at Number 10 on Tuesday night for individual briefings on the text, including controversial plans for to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland. Two ministerial sources said there would be a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, with one pro-European official saying: “We are optimistic.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the European Union, that now goes to her cabinet for approval and thereafter to the UK parliament and Brussels for what will eventually become the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement.

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Via Zerohedge

The breakthrough is a significant moment in negotiations that potentially paves the way for a November summit of EU leaders to endorse and finalize a deal, assuming of course there is no mutiny in May’s cabinet. Which is why even though the text of the agreement is settled, negotiations will likely continue over the coming days as political objections are raised by London or EU member states, potentially sending the agreement back to the drafting table.

Bloomberg also reported that May’s cabinet was told to expect to be asked to sign off on the Irish backstop clause this week, potentially Wednesday or Thursday. The prime minister is unlikely to press ahead with the meeting unless she believes she can win cabinet support.

* * *

Update: shortly after Theresa May said talks are in the “endgame”, the Prime Minister will hold a one-off Cabinet meeting to discuss Brexit on Wednesday, according to a U.K. official who declined to be named. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that top ministers are being called in for a briefing at her Downing 10 office on Tuesday night.

As Irish RTE reported earlier, negotiators have reportedly agreed a text on the backstop.

According to reports, the cabinet was told on Tuesday to expect to be asked to sign off on the Irish backstop clause this week, potentially Wednesday or Thursday. Whether that happens remains to be seen.

Another day, another Brexit negotiation story.

According to RTE reporter Tony Connelly, “EU and UK negotiators have agreed a text on how to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, which will form part of the Withdrawal Agreement.”

RTE reports:

“While two well-placed sources have confirmed that the text was “as stable as it can be”, they say it would not be correct to say that the negotiations have “concluded”. According to both sources, there will be one backstop to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.”

It also outlines the backstop:

“The backstop will come in the form of a temporary UK-wide customs arrangement, with specific provisions for Northern Ireland, which go deeper on the issue of customs and alignment on the rules of the single market than for the rest of the UK.”

And of course, the algos read the headline and bid cable back above 1.30…

The bottom line – as with so many stories surrounding this negotiation, don’t hold your breath for this headline to be confirmed.

Bloomberg reports that a senior official said it would be wrong to say negotiations were “concluded”, and that there was still some “shuttling” between London and Brussels.

However, if this report turns out to be true then it is a win for May in managing to garner some concession from the EU which was a key sticking point for hardline Brexiteers.

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Foolish French President Macron tests Trump’s patience (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 149.

Alex Christoforou

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US President Donald Trump was ridiculed for his nationalist agenda by the very unpopular, globalist French President Emmanuel Macron, in a very public display of disrespect towards the United States and its president.

Macron, in front of world leaders brought together to commemorate the end of World War I, thought it wise to chastise Trump for his ‘America first’ policy, stating that nationalism was “tearing the world apart.”

Trump did find Macron’s smart ass tone to his liking, tweeting out his feeling the minute he landed stateside by reminding his European peers who pays the bills to keep the peace on the continent.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris reflect on Macron’s diplomatic gaffe, which Trump is unlikely to forget anytime soon.

Macron showed his boyish diplomatic skills, for which a man like Trump will make sure a heavy price is paid. The French President will certainly be at the receiving end of a very public and embarrassing dressing down at the hands of Donald Trump.

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Via Zerohedge

What was supposed to be a solemn visit to honor the 16 million soldiers who died during World War I alongside a coterie of world leaders in Paris was overshadowed by a mini-scandal surrounding President Trump’s missing an Armistice ceremony at an American military cemetery for purely cosmetic reasons (Trump reportedly didn’t want to get his hair wet during the ceremony which was held in pouring rain, though the White House maintained that he missed the beginning of the ceremony for security purposes).

Given the media’s focus on Trump’s purported vanity at the expense of nearly every other detail from Trump’s visit, it’s hardly surprising that the president has returned to the US rather agitated, and decided to lash out at his European partners in a series of tweets Monday morning.

While he said that his meetings with fellow world leaders were productive, Trump noted that it’s “never easy” to raise the issue that the US foots most of the bill for military protections in Europe thanks to its outsize shouldering of the cost burden of funding NATO.

Adding insult to injury, the US is paying “hundreds of billions of dollars” for the privilege of “losing hundreds of billions of dollars” with these countries on trade. Trump demanded that, going forward, the US must be treated fairly on military spending and trade.

It is time, Trump said, for these countries to either pony up, or find a way to start protecting themselves.

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Midterm Elections: A Disaster Denied, and What is Coming

The Democrats intend to mount a non-stopping offensive against the President.

The Duran

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Authored by Jeremiah Johnson (nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces ) via SHTFplan.com:


Before the 2016 Presidential Election, and both before and after the inauguration, I wrote specifically about how important the midterm election would be, and the results if the President should lose even one House of Congress.  That happened: the Republicans just lost the House of Representatives. Now that the Democrats control it, not one piece of legislation will pass that is on the President’s agenda. In the supreme act of denial, the Republican party claims the “Blue Wave” was not successful; even the President declared a “victory” with the midterms.

Nothing could be further from the truth, on either count.

The Democrats intend to mount a non-stopping offensive against the President. First, they are going to demand that Mueller go on the attack again. They are already demanding the President’s tax returns. On Thursday, 11-8-18, thousands of people marched in Times Square in New York City in protest of Jeff Sessions’ departure from the White House…although Sessions was the one who tendered a letter of resignation. The mob of protesters carried mass-produced “No one is above the law” placards and signs.

Not one of those Marxists carried those signs when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton resigned after Benghazi, where a U.S. Consular Outpost of the United States was destroyed, and the U.S. Ambassador and four of his staff murdered.

“Happy Veterans’ Day” is coming up, with the cliché eternal: “Thank you for your service.”

Nobody really cares about it, except the vets. Those who have to work receive time and a half for their pay, and Hallmark makes about another $50 million or so on the cards and gifts…about $10 million of that for the Government to “re-ingest” with the taxes….another day on the endless cycle:

The cycle of spending of disposable income, an indispensable part of the economy and all of the governmental employees on paid federal holiday, solemnly dispensed of at the expense of (to paraphrase Metallica) the government’s “disposable heroes.”

Where were the protests in the streets after Benghazi? Everybody was hidden, because at the time we were under Obama. When Donald Trump was elected President, a “hiatus” was granted from the nonstop march toward socialism/communism that reached a zenith as never before. Now that hiatus is shrinking, as the Communists and Marxists begin new offensives under their playbook “Rules for Radicals,” offensives targeting every area of the society.

Their plan should be obvious: to keep the President “backpedaling” and the economy faltering, in order to set the stage for the 2020 election. All of this I have written about before, and it came to pass with the Midterm elections. If they keep the President on the defense and keep pushing the “social issues,” it will render his administration ineffective…not delivering the change back toward the right that the voters wanted to see in 2016.

The Wall Street Journal published a piece on November 9 entitled Democrats plan to pursue most aggressive gun-control legislation in decades.” They have been receiving plenty of help on this one, with the Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, and the recent murders by a former Marine last week. Here they come again! All of the legislators…with armed protectors paid for by you, mind you…clamoring for the guns. Here’s a piece of it for you:

Democrats say they will pass the most aggressive gun-control legislation in decades when they become the House majority in January, plans they renewed this week in the aftermath of a mass killing in a California bar. Their efforts will be spurred by an incoming class of pro-gun-control lawmakers who scored big in Tuesday’s midterm elections, although any measure would likely meet stiff resistance in the GOP-controlled Senate. Democrats ousted at least 15 House Republicans with “A” National Rifle Association ratings, while the candidates elected to replace them all scored an “F” NRA rating. “This new majority is not going to be afraid of our shadow,” said Mike Thompson, a California Democrat who is chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. “We know that we’ve been elected to do a job, and we’re going to do it.”

Now of course the argument to this rationale will be that the Senate is needed before a law passes. Yes, we all watched “Schoolhouse Rock” and learned about the three-party system of checks and balances. The problem?  Nothing was accomplished when the Republicans held both houses of Congress, and the Reds and Blues counter one another, and more:

The Democrats’ strategy is not to pass any laws: it is to stir up public controversy, win support of the “Zero” generation, and either force actions through the “tyranny of the majority,” or make it so horrible an arena that it detracts from or prevents any positive efforts and actions from the administration…setting the stage for the 2020 election.

Ocasio-Cortez just entered the House of Representatives at the “sage/sagacious” age of 29, and she is a self-described “democratic socialist” who favors single-payer healthcare, gun control, abolishing border controls, and declared that she would support the impeachment of the President. She was also part of Bernie Sanders’ campaign movement in 2016.

Lenin espoused some “gems” that should be considered. Here is one that falls in line with the “newly discovered wonderful possibility of socialism” the Zero-generation and twenty-somethings have fallen in love with hook, line, and sinker:

“The goal of socialism is communism.”

New York just placed a “democratic socialist” in the White House…a declared socialist, among all of the hidden Marxists camouflaged under the “progressive” or “democratic” monikers.

Gun control, coming at us once again, and once more, a quote from Lenin for you:

“Disarmament is the ideal of socialism. There will be no wars in socialist society; consequently, disarmament will be achieved. But whoever expects that socialism will be achieved without a social revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat is not a socialist. Dictatorship is state power based directly on violence. And in the twentieth century – as in the age of civilization generally – violence means neither a fist nor a club, but troops. To put “disarmament” in the program is tantamount to making the general declaration: “We are opposed to the use of arms.” There is as little Marxism in this as there would be if we were to say: “We are opposed to violence!” – Lenin, “The Disarmament Slogan,” from October of 1916

The next two years should be interesting, to say the least. Keep in mind: the President is not throwing in the towel, however, he has one more year to turn the tide…before he has to campaign. There is still another way, though: I mentioned it in the last article that I wrote. Bush Jr. used this technique successfully when he was trailing Kerry in the polls. Margaret Thatcher used this technique when she was about to be shown the door, and turned it around, remaining in office.

The “technique” is a war, whether a “quickie” (such as the Falklands War…Malvinas, if you prefer), or a protracted one (Iraq “II” where victory was declared within months of started, and it was achieved…with the decades and a half of Military Industrial Complex contracts…and the transition of the United States into a Surveillance and Police State).

The technique is a war, and if you keep abreast of what is going on, you will see that Russia and China are gearing up for a war, the nations are “decoupling” themselves incrementally from the dying fiat-backed Petrodollar, and North Korea is once again raising itself as a nuclear threat (on its own, or encouraged by one or more nations). A war could either suspend elections, or propel the incumbent into a victory based on the populace’s perception of what they need. Remember this last quote from Lenin, and let it sink in good:

“A standing army and police are the chief instruments of state power.” – Lenin, State and Revolution, 1917

The ultimate truth: the elections are akin to the Stock Market, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average. It doesn’t matter how many shares are bought or sold, as long as there are fluctuations and flux. The winners are the brokers, who pocket their commissions on every trade…a sell or a buy. The same exists here. The blue donkeys versus the red elephants. The “tribalism” of men, and their needs of a social order…a cohesive social grouping that reflects what they believe in…is exploited to its maximum advantage. All the while, the paradigm shifts almost imperceptibly, until before you know it….twenty years have elapsed, and you are not looking at the same country anymore.

The “art” is to make the people think they will be getting what they want…dupe them into believing it is something good, when it’s not. It took the blood of heroes to form and defend this nation.  The downfall is precipitated by traitors from within…bleeding the nation white by circumventing existing laws and replacing them with the greatest injustice and threat to personal liberty of all. What is that greatest threat? A foreign enemy? A spontaneous collapse of everything?

No. The greatest threat is the acceptance of the people of the illusion of “social justice,” that really translates into something for nothing by taking from those who have earned, and giving it to those who live within the entitlement cesspool of their own sloth. Such a mentality pervades our society today. In order to save the United States, we have to return to our fundamental values and become an ass-kicking, straight-shooting people who fear God and care for their families, neighbors, and nation once more. If we do this, we may emerge from the coming night as a nation once more. Ready your NVGs, and steel your hearts for the challenge before it arrives…now…at the twilight’s last gleaming.

May Veterans’ Day bring remembrance to your mind, may your heart find peace, and may any who serve in your family be safe and sound.


Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne).  Mr. Johnson is also a Gunsmith, a Certified Master Herbalist, a Montana Master Food Preserver, and a graduate of the U.S. Army’s SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape).  He lives in a cabin in the mountains of Western Montana with his wife and three cats. You can follow Jeremiah’s regular writings at SHTFplan.com or contact him here.

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