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Russian liberal’s strange love for blacklists

The “Kremlin list” included 210 names of the top Russian officials and businessmen.

Dmitry Babich

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The long-awaited “Kremlin list,” which was published by the US Department of Treasury and which included 210 names of the top Russian officials and businessmen, did not produce the expected bomb shell effect on the Russian elite. However, just like any hint at a possibility of denouncing your enemies to a powerful “regulator,” it unleashed an avalanche of Stalinist times-like denunciations from the so called liberal opposition in Russia. As usual, the people from Yabloko party and their likes revealed themselves to be capable of nothing except reporting to their Western sponsors on “nasty oligarchs,” who prevent the likes of Grigory Yavlinsky and Vladimir Kara-Murza (the Western media’s choices for Russia’s leaders) from coming to power in Russia.

NO PANIC AT THE TOP

Instead of trembling with fear, Russia’s finance minister Anton Siluanov, who was included in the list, said he viewed this situation “philosophically” and planned to continue working as usual, since almost all the other government members were included. Other officials also found the list somewhat too inclusive. Vice-premier Arkady Dvorkovich, with his liberal reputation and fresh tan from his recent trip to Davos, said the list read like “Who is Who in Russia” booklet. Indeed, everyone who means something in the government, Kremlin administration and Russian Forbes’ rating of the country’s richest citizens, ended up on the list. “As a government minister, I just had to be there, otherwise people wouldn’t understand,” Dvorkovich commented.

Some analysts even thanked the lazy girls and boys from the US Treasury Department for their idiotic list: first, preparing for the worst, Russia made some important changes since last summer; second, the list is an almost copy-paste plagiarism of the rating of Russia’s most influential people from Russian dailies and the conspicuous absence in it of the powerful Anatoly Chubais and Elvira Nabiullina immediately marked them as the persons whom the US views as the preferred candidates for getting more power.

THE LIST AS AN INCENTIVE

“This list had been expected in Russia since August last year, and it helped us correct some of our past mistakes. For example, last year the Central Bank published information on the Russian banks that credited our defense industry. Fearing sanctions, Alfa Bank’s owners publicly stopped crediting this sphere, obviously trying to avoid being included in the list. So, now all information on loans for defense industry is classified, as it should be. The decision has been taken to entrust one powerful bank with doing this job,” explained Andrei Sidorov, the head of the Department of Global Processes at Moscow State University (MGU). “Besides, when [Americans] add to the black list the heads of Russia’s main companies, such as Lukoil and Sberbank, they help the Russian government “nationalize” the heads of these companies and move the companies’ assets back the country. The reason is simple: it becomes dangerous to keep money abroad.”

The list was produced in accordance with the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CATSA), passed by the Congress and approved by US President Donald Trump in summer last year. http://prod-upp-image-read.ft.com/40911a30-057c-11e8-9650-9c0ad2d7c5b5 The law obliged the US government to provide  “a list of senior political figures and oligarchs” as determined by “their closeness to the Russian regime and their net worth” (you had to own no less than $1 billion to qualify for the list). The US authorities were expected to find out the sources of income of the list’s members and their relatives – and report this information to Congress. So that the US would have it at hand in order to be able to put pressure on Moscow, thus reducing Russia’s capabilities for “aggression.” The idea of the Treasury Department’s list is to fight against these mythical “aggressions” by the trusted method of Hitler and Stalin – by hitting at the enemy’s children and parents, their freedom and property.

THANK YOU, FRIENDLY FIRE

It was not immediately clear how Russia’s potential aggressions could benefit from the activities of the list’s member Mikhail Fedotov, the chairman of Russia’s Council on Human Rights, which defended just about every Western agent in the NGOs, every “artist” specializing on anti-Putin and anti-Russia insults in the last 5 years. But thank you, the Treasury Department, for including this truly powerful and truly cruel (Fedotov never defended poor people, preferring to concentrate on Khodorkovsky) person in your list. We understand it was some “friendly fire,” but thank you anyway.

The other problem of the idiot girls from the Treasury Department is that their list brought together some of the members of Russian elite, who are known to be antagonists. So, instead of antagonizing, the list actually melds the Russian elite together by showing the common threat – the US government’s dangerous inadequacy. For example, the list includes both Rosneft’s CEO Igor Sechin and his longtime opponent Vladimir Yevtushenkov, the owner of Sistema investment company. These strange bedfellows found themselves next to each other in the list of oligarchs to be watched, even though the Western press loves to write about the “evil patriot” Sechin suing in courts the nice liberal Yevtushenkov, presenting the latter billionaire as a victim of the “regime.”

LIBERALS’ LUST FOR REVENGE

The other moment of truth about the list is the avalanche of “denunciation initiatives” from the so called Russian liberals, including journalists. Leonid Bershidsky, the founder of the ultraliberal, pro-Western Moscow-based Vedomosti daily, who is now residing abroad, suggested via his article on Bloomberg’s Internet site some additional candidacies for the bill. These candidacies included a Russian businessman who bought RBC – a formerly virulently anti-Russian media outlet, where a lot of Bershidsky’s former “students” in journalism continue to work. Thus Mr. Bershidsky is ready to sacrifice the financial stability of his own colleagues and comrades-in-arms to his insatiable lust for revenge. It has been clear that the never-changing list of “bad oligarchs,” provided to the Western media by the US-certified “anti-corruption crusader” Alexei Navalny, is produced by the same motives as Bershidsky’s initiatives: personal antipathy and the desire to improve the situation of the competing “good oligarchs.”

The idiocy of the Treasury Department’s bill is an indicator not just of the US government’s own inadequacy. It also reveals the level of “competence” of the Russian liberal opposition, which the American side reportedly consults before imposing new sanctions. The Treasury Department’s list was also a fruit of joint labors of American bureaucrats and pro-Western Russian “activists.”

“Yabloko supports the idea of personalized sanctions against the oligarchate, against the people who perceive Putin as a guarantor of stability,” Emilia Slabunova, the chairwoman of Yabloko party, is quoted by Nezavisimaya Gazeta as saying in December last year.

Add to it some pure incompetence and laziness on the side of US officials, who confuse the names and are generally uninterested in the inner workings of the countries they want to govern from outside. For example, the list includes Oleg Budargin as the head of Russia’s “Rosseti” company, even though Budargin quit that position months ago. The same is true about Kirill Shamalov, who sold his share in SIBUR company for an undisclosed amount of money, but who is still listed in the American report as SIBUR’s top person. Which he was – but only last August, when Mr. Trump signed the CATSA bill. Indeed, the professionalism of the people who compiled the list is much more in question now than the future of the list’s members.

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America the Punitive

What do Russia, Turkey and Iran have in common?

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


There has been a dramatic shift in how the United States government carries out its business internationally. Admittedly, Washington has had a tendency to employ force to get what it has wanted ever since 9/11, but it also sometimes recognized that other countries had legitimate interests and accepted there was a place for diplomacy to resolve issues short of armed conflict. The Bush Administration reluctance to broaden its engagement in the Middle East after it recognized that it had blundered with Iraq followed by Obama’s relaxation of tensions with Cuba and his negotiation of a nuclear agreement with Iran demonstrated that sanity sometimes prevailed in the West Wing.

That willingness to be occasionally accommodating has changed dramatically, with the State Department under Mike Pompeo currently more prone to deliver threats than any suggestions that we all might try to get along. It would be reasonable enough to criticize such behavior because it is intrinsically wrong, but the truly frightening aspect of it would appear to be that it is based on the essentially neoconservative assumption that other countries will always back down when confronted with force majeure and that the use of violence as a tool in international relations is, ultimately, consequence free.

I am particularly disturbed with the consequence free part as it in turn is rooted in the belief that countries that have been threatened or even invaded have no collective memory of what occurred and will not respond vengefully when the situation changes. There have been a number of stunningly mindless acts of aggression over the past several weeks that are particularly troubling as they suggest that they will produce many more problems down the road than solutions.

The most recent is the new sanctioning of Russia over the Skripal poisoning in Salisbury England. For those not following developments, last week Washington abruptly and without any new evidence being presented, imposed additional trade sanctions on Russia in the belief that Moscow ordered and carried out the poisoning of Sergey Skripal and his daughter Yulia on March 4th. The report of the new sanctions was particularly surprising as Yulia Skripal has recently announced that she intends to return to her home in Russia, leading to the conclusion that even one of the alleged victims does not believe the narrative being promoted by the British and American governments.

Though Russian President Vladimir Putin has responded with restraint, avoiding a tit-for-tat, he is reported to be angry about the new move by the US government and now believes it to be an unreliable negotiating partner. Considering the friendly recent exchanges between Putin and Trump, the punishment of Russia has to be viewed as something of a surprise, suggesting that the president of the United States may not be in control of his own foreign policy.

Turkey is also feeling America’s wrath over the continued detention of an American Protestant Pastor Andrew Brunson by Ankara over charges that he was connected to the coup plotters of 2016, which were allegedly directed by Fetullah Gulen, a Muslim religious leader, who now resides in Pennsylvania. Donald Trump has made the detention the centerpiece of his Turkish policy, introducing sanctions and tariffs that have led in part to a collapse of the Turkish lira and a run on the banking system which could easily lead to default and grave damage to European banks that hold a large party of the country’s debt.

And then there is perennial favorite Iran, which was hit with reinstated sanctions last week and is confronting a ban on oil sales scheduled to go into effect on November 4th. The US has said it will sanction any country that buys Iranian oil after that date, though a number of governments including Turkey, India and China appear to be prepared to defy that demand. Several European countries are reportedly preparing mechanisms that will allow them to trade around US restrictions.

What do Russia, Turkey and Iran have in common? All are on the receiving end of punitive action by the United States over allegations of misbehavior that have not been demonstrated. Nobody has shown that Russia poisoned the Skripals, Turkey just might have a case that the Reverend Brunson was in contact with coup plotters, and Iran is in full compliance with the nuclear arms agreement signed in 2015. One has to conclude that the United States has now become the ultimate angry imperial power, lashing out with the only thing that seems to work – its ability to interfere in and control financial markets – to punish nations that do not play by its rules. Given Washington’s diminishing clout worldwide, it is a situation that is unsustainable and which will ultimately only really punish the American people as the United States becomes more isolated and its imperial overreach bankrupts the nation. As America weakens, Russia, Turkey, Iran and all the other countries that have been steamrolled by Washington will likely seek revenge. To avoid that, a dramatic course correction by the US is needed, but, unfortunately, is unlikely to take place.

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NATO Repeats the Great Mistake of the Warsaw Pact

NATO expansion continues to drive the world the closer towards the threat of thermonuclear war.

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Authored by Martin Sieff via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Through the 1990s, during the terms of US President Bill Clinton, NATO relentlessly and inexorably expanded through Central Europe. Today, the expansion of that alliance eastward – encircling Russia with fiercely Russo-phobic regimes in one tiny country after another and in Ukraine, which is not tiny at all – continues.

This NATO expansion – which the legendary George Kennan presciently warned against in vain – continues to drive the world the closer towards the threat of thermonuclear war. Far from bringing the United States and the Western NATO allies increased security, it strips them of the certainty of the peace and security they would enjoy if they instead sought a sincere, constructive and above all stable relationship with Russia.

It is argued that the addition of the old Warsaw Pact member states of Central Europe to NATO has dramatically strengthened NATO and gravely weakened Russia. This has been a universally-accepted assumption in the United States and throughout the West for the past quarter century. Yet it simply is not true.

In reality, the United States and its Western European allies are now discovering the hard way the same lesson that drained and exhausted the Soviet Union from the creation of the Warsaw Pact in 1955 to its dissolution 36 years later. The tier of Central European nations has always lacked the coherence, the industrial base and the combined economic infrastructure to generate significant industrial, financial or most of all strategic and military power.

In fact the current frustrating experience of NATO, and the long, exhausting tribulations that faced Soviet diplomats and generals for so many decades was entirely consistent with the previous historical record going back at least until 1718.

From 1718 until 1867 – a period of a century and a half – most of Central Europe, including even regions of Poland at the end of the 18th century, were consolidated within the Austro –Hungarian Empire, However even then, the Habsburg multi-national empire was always militarily weak and punched beneath its weight. After Emperor Franz Josef recklessly proclaimed his famous Compromise of 1867, the effectiveness of the imperial army was reduced to almost zero. The autonomous and feckless conduct of the Hungarian aristocracy ensured a level of confusion, division, incompetence and ineptitude that was revealed in the army’s total collapse against both Russia and Serbia in the great battles of 1914 at the start of World War I.

Germany moved in to occupy and consolidate the region in both world wars. But far from making Germany a global giant and enabling it to maintain its domination of Europe, the Central European regions – whether as part of Austro-Hungary during World War I or as independent nation-states allied to the Nazis in World War II – proved miniscule and worthless against the alliances of Russia, the United States, Britain and France that the Germans fought against in both global conflicts.

After the Soviet Union militarily destroyed the genocidal military power of Nazi Germany in World War II, Russia’s Great Patriotic War, the political consolidation of East Germany and Poland were strategically necessary for Russia’s security. But occupying and organizing the rest of the region was not. Far from strengthening the Soviet Union, those nations weakened and distracted it. Today, NATO is repeating the Soviet Mistake and that fatal move is inexorably draining the alliance of all its strength and credibility.

NATO is also repeating the disastrous mistake that France made in 1920-21 when it created a “Little Entente” of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Romania to supposedly counterbalance the revival of Germany. The plan failed completely.

Today those very same nations – enthusiastically joined by Hungary, Poland and the three little Baltic states – are relentlessly distorting both NATO and the EU. They generate weakness and chaos in the alliances they are in – not unity and strength.

As I have noted before in these columns, the great British historian Lord Correlli Barnett drew the important distinction between militarily powerful nations that are generators and exporters of security and those, either tiny or disorganized, pacifist and weak nations that have to import their security from more powerful states.

One might call such small countries “feeder” or “parasite” states. They siphon off energy and strength from their protector partners. They weaken their alliance partners rather than strengthening them.

The consistent lessons of more than 300 years of Central European history are therefore clear: Leading and organizing the tier of Central European nations in the Warsaw Pact did not strengthen the Soviet Union: Instead, those activities relentlessly weakened it.

Incorporating most of the small nations in Central Europe into any empire or alliance has never been a cause or generator of military or national strength, regardless of the ideology or religious faith involved. At best, it is a barometer of national strength.

When nations such as France, Germany, the Soviet Union or the United States are seen as rising powers in the world, the small countries of Central Europe always hasten to ally themselves accordingly. They therefore adopt and discard Ottoman Islamic imperialism. Austrian Christian imperialism, democracy, Nazism, Communism and again democracy as easily as putting on or off different costumes at a fancy dress ball in Vienna or Budapest.

As Russia rises once again in global standing and national power, supported by its genuinely powerful allies China, India and Pakistan in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the nations of Central Europe can be anticipated to reorient their own loyalties accordingly once again.

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Why Russia will NOT fall victim to emerging markets financial crisis (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 81.

Alex Christoforou

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As the Turkish Lira collapses, sending emerging market economies into turmoil, Russia is being slapped with additional US sanctions dubbed the US Congress ‘bill from hell’.

The full text the newest sanctions bill has been released. The sanctions are deliberately designed to punish Russia’s economy for a Skripal poisoning hoax for which no evidence of Russian state involvement has been presented. The new bill even goes so far as to suggest designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.

The “sanctions bill from hell” officially entitled ‘Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act of 2018’ was introduced by a group of Republican and Democratic senators on the 2nd of August.

According to RT, the bill would place restrictions on US cooperation with Russia’s oil industry, target Russian sovereign debt transactions as well as Russian uranium imports. In addition, the legislation calls for sanctions against “political figures, oligarchs, and other persons that facilitate illicit and corrupt activities, directly or indirectly, on behalf of the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris explain why, unlike the financial meltdown in Turkey, Russia is well equipped and properly prepared to weather the US sanctions storm… and may, in the end, come out of the latest emerging markets turmoil stronger and more independent from western petrodollar control than ever before.

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

Via RT

The bill, which was recently published in full on Congress’ official website, also pledges full support for NATO and would require a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate if the United States ever wishes to exit the transatlantic alliance.

The legislation also declares that “the United States will never recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation” and that Washington, in conjunction with NATO, should “prioritize efforts to prevent the further consolidation of illegal occupying powers in Crimea.”

The pending ‘Kremlin Aggression Act’ decrees that Congress should also determine whether Russia “meets the criteria for designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.”

The bill also accused Russia of “enabling the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria to commit war crimes,” adding that Moscow has shown itself to be “incapable or unwilling” to compel Assad to “stop using chemical weapons against the civilian population in Syria.”

The Act calls for a congressional committee to investigate “alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity attributable to [Russia]” and resolves to “punish the Government of the Russian Federation for, and deter that Government from, any chemical weapons production and use through the imposition of sanctions, diplomatic isolation, and the use of the mechanisms specified in the Chemical Weapons Convention for violations of the Convention.”

The legislation is just the latest addition to a laundry list of sanctions and laws passed in the months following the 2016 presidential election.

Republican hawk Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) and Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), who both sponsored the bill, said in a joint statement that the legislation is designed to show that the US will “not waver in our rejection of [Russian President Vladimir Putin’s] effort to erode western democracy as a strategic imperative for Russia’s future.” The Russia-obsessed Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) was one of the five co-sponsors of the bill.

Moscow has brushed off the new wave of accusations as a projection of internal US struggle. Some elements in the US government are trying to “keep afloat” the conspiracy that Russia meddled in the US elections, in hopes of derailing constructive relations with Moscow and using the issue “purely for internal American purposes,” Senator Konstantin Kosachev, who chairs the Upper House Committee for International Relations, has said in response to the latest sanctions.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has warned that the adoption of any US legislation that targets Russian banking operations and currency trade would be considered a declaration of economic war.

“If they introduce something like a ban on banking operations or the use of any currency, we will treat it as a declaration of economic war. And we’ll have to respond to it accordingly – economically, politically, or in any other way, if required,” Medvedev said last week. “Our American friends should make no mistake about it.”

Moscow has vowed to respond to any new sanctions. Russia’s Finance Ministry said it would continue to sell off its holdings of US Treasury securities, while some lawmakers have called for Russia and its allies to stop using the US dollar for mutual payments.

 

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