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Russia and Japan are deepening economic cooperation

Russian-Japanese ties in business are moving ahead at a healthy pace

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(New Eastern Outlook) – As is well known, both the geographical position of Japan and its need for the import of hydrocarbon fuels have facilitated the development of relations of that country with Russia. Only the long-standing Kuril Islands dispute stopped Japan from becoming one of the main Russian economic partners even several decades ago.

Not having their own hydrocarbon resources, the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’, nevertheless, established one of the most powerful industries in the world, by importing fuel from various countries. Whereby Russia, traditionally rich in oil and gas, although a neighbor of Japan, is not included into the list of its main suppliers, all due to somewhat clouded relationship that formed between the two countries after the Second World War.

Now, the main supplier of hydrocarbons to Japan is the Middle East region. The maritime delivery of the large shipments of energy carriers along the whole of the southern coast of Eurasia has always been difficult and costly. In the recent years, several factors emerged that make it even less convenient. One can refer to the instability and the terrorist threat in the Middle East, as well as the Chinese One Belt One Road Initiative (OBOR). Japan, discomforted by the strengthening of China’s positions across the whole of Asia, is not particularly enthusiastic about OBOR and its subproject ‘The 21st-century Maritime Silk Road’, which is aiming at uniting all the maritime routes along the coast of Eurasia into a single system, including the routes by which Japan is getting the hydrocarbons from the Middle East. China brings under control the key ports on this route, and Japan has started to be concerned over its energy security. All this is happening against the background of weakening the positions of the USA in the Indo-Pacific region, who is considered the traditional Japanese ally and partner. Obviously, all these processes in their integrity make Japan take a fresh look at its relations with Russia. Now, the cooperation between Russia and the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ is actively being promoted, in the spheres of energy, finances and transportation.

The end of 2017 was remarkable by much news on the Russian-Japanese co-operation. This is related to the regular meeting of the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov and TarōKōno from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, that took place on 24th November in Moscow. The two ministers discussed in detail the array of issues on the bilateral interaction, including the prospects of the joint economic activity on the Kuril Islands.

On the same day, the 13th meeting of the Russian-Japanese Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Issues took place, where the First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, Igor Shuvalov and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, Tarō Kōno were present. The issues of Russian-Japanese co-operation in the sphere of transport, energy and high technologies were discussed. The following topics were touched upon: participation of Japan in the development of Arctic gas fields and in the development of the Russian Far East, joint investment projects and many other issues. Upon conclusion of the meeting, Tarō Kōno announced that the Russian-Japanese relations have a huge potential, and that it is necessary to do everything possible for its implementation.

Soon after the meeting by both the heads of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and the meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission, one news after another started to emerge in the mass media, regarding the co-operation of the major Russian and Japanese companies.

In early December 2017, in Moscow, the Chairman of the Management Committee of Gazprom, Alexey Miller met Nobuhide Hayashi, Chairman at Mizuho Bank Ltd. Mizuho Bank Ltd. is one of the largest financial organizations in Japan, with which Gazprom has been successfully co-operating since 1999. The topic for negotiations was the possibility for capital participation of Mizuho Bank in the strategic projects of Gazprom, whereby the Russian corporation is going to start working on these projects in 2018. Mizuho Bank can invest its facilities into such projects as gas pipeline ‘Power of Siberia-1’, TurkStream, Nord Stream 2, Amur Gaz Processing Plant and others.

At the same time, the mass media informed us of the commencement of liquefied natural gas (LNG) production on the first processing train of the new Russian plant built on the Yamal Peninsula within the framework of the project ‘Yamal LNG’. This plant is being built with the participation of Russian and foreign companies, using the South Tambey Field as a resource base in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District of the Russian Federation. As soon as on 8th December 2017, the first loading of LNG was launched onto the tanker in Sabetta – the Russian Arctic port in the center of the Northern Sea Route. The launch of the second and third parts of the projects, known as processing trains, is scheduled for 2018-19, however the operational capacity is already sufficient to produce 5.5 million tons of LNG per year. The joint-venture parties – the Japanese construction companies JGC Corporation and Chiyoda Corporation, who have completed numerous projects in the gas industry, participated in the development of the Yamal LNG Project.

As is well known, Japan is included into the list of the major global importers of LNG, whereby it is much closer to the Northern Sea Route than China and South Korea. Possibly, it will be the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ that will become the main consumer of Yamal LNG.

The Yamal project (ОАО ‘Yamal LNG’) is majority owned by the private Russian gas company Novatek, which is the second largest gas producer in the Russian Federation. It actively participated in the development of gas fields of the Far North of Russia and in the development of the Northern Sea Route. Novatek pursues strategic co-operation with the Japanese partners: in late November 2017, it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Japan’s Marubeni Corporation and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. The three companies are intending to explore options for a liquefied natural gas complex in Russia’s Kamchatka Region, envisaging both transshipping and marketing. According to the plan, LNG brought by ice-breaking tankers along the Northern Sea Route, will be reloaded onto the conventional tankers to reduce the carrier cost. From this point, LNG will be delivered to all the interested countries of Asia-Pacific Region, first to Japan, territorially close to Kamchatka Region. It is expected that the Japanese companies will make major investments into the project. Also, it is reported that the project received support of the Kamchatka Region government, as part of the gas will be used for the needs of this region of the Russian Federation.

Transport is one more important sphere of the Russian-Japanese co-operation. As it was mentioned above, China and its ‘The 21st-century Maritime Silk Road’ play an increasingly significant role in the maritime cargo traffic along the southern coast of Eurasia, in which Japan does not wish to participate as the junior partner. It is not impossible that the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ will need alternative routes of communication with the countries of the Eurasian continent, free from the Chinese influence. Regarding this, Japan shows interest for the Russian Trans-Siberian Railway, as well as for the Northern Sea Route going along the northern coast of Eurasia. In early December 2017, the Holding ‘Russian Railways’ announced the creation of ‘one stop shop’ for Japanese companies intending to deliver cargos to Russia and Europe via the ports of the Russian Far East along the Trans-Siberian Railway. Representatives of Japanese companies can receive any necessary information on transport management via the territory of the Russian Federation, within a short time.

In mid-December 2017, it became known that the major Japanese trading companies SBI Holdings and Hokkaido Corporation decided to unite their efforts to provide assistance to small Japanese companies wishing to do business in Russia. The firms wishing to open their facilities and conduct business on the territory of the Russian Federation, will be given financial and informational support.

Thus, one can draw a conclusion that Russian-Japanese relations are likely to experience a prosperity phase. It is to be hoped that the parties will be able to consolidate the achieved success, and the co-operation of Russian and Japan will be developing steadily towards the mutual benefit and for the good of the whole Asia-Pacific Region.

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Don’t Laugh : It’s Giving Putin What He Wants

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself.

Caitlin Johnstone

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Authored by Caitlin Johnstone:


The BBC has published an article titled “How Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon” about the Kremlin’s latest addition to its horrifying deadly hybrid warfare arsenal: comedy.

The article is authored by Olga Robinson, whom the BBC, unhindered by any trace of self-awareness, has titled “Senior Journalist (Disinformation)”. Robinson demonstrates the qualifications and acumen which earned her that title by warning the BBC’s audience that the Kremlin has been using humor to dismiss and ridicule accusations that have been leveled against it by western governments, a “form of trolling” that she reports is designed to “deliberately lower the level of discussion”.

“Russia’s move towards using humour to influence its campaigns is a relatively recent phenomenon,” Robinson explains, without speculating as to why Russians might have suddenly begun laughing at their western accusers. She gives no consideration to the possibility that the tightly knit alliance of western nations who suddenly began hysterically shrieking about Russia two years ago have simply gotten much more ridiculous and easier to make fun of during that time.

Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the emergence of a demented media environment wherein everything around the world from French protests to American culture wars to British discontent with the European Union gets blamed on Russia without any facts or evidence. Wherein BBC reporters now correct guests and caution them against voicing skepticism of anti-Russia narratives because the UK is in “an information war” with that nation. Wherein the same cable news Russiagate pundit can claim that both Rex Tillerson’s hiring and his later firing were the result of a Russian conspiracy to benefit the Kremlin. Wherein mainstream outlets can circulate blatantly false information about Julian Assange and unnamed “Russians” and then blame the falseness of that reporting on Russian disinformation. Wherein Pokemon Go, cutesy Facebook memes and $4,700 in Google ads are sincerely cited as methods by which Hillary Clinton’s $1.2 billion presidential campaign was outdone. Wherein conspiracy theories that Putin has infiltrated the highest levels of the US government have been blaring on mainstream headline news for two years with absolutely nothing to show for it to this day.

Nope, the only possibility is that the Kremlin suddenly figured out that humor is a thing.

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself. The hypocrisy is so cartoonish, the emotions are so breathlessly over-the-top, the stories so riddled with plot holes and the agendas underlying them so glaringly obvious that they translate very easily into laughs. I myself recently authored a satire piece that a lot of people loved and which got picked up by numerous alternative media outlets, and all I did was write down all the various escalations this administration has made against Russia as though they were commands being given to Trump by Putin. It was extremely easy to write, and it was pretty damn funny if I do say so myself. And it didn’t take any Kremlin rubles or dezinformatsiya from St Petersburg to figure out how to write it.

“Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council researcher on Russian disinformation, told the BBC that attempts to create funny memes were part of the strategy as ‘disinformation for the information age’,” the article warns. Nimmo, ironically, is himself intimately involved with the British domestic disinformation firm Integrity Initiative, whose shady government-sponsored psyops against the Labour Party have sparked a national scandal that is likely far from reaching peak intensity.

“Most comedy programmes on Russian state television these days are anodyne affairs which either do not touch on political topics, or direct humour at the Kremlin’s perceived enemies abroad,” Robinson writes, which I found funny since I’d just recently read an excellent essay by Michael Tracey titled “Why has late night swapped laughs for lusting after Mueller?”

“If the late night ‘comedy’ of the Trump era has something resembling a ‘message,’ it’s that large segments of the nation’s liberal TV viewership are nervously tracking every Russia development with a passion that cannot be conducive to mental health – or for that matter, political efficacy,” Tracey writes, documenting numerous examples of the ways late night comedy now has audiences cheering for a US intelligence insider and Bush appointee instead of challenging power-serving media orthodoxies as programs like The Daily Show once did.

If you wanted the opposite of “anodyne affairs”, it would be comedians ridiculing the way all the establishment talking heads are manipulating their audiences into supporting the US intelligence community and FBI insiders. It would be excoriating the media environment in which unfathomably powerful world-dominating government agencies are subject to less scrutiny and criticism than a man trapped in an embassy who published inconvenient facts about those agencies. It certainly wouldn’t be the cast of Saturday Night Live singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to a framed portrait if Robert Mueller wearing a Santa hat. It doesn’t get much more anodyne than that.

Russia makes fun of western establishment narratives about it because those narratives are so incredibly easy to make fun of that they are essentially asking for it, and the nerdy way empire loyalists are suddenly crying victim about it is itself more comedy. When Guardian writer Carole Cadwalladr began insinuating that RT covering standard newsworthy people like Julian Assange and Nigel Farage was a conspiracy to “boost” those people for the advancement of Russian agendas instead of a news outlet doing the thing that news reporting is, RT rightly made fun of her for it. Cadwalladr reacted to RT’s mockery with a claim that she was a victim of “attacks”, instead of the recipient of perfectly justified ridicule for circulating an intensely moronic conspiracy theory.

Ah well. People are nuts and we’re hurtling toward a direct confrontation with a nuclear superpower. Sometimes there’s nothing else to do but laugh. As Wavy Gravy said, “Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don’t have a sense of humor it just isn’t funny anymore.”

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EU’s ‘toothless’ response to creation of Kosovo army risks worsening the crisis – Moscow

Russia’s ambassador to the UN said that the EU could have and should have done more to stop the breakaway region from creating its own army.

RT

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The creation of Kosovo’s own 5,000-strong army is a threat to peace and security in a turbulent region and may lead to a new escalation, Russia’s UN envoy has warned, calling the EU’s lackluster response irresponsible.

Speaking at the UN Security Council emergency meeting on Kosovo, Russia’s ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzya said that the EU could have and should have done more to stop the breakaway region from creating its own army to replace its lightly armed emergency response force.

“The EU reaction to the decision by Pristina cannot be described as other than toothless. This irresponsible policy has crossed the line,” Nebenzya said, after the UNSC meeting on Monday.

The diplomat said the lack of decisive action on the part of the 28-member bloc was a “great disappointment,” adding that the EU seems to “have turned a blind eye on the illegal creation of Kosovo’s ‘army.’”

The law, approved by Kosovo lawmakers on Friday, paves the way for doubling the size of the current Kosovo Security Force and for turning it into a de facto army, with 5,000 soldiers and 3,000 reservists.

The move did not go down well even with Kosovo’s usual backers, with both NATO and the EU voicing their indignation. NATO’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg called the decision “ill-timed” and lamented that Kosovo’s authorities had ignored “the concerns expressed by NATO.”

The EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, has echoed those concerns, saying in a statement that the mandate of Kosovo’s forces “should only be changed through an inclusive and gradual process” in accordance with the state’s constitution.

The only nation to openly applaud the controversial move was the US, with its ambassador to Kosovo, Phillip Kosnett, saying that Washington “reaffirms its support” for the upgrade as it is “only natural for Kosovo as a sovereign, independent country” to have a full-fledged army.

The Kosovo MPs’ decision has drawn anger in the Serbian capital Belgrade and provoked a strong response from Moscow, which calledon the UN mission in Kosovo to demilitarize the area in accordance with UNSC resolution 1244, and to disband any armed units.

Nebenzya pointed out that the UN resolution does not allow any Kosovo Albanian military units to be present in the region’s territory. He accused Western countries, including members of the NATO-led international peacekeeping force (KFOR), of “condoning and supporting” the violation by Pristina of the resolution.

It is feared that the army, though a relatively small force, might inflame tensions in the region and impede attempts at reconciliation between Pristina and Belgrade. Serbia has warned that it might consider an armed intervention if the army becomes a threat to the 120,000-strong Serb minority in Kosovo.

“The advance of Kosovo’s army presents a threat to the peace and security in the region, which may lead to the recurrence of the armed conflict,” Nebenzya stated.

In addition to creating its own army, Kosovo in November hit Serbia with a 100 percent import tariff on goods, defying calls by the US and the EU to roll the measure back.

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Ukraine’s President Says “High” Threat Of Russian Invasion, Urges NATO Entry In Next 5 Years

Poroshenko is trying desperately to hold on to power, even if it means provoking Russia.

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Via Zerohedge


Perhaps still seeking to justify imposing martial law over broad swathes of his country, and attempting to keep international pressure and media focus on a narrative of “Russian aggression,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko denounced what he called the high “threat of Russian invasion” during a press conference on Sunday, according to Bloomberg.

Though what some analysts expected would be a rapid flair up of tit-for-tat incidents following the late November Kerch Strait seizure of three Ukrainian vessels and their crew by the Russian Navy has gone somewhat quiet, with no further major incident to follow, Poroshenko has continued to signal to the West that Russia could invade at any moment.

“The lion’s share of Russian troops remain” along the Russian border with Ukraine, Poroshenko told journalists at a press conference in the capital, Kiev. “Unfortunately, less than 10 percent were withdrawn,” he said, and added: “As of now, the threat of Russian troops invading remains. We have to be ready for this, we won’t allow a repeat of 2014.”

Poroshenko, who declared martial law on Nov. 26, citing at the time possible imminent “full-scale war with Russia” and Russian tank and troop build-up, on Sunday noted that he will end martial law on Dec. 26 and the temporarily suspended presidential campaign will kick off should there be no Russian invasion. He also previously banned all Russian males ages 16-60 from entering Ukraine as part of implementation of 30 days of martial law over ten provinces, though it’s unclear if this policy will be rescinded.

During his remarks, the Ukrainian president said his country should push to join NATO and the EU within the next five years, per Bloomberg:

While declining to announce whether he will seek a second term in the office, Poroshenko said that Ukraine should achieve peace, overcome the consequences of its economic crisis and to meet criteria to join the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization during next five years.

But concerning both his retaining power and his ongoing “threat exaggeration” — there’s even widespread domestic acknowledgement that the two are clearly linked.

According to The Globe and Mail:

While Mr. Poroshenko’s domestic rivals accuse him of exaggerating the threat in order to boost his own flagging political fortunes — polls suggest Mr. Poroshenko is on track to lose his job in a March election — military experts say there are reasons to take the Ukrainian president’s warning seriously.

As we observed previously, while European officials have urged both sides to exercise restraint, the incident shows just how easily Russia and the West could be drawn into a military conflict over Ukraine.

Certainly Poroshenko’s words appear designed to telegraph just such an outcome, which would keep him in power as a war-time president, hasten more and massive western military support and aid, and quicken his country’s entry into NATO — the latter which is already treating Ukraine as a de facto strategic outpost.

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