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Skripal case: Russia counter-attacks; Britain responds by tightening access to Yulia Skripal

Britain struggles to respond to Russia’s diplomatic counter-offensive, stonewalls all Russian attempts to gain access to Yulia Skripal

Alexander Mercouris

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If during the first three weeks of the Skripal crisis it was the British who made the running, over the last two weeks the initiative has slowly shifted to the Russians.

As is often the way, the Russians – caught by surprise by a crisis that seemed to come out of nowhere – initially responded reactively.

However as the weeks have passed they have gradually found their footing, and are now starting to score points.

By contrast it is the British – who apparently assumed that following the diplomatic expulsions the crisis would subside – who now look increasingly on the blackfoot as, contrary to their expectations, the Russians refuse to let the matter rest.

The result has been bitter recriminations in the British media – with much of the blame being placed on Boris Johnson – a flood of not always very consistent or convincing leaks to the media trying to bolster the British case, and ever more shrill denunciations of the supposedly ‘useful idiots’ who express doubts about it.

With hindsight the Russians took one step in the early days of the crisis which has paid handsome dividends.

This was their insistence – made as early as the UN Security Council session of 14th March 2018 – that Britain follow the procedures of the Chemical Weapons Convention and obtain confirmation from the OPCW of the nature of the poison used in the attack.

The Russians followed this up by convening a meeting of the OPCW’s executive committee on 4th April 2018 at which they presented a resolution which jointly sponsored by Russia, China and Iran for an international investigation of the incident, with law enforcement agencies from Britain and Russia both involved in the investigation.

This is by no means an absurd or outlandish proposal.  On the contrary since Yulia Skripal is a Russian citizen it is precisely what should have happened.

However – as the Russians of course know – the OPCW has no jurisdiction to impose an international investigation of a crime which has happened in a sovereign state.  That is a matter solely within the jurisdiction of that state, and the OPCW – which is not an investigative body –  has no authority to order it.  The only international institution which does is the UN Security Council.

There was no possibility therefore of the Russian-Chinese-Iranian proposal being adopted, or of  being put into effect if it was adopted, and the Russians – and the Chinese and the Iranians – must have known this when they proposed it.

However the Russian insistence that the OPCW become involved and verify the British claim that the poison used in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal was a Novichok, together with the Russians’ call for an international investigation of the incident, and the lists of questions with which in advance of the OPCW executive council session the Russians bombarded the OPCW, the British, and the French – whose experts the British consulted to verify the identity of the poison – set the scene for the admission by Gary Aitkenhead, Porton Down’s chief executive, that contrary to British Foreign Office claims Porton Down has not been able to confirm that the chemical which poisoned Sergey and Yulia Skripal was made in Russia.

Ever since then, because British diplomats – not just Boris Johnson – have for weeks been lying about this, the British have been on the defensive.

As it happens the OPCW executive council session, like the UN Security Council session which Russia called shortly after, also demonstrated another important fact.

This is that the Skripal crisis is an East-West confrontation  – the West versus the Eurasian powers led by Russia and China – and not a confrontation between a ‘united world community’ and an ‘isolated Russia’, as British and other Western commentators like to claim.

It seems that all the sixteen states who at the OPCW executive council session voted against the Russian-Chinese-Iranian proposal for an international investigation of the incident are members of the Western alliance, whilst the six countries which voted for the proposal are all Eurasian states.  Importantly all seventeen of the states which chose to abstain in the voting appear to have been non-aligned states.

The pattern repeated itself at the subsequent UN Security Council meeting on the following day, 5th April 2018.

Not only were Western ambassadors the only ambassadors pointing fingers at Russia during the meeting, but those non-aligned non-Western ambassadors who chose to speak during the meeting not only did not point fingers at Russia but appeared if anything to favour the Russian position: that the mysteries of the Skripal case be solved internationally by way of cooperation between Britain and Russia.

The comments of the ambassador of Equatorial Guinea – no ally of Russia – as summarised by the United Nations Press Office, may serve as a typical example

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) expressed hope that current investigations would both shed light on the facts and be fair and commensurate with relevant international norms and procedures.  He reiterated a desire that, as permanent members of the Council, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom would set an example to the international community on the peaceful resolution of disputes.  At a pivotal moment when international institutions were under constant attack, it was important the two members used their maturity and international political experience to handle the situation prudently, he said, hoping the diplomatic crisis that had broken out would soon be defused.

If Gary Aitkenhead’s admission that Porton Down cannot confirm that the chemical agent used in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal was Russian made has been a public relations disaster for the British, the British authorities’ treatment of Sergey and Yulia Skripal looks increasingly like a public relations disaster waiting to happen.

The British authorities have maintained the tightest possible security around Sergey and Yulia Skripal. No photographs of them have been released and nor has any information been provided about the sort of treatment they are receiving.  So far as is known they have been seen by no visitors.  Access to them is tightly controlled.

The recent High Court Judgment permitting blood samples to be taken from Sergey and Yulia Skripal so that they could be passed on to the OPCW revealed that the British authorities had previously taken blood samples from Sergey and Yulia Skripal, which were passed on to Porton Down.

(2) …….on 14 and 16 March 2018 the UK government issued a formal invitation to the Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to send a team of experts to the United Kingdom ‘to assist in the technical evaluation of unscheduled chemicals in accordance with Article VIII 38(e).’ This in effect is to independently verify the analysis carried out by Porton Down. In order to conduct their enquiries the OPCW wish to

i)  Collect fresh blood samples from Mr and Ms Skripal to

a)  Undertake their own analysis in relation to evidence of nerve agents,

b)  conduct DNA analysis to confirm the samples originally tested by Porton Down are from Mr and Ms Skripal,

ii)  Analyse the medical records of Mr and Ms Skripal setting out their treatment since 4 March 2018,

iii)  Re-test the samples already analysed by Porton Down.

(3) Because Mr Skripal and Ms Skripal are unconscious and neither are in a position to consent to the taking of further blood samples for these purposes or to the disclosure of their medical records Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust have quite properly confirmed to the UK Government that a court order would be required to authorise (a) and (b) above.

(bold italics added)

There is no hint here of any previous permission being obtained from the High Court to take these blood samples.  This is so, even though Mr. Justice Williams clearly says in his Judgment that such permission should be obtained

(3) Because Mr Skripal and Ms Skripal are unconscious and neither are in a position to consent to the taking of further blood samples for these purposes or to the disclosure of their medical records Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust have quite properly confirmed to the UK Government that a court order would be required to authorise (a) and (b) above

(4) Thus the Secretary of State has applied to this court for personal welfare orders in respect of Mr and Ms Skripal under the provisions of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 seeking determinations that it is lawful for the NHS Trust to take a blood sample for provision to the OPCW and to disclose the relevant medical records to the OPCW and for the blood samples taken from Mr and Ms Skripal to be subjected to testing by the OPCW.

(bold italics added)

Was permission obtained from the High Court before the blood samples sent to Porton Down were taken from Sergey and Yulia Skripal?

If not, then was the taking of the earlier blood samples unlawful, perhaps an assault, which is a criminal offence?

If permission was obtained why has the High Court’s Judgment granting this permission not been made public?  What made it different from the Judgment of Mr. Justice Williams, which was made public?

Or could it be that no permission was needed because at the time when the blood samples were taken Sergey and Yulia Skripal were conscious and could therefore give their consent to have the samples taken?

Or might it be that it was judged at the time that the taking of the blood samples did not require the High Court’s permission because it was a necessary part of the medical treatment with which Sergey and Yulia Skripal were being provided?  If so why is nothing said about this in Mr. Justice Williams’s Judgment?

Speaking as someone who has read many court Judgments, I strongly suspect that no previous permission was obtained from the High Court when the previous blood samples were taken.  Had it been I would have expected Mr. Justice Williams in his very careful Judgment to mention it.

One way or the other I would be interested to have an explanation about this.

Publication of the High Court Judgment was followed shortly after by the sudden and unexpected announcement that Yulia Skripal was recovering well and had regained consciousness.

That the two events – the publication of the Judgment and the announcement of Yulia Skripal’s recovery – might be linked, I have suggested previously

Now that the Russian consular authorities know of the Court proceedings concerning Yulia Skripal which have been underway it would in theory be open to them to instruct lawyers to apply for them to be joined as a party to those proceedings so that they can represent Yulia Skripal in them.

I have no idea whether they are considering doing so, but I do frankly wonder whether the sudden announcement of Yulia Skripal’s recovery – welcome news that it is – might also in part have been intended to forestall such a step by the Russian consular authorities on the grounds that Yulia Skripal is now in a position to make her own decisions.

Predictably enough, the announcement of Yulia Skripal’s recovery led to renewed Russian demands for consular access to her.  The British have however failed to grant such access without saying clearly why.

Meanwhile photographs of Yulia Skripal have still not appeared.  There is still no information about the treatment she is receiving.  She still appears to have seen no visitors.  There is no public word of any law firm representing her though the need for her to be provided with legal assistance – and to be allowed to consult with lawyers – is obvious.

Her cousin Viktoria Skripal has had only one telephone conversation with her that we know of, which she recorded.

As I have discussed previously, the impression provided by the transcript of the conversation is of Yulia Skripal being someone who feels very constrained in what she is either able or willing to say.

She does however know in advance that Viktoria Skripal’s request for a visa to come to Britain to see her is going to be refused (some British media outlets apparently deleted these words when they published the transcript).

That Viktoria Skripal’s request for a visa to come to Britain has been refused has now been confirmed by the BBC

Meanwhile, the UK has refused to grant a visa to Yulia’s cousin, Viktoria Skripal, the BBC has learned.

The Home Office said the application did not comply with immigration rules. A government source told the BBC it appears Russia is “trying to use Viktoria as a pawn”…..

Viktoria later told the BBC she did not have enough money in her bank account to satisfy the visa requirements.

The Guardian has provided further details of what “the government source” said about Viktoria Skripal

“It appears the Russian state is trying to use Victoria as a pawn,” a government source told the BBC, adding: “If she is being influenced or coerced by the Kremlin, she has become another victim.”

(bold italics added)

It looks as if the claim that Viktoria Skripal has insufficient money in her bank account to be granted a visa is just a pretext.

Just as her cousin Yulia Skripal told her, the British authorities have no intention of granting her a visa, not because she has insufficient money in her bank account but because they consider her to be “a pawn of the Russian government” (whatever that means).

Why that should prevent her from seeing her cousin, who is seriously ill, is left unexplained.

Incidentally I wonder whether the fact that the British authorities consider Viktoria Skripal to be “a pawn of the Russian government” also explains why she has been denied any role in the legal proceedings which affect her cousin, to the point where the British authorities appear to have failed even to inform Mr. Justice Williams of her existence?

All in all it appears that the British authorities are determined to prevent anyone from Russia – even members of Yulia Skripal’s family – from having contact with her.

That presumably accounts for the strange statement published in Yulia Skripal’s name by the British authorities in what looks like a rushed reaction to Viktoria Skripal’s publication of the transcript of her conversation with Yulia Skripal.

This statement – written in perfect idiomatic British English – appears to be intended to justify blocking access to her – either by the Russian authorities or by members of her family or by anyone such as a lawyer who might be acting on their behalf.

One effect of publication of the transcript of Yulia Skripal’s conversation with Viktoria Skripal has been that it has forced the British authorities to confirm that what Yulia Skripal told Viktoria Skripal during their conversation – that Sergey Skripal is not only alive but is also recovering – is true.

Directly after publication of the transcript I wrote that its contents appeared to suggest this, and now the British authorities themselves have been forced to confirm it.

In other words, just as publication of Mr. Justice Williams’s Judgment seems to have forced the British authorities to admit that Yulia Skripal is recovering and conscious, so Viktoria Skripal’s publication of the transcript of her telephone conversation with Yulia Skripal seems to have forced the British authorities to admit that Sergey Skripal is alive and recovering well.

Frankly the timing of these announcements, and the extraordinary secrecy about every aspect of the treatment and condition of Sergey and Yulia Skripal since they were first found on the bench, only reinforces the impression that the British authorities are in effect controlling them, and that they are being kept in a condition which looks suspiciously like detention.

Perhaps this is all being done in good faith and for their protection.

However John Helmer for one says that

The evidence now accumulating is that the hospital is detaining and isolating the Skripals against their will, preventing contact with their family.

(bold italics added)

He makes a compelling case.

With the collapse of the Novichok evidence Sergey and Yulia Skripal are now key witnesses in the case.

Perhaps they have nothing of value to say.  It is striking that a week after Yulia Skripal recovered consciousness the British police have still not identified a suspect, which suggests that her knowledge of the facts behind the attack is limited.

However in the meantime the Russians are stating what many people will doubtless see as the obvious

That the Russians may have a point is strongly suggested by the following very interesting words in this interesting article by the Guardian’s diplomatic editor Patrick Wintour, which appeared on 30th March 2018, shortly after news of Yulia Skripal’s recovery was made public

Russia has also responded to the apparent recovery of Yulia Skripal, who was poisoned alongside her father. She may be able to provide insights into how the poisoning occurred, or even reveal whether she knows of some other motive by some other non-state actor.

The British intelligence services will be debriefing her as soon as her health permits. It would clearly be a huge embarrassment for the UK government if it emerged she believed the Russian state was not involved.

(bold italics added)

Perhaps it was not just rhetoric from Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia when he warned the British at the UN Security Council meeting on 5th April 2018

……that they were playing with fire and would be sorry.   Politicians in the United Kingdom had no idea that their hyped-up statements might boomerang back at them.

Does Nebenzia and the Russian government know more than they are saying?  Perhaps there are more surprises ahead in this strange affair.

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Ukraine Wants Nuclear Weapons: Will the West Bow to the Regime in Kiev?

Efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation are one of the few issues on which the great powers agree, intending to continue to limit the spread of nuclear weapons and to prevent new entrants into the exclusive nuclear club.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The former Ukrainian envoy to NATO, Major General Petro Garashchuk, recently stated in an interview with Obozrevatel TV:

“I’ll say it once more. We have the ability to develop and produce our own nuclear weapons, currently available in the world, such as the one that was built in the former USSR and which is now in independent Ukraine, located in the city of Dnipro (former Dnipropetrovsk) that can produce these kinds of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Neither the United States, nor Russia, nor China have produced a missile named Satan … At the same time, Ukraine does not have to worry about international sanctions when creating these nuclear weapons.”

The issue of nuclear weapons has always united the great powers, especially following the signing of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The decision to reduce the number of nuclear weapons towards the end of the Cold War went hand in hand with the need to prevent the spread of such weapons of mass destruction to other countries in the best interests of humanity. During the final stages of the Cold War, the scientific community expended great effort on impressing upon the American and Soviet leadership how a limited nuclear exchange would wipe out humanity. Moscow and Washington thus began START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) negotiations to reduce the risk of a nuclear winter. Following the dissolution of the USSR, the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances persuaded Ukraine to relinquish its nuclear weapons and accede to the NPT in exchange for security assurances from its signatories.

Ukraine has in recent years begun entertaining the possibility of returning to the nuclear fold, especially in light of North Korea’s recent actions. Kim Jong-un’s lesson seems to be that a nuclear deterrent remains the only way of guaranteeing complete protection against a regional hegemon. The situation in Ukraine, however, differs from that of North Korea, including in terms of alliances and power relations. Kiev’s government came into power as a result of a coup d’etat carried out by extremist nationalist elements who seek their inspiration from Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera. The long arm of NATO has always been deeply involved in the dark machinations that led to Poroshenko’s ascendency to the Ukrainian presidency. From a geopolitical point of view, NATO’s operation in Ukraine (instigating a civil war in the wake of a coup) follows in the footsteps of what happened in Georgia. NATO tends to organize countries with existing anti-Russia sentiments to channel their Russophobia into concrete actions that aim to undermine Moscow. The war in the Donbass is a prime example.

However, Ukraine has been unable to subdue the rebels in the Donbass region, the conflict freezing into a stalemate and the popularity of the Kiev government falling as the population’s quality of life experiences a precipitous decline. The United States and the European Union have not kept their promises, leaving Poroshenko desperate and tempted to resort to provocations like the recent Kerch strait incident or such as those that are apparently already in the works, as recently reported by the DPR authorities.

The idea of Ukraine resuming its production of nuclear weapons is currently being floated by minor figures, but it could take hold in the coming months, especially if the conflict continues in its frozen state and Kiev becomes frustrated and desperate. The neoconservative wing of the American ruling elite, absolutely committed to the destruction of the Russian Federation, could encourage Kiev along this path, in spite of the incalculable risks involved. The EU, on the other hand, would likely be terrified at the prospect, which would also place it between a rock and a hard place. Kiev, on one side, would be able to extract from the EU much needed economic assistance in exchange for not going nuclear, while on the other side the neocons would be irresponsibly egging the Ukrainians on.

Moscow, if faced with such a possibility, would not just stand there. In spite of Russia having good relations with North Korea, it did not seem too excited at the prospect of having a nuclear-armed neighbor. With Ukraine, the response would be much more severe. A nuclear-armed Ukraine would be a red line for Moscow, just as Crimea and Sevastopol were. It is worth remembering the Russian president’s words when referring to the possibility of a NATO invasion of Crimea during the 2014 coup:

“We were ready to do it [putting Russia’s nuclear arsenal on alert]. Russian people live there, they are in danger, we cannot leave them. It was not us who committed to coup, it was the nationalists and people with extreme beliefs. I do not think this is actually anyone’s wish – to turn it into a global conflict.”

As Kiev stands on the precipice, it will be good for the neocons, the neoliberals and their European lackeys to consider the consequences of advising Kiev to jump or not. Giving the nuclear go-ahead to a Ukrainian leadership so unstable and detached from reality may just be the spark that sets off Armageddon.

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Mike Pompeo lays out his vision for American exceptionalism (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 158.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and International Affairs and Security Analyst via Moscow, Mark Sleboda take a look at Mike Pompeo’s shocking Brussels speech, where the U.S. Secretary of State took aim at the European Union and United Nations, citing such institutions as outdated and poorly managed, in need of a new dogma that places America at its epicenter.

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Speaking in Brussels, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unwittingly underscored why nobody takes the United States seriously on the international stage. Via The Council on Foreign Relations


In a disingenuous speech at the German Marshall Fund, Pompeo depicted the transactional and hypernationalist Trump administration as “rallying the noble nations of the world to build a new liberal order.” He did so while launching gratuitous attacks on the European Union, United Nations, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund (IMF)—pillars of the existing postwar order the United States did so much to create. He remained silent, naturally, on the body blows that the current administration has delivered to its erstwhile allies and partners, and to the institutions that once upon a time permitted the United States to legitimate rather than squander its international leadership.

In Pompeo’s telling, Donald J. Trump is simply seeking a return to the world that former Secretary of State George Marshall helped to create. In the decades after 1945, the United States “underwrote new institutions” and “entered into treaties to codify Western values of freedom and human rights.” So doing, the United States “won the Cold War” and—thanks to the late President George H. W. Bush, “we won the peace” that followed. “This is the type of leadership that President Trump is boldly reasserting.”

That leadership is needed because the United States “allowed this liberal order to begin to corrode” once the bipolar conflict ended. “Multilateralism has too often become viewed as an end unto itself,” Pompeo explained. “The more treaties we sign, the safer we supposedly are. The more bureaucrats we have, the better the job gets done.” What is needed is a multilateralism that once again places the nation-state front and center.

Leave aside for the moment that nobody actually believes what Pompeo alleges: that multilateralism should be an end in itself; that paper commitments are credible absent implementation, verification, and enforcement; or that the yardstick of success is how many bureaucrats get hired. What sensible people do believe is that multilateral cooperation is often (though not always) the best way for nations to advance their interests in an interconnected world of complicated problems. Working with others is typically superior to unilateralism, since going it alone leaves the United States with the choice of trying to do everything itself (with uncertain results) or doing nothing. Multilateralism also provides far more bang for the buck than President Trump’s favored approach to diplomacy, bilateralism.

Much of Pompeo’s address was a selective and tendentious critique of international institutions that depicts them as invariably antithetical to national sovereignty. Sure, he conceded, the European Union has “delivered a great deal of prosperity to the continent.” But it has since gone badly off track, as the “political wake-up call” of Brexit showed. All this raised a question in his mind: “Is the EU ensuring that the interests of countries and their citizens are placed before those of bureaucrats and Brussels?”

The answer, as one listener shouted out, is “Yes!” The secretary, like many U.S. conservative critics of European integration, is unaware that EU member states continue to hold the lion’s share of power in the bloc, which remains more intergovernmental than supranational. Pompeo seems equally unaware of how disastrously Brexit is playing out. With each passing day, the costs of this catastrophic, self-inflicted wound are clearer. In its quest for complete policy autonomy—on ostensible “sovereignty” grounds—the United Kingdom will likely have to accept, as the price for EU market access, an entire body of law and regulations that it will have no say in shaping. So much for advancing British sovereignty.

Pompeo similarly mischaracterizes the World Bank and IMF as having gone badly off track. “Today, these institutions often counsel countries who have mismanaged their economic affairs to impose austerity measures that inhibit growth and crowd out private sector actors.” This is an odd, hybrid critique. It combines a shopworn, leftist criticism from the 1990s—that the international financial institutions (IFIs) punish poor countries with structural adjustment programs—with the conservative accusation that the IFIs are socialist, big-government behemoths. Both are ridiculous caricatures. They ignore how much soul-searching the IFIs have done since the 1990s, as well as how focused they are on nurturing an enabling institutional environment for the private sector in partner countries.

Pompeo also aims his blunderbuss at the United Nations. He complains that the United Nations’ “peacekeeping missions drag on for decades, no closer to peace,” ignoring the indispensable role that blue helmets play in preventing atrocities, as well as a recent Government Accountability Office report documenting how cost-effective such operations are compared to U.S. troops. Similarly, Pompeo claims, “The UN’s climate-related treaties are viewed by some nations simply as a vehicle to redistribute wealth”—an accusation that is both unsubstantiated and ignores the urgent need to mobilize global climate financing to save the planet.

Bizarrely, Pompeo also turns his sights on the Organization of American States (OAS) and the African Union (AU), for alleged shortcomings. Has the OAS, he asks, done enough “to promote its four pillars of democracy, human rights, security, and economic development?” Um, no. Could that have something to do with the lack of U.S. leadership in the Americas on democracy and human rights? Yes. Might it have helped if the Trump administration had filled the position of assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs before October 15 of this year? Probably.

Equally puzzling is Pompeo’s single line riff on the AU. “In Africa, does the African Union advance the mutual interest of its nation-state members?” Presumably the answer is yes, or its members would be headed for the door. The AU continues to struggle in financing its budget, but it has made great strides since its founding in 2002 to better advance security, stability, and good governance on the continent.

“International bodies must help facilitate cooperation that bolsters the security and values of the free world, or they must be reformed or eliminated,” Pompeo declared. Sounds reasonable. But where is this “free world” of which the secretary speaks, and what standing does the United States today have to defend, much less reform it? In the two years since he took office, Donald Trump has never expressed any interest in defending the international order, much less “returning [the United States] to its traditional, central leadership role in the world,” as Pompeo claims. Indeed, the phrase “U.S. leadership” has rarely escaped Trump’s lips, and he has gone out of his way to alienate longstanding Western allies and partners in venues from NATO to the G7.

When he looks at the world, the president cares only about what’s in it for the United States (and, naturally, for him). That cynicism explains the president’s deafening silence on human rights violations and indeed his readiness to cozy up to strongmen and killers from Vladimir Putin to Rodrigo Duterte to Mohammed bin Salman to too many more to list. Given Trump’s authoritarian sympathies and instincts, Pompeo’s warnings about “Orwellian human rights violations” in China and “suppressed opposition voices” in Russia ring hollow.

“The central question that we face,” Pompeo asked in Brussels, “is the question of whether the system as currently configured, as it exists today—does it work? Does it work for all the people of the world?” The answer, of course, is not as well as it should, and not for nearly enough of them. But if the secretary is seeking to identify impediments to a better functioning multilateral system, he can look to his left in his next Cabinet meeting.

“Principled realism” is the label Pompeo has given Trump’s foreign policy. Alas, it betrays few principles and its connection to reality is tenuous. The president has abandoned any pursuit of universal values, and his single-minded obsession to “reassert our sovereignty” (as Pompeo characterizes it) is actually depriving the United States of joining with others to build the prosperous, secure, and sustainable world that Americans want.

“Bad actors have exploited our lack of leadership for their own gain,” the secretary of state declared in Belgium. “This is the poisoned fruit of American retreat.” How true. Pompeo’s next sentence—“President Trump is determined to reverse that”—was less persuasive.

 

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Russia calls on US to put a leash on Petro Poroshenko

The West’s pass for Mr. Poroshenko may blow up in NATO’s and the US’s face if the Ukrainian President tries to start a war with Russia.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Russia called on Washington not to ignore the Poroshenko directives creating an active military buildup along the Ukrainian-Donbass frontier, this buildup consisting of Ukrainian forces and right-wing ultranationalists, lest it “trigger the implementation of a bloody scenario”, according to a Dec 11 report from TASS.

The [Russian] Embassy [to the US] urges the US State Department to recognize the presence of US instructors in the zone of combat actions, who are involved in a command and staff and field training of Ukraine’s assault airborne brigades. “We expect that the US will bring to reason its proteges. Their aggressive plans are not only doomed to failure but also run counter to the statements of the administration on its commitment to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine by political and diplomatic means,” the statement said.

This warning came after Eduard Basurin, the deputy defense minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic noted that the Ukrainian army was massing troops and materiel for a possible large-scale offensive at the Mariupol section of the contact line in Donbass. According to Basurin, this action is expected to take place on 14 December. TASS offered more details:

According to the DPR’s reconnaissance data, Ukrainian troops plan to seize the DPR’s Novoazovsky and Temanovsky districts and take control over the border section with Russia. The main attack force of over 12,000 servicemen has been deployed along the contact line near the settlements of Novotroitskoye, Shirokino, and Rovnopol. Moreover, more than 50 tanks, 40 multiple missile launcher systems, 180 artillery systems and mortars have been reportedly pulled to the area, Basurin added. Besides, 12 BM-30 Smerch heavy multiple rocket launchers have been sent near Volodarsky.

The DPR has warned about possible provocations plotted by Ukrainian troops several times. Thus, in early December, the DPR’s defense ministry cited reconnaissance data indicating that the Ukrainian military was planning to stage an offensive and deliver an airstrike. At a Contact Group meeting on December 5, DPR’s Foreign Minister Natalia Nikonorova raised the issue of Kiev’s possible use of chemical weapons in the conflict area.

This is a continuation of the reported buildup The Duran reported in this article linked here, and it is a continuation of the full-scale drama that started with the Kerch Strait incident, which itself appears to have been staged by Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko. Following that incident, the president was able to get about half of Ukraine placed under a 30-day period of martial law, citing “imminent Russian aggression.”

President Poroshenko is arguably a dangerous man. He appears to be desperate to maintain a hold on power, though his approval numbers and support is abysmally low in Ukraine. While he presents himself as a hero, agitating for armed conflict with Russia and simultaneously interfering in the affairs of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Church, he is actually one of the most dangerous leaders the world has to contend with, precisely because he is unfit to lead.

Such men and women are dangerous because their desperation makes them short-sighted, only concerned about their power and standing.

An irony about this matter is that President Poroshenko appears to be exactly what the EuroMaidan was “supposed” to free Ukraine of; that is, a stooge puppet leader that marches to orders from a foreign power and does nothing for the improvement of the nation and its citizens.

The ouster of Viktor Yanukovich was seen as the sure ticket to “freedom from Russia” for Ukraine, and it may well have been that Mr. Yanukovich was an incompetent leader. However, his removal resulted in a tryannical regíme coming into power, that resulting in the secession of two Ukrainian regions into independent republics and a third secession of strategically super-important Crimea, who voted in a referendum to rejoin Russia.

While this activity was used by the West to try to bolster its own narrative that Russia remains the evil henchman in Europe, the reality of life in Ukraine doesn’t match this allegation at all. A nation that demonstrates such behavior shows that there are many problems, and the nature of these secessions points at a great deal of fear from Russian-speaking Ukrainian people about the government that is supposed to be their own.

President Poroshenko presents a face to the world that the West is apparently willing to support, but the in-country approval of this man as leader speaks volumes. The West’s blind support of him “against Russia” may be one of the most tragic errors yet in Western foreign policy.

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