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Russia and Laos intensify ties

Laos and Russia have agreed to continue broadening their cooperation in trade, economic, scientific and technical affairs.




Quietly, without much ado or loud noise, the Russian Federation has intensified its relations to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic during the last decade. It went almost unnoticed by the so-called mainstream media of the West, which are busy writing about the Ukraine conflict, the Syria conflict, the Venezuela conflict, and all kinds of other global conflicts. At the present time, there are surely no conflicts in Laos, although this country has had its fare share of wars and destruction in the past. The Russians sell weapons to Laos. On the 20th of January 2019, newly delivered Russian tanks and armoured vehicles were displayed at the military parade in Vientiane, on the occasion of the 70th birthday of Lao People’s Armed Forces. Furthermore, Russian sappers are helping to de-mine Laos and to build new hydropower plants. Overall, ties between both countries are intensifying, as Russia is very interested in the Southeastern region of Asia.

Laos is a landlocked country in Southeastern Asia, bordered by Vietnam in the East, Thailand in the West, Cambodia in the South, China and Myanmar in the North. Vientiane is the capital and largest city, located on the banks of the Mekong River, near the border with Thailand. Sixty-five percent of Laos’ inhabitants are Buddhists.

Laos is one of Russia’s strategic partners in the Asia-Pacific region. Diplomatic ties between the two countries were established in 1960. Since then, Laos and Russia have been connected by a close relationship. With the assistance of the Soviet Union many projects in the fields of transport infrastructure, healthcare and education were implemented in Laos. About 8.000 Lao citizens received higher education in Soviet and later Russian universities.

Even after the breakup of the USSR in 1991, these good relations continued. In 1994, Laos and the Russian Federation signed an agreement on the foundation of friendly relations. Both parties retained common views on crucial international issues and continued cooperating in various spheres. Cooperation has been rapidly evolving in the last few years in connection with the generally increased interest of the Russian Federation in South East Asia.

“Russian-made tanks T-72 and armored vehicles BRDM-2M amphibious armored patrol cars took part in the parade on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of Lao People’s Armed Forces” (INTERFAX, 20.01.2019). The tanks were delivered to Laos at the request of the president of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic as part of military-technical aid. Earlier, Laos had already received four Yakovlev Yak-130 aircraft from Russia under a contract signed in 2017.

In addition, the Russian Defence Ministry opened its representative office in the Lao capital Vientiane, in implementation of a Lao-Russian intergovernmental agreement. “The opening ceremony was attended by Laotian Defence Minister Lieutenant General Sengnuan Xayalat and Major General Alexander Kshimovsky, the chief of the Main Directorate for International Military Cooperation, who heads Russia’s military delegation on a working visit to Vientiane” (TASS, 20.01.2019).

Russia wants to expand military and military-technical cooperation between Moscow and Vientiane in areas such as training Lao soldiers in military schools subordinate to the Russian Defense Ministry, organizing trips of Russian military experts as consultants to assist Laos in building its armed forces and in using Russian-made weapons and military equipment.

How was this military equipment paid for? “Traditionally, the Lao military does not like to reveal the true cost of such purchases, using national security as an explanation for its silence. The cost of the Russian heavy weapons has not been published yet, but Laos doesn’t pay Russia in cash, some local newspapers reported. A source close to a high-ranking Lao military officer said that the Lao government is giving Russia the concession of mining and development projects in exchange. Russia is already surveying mines in Laos” (RADIO FREE ASIA, 28.12.2018).

Neither has the Russian Defence Ministry declosed any further details, so we may keep guessing, how Laos will pay for the Russian weapons and which mines the Russians inspected. Certainly, the mining concessions will be a good deal, since Laos is very rich in mineral deposits. More than 540 mineral deposits of gold, copper, zinc, lead and other minerals have been identified and are being explored in the Southeastern country of Asia.

The government of Laos sent back 30 old Russian tanks to Moscow. The World War II vintage T-34 tanks were in active service with the Lao military forces until recently. At the beginning of the year 2019, they were shipped by sea to Vladivostok, Russia’s Far Eastern port. From there, the vehicles went by rail to Naro-Fominsk outside Moscow. They will be used in various Russian cities for the Victory Parades. The vintage tanks will also update Russian museum exhibits and play a role in historical films about the “Great Patriotic War”, as World War II is called in Russia.

“Working T-34s frequently appear in Russia’s annual Victory Day parades. They’re also a cinematic draw. The Russian government sponsored the 2019 historical action film T-34, which is about … the T-34. In the first week of its nationwide release on the 1st of January 2019, the movie raked in more than $15 million, making it the top Russian movie at the time. More than four million people saw the movie in that period” (THE NATIONAL INTEREST, 10.01.2019).

Speaking of wars, Laos has had its fair share of those. During the War against Vietnam, the US forces bombed Laos as well. Massive aerial bombardment of Laos by the USA killed millions of people. Between 1964 and 1973, the USA dropped two million tons of bombs on Laos, making Laos the most heavily bombed country in history, relative to the size of its population. The New York Times noted this was “nearly a ton for every person in Laos”.

Many US bombs failed to explode and remain scattered throughout the country, rendering vast swathes of land impossible to cultivate and killing or maiming 50 Laotians every year. Due to the particularly heavy impact of cluster bombs during this war, Laos was a strong advocate of the Convention on Cluster Munitions to ban these weapons.

From October 2018 until March 2019, Russian specialists in Laos are helping to de-mine the country. In October 2018, the first detachment of the International Mine Action Centre of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation started its de-mining mission in the village of Lak Sao, Bolikhamsay province. The ceremony dedicated to the start of this dangerous and complex work was attended by Lao Deputy Minister of Defence, Lieutenant General Onsi Sensuk, representatives of the Directorate of the Chief of Engineers of the Russian Armed Forces, and heads of the administrative regions of Bolikhamsay province.

Besides, there were soldiers of the de-mining detachment of the People’s Army of Laos, with whom the Russian detachment established cooperation. The Deputy Defence Minister of Laos thanked the Russian engineers for their readiness to render assistance in clearing the Lao territory. As part of the event, the Lao representatives were shown the means of engineering equipment. They also learned about mine clearance procedures of the Russian Armed Forces.

The squad of Russian sappers is equipped with modern means of searching and detecting explosive objects (IMP-S2 inductive portable mine-detecting sets, MBI-P2 man-portable magnetometric mine detector, MG-1I mine detectors, INVU-3M portable detector of noncontact explosive devices) and OVR-2-02 personal protection fitted with a cooling system (Press Release, October 2018, Russian Defence Ministry).

By December 2018, the Russian sappers had already cleared more than 40 hectares of mines. The team of 36 de-miners plan to clear over 100 hectares of mines in Laos until March 2019 (TASS, 24.12.2018).

Russia is lending a helping hand to Laos in various ways. In the summer of 2018, the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydroelectric dam broke in Laos, which caused the flooding of the Attapeu region, killing 35 people and displacing about 6.000 people. The Russian Ministry of Emergencies sent an IL-76 plane carrying 36 tonnes of humanitarian aid to the city of

Vientiane. The goods included portable power plants, tents, blankets, boats, utensils and food (TASS, 24.08.2018).

The accident raised concerns about dam safety. The Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy dam is one of five planned on a tributary of the Mekong. It is due for completion in 2019. In recent years, Laos has invested heavily in hydroelectric power. The country sells much of this electricity abroad, which makes up 30 percent of its exports. The Lao government plans to double current energy production by 2020 to become the “battery of South East Asia”.

The Russian Federation is assisting Laos in dam planning and management. Already in 2017, Russia’s Inter RAO Engineering, A-RKSYENS and Electricité du Laos Generation Public Company signed an agreement on the project for construction of the Sekong 5 hydropower plant in southern Laos. The signing ceremony in Vientiane was witnessed by the Lao Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines, Sinnava Souphanouvong, and the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Laos, Mikhail Baranov.

The Sekong 5 plant will have a capacity of 330 Megawatt. From 10 to 20 percent of the electricity generated will be used in Laos, 80 to 90 percent will be sold to Thailand. This hydropower plant means a significant boost to the development in the Xekong province. The project is located near the village of Talooy Ghai in the Xekong River basin. It includes a 199 metre high dam that will create a reservoir stretching about 50 km up to the border with Vietnam. Xekong 5 is one of the key investment projects in the economic cooperation agenda between Laos and the Russian Federation (ASIA NEWS  NETWORK, 21.07.2017).

Furthermore, tourism was boosted after the governments of Russia and Laos decided to cancel visas, in 2016. Lao and Russian citizens can enter each other’s country for up to 30 days without an entry visa. Russia is the 11th country, with which Laos has a visa exemption agreement.

Education is another priority on the list of cooperation. “ The good tradition of training personnel for Laos in Russia is continuing. In 2017, almost 100 people from Laos went to study at various Russian universities,” said Mikhail Baranov, the Russian Ambassador to Laos. “ The annual increase in the number of scholarships allocated to Lao nationals became a tradition after the reestablishment of the Russian Centre of Science and Culture in Vientiane, in 2013. This centre successfully promotes Russian culture and language in Laos. We have witnessed a striking interest among Lao people in our country,” he added (VIENTIANE TIMES, 05.07.2018).

In addition, Laos and Russia have agreed to continue broadening their cooperation in trade, economic, scientific and technical affairs. In November 2018, the 14th session of the Joint Laos-Russia Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation took place in Vientiane.

During the session, the two parties agreed to boost cooperation in the public and private sectors across a range of fields such as political relations, banking and finance, trade and investment, telecommunications, culture, education and public health. Russia and Laos are keen to share knowledge in the fields of science and technology, natural resources and the environment, agriculture and medical sciences (VIENTIANE TIMES, 03.12.2018).

Laos has an embassy in Moscow, Russia’s embassy is located in Vientiane. Normally, Russian tourists or visitors on business in Laos want to try out Laotian cuisine. When they get homesick for Russian food, they can eat at the “Pon its website in Russian and English Privet” restaurant in Vientiane, which offers a large variety of typically Russian dishes on its website in Russian and English.

The address is Ban Don Pa Mai, Vientiane 01000, Laos. Tel: +856 20 78 097 784.

“Privet” – “Hello” from Russia and Laos.

Olivia Kroth: The journalist and author of four books lives in Moscow.
Her blog:

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Terry WallOlivia KrothNormski1 Recent comment authors
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While USA and NATO go around the world destroying other country’s and stealing natural resources, Russia gets quietly on with building relationships and alliances with other nations. I think it’s called diplomacy but of course, the word diplomacy doesn’t appear anywhere in the US dictionary!.

Olivia Kroth

Yes, Normski.
And furthermore, Russian sappers are de-mining Laos. They are clearing the debris left from the times when the US bombed Laos.

Terry Wall
Terry Wall

Spot on as usual Normski..
Keep safe


The conclusion of Russiagate, Part II – news fatigue across America

The daily barrage of Russiagate news may have been a tool to wear down the American public as the Deep State plays the long game for control.

Seraphim Hanisch



Presently there is a media blitz on across the American news media networks. As was the case with the Russiagate investigation while it was ongoing, the conclusions have merely given rise to a rather unpleasant afterbirth in some ways as all the parties involve pivot their narratives. The conclusion of Russiagate appears to be heavily covered, yet if statistics here at The Duran are any indication, there is a good possibility that the public is absolutely fatigued over this situation.

And, perhaps, folks, that is by design.

Joseph Goebbels had many insights about the use of the media to deliver and enforce propaganda. One of his quotes runs thus:

The best propaganda is that which, as it were, works invisibly, penetrates the whole of life without the public having any knowledge of the propagandistic initiative.

and another:

That is of course rather painful for those involved. One should not as a rule reveal one’s secrets, since one does not know if and when one may need them again. The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, it should be a big lie, and one should stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.

If there has ever been a narrative that employed these two principles, it is Russiagate.

A staggering amount of attention has been lavished on this nothing-burger issue. Axios reports that an analytics company named Newswhip tallied an astounding 533,074 web articles published about Russia and President Trump and the Mueller investigation (a number which is being driven higher even now, moment by moment, ad nauseam). Newsbusters presently reports that the networks gave 2,284 minutes to the coverage of this issue, a number which seems completely inaccurate because it is much too low (38 hours at present), and we are waiting for a correction on this estimate.

Put it another way: Are you sick of Russiagate? That is because it has dominated the news for over 675 days of nearly wall-to-wall news cycles. The political junkies on both sides are still pretty jazzed up about this story – the Pro-Trump folks rejoicing over the presently ‘cleared’ status, while of course preparing for the upcoming Democrat / Deep State pivot, and the Dems in various levels of stress as they try to figure out exactly how to pivot in such a manner that they do not lose face – or pace – in continuing their efforts to rid their lives of the “Irritant-in-Chief” who now looks like he is in the best position of his entire presidency.

But a lot of people do not care. They are tired.

I hate to say it (and yes, I am speaking personally and directly), but this may be a dangerous fatigue. Here is why:

The barrage of propaganda on this issue was never predicated on any facts. It still isn’t. However, as we noted a few days ago, courtesy of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, at present, 53% of US registered voters believe that the Trump campaign worked with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

That means 53% of the voting public now believes something that is totally false.

Many of these people are probably simply exhausted from the constant coverage of this allegation as well. So when the news came out Sunday night that there was no evidence of collusion and no conclusive evidence, hence, of obstruction of justice by the Trump Administration – in other words, this whole thing was a nothing burger – will this snap those 53% back into reality?

Probably not. Many of them may well be so worn down that they no longer care. Or worse, they are so worn out that they will continue to believe the things they are told that sustain the lie, despite its being called out as such.

C.S. Lewis wrote about this peculiarity of human nature, in particular in the seventh book of his Chronicles of Narnia. After a prolonged and fierce assault on the sensibilities of the Narnians with the story that Aslan, the Christ figure of this world, was in fact an angry overlord, selling the Narnians themselves into slavery, and selling the whole country out to its enemy, with the final touch being that Aslan and the devilish deity of the enemy nation were in fact one and the same, the Narnians were unable to snap back to reality when it was shown conclusively and clearly that this was in fact not the case.

The fear that was instilled from the use of false narratives persisted and blocked the animals from reality.

Lewis summarized it this way through the thoughts of Tirian, the lead character in this tale:

Tirian had never dreamed that one of the results of an Ape’s setting up as a false Aslan would be to stop people from believing in the real one. He had felt quite sure that the Dwarfs would rally to his side the moment he showed them how they had been deceived. And then next night he would have led them to Stable Hill and shown Puzzle to all the creatures and everyone would have turned against the Ape and, perhaps after a scuffle with the Calormenes, the whole thing would have been over. But now, it seemed, he could count on nothing. How many other Narnians might turn the same way as the Dwarfs?

This is part of the toll this very long propaganda campaign is very likely to take on many Americans. It takes being strongly informed and educated on facts to withstand the withering force of a narrative that never goes away. Indeed, if anything, it takes even more effort now, because the temptation of the pro-Trump side will be to retreat to a set of political talking points that, interestingly enough, validate Robert Mueller’s “integrity” when only a week ago they were attacking this as a false notion.

This is very dangerous, and even though Mr. Trump and his supporters won this battle, if they do not come at this matter in a way that shows education, and not merely the restating of platitudes and talking points that “should be more comfortable, now that we’ve won!”

The cost of Russiagate may be far higher than anyone wants it to be. And yes, speaking personally, I understand the fatigue. I am tired of this issue too. But the temptation to go silent may have already taken a lot of people so far that they will not accept the reality that has just been revealed.

Politics is a very fickle subject. Truth is extremely malleable for many politicians, and that is saying it very nicely. But this issue was not just politics. It was slander with a purpose, and that purpose is unchanged now. In fact things may even be more dangerous for the President – even risking his very life – because if the powers that are working behind the people trying to get rid of President Trump come to realize that they have no political support, they will move to more extreme measures. In fact this may have already been attempted.

We at The Duran reported a few months ago on a very strange but very compelling story that suggested that there was an attempted assassination and coup that was supposed to have taken place on January 17th of this year. It did not happen, but there was a parallel story that noted that the President may have been targeted for assassination already no fewer than twelve times.  Hopefully this is just tinfoil-hat stuff. But we have seen that this effort to be rid of President Trump is fierce and it is extremely well-supported within its group. There is no reason to think that the pressure will lighten now that this battle has been lost.

The stakes are much too high, and even this long investigation may well have been part of the weaponry of the group we sometimes refer to as the “Deep State” in their effort to reacquire power, and in their effort to continue to pursue both a domestic and geopolitical agenda that has so far shown itself to be destructive to both individuals and nations all over the world.

Speculation? Yes. Needless? We hope so. This is a terrible possibility that hopefully no reasonable person wants to consider.

Honestly, folks, we do not know. But we had to put this out there for your consideration.

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Parliament Seizes Control Of Brexit From Theresa May




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Schaeuble, Greece and the lessons learned from a failed GREXIT (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 117.

Alex Christoforou



The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine a recent interview with the Financial Times given by Wolfgang Schäuble, where the former German Finance Minister, who was charged with finding a workable and sustainable solution to the Greek debt crisis, reveals that his plan for Greece to take a 10-year “timeout” from the eurozone (in order to devalue its currency and save its economy) was met with fierce resistance from Brussels hard liners, and Angela Merkel herself.

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Via FT

“Look where we’re sitting!” says Wolfgang Schäuble, gesturing at the Berlin panorama stretching out beneath us. It is his crisp retort to those who say that Europe is a failure, condemned to a slow demise by its own internal contradictions. “Walk through the Reichstag, the graffiti left by the Red Army soldiers, the images of a destroyed Berlin. Until 1990 the Berlin Wall ran just below where we are now!”

We are in Käfer, a restaurant on the rooftop of the Reichstag. The views are indeed stupendous: Berlin Cathedral and the TV Tower on Alexanderplatz loom through the mist. Both were once in communist East Berlin, cut off from where we are now by the wall. Now they’re landmarks of a single, undivided city. “Without European integration, without this incredible story, we wouldn’t have come close to this point,” he says. “That’s the crazy thing.”

As Angela Merkel’s finance minister from 2009 to 2017, Schäuble was at the heart of efforts to steer the eurozone through a period of unprecedented turbulence. But at home he is most associated with Germany’s postwar political journey, having not only negotiated the 1990 treaty unifying East and West Germany but also campaigned successfully for the capital to move from Bonn.

For a man who has done so much to put Berlin — and the Reichstag — back on the world-historical map, it is hard to imagine a more fitting lunch venue. With its open-plan kitchen and grey formica tables edged in chrome, Käfer has a cool, functional aesthetic that is typical of the city. On the wall hangs a sketch by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who famously wrapped the Reichstag in silver fabric in 1995.

The restaurant has one other big advantage: it is easy to reach from Schäuble’s office. Now 76, he has been confined to a wheelchair since he was shot in an assassination attempt in 1990, and mobility is an issue. Aides say he tends to avoid restaurants if he can, especially at lunchtime.

As we take our places, we talk about Schäuble’s old dream — that German reunification would be a harbinger of European unity, a step on the road to a United States of Europe. That seems hopelessly out of reach in these days of Brexit, the gilets jaunes in France, Lega and the Five Star Movement in Italy.

Some blame Schäuble himself for that. He was, after all, the architect of austerity, a fiscal hawk whose policy prescriptions during the euro crisis caused untold hardship for millions of ordinary people, or so his critics say. He became a hate figure, especially in Greece. Posters in Athens in 2015 depicted him with a Hitler moustache below the words: “Wanted — for mass poverty and devastation”.

Schäuble rejects the criticism that austerity caused the rise of populism. “Higher spending doesn’t lead to greater contentment,” he says. The root cause lies in mass immigration, and the insecurities it has unleashed. “What European country doesn’t have this problem?” he asks. “Even Sweden. The poster child of openness and the willingness to help.”

But what of the accusation that he didn’t care enough about the suffering of the southern Europeans? Austerity divided the EU and spawned a real animus against Schäuble. I ask him how that makes him feel now. “Well I’m sad, because I played a part in all of that,” he says, wistfully. “And I think about how we could have done it differently.”

I glance at the menu — simple German classics with a contemporary twist. I’m drawn to the starters, such as Oldenburg duck pâté and the Müritz smoked trout. But true to his somewhat abstemious reputation, Schäuble has no interest in these and zeroes in on the entrées. He chooses Käfer’s signature veal meatballs, a Berlin classic. I go for the Arctic char and pumpkin.

Schäuble switches seamlessly back to the eurozone crisis. The original mistake was in trying to create a common currency without a “common economic, employment and social policy” for all eurozone member states. The fathers of the euro had decided that if they waited for political union to happen first they’d wait forever, he says.

Yet the prospects for greater political union are now worse than they have been in years. “The construction of the EU has proven to be questionable,” he says. “We should have taken the bigger steps towards integration earlier on, and now, because we can’t convince the member states to take them, they are unachievable.”

Greece was a particularly thorny problem. It should never have been admitted to the euro club in the first place, Schäuble says. But when its debt crisis first blew up, it should have taken a 10-year “timeout” from the eurozone — an idea he first floated with Giorgos Papakonstantinou, his Greek counterpart between 2009 and 2011. “I told him you need to be able to devalue your currency, you’re not competitive,” he says. The reforms required to repair the Greek economy were going to be “hard to achieve in a democracy”. “That’s why you need to leave the euro for a certain period. But everyone said there was no chance of that.”

The idea didn’t go away, though. Schäuble pushed for a temporary “Grexit” in 2015, during another round of the debt crisis. But Merkel and the other EU heads of government nixed the idea. He now reveals he thought about resigning over the issue. “On the morning the decision was made, [Merkel] said to me: ‘You’ll carry on?’ . . . But that was one of the instances where we were very close [to my stepping down].”

It is an extraordinary revelation, one that highlights just how rocky his relationship with Merkel has been over the years. Schäuble has been at her side from the start, an éminence grise who has helped to resolve many of the periodic crises of her 13 years as chancellor. But it was never plain sailing.

“There were a few really bad conflicts where she knew too that we were on the edge and I would have gone,” he says. “I always had to weigh up whether to go along with things, even though I knew it was the wrong thing to do, as was the case with Greece, or whether I should go.” But his sense of duty prevailed. “We didn’t always agree — but I was always loyal.”

That might have been the case when he was a serving minister, but since becoming speaker of parliament in late 2017 he has increasingly distanced himself from Merkel. Last year, when she announced she would not seek re-election as leader of the Christian Democratic Union, the party that has governed Germany for 50 of the past 70 years, Schäuble openly backed a candidate described by the Berlin press as the “anti-Merkel”. Friedrich Merz, a millionaire corporate lawyer who is the chairman of BlackRock Germany, had once led the CDU’s parliamentary group but lost out to Merkel in a power struggle in 2002, quitting politics a few years later. He has long been seen as one of the chancellor’s fiercest conservative critics — and is a good friend of Schäuble’s.

Ultimately, in a nail-biting election last December, Merkel’s favoured candidate, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, narrowly beat Merz. The woman universally known as “AKK” is in pole position to succeed Merkel as chancellor when her fourth and final term ends in 2021.

I ask Schäuble if it’s true that he had once again waged a battle against Merkel and once again lost. “I never went to war against Ms Merkel,” he says. “Everybody says that if I’m for Merz then I’m against Merkel. Why is that so? That’s nonsense.”

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