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Russia’s ‘constitution’ for Syria (FULL TEXT AND ANALYSIS)

The ‘draft constitution’ Russia presented to the parties at the Astana conference is not a blueprint for Syria’s future and the Russians did not intend in that way. It was a diplomatic play to get the parties talking about other issues than the sterile issue of the future of President Assad, which has prevented process in all the negotiations up to now. In that it appears to have been successful.

Alexander Mercouris

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Since shortly after the Syrian peace talks began in the Kazakh capital Astana rumours have circulated that Russia proposed at the conference a ‘draft constitution’ for Syria.

Rumours about the contents of this ‘draft constitution’ have spread widely, with concern widely expressed that Russia might be seeking to impose its ideas on the Syrian people in quasi-colonial fashion, and that Russia is overreaching itself.

There have also been serious concerns that the ‘draft constitution’ threatens the integrity of the Syrian state by enforcing its federalisation and by granting autonomy to the Kurds, and that Syria’s traditional system of government with a strong executive President is being threatened, thereby making the country ungovernable and unable to meet external or internal threats.

In my opinion these concerns are wrong, though not groundless.  It is always an extraordinary step when one country produces the draft of what it calls a ‘constitution’ for another country, and it is certainly not something that should be encouraged.

Having said this, there were in my opinion valid – indeed obvious – reasons why the Russians acted as they did, and once these are understood and the document itself is explained, it becomes clear that the concerns which have been expressed about the ‘draft constitution’- though made in good faith – are in fact misplaced.

I would say that whilst this will take some explaining, I have no doubt the Russians have explained it all privately to the Syrian government which is why the Syrian government, and the Turks and the Iranians both of whom also oppose Syria’s federalisation, have been so quiet and relaxed about it.

In order to explain this properly, I will now provide a link to the complete text of this so-called ‘draft constitution’.  This is a lengthy document, and I should express my grateful thanks to Mariam Al-Hijab, Editor-in-Chief for Inside Syria Media Center, and to Sophia Mangal, for sending it to me.  Without their help this analysis would be impossible, though I should stress that it is entirely my own and I take sole responsibility for it.

The document – as any document which calls itself a ‘draft constitution’ must be – is very long.  However certain claims which have been made about this ‘draft constitution’ turn out even on a quick reading to be untrue.  For example, it has been claimed that it envisages turning Syria from a Presidential to a parliamentary republic, with the President losing most of his powers and limited to an essentially ceremonial role, and limited moreover to serving for just one term.  The actual text of the ‘draft constitution’ shows that this is all wrong.

The powers of the President are set out in Chapter 4 page 23.

Article 48 makes it clear that the President exercises executive power alongside the government.  Article 49(1) and (2) allow the President to stay in office for two consecutive terms each of 7 years, not just one.   There is no provision that prevents the same individual from standing for a third or more terms as President, provided the third term does not follow directly after the first two.

Article 55 confirms that the President is the guarantor of the constitution, and of Syria’s “independence, unity and territorial integrity”.  Article 57 gives the President the power to issue “decrees, edicts and instructions in accordance with the Constitution and the law”.  Article 60 confirms that the President is the Commander in Chief of the armed forces.  Article 60(1) authorises the President to issue “all the decisions necessary to exercise this authority”.  Article 60(2) makes it clear that it is the President who is tasked with responding to any threat to the state, though he or she is obligated to inform the upper house of the country’s parliament of whatever action he or she is taking.  Article 60(3) gives the President the power to declare a state of emergency, though only with the prior agreement of the upper house of the parliament or – if this cannot be obtained in the time available – with its agreement to be sought within one day.

Article 63(3) confirms that it is the President who “directs the general course of the Government’s activities”.  Article 64 confirms that it is the President who appoints the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister’s deputies, and Article 63(3) confirms that the President has the right to summon the members of the government to report on their activities, and that the President has the right to preside over meetings of the government.

In summary, though the President’s powers may be somewhat reduced by comparison with what they are now, the ‘draft constitution’ clearly envisages Syria remaining a Presidential republic, with the President normally serving for two consecutive terms of 7 years each (14 years in total), and remaining in command of the armed forces and in control of the government.  The President would still be the country’s leader, and it is doubtful whether in practical terms the position of the President would be significantly different from what it is now.

If rumours about what the ‘draft constitution’ does to the role of the President are wrong, what about the other more serious claims that have been made about it?  Does it in fact provide for Syria’s federalisation and for the grant of sweeping autonomy to the Kurds?

As has been pointed out by several people, the words “federal”, “federalisation” and “federation” appear nowhere in the document.  Article 1 says that that the names of the country are “the Syrian Republic” and/or “Syria”, with the two names being used interchangeably.  Article 1(2) says that “Syria relies on the unity of its nation and is a common and indivisible homeland for all its citizens”.  Article 9(1) says that “the territory of Syria is indivisible, inviolable and integral”.  Article 9(2) says that “the territory of Syria is inalienable”.

These provisions are more consistent with a unitary state, such as the one Syria is now, then with a federation or with a federal structure.  Certainly the right of secession of any constituent part of Syria is expressly ruled out.

The ‘draft constitution’ does however contain certain other provisions, which some see as pointing in a different direction.  What do they say?

The key provision is Article 15, which reads as follows

  1. Syria consists of constituent parts;
  2. The law states the number of constituent parts, their boundaries and status;
  3. The organization of local administration is based on applying the principle of decentralization of authorities and responsibilities.  The law states that the relationship between these units and the central authority, their mandate, financial revenues and control over their work.  It also states the way such authorities are appointed or elected;
  4. The law shall the status of the Kurdish Cultural Autonomy.

Alongside Article 15, certain other provisions need to be considered.  Specifically there are some particular provisions concerning language in Article 4 which pertain to this question.  Article 4 reads as follows

  1. The official language of the state is Arabic.  The law shall regulate how the official language is used;
  2. Government agencies and organizations of the Kurdish cultural autonomy shall use Arabic and Kurdish equally;
  3. Syrian citizens shall be guaranteed the right to educate their children in their native language in state educational institutions and in private educational institutions that meet the educational standard;
  4. Each region shall have the right to use another majority language in addition to the official language as is regulated by the law, if such use was approved by a locally held referendum.

One big change the ‘draft constitution’ introduces to Syria’s existing arrangements is that it replaces Syria’s existing directly elected unicameral parliament with a bicameral one.  This is relevant to the question of Syria’s “federalisation” because of the way the new upper house of this bicameral parliament – referred to in the ‘draft constitution’ as the “Constituent Assembly” – is set up.  The relevant provision is Article 40

  1. The Constituent Assembly shall be formed to ensure participation of representatives of the constituent parts in legislative activities and administration of the state;
  2. The Constituent Assembly consists of representatives of the constituent parts;
  3. The law shall specify how members of the Constituent Assembly are delegated, their number, status and term of service.

Article 44 sets out the powers of the Constituent Assembly.  Mostly these mirror those of the lower house (the People’s Assembly) but in addition the Constituent Assembly possesses the following further powers: “resolving issues of war and peace” (Article 44(1)(3), “terminating the mandate of the President of the Republic” (Article 44(1)(4)), and “approval of the President’s decision to declare the state of emergency or mobilization” (Article 44(1)(5).  The power to “terminate the mandate of the President” in Article 44(1)(4) requires an impeachment process initiated by the lower house and involving the country’s Supreme Constitutional Court, the details of which are set out in Article 61.

These are extraordinarily vague provisions.  It is not clear for example whether the “Kurdish cultural autonomy” mentioned in Articles 4(2) and 15(4) is a political entity, or whether it is simply a provision granting Syria’s Kurdish people certain cultural and linguistic rights.

The number, boundaries and powers of the so called “constituent parts” and their relationship to the central government are left unresolved, to be decided by another law (passed by whom?).  Amazingly, the ‘draft constitution’ leaves unresolved even the basic question of whether the governing bodies of the “constituent parts” are to be elected by the local people, or are to be “appointed” (by whom?), whilst it seems members of the Constituent Assembly will not be elected but will be “delegated” (again by whom?), which will inevitably reduce their status and power.

Of course not all constitutions define or discuss the parts that make up a federation.  That of the US for example does not.  However in such cases the federal parts that make up the union usually already exist or are in the process of formation before the new constitution comes into effect.  That is far from being so in the Syrian case.

Such vague provisions are scarcely a programme for Syria’s federalisation, and – as I have said – some of the other provisions appear to envisage Syria remaining a unitary state, albeit one which may be somewhat more decentralised than it is now, though again the decentralisation provision is so vague as to be almost meaningless.

Such vagueness in such key provisions on such contentious subjects points to the real purpose of the ‘draft constitution’.  It is not a blueprint for Syria’s future.  It is a tool in a diplomatic play.

The ‘draft constitution’ was circulated to the Syrian parties at the peace conference in Astana. Russia’s objective at the peace conference was to consolidate the shaky ceasefire which is in force in some parts of Syria, to get the Syrian opposition groups which are attending the conference to accept Russia as an honest broker, and to get the Syrian parties talking about a possible settlement that will hopefully bring peace to Syria.

In order to have any hope of achieving these things the Russians need to get the Syrian opposition groups talking about issues which go beyond the sterile subject of the future of President Assad.  This is vital because it is this issue which has stymied all attempts to secure an agreement up to now.  The ‘draft constitution’ was the Russians’ tool to do this.

Everything about the ‘draft constitution’ suggests that it is a hurriedly cobbled together document probably farmed out to a postgraduate student at some institute.  Most of it consists of cliches, whilst some sections – for examples the ones concerning the Constituent Assembly – seem to be based, though in a very sketchy way, on Russia’s own constitution.  That the ‘draft constitution’ is so vague on so many of the most crucial issues however shows that it is not intended seriously as a true constitutional document, or even as a subject of discussion or a position paper.

Once the ‘draft constitution’ is understood in the way it is intended – as a diplomatic play – it becomes clear that none of this matters, and the true purpose of its provisions becomes clear.  Precisely because it is not a genuine constitutional document or even a position paper, it is able to offer something to everyone whilst fully satisfying no-one.

The Kurds are given references to their language and their ethnicity, promises of some sort of vague ‘autonomy’, and a provision that some officials of the central government will be picked according to ethnic quotas, which would include them.  Also the world “Arab” is removed from the country’s name.

The secular Ba’athists are given a strong directly elected executive President and a promise of what looks like a unitary state.  The ‘draft constitution’ is also determinedly secular, and importantly it safeguards women’s rights.

The preamble reassures the Arab nationalists by referring to the Arab League and confirming that the official language will be Arabic, whilst the Islamists are offered a reference to the Charter of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

There are vague suggestions of decentralisation such as might give hope to some Sunnis in some of Syria’s provinces, with nothing however so concrete that the Baathists or the Arab nationalists might balk at it.

Needless to say none of these people – the Kurds, the Ba’athists, the Arab nationalists or the Sunni fundamentalists – would consider this ‘draft constitution’ remotely acceptable, and all of them have rejected it, as the Russians of course knew they would.  The point is that by presenting it to them the Russians have got them all talking about something other than the future of President Assad, whilst highlighting areas for future discussion, and leaving open the possibility of a future invitation to Astana to the Kurds, who are currently being prevented from going there by the Syrians and the Turks.

Early indications are that the play was successful.  It seems that the Jihadi groups who came to Astana have warmed to Russia, accepting that the Russians are indeed prepared to act as honest brokers and not simply steamroller over them on behalf of President Assad.

The result was that there were no tantrums or walkouts, the peace process is continuing, and the parties are all talking, if not yet to each other.  The ‘draft constitution’ has given them topics they can all talk about other than the status of President Assad, and – since they all dislike it – even something they can all agree about.

If this all sounds clever, the answer is that of course it is.  However one should not overstate this.  Anyone who has been involved in mediation exercises knows that presenting a document like the ‘draft constitution’ is actually a standard diplomatic and mediation ploy to break the deadlock, get the parties to accept the bona fides of the mediator, and get the parties talking to the mediator if not yet to each other.

One of the great problems in international relations over the last several decades is that the country which has usually tried to fill the role of honest broker in international disputes – the US – is temperamentally unsuited to the role.  What the US invariably does in any dispute it becomes involved in (which is to say all of them) is pick sides, reduce everything to black and white, and demand that the side it has decided against accept in its entirety whatever proposal the US considers the appropriate outcome to the quarrel.  The result is that instead of peace there is usually war, with the settlement of disputes becoming incredibly protracted.

The Russians have a very different approach to diplomacy, one they have perfected over the centuries as a result of their long history as a great European and Eurasian power which – unlike the US – has had throughout its history to deal with other cultures and other countries on equal terms.  The ‘draft constitution’ is exactly the sort of play that might be expected from them, just as it is the sort of play that an earlier generation of diplomats – a Bismarck or a Gorchakov for example – in a like situation might have also used.

With the shift in what old Russians still sometimes call “the correlation of world forces” (which means more than just the balance of power) it is likely that Russian diplomacy will become more prominent in future.  If so then diplomatic plays of this sort will become more common, and we should try to understand them better.

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Russian Il-20 downed by Syrian missile. Russia blames Israel. Israel blames Syria (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 110.

Alex Christoforou

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The unthinkable has happened in Syria.

The world now teeters on the brink of all out war in Syria as a Russian Il-20 was downed by Syrian missile after Israeli F-16s used it as cover during attack, according to statements made by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

President Vladimir Putin, answering a reporter’s question during a press conference with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, said the downing of the Russian Il-20 plane looks like “a chain of tragic circumstances.” 

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the tripwire triggered that has the potential to tip the fragile balance in Syria towards conflict between Russia, Iran and Israel.

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The Russian military says an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its Il-20 plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile. Moscow reserves the right to respond accordingly.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said…

“Israel did not warn the command of the Russian troops in Syria about the planned operation. We received a notification via a hotline less than a minute before the strike, which did not allow the Russian aircraft to be directed to a safe zone.”

The statement by the Russian Defense Ministry said that four Israeli F-16 fighter jets attacked targets in Syria’s Latakia after approaching from the Mediterranean.

The Israeli warplanes approached at a low altitude and “created a dangerous situation for other aircraft and vessels in the region.”

The statement further said that 15 Russian military service members have died as a result…

“The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. As a consequence, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile.”

According to reports from RT, the Russian military said that the French Navy’s frigate ‘Auvergne,’ as well as a Russian Il-20 plane were in the area during the Israeli operation.

Map of the incident on September 17 in Syria provided by the Russian defense ministry.

The Russian ministry said the Israelis must have known that the Russian plane was present in the area, but this did not stop them from executing “the provocation.” Israel also failed to warn Russia about the planned operation in advance. The warning came just a minute before the attack started, which “did not leave time to move the Russian plane to a safe area,”the statement said.

The statement gives a larger death toll than earlier reports by the Russian military, which said there were 14 crew members on board the missing Il-20. It said a search and rescue operation for the shot-down plane is underway.

A later update said debris from the downed plane was found some 27km off the Latakia coast. The search party collected some body parts, personal possessions of the crew, and fragments of the plane.

Meanwhile Israel has come out to blame the Syrian government for the downing of the military plane, according to an IDF statement.

Israel said that it “expresses sorrow for the death of the aircrew members” of the Russian plane. However, it stated that the government of Bashar Assad “whose military shot down the Russian plane,” is “fully responsible” for the incident.

Israel further blamed Iran and Hezbollah for the incident.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) explained that its jets were targeting a Syrian facility “from which systems to manufacture accurate and lethal weapons were about to be transferred on behalf of Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Israel claimed that the weapons were “meant to attack Israel.”

Via RT

The IDF assumed that the Syrian anti-air batteries “fired indiscriminately” and didn’t “bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air.” The Israelis said that when the Syrian military launched the missiles which hit the Russian plane, its own jets were already within Israeli airspace. “During the strike against the target in Latakia, the Russian plane that was then hit was not within the area of the operation.”

According to the Israeli military, both IDF and Russia have “a deconfliction system,” which was agreed upon by the leadership of both states, and “has proven itself many times over recent years.” The system was in use when the incident happened, the IDF stated. The IDF promised to share “all the relevant information” with Russia “to review the incident and to confirm the facts in this inquiry.”

The military presented a four-point initial inquiry into events in Latakia. It insisted that “extensive and inaccurate” Syrian anti-aircraft fire caused the Russian jet “to be hit and downed.”

The Russian Il-20 aircraft, with 15 crew on board, went off radar during an attack by four Israeli jets on Syria’s Latakia province late Monday. Later on Tuesday the Russian Defense Ministry said that an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile.

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Trump Orders Immediate Release Of All Text Messages, Carter Page FISA Application From Russia Investigation

Trump has ordered the DOJ to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions.

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Via Zerohedge

President Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions, of former FBI Director James Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe, now-fired special agent Peter Strzok, former FBI attorney Lisa Page and twice-demoted DOJ official Bruce Ohr.

Also released will be specific pages from the FBI’s FISA surveillance warrant application on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, as well as interviews with Ohr.

The statement reads in full:

“At the request of a number of committees of Congress, and for reasons of transparency, the President has directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to provide for the immediate declassification of the following materials: (1) pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter of Carter W. Page; (2) all FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation; and (3) all FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications.

In addition, President Donald J. Trump has directed the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to publicly release all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr

***

As we reported last Monday, Trump had been expected to release the documents any time – with specific attention to the Page documents and the “investigative activities of Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr” – who was demoted twice for lying about his extensive relationship  with Christopher Steele – the former MI6 spy who assembled the sham “Steele Dossier” used by the FBI in a FISA surveillance application to spy on Page.

Republicans on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees believe the declassification will permanently taint the Trump-Russia investigation by showing the investigation was illegitimate to begin with. Trump has been hammering the same theme for months.

  • They allege that Bruce Ohr played an improper intermediary role between the Justice Department, British spy Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS — the opposition research firm that produced the Trump-Russia dossier, funded by Democrats. (Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS on Russia-related matters during the presidential election — a fact that Ohr did not disclose on federal forms.)
  • And they further allege that the Obama administration improperly spied on Carter Page — all to take down Trump. –Axios

Ohr, meanwhile, met with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska in 2015 to discuss helping the FBI with organized crime investigations, according to The Hill‘s John Solomon. The meeting with the Putin ally was facilitated by Steele.

Last month Trump called Ohr a disgrace, while also tweeting: “Will Bruce Ohr, whose family received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier, ever be fired from the Jeff Sessions  “Justice” Department? A total joke!”

Trump’s threat came one day after two tweets about Ohr, noting a connection to former FBI agent Peter Strzok, as well as a text sent by Ohr after former FBI Director James Comey was fired in which Ohr says “afraid they will be exposed.”

According to emails turned over to Congressional investigators in August, Christopher Steele was much closer to Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie than previously disclosed.

Steele and the Ohrs would have breakfast together on July 30, 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington D.C., days after Steele turned in installments of his infamous “dossier” on July 19 and 26. The breakfast also occurred one day before the FBI formally launched operation “Crossfire Hurricane,” the agency’s counterintelligence operation into the Trump campaign.

“Great to see you and Nellie this morning Bruce,” Steele wrote shortly following their breakfast meeting. “Let’s keep in touch on the substantive issues/s (sic). Glenn is happy to speak to you on this if it would help.”

“After two years of investigations and accusations from both sides of the aisle about what documents indicate, it is past time for documents to be declassified and let the American people decide for themselves if DoJ and FBI acted properly,” Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows told Axios earlier Sunday.

In early August, journalist Paul Sperry tweeted that Trump may use his presidential authority to declassify “20 redacted pages of a June, 2017 FISA renewal, “and possibly” 63 pages of emails and notes between “Ohr & Steele,” and FD-302 summaries of 12 interviews.”

President Trump threatened to declassify documents two weeks ago – one day after the New York Times allegedly published an anonymous Op-Ed claiming to be from a White House official claiming to be part of an unelected “resistance” cabal within the Trump administration.

“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do,” Trump tweeted earlier this month, adding: “The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!”

Trump’s threat comes as calls by frustrated GOP legislators to release the documents have hit a fevered pitch. Spearheading the effort are Republican Reps. Meadows, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz and Lee Zeldin – who have repeatedly asked Trump to declassify more of the heavily redacted FISA surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page in late 2016.

In June, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee asked President Trump to declassify key sections of Carter Page’s FISA warrant application, according to a letter obtained by Fox News.

Carter Page, the DOJ/FBI’s person of interest, weighed in on the matter in late August, tweeting: “The Corrupt DOJ, co-conspirators in the DNC and their high-priced consultants correctly believed they had American democracy and the FISA Court over a barrel in 2016.”

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De-Dollarization Tops Agenda at Russia’s Eastern Economic Forum

The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) was held in Vladivostok on Sept.11-13. Founded in 2015, the event has become a platform for planning and launching projects to strengthen business ties in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Via Strategic Culture

This year, the EEF brought together delegations from over 60 countries to discuss the topic “The Far East: Expanding the Range of Possibilities”. A total of 100 business events involving over 6,000 participants were held during the three days.

1,357 media personnel worked to cover the forum. Last year, the number of participants was 5,000 with 1,000 media persons involved in reporting and broadcasting. The EEF-18 gathered 340 foreign and 383 Russian CEOs. Nearly 80 start-ups from across South-East Asia joined the meeting.

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This year, a total of 175 agreements worth of 2.9 trillion rubles (some $4.3 billion) were signed. For comparison, the sum was 2.5 trillion rubles (roughly $3.7 billion) in 2017.

They included the development of the Baimsky ore deposits in Chukotka, the construction of a terminal for Novatek LNG at Bechevinskaya Bay in Kamchatka and the investment of Asian countries in Russia’s agricultural projects in the Far East.

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Mail.Ru Group, Megafon and Chinese Alibaba inked an agreement on establishing AliExpress trade joint venture. Rosneft and Chinese CNPC signed an oil exploration agreement.

The Chinese delegation was the largest (1,096 people), followed by the Japanese (570 members). The list of guests included the president of Mongolia and prime ministers of Japan and South Korea.

It was also the first time Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the event to meet his Russian counterpart. The issue of de-dollarization topped the agenda. Russia and China reaffirmed their interest in expanding the use of national currencies in bilateral deals.

During the forum, Kirill Dmitriev, the head of RDIF, said the fund intends to use only national currencies in its transactions with China starting from 2019. It will cooperate with the China Development Bank.

This “yuanification” is making visible progress with Shanghai crude futures increasing their share of oil markets up to 14 percent or even more. China has signed agreements with Canada and Qatar on national currencies exchange.

READ MORE: Eastern Economic Forum opens new chapter in US-Russia dialogue

De-dollarization is a trend that is picking up momentum across the world. A growing number of countries are interested in replacing the dollar. Russia is leading the race to protect itself from fluctuations, storms and US-waged trade wars and sanctions.

Moscow backs non-dollar trade with Ankara amid the ongoing lira crisis. Turkey is switching from the dollar to settlements in national currencies, including its trade with China and other countries. Ditching the US dollar is the issue topping the BRICS agenda. In April, Iran transferred all international payments to the euro.

The voices calling for de-dollarization are getting louder among America’s closest European allies. In August, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for the creation of a new payments system independent of the US.

According to him, Europe should not allow the United States to act “over our heads and at our expense.” The official wants to strengthen European autonomy by establishing independent payment channels, creating a European Monetary Fund and building up an independent SWIFT system.

Presenting his annual program, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Sept. 12 for the European Union to promote the euro as a global currency to challenge the dollar.

According to him, “We must do more to allow our single currency to play its full role on the international scene.” Mr. Juncker believes “it is absurd that Europe pays for 80 percent of its energy import bill – worth 300 billion euros a year – in US dollars when only roughly 2 percent of our energy imports come from the United States.” He wants the raft of proposals made in his state of the union address to start being implemented before the European Parliament elections in May.

70% of all world trade transactions account for the dollar, while 20% are  settled in the euro, and the rest falls on the yuan and other Asian currencies. The dollar value is high to make the prices of consumer goods in the US artificially low. The demand for dollars allows refinancing the huge debt at low interest rates. The US policy of trade wars and sanctions has triggered the global process of de-dollarization.

Using punitive measures as a foreign policy tool is like shooting oneself in the foot. It prompts a backlash to undermine the dollar’s status as the world reserve currency – the basis of the US economic might. The aggressive policy undermines the US world standing to make it weaker, not stronger.

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