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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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Trump Weighs In On The Single Worst Mistake In American History

Trump hits Bush: Invading Iraq ‘the single worst decision ever made’.

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Via Zerohedge


In a wide ranging interview with The Hill on Tuesday conducted in the Oval Office, President Trump was asked to give his take on the biggest mistake in American history.

Considering just how open-ended a question that is, it’s perhaps surprising that he merely went back less than a couple decades into the Bush presidency, though Trump’s base will certainly welcome it as it hearkens back to his “America First” foreign policy vision of the campaign trail.

“The worst single mistake ever made in the history of our country: going into the Middle East, by President Bush,” the president during his interview with Hill.TV.

“Obama may have gotten them (U.S. soldiers) out wrong, but going in is to me the biggest single mistake made in the history of our country,” he said.

Trump explained the reasoning behind this choice, and why it wasn’t something like the civil war or another defining and devastating event reaching far into American History.

“Because we spent $7 trillion in the Middle East. Now if you wanna fix a window some place they say, ‘oh gee, let’s not do it. Seven trillion, and millions of lives — you know, ‘cause I like to count both sides. Millions of lives,” the president explained.

Some scholars and humanitarian groups estimate that over one million Iraqis were killed in the US invasion and occupation of Iraq starting in 2003. A 2008 Opinion Research Business (ORB) poll, for example, found that approximately 1.03 million people had died as a result of the war.

“To me it’s the worst single mistake made in the history of our country. Civil war you can understand. Civil war, civil war. That’s different. For us to have gone into the Middle East, and that was just, that was a bad day for this country, I will tell you.”

Various estimates on the Iraq war’s cost have put the total taxpayer bill as low as near $2 trillion, but none dispute that it is in the multiple trillions, and estimates will vary widely depending on if veteran care is factored into it.

The comments echo things Trump said on the campaign trail in 2016. For example during one of his first major foreign policy speeches then candidate Trump said, “I will never send our finest into battle unless necessary, and I mean absolutely necessary, and will only do so if we have a plan for victory with a capital V.” And referencing the famous quote of John Quincy Adams, he said during the same speech, “The world must know that we do not go abroad in search of enemies.”

He had previously shocked pundits for being the first Republican nominee for president to trash George W. Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq, and has more recently likened it to “throwing a big fat brick into a hornet’s nest”.

All of this is a hopeful sign considering the extremely heightened and dangerous tensions over Syria this week, and given Trump seems to have vacillated between “bringing the troops home” and getting more involved. On Monday Trump hinted that a decision on the U.S. role in Syria is coming soon.

Commenting on the over 2,000 troops now in Syria ostensibly as part of the “anti-ISIL” coalition campaign, Trump indicated this mission could end soon: “We’re very close to being finished with that job,” he said. He followed with: “And then we’re going to make a determination as to what we’re going to do.”

We consider it a hopeful and a good sign that Trump is possibly revisiting his “America First” foreign policy pledges by identifying the Iraq War as the worst mistake in US history.

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Brett Kavanaugh eleventh hour smear begins to fall apart (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 112.

Alex Christoforou

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US President Trump is urging the woman accusing Brett Kavanaugh to testify and be heard.

Trump said he wants to hear from Christine Blasey Ford, noting that it would be “unfortunate” if she does not testify before a Senate committee. Trump told reporters Wednesday as he left the White House to view hurricane damage in North Carolina…

“If she doesn’t show up, that would be unfortunate.”

“If she shows up and makes a credible showing, that would be very interesting.”

From Trump’s lips to God’s ear…Blasey Ford came out to issue a statement essentially saying that she will not testify to Congress, either in an open or closed door session.

Furthermore it appears that Ford will not even allow Senate investigators to fly to California and obtain her statement from the comfort of her own home (as Senator Grassley has offered to do).

Ford is demanding an FBI investigation into an allegation with no date, time or place attached to it. 

RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou discuss the dangerous game of identity politics being played by the establishment, Democrat left, and their mainstream media minions.

The premise that a four decades old accusation is all that is needed to destroy a person’s entire life, threatens to tear down the most basic foundational values adhered to from within the US Constitution, and propel the United States of America towards a fascist state where censorship, citizen surveillance, and evidence free accusations are used to keep the establishment left in power and the American population cowered in fear.

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According to Zerohedge, Democrats’ Hail Mary play to stymie the confirmation of Trump SCOTUS pick Brett Kavanaugh is beginning to fizzle out. As angry Dems demanded that a Monday hearing on the allegations against Kavanaugh be delayed until the FBI has a chance to investigate, turncoat Republicans (on whom the Dems had been depending for votes) instead withdrew their support and fell in line after Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley declared that he would not honor Democrats’ request. Grassley revealed his intention to stand firm late Tuesday after lawyers for Palo Alto University professor Christine Blasey, who is claiming that Kavanaugh attempted to sexually assault her 35 years ago when the two were 17-year-old high school students, said their client wouldn’t be wiling to appear at Monday’s hearing.

According to the HillGrassley said Tuesday that there was “no reason” to delay the hearing now that Republicans have invited both Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, his accuser, to testify publicly. However, while Ford’s attorneys have insisted that their client has taken a polygraph test and “deserves to be heard”, Ford has bizarrely insisted that the FBI should have an opportunity to investigate her claims before she appears before the committee in order to spare her the “trauma” of confronting her alleged assailant.

Ford’s lawyers conveyed her request in the form of a letter sent to the committee, a copy of which was obtained by CNN.

Senator Grassley said he would refuse this request as several Republicans who had appeared to be on the cusp of defecting said they wouldn’t support further delays should Ford prove unwilling to testify.

Via the Hill…

“Republicans extended a hand in good faith. If we don’t hear from both sides on Monday, let’s vote,” said GOP Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), who was one of the first Republicans to call for the Judiciary Committee to hit pause on Kavanaugh’s nomination on Sunday.

GOP Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) told reporters earlier Tuesday that Ford’s lack of response to the committee about testifying was “puzzling.”

And GOP Sen. Jeff Flake, who had threatened to vote against Kavanaugh if Ford wasn’t given the chance to be heard, told CNN that he expected the committee to move on if she doesn’t appear.

“I think we’ll have to move to the markup,” he told CNN. “I hope she does (appear). I think she needs to be heard.”

Via Zerohedge…

Kavanaugh has denied Ford’s allegations and insisted he didn’t attend the party where the physical assault allegedly took place. Patrick Smyth, a fellow former Georgetown Prep student whom Ford alleges was also in attendance during the party issued a statement via his lawyer standing up for Kavanaugh. And in a separate letter to Grassley and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, not only does Smyth repudiate Ford’s allegations, but he adds that he doesn’t remember this party even taking place.

Of course, Feinstein – who admitted last night that she couldn’t say for certain that Ford’s story is entirely truthful – sat on Ford’s allegations for three months before referring them to the FBI and sharing them with other lawmakers (who purportedly “leaked” it to the press). President Trump on Tuesday said that he “feels sorry” for Kavanaugh, adding that he doesn’t want to “play into [Democrats] hands”, presumably by giving them more time to drag out the confirmation process.

“They should have done this a long time ago, three months ago, not now. But they did it now. So I don’t want to play into their hands,” Trump said.

Without the support of their Republican allies, Democrats will lack the votes on the committee to hold up the nomination past Monday. Though bizarrely, Kavanaugh himself hasn’t said yet whether he would or wouldn’t testify, which begs the question: If neither Kavanaugh nor Ford appear at the hearing, what exactly will lawmakers discuss?

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‘Hell on Earth’: MSF doctor tells RT of rape, violence, inhumane conditions in Lesbos refugee camp

One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

Alex Christoforou

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Via RT


One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

The overcrowded camp on the island of Lesbos, built to accommodate 3,100, houses around 9,000 people. “It’s a kind of hell on Earth in Europe,” Dr. Alessandro Barberio, an MSF clinical psychiatrist, said, adding that people in the camp suffer from lack of water and medical care. “It is impossible to stay there,” he said.

According to Barberio, asylum seekers are subjected to violence “during night and day.””There is also sexual violence”which leads to “mental health issues,” he said, adding that all categories of people at the camp may be subjected to it. “There is rape against men, women and children,” and the victims of sexual violence in the camp often have nightmares and hallucinations, Barberio told RT.

Asylum seekers in Moria “are in constant fear of violence,” and these fears are not groundless, the psychiatrist said. “Such cases [of violence] take place every week.”

There is “one toilet for 72 people, one shower for 84 people. The sanitation is bad. People are suffering from bad conditions,” Michael Raeber, an aid worker at the camp, told RT. They suffer from mental health problems because they are kept for a long time in the camp, according to Raeber.

“There is no perspective, they don’t know how their case will go on, when they will ever be able to leave the island.” The camp is a “place where there is no rule of law,” with rampant violence and drug addiction among the inhabitants, Raeber said.

In its latest report, MSF, which has been working near Moria since late 2017, criticized the unprecedented health crisis in the camp – one of the biggest in Greece. About a third of the camp population consists of children, and many of them have harmed themselves, and have thought about or attempted suicide, according to the group.

Barberio was behind an MSF open letter on the state of emergency in Moria, released on Monday, in which he writes that he has never “witnessed such overwhelming numbers of people suffering from serious mental health conditions.”

Calling the camp an “island prison,” he insisted that many of his patients in the camp are unable to perform basic everyday functions, “such as sleeping, eating well, maintaining personal hygiene, and communicating.”

A number of human rights groups have strongly criticized the conditions at the camp and Greece’s “containment policy”regarding asylum seekers.

Christina Kalogirou, the regional governor of the North Aegean, which includes Lesbos, has repeatedly threatened to shut down the facility unless the government improves the conditions. On Tuesday, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that Greece will move 2,000 asylum seekers out of the severely overcrowded camp and send them to the mainland by the end of September.

Greece, like other EU states, is experiencing the worst refugee crisis since WWII. According to International Organization for Migration estimates, 22,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Greece since the start of this year alone.

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