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What Russia said to Israel after the Palmyra raid

Claims which draw on a comment of Syria’s UN ambassador Bashar Jaafari that Russia has threatened to shoot down Israeli aircraft bombing Syria are completely wrong and misunderstand the nature of Russia’s relationship with both Israel and Syria. Russia has taken on no commitment to defend Syria from Israel, and has no wish to jeopardise its very good relations with Israel by threatening to do so.

Andrew Korybko

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A lot of speculation is swirling around nowadays concerning the words of Syrian UN Ambassador Bashar Jaafari in relation to Israel’s illegal and aggressive airstrikes against the Syrian Arab Army near Palmyra last weekend.

Many people are interpreting Jaafari’s comment as conveying the idea that President Putin supposedly issued a threat to the new Israeli Ambassador, who was unprecedentedly summoned to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs just a day after presenting his credentials.

Before diving into what he really meant and why people are so confused, let’s take a look at Jaafari’s exact words.

As first reported by the Israeli media outlet Haaretz and then popularly shared by multipolar alternative media website 21st Century Wire, here’s what Jaafari said:

““Putin sent a clear message,” said Bashar Jaafari, speaking on Syrian television. “The fact is that the Israeli ambassador [to Russia] was summoned for a conversation only a day after he submitted his credentials [to the Russian Foreign Ministry last Thursday], and was told categorically that this game is over.” Syria’s use of anti-aircraft fire against Israel last Thursday night has changed the rules of the game, too, Jaafari said, adding that Syria will not stand idly by in the face of an Israeli threat.”

Nothing in this statement indicates that Russia threatened Israel with military retaliation if it continued to bomb Syria, though some people are spreading rumours that the ominous phrases “clear message” and “was told categorically that this game is over” apparently infer that such an idea was nevertheless conveyed.  That’s not true, first off because Ambassador Jaafari represents the Syrian Arab Republic and not the Russian Federation, and secondly because Russia is a strong and confident enough power to directly issue or convincingly imply such a powerful point itself.

So what did Jaafari really mean, then?

It’s indisputable that Russia was very displeased with what happened, hence why the Ambassador was summoned during his second official day on the job, but nobody knows what the exact nature of the “clear message” that he received really was. Did Ambassador Jaafari quote what he was told by his trusted Russian counterparts, or was he summarizing what he heard when he said that the Israel Ambassador “was told categorically that this game is over”? Another possibility is that this is just Ambassador Jaafari’s impression of what happened and that he wasn’t briefed on the specific contents of the conversation.

Now here’s where things get a bit tricky.

If one accepts the presumption that the Russians shared detailed information with the Syrians about their confidential scolding of the Israeli Ambassador, then the question naturally arises about whether or not such supposedly secret information concerning Russian-Syrian relations is also shared with the Israeli side as well. That would be very disturbing, to say the least, though thankfully there aren’t any grounds for reasonably speculating upon that. To put the shoe on the other foot, there’s also no evidence to argue that Russia shares Israeli secrets with Syria either.

Therefore, it is responsible to conclude that Ambassador Jaafari is just relating his impressions about what he thinks transpired, and not being a Russian surrogate in saying something which others are absurdly suggesting that the Kremlin itself might be too afraid to imply.

Now, about the whole “game is over” quip, that’s a pretty ambiguous yet loaded statement which means wildly different things to different people. It’s trendy right now to pretend that Ambassador Jaafari is hinting that Russia told Israel that it will never allow Tel Aviv to bomb targets inside of Syria ever again, possibly even threatening it with military retaliation if it dares to repeat its crimes. On the other hand, his statement could also be read as meaning that Russia scolded Israel without backing it up by military threats.

It’s difficult to get down to the bottom of what Russia told the Israeli Ambassador after last weekend’s attack and subsequent summoning, but an indication could possibly be seen in Russia’s attitude towards the US after its September 2016 hour-long bombing of the Syrian Arab Army in Deir ez Zor. At the time Russia immediately took its objections to the UN, going over the head of the US Ambassador in Moscow, and not even bothering to summon him.  Given that the scope and scale of the Deir ez Zor attack was much worse than what happened just recently in Palmyra, it wouldn’t make sense for Russia to treat Israel’s crimes worse than the US’, which is why Russia responded in the opposite way to Tel Aviv than it did to Washington and only summoned the Ambassador instead of going to the UN.

Let’s remember that the US reportedly targeted the Syrian Arab Army for a full hour during its September 2016 attack, meaning that the hostile aircraft were over the target area for a long enough time for them to be pinpointed and taken out by Russia’s S-400 air-defence systems…but they weren’t. This is because Russia’s mandate in Syria is only to fight terrorism and not to protect the country’s external borders from state aggression or intervene in backing up the Syrian Arab Army. This was reinforced when Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov remarked in early May 2016 that:

Assad is not our ally, by the way. Yes, we support him in the fight against terrorism and in preserving the Syrian state. But he is not an ally like Turkey is the ally of the United States.”

If Russia won’t overstep its legal mandate in Syria and shoot down aggressive US jets which are bombing the Syrian Arab Army for roughly an hour and killing nearly 100 people, why would it shoot down Israeli jets which are causing comparatively less damage over a much shorter period of time?

And, if Russia didn’t publicly convey any implicit threat to the US to deter it from ever committing its crimes again (which the US has since repeated on several lower-profile instances against civilians), why would it use Syrian Ambassador Jaafari to slyly issue such a threat towards Israel?

The short answer is that Russia wouldn’t, and that’s why it never happened, and that’s the wrong interpretation for people to have made.

Now let’s talk about how the “rules of the game” changed.

This last part of Ambassador Jaafari’s comment is obviously in reference to “Syria’s use of anti-aircraft fire against Israel”, not anything related to what Russia speculatively told the Israeli Ambassador, as Jaafari finishes his remark by emphasising that “Syria will not stand idly by in the face of an Israeli threat.”

This should be loudly applauded by all sincere supporters of the Syrian Arab Republic because it demonstrates that Damascus is confident enough in its capabilities to finally take on Israel every time that it launches a similar sort of aggression.  Israeli Defense Minister Lieberman was so distraught by this that he freaked out and threatened to destroy Syria’s air defence systems if Damascus carries through on its promise to defend itself, evidently proving that the Syrians’ S-200 response last weekend got under the Israelis’ skin.

The “rules of the game” have certainly changed, Ambassador Jaafari is right, but supportive observers shouldn’t overreact and get too carried away in describing the new situational context.

Some people are pairing Al Masdar’s reporting that Syria informed Russia prior to its S-200 response to the Israeli aggressors with Ambassador Jaafari’s statement about the new “rules of the game” in order to imagine that Moscow gave Damascus the authorisation to respond to Tel Aviv.

This is a categorically wrong understanding of the facts. For starters, Russia doesn’t – and shouldn’t – have the right to give the final say to the Syrian Arab Army’s military command over whether or not they can respond to external aggression. That is a sovereign choice of Syria and her representatives only, not Russia. Moreover, even if this hypothetical situation was indeed the case, then Russia would have told Syria to stand down and not fire at the Israeli jet.

If Moscow wants all external aggressors out of Syria’s airspace, it could easily down them itself with its S-400 missiles, whether directly or by giving these systems to the Syrians and by having the Syrians themselves use this up-to-date world-class equipment instead of the relatively outdated S-200.

But then why did Syria inform Russia before shooting at the Israeli jet?

Well, that’s easy to explain, and it has to do with respect for one’s allies.

Syria acknowledges that Russia has very close relations with Israel, and that any sudden crisis between Moscow’s two partners would inevitably come to involve Russia to some extent or another. Prior to acting against the Israeli aggressors, Damascus let Moscow know what it was doing so that it could be prepared to diplomatically deal with the fallout and hopefully restrain Tel Aviv from launching the sort of “retaliatory” strike that Defense Minister Lieberman later threatened. It was wise and polite for the Syrians to tell the Russians what they were about to do, but they by no means were seeking the Russians’ prior approval. They were just notifying them.

As it turns out, a convincing piece of evidence has just emerged on none other than RT which casts serious doubt on the claims that Ambassador Jaafari’s statement should be implicitly understood as conveying threats from Russia to Israel. The outlet reported that Netanyahu just announced that he “informed Putin of Israel’s intentions” and that “if there is feasibility from an intelligence and military standpoint – we attack and so it will continue.”

If what the gossipers are saying is true and Ambassador Jaafari was for some unexplainable reason the public middleman in Russian-Israeli diplomacy and tasked by President Putin to deliver thinly veiled threats to Netanyahu, then the “clear message” that some people presume that he meant appears to have been completely ineffective.

Other people have invented an outrageous conspiracy theory that Netanyahu never actually said those words because there’s no video recording of him uttering them, thereby making this “fake news”. As promoters of such conspiracy theories are prone to do, they didn’t think this conspiracy out fully because otherwise they’d realise that there would be serious consequences if RT – a publicly funded international broadcaster of global renown – was tricked into disseminating “fake news” about President Putin and Netanyahu. In such a theoretical circumstance, they’d be compelled to issue a public retraction, yet none has been forthcoming. The reason why? The story and the quotes are true, no matter if scores of internet denizens say otherwise.

If Netanyahu didn’t actually speak with President Putin and just made it all up in order to trick RT and the rest of the world like some people ludicrously allege, then Russia would have naturally summoned the Israeli Ambassador to complain about it, which also hasn’t happened.

This brings the discussion to its final point, which is asking why – since it’s true that Netanyahu talked with President Putin and declared that he will continue to attack Syria whenever it’s “feasible from an intelligence and military standpoint” – Russia would passively allow this to continue happening.

The answer might be too shocking for many people to accept, but it might have to do with what President Putin himself publicly and proudly proclaimed in a joint press conference with Netanyahu in June 2016:

“We talked about the need to jointly fight against international terrorism. Israel knows by first-hand experience what it is and fights against terrorism. In this sense, we are true allies, our countries have enough experience in the fight against extremism. We will boost contacts with Israeli partners in this sphere,” Putin said.”

Russia and Israel aren’t just allies, but “true allies”, and they are “jointly fighting against international terrorism”.

Does this mean that Moscow believes Tel Aviv’s claims that Hezbollah is a “terrorist group” and that Israel only focuses on bombing it, not the Syrian Arab Army, every time that it invades Syria’s airspace?

No, it doesn’t, but Russia also isn’t going to get involved in this big Middle East mess any more than it already is, hence why it agreed to the creation of a military coordination mechanism with Israel during Netanyahu’s September 2015 visit to Moscow, which incidentally was around one week before Russia began its “surprise” anti-terrorist intervention in Syria.

Russia accepts that Israel will periodically carry out “surgical strikes” in Syria under the pretext of targeting Hezbollah, and since Moscow isn’t going to wage war to stop Tel Aviv, the next best thing that its decision makers believe that they can do is passively allow this to happen, and then mitigate any inadvertent clashes during such events.

The most likely reason why the Israeli Ambassador was summoned for the first-time ever in response to one of these many bombings is because the latest one occurred in very close proximity to Russian forces operating in the area, thereby putting them in immediate danger of being hit in the airstrikes themselves or being attacked by the terrorist offensive that Israel hoped to unleash afterwards.

This was needlessly irresponsible, as Russia sees it, hence why it had to embarrass Israel by summoning its Ambassador in response. Moreover, the very fact that such a close-call occurred between the Russian and Israeli militaries raises concern in Moscow that the previously agreed upon military coordination mechanism isn’t working how it is supposed to.  This puts Russian servicemen – the only military forces whose lives Moscow is legally responsible for in Syria – at grave risk, and explains the urgency with which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Israeli Ambassador.

Ambassador Jaafari was right – Putin did send a “clear message” and said “categorically that this game is over” – though not in the way that people, including His Excellency himself, might initially be led to believe, but in the sense that Israeli strikes in Syria will be much more closely (albeit discretely) coordinated with Russia from here on out in order to avoid any similar incidents which could inadvertently kill Russian servicemen.

This isn’t unsubstantiated conjecture, but is solidly backed up by what Foreign Minister Lavrov openly hinted at five days after the scandalous attack occurred. As reported by Sputnik:

“Russia will judge the implementation of the Russian-Israeli cooperation agreement on Syria by Israel’s actions, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday.

He added that during Netanyahu’s last visit to Russia earlier in March, the agreement between him and Putin had been clearly and fully confirmed, and that Russia “will judge how accurately this arrangement is carried out by our Israeli partners not on the basis of what they say but how they act,” Lavrov stressed.

“During Israel’s prime minister [Benjamin Netanyahu’s] second to latest visit to Moscow he and President [of Russia Vladimir] Putin achieved a clear agreement about the way Russian and Israeli militaries could cooperate in relation to the situation in Syria,” Lavrov said, commenting on last week’s Israeli strikes on the Syrian Armed Forces posts near Damascus.”

It’s difficult to imagine any way that this could sensibly be understood other than acknowledging that an “agreement” “about the way Russian and Israeli militaries could cooperate in relation to the situation in Syria” was “clearly and fully confirmed” “during Netanyahu’s second to latest visit to Russia earlier in March”, and considering that Syria has no formal relations with Israel and doesn’t even officially recognize it, it’s fair to conclude that Damascus had no input in the negotiations over this accord.

That’s not by any stretch of the imagination to infer that Russia is “working behind Syria’s back” (or worse, “backstabbing it”), but just to draw attention to the fact that both sides don’t always coordinate each and every single decision, no matter how large (geopolitical/military, as this one is) or small (tactical, for example) they may be. 

To wrap everything up, people can’t continue imagining that Russia is some sort of anti-Zionist crusader state. For better or for worse, that’s simply not true, and the bilateral military coordination agreement that President Putin and Netanyahu reaffirmed earlier this month over Syria — as revealed by none other than Foreign Minister Lavrov — is proof of that.

Ambassador Jaafari is one of history’s best diplomats and a masterful wordsmith, so it’s extraordinarily bizarre that anyone would conspiratorially interpret what should have ordinarily been an uncontroversial statement as a secret message of military hostility from Russia to Israel by means of this globally respected Syrian diplomat (and not Russia’s own).

Given that it’s regrettably the case that scores of misguided individuals misunderstood what Ambassador Jaafari had to say, the only recourse left however for individuals who sincerely desire to correct their false perception is to urgently invest the time in independently researching Russian-Israeli relations.

This is the only way for people to educate themselves about the high-level and comprehensive strategic nature of ties between Moscow and Tel Aviv, which in turn will prevent them from embarrassingly falling for cartoonish mischaracterizations about his powerful partnership.

Ignorance feeds on itself, and the less that someone knows about the truth, the easier it is that they’ll be misled by ideological dogmatists and social media charlatans with an agenda.

DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution. 

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Russia’s Economy Little Harmed by West’s Sanctions

Putin has been succeeding despite what the US aristocracy (and its allied aristocracies in Europe and Arabia) have been throwing to weaken Russia.

Eric Zuesse

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Originally posted at strategic-culture.org:


Despite Barack Obama’s economic sanctions against Russia, and the plunge in oil prices that King Saud agreed to with Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry on 11 September 2014, the economic damages that the US and Saudis have aimed against a particular oil-and-gas giant, Russia, have hit mostly elsewhere — at least till now.

This has been happening while simultaneously Obama’s violent February 2014 coup overthrowing Ukraine’s democratically elected pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych (and the head of the ‘private CIA’ firm Stratfor calls it “the most blatant coup in history”) has caused Ukraine’s economy to plunge even further than Russia’s, and corruption in Ukraine to soar even higher than it was before America’s overthrow of that country’s final freely elected nationwide government, so that Ukraine’s economy has actually been harmed far more than Russia’s was by Obama’s coup in Ukraine and Obama’s subsequent economic sanctions against Russia (sanctions that are based on clear and demonstrable Obama lies but that continue and even get worse under Trump).

Bloomberg News headlined on February 4th of 2016, “These Are the World’s Most Miserable Economies” and reported the “misery index” rankings of 63 national economies as projected in 2016 and 60 as actual in 2015 — a standard ranking-system that calculates “misery” as being the sum of the unemployment-rate and the inflation-rate. They also compared the 2016 projected rankings to the 2015 actual rankings.

Top rank, #1 both years — the most miserable economy in the world during 2015 and 2016 — was Venezuela, because of that country’s 95% dependence upon oil-export earnings (which crashed when oil-prices plunged). The US-Saudi agreement to flood the global oil market destroyed Venezuela’s economy.

#2 most-miserable in 2015 was Ukraine, at 57.8. But Ukraine started bouncing back so that as projected in 2016 it ranked #5, at 26.3. Russia in 2015 was #7 most-miserable in 2015, at 21.1, but bounced back so that as projected in 2016 it became #14 at 14.5.

Bloomberg hadn’t reported misery-index rankings for 2014 showing economic performances during 2013, but economist Steve H. Hanke of Johns Hopkins University did, in his “Measuring Misery Around the World, May 2014,” in the May 2014 GlobeAsia, ranking 90 countries; and, during 2013 (Yanukovych’s final year as Ukraine’s President before his being forced out by Obama’s coup), Ukraine’s rank was #23 and its misery-index was 24.4. Russia’s was #36 and its misery index was 19.9. So: those can be considered to be the baseline-figures, from which any subsequent economic progress or decline (after Obama’s 2014 Ukrainian coup) may reasonably be calculated. Hanke’s figures during the following year, 2014, were reported by him at Huffington Post, “The World Misery Index: 108 Countries”, and by UAE’s Khaleej Times, “List of Most Miserable Countries” (the latter falsely attributing that ranking to Cato Institute, which had merely republished Hanke’s article). In 2014, Ukraine’s misery-index, as calculated by Hanke, was #4, at 51.8. That year had 8 countries above 40 in Hanke’s ranking. Russia was #42 at 21.42. So: Russia’s rank had improved, but, because of the globally bad economy, Russia’s absolute number was slightly worse (higher) than it had been before Obama’s coup in Ukraine and subsequent sanctions against Russia. By contrast, Ukraine’s rank had suddenly gotten far worse, #4 at 51.80 in 2014, after having been #23 at 24.4 in 2013.

The figures in Bloomberg for Russia were: during 2015, #7 with a misery-index of 21.1; and projected during 2016, #14 with a misery-index of 14.5; so, Bloomberg too showed a 2015-2016 improvement for Russia, and not only for Ukraine (where in the 2016 projection it ranked #5, at 26.3, a sharp improvement after the horrendous 2015 actual numbers).

“Hanke’s Annual Misery Index — 2017” in Forbes, showed 98 countries, and Venezuela was still #1, the worst; Ukraine was now #9 at 36.9; and Russia was #36 at 18.1.

Thus: whereas Russia was economically sunningly stable at #36 from start to finish throughout the entire five-year period 2013-2017, starting with a misery-index of 19.9 in 2013 and ending with 18.1 in 2017, Ukraine went from a misery-index of 24.4 in 2013 to 36.9 in 2017 — and worsening its rank from #23 to #9. During that five-year period Ukraine’s figure peaked in the year of Obama’s coup at 57.8. So, at least Ukraine’s misery seems to be heading back downward in the coup’s aftermath, though it’s still considerably worse than before the coup. But, meanwhile, Russia went from 19.9 to 18.1 — and had no year that was as bad as Ukraine’s best year was during that period of time. And, yet: that coup and the economic sanctions and the US-Saudi oil-agreement were targeted against Russia — not against Ukraine.

If the US were trying to punish the people of Ukraine, then the US coup in Ukraine would have been a raving success; but actually Obama didn’t care at all about Ukrainians. He cared about the owners of America’s weapons-making firms and of America’s extractive firms. Trump likewise.

During that same period (also using Hanke’s numbers) the United States went from #71 at 11.0 in 2013, to #69 at 8.2 in 2017. US was stable.

Saudi Arabia started with #40 18.9 during 2013, to #30 at 20.2 in 2017. That’s improvement, because the Kingdom outperformed the global economy.

During the interim, and even in the years leading up to 2014, Russia had been (and still is) refocusing its economy away from Russia’s natural resources and toward a broad sector of high technology: military R&D and production.

On 15 December 2014, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute headlined, “Sales by Largest Arms Companies Fell Again in 2013, but Russian Firms’ Sales Continued Rising,” and reported, “Sales by companies headquartered in the United States and Canada have continued to moderately decrease, while sales by Russian-based companies increased by 20 per cent in 2013.”

The following year, SIPRI bannered, on 14 December 2015, “Global Arms Industry: West Still Dominant Despite Decline,” and reported that, “Despite difficult national economic conditions, the Russian arms industry’s sales continued to rise in 2014. … ‘Russian companies are riding the wave of increasing national military spending and exports. There are now 11 Russian companies in the Top 100 and their combined revenue growth over 2013–14 was 48.4 per cent,’ says SIPRI Senior Researcher Siemon Wezeman. In contrast, arms sales of Ukrainian companies have substantially declined. … US companies’ arms sales decreased by 4.1 per cent between 2013 and 2014, which is similar to the rate of decline seen in 2012–13. … Western European companies’ arms sales decreased by 7.4 per cent in 2014.”

This is a redirection of the Russian economy that Vladimir Putin was preparing even prior to Obama’s war against Russia. Perhaps it was because of the entire thrust of the US aristocracy’s post-Soviet determination to conquer Russia whenever the time would be right for NATO to strike and grab it. Obama’s public ambivalence about Russia never persuaded Putin that the US would finally put the Cold War behind it and end its NATO alliance as Russia had ended its Warsaw Pact back in 1991. Instead, Obama continued to endorse expanding NATO, right up to Russia’s borders (now even into Ukraine) — an extremely hostile act.

By building the world’s most cost-effective designers and producers of weaponry, Russia wouldn’t only be responding to America’s ongoing hostility — or at least responding to the determination of America’s aristocracy to take over Russia, which is the world’s largest trove of natural resources — but would also expand Russia’s export-earnings and international influence by selling to other countries weaponry that’s less-burdened with the costs of sheer corruption than are the armaments that are being produced in what is perhaps the world’s most corrupt military-industrial complex: America’s. Whereas Putin has tolerated corruption in other areas of Russia’s economic production (figuring that those areas are less crucial for Russia’s future), he has rigorously excluded it in the R&D and production and sales of weaponry. Ever since he first came into office in 2000, he has transformed post-Soviet Russia from being an unlimitedly corrupt satellite of the United States under Boris Yeltsin, to becoming truly an independent nation; and this infuriates America’s aristocrats (who gushed over Yeltsin).

The Russian government-monopoly marketing company for Russia’s weapons-manufacturers, Rosoboronexport, presents itself to nations around the world by saying: “Today, armaments and military equipment bearing the Made in Russia label protect independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of dozens of countries. Owing to their efficiency and reliability, Russian defense products enjoy strong demand on the global market and maintain our nation’s leading positions among the world’s arms exporters. For the past several years, Russia has consistently ranked second behind the United States as regards arms exports.” That’s second-and-rising, as opposed to America’s first-and-falling.

The American aristocracy’s ever-growing war against Russia posed and poses to Putin two simultaneous challenges: both to reorient away from Russia’s natural resources, which the global aristocracy wants to grab, and also to reorient toward the area of hi-tech in which the Soviets had built a basis from which Russia could become truly cost-effective in international commerce, so as to, simultaneously, increase Russia’s defensive capability against an expanding NATO, while also replacing some of Russia’s dependence upon the natural resources that the West’s aristocrats want to steal.

In other words: Putin designed a plan to meet two challenges simultaneously — military and economic. His primary aim is to protect Russia from being grabbed by the American and Saudi aristocrats, via America’s NATO and the Sauds’ Gulf Cooperation Council and other alliances (which are trying to take over Russia’s ally Syria — Syria being a crucial location for pipelining Arab royals’ oil-and-gas into Europe, the world’s largest energy-market).

In addition, the hit to Russia’s economic growth-rate from the dual-onslaught of Obama’s sanctions and the plunging oil prices hasn’t been too bad. The World Bank’s April 2015 “Russia Economic Report” predicted: “Growth prospects for 2015-2016 are negative. It is likely that when the full effects of the two shocks become evident in 2015, they will push the Russian economy into recession. The World Bank baseline scenario sees a contraction of 3.8 percent in 2015 and a modest decline of 0.3 percent in 2016. The growth spectrum presented has two alternative scenarios that largely reflect differences in how oil prices are expected to affect the main macro variables.”

The current (as of 15 February 2016) “Russia GDP Annual Growth Rate” at Trading Economics says: “The Russian economy shrank 3.8 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2015, following a 4.1 percent contraction in the previous period, according to preliminary estimates from the Economic Development Minister Alexey Ulyukayev. It is the worst performance since 2009 [George W. Bush’s global economic crash], as Western sanctions and lower oil prices hurt external trade and public revenues.” The current percentage as of today, 17 September 2018, is 1.9%, after having plunged down from 2.2% in late 2017, to 0.9% in late 2017; so, it is rebounding.

The World Bank’s April 2015 “Russia Economic Report” went on to describe “The Government Anti-Crisis Plan”:

On January 27, 2014, the government adopted an anti-crisis plan with the goal to ensure sustainable economic development and social stability in an unfavorable global economic and political environment.

It announced that in 2015–2016 it will take steps to advance structural changes in the Russian economy, provide support to systemic entities and the labor market, lower inflation, and help vulnerable households adjust to price increases. To achieve the objectives of positive growth and sustainable medium-term macroeconomic development the following measures are planned:

• Provide support for import substitution and non-mineral exports;

• Support small and medium enterprises by lowering financing and administrative costs;

• Create opportunities for raising financial resources at reasonable cost in key economic sectors;

• Compensate vulnerable households (e.g., pensioners) for the costs of inflation;

• Cushion the impact on the labor market (e.g. provide training and increase public works);

• Optimize budget expenditures; and

• Enhance banking sector stability and create a mechanism for reorganizing systemic companies.

So: Russia’s anti-crisis plan was drawn up and announced on 27 January 2014, already before Yanukovych was overthrown, even before Obama’s agent Victoria Nuland on 4 February 2014 instructed the US Ambassador in Ukraine whom to have appointed to run the government when the coup would be completed (“Yats,” who did get appointed). Perhaps, in drawing up this plan, Putin was responding to scenes from Ukraine like this. He could see that what was happening in Ukraine was an operation financed by the US CIA. He could recognize what Obama had in mind for Russia.

The “Russia Economic Report, May 2018: Modest Growth Ahead” says:

Global growth continued its 2017 momentum in early 2018. Global growth reached a stronger than- expected 3 percent in 2017 — a notable recovery from a post-crisis low of 2.4 percent in 2016. It is currently expected to peak at 3.1 percent in 2018. Recoveries in investment, manufacturing, and trade continue as commodity-exporting developing economies benefit from firming commodity prices (Figure 1a). The improvement reflects a broad-based recovery in advanced economies, robust growth in commodity-importing Emerging Markets and Developing Economies (EMDEs), and an ongoing rebound in commodity exporters. Growth in China – and important trading partner for Russia – is expected to continue its gradual slowdown in 2018 following a stronger than-expected 6.9 percent in 2017.

Putin’s economic plan has softened the economic blow upon the masses, even while it has re-oriented the economy toward what would be the future growth-areas.

The country that Putin in 2000 had taken over and inherited from the drunkard Yeltsin (so beloved by Western aristocrats because he permitted them to skim off so much from it) was a wreck even worse than it had been when the Soviet Union ended. Putin immediately set to work to turn it around, in a way that could meet those two demands.

Apparently, Putin has been succeeding — now even despite what the US aristocracy (and its allied aristocracies in Europe and Arabia) have been throwing to weaken Russia. And the Russian people know it.

PS: The present reporter is an American, and used to be a Democrat, not inclined to condemn Democratic politicians, but Obama’s grab for Russia was not merely exceedingly dangerous for the entire world, it is profoundly unjust, it is also based on his (and most Republicans’) neoconservative lies, and so I don’t support it, and I no longer support Obama or his and the Clintons’ Democratic Party, at all. But this certainly doesn’t mean that I support the Republican Party, which is typically even worse on this (and other matters) than Democratic politicians are. On almost all issues, I support Bernie Sanders, but I am not a part of anyone’s political campaign, in any way

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Viktor Orban strikes back at EU. Visits Moscow to do business with Putin (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 117.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Viktor Orban’s recent trip to Moscow following a contentious EU Parliament session where the Hungarian PM was punished by MEPs with an Article 7 sanctioning of Hungary, for daring to take on the George Soros globalist paymaster.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Authored by John Laughland via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity:


The “salon des refusés” of political dissidents in the EU is getting bigger by the day. Less than a week after his government was condemned in a vote in the European parliament, Orban is in Moscow for talks about energy with Putin. His visit to Russia is the political equivalent of giving the EU the finger following last week’s humiliation.

Orban is not alone. In his battle with the EU over immigration and the rule of law, he is supported by Poland and the Czech Republic. Poland, which is also facing an Article 7 procedure against it by the European Commission, has vowed to protect Hungary, just as Hungary has vowed to protect Poland. So there is no way that the voting rights of either country can be removed, since the ultimate vote to do so requires unanimity. Orban also recently received the support of Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and of the Italian Minister of the Interior, Matteo Salvini.

These politicians have voiced support for Orban’s stance against immigration. But they also support his pragmatic approach to Russia. Salvini is a well-known critic of the Russia sanctions, and Italy has said they should end. Parts of the Austrian government agree, the Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl having recently had Putin as a personal guest of honor at her wedding, while the Vice-Chancellor, Heinz-Christian Strache, is well known for his pro-Russian and pro-Putin views. On the other hand, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has reassured critics that Austria is rooted in the EU and shares its stance towards Russia.

The striking thing about Orban, and about his Central European allies (who incidentally include the Czech President Milos Zeman), is that they are from countries which, as Orban puts it, suffered greatly “under Russia” in the past. He is referring to the countries’ membership of the Warsaw Pact, and their subjection to communist rule, after World War II. In Hungary’s case, the suffering was especially violent because of the suppression of the 1956 revolution in Budapest by Soviet troops. Yet it is precisely these countries who today advocate a pragmatic relationship with Russia, while countries such as Britain, and even Germany, treat Russia as if it were still a communist dictatorship with the Cold War in full swing.

The irony is all the greater because Orban personally played a key role – but one which is often forgotten by historians – in bringing about the end of Soviet rule in Central Europe. His speech in Heroes’ Square in Budapest on June 16, 1989 on the occasion of the re-burial of the leader of the 1956 uprising, Imre Nagy, was the first time anyone in the Warsaw Pact had publicly called for the withdrawal of Soviet troops. The very making of this speech showed that the old taboos – and, with them, the power of the communist dictatorship – had collapsed. This was two months before the Hungarian government opened its border with Austria, allowing tens of thousands of East Germans to cross into West Germany, and five months before the Berlin wall came down. Orban’s contribution to the chain reaction which led to these later events was therefore decisive.

There is only one explanation for this apparent paradox that some former anti-communist Central European leaders are now pro-Russian. Unlike their Western colleagues, who were never directly affected by communist rule, the states of the former Warsaw Pact understand not only that Russia is no longer the old USSR, having abandoned communism, but also that national identity, and pride in national identity, were the key to undoing communist rule in Central Europe and then in Russia itself. Orban’s 1989 speech was a patriotic appeal to Hungarians: it traced their battle for national freedom back to 1848. Freedom and national pride went hand in hand.

As in Poland, where not only national identity but also religion played a key role in the downfall of communism, Hungarians (and Czechs and many others) now see with dismay that same national identity which freed them from communism under attack from the new commissars in Brussels. This is because the approach in Western Europe is directly the opposite. Pride in one’s nation is considered backward and dangerous, largely because national pride was irredeemably damaged during the war.

The fact is that all the early member states of the EU were defeated in the war, whether by the Germans or by the Allies. During the process of defeat, national pride was ruined, either through the barbarism of Nazism and fascism or through various forms of nationalist collaboration with it. All these stain the national record. Only in Britain was national pride the key to victory; for everyone else it was the key to defeat. (The only partial exception to this rule is France, which retained some sense of national pride after the war. But, in later decades, the memory of the Gaullist resistance was effaced by a stronger memory of the national shame of Vichy.)

Because of this, Western European states have adopted the EU ideology, according to which European history before the creation of the EU was nothing but wars between nation-states. Indeed, national rivalry was the key to these wars. In order for there to be peace, it is argued, Europe’s nation-states must be dissolved in a supranational entity. Germany has accomplished the task of making a clean slate of its national history in a more complete manner than any other European state but the other countries share parts, sometimes large parts, of this same German historiographical and political model.

To be sure, the states of Central Europe have skeletons in their own cupboards concerning the war. Hungary was an ally of Nazi Germany throughout it. But the more recent memory of national victory over communism has rekindled national pride, whereas the Western European states have not enjoyed any comparable victory and so they instead put all their faith in the post-national and post-modern European project. Moreover, whereas Communism was largely rejected as an ideology by the people living under it – including in Soviet Russia – the ideology of liberalism has penetrated very deeply into the Western European consciousness, to the extent even of extinguishing national sentiment. Liberalism has been more successful in this regard than communism was, even though orthodox Marxism also called for an end to the nation-state.

This East-West fracture is a major ideological dividing line inside the European Union. The vote in the European Parliament last week, in which over two thirds of MEPs ganged up on a member state in the name of their biased interpretation of “the rule of law,” was a historic moment which brought into the open the depth of this radically different approach to politics and history. Opposite attitudes to Russia are also part of this division. As Marx said, history repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce, as we saw in Strasbourg last week: the European Union, like the Soviet Union, will in due course discover that national identity is stronger even than its political ideology.

Laughland is a Member of the RPI Board of Advisors.

Reprinted with permission from RT.

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The Magnitsky affair: the confession of a hustled hack

A Cypriot journalist’s confession of how he too fell for the wrong account of the Magnitsky Affair

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Before getting down to brass tacks, let me say that I loathe penning articles like this; loathe writing about myself or in the first person, because a reporter should report the news, not be the news. Yet I grudgingly make this exception because, ironically, it happens to be newsworthy. To cut to the chase, it concerns Anglo-American financier Bill Browder and the Sergei Magnitsky affair. I, like others in the news business I’d venture to guess, feel led astray by Browder.

This is no excuse. I didn’t do my due diligence, and take full responsibility for erroneous information printed under my name. For that, I apologize to readers. I refer to two articles of mine published in a Cypriot publication, dated December 25, 2015 and January 6, 2016.

Browder’s basic story, as he has told it time and again, goes like this: in June 2007, Russian police officers raided the Moscow offices of Browder’s firm Hermitage, confiscating company seals, certificates of incorporation, and computers.

Browder says the owners and directors of Hermitage-owned companies were subsequently changed, using these seized documents. Corrupt courts were used to create fake debts for these companies, which allowed for the taxes they had previously paid to the Russian Treasury to be refunded to what were now re-registered companies. The funds stolen from the Russian state were then laundered through banks and shell companies.

The scheme is said to have been planned earlier in Cyprus by Russian law enforcement and tax officials in cahoots with criminal elements. All this was supposedly discovered by Magnitsky, whom Browder had tasked with investigating what happened. When Magnitsky reported the fraud, some of the nefarious characters involved had him arrested and jailed. He refused to retract, and died while in pre-trial detention.

In my first article, I wrote: “Magnitsky, a 37-year-old Russian accountant, died in jail in 2009 after he exposed huge tax embezzlement…”

False. Contrary to the above story that has been rehashed countless times, Magnitsky did not expose any tax fraud, did not blow the whistle.

The interrogation reports show that Magnitsky had in fact been summoned by Russian authorities as a witness to an already ongoing investigation into Hermitage. Nor he did he accuse Russian investigators Karpov and/or Kuznetsov of committing the $230 million treasury fraud, as Browder claims.

Magnitsky did not disclose the theft. He first mentioned it in testimony in October 2008. But it had already been reported in the New York Times on July 24, 2008.

In reality, the whistleblower was a certain Rimma Starova. She worked for one of the implicated shell companies and, having read in the papers that authorities were investigating, went to police to give testimony in April 2008 – six months before Magnitsky spoke of the scam for the first time (see here and here).

Why, then, did I report that about Magnitsky? Because at the time my sole source for the story was Team Browder, who had reached out to the Cyprus Mail and with whom I communicated via email. I was provided with ‘information’, flow charts and so on. All looking very professional and compelling.

At the time of the first article, I knew next to nothing about the Magnitsky/Browder affair. I had to go through media reports to get the gist, and then get up to speed with Browder’s latest claims that a Cypriot law firm, which counted the Hermitage Fund among its clients, had just been ‘raided’ by Cypriot police.

The article had to be written and delivered on the same day. In retrospect I should have asked for more time – a lot more time – and Devil take the deadlines.

For the second article, I conversed briefly on the phone with the soft-spoken Browder himself, who handed down the gospel on the Magnitsky affair. Under the time constraints, and trusting that my sources could at least be relied upon for basic information which they presented as facts, I went along with it.

I was played. But let’s be clear: I let myself down too.

In the ensuing weeks and months, I didn’t follow up on the story as my gut told me something was wrong: villains and malign actors operating in a Wild West Russia, and at the centre of it all, a heroic Magnitsky who paid with his life – the kind of script that Hollywood execs would kill for.

Subsequently I mentally filed away the Browder story, while being aware it was in the news.

But the real red pill was a documentary by Russian filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov, which came to my attention a few weeks ago.

Titled ‘The Magnitsky Act – Behind The Scenes’, it does a magisterial job of depicting how the director initially took Browder’s story on faith, only to end up questioning everything.

The docudrama dissects, disassembles and dismantles Browder’s narrative, as Nekrasov – by no means a Putin apologist – delves deeper down into the rabbit hole.

The director had set out to make a poignant film about Magnitsky’s tragedy, but became increasingly troubled as the facts he uncovered didn’t stack up with Browder’s account, he claims.

The ‘aha’ moment arrives when Nekrasov appears to show solid proof that Magnitsky blew no whistle.

Not only that, but in his depositions – the first one dating to 2006, well before Hermitage’s offices were raided – Magnitsky did not accuse any police officers of being part of the ‘theft’ of Browder’s companies and the subsequent alleged $230m tax rebate fraud.

The point can’t be stressed enough, as this very claim is the lynchpin of Browder’s account. In his bestseller Red Notice, Browder alleges that Magnitsky was arrested because he exposed two corrupt police officers, and that he was jailed and tortured because he wouldn’t retract.

We are meant to take Browder’s word for it.

It gets worse for Nekrasov, as he goes on to discover that Magnitsky was no lawyer. He did not have a lawyer’s license. Rather, he was an accountant/auditor who worked for Moscow law firm Firestone Duncan.

Yet every chance he gets, Browder still refers to Magnitsky as ‘a lawyer’ or ‘my lawyer’.

The clincher comes late in the film, with footage from Browder’s April 15, 2015 deposition in a US federal court, in the Prevezon case. The case, brought by the US Justice Department at Browder’s instigation, targeted a Russian national who Browder said had received $1.9m of the $230m tax fraud.

In the deposition, Browder is asked if Magnitsky had a law degree in Russia. “I’m not aware that he did,” he replies.

The full deposition, some six hours long, is (still) available on Youtube. As penance for past transgressions, I watched it in its entirety. While refraining from using adjectives to describe it, I shall simply cite some examples and let readers decide on Browder’s credibility.

Browder seems to suffer an almost total memory blackout as a lawyer begins firing questions at him. He cannot recall, or does not know, where he or his team got the information concerning the alleged illicit transfer of funds from Hermitage-owned companies.

This is despite the fact that the now-famous Powerpoint presentations – hosted on so many ‘anti-corruption’ websites and recited by ‘human rights’ NGOs – were prepared by Browder’s own team.

Nor does he recall where, or how, he and his team obtained information on the amounts of the ‘stolen’ funds funnelled into companies. When it’s pointed out that in any case this information would be privileged – banking secrecy and so forth – Browder appears to be at a loss.

According to Team Browder, in 2007 the ‘Klyuev gang’ together with Russian interior ministry officials travelled to Cyprus, ostensibly to set up the tax rebate scam using shell companies.

But in his deposition, the Anglo-American businessman cannot remember, or does not know, how his team obtained the travel information of the conspirators.

He can’t explain how they acquired the flight records and dates, doesn’t have any documentation at hand, and isn’t aware if any such documentation exists.

Browder claims his ‘Justice for Magnitsky’ campaign, which among other things has led to US sanctions on Russian persons, is all about vindicating the young man. Were that true, one would have expected Browder to go out of his way to aid Magnitsky in his hour of need.

The deposition does not bear that out.

Lawyer: “Did anyone coordinate on your behalf with Firestone Duncan about the defence of Mr Magnitsky?”

Browder: “I don’t know. I don’t remember.”

Going back to Nekrasov’s film, a standout segment is where the filmmaker looks at a briefing document prepared by Team Browder concerning the June 2007 raid by Russian police officers. In it, Browder claims the cops beat up Victor Poryugin, a lawyer with the firm.

The lawyer was then “hospitalized for two weeks,” according to Browder’s presentation, which includes a photo of the beaten-up lawyer. Except, it turns out the man pictured is not Poryugin at all. Rather, the photo is actually of Jim Zwerg, an American human rights activist beaten up during a street protest in 1961 (see here and here).

Nekrasov sits down with German politician Marieluise Beck. She was a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Pace), which compiled a report that made Magnitsky a cause celebre.

You can see Beck’s jaw drop when Nekrasov informs her that Magnitsky did not report the fraud, that he was in fact under investigation.

It transpires that Pace, as well as human rights activists, were getting their information from one source – Browder. Later, the Council of Europe’s Andreas Gross admits on camera that their entire investigation into the Magnitsky affair was based on Browder’s info and that they relied on translations of Russian documents provided by Browder’s team because, as Gross puts it, “I don’t speak Russian myself.”

That hit home – I, too, had been fed information from a single source, not bothering to verify it. I, too, initially went with the assumption that because Russia is said to be a land of endemic corruption, then Browder’s story sounded plausible if not entirely credible.

For me, the takeaway is this gem from Nekrasov’s narration: “I was regularly overcome by deep unease. Was I defending a system that killed Magnitsky, even if I’d found no proof that he’d been murdered?”

Bull’s-eye. Nekrasov has arrived at a crossroads, the moment where one’s mettle is tested: do I pursue the facts wherever they may lead, even if they take me out of my comfort zone? What is more important: the truth, or the narrative? Nekrasov chose the former. As do I.

Like with everything else, specific allegations must be assessed independently of one’s general opinion of the Russian state. They are two distinct issues. Say Browder never existed; does that make Russia a paradise?

I suspect Team Browder may scrub me from their mailing list; one can live with that.

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