Putin reveals primary objective of new presidential term – By RT

Putin reveals primary objective of new presidential term
Russian President Vladimir Putin says that raising the standard of living will be a key task in the coming years, but also acknowledged the importance of strengthening the nation’s defenses.

The main thing that we will be working on is of course the internal agenda. First of all we must ensure the growth rate for the economy and make it an innovative one. We must develop healthcare, education, industrial production, infrastructure and other branches that are crucial for moving our country forward and increasing the living standards of our citizens,” Putin said in a Monday meeting with people in senior positions at his election headquarters.

Workforce productivity is a key issue. Let us work on this agenda together!” he said.

Of course, there are also issues connected with the national defense and security, we cannot do without them, but still the internal agenda is of primary importance today,” the president added.

Putin also promised that those who worked in his election HQ would take an active part in discussions of Russia’s future development.

As for the defense expenditures, we have slated their decrease for this year and for the next year. This will not cause any problems for our defense capability, because the main investments into the development of the newest weapons systems have been made over the previous years,” Putin told his key supporters. “We just need to bring some things to their logical conclusion, to continue the research and development that I have not spoken about yet,” he added.

There will be no increase in spending, no arms race. We have everything, we have secure reserves in this field,” the president concluded.

In the early hours of Monday, Putin met with journalists in his election headquarters and was asked about his plans concerning the government and its chairman, Dmitry Medvedev. He answered that he did not plan to make any announcements before his inauguration, which should take place 30 days after the official election results are announced.

As for the chairman of the government and the government as a whole, of course I am thinking about it, but I will be weighing all exact details starting today, because I had to wait for the poll results to arrive,” he said. “All changes will be announced after the inauguration.”

British govt actions over Skripal case are unacceptable & provocation – Russian envoy – By RT

British govt actions over Skripal case are unacceptable & provocation – Russian envoy
The Russian ambassador to the UK has dismissed the accusations against Moscow by Prime Minister Theresa May in the poisoning incident involving an ex-spy, calling them “absolutely unacceptable” and “a provocation.”

READ MORE: Russia will respond over Skripal case only after official request from UK – Lavrov

“Everything done today by the British government is absolutely unacceptable and we consider this a provocation,” Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko said.

He reiterated Moscow’s position on the issue that any complaints about a suspected use of chemical weapons should be handled through the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which has rules on how to deal with such allegations. The UK instead chose to issue a public ultimatum to Russia.

“We believe that the measures which are taken by the British government have nothing to do with the situation that we have in Salisbury,” he added. “Of course, we are not ready to talk in the way of ultimatums.”

On Monday, Prime Minister May told the British parliament that the alleged poisoning of Sergei Skripal involved a nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union. She reasoned that either the Russian government was responsible for the attack or that Russia had lost possession of some of the toxin. May gave Russia until Wednesday to respond to the accusations, saying that Britain would otherwise consider Moscow responsible for the incident.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov responded on Tuesday, saying the OPCW should be handling the allegations against Russia, and that Moscow would have 10 days to respond to a request sent through the organization. He added that Britain had yet to provide Russia with a sample of the agent used in the alleged attack, which it was obliged to do under the OPCW rules.

The Kremlin said it would not accept groundless threats and ultimatums from London.

On Wednesday, the British prime minister delivered on her threat and announced a number of measures in response to what London now considers an unlawful use of force by Russia. These include the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats, additional sanctions, and the freezing of assets that may pose a threat to Britain’s security.

The situation is to be discussed later at a UN Security Council session in New York.

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UK’s ‘bold’ accusations in Skripal case may lead to severance of diplomatic ties – Russian senators – By RT

UK's 'bold' accusations in Skripal case may lead to severance of diplomatic ties – Russian senators
The bold accusation of Russia by UK PM Theresa May could have grave consequences for bilateral relations, even the severance of diplomatic ties, top officials warned, vowing Moscow will respond to any hostile actions.

Earlier on Monday, British PM Theresa May claimed, while addressing the British parliament, the “attempted murder” of former double agent Sergei Skripal was either “a direct act by the Russian State against our country, or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.”

“There are few precedents of such political pressure and blackmail, and all of them ended in one fashion – severance of diplomatic ties or their downgrade in the form of a recall of ambassadors,” Russian Senator and intelligence veteran Igor Morozov said.

The accusations represent the “utmost disrespect” towards international law, since not even a trace of evidence, proof or fact was presented to link Skripal’s case to Russia, Morozov said. Russia will wait to see the actions of London and will respond accordingly, the official warned.

“The British must realize that they will face a very stiff response from Russia, and our position will be restrained and adequate, but bold. We will see what the London move will be and respond to this challenge,” Morozov added.

The head of the Federal Council committee tasked with protecting Russia’s sovereignty, Senator Andrey Klimov, said that the whole situation around Skripal’s case looks like a premeditated anti-Russia provocation. While the former double agent was of “no interest” to Russia, the incident is very convenient for foreign intelligence services, he stated.

“If the UK decides to expel Russian diplomats in connection with the Skripal case, Moscow’s response will be adequate and swift, this situation as a whole looks like a well thought-out anti-Russian move,” he said.

The provocation might be politically motivated, coming as it has shortly before the presidential elections in Russia, on March 18. “It’s a serious, real plot against our country, considering our political calendar,” Klimov said, not ruling out a possibility that the incident might also be used to disrupt the upcoming FIFA World Cup.

Senator Morozov, for his part, has favored the latter version in his assessment of the UK’s actions. “I am convinced that the goal of all this is to disrupt the 2018 FIFA World Cup. This is very similar to Great Britain’s boycott of the Olympics in Sochi,” Morozov said.

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Ongoing Russo-Vietnamese Military Cooperation Ensures Regional Stability – By Dmitry Bokarev (New Eastern Outlook)

Author: Dmitry Bokarev




It’s a well-established fact that when two states are determined engage in defense and security cooperation in a bilateral format, they must enjoy sound relations before even thinking about such an undertaking. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) is traditionally one of the oldest and most reliable partners of the Russian Federation, as the military cooperation between Moscow and Hanoi is decades old.

During the Vietnam War of 1957-1975 the USSR would a wide spectrum of assistance to Vietnamese communists, making a significant contribution to their victory  over invading American forces. Once this victory was achieved, both states enjoyed warm bilateral relations until the collapse of the USSR in 1991. The state that emerged in its place and inherited its legacy and its debts was the Russian Federation. It would continue in maintaining its ties with Vietnam. Part of these ties remains military cooperation as a pivotal component of the Russian-Vietnamese friendship. Vietnamese officers receive military training in Russia, while the Vietnamese armed forces receive Russian military equipment. Vietnam is one of the largest, oldest and most reliable importers of Russian weapons. For example, the Vietnamese Air Force is flying Russia’s aircraft almost exclusively. According to some media reports, Soviet MiG-21 and SU-22 fighters are still in service, and since the beginning of the 2000s, Vietnam has been actively purchasing modern Russian SU-30MK2.

Further still, these days the defense cooperation between Russia and Vietnam undergoes a constant process of rejuvenation. Firstly, this fact can be attributed to the general strengthening of Russian-Vietnamese relations, which required an extensive amount of effort being invested by both states. Additionally, one cannot help but notice the growing tensions between Vietnam and China, two nations that remain unable to resolve territorial disputes over the Paracel and Spratly islands in the South China Sea. The situation around those islands remains rather stable, but in order to better defend its position Vietnam needs to show its regional partners that it is a capable state. At the same time, Hanoi remains fairly concerned over the situation regarding North Korea and the constant growth of terrorist threat across Southeast Asia. So it’s logical when a state is presented with a list of such security challenges, it needs to ensure that it’s on the same foot with its most reliable partner.

In 2016, Vietnam began operating six Russian submarines, while various media sources continue running reports that Hanoi is planning to acquire a number of Russian conventional warships.

Last year’s visit of the Vietnamese President Chiang Dai Kuang to Russia was designed to allow him to hold prolonged negotiations with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, resulting in a total of 20 investment contracts being signed with a total worth of 10 billion dollars. The Vietnamese and Russian leaders declared common views on security issues in the APR and their adherence to the UN Charter. Soon after the visit of the Vietnamese leader to Russia, the SRV made an order for the purchase of 64 Russian tanks.

Additionally, at the very beginning of this year Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, arrived to Hanoi in order to enjoy a two week long stay. During this visit he met with President Chiang Dai Kuang along with his Vietnamese counterpart Ngô Xuân Lịch. It was reported that the sides discussed various issues of cooperation in various military areas. Among them was the question of acquisition of Russian S-400 anti-air systems that, according to Shoigu, still possess unsurpassed capabilities, which were displayed by their recent deployment in Syria.

When describing the ongoing cooperation between Russia and Vietnam, Shoigu would note that it is strategic in its nature as it remains Russia’s top priority to maintain close ties with Vietnam, adding that Vietnam is one of Moscow’s most important security partners in the Asia-Pacific region (APR).

It is reported that a comprehensive plan that would allow the two states to further expand military cooperation has already been drafted for the years 2018-2020. It provides a list of various activities, including joint military exercises. According to Russia’s Defense minister, Russian armed forces are prepared to share their experience of testing even the most advance military equipment in combat conditions. It is expected that the document will be signed in the near future. Further still, this year will be marked by yet another high-profile Russian-Vietnamese meeting.

Futher development of the ongoing cooperation between Moscow and Hanoi will bring a drastic change to the situation in Southeast Asia, as it’s been announced two years ago that Russia was thinking about the possibility of rebuilding the former Soviet naval base in Vietnam.

It should be recalled that back in 1979 the USSR received the right to freely use the base near Cam Ran for 25 years free of charge. It ceased operations in 2002, when the Russian side decided not to renew its lease. However things have changed since then, which is why a Russian-Vietnamese agreement signed in 2003 allowed both states to use the joint base in Cam Ran for the repair of submarines. In November 2014, the two countries signed an agreement on a simplified procedure for the entry of Russian naval vessels to Cam Ran. The ships of the Pacific Fleet of the Russian Federation make regular official and unofficial visits to Vietnam. Now the question of granting the ships of the Vietnamese Navy the right to make to visit the Russian port of Vladivostok freely is being discussed.

There’s no details about the possibility of negotiations on the reconstruction of the Russian military base in Vietnam. However, the above mentioned agreements can be considered a step towards such negotiations. The return of Russian armed forces to Vietnam would be beneficial for the Russian Federation, which wants to increase its influence in the APR. In addition, Russia’s military presence could help stabilize regional tensions that have been growing. The APR has become a zone of political rivalry between a number of states. This notion is usually examined through the prism of the struggle for regional dominance between the US and China. However, Beijing has a long list of ongoing territorial disputes with India, Japan and a number of ASEAN countries. Moreover, there’s been a surge of Islamist militant activities in both Myanmar and Thailand. Against this background it is possible that a fully operational Russian military base in Vietnam may allow regional players to counter balance the influence exploited by other extra-regional players, namely the United States.

Dmitry Bokarev, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.

Russian Aerospace Forces made training launch of Kinzhal hypersonic missile – MoD – By TASS

March 11, 1:22 UTC+3

The missile hit a target on the test range

Russia's Defense Ministry building in Moscow

Russia’s Defense Ministry building in Moscow

© Mikhail Dzhaparidze/TASS

MOSCOW, March 11. /TASS/. A MiG-31 interceptor jet made a training launch of a Kinzhal aeroballistic hypersonic missile and the missile hit a target on the test range, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday.

“A MiG-31 fighter crew of the Russian Aerospace Forces made a training launch of a hypersonic missile of the Kinzhal high-precision air missile system in the predetermined area,” the ministry said.

The MiG-31 departed from an airfield in the Southern Military District within the framework of a testing air alert. “The launch was normal; the hypersonic missile hit the preset target on the test site,” the ministry added.

“Performance characteristics and time indicators of the Kinzhal high-precision airborne missile system were confirmed during the hypersonic missile launch,” the ministry said.


Crews of the Kinzhal air system comprising a MiG-31 interceptor jet and an advanced hypersonic missile made 250 flights from the beginning of 2018, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday.

“Crews of the air system on the testing air alert sorties completed over 250 flights year-to-date under the combat training plan. The air staff has been trained in full scope day and night in various weather conditions,” the ministry said.

The Kinzhal system is intended for destruction of surface and waterborne targets. The Kinzhal system was developed based on the MiG-31 upgraded interceptor jet. It is equipped with high-precision aeroballistic missiles supporting strikes at a range over 2,000 km without entering the enemy’s air defense zone.

The system has no counterparts across the globe owing to high flight performance characteristic of the MiG-31 fighter jet and the hypersonic missile with a small radar signature and high maneuverability.

The first air unit equipped with the Kinzhal system started test air alert flights to master fundamentals of its combat use since December 1 of the last year.



Iran could soon join Russia-led free trade zone – By RT

Iran could soon join Russia-led free trade zone
The Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) could welcome Iran as a new member in May, according to Russia’s Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak.

“The move to enter into a temporary agreement making for a free trade zone to be set up between Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union, which is currently at an advanced stage, will obviously trigger further development of our bilateral trade and expansion of investment cooperation,” said Novak, who is also co-head of the Russian-Iranian intergovernmental commission.

Iran’s Ambassador to Russia Mehdi Sanaei told TASS earlier that work on a free-trade zone agreement between the sides that started in 2015 was close to completion.

A trade bloc established in 2015, the EEU is based on the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. It was later joined by Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. In 2016, Vietnam officially became the first non-regional country to join the bloc. The union is designed to ensure the free movement of goods, services, capital and workers between member countries.

More than 40 countries and international organizations, including China, Indonesia and Israel, as well as some South American countries, have expressed interest in a free trade deal with the EEU. The trade bloc has also held negotiations with South Korea, Egypt and India.

In December, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Serbia could be also included in the EEU’s free trade zone in the future.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

The US Can’t Revive the Monroe Doctrine or Expel China from Latin America, but it Can Inflict Pain on the Region – By Elliott Gabriel (MINTPRESS)

 A mural of U.S. President Donald Trump depicting him wearing a Nazi swastika covers a wall along a sidewalk in Caracas, Venezuela, Nov. 14, 2017, along with the Spanish message: "We are those of peace.” (AP/Ariana Cubillos)
Terror, Geoeconomics and the Latin American Right


In this MPN exclusive, we speak to Monthly Review editor John Bellamy Foster and Latin America studies scholar Harry L. Simón Salazar about the U.S. fight to maintain hegemony in Latin America, the rise of the right wing, and the danger of “regime change” in Venezuela.

WASHINGTON (Analysis) — Is the United States getting its groove back in Latin America?

It’s certainly talking like it is. In February, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson toured the region in a bid to drum up support for Washington’s regime-change agenda in Venezuela. He began the tour in a bizarre fashion, celebrating the relevance of the long-expired 1823 “Monroe Doctrine.” In effect, Tillerson was asserting — with typical Trump administration hubris — Washington’s sovereignty over the entire Western Hemisphere, a response to China’s regional presence.

Washington’s bellicose tone comes amid a regional resurgence of the neoliberal right wing that has seen the once-dominant left – gathered under the banner of “Socialism of the 21st Century” – face multiple setbacks across Central and South America.

Despite its growing structural weakness and international isolation, the U.S. is still willing to do what it can to retain primacy in its historical “backyard,” the Western Hemisphere. Its current wounded-beast insecurity is only forcing it to desperately rethink its strategic approach.

Speaking to MintPress News, sociology professor at the University of Oregon and Monthly Review editor John Bellamy Foster said:

U.S. economic hegemony is in decline and Washington is using every means at its disposal to develop its geopolitical and geoeconomic power — that is, its imperial power — as a way of countering this decline.

The biggest current thrust in U.S. military and imperial strategy circles is directed at the articulation of what is called geoeconomic warfare as a definite strategy and as a means to geopolitical power. This involves the development of a whole new arsenal of weapons.”


21st century socialism: from red dawn to star-spangled dusk?

“What is taking place today across Latin America comes in the wake of an unusually long period of progressive advancements across the region,” author and University of California San Diego lecturer Harry L. Simón Salazar told MintPress News.

Continuing, Simón explained:

What was labeled by the bourgeoisie as the ‘pink tide’ can be tracked as beginning in the mid-to-late 1990s as a leftist trend that influenced regional politics for approximately 20 years, with theright wing increasingly isolated and limited to operating with impunity within Colombia, Florida, and Mexico. The leftist trend that spread across Latin America was primarily institutional and electoral, developing within the framework of diminished neoliberal states across Latin America and often influenced by Bolivarian oil wealth.”

In 1998, Hugo Chavez was elected president of Venezuela, signaling what he called at the time a “social revolution.” He soon became the ideological lodestar of the new 21st-century socialist trend. By 2009, eight out of 10 South American governments were ruled by leftist parties backed by social movements, indigenous communities, and the traditional socialist and communist left. For a time, these social-democratic administrations proved massively popular and won more votes and elections than any prior government.

People hold up images showing Fidel Castro, second from right, Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez, center, and Cuba's revolutionary hero Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, bottom left and right, during a May Day march in Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, May 1, 2013. The image of Chavez carries the words in Spanish "Chavez : Our best friend." (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

To differing degrees, these governments broke with the Washington consensus of unquestioned market rule and focused more on the social, economic, and cultural rights of regional populations. In the spirit of what was called buen vivir (good living), the state strengthened its role — as social investment, labor market regulations, and other progressive reforms redistributed income and lifted tens of millions of people out of poverty and into a new middle class. Even sections of the capitalist class in these countries were forced to begrudgingly accept these positive results and, in many cases, conservative and pro-U.S. electoral parties were delegitimized and pushed to the margins.

Multilateral institutions like the Washington-based Organization of American States and the World Trade Organization were likewise marginalized, as intergovernmental groups like Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) were forged. Meanwhile, the China Development Bank and Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank increasingly took over the role of the Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank, and IMF.

The past several years have taken a grim toll on the Latin American left. As the popularity of incumbent left-of-center governments sagged, neoliberal presidents came to power in ArgentinaChile, and Peru through electoral means. In other countries, right-wing forces managed to devise new strategies beyond simply getting out the vote: in Paraguay and Brazil, leftist administrations were impeached in parliamentary coups that made way for pro-U.S. governments. In Ecuador, President Lenín Moreno – fresh from narrowly being elected with outgoing leftist leader Rafael Correa’s support – quickly used the “anti-corruption” rhetoric of the right-wing opposition to purge the ruling party of Correista “Citizen’s Revolution” stalwarts through unconstitutional means.

Read more Elliot Gabriel

Colombia’s FARC insurgents have disarmed in a peace deal widely criticized by the right, but killings and disappearances targeting rural activists and social movement organizers have continued unabated. Most recently in Honduras, the U.S. threw its weight behind the illegitimate and widely-resisted reelection of Juan Orlando Hernández.

Simón explained:

The current imperial/neoliberal offensive taking place across Latin America shares what might be labeled as an insurgent quality — the willingness among derechistas [rightists] and their U.S. sponsors to dismantle what is left of the neoliberal state, particularly any leftist manifestation of it, however innocuous it may be.”

In some cases, notable right-wing elites, landlords and local oligarchs like former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe are hardly distinguishable from mafiosi, and retain their seats in power despite their close ties to fascistic paramilitaries and death squads tied to the drug trade.

In Venezuela, the government of President Nicolas Maduro has struggled with plummeting oil prices and sabotage that has paralyzed sections the economy and empowered the U.S.-backed opposition. The U.S. is now openly discussing a “military option” while urging officers in the Venezuelan military to act as “the agent of change” in a manner similar to Augusto Pinochet’s violent overthrow of Chilean President Salvador Allende in 1973.

“In some Latin American countries this insurgent right wing [is] striking out against populations using methods not seen since the days of Operation Condor and the counterinsurgent wars of the 1980s,” Simón noted, continuing:

Latin American reactionary elites [are] demonstrating a class-based consensus that there is no need to mask their current power grabs with bourgeois legality, and instead they demonstrate a willingness to disrupt the constitutional order and tear apart ‘el tejido social’ [the social fabric].”

Meanwhile, China has continued to consolidate its presence in the region while forging close economic relationships with Latin American and Caribbean governments, irrespective of whether they lean left or right. Beijing’s repeated assertions that “Latin America is the natural extension of the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road” were without a doubt seen in Washington as an implied strategic threat to the U.S. and a signal of its receding power in Latin America.

“The object of the continued incorporation of Latin America within the U.S. Empire has remained consistent, though the methods in which this has been approached have naturally varied depending on historical circumstances,” Foster explained.


“America First” meets the Monroe Doctrine

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos, front, and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrive to hold a press conference after a meeting at the presidential palace in Bogota, Colombia, Feb. 6, 2018. (AP/Fernando Vergara)

In a speech kicking off his Latin America tour last month, Tillerson hailed the Monroe Doctrine for being “as relevant today as it was the day it was written.” The announcement was a direct reversal of former President Barack Obama’s policy signaling that the era of U.S. military intervention in the region was over – a declaration “worth applauding,” as Tillerson’s predecessor John Kerry told the Organization of American States in 2013.

Liberal beltway analysts saw Tillerson’s speech as a gaffe and possible result of a shortage of regional experts in his State Department, yet the assertion brought a sense of foreboding to critics of U.S. imperialism.

“U.S. imperialism in Latin America is of course nothing new, now going back at least two centuries, with the [bicentennial] anniversary of the Monroe Doctrine only five years away,” Foster explained, continuing:

The Monroe doctrine, which has frequently been glorified in the United States almost as an ancillary to the Constitution, is primarily a declaration of U.S. hegemony over Latin America, and against any interference in the region by powers outside the Americas. It has been used to justify U.S. imperialism, including military interventions, in the region over a period of two centuries.”

When the Monroe Doctrine was authored by then-Secretary of State John Quincy Adams in 1823, Washington claimed that it was necessary to prevent a European imperial presence in the Americas. The doctrine was eventually extended to Hawaii and the Philippines. Throughout the 20th century, the doctrine was used to justify U.S. imperialism’s fight against socialist and communist governments and national liberation movements seen as friendly toward the Soviet Union.

In his landmark 1944 analysis, Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism, German political scientist Franz Neumann laid out how Nazi Germany saw the American exceptionalist assertions in the Monroe Doctrine as a model for geopolitical hegemony — unlike traditional international law, which was seen as a “creation of the Jews and as a cloak for British imperialism.” For the ideologists of Nazi-era geopolitics, the Monroe Doctrine became a justification for Germany’s own grossdeutsche Reich. Neumann explained:

The Monroe Doctrine [became] ‘the most successful example of a large-scale principle in international law’ … Ever since the first Hague Peace Conference of 1909, the United States has insisted that the Monroe Doctrine occupies an exceptional position … In German hands, the exception now becomes the rule. There is no longer one international law but as many as there are empires, that is, large spaces. The grossdeutsche Reich is the creator of its own international law for its own space. Interventionists must keep their hands off.”

The policy is now being reimagined as an “America First” imperialist strategy to reduce Chinese investment in the region – in Tillerson’s words, to prevent China from using its “economic statecraft to pull the region into its orbit.”


The geoeconomic battle with China for the Americas

Bolivia's President Evo Morales, right, gives a handcrafted bust of Bolivia's indigenous leader Tupac Katari to Houlin Zhao, left, from China, Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union, ITU, during a meeting at the presidential residence, in La Paz., Oct. 13, 2017. (AP/Juan Karita)

Tillerson’s remarks were a result of ongoing discussions in Washington about how best to reassert the U.S.’s flagging economic and military power,  Foster noted, pointing to the “the hottest book in U.S. imperial circles” – the Council on Foreign Relations’ War by Other Means: Geoeconomics and Statecraft.

In the 2016 book, authors Robert D. Blackwell and Jennifer M. Harris highlight China’s threat to U.S. hegemony in the region, unfavorably comparing Washington’s coercive power to Beijing’s ability to offer development assistance and condition-free aid to increase its geopolitical leverage:

More and more states are waging geopolitics with capital, attempting with sovereign checkbooks and other economic tools to achieve strategic objectives that in the past were often the stuff of military coercion or conquest … The United States has no coherent policies to deal with these Chinese geoeconomic actions — many of which are aimed squarely at America’s allies and friends.

… [A]s economic techniques of statecraft have become a lost art in the United States, the rest of the world has moved in the opposite direction. Russia, China, and others now routinely look to geoeconomic means, often as a first resort, and often to undermine American power and influence. In ignoring the ever-greater role of geoeconomics in the international system, the United States squanders opportunities and dilutes its own foreign policy outcomes … It gives China free rein in vulnerable African and Latin American nations.”

“So the Monroe Doctrine is now being revived and reinterpreted to extend to geoeconomic statecraft and warfare,” Foster said. “The United States is essentially insisting on its total economic as well as military domination of its Latin American ‘backyard.’” Foster added:

“I believe that Venezuela in particular has become a test case for this new strategy of geoeconomic warfare. But it is not just Venezuela that is the target, and in different places different weapons are used.”

With the U.S. embroiled in various “regime change” efforts and low-intensity conflicts across the globe, aimed at securing its dominance – a state of perpetual warfare known to Washington policymakers as the New Thirty Years War – the U.S. capability for a direct military intervention against the formidably-armed National Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela has been significantly eroded. Even Trump, surrounded as he is by former top-brass generals like Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis, can understand this.

An asymmetric approach is thus a preferred option to effect “regime change,” Foster explained, continuing:

The U.S. strategy in Latin America has been to focus on altering various parameters in its favor, weakening and dividing Latin American states, and diminishing China’s role … Isolation of Venezuela and the other ALBA states is key, with the U.S. exerting pressure for coups or even military intervention by a combination of states. [For example], the Venezuela opposition has been promoted under the mantle of a ‘civil society’ revolt.”


Mediated terror

Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles speaks to the media following his meeting with Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Luis Almagro, at the OAS building in Washington, March 31, 2017. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

For Harry L. Simón Salazar, the current U.S. neoliberal offensive in Latin America is increasingly becoming a role assigned to the mass media. Even In countries like Ecuador and Venezuela, media outlets remain in the hands of either U.S.-based transnational corporations or Washington- and Miami-loyal elites.

In his recently-published book, Television, Democracy, and the Mediatization of Chilean Politics, Simón analyzed Chile’s 1990 transition from Pinochet-era dictatorship to civilian rule. In Simón’s view, the 1988 Franja de Propaganda Electoral campaign was a case study of how the media plays a key role in proliferating neoliberal cultural values and the “politics of the possible” in the minds of the populations.

The campaign was a collaborative effort between the outgoing dictatorship and the democratic opposition. In the 2012 Chilean film, No, it was memorably portrayed as the crass product of an advertising agency.

Watch | Trailer for the 2012 Chilean film ‘No’ 


Simón explained:

Since the late 1980s, Latin American mass media was not just instrumentalized by the right to frame political struggle, but it became a mass media that often became the central field of political struggle primarily for the right wing (with a few cases for the left), with organized parties and organizational forms assigned a secondary position.”

His perspective was underscored by former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa in a recent opinion piece for Cuba’s Granma daily, where the once overwhelmingly popular and now widely-defamed leader stressed:

Our democracies should be called mediated democracies. The media are a more important component in the political process than the parties and electoral systems; they have become the main opposition parties of the progressive governments, and they are the true representatives of business and conservative political power.

It does not matter what best suits the majorities, what has been proposed in the election campaign, and what the people — the main actor in every democracy — has decided at the polls. The important thing is what the media approve or disapprove of in their headlines. They have replaced the Rule of Law with the State of Opinion.”

Simón, like Correa, sees this new reality as an important moment for self-criticism and the need to examine the actual feasibility of breaking from imperialism’s grip through peaceful democratic means:

We must reconsider the relative importance of electoral struggle within the context of the neoliberal bourgeois state, and as part of the Latin American left we must put into balance this history and reconsider our priorities.

If neoliberalism in Latin America proved to be so resilient as to survive the so-called ‘pink tide’ – and be capable of rising up and pushing back the progressive gains of the past 20 years – then it is essential that we understand that its power and influence weren’t just a function of presidential and constitutional power alone.”


Venezuela versus the “giant with feet of clay:” a new David versus Goliath?

Government supporters perform a parody involving a Venezuelan militia up against Uncle Sam, a personification of the U.S government, during an anti-imperialist march to denounce Trump's talk of a "military option" for resolving the country's political crisis, in Caracas, Venezuela, Aug. 14, 2017. (AP/Ariana Cubillos)

In South America, only two real leftist governments remain standing: Bolivia and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. For now, Washington’s regime-change obsession has focused on the latter. In response, Caracas has met a stream of U.S. sanctions and threats with a deepening of radical measures aimed at consolidating the Bolivarian state, ranging from civilian-military exercises to the introduction of the Petro digital currency and formation of a National Constituent Assembly.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration continues to isolate itself with its incoherent policies and all-sided hostility to friend and foe alike.

“Venezuela has been declared to be an official enemy, but the list of official and unofficial enemies of the United States is now very extensive,” Foster said. “Venezuela is not alone and the whole world can see the economic sanctions and other coercive measures being imposed to bring Venezuela to its knees.”

Continuing, Foster explained:

I think a lesson here can be taken from Cuba. There is not a day where Cuba has not stressed to its population and the whole world the deleterious effects of the U.S. embargo on Cuba. It is a simple and powerful message.”

The United States remains far from its goal of fully reasserting itself in its historic stomping ground, in Simón’s view, but it remains capable of corralling its local proxies:

What I believe is happening now in Latin America is more along the lines of a terroristic rightwing insurgency, aligned with organized crime and transnational economic elites, that has monetized chaos and is willing to make a country ungovernable if that is what’s required for reconquering political power and purging what’s left of the so-called ‘pink tide.’”

In a 21st century marked by repeated defeats for U.S. imperialism and the rise of “multipolarity” across the globe, the United States remains a “giant with feet of clay,” as Immanuel Wallerstein has argued. The empire still has a strong ability to overwhelm its adversaries in conventional combat, but it’s also restrained by its economic fragility, diplomatic fecklessness, and unease over the costs of a bloody, prolonged intervention in Venezuela.

“Venezuela is now the target of clearly-articulated geoeconomic warfare at every level, designed to soften it up for a coup or military intervention,” Foster said. “This message has to be conveyed to the world on a daily basis.”

Despite its aggression, any attempt by Washington to launch a unilateral war against a Latin American government would doubtlessly result in a tsunami of anti-imperialist fervor from the region’s numerous social movements. The reinvigoration of the popular left is a likely prospect in this scenario, not to mention sustained resistance on the military front.

The danger remains that in the present crisis-racked geopolitical arena, the United States government’s propensity to wreak havoc could lead to a disaster in the region or another “long night” of right-wing dictatorships — keen on steering their countries back toward repressing the poor, enriching corrupt elites, and exporting raw materials to the imperialist core countries of North America, Asia, and Europe.

It would be a mistake, however, to exaggerate Washington’s potential to prevail in the “great game” of 21st-century imperialist statecraft and geoeconomic warfare — let alone its ability to revive lost hegemony by bringing the long-dead Monroe Doctrine back from the grave.

Top Photo | A mural of U.S. President Donald Trump depicting him wearing a Nazi swastika covers a wall along a sidewalk in Caracas, Venezuela, Nov. 14, 2017, along with the Spanish message: “We are those of peace.” (AP/Ariana Cubillos)

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.

Republish our stories! MintPress News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

Is Donald Trump Fueling a Mass Extinction of Democracy Across the Planet? – By Jacob Sugarman / AlterNet

News & Politics

The warning signs are there, cautions “How Democracies Die” co-author Steven Levitsky.

Photo Credit: studioflara / Shutterstock

Earlier this week, during a freewheeling speech to Republican donors at Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump cracked the following joke about Chinese leader Xi Jinping: “He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.”

If he was doing his best Don Rickles impression, only the most febrile members of his base seemed amused. Since Trump abruptly removed James Comey as FBI director last May, the United States has been slowly lurching toward a constitutional crisis. In January, we learned the president had ordered the firing of special prosecutor Robert Mueller last June, only to back off after White House counsel Don McGahn threatened to resign. The following month, Trump lobbied the Justice Department to open investigations of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Meanwhile, his administration continues to stack the courts at a breakneck pace, trampling norms and procedures to accelerate the appointment of right-wing judges in a host of blue and purple states.


For Steven Levitsky, co-author of How Democracies Die, these are but two telltale signs of creeping authoritarianism. While violent coups have largely become a thing of the past, elected officials can dismantle a republic just as effectively as a military junta. Examples abound, from Eastern Europe (Russia, Ukraine, Poland and Hungary) to Latin America (Venezuela and Nicaragua) and Asia (Turkey, the Philippines and Singapore). As he writes in the book’s introduction, “Democracy’s erosion is, for many, almost imperceptible.”

Nearly a week before the far-right Lega Nord made huge gains in the Italian elections, Levitsky spoke with AlterNet over the phone about Trump’s hypothetical impeachment and the danger he poses to the global democratic order. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.

Jacob Sugarman: Since your book published, Donald Trump has effectively bullied Andrew McCabe and Rachel Brand into resigning from the FBI and the Justice Department respectively. Do you believe the guardrails of American democracy are still holding, or have they begun to buckle even in the past month?

Steven Levitsky: I think they’re still fundamentally holding for now. But there’s no question that the Trump administration has done what virtually every elected autocrat we’ve studied anywhere in the world has before him, which is go after the legal system, law enforcement and the courts in an effort to control the referees. That accomplishes two things: It creates a shield to protect the government from investigation and prosecution, and ultimately, it can be used as a weapon.

You can use the legal system to “legally” go after your rivals, and both Trump and the Justice Department have made noise about doing just that. This is straight out of the authoritarian playbook. I’d say I’m more worried now than I was when we first wrote How Democracies Die. It once appeared that there was at least a handful of Republican senators who were willing to draw a red line, particularly in terms of protecting the FBI, law enforcement agencies and the Mueller investigation. That seems less likely now. 

JS: It feels like every week there’s an explosive new development in the collusion probe. Democrats are unlikely to take back the Senate, but if they were to recapture the House, is it in the interests of the party and the country for them to pursue impeachment? Do you believe a push has the potential to backfire?

SL: Impeachment is a constitutional mechanism and one of the few tools that we have to remove presidents who have committed a crime or are otherwise unfit for office. There’s at least some reason to believe that Trump meets one or both criteria, so if the Mueller investigation were to uncover serious wrongdoing, it has to be considered. In the book, we look at two separate crises of executive overreach: FDR’s court-packing scheme and Nixon’s gross abuse of power. In both instances, a bipartisan consensus was what contained both presidents.

But things are so polarized now, and the Republicans have become so Trumpified, that there may not be enough votes even if Mueller uncovers egregious criminal activity. That would put us in uncharted territory, where impeachment becomes a truly double-edged sword. If Republicans actively oppose it, if it’s viewed as a coup by the Fox News wing of the Republican Party, which is to say the majority, then it could tear the country apart. It might be the right thing politically for Democrats, and the probe may well demand it, but it would further weaken our norms of mutual toleration and forbearance. The next Democratic president would have to watch their back.

JS: Your book does an excellent job of explaining why norms are so essential to a functioning government, but can a rigid adherence to them pose a danger to democracy itself? I’m thinking specifically of Obama’s refusal to pursue the perpetrators of the 2008 financial crisis, as well as certain members of the Bush administration for their crimes in Iraq.

SL: It almost certainly can, and there’s really no easy way out of that dilemma. We’re definitely not advocating an unthinking preservation of all norms. Societies evolve, and politics change all the time. But I think I was sympathetic to Obama’s predicament, even if a lot of my progressive friends were not. There is a real cost to pushing for, or even permitting, the prosecution of your major political rivals. It’s led to the failure of any number of democracies in Latin America.

Look at what’s happening in Brazil right now. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a coup, but the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff was highly politicized. The Democratic Labour Party has every right to be angry about it, and now Lula may be barred from running for president. The corruption charges against him are likely legitimate, but the right has created an environment in which the PT no longer trusts the political establishment.

JS: I’m glad you brought upBrazil,because democracy would appear to be in retreat across the globe. I was a little surprised to see that your book largely rejects this narrative. 

SL: I want to be clear that the decline in power and prestige of the United States and the European Union, along with the rise and increasing self-confidence of Russia and China, clearly do not bode well for democracy across the world. The horizon is darker than it was 20 years ago. The challenges for new democracies in central Europe, in Africa, in Latin America are much greater than they once were, so there is rea reason for concern.

But the number of democracies in the world is the same as it was 10 years ago. The notion that we’re in a global democratic crisis simply isn’t true. It may well happen in the next five years, but it hasn’t happened yet.

JS: Given the scope of America’s wealth and influence, does Trump pose an existential threat to global democracy?

SL: Because the United States has completely abandoned even the pretense of promoting democracy abroad, Trump’s presidency could end up expediting a democratic recession, yes. We’re already seeing some signs of it. Duterte in the Philippines faces no external pressure, despite massive human rights violation, while Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernández recently held an election whose results have been widely disputed. Autocrats are learning that they can get away with more than they have in a decade.

JS: What kind of threat does Trump pose to American democracy? Do you see a scenario in which the United States elects a blood-and-soil fascist?

SL: Trump may ultimately lead us into a devastating war, but I think we’re actually fortunate that he doesn’t have a political project. Or if he does, he doesn’t have the discipline, the intelligence or the attention span to build something really destructive. If there’s another major terrorist attack, I think all bets are off, but if we can get through the next three years crisis-free, I’d bet our democratic institutions muddle through.

Trump’s attacks on the press and the integrity of our elections can’t be minimized, but the lasting damage of his presidency will likely be his explicit appeal to white nationalism. Once you let that genie out of the bottle, it’s almost impossible to put it back inside. As long as the GOP is an exclusively white Christian party in a society as diverse as the United States in 2018 and 2020, it will remain vulnerable to extremism and authoritarianism. We saw it in South Carolina during Reconstruction: if Republicans, in this case, fear becoming a permanent minority, they could try to hold onto power by any means necessary.

JS: Where do you think we go from here? The people who voted for Donald Trump obviously aren’t going away, so how do we rebuild our democratic institutions? And what can the Democrats do as an opposition party?

SL: If I had the answers to those questions, I would be in a much more powerful position than I am today. The answer is, we really don’t know. But if our republic is truly under threat, which none of us thought possible just a few years ago, then normal politics has to be set aside and we need to build much broader coalitions. This is not a concrete formula, of course, but a way of thinking—one we want to encourage because it’s been a very long time since progressives found partners outside their traditional ideological camp. Maybe that includes some evangelicals or members of the private sector, as distasteful as the idea might sound. Once we successfully defend our democracy, we can go back to fighting for economic and social justice.

As for the Democrats, they’re not the only center-left coalition to set aside economic redistribution over the past 25 years. Basically everybody has, but that’s the problem, and there’s no quick fix. Taking up the cause of inequality is probably their best hope right now of combating this wave of right-wing populism we’re facing.


Jacob Sugarman is a managing editor at AlterNet.

The Hired “Jumping Jacks” of the Press and Their Corporate and Deep State Overlords – By Tim Keating (Sott.net)

There are laws to protect the freedom of the press’s speech, but none that are worth anything to protect the people from the press. ~ Mark Twain

Today’s news cycle is such that we are bombarded with information, much of it fake news and most of it echo and spin. There are excellent journalists, bloggers and academics out there, but too often they go unheard in the electronic haze of hysteria that passes for ‘news’. The mainstream media has few journalists worthy of the name on the payroll, but plenty of those willing to compromise themselves for ‘the inside scoop’. The CIA’s Operation Mockingbird exposed collusion between government and media decades ago. And today, when some journalists routinely submit their drafts to powerful interests before publication, getting ‘the right people’ who will ‘stick to the script’ into media is a relatively easy job.

Publicare et Propagare

Acta Diurna

The Acta Diurna Populi Romani: The “Daily Acts of the People of Rome”

Journalism is as old as civilization. Ptah-hotep, vizier to Egyptian pharaoh Djedkare Isesi, wrote sometime around 2,200 BCE of the need for “communicating truthfully, addressing audience interests, and acting in a manner consistent with what is being said.”

Julius Caesar launched the Acta Diurna, a daily gazette “posted in prominent places in Rome and in the provinces with the intention of feeding the populace official information.”

The Acta Diurna introduced the expression ‘publicare et propagare’, which means “make public and propagate,” and was typically written as a footnote to texts published in the Diurna. The practice of recording Senate deliberations was kept up after Caesar, though his successor refused to publish them, and thereafter they were often only published in censored form.

Dangerous Medium

Then as now, information is a craft. Who crafts the information, controls the message and therefore what the population believes. As much as purveyors of information may wish to convey that the information they are reporting has objective value, free from bias and constituting simply ‘the news’, everything that is packaged as such is laden with assumptions, all of them ultimately geared towards ensuring ‘continuity of narrative’ and thus the status quo.

Serena Shim

Serena Shim (born USA 1985 – died Turkey 2014)

But good journalism, while respecting the ‘rules of the game’, will challenge official narratives. Journalism isn’t always a cushy profession; in fact, it can be downright dangerous. The Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) reports that “more than 1,000 journalists have been killed in the past nine years.”

In 2013, 129 journalists were killed. In 2014, 128 were killed. In Ukraine alone during the US-backed coup d’etat in 2014, 9 were killed, including Andrei Stenin, snuffed out by Western-backed Kiev fascists. In Gaza, 16 journalists were killed by Israeli forces during Operation Protective Edge. In Syria in 2017, 13 were killed, including Serena Shim (see photo at left), killed just over the border in Turkey.

These were not ’embedded’ journalists, or journalists masquerading as truth-tellers, but reporters and photojournalists risking their lives to tell stories that the mainstream refuses to.

Creeds and Oaths

monkey see no evil,etc

The serious journalist is supposed to uphold the “Journalist’s Creed“, which contains this statement:

“I believe that suppression of the news, for any consideration other than the welfare of society, is indefensible.”

Of course, the task of deciding what is in the “welfare of society” does not fall to the average hack, but on his bosses, who in turn often are connected to political and corporate bosses. So if we ever end up in a situation where a culture of corruption and cronyism defines politics and business, with this definition of ‘journalistic ethics’, there is literally no chance that the corrupt will ever be called to account by the mainstream media. They are “society” and their welfare is at risk.

There are other ethical declarations for the modern day journalist, such as from the Society of Professional Journalists. Without citing all their ‘codes’, their prime directive is:

“Never deliberately distort facts.”

Distorting facts is the purposeful ‘twisting’ in different ways of the realities that face people each and every day. In this respect, when distortions of facts are broadcast ad infinitum people begin to believe half-truths and outright lies. History and the news are pregnant with this approach to deliberately mislead, whether it is allowing space for advertisers to manipulate people for their money or rallying readers behind political leaders, or pushing for war. This is no accident. Media moguls well understand that people are subject to ‘confirmation bias’. This bias, essentially, roots itself in the distortion of believing what you want to believe rather than what reality is.

At the end of the day, the journalists within the MSM surely must know whether or not they are practicing their creed, ‘deliberately distorting facts’ or simply embellishing them. Either that, or they have the self-awareness of a walnut. Why would they violate their creed? Most need a paycheck, and almost all crave recognition. And it’s much easier to follow the herd than to stick out one’s neck with an inconvenient truth.

US Media

The Conglomerates

Today the media in increasingly a single conglomerate that purveys a single message to the people: ‘trust us, no matter what we say’. This is not new. In the 1930s, the Krupp dynasty were famous for their production of steel, artillery, ammunition, and other armaments. They also owned newspapers. In their book the Merchants of Death published in 1934, H.C. Engelbrecht and F.C Hanighen observed:

“No modern business methods were unknown to Krupp. The power of the press was understood and appreciated. Krupp owned or controlled three great newspapers, the Rheinisch-Westphaelische Zeitung, the Berlin Taegliche Rundschau, and the Neuests Nachrichten. It was a simple matter to rouse public opinion to a patriotic frenzy at any time by war scares or by giving prominent space to the armament activities of other countries, especially during the feverish years before the War.”

As a time-period exposé, the authors highlight many more examples covering the period between WWI and WWII. Post 1945, the arms makers and press were interlocked once more – the examples could fill volumes. Since that time, the same corporate forces have further consolidated their alliance and power in an attempt to completely dominate the market for your mind.


Fortunately, there are some excellent journalists who try to honor their creed. Some may have developed their careers working for the MSM and learned of its pitfalls, manipulations, and lack of overall integrity. Those who have made these observations and decided instead to opt-out, who have set their own paths based on conscience and responsibility to provide facts, are sadly few and far between.

But this rare breed of journalist has objectively reported on the Gulf of Tonkin (Bắc Kỳ) the Vietnam war; the assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK; Iraq 1.0 and 9/11,Iraq 2.0 and Libya; Syria’s moderate rebels and the White Helmets; the Ukraine coup and the scapegoating of Russia, the recent American election and the fallout therein. Unfortunately, real journalism rarely makes it to the mainstream. Instead, we have companies that act as media gatekeepers such as Google and Facebook.

The ‘Constitution Society‘ writes of an event alleged to have occurred at the New York Press Club in the year 1880. A toast was offered to the esteemed press gathered around New York journalist John Swinton. Swinton responded with this:

‘We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.”

With the current leftist hysteria dominating the news, perhaps some words on the press by someone who knew how to weaponize it – Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister of propaganda – might bring the message home:

“Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.”

And play it they do.


Tim Keating (Profile)

SOTT.net reader!

Russia becoming world’s bread basket with wheat exports feeding half the planet – By RT

Russia becoming world's bread basket with wheat exports feeding half the planet
Food exports from Russia, dominated by wheat and fish, soared to a record $19 billion last year, according to the Russian Export Center.

Shipments of Russian food have reportedly grown by 25 percent since 2012. The country also boosted exports of products such as sweets and sugar.

The country has managed to capture more than half of the wheat market in recent years, becoming the world’s biggest exporter of the grain, thanks to bumper harvests and attractive pricing, Bloomberg reports.

The exports are reportedly set to beat another record this season. Russia is expected to sell 36.6 million metric tons of wheat overseas, according to Moscow-based agriculture consultancy SovEcon and the Institute for Agricultural Market Studies (IKAR).

Nearly half of the world’s nations purchase wheat from Russia, which has been improving yields year after year in an attempt to curb its dependence on agricultural imports. In 2014, Moscow barred purchases of some foods from Western exporters in retaliation for sanctions.

Higher prices for wheat also helped Russia earn more from its food sales last year, according to Managing Director at SovEcon Andrey Sizov, as quoted by the agency.

Egypt, which imports huge amounts of grain, has become the main international buyer of Russian wheat. Last year, the country overtook China to become the largest buyer of Russian food for the first time since 2012.

According to the export center, Egypt’s purchases of Russian foods, including wheat and sunflower oil, skyrocketed 44 percent to $1.74 billion in 2017, while China’s imports of Russian food production like fish and oilseeds totaled $1.72 billion.

Russia expects to boost grain exports to China after Beijing lifted quarantine requirements on Monday, allowing the import of wheat from six Russian regions.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

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