All posts by Andrey Fomine

Betraying The President

President Trump was savagely attacked by the American political and academic community over the Helsinki summit, during which, in their opinion, he capitulated to President Putin on every issue.

All attempts to defend him have been in vain

The American press, who consider themselves to be the freest and most professional journalists in the world, continue their race to the bottom. First they humiliated their own president and country (there’s no other way to say it) during the Helsinki summit itself. Rather than asking about the most important issues on the global agenda, they were only interested in Russia’s interference in the American election. I guess that superpower has no other problems that are worth discussing with Russia (such as North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, Iran’s growing power in the Middle East, the failure to contain China, the collapse of the transatlantic alliance, or the inability to palm Ukraine off onto another financial sponsor), other than Moscow’s alleged influence on the US 2016 election. However, even if this is such a riveting topic, journalists should still ask questions, not simply make declarations that are all variations of “Why should the American people and Trump believe you when you say that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 elections?” Things got to the point that the American president was forced to defend his Russian counterpart in the face of their inappropriate behavior.

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive in Helsinki, Finland, on Sunday ahead of a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump is under increasing pressure to confront Putin directly about special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 12 Russians accused of conspiring to interfere in the 2016 election

And these reporters/peddlers of propaganda needed someone to apologize for them. A quick glance through the articles and commentary published by the US media following the summit confirms that they paid no attention to either Syria, Ukraine, disarmament issues, or the progress being made by diplomatic work sessions. Their focus was almost entirely centered on Trump’s “unacceptable” and “shameful” behavior. “The moment called for Trump to stand up for America. He chose to bow,” wrote the Washington Post. An article by columnist Thomas Friedman in the Seattle Times was actually titled “Trump and Putin vs. America.”

He didn’t back them

Naturally, most of the noise is coming from his personal enemies, who finally have the opportunity to challenge the main pillar of Trump’s legitimacy — his commitment to defending America’s national interests. Former FBI director James Comey wrote indignantly, “This was the day an American president stood on foreign soil next to a murderous lying thug and refused to back his own country.” Mr. Comey was the one who supported the cruel and deceitful Hillary, refusing to obey the law and protect his own country from an attack against his own president and constitution.

However, (unfortunately for Trump), even many Republicans have added their voices to the howl of criticism. Republican senator Jeff Flake holds the same opinion, claiming that he did not think that he would live to see such a day. The Republicans were displeased, first of all, that in Putin’s presence Trump questioned the national intelligence agency’s findings about Russian interference during the run-up to the election. And though the American president has already retreated a bit  —  claiming that although he places a high value on the work of the intelligence community, he simply wants to leave the past in the past  —  even so, the wave of rage has not subsided.

Stupidity, treason, or the nation’s best interests?

In terms of tone, the press articles only diverged in regard to their differing assumptions about the motives behind Trump’s capitulation to Putin. Some wrote that Trump lacked professionalism and backbone. According to the Washington Post, prior to the summit his aides had prepared as many as 100 pages of briefing materials offering advice and strategies to help Trump negotiate with Putin from a position of strength  —  but that the president ignored almost all of it.

HELSINKI, FINLAND ñ JULY 16, 2018: US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman Jr looks on during a joint news conference by Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump following their meeting at the Presidential Palace. Valery Sharifulin/TASS

Others claim that the problem isn’t that there’s something deficient about the American president, but that the Russian leader has something extra. “President Trump’s weakness in front of Putin was embarrassing, and proves that the Russians have something on the president, personally, financially or politically,” declared House minority leader Nancy Pelosi. And former CIA Director John Brennan bluntly labeled the US president’s actions as treasonous. It will be interesting to see if the Democrats continue to advance this idea, because treason, unlike many of other charges that the establishment is pursuing against Trump, is a clear-cut basis for launching impeachment proceedings.

Treason did actually occur  —  however it wasn’t Trump who was guilty of it, but rather the political and academic community. A few voices of reason, such as Russia expert Stephen F. Cohen, tried to explain the obvious. Trump is doing what other American presidents before him have done  —  he is meeting with the head of the Kremlin in order to prevent a nuclear war. In addition, the US president is trying to start afresh with Russia and turn that rival into an instrument of US foreign policy  —  a means to help contain Iran or China. However, the liberals and globalists who have declared war against him are undermining every effort by the occupant of the Oval Office and thus weakening the US position on the global stage. And, of course, no one is going to try to impeach them  —  in the end, they don’t have to answer for anything, and, according to Trump, “[all they] know how to do is resist and obstruct.” And unlike them, the president would rather “take a political risk in pursuit of peace than to risk peace in pursuit of politics.”

What did the American president accomplish?

What specific goals did President Trump manage to achieve during the Helsinki summit?

First of all, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin reached an agreement to resume their dialog on strategic stability and the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Given the past few years of escalating tensions surrounding these issues, plus recent events during which the whole world was literally on the verge of nuclear war, this step represents a real breakthrough. During that very meeting, the American president received specific proposals from his Russian counterpart, which have not yet been announced.

Second, as a result of the negotiations, agreement was reached in regard to the most important aspect of US policy in the Middle East: reducing Iran’s influence in Syria. President Putin affirmed Russia’s commitment to reestablishing full compliance in the Golan Heights with the 1974 agreement on disengagement between Syria and Israel.

Third, the American president managed to establish the prerequisites for constructing a new architecture for the global market for carbon emissions, in order to safeguard US economic interests.

President Donald Trump and President Vladmir Putin press conference

In addition, during the final press conference after the summit, Donald Trump was handed a real bargaining chip by his Russian counterpart, which he can use in his political battle at home against his relentless opponents. In response to questions about Russia’s alleged interference in the US presidential election, Vladimir Putin announced that William Browder’s company, Hermitage Capital  —  which has been accused of tax evasion on $1.5 billion of its Russian earnings that were taken out of the country  —  had actually funneled $400 million into campaign contributions for Hillary Clinton.

Thus, in addition to the US president’s previous demands that the Democratic Party provide the FBI with access to its computer servers that were supposedly hacked “on orders from Moscow,” Donald Trump now has public testimony that Hillary Clinton’s election campaign was financed by “dirty money.”

Developments in the very near future will show how the US president will deal with the aftermath of the summit with his Russian counterpart. Whether or not he will be able, or allowed, to implement the agreements that were reached will largely depend on the outcome of the next round of the domestic political battles in Washington.

The Next US President Will Save Europe From Russia’s Secret Plot

On the eve of his visit to Austria, President Vladimir Putin told the press: Russia has not the least intention of sowing dissent within the European Union. On the contrary, it is in Moscow’s interests that the EU, its biggest trading partner, remain as unified and thriving as possible.

Europeans have long been quite obsessed with the idea that Russia is bent on dividing and weakening Europe.  In the most prominent English-language media this is practically presumed to be as obviously true as their claims that Russia killed the blogger Arkady Babchenko, attempted to murder the spy Sergei Skripal, and shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

As usual, after the Malaysian government admitted that the evidence of Russian involvement in the downing of flight MH17 was inconclusive, the anti-Russian propaganda campaigns were reduced to slim pickings. It was precisely for this reason that the more cutting-edge Western media were so happy to latch onto the murder of the blogger in Kiev. It was precisely for this reason that the very ones who had so desperately hyped that whole episode were so indignant when they realized that they had fallen victim to a bit of ruthless Ukrainian creative license.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron at the G-20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany on July 8, 2017

But let’s get back to Russia’s secret plots against Europe. Interestingly, when you trace back the source of most of the warnings about the Russian plots to divide Europe, they seem to emanate from Great Britain. In other words, they are coming from a government that has decided to pull out of the EU but is now trying to direct its foreign policy.

Allegations of Russian plans to fragment Europe have been heard from both the head of Britain’s MI5 intelligence agency as well as from spokesmen from the European Council for Foreign Relations (ECFR). Judging by its name, one might be forgiven for assuming that was supposed to be a pan-European organization. But actually that’s just what’s written on the shingle they hang outside their door, because, in fact, this “think tank” is headquartered and funded in London.

It turns out that the most prominently schismatic states in Europe also hold wildly anti-Russian stances. Neither Great Britain, nor, shall we say, Poland could be suspected of a dearth of official Russophobia. Both of them, each in their own way, are trying to ruin the lives of those countries that form the core of the EU.  Both have closed their doors to refugees and both are bravely waging war against an “influx” of natural gas that theoretically has nothing to do with them. Poland, which gets 17 billion euros a year from the EU budget, has the audacity to be demanding reparations from Germany. Britain, which slammed its doors shut in order to avoid chipping in to fund the EU, is valiantly battling Brussels in order to hold on to its economic perks in Europe.

And in this context, the EU’s biggest common ally — the US — is becoming an increasingly big problem. Washington has unleashed an economic war, not only against Russia and Iran, but also against the countries of Europe. But in the propaganda being rolled out for the European audience, the picture of the world looks like this:

The European Union’s main enemies are Russia and China. It’s true that they do want to trade with Europe and are offering enticements to encourage this, but one mustn’t believe them. Because it is a known fact that they are conducting a hybrid war — invisibly and unprovably — against Europe. Russia is such a wily combatant that one can’t ever prove anything — but you have to believe that it’s true. The European Union’s biggest friend is still the US. And yes, it’s true that they are currently trying to run their friends out of town in order to make a quick buck. But it’s solely President Trump who is to blame for that. Just be patient: soon the next president will come and fix everything right up. And it’s also true that no one can say when that next president will be in office, or what his name will be, or what he will do. And, of course, everyone remembers the Obama administration’s ceaseless attempts to foist an entirely colonial “transatlantic partnership” on Europe. But once Trump’s gone everything will be different — you just have to believe.

And this “you just have to believe” has recently become the main leitmotif of all the anti-Russian propaganda. Since the preferred narrative about the spy, the blogger, and airliner haven’t panned out, the proof of Russia’s malice is increasingly being repackaged as a kind of spiritual evidence. As the Guardian put it so aptly — “We do not need Russia to poison people in a British city to recognise the expanding threat to common values posed by Vladimir Putin’s hostile, corrupt regime.”

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM – AUGUST 16: A statue holding the symbol of the Euro, the European common currency, stands in front of the European Parliament building on August 16 and 2011 in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo by Mark Renders/Getty Images)

But then how can one explain that in reality, the opposite is true, that Russia actually needs a unified, rich and strong European Union? This isn’t rocket science, people — you don’t need to invoke “values” and chant the mantra of “you just have to believe.”

Russia needs a rich EU, because a rich trading partner has more purchasing power, which gives Russia a positive trade balance with the EU.

Russia needs a unified EU, because a unified Europe that manages its own security issues from a centralized headquarters will present far fewer problems for Moscow than a string of feckless “friends of the US” along Russia’s western borders.

Russia needs a sovereign EU, because the anti-Russian trade sanctions serve no economic purpose for the EU whatsoever — and once Europe establishes sovereignty we will quite likely see those sanctions lifted.

And it is no coincidence that Austria was the first foreign country that Vladimir Putin visited after his inauguration.

Austria’s President Alexander Van der Bellen shakes hands with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in his office in Vienna, Austria June 5, 2018. Reuters/Leonhard Foeger

That country is European, rich, and neutral (therefore not a member of NATO) and has been a staunch advocate for the rollback of Europe’s anti-Russian policy.

In other words, in Austria you can see a potential model for the kind of independent European Union that Russia would like to deal with in the twenty-first century.

And this is why the ones who are now so fervently preaching about “shared values” and “Western unity” when faced with the treachery of those natural-gas pipelines and that Eurasian trade route are actually demanding that Europe do itself a disservice by remaining deferential.

The Next US President Will Save Europe From Russia’s Secret Plot

On the eve of his visit to Austria, President Vladimir Putin told the press: Russia has not the least intention of sowing dissent within the European Union. On the contrary, it is in Moscow’s interests that the EU, its biggest trading partner, remain as unified and thriving as possible.

Europeans have long been quite obsessed with the idea that Russia is bent on dividing and weakening Europe.  In the most prominent English-language media this is practically presumed to be as obviously true as their claims that Russia killed the blogger Arkady Babchenko, attempted to murder the spy Sergei Skripal, and shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

As usual, after the Malaysian government admitted that the evidence of Russian involvement in the downing of flight MH17 was inconclusive, the anti-Russian propaganda campaigns were reduced to slim pickings. It was precisely for this reason that the more cutting-edge Western media were so happy to latch onto the murder of the blogger in Kiev. It was precisely for this reason that the very ones who had so desperately hyped that whole episode were so indignant when they realized that they had fallen victim to a bit of ruthless Ukrainian creative license.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron at the G-20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany on July 8, 2017

But let’s get back to Russia’s secret plots against Europe. Interestingly, when you trace back the source of most of the warnings about the Russian plots to divide Europe, they seem to emanate from Great Britain. In other words, they are coming from a government that has decided to pull out of the EU but is now trying to direct its foreign policy.

Allegations of Russian plans to fragment Europe have been heard from both the head of Britain’s MI5 intelligence agency as well as from spokesmen from the European Council for Foreign Relations (ECFR). Judging by its name, one might be forgiven for assuming that was supposed to be a pan-European organization. But actually that’s just what’s written on the shingle they hang outside their door, because, in fact, this “think tank” is headquartered and funded in London.

It turns out that the most prominently schismatic states in Europe also hold wildly anti-Russian stances. Neither Great Britain, nor, shall we say, Poland could be suspected of a dearth of official Russophobia. Both of them, each in their own way, are trying to ruin the lives of those countries that form the core of the EU.  Both have closed their doors to refugees and both are bravely waging war against an “influx” of natural gas that theoretically has nothing to do with them. Poland, which gets 17 billion euros a year from the EU budget, has the audacity to be demanding reparations from Germany. Britain, which slammed its doors shut in order to avoid chipping in to fund the EU, is valiantly battling Brussels in order to hold on to its economic perks in Europe.

And in this context, the EU’s biggest common ally — the US — is becoming an increasingly big problem. Washington has unleashed an economic war, not only against Russia and Iran, but also against the countries of Europe. But in the propaganda being rolled out for the European audience, the picture of the world looks like this:

The European Union’s main enemies are Russia and China. It’s true that they do want to trade with Europe and are offering enticements to encourage this, but one mustn’t believe them. Because it is a known fact that they are conducting a hybrid war — invisibly and unprovably — against Europe. Russia is such a wily combatant that one can’t ever prove anything — but you have to believe that it’s true. The European Union’s biggest friend is still the US. And yes, it’s true that they are currently trying to run their friends out of town in order to make a quick buck. But it’s solely President Trump who is to blame for that. Just be patient: soon the next president will come and fix everything right up. And it’s also true that no one can say when that next president will be in office, or what his name will be, or what he will do. And, of course, everyone remembers the Obama administration’s ceaseless attempts to foist an entirely colonial “transatlantic partnership” on Europe. But once Trump’s gone everything will be different — you just have to believe.

And this “you just have to believe” has recently become the main leitmotif of all the anti-Russian propaganda. Since the preferred narrative about the spy, the blogger, and airliner haven’t panned out, the proof of Russia’s malice is increasingly being repackaged as a kind of spiritual evidence. As the Guardian put it so aptly — “We do not need Russia to poison people in a British city to recognise the expanding threat to common values posed by Vladimir Putin’s hostile, corrupt regime.”

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM – AUGUST 16: A statue holding the symbol of the Euro, the European common currency, stands in front of the European Parliament building on August 16 and 2011 in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo by Mark Renders/Getty Images)

But then how can one explain that in reality, the opposite is true, that Russia actually needs a unified, rich and strong European Union? This isn’t rocket science, people — you don’t need to invoke “values” and chant the mantra of “you just have to believe.”

Russia needs a rich EU, because a rich trading partner has more purchasing power, which gives Russia a positive trade balance with the EU.

Russia needs a unified EU, because a unified Europe that manages its own security issues from a centralized headquarters will present far fewer problems for Moscow than a string of feckless “friends of the US” along Russia’s western borders.

Russia needs a sovereign EU, because the anti-Russian trade sanctions serve no economic purpose for the EU whatsoever — and once Europe establishes sovereignty we will quite likely see those sanctions lifted.

And it is no coincidence that Austria was the first foreign country that Vladimir Putin visited after his inauguration.

Austria’s President Alexander Van der Bellen shakes hands with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in his office in Vienna, Austria June 5, 2018. Reuters/Leonhard Foeger

That country is European, rich, and neutral (therefore not a member of NATO) and has been a staunch advocate for the rollback of Europe’s anti-Russian policy.

In other words, in Austria you can see a potential model for the kind of independent European Union that Russia would like to deal with in the twenty-first century.

And this is why the ones who are now so fervently preaching about “shared values” and “Western unity” when faced with the treachery of those natural-gas pipelines and that Eurasian trade route are actually demanding that Europe do itself a disservice by remaining deferential.

Will Europe stand up to American Pressure?

Europe has decided to assert its independence: it will not revise its agreement with Iran and will not comply with US sanctions. When Washington tore up the Iran deal, that was the last straw for the European Union. In reality the EU had nowhere left to retreat — any further capitulation to the Atlanticists’ dictates would render the entire pan-European project meaningless. Will May 2018 prove to be the turning point, the moment when the West’s unity began to fracture?

On May 17, 2018, the leaders of the countries of Europe, together with senior officials from the European Union, gathered in Sofia, officially to discuss their relations with the Balkan countries that are candidates for EU membership. But how could there be any talk of expanding the EU if it is unable to manage its primary mission — protecting the interests of Europeans? Thus it is unlikely that the conversation at that informal dinner in the Bulgarian capital was about anything other than their relations with the US, because Europe is on the verge of not just a trade war, but a geopolitical conflict with its … Well … with its what, exactly?

Its senior partner? Ally? Suzerain? Competitor? In geopolitical terms, the US is without question the boss over the Old World — under the auspices of a unified West and NATO. It is the American Atlanticists who hold the higher rank. After WWII, the US used various means of control to seize the reins in Germany, Italy, France, and other countries in Western and later in Eastern Europe. Great Britain partnered with them to help keep Europe under control, and since then — despite any differences that may have arisen between the two shores of the Atlantic — Europe, even in the form of the European Union, has generally remained their vassal.

French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel walk during the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Sofia, Bulgaria, May 17, 2018. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

As the project to integrate Europe gained momentum, continental Europeans felt a growing desire to become more independent, but Washington and London always kept that situation well in hand.

Germany’s genuine autonomy and especially its rapprochement with Russia has clearly been at odds with the interests of the Atlanticists — and a few years ago, under the pretext of a “Russian threat,” Europe knuckled under to the anti-Russian sanctions.

The majority of Europe’s political class understood that it was beneficial for the EU to have close ties with Russia, and they have always been looking for a chance to end the confrontation with Moscow. In order to perpetuate the atmosphere of Russophobia, the Anglo-Saxons even resorted to staging the provocation with the Skripals, so as to somehow preserve the tension between Russia and Europe.

It seemed that Europe would remain under their thumb for the immediate future. Europe’s leaders will wait to see how the power struggle in the US ends and will try to simultaneously accommodate themselves to both Trump as well as to the Atlanticist elite that opposes him. However, recent actions by Washington seem to have prompted some major changes.

Trump needed the dissolution of the Iran deal largely for domestic political reasons, but he was prepared to lean particularly heavily on the Europeans. In accordance with his plans, the Europeans needed to agree with the US to compel Iran to draw up a new accord that could be presented as a major victory to the American public. Trump did not take into account the individual positions of Russia or China, which would in any case be against a revision of the deal. Apparently inspired by the imaginary success of his Korean offensive (in which Beijing and Pyongyang created the illusion of a breakthrough for him), the US president decided that everything would work out fine in this matter as well. To encourage the Europeans to be more amenable, they were threatened with sanctions. But the Old World balked outright and decided to preserve both the deal as well as its relationship with Iran.

And the aftermath of the US pressure on Europe over the Iran deal will now extend far beyond just a run-of-the-mill misunderstanding between allies.

Looking at the latest decisions of President Trump, someone could even think: With friends like that, who needs enemies? But frankly speaking, Europe should be grateful to President Trump. Because thanks to him we have got rid of all illusions,” stated the chairman of the European Council, or in other words, the president of united Europe, Donald Tusk on May 17, 2018.

President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, US President Donald Trump and President of the European Council Donald Tusk

And the head of the government of this united Europe, Jean-Claude Juncker, stated a week earlier that the European Union needed to take on the role of global leader, because Trump’s decision to tear up the Iran deal meant that the US “no longer wants to cooperate” with other parts of the world and was turning away from friendly relations “with a ferocity that can only surprise us.” In addition, European countries should do more than simply salvage the agreement with Iran: “We have to replace the United States, which as an international actor has lost vigor, and because of it, in the long term, influence.”

So as it turns out, Europe is not only ready to shoulder the responsibility for its own future — something which even Angela Merkel has been speaking about for the past year, which includes providing for its own security — but is also ready to replace the US as a world leader! Did we actually hear this correctly?

Yes, that’s right. In fact, they started talking about this in Europe immediately after Donald Trump won the election more than a year and a half ago. Even then, Trump was declaring that America should focus on itself and not on the construction of a unified Atlanticist world, and that for the sake of filling America’s coffers he would shake down all its partners, enemies, and allies. Europeans, who have grown used to wielding only limited sovereignty in matters of war and peace, were suddenly being told that they needed to pay for being protected by the US, because Trump’s America saw that umbrella as something expendable.

The West’s unity began to fracture. And although the Atlanticist elite on both sides of the ocean hope that Trump turns out to be nothing more than a bad dream and that everything will go back to normal in 2020, the reality is that there is no way the West can regain that indivisibility. America will rewrite its foreign policy with the goal of “making itself great again,” regardless of whether or not Trump is in power, because the hegemon has cracked and America’s more nationalistic elites are seizing power from the ones who have been playing at being the world’s policeman.

What is left for the Atlanticists? Should they make their peace with this or attempt to shift the Western world’s center of gravity toward Europe? But are there any political figures in Europe who are capable of taking the lead? They tried to audition Merkel, but she refused to bite. Tusk or Junker? Macron? They’re all wrong. There is no solution — and in this environment, relationships among the Western nations are evolving the way Trump wanted: into a battle between national states.

Trump sees the EU as a competitor and he wants to weaken it. When it comes to the Iran deal, what’s important isn’t even that it’s about Iran, around which Germany and France have constructed big economic plans, but rather that Europe is simply being ordered to abandon the idea of protecting its own interests. And also that this is being done under an utterly contrived pretext. Unlike the introduction of the anti-Russian sanctions, there are no reasons whatsoever for tearing up that deal, not even nominal ones.

Europe cannot agree to this. It would be suicide for the very European Union itself. As Renaud Girard, a columnist for Le Figaro writes: “Now that such an unheard-of dictate from the US is upon us, will the Europeans be able to regain their independence? This is a test of truth for the political dimension of the EU. If the European Union caves to Trump, this will negate any reason for its existence.”

And the ones talking this way aren’t just those who have spent the last few years reminding Europe that it is harming itself by bowing to Washington’s pressure and keeping the anti-Russian sanctions intact. Now this is the argument being made even by the hardliners on Moscow — the reliable Atlanticists.

“This is nothing less than a massive assault on the sovereignty of European states and the European Union. They are deprived of their right to decide on their policies and actions by brutal dictates from a foreign — and allegedly friendly — country. This is utterly unacceptable from a European point of view, as well as a violation of the preaching of Trump himself. It relegates Europe to just abiding by and implementing policies with which it profoundly disagrees,” writes former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt in the Washington Post.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, May 2018

Europe cannot cave in to US pressure, but it cannot realistically break ties with Washington when rejecting it, much less lay a claim to the mantle of global leadership. Europe simply wants more independence, which is already asking a lot, given the current state of world affairs. To achieve this, Europe needs to develop a more favorable balance of forces and interests, and when seeking out the building blocks for this, it naturally turns its gaze toward Moscow.

It just so happens that within a week the heads of half of the world’s most powerful countries — Germany, France, Japan, and India — have visits to Russia. Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron were initially planning to talk to Vladimir Putin about a variety of topics: Syria, trade, Ukraine … But now everything will revolve around the word “Iran,” which signifies much more than just a country or a deal. It is rather the choice that Europe is making as we all watch.

Has Europe Rebelled?

Washington’s current foreign-policy practice is a bit reminiscent of the golden era of the Ottoman Sublime Porte, in the sense that any visit by a leader of a vassal state is seen as nothing more than an opportunity for a public demonstration of his willingness to serve the great sultan or, in the modern context, to do the bidding of the master of the White House.

The visitor must also wear a big grin and speak passionately about how happy he is to have been given the opportunity to kiss the Sultan’s slippers. Or, to put it in the language of today, to be impressed with the leadership of the US and personally inspired by the energy of the American president. The Washington establishment can’t wrap its head around any other configuration, and therefore in the present era of America’s ebbing hegemony, the ideal visitors to the White House are the presidents of Ukraine or the Baltic countries. The other heads of states that come to Washington, including EU leaders and even some African presidents, act like insolent upstarts, who — from the standpoint of imperial tradition — do not stand to attention, tend to offer their flattery without fervor or exuberance, and, most importantly, do not race off to fulfill the wishes of the leaders of the empire.

Reception ceremony of the Conte de Saint Priest at the Ottoman Porte by Antoine de Favray 1767

The meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Donald Trump on April 27, 2018 served only to confirm that Washington does not need allies who have their own national interests: all allies must be guided by the concept of the unipolar hegemony of the US. Anyone who is uncomfortable with this is relegated to the circle of those who are seen as unfriendly to the White House. The Washington Post makes it clear that Germany falls into this latter camp: “Angela Merkel is becoming Europe’s weakest link.

That article points out how serious the differences are between the two countries’ ruling factions. Both Germany’s political elite, and as well as the German population as a whole, are characterized very disparagingly: “German passivity is deeply ingrained. Berlin’s political class lacks strategic thinking, hates risk and has little spunk. It hides behind its ignominious past to justify pacifism when it comes to hard questions about defense and security issues.” The general decrepitude of the Bundeswehr and its equipment are criticized and mocked in the discussion of Germany’s refusal to take part in the missile attack on Syria carried out by the US, Britain, and France. And then the article even alleges that Germany’s Syrian policy has actually abetted the wrong side by granting asylum to almost a million refugees fleeing that country, thus supposedly allowing Bashar al-Assad to continue fighting.

In this context it becomes quite obvious that the specific issues that Merkel brought to the table in Washington were merely secondary concerns to her American partner. Germany’s Madam Chancellor had to traverse a distance of 10,000 kilometers to be granted a 20-minute conversation, from which it was clear that Trump had not altered his negative attitude toward questions so vital to the Germans as customs duties on steel and aluminum (set at 25% and 10%), Nord Stream 2, a loosening of the Russian sanctions for major German manufacturers, or the nuclear deal with Iran.

Angela Merkel and Donald Trump

Angela Merkel had a difficult choice to make. Either Berlin declares war on all of Washington’s opponents, or it is dismissed once and for all as the “weakest link,” with all the ensuing consequences. But the first option would be a blow to Germany’s national interests. It is not just its international trade that would take the hit, but also its energy projects and German public opinion. She was given to understand that otherwise Germany would fail to meet the White House’s criteria for the role of America’s main partner in Europe.

Angela Merkel did not seem overly impressed. She sees the constraints that exist for her. The historical memory of the greatest defeat of the twentieth century still lingers. Hence the high level of wariness when it comes to invitations to join NATO’s military escapades. Nor has anyone there forgotten the 1980s, when Germany lived in intense fear of the USSR’s SS-20 missiles that could have incinerated that country in the blink of an eye. Germans have no desire to meekly toe the line of yet another US president, which could end up taking them back to those days.

Apparently this is why the head of the German government seemed to have armored herself with the mantra of “don’t give anything to Trump” during the negotiations in Washington.

If you look at things pragmatically, Trump needed to get a few concessions from Merkel. First of all, he needed the consent of the German chancellor to at least bring back the sanctions and hopefully to even agree to a war against Iran, because for the current Washington administration, a dissolution of the “Iran deal” and a subsequent war with Tehran is the biggest item on its foreign-policy agenda. Second, Trump had to “squeeze” Merkel on the issue of increasing Germany’s financial contributions to NATO’s budget. According to the White House, Germany should be contributing 2% of its annual GDP to the alliance’s budget (or in other words, to the backlog of product orders for the US military-industrial complex). As Trump expressed it so poetically, “NATO is wonderful, but it helps Europe more than it helps us, and why are we paying the vast majority of the costs?” Third, the US needed to ensure that European leaders, and especially Merkel, capitulate in the tariff wars between the US and the EU, and, in a best-case scenario, to also secure the EU’s assistance in the trade war with China that Trump recently kicked off.

Based on the results of the meeting, Washington received a polite refusal on all three points. Five years ago it would have been difficult to imagine this kind of situation, but now this is objectively the real-world state of affairs, and it is something that neither the political analysts in the US nor a significant faction of the European media class (which still views the European Union as a “big Puerto Rico”) can get used to. The significance of Puerto Rico is that it is a place outside the US borders, but that is in effect controlled from Washington, although it has no power to influence American policy. Incidentally, Washington’s official discourse in regard to the European Union has already undergone a radical transformation and, according to Trump himself, it seems that the EU was “formed to take advantage of the United States,” although prior to that the EU was painted in the official Western narrative exclusively in terms of its “ideals of freedom,” “protection of democracy,” and some kind of “pan-European destiny and values.”

Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron

The essence of today’s transatlantic relationship can be seen in the contacts between Washington and Paris. Despite the White House’s high hopes for France to prove its loyalty to the alliance, its leaders have been just as firm as Germany’s in standing up for their own interests. This mindset was evident in the stance taken by President Emmanuel Macron, who was quoted by Bloomberg as saying “we won’t talk about anything while there’s a gun pointed at our head.” European leaders insist that any discussions take place with everyone on an equal footing, which Washington cannot indulge as a matter of principle. Even lower-level European officials are using their economic power to threaten the US. French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire claimed, “One thing I learned from my week in the U.S. with President Macron: The Americans will only respect a show of strength.” Needless to say, one does not speak to a real global hegemon in such terms.

No matter what the outcome of all the diplomatic and economic conflicts between the two shores of the Atlantic, it is already safe to say that Europe has broken free of Washington’s grip, and future relations between the US and the EU will become increasingly tense. We shall soon see whether Europe will take advantage of its current opportunity to reclaim the economic and political freedom that it lost at some point.

Salisbury Incident Report: Hard Evidence For Soft Minds

The UK government’s presentation on the Salisbury incident, which was repeatedly cited in recent days as an “ultimate proof” of Russia’s involvement into Skripal’s assassination attempt, was made public earlier today.

This 6-paged PDF is a powerful evidence of another intellectual low of the British propaganda machine. Open it and you can tell that substantially it makes only two assertions on the Skripal case, and both are false:

First. Novichok is a group of agents developed only by Russia and not declared under the CWC” – a false statement. Novichok was originally developed in the USSR (Nukus Lab, today in Uzbekistan, site completely decommissioned according to the US-Uzbekistan agreement by 2002). One of its key developers,  Vil Mirzayanov, defected to the United States in 1990s, its chemical formula and technology were openly published in a number of chemical journals outside Russia.

Craig Murray

Former top-ranking British foreign service officer Craig Murray specifically noted this point on March 17:

I have now been sent the vital information that in late 2016, Iranian scientists set out to study whether novichoks really could be produced from commercially available ingredients. Iran succeeded in synthesising a number of novichoks. Iran did this in full cooperation with the OPCW and immediately reported the results to the OPCW so they could be added to the chemical weapons database.

This makes complete nonsense of the Theresa May’s “of a type developed by Russia” line, used to parliament and the UN Security Council. This explains why Porton Down has refused to cave in to governmental pressure to say the nerve agent was Russian. If Iran can make a novichok, so can a significant number of states.

Second.We are without doubt that Russia is responsible. No country bar Russia has combined capability, intent and motive. There is no plausible alternative explanation” – an outstading example of self-hypnosis. None of the previous items could even remotedly lead to this conclusion.

The prominent British academician from the University of Kent, Prof. Richard Sakwa, has elaborated on this on March 23 the following way:

Professor Richard Sakwa

Rather than just the two possibilities outlined by Theresa May, in fact, there are at least six, possibly seven. The first is that this was a state-sponsored, and possibly Putin-ordered, killing…  This version simply does not make sense, and until concrete evidence emerges, it should be discounted…

The second version is rather more plausible, that the authorities had lost control of its stocks of chemical weapons. In the early 1990s Russian facilities were notoriously lax, but since the 2000s strict control over stocks were re-imposed, until their final destruction in 2017. It is quite possible that some person or persons unknown secreted material, and then conducted some sort of vigilante operation…

The third version is the exact opposite: some sort of anti-Putin action by those trying to force his policy choices…

The fourth version is similar, but this time the anti-Putinists are not home-grown but outsiders. Here the list of people who would allegedly benefit by discrediting Russia is a long one. If Novichok or its formula has proliferated, then it would not be that hard to organise some sort of false flag operation. The list of countries mentioned in social media in this respect is a long one. Obviously, Ukraine comes top of the list, not only because of motivation, but also because of possible access to the material, as a post-Soviet state with historical links to the Russian chemical weapons programme. Israel has a large chemical weapon inventory and is not a party to the OPCW; but it has no motivation for such an attack (unless some inadvertent leak occurred here). Another version is that the UK itself provoked the incident, as a way of elevating its status as a country ‘punching above its weight’. The British chemical weapons establishment, Porton Down, is only 12 kilometres from Salisbury. While superficially plausible, there is absolutely no evidence that this is a credible version, and should be discounted.

The fifth version is a rather more elaborate development of the previous point. There is circumstantial evidence, a version outlined by the Daily Telegraph, that Skripal may have had a hand in devising Christopher Steele’s ‘Trump Dossier’. The British agent who originally recruited Skripal, Pablo Miller, lives in Salisbury, and also has connections with Orbis International, Steele’s agency in London. In this version, Skripal is still working in one way or another with MI6, and fed stories to Steele, who then intervenes massively in US politics, effectively preventing the much-desired rapprochement between Trump and Putin. Deep anger at the malevolent results of the Steele and British intervention in international politics and US domestic affairs prompts a revenge killing, with the demonstration effect achieved by using such a bizarre assassination weapon.

The sixth version is the involvement of certain criminal elements, who for reasons best known to themselves were smuggling the material, and released it by accident. In this version, the Skripals are the accidental and not intended victims. There are various elaborations of this version, including the activities of anti-Putin mobsters. One may add a seventh version here, in which Islamic State or some other Islamist group seeks to provoke turmoil in Europe.

Do you wish to know our refutations of any other substantial “hard evidence” against Russia in the UK paper? Sorry, but that is all. The primitive information warriors in what used to be the heart of a brilliant empire, today are incapable of designing an even slightly plausible (they love this word, right?) document on a super-politicized case.

What follows is even more depressing. Slide 3 is dedicated to some sort of anatomy lesson:

Slide 4 seemingly represents a real “honey trap”. Just look at it:

The authors of this “report” mixed up a very strange cocktail of multitype allegations, none of which have ever been proven or recognized by any responsible entity (like legal court or dedicated official international organization). Of course, we are not committed to argue on every cell, but taking e.g. “August 2008 Invasion of Georgia” we actually can’t understand why the EU-acknowledged Saakashvili’s aggression against South Ossetia is exposed here as an example of “Russian malign activity”…

Have you totally lost your minds, ladies & gentlemen from the Downing Street?

The Skripal Case: Stakes Up?

Yesterday’s sharply-worded joint statement on the Skripal case issued by Donald Trump, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, and Theresa May, which included the latest reiteration of the strange accusations leveled against Russia, threatens to push the row between Russia and the West to a new, much more serious level. Why is this happening and and what is motivating these Western leaders?

The tone and content of the statement leave no doubt that the West holds Russia responsible for the attempt on Skripal’s life and that it has no intention of listening to any objections or rebuttals. The demand that Moscow provide answers about its Novichok program is a mere formality. A variety of measures have already been taken against Russia — from the expulsion of Russian diplomats from the UK to the announcement of new sanctions by France.

What is going on? Do these four leaders really believe that Vladimir Putin issued an order to kill Skripal? In other words, do they believe that the Russian president, a man they have acknowledged to be the most powerful and experienced geopolitical player today, is now a caricatured villain from a James Bond movie? That seems impossible to believe, even taking into account that none of them are too bright.

That means that even they don’t believe in the truth of what they’re accusing Russia of — they’re doing it for purely political reasons. And which ones would those be?

A recent editorial in the Washington Post, “Britain is punishing Putin. America should join in“, offers a pretty complete rundown of which Russian policies the West is so upset about:

So it’s all quite simple: Syria, Ukraine, and the West’s internal affairs. In other words, to put it bluntly, Moscow is supposed to not only rein in its offensive geopolitical game, but also become more accommodating when it comes to Ukraine, Syria, and Europe. But since there’s no way the West is going to see any of these dreams come true — what’s the point of putting pressure on Moscow?

Clearly Trump, Macron, and Merkel all had different motives when they signed their latest statement. Trump needs to shield himself as much as possible against accusations that he’s mollycoddling Russia. Macron needs to demonstrate his solidarity with the common cause (although that won’t stop him from coming to Russia for the St. Petersburg Economic Forum in two months). Nor is Merkel, who only yesterday saw an end to the epic saga over the formation of her new coalition, about to begin her fourth term being “soft on Putin” (which is exactly how the devotees of Atlanticism would view any refusal to sign that joint statement).

But what about Russia? She does not break off relations, is never taken by surprise, and does not respond with insults. What we’re seeing is not something that’s happened just once or twice, but rather hundreds of times in the three hundred years since Russia joined the ranks of the great powers that decide the fate of the world. Russia is accustomed to external pressure and do not pay much attention on it. She keeps the course of creating a new configuration of global powers better corresponding to modern geopolitical realities.

Four great powers, three of which are members of the UN Security Council, are, of course, a mighty force. However, their reaction to the “Skripal affair” has shown that they are being guided from a single command center. Al least half of the joint statement’s sides enjoy only limited sovereignty, unlike Russia and its key Asian partners.

The Skripal Case: Stakes Up?

Yesterday’s sharply-worded joint statement on the Skripal case issued by Donald Trump, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, and Theresa May, which included the latest reiteration of the strange accusations leveled against Russia, threatens to push the row between Russia and the West to a new, much more serious level. Why is this happening and and what is motivating these Western leaders?

The tone and content of the statement leave no doubt that the West holds Russia responsible for the attempt on Skripal’s life and that it has no intention of listening to any objections or rebuttals. The demand that Moscow provide answers about its Novichok program is a mere formality. A variety of measures have already been taken against Russia — from the expulsion of Russian diplomats from the UK to the announcement of new sanctions by France.

What is going on? Do these four leaders really believe that Vladimir Putin issued an order to kill Skripal? In other words, do they believe that the Russian president, a man they have acknowledged to be the most powerful and experienced geopolitical player today, is now a caricatured villain from a James Bond movie? That seems impossible to believe, even taking into account that none of them are too bright.

That means that even they don’t believe in the truth of what they’re accusing Russia of — they’re doing it for purely political reasons. And which ones would those be?

A recent editorial in the Washington Post, “Britain is punishing Putin. America should join in“, offers a pretty complete rundown of which Russian policies the West is so upset about:

So it’s all quite simple: Syria, Ukraine, and the West’s internal affairs. In other words, to put it bluntly, Moscow is supposed to not only rein in its offensive geopolitical game, but also become more accommodating when it comes to Ukraine, Syria, and Europe. But since there’s no way the West is going to see any of these dreams come true — what’s the point of putting pressure on Moscow?

Clearly Trump, Macron, and Merkel all had different motives when they signed their latest statement. Trump needs to shield himself as much as possible against accusations that he’s mollycoddling Russia. Macron needs to demonstrate his solidarity with the common cause (although that won’t stop him from coming to Russia for the St. Petersburg Economic Forum in two months). Nor is Merkel, who only yesterday saw an end to the epic saga over the formation of her new coalition, about to begin her fourth term being “soft on Putin” (which is exactly how the devotees of Atlanticism would view any refusal to sign that joint statement).

But what about Russia? She does not break off relations, is never taken by surprise, and does not respond with insults. What we’re seeing is not something that’s happened just once or twice, but rather hundreds of times in the three hundred years since Russia joined the ranks of the great powers that decide the fate of the world. Russia is accustomed to external pressure and do not pay much attention on it. She keeps the course of creating a new configuration of global powers better corresponding to modern geopolitical realities.

Four great powers, three of which are members of the UN Security Council, are, of course, a mighty force. However, their reaction to the “Skripal affair” has shown that they are being guided from a single command center. Al least half of the joint statement’s sides enjoy only limited sovereignty, unlike Russia and its key Asian partners.

Fatal Quad: Who Is Assassinating Former MI6 Assets On British Soil?

Last week it was widely reported that a former Soviet and Russian military intelligence officer Sergey Skripal, working for MI6 since 1995, convicted in Russia of high treason in 2006 and released to UK under the 2010 US-Russia spy swap, was found unconscience with his daughter on a public bench near a shopping center in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England. The British media and its eccentric foreign minister were swift blaming Russian secret services in attempting to assassinate Skripal, who up to now is still in a coma in Salisbury District Hospital. During the past week the British press histeria escalated and even made PM Theresa May come out with a ridiculous statement on the issue on Thursday.

This tragic case amended the sequence of suspicious and still unresolved cases of deaths in Britain of the valuable MI6 assets of Russian origin: Alexander Litvinenko (2006), Alexander Perepеlichny (2012) and Boris Berezovsky (2013).

Alexander Litvinenko

Former officer of the Russian FSB secret service who was in charge of surveillance and later protection of the oligarch and government official Boris Berezovsky in the 1990s, defected to Britain in November 2000, soon after Russian prosecutors revived the Aeroflot fraud investigation and Berezovsky was again questioned in court.  That was the season when the oligarch’s empire was ruining under the consistent legal actions of the Russian authorities. Berezovsky clearly realised that sooner or later he will be jailed in Russia and was seeking for asylum, that would allow him to follow up his political battle against the recently elected young Russian president Vladimir Putin. It is unclear whether Litvinenko defected on Berezovsky’s direct order or was just afraid of prosecution for possible crimes committed while collaborating with the oligarch who, according to late Paul Klebnikov, was one of the criminal kings of Russia.

As Litvinenko was granted asylum in the UK only in May 2001, we suspect that the negotiations on the terms of Litvinenko’s surrender to British secret services were not that easy. He did not possess any valuable intelligence as he was working in counter-criminal and protection units of the FSB, therefore he could be utilised only as a propaganda tool. So he eventually did, after months of failed attempts to avoid it, becoming a journalist for Chechenpress leaflet, supporting the most radical and irreconcilable wing of the separatist movement in the Russian Caucasus, writing defamatory books and actively participating in any single anti-Russian propaganda campaign in international media.

From left to right: Alexander Litvinenko, Boris Serezovsky, Chechen leader Ahmed Zakaev and pocket writer Yury Felshtinsky celebrating Berezovsky’s 60th anniversary in London, Jan 2006.

A few days after receiving in October 2006 the long-expected British passport, he hit the headlines of all mainstream media worldwide as a “polonium victim of bloody Putin’s regime”, thus multiplying  the global emotional revenue from modest MI6 investments into this miserable figure. The timeline study of his presence on “hospitable” British soil suggests that the citizenship was a landmark he had been desperately waiting for to get rid of the disgraceful dependency on Her Majesty’s intelligence service. Once he obtained it, he got off the hook and became an ideal sacred victim for the lasting anti-Russian campaign and dance on his bones.

The inquiry into his death, ordered by then Interior Minister Theresa May in July 2014 (!), was completed by January 2016 and publicly released. William Dunkerley made an exhaustive diagnosis to that report in his opinion piece, published in The Guardian soon thereafter. We urgently recommend our readers to refresh it in memory. In the most brief terms, he exposes the document as considerably influenced by the anti-Russian PR campaign, inconsistent, unreliable, biased, dubious and lacking evidence.

Boris Berezovsky

The “Godfather” of the Kremlin, as Paul Klebnikov branded him in a book which eventually claimed his life, Boris Berezovsky was the personification of oligarchy in its most ugly form. He played the role of grey cardinal near President Yeltsyn in the 1990s, securing super profits for his business empire and trying to manipulate political process in Russia. He even reportedly “approved” the candidacy of Vladimir Putin as Yeltsyn’s successor back in 1999, being sure that he and his people would be able to curb and control the neophyte politician.

The cold shower came soon. Three weeks after the Putin’s first inauguration, the Berezovsky-controlled media launched a powerful campaign to oppose the President’s plans to reform the federal system of Russia, depriving Berezovsky and other tycoons of the tools to manipulate regional authorities. Those were the first maneuvers in a political war which lasted for more than 12 years. Berezovsky was firmly and consistently pressed out of all institutional positions in Russia, a number of legal cases for power abuse, financial fraud and other crimes were opened against him. At the end of 2000 he left Russia for good, settled in London and started his vigorous, costly, but generally futile efforts to oust Putin and recover influence on the Kremlin.

Boris Berezovsky in London

By September 2012, when Vladimir Putin was elected for his third term and Berezovsky lost the case against his business rival Roman Abramovich in London’s high court, he surrendered. He wrote two repentful private letters to president Putin asking for forgiveness and permission to return to Russia without being put under custody. He certainly did not receive any formal reply from the Russian president, but perhaps by March 2013 he received some kind of other positive signals from Moscow. According to witnesses, he was full of life and optimism and plans for the future the very day March 23, 2013 when he was found dead in a bathroom of his Ascot’s house. The official investigation concluded that it was “an act of suicide” failing to provide any supportive evidence. Most likely he was about to leave Britain for good with his fiancé Katerina Sabirova (she had paid e-tickets way to Israel for March 25, 2013), so the MI6 spymasters supervising “project Berezovsky”, closely monitoring him and being aware of his intentions, could not afford let him go out of their reach.

Alexander Perepelichny

Alexander Perepelichny (R) with some of his “clients”, photo taken in 1990s.

Alexander Perepelichny was the Russian entrepreneur engaged in what is delicately called “private banking services”. He was laundering money, huge money, of his clients, derived from illegal activities and operations. Among them there were a number of criminal bosses and corrupted government officials seeking to legalise their funds into different types of assets outside Russia, mostly in the UK. Before the financial collapse in 2009 the volume of funds under his trusted management exceeded hundreds of millions US dollars. Sorry for him, as a result of Blue Monday, he lost around US$200 million belonging to his clients. Under increasing pressure of ‘serious men’ at home, in January 2010 he had to escape to Britain, where he quickly found a buyer of sensitive information he possessed on some of the Russian corrupted officials – a British investor and reported MI6 agent William Browder, who earned a fortune in Russia in 1990s and early 2000s to be later persecuted there on tax fraud charges. Coincidence or not, but Perepelichny left Russia weeks after the infamous Sergey Magnitsky mysteriously died in prison, an incident which appeared to be the cornerstone of a behemoth-sized politically motivated case, resulted in Magnitsky Act, “Magnitsky list” and other voluntaristic anti-Russian legal instruments.

The vague Magnitsky case is beyond our detailed consideration today, although it deserves a very close attention of any unbiased researcher as a sample of fabulous soap-bubble and bluff in international political solitaire. What is really important for this paragraph is the following episode from William Browder’s breathtaking biography:

It took place in New York on February 3, 2015, when the marshals of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan tried to serve him a subpoena to give evidence on the only prosecution case so far on the US soil proceeding from the Magnitsky Act. (The details of that case can be found here.) The reason for such nervous behavior of Mr. Browder is obvious: his argumentation on Magnitsky case serves only for political aims, when the verdict is pre-planned and scheduled. Where and when the real business interests are touched, all his claims would be destroyed by any experienced lawyer, as did Mark Cymrot from BakerHostetler during Browder’s deposition in court on April 15, 2015.

Coming back to Perepelichny, we have to acknowledge that he was the key witness who could potentially destroy the scam with the highest political stakes on the Magnitsky dossier. As Browder responds with “I do not recall” and “I do not know” on any substantial inquiry in the court, the US judiciary could be very interested in hearing Perepelichny. This menace to the Magnitsky Act was eliminated one week before the bill passed the US House: on November 10, 2012 Alexander Perepelichny was found dead outside his mansion in London. The police investigation did not bring any tangible result but the theory of “Russian mafia” involved was timely injected into the international media. One month later Magnitsky Act was signed by president Obama…

Sergey Skripal

Sergey Skripal was by far less a public personality than any other of the previous trio. The acting Russian military intelligence (GRU) officer, he was recruited in Spain in 1995 by MI6 agent Pablo Miller, hooked on illegal trade operations. For the next years he was busy selling amounts of classified information on Russian military secrets to the Vauxhall Cross, although not everything is clear in his relationship to SIS; e.g., it is unclear why he resigned from GRU in 1999 aged 48 to take by far less informative position in Foreign Ministry and later – a regional government. He apparently wanted to get off the hook and perhaps he succeeded – again, the circumstances of leakage about him to Russian security services in 2004 are vague and dim. It looks very much like the same SIS organized this leak to punish a rampant, poorly controllable and lacking access to any significant information asset.

Anyway, after spending less than 6 out 13 years in prison, in 2010 he was included into the exchange list at the Russia-US negotiations on a spy swap. Still we do not know whether it was concurred by the US side with their British partners, perhaps Skripal came to Britain as a surprise guest. Since then he kept a low profile living in Salisbury, but reportedly lectured British intelligence staff on the specifics of Russian clandestine operations. There would be very little benefit from him for the Crown unless he is served as another sacred victim justifying the bugaboo of the “Russian threat” in the UK and worldwide.

Sergey Skripal with his daughter Yulia in their favorite Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury.

***

The notable feature of all so different persons of the exposed quad is that they irrationally believed in the reliability of British justice and banking systems, institutions and secret services. None of them seemed to be fully aware of the simple fact that they are allowed to feel themselves as the real gentlemen only as long as they served British interests. Once they represented even a potential threat for ongoing political operations or their current value could not exceed anymore a certain threshold, they were easily sacrificed to fulfill their last, but not least task – to be firewood to sustain the flames of Russophobia at their new and very temporary homeland.

Who is burying the Olympic Movement and Why?

By the time the 2018 Winter Olympic Games opened in PyeongChang last week, the masterminds behind the so-called Russian doping scandal had finally lost their control of the narrative, causing irreparable damage to the Olympic movement and to sports in general.  The politically motivated actions of a tiny group of functionaries in the sports industry have discredited the very concept of the purity of athletics and have resulted in a sharp drop in the world’s interest in the Games in PyeongChang.  This is evident in the disastrous attendance figures (a month before the competitions began only 60% of the tickets had been sold, and the most popular events, hockey and figure skating, had the highest number of unclaimed seats) and could also be seen in the significant drop in the IOC’s ad revenues.

The reason for this downward spiral is obvious, when some athletes are discriminated against based on their nationality while others run mad with impunity, this not only ruins the element of suspense in the competitions, it also kills off spectator interest and advertising contracts.

*****

Let’s take a quick look back at the time line of events.  After the Russian Olympians’ stunning victories in 2014, which did much to spur the success of the “Russian Spring in Crimea” three weeks after the closing ceremonies in Sochi, influential Western players began investing serious money into hyping the scandal over the so-called “Russian doping file.”  

Back in December 2014, Germany’s ARD television channel produced a documentary featuring Russian track and field athlete Yuliya Stepanova and her husband, Vitaly Stepanov, a former employee of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), in which they “exposed” the system of doping in Russia.  The fact that one year previously Stepanova had been disqualified in Russia, losing her eligibility for two years for doping, and that her violations had only been revealed after her husband left RUSADA in 2011, had somehow escaped the attention of the documentary’s creator Hajo Seppelt (for more information on the first round of efforts to promote the doping scandal, see our July 2016 article, “The Olympics as a Tool of the New Cold War”).

A month later WADA established a commission to investigate the alleged use of doping in Russian track and field athletics.  It consisted of three people: the chairman and first president of WADA, Richard Pound (Canada), a law professor from the University of Western Ontario, Richard McLaren (Canada), and a former criminal investigator at Interpol, Günter Younger (Germany). On November 9, 2015, this commission published a report that included accusations against RUSADA.  The report also stated that in December 2014, the director of the Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov, had ordered the destruction of more than 1,400 athlete doping tests, three days before a WADA audit team was to arrive in Russia.  On November 10, 2015 Rodchenkov resigned from his position and in January 2016 he emigrated to the US (for more details on this individual’s background, please see the article mentioned above, “The Olympics as a Tool of the New Cold War”).

Richard Pound

On May 12, 2016 the New York Times published a media bomb based on information provided by Rodchenkov.  It alleged that a special “doping program” was developed in Russia before the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, involving several dozen athletes, and its “specialty” supposedly consisted of anabolic steroids that were washed down with alcohol (!).  Then, in order to verify these borderline-bizarre allegations, WADA, at the IOC’s request, established yet another commission, this one headed by McLaren, which in July 2016, just a few weeks before the start of the Olympic Games in Rio, released the first (apparently urgent) section of its report that made the unsupported claim that the doping program in the world of Russian sports had the backing of the Ministry of Sports, the Sports Training Center for Russian Teams, and the Russian Federal Security Service.  On the basis of this “document,” which was never subsequently deemed convincing by any judicial authority, practically all Russian track and field athletes, as well as several competitors from other events, were banned from the Games in Rio.  

In November 2016 a new legislation took effect in Russia making it a criminal offense, with a punishment ranging from a fine to 3-5 years imprisonment, to induce an athlete to use doping drugs.

On December 9, 2016 the second part of the McLaren commission’s report was released.  It claimed that the samples taken from 12 of the Russian medal winners at the 2014 Winter Olympics had been doctored.  It also stated that more than a thousand athletes might have been involved in or benefited from manipulations to conceal positive doping tests.  On the basis of this report, the IOC decided to strip the Russian national team of 13 of its medals won at the 2014 Winter Olympics.  But on February 1, 2018, the CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) issued its own verdict, restoring the rights of 28 of the 42 Russian Winter Olympians affected by the IOC’s actions, including all of those who had lost their medals, and this fact would seem to put into question the legality and validity, at the very least, of McLaren’s report, based on the following statement found in that verdict:

In 28 cases, the evidence collected was found to be insufficient to establish that an anti-doping rule violation was committed by the athletes concerned.

Decisions about what to do with the remaining athletes were either postponed because it was no longer a pressing matter (the athlete in question had already retired) or else the plaintiffs’ appeals were partially upheld.  The lifetime ban on participation in the Olympic Games was lifted from all the applicants.

Despite the fact that the court blocked the IOC’s arbitrary decision to strip the Russian athletes of the medals they had won in Sochi, there was not time to challenge another egregious verdict: suspending the Russian Olympic Committee’s membership in the IOC and forcing the Russian team to compete in PyeongChang under a neutral Olympic flag.

Before we try to get the lowdown on this story, we must emphasize once again: both of these “investigative commissions” were established in the immediate aftermath of the made-to-order and in many respects fake news reports in the Western media about “doping in Russia.”  The biggest tipoff that they were fake was the fact that the main protagonists of this “investigative journalism” were individuals who had been justifiably punished or prosecuted in Russia for either using doping drugs or inducing others to use them, and under pressure from their media patron, those individuals extrapolated from their own sad experiences in front of the cameras to condemn the entire Russian sports community.  The hack jobs by Hajo Seppelt and the New York Times on the subject of Russian doping are examples of fake news in its purest form.

Richard McLaren

*****

So, to all appearances, shortly after Russia’s triumphant performance at the Sochi Olympics, a small group of predominantly Anglo-Saxon sports functionaries made the decision (at present it’s hard to say whether they did so independently or at the behest of someone higher up) to ensure that there would be no more unpleasant surprises in the future.  They hired several professionals, the most publicly visible of whom were Richard McLaren and Hajo Seppelt, to help out with the media on their project and lend it an air of expertise (proof that McLaren is in no way an “independent lawyer” can be seen in his outraged reaction to the February CAS decision).

Hajo Seppelt

In addition to the challenging task of discrediting Russian athletics in the international media, these individuals had to conduct a backstage war with the International Olympic Committee at the same time.  Far from everyone in the IOC’s leadership was delighted at the prospect of the nascent scandal and the serious damage to the Olympic movement that was being broadly predicted three years ago.  This is quite evident from the copies of the email correspondence (seemingly quite genuine) between IOC officials in regard to the doping scandal that have recently appeared on the Internet.

Without question the most illustrative example of these was the exchange of harshly worded letters between McLaren and the Director General of the IOC, Christophe de Kepper, which took place in March 2017. They were prompted by de Kepper’s February 24, 2017 memo that was circulated to the members of the IOC Executive Board, the National Olympic Committees, and international sports federations, which contained criticism of McLaren.  In particular, it noted that “the work of the Oswald Commission and of the IFs is not easy,” as McLaren’s mandate “did not involve any authority to bring Anti-Doping Rule Violation (‘ADRV’) cases against individual athletes.”  In regard to accusations that a “state doping system” exists in Russia, de Kepper stated with bewilderment that in his reports McLaren could not even stick to a consistent terminology: in some places he speaks of a “state sponsored system” whilst in the final full report he described an “institutional conspiracy.”  The main problem, as de Kepper acknowledges, is the lack of sufficient evidence to back up the accusations against the Russian athletes:

The establishment of acceptable evidence is a significant challenge, as some IFs have already experienced; where in some cases they have had to lift provisional suspensions or were not able – at least at this stage – to begin disciplinary procedures due to a lack of consistent evidence.

As can be seen both from the text of the memo and in other publicly available confidential IOC documents (for example, a stunningly open list of questions for Prof. McLaren, dated December 19, 2016 and drafted by the IOC Disciplinary Commission chaired by Samuel Schmid after examining his final report), in the first days after the report’s publication, the IOC and international federations were faced with the difficulty of digging up any shreds of evidence backing McLaren’s allegations.  Questions have even been raised in regard to the accuracy of the translation of the materials found in the report (apparently translated from Russian):

At the recent meeting (21 February) held by WADA in Lausanne to “provide assistance to IFs regarding how to analyse and interpret the evidence”, it was admitted by WADA that in many cases the evidence provided may not be sufficient to bring successful cases. IFs were told by WADA to make direct contact with the IP team to try to obtain further information. WADA also explained that the translations used by the IP team were not adequate and was obtaining official translations of some of the texts.

International sports officials had a foreboding even back then that they could expect a real grilling once matters made it to the courts and arbitration tribunals:

It is already evident from the appeals filed against some International Federations provisional suspension decisions that the IOC decision will have to stand up to a strong legal challenge.

It is also interesting that in his memo de Kepper makes it clear that WADA’s flawed and one-sided efforts were much to blame for the scandal over “Russian doping”:

The IOC is also pursuing the reform of the WADA system… We are driving forward to establish an independent testing authority – independent from sports organisations and from national interests… Sanctioning should be delegated to the CAS as the IOC successfully did at the Olympic Games Rio 2016… The IOC has made proposals for more accountability, transparency and diversity [of WADA].

The Belgian lawyer and IOC Director General Christophe De Kapper was one of the few officers inside the Committee who tried to follow the rule of law during the “doping scandal”.

You are unlikely to have read Prof. McLaren’s March 2, 2017 response to this memo.  But it’s quite interesting and a few passages from it deserve to be quoted here.

First of all, the professor expresses his intense dissatisfaction with the fact that he was not informed in advance about the drafting of the memo and also that the issues in dispute were never discussed with him:

It would have been helpful if you had spoken to me in advance so that I could have addressed the various issues you raise in relation to my Report.

Second, he tries to argue that he had never been tasked with searching for evidence of doping by any specific Russian athlete:

It was not my mandate to bring violations against individual athletes. I am concerned that the IOC seems to be on a quest to re-define my mandate by attempting to establish that my Reports are inadequate for a purpose for which they were never intended.

In regard to the confusion about the terminology (“state sponsored system”), McLaren acknowledges that the fantasies of those who fabricated information for him about “Russian doping programs” did not rise higher than the ministerial level (“My evidence stopped at the Ministry of Sport”).

Finally, as for the inaccuracies in the translations, it turns out that he had no intention of making those official:

The translations into English by my team… were never intended to be ‘official’. They were provided on the Evidence Disclosure Package (EDP) to assist users and not to certify the translation for some legal purpose.

Incidentally, in later comments with respect to the last passage, de Kepper’s office quite sensibly remarked:

It should be pointed out that the IOC as well as (and maybe even more so) the IFs are being asked to take some very tough decisions, with serious legal and non-legal consequences, on the basis of the Report(s).

In general, de Kepper’s team’s reaction to Prof. McLaren’s letter and their stiff response indicate that the IOC had a pretty accurate picture of both the motives driving the Canadian lawyer as well as the mandate assigned to him:

It seems that Robert (sic) McLaren’s first Report was intended to lead to the complete expulsion of the Russian team from the Rio Games, and the second – to expulse the Russian team from Pyeongchang Games, but not to deal with athletes on an individual basis. Perhaps McLaren and WADA should have thought this through in more detail prior to the Reports being made public – in particular, to themselves to have had the courtesy to discuss this matter of principle with the IOC in further detail, before WADA went down the path of using the (first) Report to try to have the Russian team excluded from the Rio Games, rather than McLaren and WADA considering to go down the path that the IOC intended to take, namely, to deal with the individual athletes on a case-by-case basis. This put the IOC and the IFs, and the Olympic movement in general, in a very difficult position.

It should be noted that the insiders at the IOC Executive Board peppered their letter from McLaren with comments that indicate that the Canadian professor is lying at every turn:

As a result, de Kepper’s response has some harsh things to say about McLaren’s claims that he supposedly always cleared his reports with the IOC in advance:

I am sorry to inform you that this has simply not been the case. We made multiple requests to be allowed to have advanced view of your documents with the promise of total confidentiality ahead of publication but sadly this was never forthcoming. Indeed, in the case of the first interim report you even told us that “this content does not primarily concern you.”

De Kepper even twice transparently drops hints to McLaren, implying that the latter, in his role as a professional lawyer, must, after all, easily be able to see for himself how decisions that will inevitably face a strong legal challenge must be drafted:

As a senior and respected international lawyer, you will certainly appreciate that the process of gathering credible evidence against individuals, sufficiently robust to ensure convictions in a manner which justice is done and seen to be done, is a long and detailed process. It was for this reason that it was felt necessary and important to send a communication to the Olympic Movement on the work by the two IOC Commissions to explain the process and describe the work that was being done. Indeed, it was the very fact that your mandate did not extend to individual cases that impelled us to explain to our stakeholders the process that is underway to complete this work.

This may well be the case – but as a law professor I hope you will agree that this is another instance where the standard of evidence we will need to successfully prosecute cases is higher than the evidence you have provided.

In general, de Kepper’s letter in many places deserves to be quoted verbatim:

As for the matter of you changing your description of the affair from a ‘State sponsored’ system to an “institutional conspiracy” this does seem to mark a change in attitude on your part. However, whatever your final conclusions, whilst your report does indeed uncover a conspiracy there is precious little evidence as to who would be involved in such a conspiracy. Would this again be a case that ‘goes beyond your mandate” or would you be able to indicate and provide evidence of who exactly may have been involved in this conspiracy. At present you have left us with good evidence that a crime has been committed but little evidence of those who were responsible.

Let us both agree that cooperation has not always been what it should have been between the IP team [Independent Person – a sleek euphemism, used by Prof. McLaren to indicate himself in his reports – OR] and the Olympic Movement. You have brought to our attention the limits of your mandate. However, please note that, in view of these limits, the IOC and, in particular, the IFs have ended up bearing a huge and very difficult burden in trying to convert the material/information referred to in your Report into Anti-Doping Rule Violations against individual athletes. A further problem was created by your Report (and the previous Report regarding this subject) seemingly being used to try and justify a total ban of the complete Russian Olympic team from the Rio Games and the Pyeongchang Games when, in fact, the IOC and the IFs are/were simply not of the view that a collective punishment should be, or should have been, imposed upon all Russian athletes [all emphasizes done by OR].

It is clear that such cooperation [between the IOC and IP team – OR] is now needed if we are to do our job and to turn your general conclusions about an ‘institutional conspiracy’ into concrete findings against individuals and organizations and also if we are to successfully prosecute individual cases with at least a chance of success at CAS. WADA has said that International Federations need to contact your team directly to receive materials. It would be good to receive your cast iron agreement that your team will offer this full cooperation and allow us to go beyond your mandate and prosecute successful cases against individuals and organizations based on evidence that will stand up in a court of law.

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It is interesting that during those same few days when de Kepper was working with his staff to draft the letter answering McLaren, de Kepper was also corresponding with the chief executive officer of the US Olympic Committee, Scott Blackmun.

Scott Blackmun

That correspondence was in reference to the statement from the US Olympic Committee, circulated on March 10, 2017 by the leading global news agencies, that it was preparing some kind of “position paper” in advance of the March 11-12 World Anti-Doping Agency Symposium in Lausanne (Switzerland), which would include American proposals for reforming WADA, specifically stipulating that “there must also be a clearly independent anti-doping body with overriding global authority of those national anti-doping organization (NADO) programs, with the responsibility to test, investigate, and sanction when necessary – ensuring consistency across countries and sports.”  This was undoubtedly an attempt by the US to head off the initiative announced by de Kepper in his February 23 memo about needing reform and better balance from WADA.  De Kepper’s urgent email to Blackmun leaves no doubt that the USOC statement was entirely unexpected for him:

In his reply, Blackmun feigns surprised innocence:

The IOC’s position could not be clearer, based on the following correspondence:

De Kepper:

My point is rather that USOC had an opportunity also to show unity with the rest of the Olympic movement by openly supporting the IOC/OM positions on reforms and in particular the ITA [Independent Testing Authority – OR].

And the essential:

There is however one problematic point and this is a fundamental one. USOC is pleading for WADA to have sanctioning powers and we strongly disagree with this. The same organisation cannot be legislator, police and judge at the same time. Recent history has shown where this can lead even more so if it is a political body with only limited cultural and geographical diversity in its boards.

Christophe

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During those same few days (March 11-12, 2017), battles were raging even at the level of the Athlete Commissions (AC) between WADA and the IOC about the future of the anti-doping system.  Judging by mails coming from the same source, at the March 12 WADA AC meeting, an attempt was made to remove that body from the orbit of the IOC, and the meeting apparently became very heated.  The sponsor of the scandalous initiative was WADA’s Director General Olivier Niggli, and it was prompted by WADA’s dissatisfaction with the IOC’s position on the work of the McLaren commission:

Those who want to get a better feel for the nuances of the disputes between WADA and the IOC regarding the work of the world anti-doping agencies can study the draft presentation paper, which the Athlete Commission of the IOC drafted in the wake of Olivier Niggli’s maneuver. In our opinion, the main correction introduced into the text that day was the recommendation that WADA AC be composed with a majority of elected members and that its Chair should sit on the WADA Executive Committee as a full member:


Perhaps sports-industry insiders will be able to glean other interesting nuggets from this document.

Craig Reedie (right), president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, and Olivier Niggli, its director-general

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Here is the picture that is emerging based on the material available to us: There is indeed a conspiracy at the heart of the “Russian doping” scandal, but it’s quite a different one than what the global media has so fervidly described so far.  This conspiracy involves WADA bureaucrats and a few national Olympic committees (the USOC is among them for certain), and their goal is to establish complete control over the system of regulating doping in sports, independent of the IOC.  They need that control, on one hand, to prevent any PR damage from the systematic use of doping by Western athletes, and on the other – to acquire some effective leverage in the form of political and propaganda pressure that can be used on any sport nation they think needs to be hog-tied.

Even more condemning conclusions over the doping deadlock the WADA is leading the international top sport into, were articulated by the late honorary member of the IOC Hein Verbruggen in his letter to Thomas Bach on October 13, 2016. If you haven’t read it yet, we strongly recommend to do it now.

A couple of key quotations:

The dramatic events of the last months in anti-doping have made us all think about WADA’s role and responsibilities. I think we have suddenly all realized that this organisation has in fact during 17 years been in the hands of four people: Mr Pound, Mr Howman, Mr Reedie and Mr Niggli. I left out Mr Fahey who unexpectedly was put into the WADA chair without having any experience in anti-doping (which was perhaps convenient for those who wanted to retain the power but definitely not good for WADA).

With all respect for President Reedie, I think nobody familiar with WADA will contest that Mr Pound still has a dominant position within that organization.

The current WADA has to a large extent failed to be a viable and universally trusted and respected anti-doping organization, because – as well as for genuine anti-doping – it has from the beginning (17 years ago) also been used for politics. We all know – but we usually do not dare to say – that there exists a sound anti-IOC and anti-Europe attitude at the level of the WADA leadership. This WADA-leadership (appointed by the IOC, which is the cynical part of the story) usually teams up with a small group of (mainly) Anglo-Saxon NADO’s (USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom and Norway/Scandinavia on the sideline) and this has created a division that has allowed the same people to stay at the helm for a way too long period. This “coalition” can also be seen from the composition of the WADA committees (including panels and expert groups)…

We have to face up to the inconvenient fact that many within the Olympic Movement are afraid of criticism by WADA and Mr Pound in the sensitive and mediatic field of anti-doping. This fear explains in my view why Mr Pound and friends do not seem to worry about not being nominated anymore and why they have been able to maintain their WADA positions for 17 years, as if there were no other competent people and good governance would not recommend a change from time to time. But of course Mr Pound sees that fear also and it explains why he feels so strong in his lecturing (and in my opinion: even insulting, see e.g. his “redemption” article) the IOC.

Even recognizing the work that WADA and its leadership have done for the fight against doping, that does not allow to turn a blind eye on what went wrong. This has recently culminated in WADA arrogating a public call on the IOC to impose a last minute ban on all Russian athletes from the 2016 Olympic Games, whereas it was precisely WADA that largely contributed to this very problematic situation by not following up promptly and adequately the information it had received since 2010.

My battle was, and still is, also for what I consider to be WADA’s genuine mission in an effective fight to protect clean sport, and in support of the IOC that has the moral leadership of the fight against doping and was and still is repeatedly chafed by the WADA leadership.

A harsh critic of WADA and honorary member of the IOC Hein Verbruggen (1941-2017)

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As we know, despite the desperate struggle for legitimacy in sports, at least by the Director General of the IOC Christophe de Kepper, the International Olympic Committee was eventually forced to yield to the pressure of the international doping lobby.  The question as to what types of leverage were being used in mid and late 2017 might be the topic of a separate investigation.  It is obvious, for example, that McDonalds’ June 2017 decision to terminate its sponsorship contact with the IOC ahead of schedule, after a 40-year partnership, did not happen in a vacuum, but was instead part of a campaign to exert pressure on the IOC leadership.

It is also symptomatic that in January 2018, United States prosecutors issued grand jury subpoenas against the biggest sports organizations, including the International Olympic Committee, on “racketeering, money laundering, and fraud charges related to various elite competitions.”  An additional juicy detail is that the New York Times story on this subject not only came out within mere hours of the CAS’s verdict exonerating the Russian athletes, but also was written by the same Rebecca Ruiz, who in May 2016 was ordered to draft the fake article that triggered McLaren’s “investigation.”