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Russia’s digital ‘Velveeta moment’

No Spam, Just Facts.

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A digital Slavic sigh of relief carried across both the Atlantic and Pacific. Those Russkies who were suffering as their sanctioned dreams were dashed while waiting for their “Velveeta moment”, or a Skippy slathered Spam sandwich, can now rest easy.

Even the redoubtable Hellman’s has seen its market share wither against a bevy of locally produced mayo’s. The fact is that many such items have already been replaced by Russian equivalents with a difference; they are all natural, with no additives or genetically modified anything. As I said, the food production boom in Russia is well known and is now yesterday’s news.

Moving on, the other day I was speaking “IT & stuff” with some geeky nerds on an island in the Moscow River where the old Red October candy factory used to churn out everything for the sweet tooth. It is now gentrified with condominium and co-op lofts in the old factory complex, very similar to what took place in Manhattan’s SoHo and is an e-everything community. Getting back to the geeks who were quaffing their Latte’s and Mojito’s with lip smacking digitized abandon, they were playing word scenarios starting with “What IF?”

The juiciest and longest word play was – What if Washington and its EU minions decide to somehow cleverly firewall or otherwise inhibit Russia’s access to the major software, programming and service providers? What if VPN’s are blocked and everyone has to store data in country or shut down? The speculation was both ridiculed and taken seriously at the same time. Once they got to talking it through, it looked like they suddenly woke up singing and crying all at once.

Unlikely as such a situation might be, strange things are becoming the new normal in these mentally challenged times. The kind-of conclusion these digital dreamers came to was – not to worry, we have most if not all these services localized and covered. I asked for a rundown of what replaces what, and the following was the feedback naming 100% Russia based providers and services (I mention costs in US$ for the readers visualization, but all billing is in Rubles):

Cloud storage – replacing Google Drive.

  • “Yandex.Disk ” provides a cloud storage for everyday files, photos and videos. Free use for up to 10 GB of information, and can expand the volume to 1 TB. The maximum file size is 10 GB. Two-stage authentication is also provided. The cost for maximum space is about $8 per month.
  • [email protected]”. You can store pictures, audio files, presentations, working documents and other data. The system guarantees the safety of stored data. The maximum storage capacity is 4000 GB, of which 25 GB is free of charge. Files of up to 32 GB can be uploaded in the cloud.

Replacing Google Docs and MS Office.

“OnlyOffice” is an open source office suite that includes document, project management, customer relationship management and e-mail management systems. The set consists of an online document editor, project management system, CRM, corporate social network, calendar and mail server.

“MyOffice” offers a set of office solutions for working with documents, text, tables, presentations and other information. Using this platform, you can work together on files, restrict user rights, and provide enhanced data protection.

Post services replacing MailChimp.

  • “UniSender” organizes mass email and SMS mailings. According to the project planners, it is possible to create a newsletter from scratch in 15 minutes. The service provides more than 100 templates, detailed statistics, allows you to configure automatic dispatch and segment an audience. Use is free provided not more than 1500 emails and 100 recipients. The charges thereafter are $0.005 per letter or $10 per month. For SMS – $0.03 per message.
  • “Sendsay” – a platform for sending emails and SMS. With the help of the system, you can create complex conversation chains, trigger mailings and evaluate their effectiveness.
  • “Yandex.Mail” The domain allows you to connect the needed number of mailboxes free, and set a company logo in the web interface of the system. Even inside the platform, you can keep a calendar, a schedule of meetings and a to-do list.
  • “Mail.Ru for business” – a set of services for start-ups and large companies. For example, a cloud for data and workgroups, mail for the domain, and store information about employees. In this system, there are also tools for site analytics, newsletters, SEO analysis, and computer vision technologies. All users of the platform get access to a loyalty club for business and discounts from partners. The cost depends on the set of tools chosen.

Analytics to replace SimilarWeb.

  • “Pr-Cy” – helps to optimize sites, checks the download speed and finds errors. With the help of this service, you can find out what details to pay attention to and what needs to be corrected for effective website promotion.
  • “Roistat” collects data from the CRM system, advertising sites and the site itself. From this information, the service generates reports on key business indicators. With the help of this service, you can evaluate the effectiveness of advertising campaigns, funnel sales and other data. The cost is from $90 per month.
  • “Yandex.Metrika” helps to evaluate site traffic for free and analyze user behavior. With the help of this system, you can estimate the number and composition of visitors, transitions from competitors’ sites, popular pages, and time spent on site plus other indicators.
  • “AmoCRM” helps analyze sales. The system automatically takes into account email requests, phone, website and instant messengers. This service can integrate correspondence with customers and calls. Built-in messenger helps to communicate commands within the system.

CRM-systems, keeping customer activity records.

  • “Univle” – CRM-system for Instagram. This service helps receive and respond to all requests in Direct. With it, you can connect new managers, keep customer cards and track the sales funnel.
  • “Bitrix24” combines a task management system, projects, documents, social network, chat, video calls, document storage, calendar, mail and customer relationship management. With the help of this service, you can manage the customer base and mark all interaction points: calls, letters, and appointments. You can use it free or a commercially upgraded version at about $17 per month.
  • “Simple Business” helps to maintain a client base, store information about each customer, record and process calls. In addition, with the help of the platform, you can manage projects and personnel, conduct workflow, bookkeeping and manage the site. The cost is from $33 per month.
  • “LiveTex” provides digital channels for customer service: feedback widgets, instant messengers, social networks, email. With the help of the system, one can process calls in one interface or integrate into CRM-systems and chat-bots.

Accounting

“1C” is a set of software products for accounting, management and other types of reporting for small and medium sized businesses. The system is popular and used in construction, trade, education, medicine and other areas.

Project management and tools replacing Asana, Trello, Jira and others.

  • “Yandex.Tracker” helps to manage projects and organize work, allocate resources and monitor task fulfillment. Using this platform, you can track all the company’s processes and make them transparent for each participant. The cost is from $1.50 per person per month.
  • “Kaiten” helps manage complex processes on one board. For example, it suggests using a space on which several boards are in place. Within the project concept lies the use of both kanban and sram methodologies. All processes happening in the company can therefore be visualized. The cost is from $7 per person per month.
  • “Planiro” organizes collaboration work in the cloud: messages, discussions, archives, accounting of tasks and time, calendar, timing and budget planning, notifications, reports and tools for several management methods. The service helps monitor priority tasks, evaluate project progress and analyze costs. The cost is from $4 per person per month.
  • “Idea RealtimeBoard” – created a teamwork platform with cross-functional commands. This service helps to communicate with the team in one language, regardless of formats, work tools, geography or time zones. Each project participant can input new tasks or discuss existing ones for this endless board. The cost is from $40 per team per month.
  • “CrocoTime” automatically tracks working time at a computer and creates a digital photo of the working day; it helps keep records of meetings and calls. It analyzes the company’s business processes and helps to find and correct inefficient ones. From $5 a month per employee.
  • “Megaplan” is suited to organize work for a small or medium sized company. Helps to track business processes and manage employees. Among the features – billing, transaction control, task manager, file server, internal mail, transaction control and a module for working with personnel.
  • “PlanFix” helps organize joint work. In this system, you can set up an interface, and share user rights. The service can be used as a CRM-system, technical support, and with its help, you can assign and monitor tasks, conduct project activities, account for resources and plan finances.

Messengers and video communication to replace Slack.

  • “Dialog” offers a corporate messenger, which can be installed on the company’s internal server. Service meets the requirements of a single register of Russian programs and approved by state authorities. With the application, you can make audio and video calls, arrange video conferences and display a screen, share files, create personal and group chats. Among the possibilities of this service are audio messages, chat-bots, and channels. Using the service is free of charge; however, the paid company version is individually negotiated with each commercial user.
  • “TrueConf” – A service for organizing video communication on a local server or via the Internet. Communication is provided by UltraHD- quality and secure channels. You can deploy the system in a company of any size.

Tools for working with social networks, replacing HubSpot and HootSuite.

  • “Amplifer” automatically publishes records in social networks, collects statistics on them and counts clicks. Based on the statistics, the service prompts the time, in which it is better to publish the records. There is a weekly and monthly reporting format. This service is about $5 per page monthly.
  • “Babkee” tracks mentions in social networks and the media. This service helps to track user needs and conduct competitor analysis. With its help, you can also evaluate the effectiveness of advertising campaigns. Use is free of charge.
  • “SMMplanner” helps manage publications on social networks and create pending records. With the help of the service, you can create auto-deletion records, publish “Stories” and customize UTM-labels. The cost is from $7 per month, depending on the number of connected pages.
  • “Brand Analytics” is a system for analyzing social networks and the media. The service tracks the company’s references, determines the tone of messages, highlights important topics and finds trends.

Design and layout

  • “Readymag” helps transform design into code. Using this platform, you can create presentations, prepare stories and make logs. Interactive web projects can be created without developer participation. The service includes an editor, a preview and a platform for publication of the project. The cost is from $16 per month.
  • “Tilda Publishing” – A site builder. You can work free, but not more than one site and a limited set of templates. The price for the full shebang is from $8.50 per month, depending on the number of sites you are doing.

Notes – replacing Evernote and Google Keep.

  • “Nimbus Note” – with the help of this service you can save information from sites, write notes and important thoughts. The application has shared access for folders and notes. Storage of information is organized in a multi-level structure. The service positions itself as an alternative to Evernote. Use is free with a limit on the size of notes and attached files. The commercial fee is about $2 per month.

Since 2014 Russia has invested over 600 billion rubles ($10 billion) in accelerating import substitution, of which 120 billion rubles ($2 billion) were government funds, the rest private investments. This has helped start-up just over 1,200 import substitution projects, from peanut butter and cheeses to the digital realm. The focus however is not so much short term local substitution, but to refine and develop cost and quality effective export products and services for jobs creation, tax revenues and to diversify Russia’s long term economic matrix.

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US continues to try to corner Russia with silence on Nukes

Moscow continues to be patient in what appears to be an ever more lopsided, intentional stonewalling situation provoked by the Americans.

Seraphim Hanisch

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TASS reported on March 17th that despite Russian readiness to discuss the present problem of strategic weapons deployments and disarmament with its counterparts in the United States, the Americans have not offered Russia any proposals to conduct such talks.

The Kremlin has not yet received any particular proposals on the talks over issues of strategic stability and disarmament from Washington, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told TASS on Sunday when commenting on the statement made by US National Security Adviser John Bolton who did not rule out that such talks could be held with Russia and China.

“No intelligible proposals has been received [from the US] so far,” Peskov said.

Earlier Bolton said in an interview with radio host John Catsimatidis aired on Sunday that he considers it reasonable to include China in the negotiation on those issues with Russia as well.

“China is building up its nuclear capacity now. It’s one of the reasons why we’re looking at strengthening our national missile defense system here in the United States. And it’s one reason why, if we’re going to have another arms control negotiation, for example, with the Russians, it may make sense to include China in that discussion as well,” he said.

Mr. Bolton’s sense about this particular aspect of any arms discussions is correct, as China was not formerly a player in geopolitical affairs the way it is now. The now all-but-scrapped Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, was a treaty concluded by the US and the USSR leaders Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, back in 1987. However, for in succeeding decades, most notably since the fall of the Soviet Union, the US has been gradually building up weaponry in what appears to be an attempt to create a ring around the Russian Federation, a situation which is understandably increasingly untenable to the Russian government.

Both sides have accused one another of violating this treaty, and the mutual violations and recriminations on top of a host of other (largely fabricated) allegations against the Russian government’s activities led US President Donald Trump to announce his nation’s withdrawal from the treaty, formally suspending it on 1 February. Russian President Vladimir Putin followed suit by suspending it the very next day.

The INF eliminated all of both nations’ land based ballistic and cruise missiles that had a range between 500 and 1000 kilometers (310-620 miles) and also those that had ranges between 1000 and 5500 km (620-3420 miles) and their launchers.

This meant that basically all the missiles on both sides were withdrawn from Europe’s eastern regions – in fact, much, if not most, of Europe was missile-free as the result of this treaty. That is no longer the case today, and both nations’ accusations have provoked re-development of much more advanced systems than ever before, especially true considering the Russian progress into hypersonic and nuclear powered weapons that offer unlimited range.

This situation generates great concern in Europe, such that the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on both Moscow and Washington to salvage the INF and extend the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, or the New START as it is known.

“I call on the parties to the INF Treaty to use the time remaining to engage in sincere dialogue on the various issues that have been raised. It is very important that this treaty is preserved,” Guterres said at a session of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on Monday.

He stressed that the demise of that accord would make the world more insecure and unstable, which “will be keenly felt in Europe.” “We simply cannot afford to return to the unrestrained nuclear competition of the darkest days of the Cold War,” he said.

Guterres also urged the US and Russia to extend the START Treaty, which expires in 2021, and explore the possibility of further reducing their nuclear arsenals. “I also call on the United States and the Russian Federation to extend the so-called New START Treaty before it expires in 2021,” he said.

The UN chief recalled that the treaty “is the only international legal instrument limiting the size of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals” and that its inspection provisions “represent important confidence-building measures that benefit the entire world.”

Guterres recalled that the bilateral arms control process between Russia and the US “has been one of the hallmarks of international security for fifty years.”

“Thanks to their efforts, global stockpiles of nuclear weapons are now less than one-sixth of what they were in 1985,” the UN secretary-general pointed out.

The Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (the New START Treaty) entered into force on February 5, 2011. The document stipulates that seven years after its entry into effect each party should have no more than a total of 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and strategic bombers, as well as no more than 1,550 warheads on deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs and strategic bombers, and a total of 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers and strategic bombers. The new START Treaty obliges the parties to exchange information on the number of warheads and carriers twice a year.

The new START Treaty will remain in force during 10 years until 2021, unless superseded by a subsequent agreement. It may be extended for a period of no more than five years (that is, until 2026) upon the parties’ mutual consent. Moscow has repeatedly called on Washington not to delay the issue of extending the Treaty.

 

 

 

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Ariel Cohen exposes Washington’s latest twist in anti-Russia strategy [Video]

Excellent interview Ariel Cohen and Vladimir Solovyov reveals the forces at work in and behind American foreign policy.

Seraphim Hanisch

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While the American people and press are pretty much complicit in reassuring the masses that America is the only “right” superpower on earth, and that Russia and China represent “enemy threats” for doing nothing more than existing and being successfully competitive in world markets, Russia Channel One got a stunner of a video interview with Ariel Cohen.

Who is Ariel Cohen? Wikipedia offers this information about him:

Ariel Cohen (born April 3, 1959 in Crimea in YaltaUSSR) is a political scientist focusing on political risk, international security and energy policy, and the rule of law.[1] Cohen currently serves as the Director of The Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics (CENRG) at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security (IAGS). CENRG focuses on the nexus between energy, geopolitics and security, and natural resources and growth. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, within the Global Energy Center and the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.[2] Until July 2014, Dr. Cohen was a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He specializes in Russia/Eurasia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Cohen has testified before committees of the U.S. Congress, including the Senate and House Foreign Relations Committees, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Judiciary Committee and the Helsinki Commission.[4] He also served as a Policy Adviser with the National Institute for Public Policy’s Center for Deterrence Analysis.[5] In addition, Cohen has consulted for USAID, the World Bank and the Pentagon.[6][7]

Cohen is a frequent writer and commentator in the American and international media. He has appeared on CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX, C-SPAN, BBC-TV and Al Jazeera English, as well as Russian and Ukrainian national TV networks. He was a commentator on a Voice of America weekly radio and TV show for eight years. Currently, he is a Contributing Editor to the National Interest and a blogger for Voice of America. He has written guest columns for the New York TimesInternational Herald TribuneChristian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, EurasiaNet, Valdai Discussion Club,[8] and National Review Online. In Europe, Cohen’s analyses have appeared in Kommersant, Izvestiya, Hurriyet, the popular Russian website Ezhenedelny Zhurnal, and many others.[9][10]

Mr. Cohen came on Russian TV for a lengthy interview running about 17 minutes. This interview, shown in full below, is extremely instructive in illustrating the nature of the American foreign policy directives such as they are at this time.

We have seen evidence of this in recent statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, and an honestly unabashed bit of fear mongering about China’s company Huawei and its forthcoming 5G networks, which we will investigate in more detail in another piece. Both bits of rhetoric reflect a re-polished narrative that, paraphrased, says to the other world powers,

Either you do as we tell you, or you are our enemy. You are not even permitted to out-compete with us in business, let alone foreign relations. The world is ours and if you try to step out of place, you will be dealt with as an enemy power.

This is probably justified paranoia, because it is losing its place. Where the United Stated used to stand for opposition against tyranny in the world, it now acts as the tyrant, and even as a bully. Russia and China’s reaction might be seen as ignoring the bully and his bluster and just going about doing their own thing. It isn’t a fight, but it is treating the bully with contempt, as bullies indeed deserve.

Ariel Cohen rightly points out that there is a great deal of political inertia in the matter of allowing Russia and China to just do their own thing. The US appears to be acting paranoid about losing its place. His explanations appear very sound and very reasonable and factual. Far from some of the snark Vesti is often infamous for, this interview is so clear it is tragic that most Americans will never see it.

The tragedy for the US leadership that buys this strategy is that they appear to be blinded so much by their own passion that they cannot break free of it to save themselves.

This is not the first time that such events have happened to an empire. It happened in Rome; it happened for England; and it happened for the shorter-lived empires of Nazi Germany and ISIS. It happens every time that someone in power becomes afraid to lose it, and when the forces that propelled that rise to power no longer are present. The US is a superpower without a reason to be a superpower.

That can be very dangerous.

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Even a Vacuous Mueller Report Won’t End ‘Russiagate’

Too many reputations and other interests are vested in the legend for it to vanish from American politics anytime soon.

Stephen Cohen

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Authored by Stephen Cohen via The Nation:


Russiagate allegations that the Kremlin has a subversive hold over President Trump, and even put him in the White House, have poisoned American political life for almost three years. Among other afflictions, it has inspired an array of media malpractices, virtually criminalized anti–Cold War thinking about Russia, and distorted the priorities of the Democratic Party. And this leaves aside the woeful impact Russiagate has had in Moscow—on its policymakers’ perception of the US as a reliable partner on mutually vital strategic issues and on Russian democrats who once looked to the American political system as one to be emulated, a loss of “illusions” I previously reported.

Contrary to many expectations, even if the Mueller report, said to be impending, finds, as did a Senate committee recently, “no direct evidence of conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia,” Russiagate allegations are unlikely to dissipate in the near future and certainly not before the 2020 presidential election.

There are several reasons this is so, foremost among them the following:

  1. The story of a “Kremlin puppet” in the White House is so fabulous and unprecedented it is certain to become a tenacious political legend, as have others in American history despite the absence of any supporting evidence.
  2. The careers of many previously semi-obscure Democratic members of Congress have been greatly enhanced—if that is the right word—by their aggressive promotion of Russiagate. (Think, for example, of the ubiquitous media coverage and cable-television appearances awarded to Representatives Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, and Maxine Walters, and to Senators Mark Warner and Richard Blumenthal.) If Mueller fails to report “collusion” of real political substance, these and other Russiagate zealots, as well as their supporters in the media, will need to reinterpret run-of-the-mill (and bipartisan) financial corruption and mundane “contacts with Russia” as somehow treasonous. (The financial-corruption convictions of Paul Manafort, Mueller’s single “big win” to date, did not charge “collusion” and had to do mainly with Ukraine, not Russia.) Having done so already, there is every reason to think Democrats will politicize these charges again, if only for the sake of their own careers. Witness, for example, the scores of summonses promised by Jerrold Nadler, the new Democratic chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
  3. Still worse, the top Democratic congressional leadership evidently has concluded that promoting the new Cold War, of which Russiagate has become an integral part, is a winning issue in 2020. How else to explain Nancy Pelosi’s proposal—subsequently endorsed by the equally unstatesmanlike Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, and adopted—to invite the secretary general of NATO, a not-very-distinguished Norwegian politician named Jens Stoltenberg, to address a joint session of Congress? The honor was once bestowed on figures such as Winston Churchill and at the very least leaders of actual countries. Trump has reasonably questioned NATO’s mission and costs nearly 30 years after the Soviet Union disappeared, as did many Washington think tanks and pundits back in the 1990s. But for Pelosi and other Democratic leaders, there can be no such discussion, only valorization of NATO, even though the military alliance’s eastward expansion has brought the West to the brink of war with nuclear Russia. Anything Trump suggests must be opposed, regardless of the cost to US national security. Will the Democrats go to the country in 2020 as the party of investigations, subpoenas, Russophobia, and escalating cold war—and win?

Readers of my new book War With Russia?, which argues that there are no facts to support the foundational political allegations of Russiagate, may wonder how, then, Russiagate can continue to be such a major factor in our politics. As someone has recently pointed out, the Democrats and their media are now operating on the Liberty Valance principle: When the facts are murky or nonexistent, “print the legend.”

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