The Last Bus to Idlib: Terrorist Safe-Haven in Syria About to Face a Cleaning Out -By Steven Sahiounie (MINT PRESS)

An al-Qaeda-linked militant standing in a bus, after being evacuated from the town of Arsal, near the Syrian border, in northeast Lebanon route to the rebel-held Idlib province in northwest Syria. Syrian Central Military Media via AP

 

 

One by one, all other areas in Syria under terrorist control have fallen, and now the final battle for Idlib looms large on the horizon.

IDLIB, SYRIA (Analysis) — Green city buses have delivered their last passengers to Idlib. In a recurring pattern across Syria, at the end of every battle in which Syrian government forces won back their territory, the Russian Center for Reconciliation has made deals with armed fighters: surrender and return to civilian life, or take the free bus ride to Idlib. The Russian police secured the safety of the fighters and their families who chose to not integrate back into society but to continue their jihad with the goal of establishing an Islamic state in Syria according to the Wahhabi political doctrine.

But this was the last time the bus ride to Idlib would be offered as an option. One by one, all other areas in Syria under terrorist control have fallen, and now the final battle for Idlib looms large on the horizon.

The Syrian conflict began in Daraa in 2011 as a U.S.-NATO project for “regime change.” The project failed to achieve its objective, but did cost about 500,000 lives as well as the wholesale destruction of many parts of Syria, and left millions of Syrians homeless or living abroad as refugees. Recently, the conflict has made a U-turn ending in Daraa — and setting the stage for the last battle of Idlib.

 

 

Idlib: a jihadist stronghold

The mainstream media labels Idlib as the last “rebel” stronghold, but the term “rebel” can apply only to those who are not jihadists. Idlib is a stronghold of al Qaeda and its affiliates and of ISIS fighters and their families. The term “rebel” does not apply to any of those groups. The U.S.-NATO war on Syria, for the purpose of removing the Syrian government, sold the idea that they were supporting Syrian freedom fighters, aka “rebels.” The Free Syrian Army (FSA) was a U.S.-NATO invention under the direction of the CIA in Turkey. But the FAS had problems early on, as they lacked support from the Syrian population: they couldn’t get Syrian men willing to fight. They resorted instead to the only available resources: international jihadists from the four corners of the globe.

Members of al-Nusra Front gesture as they drive in a convoy touring villages in the southern countryside of Syria's Idlib province, Decembe, 2014. (Photo: Khalil Ashawi/Reuters)

While the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) in Istanbul and its supporters from Washington, London and Paris were in the media peddling the idea of a ‘secular and moderate’ fighting force in Syria, the FSA was in Idlib committing one of its first war crimes.

Pharmacist Dr. Samir Qanatri owned and operated his own pharmacy in his hometown of Idlib. He was a well-known supporter of secular ideology and served as vice chairman of the Pharmacists’ Union in Syria. The FSA beat him to death inside his shop and then burned his corpse and his shop. This was a very powerful message to from the FSA to Idlib in 2011: we stand against secular ideology.

Qanatri was not a member of the then-ruling state party, Al Ba-ath. His premeditated murder had nothing to do with his association with the Syrian government, or the ruling party, as he was affiliated with neither. This was the U.S.-NATO-supported FSA sending a clear message that it would not tolerate secular ideology, regardless of what was being written in the Western media. Syrians were not following the Western media in 2011, and at the time had no idea there was a powerful propaganda campaign portraying the SNC and its armed wing, the FSA, as secular and moderate forces of change in Syria. The truth on the ground was just the opposite, but the Western media never covered that.

 

An attempt to sectarianize a secular state

Syria is home to 18 different religious minorities and the Syrian government has been secular for 40 years, an ideology well-ingrained in the Syrian mindset. This may be one of the reasons that Syrians of all economic levels, religions, sects and educational backgrounds rejected the SNC and FSA. From the outset, the majority of the Syrian population remained in favor of peace and security, as opposed to armed opposition.

The armed fighters in Syria did have some supporters across Syria, and this led to a great deal of destruction and bloodshed; however, the main base of their support continued to be among Syrian expats, Arabs and Westerners living in safety in Washington, London, Paris, Istanbul and Riyadh.

One of the very first political banners hung by the FSA on the coast in 2011 read: “Christians to Beirut, Alawites to their Grave.” The Western media and the Obama White House were careful not to translate that banner into English. The FSA and its political wing, the SNC, have never been secular or moderate. The founding members of the SNC and FSA were members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Their goal for Syria has always been to establish an Islamic government, thus abolishing the secular Ba’ath Party as well as the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP).

 

A terrorist occupation

Idlib has literally dozens of armed groups. Naming each and providing even a brief description would take many pages. The situation on the ground there can be described as such: civilians living under the occupation of terrorists, some of whom are Syrian; though foreign terrorists are more numerous than locals. Some of the terrorists have been settled in Idlib for years, and have large families consisting of wives, children and elderly relatives.

Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham” is the largest group in Idlib. “Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement” is also there — the group famously supported by the U.S. until it gained notoriety for chopping off the head of an 11-year-old boy in Aleppo, and making a video of the before-and-after process that went viral on the internet. The video caused the U.S. State Department under President Obama to reconsider its previous support of the group.

One of the unexpected groups occupying Idlib consists of Chinese citizens turned jihadists. Numbering around 4,000 persons, they brought their entire families with them, even establishing schools for their children. Known as Uyghurs, they knew they couldn’t create an Islamic state in China so they opted to create their utopia in Syria. Also numerous in Idlib are the Turkestani and Uzbek jihadists, likewise from Central Asia. They have acquired drones that they have used recently to attack the Hmeymim Military Airbase, near Latakia, as reported by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

A photo showing armed children, “little warriors of jihad,” published online by the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) terrorist group in Syria.

Even the areas surrounding Idlib have been at the mercy of the many terrorist factions that have inundated the area. The small villages of al-Foua and Kefraya in the Idlib countryside are inhabited by non-Sunni Muslims, and were surrounded by terrorists for over three years. This made them a target of the FSA and their al Qaeda brothers-in-arms, who attacked and bombarded the villages almost daily for over three years, leaving the residents reportedly living on grass, leaves and the occasional UN food delivery.

The suffering was beyond description, as children and the elderly died from a lack of medical care and starvation. Now the villages sit vacant: a bitter wind blows through them as the last remaining hostages were released in a prisoner swap.

Almost 5,000 civilian hostages from the two villages boarded buses and were taken to the safety of Latakia, while 1,500 prisoners were released and taken to Idlib in the deal agreed upon by the armed fighters in Idlib and Russian negotiators.

Even as local residents sat on a bus waiting to evacuate al-Foua and Kefraya, one Egyptian terrorist boarded and proclaimed, “There’s no place for you in Idlib.” Strange that a foreigner would think himself the one to change the demographics of Syria: yet another example of the U.S.-NATO-sponsored sectarian war in Syria. This technique of pitting sects against one another might work on drawing boards in America and Europe; but thanks to the secular values ingrained in Syria, they had no chance of nationwide success.

 

The jihadist occupiers of Idlib have forfeited UN protection

UN Security Council Resolution 2254, dated December 2015, endorsed a roadmap for a peace process in Syria, and made clear that members of the coalition were to fight all terrorist factions, including ISIS as well as the various players named under the al Qaeda umbrella. Resolution 2254 makes it clear that no ceasefire would ever include those groups.

In May of 2017, an agreement was signed during the Astana talks backed by Turkey, Russia and Iran that established de-escalation zones in Syria, one of which was in the Idlib province. But the armed fighters who control Idlib are overwhelmingly derived from the terrorist groups specifically banned from protection under Security Council Resolution 2254. Not only are those fighters overwhelmingly members of al Qaeda- and ISIS-affiliated terrorist groups, but many are not Syrian. When the bombs start falling over Idlib, the Western media may report them as a violation of the de-escalation zone provision; however, this provision does not apply, as the Syrian government intends to target only the groups specified as legitimate targets under Security Council Resolution 2254.

There are Syrian civilians who are being held captive in Idlib and are being used as human shields. Those civilians are being used as a tool to pressure the UN, Turkey and others to stop any military action taken by Russia and Syria based on the humanitarian crisis that may develop due to their presence in the province. Over the past seven years of the conflict, many of Idlib’s residents have left to take up refuge in nearby Latakia; some went to UN camps in Turkey at Gaziantep; while others made the trek to Germany in the summer of 2015.

Still others, however, remain in their homes, shops or farms in Idlib despite the hardships of living under terrorist control. For a myriad of reasons, they did not flee and have had to face living under foreign occupation by international jihadists. Some of those residents have kept in contact with relatives outside of Idlib and have expressed fear over the coming firestorm, but have no options.

 

Idlib’s Natives face no good choices

Some experts suggest the majority of Syrian residents in Idlib are waiting and hoping for the day when the Syrian Army liberates the area so they can resume a normal life. This is based on past history, including the liberation of East Aleppo in late 2016, the liberation of East Ghouta several months ago, and the recent liberation of Daraa: in each case, the majority of civilians streaming out of the recently liberated cities said they were happy to be free once more.

Watch | Eastern Ghouta civilians greet the Syrian Army as it enters Ain Tarma

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/6yg0eXK076Y?rel=0&showinfo=0

In 2011, Turkey set up the tents in Gaziantep, just over the border from Idlib, before any refugees began fleeing the still budding Syrian conflict. Was the move an act of clairvoyance, or was it perhaps under instruction from the CIA office in nearby Adana?

Refugees would soon arrive and fill those tents, creating a humanitarian crisis worthy of UN support and funding. The refugees were mainly women and children who left their men behind to fight with the FSA for a paycheck distributed by Saudi Arabia in Turkey. Leaving women and children alone is risky anywhere, and in Turkey reports of rape and resulting unwanted pregnancies as well as the sexual abuse of small boys and girls, soon made headlines. The rapists turned out to be Turkish guards tasked with control of the thousands of new Syrian refugees.

When the dust settles over the ruins of Idlib, there will be survivors, including terrorists who can’t stay in Syria because they are not Syrian citizens. However, various countries, including the U.K., are refusing to allow their own citizens to return home after fighting for terrorist groups in Syria; instead, they are revoking their citizenship. Some countries, such as France, have gone so far as to bluntly state the solution is to kill them before they come home. The Canadian prime minister was ridiculed by his citizens after he suggested jihadists could be rehabilitated and even compared the terrorists coming home to Canada as similar to the Italian migrants to Canada.

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen recently warned of the threat posed by fighters attempting to return home:

We are entering a new phase of the fight. Jihadists are going underground, dispersing to other safe havens — including on the internet and returning to their home countries.”

While the exact details of the recent private meeting in Helsinki between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have yet to be revealed, the main points of concern agreed upon regarding Syria were:

  1. The security of the Syrian-Israeli border at the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights must be maintained by SAA and clear of Iranian military presence.
  2. The U.S. and Russia will work in coordination to achieve peace in Syria.

It would appear there are no glaring differences between the two leaders’ approach to ending the Syrian conflict, which was planned, funded and executed under the Obama administration. President Trump inherited the conflict and has stated repeatedly he wants the United States out of wars in the Middle East.

 

The coming battle for Idlib

The battle for Idlib will begin soon, as the SAA secures areas to the South and West of the province; then the aerial bombardments will begin. We will probably see and hear the same war-weary correspondents from CNN and the BBC, reporters who never applied for a visa to enter Syria.

Illegals crossing the border in the U.S. are considered criminals, subject to arrest and prosecution. Yet, American journalists have been embedded with terrorist groups in Syria for eight years, and have used smugglers in the human trafficking business to ferry them in and out through Turkey. Some of these journalists don’t bother with groundwork and instead opt to take the easy way out, reporting from the Beirut Hilton or the Istanbul Plaza.

Stay tuned: the coverage of Idlib will begin soon, and the green buses can finally get back to their job of transporting Syrians as they live, shop and work in peace at last.

Top Photo | An al-Qaeda-linked militant standing in a bus, after being evacuated from the town of Arsal, near the Syrian border, in northeast Lebanon route to the rebel-held Idlib province in northwest Syria. Syrian Central Military Media via AP

Steven Sahouni is an independent Syrian political analyst and writer based in Lebanon; he has been covering the Syrian crisis since it’s onset in 2011 and has published several articles in numerous media outlets – He is regularly interviewed by U.S., Canadian and German media.

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Arctic stronghold: Might of Russia’s Northern Fleet shown in anniversary video – By RT

 

Arctic stronghold: Might of Russia’s Northern Fleet shown in anniversary video
The Northern Fleet, which is arguably the most powerful Russian naval force, is celebrating 285 years of operations. Its anniversary video shows state-of-the-art vessels and unique installations in the Russian Arctic region.

Established back in 1733, the Northern Fleet comprises some of Russia’s most remarkable military hardware, with 41 submarines, 37 surface vessels and ground troops making it a “cross-branch strategic force”, as the Russian Defense Ministry puts it in a Twitter post. Its anniversary video shows various military exercises staged by the Northern Fleet forces, including submarines firing cruise and ballistic missiles, Tu-95 strategic bombers flying training sorties and military divers holding underwater firing drills.

The flagship of the fleet is a nuclear-powered battlecruiser the ‘Pyotr Velikiy,’ one of the biggest nuclear-propelled ships in the world. The ‘Admiral Kuznetsov,’ Russia’s only serving aircraft carrier, which took part in the fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists in Syria in 2016, is also part of the Northern Fleet.

The naval force also has some of Russia’s most advanced nuclear-powered multipurpose submarines equipped with cruise and ballistic missiles. Two state-of-the-art submarines – a Yasen-M class vessel the Severodvinsk, carrying as many as 32 Onyx and Kalibr supersonic cruise missiles, and a Borei-class submarine the Yury Dolgorukiy, equipped with 16 Bulava nuclear ballistic missiles – are already in service in the fleet, while another Yasen-M class submarine, the Kazan, is currently undergoing sea trials.

The strategic force, which is particularly tasked with “defending Russia’s national interests in the Arctic,” also controls some unique military bases within the Polar circle. Of particular interest is Russia’s northernmost military base, called Arctic Shamrock.

The unique base is the world’s only permanent infrastructure facility built in the area located 80 degrees of latitude north of the Equator. The autonomous complex, which occupies an area of 14,000 square meters, allows up to 150 people to live and work there for as long as 18 months without any external support.

The Russian infrastructure in the Polar region is “unmatched” by any other country, the country’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said, in December 2017.

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Iran in the crosshairs as the empire enters its mad dog days – By John Wight (RT)

John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
 
Iran in the crosshairs as the empire enters its mad dog days
Mike Pompeo’s bellicose rhetoric against Tehran leaves no doubt that Washington has embraced the status of international renegade.

Pompeo’s speech, delivered in his capacity as secretary of state, evinced a blatant disregard for the integrity of international treaties and respect for international law. It also ensures that the last vestiges of credibility enjoyed by the US has now been shredded in the eyes of a world grown weary – weary of a Trump administration which, in its caprice and continual threats, is more redolent of a New York mafia crime family than a respectable and responsible government.

With Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – better known as the Iran nuclear deal – his administration has embarked on the path of conflict with Iran in conjunction with regional allies Israel and Saudi Arabia. Together they comprise an axis of aggression that imperils the stability of the region, with potentially grave consequences for the rest of the world given the succour such a regional conflict would give to extremism and global terrorism.

It also sets a dangerous precedent when it comes to arriving at a peaceful resolution to the on-going crisis in Ukraine and ensuring a successful outcome to the inchoate process of peace and reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula.

The Empire enters its mad dog days

Thus the dire consequences of the untrammelled power of what is an imperial hegemon in Washington have never been more manifest, with its drive to dominate and dictate on pain of war reflective of an empire desperate to arrest a decline, entering its mad dog days in the process.

Let us be clear: the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the JCPOA has nothing to do with Iran’s compliance, which has been impeccable, and everything to do with Washington’s hegemonic agenda towards the region – a hegemonic agenda which precedes Trump.

In the way of this agenda are Iran, Syria and Hezbollah – along with Russia – which, if not on a formal basis certainly on a de facto basis, comprise an axis of anti-hegemony that needs to be broken. It is for this and no other reason that Trump, Netanyahu, and bin Salman are intent on forcing the issue with Iran, regardless of the likely catastrophic results.

They have lost in Syria, where the drive to topple the Assad government has been thwarted thanks in no small part to Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah – standing with the Syrian people and Syrian Arab Army – and in response they are intent on settling accounts.

Whither the transatlantic alliance

Another casualty of Trump’s demarche against Iran is the transatlantic alliance between Washington and its various European allies, considered by its proponents to be the unbreakable and irreplaceable fulcrum of democracy in our time.

The insouciance with which the Trump administration has been willing to disregard the stance of France, Germany and the UK on the Iran deal is revelatory; proof-positive that rather than any kind of alliance between friends and partners, the true nature of the America’s relationship to Europe and the EU is akin to the one that existed between Rome and its various satellites and client states during the halcyon days of another empire – which made the mistake of believing its power and existence was eternal.

This particular aspect of the crisis, involving the prospect of US sanctions being levelled not only against Iran but also British, French and German companies operating in Iran, is reflective of the extent to which neocon nostrums are in the driving seat of US foreign policy, with any lingering façade of propriety dropped in favor of raw imperialism.

Now more than ever the wheels have come off Europe’s slavish attachment to the supposed virtues of unipolarity, with the likes of Emmanuel Macron – the very embodiment of a confected liberal centrist, a leader for whom the word ‘opportunism’ was invented – left dangling like the proverbial flunkey after being kicked to the kerb by his lord and master.

The grievous reality of Europe’s hideous lack of independence from Washington – independence of the type that once minded Charles De Gaulle to declaim, “Yes, it is Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals, it is Europe, it is the whole of Europe, that will decide the fate of the world” –  has been laid bare. It presents Europe with a test. Does it wilt in the face of the Trump administration’s imperial arrogance and bellicosity? Or does it awaken and emerge, finally, from beneath Washington’s feet to play a positive and progressive role in world affairs?

Here it is hard to imagine leaders of the questionable calibre of Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron existing anywhere else other than beneath the feet of Washington, with Macron’s earlier boast of wielding influence over Trump when it comes to Syria now returning to haunt him. The reality is that French President Emmanuel Macron carries about as much weight in Washington as a fly’s wing.

Europe’s choice – unipolarity or multipolarity

Crisis is opportunity, they tell us, and this particular crisis presents the opportunity for a new alignment in Europe, forged on the understanding that the destabilizing factor in Europe is not and has never been Russia; that it is and has always been the United States. Economically, culturally, and politically, Europe’s identity has been progressively subsumed into a US identity, with its regressive and shallow paean to the cult of the individual, unfettered capitalism, and might is right.

Therefore the choice Europe faces is clear. It can either remain tethered to the mast of the sinking ship of unipolarity, or it can join Russia, China and the rest of the world in shaping a multipolar alternative, rooted not in the caprice of a president in Washington but instead in the principles set out in the UN Charter – specifically respect for national sovereignty and international law.

Returning to Iran, which now finds itself firmly in the crosshairs of regime change for no other reason that it refuses to bow to the writ of Washington, there is no longer any hiding place when it comes to taking sides. If those countries threatened by this eruption of US aggression do not hang together they will hang separately.

Hegemony demands its response in the shape of anti-hegemony. The future of generations as yet unborn depends on nothing less.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Trump and Corporate America Are Dead Serious About Plans to Conquer Outer Space – By Elliott Gabriel (MINT PRESS)

Like any military effort, the establishment of the U.S. Armed Forces in space is meant to ensure the expansion of capital, the protection of corporate property and investments on or off the globe.

 

WASHINGTON – What does the United States do when it’s faced with hegemonic decline, ascendant rivals, and an inability to use its massive military apparatus to turn the tide in favor of its own imperial ambitions without incurring costs that far outweigh the benefits?

To paraphrase former First Lady Michelle Obama: When they go low, we go high.

In this case, shift the battle to “the final frontier” – outer space — where mining interests suspect that rare mineral resources can be found in abundance and yield massive profits.

During his time on the campaign trail and upon coming to power, President Donald Trump issued a stream of statements explicitly calling for a reinvigorated effort to boost the militarization of space. The goal would be to ensure that his “America First” approach to economic and military matters extends to outer space through a deployment of the U.S. Armed Forces to outer space on a permanent basis.

On May 1, Trump revived the idea of creating a new military service branch dedicated to space combat in a speech to the West Point football team, noting that the branch would be called the “Space Force.”

“I’m just telling you now. We’re getting very big in space, both militarily and for other reasons, and we are seriously thinking of the Space Force,” he said.

For longtime anti-militarism activist and analyst Bruce Gagnon, a coordinator for the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, the push to form a Space Force reflects the desires of the U.S. war industry. As Gagnon told MintPress News:

They know they stand to make massive profits if they can consolidate space operations under one military service, so they will likely continue to push this in the coming year. I think they stand a good chance of eventually making it happen – recognizing that most politicians in Congress are now subservient to the military-industrial complex.”

While liberal late-night TV hosts like The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah and Late Show’s Stephen Colbert have mocked the idea, Trump is far from the only figure in Washington who sees space as a “war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea,” as he said in March.

Indeed, House lawmakers have already inserted plans for “a subordinate unified command for space under U.S. Strategic Command that would be responsible for joint space warfighting operations,” in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.

While not quite the space-oriented service branch or Space Force that Trump has called for – complete with its own Chief sitting alongside the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. Armed Forces – the move is a stride forward in the long-agreed-upon bipartisan strategy to ensure that outer space remains the unchallenged domain of Washington.

 

Extension of Terrestrial Battles

Donald Trump gestures after speaking to service members at Miramar Air Corps Air Station, March 13, 2018, in San Diego. (AP/Evan Vucci)

What interest could the U.S. military possibly have in extending its presence in the cold, dangerous, and expensive realm of outer space?

For geographer, globalization scholar, and University of Cambridge Professor Peter Dicken, the answer isn’t much different from why a military would seek to establish itself anywhere else here on Earth, whether it’s in the frozen Arctic or in the insurgent mountain ranges of Afghanistan.

“Some of the answers lie in capital endlessly seeking more profitable investments,” Dicken told MintPress News, adding:

In other words, compared with investments on Earth, investments in outer space – now including military investment in space – can look relatively profitable relative to investments on Earth.”

Any time the government seeks to build up its military, the purpose isn’t merely just to inject funds into war industries as a form of “corporate welfare,” but it’s a means of guaranteeing that the military continues to ensure the expansion of capital, protecting its property and investments across the globe. Proponents of the militarization of space hope to extend the same dynamic into the cosmos.

As far back as 1958, then-U.S. Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson offered a prescient observation on the crucial role outer space can play in securing military dominance on the ground:

[T]here is something more important than the ultimate weapon. That is the ultimate position – the position of total control over the Earth that lies somewhere out in space. That is … the distant future, though not so distant as we may have thought. Whoever gains that position gains control, total control, over Earth, for the purposes of tyranny or for the service of freedom.”

Johnson’s argument didn’t fall on deaf ears. In the 1996 report Vision for 2020 — by the Defense Department’s Aerospace Joint Command Headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado — the report’s authors give a clear layout of the mission of the United States Space Command, which was created in 1985:

Dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect U.S. interests and investment. Integrating Space Forces into warfighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict.”

Watch | Arsenal of Hypocrisy

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/s5mEUtx62N0?rel=0&showinfo=0

On its third page, the report notes, “the emerging synergy of space superiority with land, sea, and air superiority will lead to Full Spectrum Dominance.” The cover of the report depicts a satellite firing a laser beam down on a target below.

Gagnon sees the U.S. delusion that it can achieve absolute unchallenged military control on the planet as an absurd idea that is not only fraught with danger, but could lead to the hollowing-out of remaining U.S. social programs:

The militarization of space gives the U.S. the idea that it can prevail in a full-scale war, which is an insane notion. The cost of the militarization of space would destroy the human and physical infrastructure of our country because they’d have to defund all social progress in order to pay for it.”

In the 2007 book, Cosmic Society: Towards a Sociology of the Universe, Dicken and co-author James S. Ormrod wrote about how the militarization of space can guarantee capital investments and property rights in a cheaper, less risky manner than the simple deployment of military force on the ground:

It has long been recognized that struggles over space on Earth are intimately connected to social struggles, to contests between classes and others. … Sadly now, those interests monopolizing and controlling the use of outer space are those attempting to monopolize and control social relations, social processes, and forms of subjectivity on Earth. It is possible to imagine the total militarization of the public sphere from space, civilians’ every move being watched and targeted. In short, the current way of humanizing outer space is again about exerting the hegemony of the powerful.”

 

Mining the moon

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket transporting the Tess satellite lifts off from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., April 18, 2018.

In recent years, tech companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin have engaged in a mad dash to develop their own private space programs capable of conducting a moon landing, exploring Mars, or providing space-based tourist attractions. The rapid development of this private space race – supported by companies such as Google through its Lunar XPRIZE contest – is to unlock “the lunar frontier and the multibillion-dollar industry that follows,” as Bob Richards, founder and CEO of Silicon Valley startup Moon Express, said in a recent statement.

While these tech entrepreneurs wrap their aspirations to tap into the resources of the cosmos in such idealistic language as “unlocking the mysteries of the universe” and other mawkish Roddenberry-esque clichés, their real motivations are much baser and boil down to simple dollars and cents – or, in the case of the moon, “a treasure chest of rare metals and other beneficial materials that can be used here on Earth.”

On Tuesday, these companies received a massive boost to their efforts when the House of Representatives passed the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Bill, which encourages private business to be carried out under the auspices of the Office of Space Commerce (a division of the Department of Commerce). The bill further ignores the Outer Space Treaty (OST), an oft-disregarded international agreement signed in 1967 that is meant to keep space peaceful, safe and accessible for all who seek to explore it.

Lawmakers believe the bill will exempt the U.S. from its legal responsibilities under the OST stemming from U.S. private corporations’ activities, yet one can expect that the Department of Defense — and the Space Force, if it ever comes to fruition — will be on-hand to protect U.S. business interests, when necessary.

“Owners of capital are becoming increasingly interested in The Moon as a site of rare materials [and] this kind of investment in space is happening because these players believe that investments in space will be very lucrative and, as such, require protection,” Dicken told MintPress News.

Rare-earth minerals are crucial in the manufacture of electronics, medical technologies, defense hardware and renewable energies, and can be as common as zinc and copper or as rare as magnesite and cobalt. From our smartphones to our cars to our hospitals and power plants, rare-earths such as neodymium, lanthanum, cerium and other elements play a key role in our daily lives. However, the process of extracting rare-earths is dangerous, costly, and runs the risk of ruining local environments.

In 2016, China produced nearly 80 percent of the world’s supply of the precious elements. Its abundant reserves of the minerals caused leader Deng Xiaoping to famously say in 1992, “The Middle East has oil. China has rare-earths.”

Owing to the country’s strategic possession of the reserves, markets were spooked in 2010 when a border dispute with Japan resulted in a rumor that China would block rare earth exports to the country, causing prices to momentarily skyrocket by around 2,000 percent. Subsequent announcements by the government that it would slash production quotas in response to the environmental damage mines were causing have also caused the prices to fluctuate.

The idea that the so-called “vitamins of modern society,” perceived to be scarce, would remain under the lock and key of the Communist Party of China was viewed as an apocalyptic scenario. This led to a storm of alarmist articles about the Chinese monopoly or “stranglehold” on the minerals, as well as a rush by mining firms to scour the globe for new exploitable sources in locales such as the Amazon rainforest, sensitive environments in Latin America, Afghanistan, shuttered mines in California, North Korea – which recently was found to have reserves estimated to be worth $6 trillion – and even in the heavens above.

As Julie Klinger wrote in her 2018 book Rare Earth Frontiers: From Terrestrial Subsoils to Lunar Landscapes:

[I]n the race to open up new extraction points, less remote, apparently easier to access deposits have been overlooked in favor of the far northwestern Amazon and the Moon.”

Moon Express co-founder and chairman Naveen Jain made clear his excitement over the mining of the lunar surface in 2012:

The problem we face on earth is that beyond their scarcity, these elements are not evenly distributed throughout the world. We need to disrupt this market. By finally being able to reach the Moon and harvest the resources that are there, we can overcome the scarcity of rare-earth elements and create the infrastructure necessary for innovation to continue.”

Statistic: Rare earth reserves worldwide as of 2017, by country (in 1,000 metric tons REO)* | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

Since 2014, NASA and the private sector have undertaken Lunar CATALYST, or the Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown, which seeks to develop prospecting and cargo-bearing robots that would mine the lunar crust for rare-earth minerals.

By 2015, President Barack Obama signed the Commercial Space Act, which lifted restrictions on private companies seeking to legally haul back any material found in space – whether it be on asteroids, the moon, or even the planet Mars, which Trump seeks to explore and Tesla’s Elon Musk hopes to colonize.

A year later, White House advisers Robert Walker and Peter Navarro – the latter of whom is a major China hawk and now-director of the National Trade Council – penned op-eds calling for a “peace through strength” approach to space that would “simultaneously strengthen (the U.S.) economy and manufacturing base while significantly expanding (U.S.) civilian and military space budgets.”

Using emotionally-charged language evoking a pioneering spirit, the authors propose “private sector solutions” to U.S. national defense and space challenges meant to counter “existential” threats in space from rival superpowers, ensuring corporate interests and a future where the U.S.’s “freedom-loving people … lead the way to the heavens above.”

Klinger observed:

Extreme privilege combined with the cultural capital surrounding space-related endeavors generates a kind of evangelical zeal that manifests in the near-complete inability of space investors to handle deeper questions about their projects. Anyone critical is simply lacking vision, is not bold enough, or does not understand the importance of space exploration.

… While these endeavors promise fundamental transformations in how resources are produced and consumed, they are betting on the durability of the current unsustainable political-economic status quo. … Only loosely regulated and currently free from clearly enforceable social and environmental accountability requirements, the Moon seems to represent the ultimate terrain of capitalist freedom.”

 

China and Russia observe and prepare

A man holds a child as they visit a park with replicas of foreign and domestic space vehicles displayed in Beijing, China, June 26, 2016. (AP/Ng Han Guan)

The United States, with its massive war budget and sprawling military-industrial complex, remains the front-runner in the competition to deploy armed forces in outer space. Yet, as the successful 2013 landing of Chinese lunar rover Jade Rabbit proved, China’s National Space Agency is well-positioned to actually mine rare-earth minerals on the Moon.

In an article cited by Klinger from the China Military Channel, the country’s defense establishment made its intention behind the Jade Rover mission clear:

The rich…rare-earth, uranium and thorium resources on the Moon can ease China’s energy crisis, maintain the status of China as a rare-earth power, and facilitate the rapid development of China’s aerospace technology…China now has ‘first-strike capability’ on lunar mineral development.”

In the meantime, the country has patiently built upon its ability to launch effective anti-satellite missiles. Yet its own arsenal pales in comparison to that of the U.S. military, which possesses dozens of Aegis-equipped guided missile cruisers and destroyers capable of knocking down Russia and China’s satellites in an actual war.

Pleas from China and Russia to negotiate a new space treaty preventing the use of space for the deployment weapons have also been ignored by the U.S.

For Bruce Gagnon, whose 2003 documentary, Arsenal of Hypocrisy, delved into the nexus between the U.S. space program and the imperialist prerogatives of the U.S. military-industrial complex, the reason is simple:

The U.S. has always believed it had the opportunity and right to control and dominate space. The logo of the U.S. Space Command reads ‘Master of Space’. But China and Russia have not been idle and have developed the ability to counter the U.S. efforts to control space and thus the earth below.  While the U.S. still is ahead of Russia and China in overall space technology, those two nations are quickly closing the gap because they are determined not to allow the U.S. to be dominant in space.”


The “Bad Seed” in Space

For critics, the issue isn’t so much the exploration of space or its “humanization,” as Dicken and Ormrod refer to it, but the extension of inter-state and inter-imperialist competition beyond the planet. As the two authors wrote in 2007:

As and when elements of nearby outer space are legally subdivided and exploited by different private or state interests, this precludes public and private investments in probably more worthwhile projects on Earth. Furthermore, such imperialism also opens up the possibility of wars between those powers gaining access to the Moon or other nearby parts of the cosmos. This form of imperialism and capital expansion may seem particularly attractive to ruling elites, given the contradictions and increasingly evident social and environmental crises of Earthly society. But the fact remains that this fourth stage of imperialism may in the long term simply reproduce Earthly conflicts, Earthly sociopolitical coalitions, and environmental degradation into the cosmos.”

Yet Dicken warns against giving up hope in the possibility of humanizing space, noting that the achievements of space exploration could bring major benefits to human society — provided such humanization remains centered on the improvement of the whole of humanity, rather than the agendas of individualistic entrepreneurs dreaming of gold in the stars or generals seeking to use space platforms to prevent their rivals from accessing space.

“And it would certainly be a mistake to ignore the ‘push factors’ of new coalitions against military investments, these perhaps being best exemplified by Bruce Gagnon’s attempt to create coalitions against outer-space investments,” Dicken added.

For Gagnon, the U.S. desire to gain a monopoly on access to space remains key to the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space’s opposition to the push for monopolizing the cosmos. Gagnon refers to this imperialist dream as “the bad seed” – which could blossom and bear frightening, poisonous fruits for generations to come:

It would be a tragic mistake for any nation to carry the bad seed of greed, competition, conflict, environmental degradation and war into the heavens. The U.S. has made the decision to do that very thing. Sadly few on the planet are aware of the dangers to this thoughtless and irresponsible policy.”

Top Photo | President Donald Trump holds a toy astronaut as he participates in a signing ceremony for Space Policy Directive at the White House. (Reuters Photo)

Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.

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Study finds alarming decline in biodiversity worldwide By Philip Guelpa – (WSWS)

A recently released United Nations-supported study presents a grim picture of the accelerating decline in biodiversity (the variety of plant and animal species) across the globe and its dire implications for the not-too-distant future of life on Earth, including humans.

Flooding in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina due to uncontrolled development in wetlands

The study, composed of multiple reports by over 550 researchers, was conducted by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). It contends that the increasingly rapid loss of plant and animal species due to habitat degradation, invasive species, and pollution is happening in tandem with climate change. Together, these processes, if not halted, will soon have catastrophic environmental consequences, amounting to a sixth mass global extinction, which will threaten the very survival of humanity.

Biological ecosystems are a complex, dialectical interaction of plant, animal, and microbial life forms with each other and their physical environment, evolving over millennia. These systems are not static. They change over time due to the dynamic of unity and conflict of opposites of their myriad biological and physical constituents. In general, the greater the species diversity (number of different species) within an ecosystem, the more stable it is, barring external perturbations (e.g., the impact that caused the mass extinction, including dinosaurs, about 66 million years ago) and the more slowly change takes place.

By contrast, the lower the species diversity, the greater is the tendency toward instability and the more vulnerable an ecosystem is to catastrophic collapse. High diversity will generally buffer the degree to which changes in any particular constituent of the system will affect the system as a whole. The role of one species, known as its ecological niche, may gradually be filled by one or more other species, leading to gradual change.

With lower diversity, however, ecosystems tend to be more fragile. The loss of any one species will likely have a much greater impact on the system as a whole, creating instability and possible catastrophic collapse. It is less likely that another species will evolve or adapt with sufficient rapidity to fill the “gap” in the system, potentially resulting in a cascading series of disruptions. If the trends documented in the IPBES reports continue, the world’s biological systems are likely to go into this kind of severe crisis within the next few decades.

Humans have had a significant impact on natural ecosystems, especially since the Industrial Revolution. However, in no way are we “decoupled” from the natural environment. Such systems remain a vital part of our survival—affecting weather and climate, food resources, potable water and breathable air.

The authors of the IPBES study provide a range of examples to illustrate both the variety and rapidity of species loss and environmental degradation, which are occurring across the globe.

Among the direct and substantial impacts of species decline and extinction, the study found that exploitable fisheries in the Asia-Pacific region are on track to be exhausted by 2048. This will result in severe economic losses as well as dietary privation for millions.

Habitat destruction by forest clearing in Mexico

In Africa, where more than 60 percent of the human population depends directly on natural resources, the study projects that half of some bird and mammal species could be lost by 2100. Of the continent’s historically recorded species, more than 20 percent are threatened, endangered, or already extinct. The recent effective extinction of the northern white rhinoceros, which received much media attention, is just one iconic example.

In Europe, 42 percent of land species have suffered notable declines during the past decade alone. Half of existing wetlands have been lost since 1970.

The destruction of wetlands and their associated plant and animal communities around the world, both inland and along coastlines, results in accelerated erosion, pollution, and loss of protection against flooding, as seen, for example, during last year’s Atlantic hurricane season.

Over the last 500 years, since Europeans began colonizing the Americas, 30 percent of the hemisphere’s biodiversity has been lost. The study projects that over the next decade, if present trends continue, that figure will rise to 40 percent, indicating its rapid acceleration. Nearly one quarter of the existing species that were studied are threatened.

Trees are key to the production of atmospheric oxygen, essential for the survival of humans and other animals. However, since 1990, over 130 million hectares of rainforest have been lost. In northeastern Brazil, part of the Amazon rainforest, which is often referred to as the “Lungs of the Earth,” between 2003 and 2013 alone, the area under cultivation more than doubled to 2.5 million hectares.

The reports’ authors highlight the combined effects of direct human-caused landscape modification and of climate change on the decline in biodiversity. By 2050, climate change may equal or surpass landscape modification as the primary cause of species decline. In either case, the planet is well on its way to becoming a biological wasteland. These findings are not new, only confirming and re-emphasizing the critical urgency of the situation. Previous studies have painted a similar picture (see: “Scientists warn of ‘biological annihilation’ as Earth’s mass extinction accelerates”).

While the IPBES study documents the growing danger posed by the rapid and accelerating global decline in biodiversity, it presents only general notions as to what might be done to halt the process and avert catastrophe, without any mechanisms for implementation aside from the good will of business and political leaders. As with other such studies, the researchers can only lament the complete inadequacy of response to their dire warnings so far. Robert Watson, the chair of the IPBES, stated, “The time for action was yesterday or the day before. Governments recognize we have a problem. Now we need action, but unfortunately the action we have now is not at the level we need.”

Mass extinctions have happened five times previously during the existence of life on earth (see:  “The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert”). In each of those instances the causes were natural. The currently developing sixth mass extinction differs in that it is directly related to human activity. However, contrary to statements in the report and in numerous other pronouncements in the media and elsewhere, the cause is not human moral failure, overpopulation, or the need to eat less red meat.

The poor farmer in Brazil who is forced to clear more land in order to eke out an existence, the factory worker in China or the US whose plant spews out toxic chemicals, etc., are not responsible for the resulting environmental degradation.

The responsibility lies with the anarchic and profit-driven capitalist system that disdainfully ignores the consequences of its actions and prevents the development and implementation of rational, scientifically based solutions to the problems of climate change and environmental degradation. As the world capitalist crisis deepens and inter-imperialist rivalries intensify, environmental concerns will increasingly be swept aside, as is already the case under the Trump administration in the US.

If, on the other hand, the vast resources now horded by the world’s elites or squandered in wars were instead used to eradicate poverty, end pollution, develop and expand clean energy, and generally organize society for the benefit of the many rather than the few, the developing crisis could be halted and reversed. That can only happen under the democratic control of the working class implementing the socialist reorganization of society.

The author also recommends:

Climate change and the struggle against capitalism
[14 July 2017]

 

The author also recommends:

Climate change and the struggle against capitalism
[14 July 2017]

Highlights of the 2018 Victory Day Parade in Moscow (PHOTO, VIDEO) – By SPUTNIK

The multipurpose fighter of the fifth generation SU-57 on the military parade devoted to the 73rd anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945

© Sputnik / Grigory Sysoyev

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A massive military parade was held in Moscow to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of the Soviet victory in the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) against Nazi Germany in the European theater of World War II; Russia showcased many of its advanced, recently-developed weapons and displayed the might of its armed forces to the world.

The New Weapons

One of the sleekest, most deadly weapons to make its debut at the parade was the Sukhoi Su-57 stealth air superiority fighter. Packed with state-of-the-art avionics and active airborne phased array radar, this super-maneuverable fifth-generation warplane can carry a wide array of weaponry, allowing it to engage airborne, ground and naval targets.

The Kinzhal hypersonic missile, which appeared at the parade mounted on a MiG-31 interceptor aircraft, has a range of over 2,000 km, flies at Mach 10, and is capable of maneuvering at all stages of flight.. Not only can it penetrate all existing and prospective enemy air defenses, the missile can carry a nuclear payload.

Военный парад, посвящённый 73-й годовщине Победы в ВОВ
© Sputnik / Evgeny Biyatov
Multi-purpose fighter MiG-31 with the hypersonic Kinzhal rocket on the military parade devoted to the 73rd anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945

The BMPT Terminator is a tracked armored fighting vehicle, armed with four anti-tank missile launchers, two 30 mm autocannons, two grenade launchers, and a coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun.

READ MORE: LIVE UPDATES: Victory Day Military Parade Held in Russian Capital (VIDEO)

The Uran-9 is an unmanned combat vehicle designed for reconnaissance and proving fire support. It can be outfitted with anti-tank missiles, rapid-fire cannons and even a flamethrower.

The President’s Speech

Prior to the beginning of the parade, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a speech, praising the role the USSR played during World War II and the valor of Soviet soldiers.

“We will always be proud of the fact that the USSR did not bow down when other countries decided to surrender,” Putin said.

Президент РФ В.Путин и премьер-министр РФ Д.Медведев на военном параде в честь 73-й годовщины Победы в ВОВ
© Sputnik / Alexey Druzhinin
May 9, 2018. The Russian President is the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin before the beginning of a military parade in commemoration of the 73rd anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 at Red Square in Moscow

The president shook hands with Russian generals and greeted the WWII veterans attending the event.

A Military Debut

The event was also marked by the appearance of certain military units which took part in the Victory Day parade for the first time in history.

Among the new arrivals were the recently-formed Russian National Guard, which included a mechanized formation consisting of Tigr, Patrul and Ural armored vehicles as well as a parade unit of the Saratov Military Institute with National Guards Troops.

Военный парад, посвящённый 73-й годовщине Победы в ВОВ
© Sputnik / Evgeny Biyatov
Parade crew of Troops of national guard of the Russian Federation on the military parade devoted to the 73rd anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945

Other units making their first appearance at the parade included a unit of the Russian Armed Forces’ military police and a detachment of the Kremlin Cadets.

Putin prioritizes economic breakthrough, quality of life in swearing-in speech – By RT

Putin prioritizes economic breakthrough, quality of life in swearing-in speech
After being sworn in as president for the fourth time, Vladimir Putin told Russian citizens that he saw a major economic breakthrough to prosperity as the main goal, adding that only a truly free society is capable of such step.

Putin thanked the Russian people for their support and said that he felt a tremendous responsibility for every citizen and the country as a whole. He also thanked voters for their record level of support at the March 18 presidential elections.

The president said that he considered it “his duty and the meaning of his whole life” to do everything for Russia, for its peaceful and prosperous future, for the preservation of the Russian people and for happiness of every family.

To achieve these goals Russia needs to be modern and dynamic, to quickly respond to all challenges, in order to strengthen its positions in the global economy, Putin noted. He said that the objectives would be set in the near future and the solutions that would lead to meeting those objectives will become historical milestones that would determine the fate of the nation for decades to come.

Putin emphasized that he was deeply convinced that only a truly free society was capable of such achievements, as such a society can easily incorporate everything new and progressive and rejects all that is unjust, inert and weighed down with unnecessary bureaucratic procedures.

It is the harmonious unity of a free citizen, a responsible civil society and a powerful and responsible democratic state in which I see the solid foundation for Russia’s future development,” the president said.

He also noted that Russian citizens had realized that, while their country is changing together with the modern world, it should not forget its own roots, history and the multi-ethnic culture.

Putin stated that Russia had become an active, powerful and influential player in international politics and that the country’s security and defense potential was as strong as ever. He promised that he and other senior officials would pay primary attention to these issues in the coming years. He also said that Russia would support equal dialogue with foreign nations, promote mutually beneficial joint projects and deepen the ties with the interested countries in the business, humanitarian, cultural and scientific spheres.

Our main goal that Russia, the country of opportunities for its people, allows for self-realization of every person” Putin said, adding that he personally saw a deep connection between the major nationwide objectives and the tasks that ordinary people set before themselves on a daily basis.

We need to expand the freedom space for the entrepreneurs and scientists, for people of creative professions and active citizens, for all who strive for a renewal. I see this as a guarantee of a succession of our political course and stable development of Russia,” he said.

Putin concluded his speech by expressing his confidence that Russia and its people would succeed in a new breakthrough, like has already happened throughout history, noting that a good team could solve the most difficult of all tasks.

We will definitely succeed! I believe that it will be so. I will do everything that is in my power for this,” he said.

Essay by Putin Advisor Vladislav Surkov on Russia’s Eurasian Future: ‘We Began a New Era in 2014’ – By Vladislav Surkov Russia in Global Affairs (SOTT)

Comment: The following essay was recently published in Russia in Global Affairs, the Russian equivalent of Foreign Affairs in the US. We have translated it from the original at globalaffairs.ru, the cryptic title of which was: ‘Одиночество полукровки (14+)’ – The Solitude of a Half-Blood (14+).

Its author is Vladislav Surkov. If Russian philosopher Aleksandr Dugin is mischaracterized in the West as “Putin’s brain,” then Surkov is similarly mischaracterized “Putin’s éminence grise.” Surkov was Deputy Chief of the Russian Presidential Administration from 1999-2011, during which time he apparently played a role in the transition from Yeltsin to Putin and later developed the concept of sovereign democracy, which is arguably 21st century Russia’s ‘state ideology’.

Surkov also served as Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Modernisation from 2011-2013, and has since remained an aide to Putin, apparently with the specific brief of handling Russia’s relationships with Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Ukraine. When Western elites went apoplectic because Crimea joined the Russian Federation in 2014, Surkov was one of the first names on Obama’s sanctions list. Asked how he felt about no longer being able to travel to the US, Surkov responded:

“The only things that interest me in the US are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock. I don’t need a visa to access their work.”

As Western actors hurl invective, sanctions, cyberattacks, political subterfuge and proxy wars at Russia – all apparently with a view to ‘correcting’ its policy decisions in the short-term, and thus its developmental trajectory in the long-term – Surkov sweeps through Russian history to explain why he believes that the ‘civilizational crisis’ his country finds itself in today marks the beginning of a new era and new identity for Russia…

[Hyperlinks to Wikipedia and other sources concerning historical events/actors referenced by the author are ours]

Vladislav Surkov

Vladislav Surkov

There are all kinds of jobs. Some jobs can be tackled only in a state that differs somewhat from a normal one. For example, a proletary1 of the news industry, a garden variety news supplier, as a rule, is a person in a frenzied state, and with a somewhat feverish mind. Which isn’t surprising, since news business requires haste: the first to know, the first to report, the first to interpret.

The excitement of those who inform passes to those who are being informed. The excited ones often mistake their own excitement for a thinking process, and this excitement replaces the latter, which leads to long-term ‘convictions’ and ‘principles’ being replaced with one-shot ‘opinions’. It is also the source for incompetent assessments, which no one seems to mind. That’s the price for news being fresh and hot.

Few can hear the mocking silence of fate through the background media noise. Few are interested to know that there is slow and massive news that doesn’t come from shallow waters, but from the depth of life, where geopolitical structures and historical eras collide. It takes time before we can understand their full meaning, but it is never too late to do so.

The 14th year of our current century is marked with important and very important achievements which everybody knows about because everything has been said about them. But one of the most important events of that time is only now starting to reveal itself to us, and slow, deep news about it only now reaches our ears. This event was the end of Russia’s epic journey towards the West, the cessation of repeated and fruitless attempts to become part of Western civilization, to become a member of ‘a happy family of European nations’.

Starting from the 14th year [of our century, i.e. 2014], we began an indeterminably long new period, the so-called ’14+ epoch’, in which Russia faces 100 (200? 300?) years of geopolitical solitude.

Putin Crimea

Reunification of Crimea with Russia, March 2014, Year Zero of the New Era

Various methods of Russia’s ‘westernization’ were tried during 400 years since it was first foolheartedly initiated by False Dmitry and implemented with determination by Peter the Great. There were numerous attempts to become a country like Holland, France, USA, Portugal. All possible means were used in attempts to elbow into the West. All new ideas and shake-ups emanating from the West were received with huge enthusiasm (which was probably excessive) by Russia’s elite.

Autocrats willingly married German women, and imperial nobility and bureaucracy increased their numbers thanks to wandering uitlanders. But while Europeans quickly and en masse became ‘russified’, Russians still resisted the counter-process of ‘europeanization’.

The Russian army fought and sacrificed itself in all the major European wars. Based on its rich experience, Europe can be considered the bloodiest and most violent continent. Great victories and great sacrifices led to Russia gaining a lot of territories in the west, but to no new friends.

Saint Petersburg even initiated the creation of the Holy Alliance and become its guarantor for the sake of European religious-monarchic values, and diligently fulfilled its duty when it was necessary to save the House of Habsburg from the Hungarian rebellion. But when Russia found itself in a similarly difficult situation, not only did Austria not help, it turned against Russia.

Then Europe had a change of heart, and Marxist ideas became all the rage in Paris and Berlin. Some citizens of Simbirsk and Yanovka [SOTT.net: Small provincial cities] wanted to resemble Paris. As long as the West was in thrall to socialism, they were anxious not to lag behind Europe, greatly fearing that the world revolution, to be led apparently by European and American workers, would somehow pass by their ‘backwoods’.

They tried nonetheless. By the time the dust of class conflict had settled, it became clear that – despite the great efforts that went into the creation of the USSR – the world revolution wasn’t happening. The Western world, instead of becoming a workers’ and peasants’ system, became exactly the opposite – capitalistic. Additionally, it became necessary to thoroughly conceal the increasingly autistic symptoms of socialism behind the Iron Curtain.

By the end of the previous century Russia got tired of being ‘isolated’. It again set its eyes toward the West. But some thought that ‘size matters’: we don’t fit into Europe because we are too big and scarily wide. That’s why [if Russia were to be accepted] it had to lessen its territory, population, economy, and military, and to lower its ambitions to the size of an average European country. So we lessened. We worshiped Hayek just like we once worshiped Marx. Demographics, industry and military potentials were cut in half. Russia parted with all its constituent republics, and initiated the process of separation from its autonomous republics… But even this version of a belittled and degraded Russia didn’t fit into the West.

Finally it was decided to stop the process of humiliation and degradation. More so, it was decided to assert our rights. What happened in 2014 became inevitable.

Despite seeming similarities between Russian and European culture models, they have different ‘software’ and different ‘connectors’. It’s impossible to combine them into one system. Today, when this old suspicion has become an obvious fact, we hear suggestions from some that it’s time to shuffle in the other direction – towards Asia, the East.

There is no need for it. And this is why: Russia is already there.

Moscow’s proto-empire2 was created in the atmosphere of a complicated military-political ‘co-working’ with the Asian Horde. Some tend to see it as oppression by the Horde and others as a union. It’s hard to say whether it was a forceful oppression or a willful union. But in any event, Russia developed along an ‘eastern’ vector.

Even after the Great Stand on the Ugra River, Russian tsardom continued in fact to be part of Asia. It willingly annexed eastern territories and had a claim to heritage of the Byzantine Empire, the ‘Asian Rome’. It was also greatly influenced by noble families of the Golden Horde’s descent.

Simeon Bekbulatovich

Simeon Bekbulatovich

The height of Asian influence came when Simeon Bekbulatovich, the Muslim-born khan of the Khanate of Qasim3 was appointed Grand Prince of All Rus’ by Ivan the Formidable. Historians, accustomed to think of Ivan IV as a kind of court jester wearing Monomakh’s Cap, attribute this ‘trick’ solely to his ‘natural playfulness’. But the reality was much more serious.

When Ivan’s rule ended, there was solid support in the royal court for Simeon Bekbulatovich to inherit the Tsardom of Russia. This forced Ivan’s successor, Boris Godunov, to extract from the boyars [SOTT.net: Russian nobility], while swearing allegiance to him, a promise “to not want Bekbulatovich and his children to become rulers of the Tsardom.” This means that the Russian state came within an inch of transitioning to rule by baptized descendants of Genghis Khan and consolidating an ‘eastern’ paradigm of development.

In the end, neither Bekbulatovich nor other descendants of the Horde’s nobility had a future. Invasion from Poland brought new tsars to Moscow from the West. Despite the relatively tame impact of rulings by False Dmitry, long before Peter the Great distressed boyars with his European ambitions, and long before Polish prince Władysław IV Vasa, these ‘policy changes’ contained symbolic meaning. In hindsight, the disturbance appears to be not so much dynastic in nature, but rather a civilizational crisis – Rus’ broke away from Asia and began its ideological orientation toward Europe.

So for four centuries Russia’s direction was eastbound, and then for another four centuries it was westbound. Neither direction produced any roots. We’ve reached the end of the road in both directions. Now new third way ideologies will be required; civilizations of the third type, of the third world, of the third Rome…

But it’s doubtful that we are ‘the third civilization’ – rather, a bifold and dualistic one that incorporates both the East and the West. Both European and Asian, and therefore neither fully European nor fully Asian.

Our cultural and geopolitical affiliation resembles the fluid identity of a man born of mixed marriage. He is everyone’s relative, but nowhere is he a native. At home among strangers, a stranger at home. He understands everyone but is understood by no one. A half-blood, a half-breed, a strange one.

Russia is a western-eastern half-blood country, with its double-headed nationhood, hybrid mentality, intercontinental territory and bipolar history. And just like any half-breed, Russia is charismatic, talented, beautiful, and lonely.

Great words that were never actually said by Alexander III: “Russia has only two allies: the army and the navy.” It is probably the most intelligible metaphor of the geopolitical solitude that we should have by now already accepted as fate. We could of course extend our list of allies to include workers and teachers, oil and gas, the ‘creative class’ and patriots, General Frost and Archangel Michael… But the truth remains the same – we are our own allies.

What form will our isolation take? Will it be a lonely and wretched existence? Or will it be the happy isolation of a leader, of an alpha-nation, which took a leap forward, and which other countries and nations now ‘make way for’? It depends on our choice.

Solitude doesn’t mean complete isolation. But unlimited openness is also impossible. Both would be a repetition of past mistakes. The future carries its own mistakes, it doesn’t need mistakes of the past.

Russia without doubt will engage in trade, attract investments, exchange know-how, and fight wars (war is also a method of communication), collaborate, be part of various organizations, compete and cooperate, evoke fear and hatred, curiosity, sympathy, and admiration. But this time without false goals and self-denial.

It’s going to be tough. And more than once will we recall this piece of classical Russian poetry: “There is only suffering, suffering and suffering around… but when will we finally see the f*cking stars?!

It will be interesting. And there will be stars.

bridge Crimea

The new bridge network connecting with Crimea the Russian Motherland. Photo taken by Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov onboard the International Space Station, April 25th, 2018

Notes

1. ‘Proletary’ (The Proletarian) was an illegal Russian Bolshevik newspaper edited by Lenin; it was published from September 3, 1906 until December 11, 1909

2. Muscovy, or the Grand Principality of Moscow

3. Then a vassal state of Russia, today the Russian Republic of Tatarstan

‘Best of Russia’ Photo Show Opens at Winzavod – By The Moscow Times

City
March 26 2018 – 17:03

The exhibition shows people, places and events across Russia

"Supermoon"

“Supermoon”

Kirill Kudryavtsev

Somewhere in Russia: mountains near a lake under a deep blue sky full of stars; a ballet performance in Moscow’s metro; an old man from the Republic of North Ossetia smoking – these are just some of the works displayed at the “Best of Russia” photo exhibit that opened at the Winzavod Center for Contemporary Art in Moscow on March 22.

There were virtually no limits to the creativity of photographers who wished to participate in the 2017 competition. The only two requirements to participate were that the photo needed to show something that fit the category of “people, events and everyday life” and that the picture had to have been taken between September 2016 and December 2017 somewhere in Russia.

“My country is a repository of interesting stories, social and political plots, worldviews and religions. And, despite this, almost all the nationalities live in peace and harmony,” ZàurTedeyev, one of the winning photographers of last year´s competition, told The Moscow Times.

 

The exhibition showcases the winning photos of 2017 and the 100 best photos since the first show in 2008. “One of the project’s main objectives was shaping a system to promote previously unknown but gifted photographers,” Sofia Trotsenko, President of the Winzavod Foundation for Support of Contemporary Art, explained.

The competition, which is open to both amateur and professional photographers, is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. In honor of that date, the organizers decided to add special categories that included the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution in Russia, the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Russian painter Ivan Aivazovsky, as well as celebrations of key political as well as cultural events across the country and the birthdays of the photographers’ personal heroes.  

Lina Krasnyanskaya, the curator of the exhibition, told The Moscow Times, “What has always been very important to us are real emotions and a strong message — not so much the technical details of the photo or a perfect composition.”

 Krasnyanskaya has seen the strength of competition entries improve every year. “There’s certainly a lot more finesse now compared to when we started in 2008,” she says. “But this does not mean that the pictures of the first years are inferior to the latest works. I love all the photos equally and they are all very valuable contributions.”

Some photographs are potent reminders of the headline stories in 2017, but others look back in time. One of the many talented photographers is Katerina Yakel who captured old women from the village of Yanishpole in Karelia who survived World War II, occupation and concentration camps. “I want people to remember the terrible time of the Great Patriotic War,” she told The Moscow Times.

The 2017 jury included Sofia Trotsenko, president of the Winzavod Foundation for Support of Contemporary Art; award-winning New York Times photographer James Hill; and the director of the photographic service of the Kommersant publishing house, Pavel Kassin.

The show will run until May 13. 

1/8 4th Syromyatnichesky Pereulok, Bldg. 6. Metro Kurskaya. http://www.winzavod.ru.

Putin gives fiery election victory speech in Moscow (Video) – Russia Insider / Youtube (SOTT)

Putin speech reelection

Sounds like he has big plans for the next 6 years.

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