Chaos at the NATO Summit Benefits Eurasian Integration – By Federico PIERACCINI – (Strategic Culture Foundation)

Chaos at the NATO Summit Benefits Eurasian Integration

The chaos that has engulfed the NATO summit is yet further confirmation of the world’s transition from a unipolar to a multipolar order, with the return of great-power competition and different states jockeying for hegemony. Trump is adapting to this environment by seeking to survive politically in a hostile environment.

The meeting of the NATO countries in Brussels highlighted the apparent intentions of the US president towards his allies and the Atlantic organization. Trump’s strategy is to oblige the European countries to halt energy imports from Moscow and replace them with liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the US at a price that is obviously not cheap. The gas would come from the US by ship, entailing huge logistical costs that are not the case with regard to physical pipelines between Europe and Russia. This issue directly affects Germany and the Nord Stream II project, a deal worth billions of euros.

The reasons behind Trump’s behavior are twofold. On the one hand, we have the politics of “America First”, with the intention of increasing exports of LNG while boasting of “successes” to the base. The other purpose of Trump’s words is to highlight, sotto voce, the inconsistency of EU countries, who despite considering Russia an existential danger, nevertheless strongly depend on Russia’s energy exports.

To be fair to Trump, these same EU countries — fearful of Moscow but ready to do business with it — do not even spend 2% of their GDP on defense, while the US commits closer to 4%. For Trump this is surreal and intolerable. The NATO Summit began more or less with this anomaly, conveyed by Trump in front of the cameras to Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of NATO, with Pompeo and the US ambassador to NATO on either side of him doing their best to remain impassive.

The photo-op with Merkel did not go any better. Needless to say, the American media is being driven into a tizzy. The headlines blare: “Trump betrays the allies”; “End of NATO”. CNN is in a state of mourning. Brzezinski’s daughter (yes, that Brzezinski ) almost vomited from the tension on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

In truth, Trump is engaging in a lot of public relations. When he makes these performances in front of the cameras, he is speaking directly to his electoral base, showing that he is keeping his promises by putting “America First”. To be honest, it would be more appropriate to declare, “America, b****h!”

To back his words up with actions, he slaps his allies with tariffs and sanctions against Russia, and now Iran, incurring huge losses for Europe. He mocks leaders like Merkel and Trudeau in public, and has humiliated Macron in front of the world.

In practical terms, Trump does not care whether Germany buys LNG from the United States. If this is to ever occur, then it will take 20 years, given the cost and time needed to build dozens of LNG facilities on the European and American coasts.

The summit between Trump and Putin in Helsinki could even lead to more drama if Trump wants to drive the media, liberals, neocons and his European allies into further conniptions.

It depends on the issues on his checklist that he has to deal with before the November midterm elections. I do not rule out seeing Kim Jong-un in Washington before then, or a summit between the US, Israel and Palestine — anything that will play to the desired optics. The issue is just that: all image, no substance.

Trump is focussing principally on triumphing in the November midterms, and to do so he needs to look like a winner. He will be keen to ensure the moneybags of the Israel lobby and Saudi Arabia keep flowing. In doing so, he will probably even win the 2010 presidential election. There is always the possibility that the Fed and other financial conglomerates will decide to commit harakiri and blow up the economy with a new financial crisis in order to get rid of Trump. It would be the deserved end of the US empire.

European politicians also await the midterms with great anticipation, hoping that this will be the end of the Trump nightmare. They still live in the same dreamworld of Hillary Clinton, believing that Democratic victory is possible and that Trump’s election was simply an anomaly.

They will not have woken from their nightmare when they come to realize that Trump has increased the number of Republicans in the House and Senate. Perhaps at that point, with sanctions in place against Russia and Iran and with huge economic losses and the prospect of another six years with Trump, a coin will drop for someone in Europe, and Trump will be seen as the catalyst for breaking ties with Washington and looking east towards a new set of alliances with China and Russia.

In conclusion, we are experiencing the full effects of the Trump presidency, which is destructive of and devastating for the neoliberal world order. As I said at least a year before he was elected, Trump is accelerating the decline of the United States as a lodestar for the West, representing Washington’s swan song as the only superpower.

It is not “America First”, it is Trump First. There is no strategy or logic behind it. There are only friendships, his personal ego, and the need to remain in the saddle for another six years. Meanwhile, get your popcorn ready in anticipation of the Helsinki summit.

Where it all began: Syrian Army liberates Daraa from western-backed terrorists – By Hugo Turner Anti-Imperialist U (SOTT)

syria daraa

Early in the Syrian war Daraa became a terrorist hotbed in part because it was extremely close to Israel and their illegally occupied Syrian territory the Golan Heights. Israel has made it abundantly clear that the Daraa terrorists are its terrorist proxies and it hoped to steal even more Syrian territory when Syria was destroyed. However with Eastern Ghouta liberated the Syrian Arab Army was finally able to turn its full attention to liberating Southern Syria. Israel has launched illegal airstrike after illegal airstrike in a desperate bid to save its terrorist proxies including ISIS. It has threatened to launch a region-wide war targeting not just Syria but Lebanon, Iraq, in addition of course to their endless ongoing war on the Palestinians, their butchery of women and children which will never cease until Palestine is liberated. However Syria refused to give in to Israeli or American threats. Syria along with its allies Iran and Hezbollah were prepared to fight a full-scale war if necessary. Russia after some foot dragging also decided to help the SAA liberate Daraa. Israel was forced to watch as their terrorist proxies were routed in a matter of months. The battle of Daraa is not over but it is clear that a decisive victory has already occurred. Syria has secured the Naseeb border crossing with Jordan liberated huge swathes of territory encircled the terrorists and cut off their supplies. Today July 12 they entered the southern part of the city of Daraa.

The war in Syria continues. ISIS have been launching increasing attacks in an attempt to save Daraa but Syria have been launching a major campaign to clear them out of their desert stronghold. Once Daraa is liberated the SAA may turn its attention to Idlib and to ejecting the Turks. The Syrians are holding secret negotiations with the Kurds who are rethinking their treachery after America has decided to let Turkey occupy more and more SDF held territory. Plans are already in place to kick out the American, British and Italian occupation forces with resistance groups being formed in the north of Syria. Unfortunately the Americans are stubborn, vindictive and very sore losers so there is no telling what new plan they are hatching to extend the war and bring still more misery to the long-suffering Syrian people. Even if the US forces do leave, the propaganda war against Syria could go on for decades. More tragically the economic war on Syria that began back in 2003 with sanctions on Syria will continue. Vital supplies needed to repair Syria, vital medicines and equipment needed to heal the people of Syria are being prevented from entering the country. There is no telling how many thousands of people have already died as a result of these sanctions which are usually overshadowed by the brutal crimes of the western backed terrorists.

Despite the obstacles they face Syria continues to march towards victory. With the help of its allies it has defeated America, Israel, NATO, the Saudis and the many other members of the axis of chaos. They have withstood untold misery and nearly every family has given a martyr to the cause of Syrian independence. When the war is won the balance of power will forever be shifted in the region and hopefully the empire will be forced to vacate Iraq and the Axis of resistance will be able to turn it’s attention to the liberation of Palestine. Unfortunately in much of the world the future is much bleaker.

Sources

Read the full article at Anti-Imperialist U.

Comment: The Syrian Army have now retaken the city of Daraa after encircling the last remaining terrorists within the southern part of the city. The “rebels” holding the area agreed to the terms of reconciliation offered by the Syrian government and Russian Reconciliation Center:

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) has allowed the Russian military police to enter the districts they control in Daraa, as they begin the process of reconciliation.

In the next 48 hours, the Free Syrian Army is expected to handover their heavy and medium weapons to the Russian military police.

The Free Syrian Army fighters that do not want to reconcile with the Syrian government and the jihadist rebels from Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham will be given safe passage to western Daraa.

As shown in the footage below, Russian military police were filmed entering the Daraa Al-Balad District that was controlled by the rebel forces for several years:

Here’s a map view of the Syrians’ progress (today, compared to January):

daraa map

© syria.liveuamap.com
daraa map

© syria.liveuamap.com

As Post-Colonial Migrants Cross the Mediterranean, Europe Says “Go Home” in Every Language – By Ramona Wadi @walzerscent ( MINT PRESS)

Two activists sit on top of the 60-meter (197-feet) monument Christopher Columbus tower after placing a vest with the words "Open Arms" on the statue in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, July 4, 2018. Activists in Barcelona have dressed in an orange life-vest a statue of 15th-century explorer Christopher Columbus to turn attention to the loss of life of migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean Sea. Emilio Morenatti | AP

There is no escaping the fact that the “throw them back to Libya” attitude, fostered by governments and upheld by a considerable segment of the population, is prevailing.

 

There is no escaping the fact that the “throw them back to Libya” attitude, fostered by governments and upheld by a considerable segment of the population, is prevailing.

MALTA — (Report) The standoff in June between Malta and Italy over the fate of over 600 migrants on board the Aquarius — a rescue boat operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) — made headline news for the wrong reasons. As both countries prioritized populist rhetoric, with Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat refusing to open their ports to Aquarius, voluntary intervention by the Spanish government ensured the migrants’ safety after days of being stranded at sea.

Unresolved, however, were the deeper implications of the incident and the brew of double-standards and hypocrisies it brought to light. The European Union scrambled to find common ground over migrants using the Mediterranean as their trajectory. However, it joined the ranks of Salvini and Muscat, taking issue with non governmental organizations in their efforts to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean. Far from opposing the right-wing rhetoric that has now infiltrated the entire political spectrum, the EU chose to uphold a punitive stance against migrants, many of whom hail from sub-Saharan Africa and are fleeing the long-term consequences of war, poverty and plunder. Libya, which has become a main departure point for those seeking to escape, is a hub of torture, trafficking and exploitation that the international community aided in creating. Following a summit in Brussels, the EU criticized NGOs that rescued migrants at sea and proposed measures that would keep migrants away from the bloc. It discussed setting up processing centres in North Africa and, for migrants who manage to reach Europe, “controlled areas” for processing. According to the European Commission’s President Donald Tusk, the proposals would form “the most effective mechanism to break the smugglers’ business model — to discourage migrants and smugglers [from taking] this very risky route using vessels on the Mediterranean Sea.”

By focusing solely on migrants and human trafficking, the EU has eliminated the colonial and imperialist background that created refugees and the Mediterranean as a trajectory for migrants. With the Arab Spring and Libya’s disintegration distanced by seven years, the EU, like other international organizations, is in a position to distance itself from the foreign intervention that transformed Libya into a failed state and a hub for human-rights violations.

Unsurprisingly, UN-affiliated agencies have “welcomed” the EU deal — as conveyed by this statement from the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC):

We will welcome any outcome from Europe that leads to a more collaborative and harmonised approach to asylum, and also one that has at its core and priority saving lives at sea.”

Lest it be forgotten, the UN adopted Resolution 1973 on February 26, 2011, which authorized NATO intervention in Libya. To analyze the current EU framework that builds upon the existing racist and anti-migrant sentiment, it is necessary to look back at recent history and understand that, with their current policies, the EU and the UN are united in their primary aim: to shift accountability away from the organizations as aggressors.

This undated photo released by by French NGO "SOS Mediterranee" on Monday June 11, 2018 and posted on it's Twitter account, shows migrants about to board the SOS Mediterranee's Aquarius ship and MSF (Doctors Without Borders) NGOs, in the Mediterranean Sea. I Kenny Karpov | SOS Mediterranee via AP

Both the UN and the EU refuse to link NATO intervention to the outcome of Libya as a failed state. This has allowed the EU to promote Libya as a safe haven for migrants, despite its cycle of human-rights violations and its reputation as a trafficking hub. In turn, just as the earlier colonization attempts are not linked to the exploitation of African and Arab countries, the EU is repeating the same process of aiding in destabilizing countries while refusing responsibility.

On the EU-proposed disembarkation points, Leonard Doyle from the UN’s International Organization for Migration stated that “any solution needs to be a European solution.”

While both the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) expressed concern about the perils for migrants in Libya, the statements omitted the fact that “European solutions,” as described by Doyle, will be carried out according to the EU’s vested political interests, as opposed to international law and humanitarian concerns.

 

Under the veneer of an electoral slogan

In Malta, with the exception of activists and NGOs, calls for humanitarian assistance were isolated. Nationalist Party and opposition leader Adrian Delia expressed a similar stance to that of Muscat. In an article penned by Delia and published in the Times of Malta, he described the Maltese as “united in our stance in defence of the national interest.” The national interest and sentiment, however, appear to be driven by an unfortunate double standard when it comes to sorting out who is welcome in Malta and who is not.

The electoral campaign slogan “L-Aqwa Zmien” (The Best Times) still echoes among the people, at a time when foreign investment in Malta is generating a veneer of economic stability. Yet the same investment has also generated inflated home prices and rents, leaving segments of the Maltese population in a struggle to make ends meet as the system has adapted to cater to elite newcomers. Little discontent is communicated regarding the influx of such immigration. However, the 629 “non-elite” immigrants on board the Aquarius were largely perceived as a threat to the island.

Anna Azzopardi, Deputy General Secretary and spokeswoman for civil rights of Malta’s Green Party, Alternattiva Demokratika (AD), spoke to MintPress about the Maltese government’s politics that prioritize profit over humanitarian action:

It is ironic because we have two scenarios. The government is insisting that the country needs more foreign workers, and is selling citizenship to anyone who has the necessary capital. On the other hand, the needs of the people in dire straits are being ignored, because the populist waves are directed towards feeding a cycle of hatred. Thus money and power are winning over the necessity to take care of basic human needs.”

The standoff between Malta and Italy reveals that migrants are becoming a common ground uniting the center-left and the right wing. The diplomatic bickering between the countries over responsibility to offer safety was largely supported by the people, fuelled by the racism that has been steadily rising in recent years.

One such recent example was recorded and published by the Times of Malta when the MV Lifeline refused to hand over rescued migrants to Libya and remained stranded for days before Muscat agreed to let the ship dock in Senglea and subjected it to an investigation on allegations of going “against international rules.”

In the clip, a child is heard shouting slogans as directed by her mother –”Go back to your country!” — in a show of the anti-migrant sentiment that is steadily gaining ground on the island.

MV Lifeline’s captain, Claus Peter Resich, was arraigned in court on July 2 and released on bail. The accusation he faces is “having steered the ship within Maltese territorial waters without the necessary registrations and license.” While Resich was allowed an interpreter, Magistrate Joseph Mifsud turned down a request for the hearing to be conducted in English.

Claus-Peter Reisch, second from right, captain of Lifeline rescues ship, stops next to members of his crew staging a protest as he leaves after an arraignment hearing in Valletta, Malta, July 2, 2018. str | AP

Azzopardi comments on racism in Malta, within the context of the government’s promoting of profit over humanitarian needs:

The government’s economic programme has resulted in a [vicious cycle]. In the past ten years or so, racism has increased in Malta. The government decided to feed on this racism to gain political momentum and further ignite the fire to suit its populist agenda.”

Within Maltese society, there are parallels that are being ignored. Blinkered allegiances to political parties — a trait that shows little sign of waning — furthers the opportunity for government to rally support for its courting of business deals, such as the investments of gaming companies in Malta, and the citizenship sales, which have contributed to inflated rent and property prices. Meanwhile, the average wages in Malta have not picked up, with the result that many families are spending most of their income on rent. The rise in property prices has also made it harder for many to consider taking out a loan to put a roof over their heads.

Although the government is catering to the influx of foreigners who are settling in Malta with higher wages than those of the average Maltese, anti-immigrant sentiment on the island does not consider thousands of affluent foreign workers contributing to the inflated real-estate prices as a threat. Yet, hundreds of migrants stranded at sea have united a large segment of the people repeating a common phrase: “Malta cannot take in any more migrants.”  

Dr. Louise Chircop — a researcher and educator specializing in religion, citizenship, social diversity and the politics of education — describes how politics influences the prevailing racist attitude in Malta:

The concept that Malta cannot take in any more migrants is a contradiction. Recently the Prime Minister said that Malta needed thousands of foreign workers. He was careful to use the term ‘migrants’ — the implication being that the workers will do the jobs and leave. However, these workers bring their families over and many eventually settle in Malta. Then there are those who buy Maltese citizenship, which no one speaks about. It is clear that ‘there is no more space’ only applies to migrants who come in by boats.”

In Malta, party politics carries more importance than the actual social conditions. This has enabled racism to spread its roots. As the political parties build their rhetoric upon the already-existing fears among the people of migrants as “different,” there is a strong agreement between the government and the people in excluding migrants.

Besides the main political parties, smaller far-right wing groups have also been attracting a following. Their social media pages have not been shut down, Chircop points out, despite inciting hatred and violence.

Chircop explains how government decisions have consolidated the perception of African migrants as undesirable outsiders:

The stances taken by the political parties: sending migrants back, the pushback policy, not allowing them to enter the ports, as well a the discourse which is uttered at EU and local level, have influenced the uncritical public into thinking that there is a veritable invasion of ‘boat people,’ that there is no space for them, that they are too culturally different from us and that they are criminals. Time and again black people have been arrested in Marsa, despite not committing any crimes.”

Clearly, all political parties, including the government, are building upon the existing resentment to entrench divisions. Azzopardi explains:

The government is using the tactics of divide and conquer. Rents are increasing and the cost of living in Malta is blown out of control. But the blame falls upon the low-paid foreigner — not just boat migrants — who is just another victim.”

She adds:

People escape from both war and famine. Climate change has contributed to a dwindling agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa. Further south, slave economy, such as diamonds and cocoa farming are exploiting and keeping people in poverty. These humanitarian crises are fodder for the human trafficking business. A real, human-centred solution would start by tackling these issues at the root. However, the unfortunate reality is that these issues are ignored and put aside. The only accountability that is being pursued is directed towards gaining votes.”

 

Southern Italy’s mayors united in a political stance

The mayors of Palermo, Naples, Messina, and Reggio Calabria in the south of Italy openly defied Salvini’s stance, declaring their ports open to Aquarius. Naples Mayor Luigi De Magistris and Palermo Mayor Leoluca Orlando both issued statements on social media criticising Salvini’s rhetoric.

The bickering that made headline news was based upon retribution. On July 28, Salvini tweeted: “Is Malta closing its ports to foreign NGO boats? Good, this means we have been right, we will not back down. Stop human trafficking, stop those who help the stowaways.” The hashtag used, “#stopinvazione” (stop invasions), however, underlines the prevalent right-wing sentiment.

Palermo’s mayor, Leoluca Orlando, explained to MintPress the stance taken by himself and other Italian mayors, which MSF had declared to be “nice but not practical:”

I have had a working relationship with the MSF and other NGOs dealing with migration issues and search and rescue (SAR) for many years. There is both practical and political support. When I say political, I am not linking the organizations to any specific political party, but I want to underline that nowadays there is always a clear political and cultural issue in relation to migration and migrants.

The stance to ‘open the harbors,’ expressed by myself and other mayors in Italy, is evidently a political stance. By law, mayors do not have the power to open nor close the port, which is considered a strategic national infrastructure and, as such, under the control of the national government. But our stance made it clear that there is no consensus and neither an Italian majority, on Salvini’s position.”

Palermo Mayor Leoluca Orlando addresses tje  Italian Coastguard, children, volunteers and officials taking part in a symbolic rescue of paper boats to send a message to the G7 leaders to take action to safeguard refugees in Palermo, Italy, May 25, 2017. Salvatore Cavalli | AP

Echoing the official positions of Malta and Italy, Orlando maintains that Italy “has been left almost alone during the last years to face the flow of migrants and welcome them.” Ironically, he comments that it is the only point upon which he is in concordance with the right-wing leader.

However, he clarifies various issues of contention as regards responsibility and EU failures in tackling migration:

Where I’m not in accordance with Mr Salvini is on who has the responsibility, inside European institutions, for such a situation. The responsibility is, above all, of the far-right governments of Hungary and other countries that have always refused to accept migrants according to EU agreements. This is a long-standing problem.”

Malta and Italy, he says, cannot be put on a par in regards to hosting capacity:

“Malta has a total population which is [less than] half of Palermo’s. Its hosting capabilities cannot be compared with the Italian ones. The mere geographical position cannot be considered as the base for these decisions; otherwise Spain, Italy, Greece and Malta should be left alone in facing migration flow.”

Yet, he insists:

Starting from the fact that migration flows will not stop, no matter how many walls or detention centers will be built, Europe as a whole has to take responsibility for a fair, human and convenient-for-all solution.”

Orlando refers to a document known as the Charter of Palermo, which was signed in 2015 by lawyers, human rights experts, NGOs, activists and politicians:

In the document we stated that the right to mobility is a fundamental human right. How is it possible that in our contemporary globalized world, everything can move freely except for human beings? Data can freely move globally through the internet. Goods can freely move around the globe. Money and capital can be transferred in seconds. It is only human beings that are denied the right to move freely. Is this the globalized world we want to live in?”  

The Charter of Palermo also discusses freedom of movement. According to the document, Orlando explains, the visa and permits to stay should be abolished: “Note — it is not the abolition of the passport, which is a symbol of belonging to a community — but the abolition of the limitation of movement of human beings.”

He clarifies:

Our proposal is not a “humanitarian” one. We do not want people to have freedom of movement just because it is fun or sounds poetic. In our experience, in the concrete and actual experience of Palermo, a mix of cultures, an open city where migrants are welcomed and become part of the community, where people have the possibility to meet and share, the whole community grows in all ways.”

Palermo, he says, is the only southern big city that has experienced a decline in unemployment:

I think this is also connected to the policy of openness promoted by the municipality and the mayor at the local, national and international levels.”

There was a mixed reaction on Facebook following Orlando’s statement to open the port. In Palermo, however, statistics from 2017 show that the right-wing has not gained traction. Orlando observed:

In 2017, when I was confirmed as mayor on the first round of the elections, the candidate of Lega, Matteo Salvini’s far-right party, only got 1.6 percent of the votes. Of course, this doesn’t mean that Salvini’s aggressive policy and wording towards migrants and minorities is not appealing for part of the population, even here in Sicily.”

Orlando states that Palermo has evolved into a distinct reality from others as a result of his consistent stances against racist and populist positions:

This made it possible to open a debate, to talk away from the virtuality, to think beyond the stereotypes.”

A combo of images showing the 60 migrants traveling aboard the Open Arms aid boat, of Proactiva Open Arms Spanish NGO, posing for photos during their trip to Barcelona, Spain, July 4, 2018. Olmo Calvo | AP

Asked about the apparent contradiction of the EU as a purportedly peace-building institution that also supports the foreign intervention that has perpetuated the cycle of the displaced and refugees, Orlando pointed to a December 2017 document he submitted to the International Criminal Court that called for an investigation into the actual behavior of European bodies towards migrants. He concluded:

The easy and immediate answer to your question is that European institutions and their representatives have played a role, in this specific field, which blatantly violates the spirit and content of several EU funding and fundamental Charters.”

 

The EU’s parameters of exclusion

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for selectivity when it comes to accepting migrants — differentiating between economic migrants and those escaping war or persecution. Bloomberg quotes the French president thus: “If it’s an economic migrant, who doesn’t face danger in his country, then it’s not France’s responsibility to take him, nor Spain’s.”

The question EU leaders are evading is the root causes of migration. Historical colonial plunder of African countries is one reason. The Arab Spring and NATO intervention in the Middle East is another. Climate change, famines, slave labor and political oppression have all created different categories of refugees. Politically, a major share of the responsibility falls upon Western exploitation.

Yet, the EU, like other international institutions, is content with creating issues out of the political violence it helps inflict upon populations in African and Arab countries. The convenient solution is to create parameters to classify migrants as being worthy of safe haven or not.

Of the categories decided by the authorities, the economic migrants are despised more than others. Unlike those escaping war, these people are categorized as having made a free choice to leave. The emphasis upon the term “economic” has blinded people to the fact that being trafficked and risking a perilous journey does not constitute a free choice in terms of migration.

Diplomatically, the veneer works well for the EU. The reality — which the EU blatantly refuses to address to preserve its impunity at the expense of human lives — is that these categories, alongside the EU’s willingness to accommodate the right-wing, have resulted in a situation in which all migrants are being considered unworthy of rescue.

There is no escaping the fact that the “throw them back to Libya” attitude, fostered by governments and upheld by a considerable segment of the population, is prevailing.

Top Photo | Two activists sit on top of the 60-meter (197-feet) monument Christopher Columbus tower after placing a vest with the words “Open Arms” on the statue in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, July 4, 2018. Activists in Barcelona have dressed in an orange life-vest a statue of 15th-century explorer Christopher Columbus to turn attention to the loss of life of migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean Sea. Emilio Morenatti | AP

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger. She writes about the struggle for memory in Palestine and Chile, historical legitimacy, the ramifications of settler-colonialism, the correlation between humanitarian aid and human rights abuses, the United Nations as an imperialist organisation, indigenous resistance, la nueva cancion Chilena and Latin American revolutionary philosophy with a particular focus on Fidel Castro, Jose Marti and Jose Carlos Mariategui. Her articles, book reviews, interviews, and blogs have been published in Middle East Monitor, Upside Down World, Truthout, Irish Left Review, Gramsci Oggi, Cubarte, Rabble.ca, Toward Freedom, History Today, Chileno and other outlets, including academic publications and translations into several languages

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Russian Army Gets the Weapons of the Future Today – By Andrei AKULOV (Strategic Culture Foundation)

Russian Army Gets the Weapons of the Future Today
Andrei AKULOV | 16.06.2018 | SECURITY / DEFENSE

The combat experience that Russia’s Terminator-2 tank support combat vehicle (BMPT-72) has gained in Syria has proven to be invaluable. It is being used to develop a new Terminator-3 version that will soon equip the tank support system to do things like attacking unmanned aerial vehicles (drones). Other armored vehicles and dismounted infantry in difficult terrain remain high-priority targets.

Few details are available so far. Like its predecessors, the new vehicle’s armor protection will be equivalent to that of a main battle tank, with armaments allowing it to engage virtually any enemy weapon system or unit and to fire at multiple targets at the same time. Automation makes it possible to reduce the number of crew members from 5 to 3.

The new weapon system is likely to share its chassis, sensors, armor, and active protection system with the new Armata T-14 main battle tank. According to Russian media reports, the main armament will be a 57-mm. gun already used by the Russian Navy. Its rate of fire is 300 rounds per minute, its range — 16 km., and its altitude — over 4 km. The projectile can penetrate armor over 100 mm. thick. Because the firing range of its machine gun and automatic grenade launcher are 60-140% greater than that of the American Bradley IFVs and Stryker wheeled armored vehicles and anti-tank systems, this system can reliably protect tanks and infantry while remaining safely out of reach.

The Zvezda TV channel quoted officials from the weapons manufacturer Techmash who claimed that the Tosochka thermobaric, wheeled-chassis, heavy multiple-rocket launcher is to be delivered to the Russian Army in 2020. Using wheels instead of caterpillar tracks allows it to move faster but also increases the system’s vulnerability when operating on the front lines. One must assume that the MLRS will not be used to fire directly at targets, but will instead shoot at them from protected positions. Wheels make it more effective against terrorist units. It does not need trailers to move rapidly across great distances, which is exactly what is required to forcefully attack militants on different fronts.

Russian officials confirmed in May that the Uran-6 demining robot and the Uran-9 unmanned light battle tank have been tested in Syria. The latter is the first remote-controlled military robot in the world (a miniature tank) with a 30-mm. gun, enabling it to carry out the missions of an armored combat system supporting infantry on the ground.

The Uran-6 is a unique unmanned ground vehicle (UGV), or mine-clearing robotic system, that saves human lives by clearing routes across mine fields. Weighing six tons, it can be transported by truck. With its bulldozer blade and trawls, it can do the work of 20 sappers, neutralizing ordnance with a potential explosive energy of 59 kg. (130 lbs.) of TNT equivalent. Aided by four cameras for 360-degree view, it can be equipped with a large number of tools, such as a robotic arm, a rear forklift, a gripper with a cargo-lifting capacity of one ton, etc. The system can conduct demining operations on any terrain, while remaining at a safe distance of up to one km. away.

Made of steel plates 8 mm-10 mm thick, the vehicle is highly resistant to mine blasts and shrapnel damage. The system can defend itself using 7.62-mm small arms.

Built on the basis of a tracked chassis, the Uran-6 is powered by a 6-cylinder water-cooled, turbo-charged diesel engine, allowing it to move at a speed of up to 15 km., negotiate obstacles 0.8 m. high, cross 1.2-m wide ditches and water obstacles, and operate in swamps 0.45 m. deep. The system is able to work continuously for up to five hours. It did a great job in Palmyra, Syria, defusing bombs and bobby traps. The Russian Army plans to increasingly rely on UGVs as time goes on.

Mainly designed for reconnaissance and patrol purposes, as well as for protecting convoys and supporting infantry, Tigr-M all-terrain infantry mobility vehicles have also seen combat in Syria. With the Arbalet-DM remote module installed, the system becomes robotic. The module consists of a 12.7-mm. caliber Kord machine gun with 150 cartridges or a 7.62-mm caliber PKTM machine gun with 250 cartridges. Laser guidance is used. The Arbalet-DM can lock on and automatically track stationary and moving targets identified by a TV camera from a distance of 2.5 km. or 1.5 km. if thermal-imaging equipment is used. A laser range finder has a range of 100 m.-3,000 m. This new version of Tigr is funded by the 2018-2025 state procurement program.

The Tigr-M has outstanding off-road capabilities. With an operational range of 1.000 km, the vehicle can reach speeds of up to 155 km. per hour. It can climb 31-degree slopes and cross water obstacles that are 1.2 m wide.

The famous, combat-proven BMP-3 heavily armed infantry combat vehicles are to become unmanned too, as soon as the AU-220 combat module armed with a 57-mm. automatic cannon is installed. It will enable the system to strike aerial targets. The gun’s rate of fire is 80 rounds per minute and its range is 14.5 km. Any type of rounds can be used. An armor-piercing round can penetrate 130 mm. of steel from one km. away A coaxial 7.62-mm machine gun can hold 1,000 rounds of ammunition. The module can fully rotate 360 degrees.

The trend is clearly evident — the Russian Army is making great strides in its introduction of new, more highly automated technologies. New weapons that are unlike anything owned by any other country, such as tank support vehicles, are currently either being added to the Russian arsenal or are being developed. The army is also gradually moving away from soldier-to-soldier warfare, turning instead toward combat that is fought by remote-controlled machines driven by artificial intelligence. In March, Defense Minister Army General Sergei Shoigu said that a number of military robotic systems were nearing the completion of their trials before going into serial production this year. He was telling the truth. Many nations are working hard to put unmanned systems onto the battlefields, but Russia appears to be leading this race, fielding its military robotics more quickly than anyone else. The very pace of the updates to these armored vehicles captures the imagination.

Upgraded to New M3M Standard, Tu-22 Takes to Sky in August – By Andrei AKULOV (Strategic Cultural Foundation)

Upgraded to New M3M Standard, Tu-22 Takes to Sky in August
Andrei AKULOV | 09.06.2018 | SECURITY / DEFENSE

The Tu-22M3M variant of the Tu-22, a supersonic variable-sweep wing bomber, is to make its maiden flight in August and enter into service in October. The Russian Air Force operates 62 Tu-22M3s. Some of the planes have carried out combat missions in Syria. According to the plans that have been announced, 30 TU-22M3s will have been modernized to meet the M3M standard by 2020. This aircraft is not classified as a heavy bomber and therefore is not covered by the New START treaty.

This far-reaching upgrade includes improved avionics, a new communications suite, an updated weapon-control system, digital radio-navigation equipment, and the ability to attack surface and sea targets with long-range precision-guided weapons.

It has the following specifications: a maximum speed of 2,300 km/h; a cruising speed of 900 km/h; an operating ceiling of 13,000 m; a maximum altitude of 14,000 m; a rate of climb of 15m/s; an operational range of 7,000 km (10,000 km with air refueling); an empty weight of 53,500 kg; a maximum takeoff weight of 126,400 kg; and a crew of 4. The pressurized cockpit is fitted with climate-control systems. The plane is powered by two NK-25 turbofan engines with large air intakes and dual exhausts. Each engine produces a maximum thrust of 25,000 kg. With its tricycle gear, the aircraft can land on unprepared runways.

The armament suite includes a Kh-32 long-range, multi-purpose missile specifically designed to attack US Navy carrier strike groups with a nuclear or conventional 500-kilogram (1,102 lb) warhead. It can hit land targets as well. The list of enemy assets it is capable of knocking out includes radar equipment, large vessels, bridges, power stations, command posts, and other military installations. Equipped with an inertial navigation system and a radio-radar seeker, it need not depend on satellites for guidance, making it immune to jamming.

The missile flies along a unique trajectory, climbing to the stratosphere (40 kilometers) after launch and then either going straight down to hit the target or executing a shallower dive in order to approach it flying as low as five meters above the surface. At such a low altitude the Kh-32 cannot be detected by radar until it is only about 10 km away, leaving a reaction window of approximately 10 seconds. Fast and maneuverable, air-defense systems have little opportunity to fend it off. The SM-6 surface-to-air-missile (SAM), America’s best air-defense tool, is useless against the Kh-32.

It has an operational range of up to 1,000 kilometers and a maximum speed of 5,400 kilometers per hour (1,500 meters per second) during the terminal phase of its flight.

The Tu-22M3M can carry three KH-32s (weighing about six tons each) or 12 of the lighter Kh-15 missiles. The Raduga Kh-15 is an air-to-surface hypersonic aero-ballistic weapon with an operational range of 300 km. The aircraft will be able to carry six to eight Kh-SD medium-range (up to 2,000 km) cruise missiles, and there are plans to develop and produce it under the auspices of Russia’s State Armament Program for 2018–27 (GPV-2027).

Its payload is also made up of FAB-250 or FAB-1500 free-fall bombs. The aircraft is armed with a double-barreled GSH-23 (23 mm) gun installed in the remotely controlled tail turret.

The Tu-22M3M uses the SVP-24 all-weather special computing subsystem for precise guidance. The GLONASS satellite navigation system constantly compares the position of the plane and the target. The SVP-24 measures environmental parameters to correct the flight. Information is received from all datalinks to compute its flight envelope. There are enough sensors to enable targeting even if the GLONASS receivers are jammed. With fire-and–forget guidance in place, the pilot can concentrate on countering threats and finding new targets to hit.

Currently Russia’s strategic aviation fleet is undergoing an extensive revamping. The modernization of the Tu-160 supersonic strategic heavy bombers is underway and due to be complete by 2030, along with the Tu-22M3M upgrade. The Russian Air Force’s ability to attack enemy assets as an element of conventional, not nuclear, warfare will be greatly expanded. The conventional strike capability of its armed forces is to be augmented by adding relatively low-cost multipliers to their existing arsenal of conventional offensive long-range weapons. This will significantly enhance its power projection capability. The conflict in Syria has been a good example of this. The successful updates to Russia’s long-range aviation forces illustrate the ability of the Russian defense industry to meet the challenges of today.

US Challenges Russia to Nuclear War – By Eric ZUESSE (Strategic Cultural Foundation)

US Challenges Russia to Nuclear War

Now that the United States (with the cooperation of its NATO partners) has turned the former Soviet Union’s states other than Russia into NATO allies, and has likewise turned the Soviet Union’s Warsaw Pact allies into America’s own military allies in NATO, the United States is finally turning the screws directly against Russia itself, by, in effect, challenging Russia to defend its ally Syria. The US is warning Syria’s Government that Syrian land, which is occupied by the US and by the anti-Government forces that the US protects in Syria, is no longer really Syria’s land. The US is saying that there will be direct war between Syria’s armed forces and America’s armed forces if Syria tries to restore its control over that land. Tacitly, America’s message in this to Moscow is: now is the time for you to quit defending Syria’s Government, because, if you don’t — if you come to Syria’s defense as Syria tries to kill those occupying forces (including the US troops and advisors who are occupying Syria) — then you (Russia) will be at war against the United States, even though the US is clearly the invader, and Russia (as Syria’s ally) is clearly the defender.

Peter Korzun, my colleague at the Strategic Culture Foundation, headlined on May 29th“US State Department Tells Syria What It Can and Can’t Do on Its Own Soil” and he opened:

“The US State Department has warned Syria against launching an offensive against terrorist positions in southern Syria. The statement claims that the American military will respond if Syrian forces launch an operation aimed at restoring the legitimate government’s control over the rebel-held areas, including the territory in southwestern Syria between Daraa and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Washington is issuing orders to a nation whose leadership never invited America in the first place! The very idea that another country would tell the internationally recognized Syrian government that it cannot take steps to establish control over parts of its own national territory is odd and preposterous by any measure.”

The pro-Government side calls those “terrorist positions,” but the US-and-allied side, the invaders, call them “freedom fighters” (even though the US side has long been led by Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate and has increasingly been relying upon anti-Arabic Kurds). But whatever they are, the United States has no legal authority to tell Syria’s Government what to do or not do on Syrian land.

Russia’s basic position, at least ever since Vladimir Putin came into power in 2000, is that every nation’s sovereignty over its own land is the essential foundation-stone upon which democracy has even a possibility to exist — without that, a land cannot even possibly be a democracy. The US Government is now directly challenging that basic principle, and moreover is doing so over parts of the sovereign territory of Syria, an ally of Russia, which largely depends upon Russia to help it defeat the tens of thousands of invading and occupying forces.

If Russia allows the US to take over — either directly or via the US Government’s Al Qaeda-linked or its anti-Arab Kurdish proxy forces — portions of Syrian territory, then Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, will be seen as being today’s version of Britain’s leader Neville Chamberlain, famous, as Wikipedia puts it, for “his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the German-speaking Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Germany.”

So: Putin will now be faced with either knuckling under now, or else standing on basic international democratic principles, especially the principle that each nation’s sovereignty is sacrosanct and is the sole foundation upon which democracy is even possible to exist or to evolve into being.

However, this matter is far from being the only way in which the US Government now is challenging Russia to World War III. On May 30th, the Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak bannered “US trains armed groups at Tanf base for new terror corridor” and reported that:

New terror organizations are being established by the US at the Tanf military base in southern Syria that is run by Washington, where a number of armed groups are being trained in order to be used as a pretext to justify US presence in the war-torn country. …

Military training is being conducted for “moderate” opposition groups in al-Tanf, where both the US and UK have bases.

These groups are made up of structures that have been established through US financing and have not been accepted under the umbrella of opposition groups approved by Turkey and the FSA.

From Deir Ezzor to Haifa

Claiming to be “training the opposition” in Tanf, the US is training operation militants under perception of being “at an equal distance to all groups.”

Apart from the so-called opposition that is linked to al-Qaeda, Daesh [ISIS] terrorists brought from Raqqa, western Deir Ezzor and the Golan Heights are being trained in the Tanf camp. …

The plan is to transport Iraqi oil to the Haifa [Israel] Port on the Mediterranean through Deir Ezzor and Tanf.

Actually, Deir Ezzor is also the capital of Syria’s own oil-producing region, and so this action by the United States is more than about merely a transit-route for Iraq’s oil to reach Israel; it is also (and very much) about America attempting theft of oil from Syrian land.

Furthermore, on May 23rd, Joe Gould at Defense News headlined “House rejects limit on new nuclear warhead” and he reported that the US House, in fulfillment of the Trump Administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, which seeks to lower the threshold for nuclear war so as to expand the types of circumstances in which the US will “go nuclear,” rejected, by a vote of 226 to 188, a Democratic Party supported measure opposing lowering of the nuclear threshold. President Trump wants to be allowed to lower the threshold for using nuclear weapons in a conflict. The new, smaller, nuclear warheads, a “W76-2 variant,” have 43% the yield of the bomb that the US dropped on Hiroshima, but it’s called a ‘tactical nuclear weapon’ meaning that it is supposedly intended for use in ‘conventional’ wars, so that it is actually designed to eliminate altogether the previous meta-strategic principle, of “Mutually Assured Destruction” pertaining to nuclear war (that nuclear weapons are justifiable only in order to prevent another World War, never in order to win such a war) that successfully prevented nuclear war till now — that once a side has introduced nuclear weapons into a military conflict, it has started a nuclear war and is challenging any opponent to either go nuclear itself or else surrender — America’s new meta-strategic doctrine (since 2006) is “Nuclear Primacy”: winning a nuclear war. (See this and this.)

US President Trump is now pushing to the limit, presumably in the confident expectation that as the US President, he can safely grab any territory he wishes, and steal any oil or other natural resource that he wishes, anywhere he wants — regardless of what the Russian Government, or anyone else, thinks or wants.

Though his words often contradict that, this is now clearly what he is, in fact, doing (or trying to do), and the current US House of Representatives, at least, is saying yes to this, as constituting American values and policies, now.

Trump — not in words but in facts — is “betting the house” on this.

Moreover, as I headlined on May 26th at Strategic Culture, “Credible Report Alleges US Relocates ISIS from Syria and Iraq into Russia via Afghanistan.” Trump is apparently trying to use these terrorists as — again like the US used them in Afghanistan in order to weaken the Soviet Union — so as to weaken Russia, but this time is even trying to infiltrate them into Russia itself.

Even Adolf Hitler, prior to WWII, didn’t lunge for Britain’s jugular. It’s difficult to think of a nation’s leader who has been this bold. I confess that I can’t.

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Russia’s Growing Influence in Sub-Saharan Africa – By Arkady SAVITSKY (Strategic Culture Foundation)

Russia’s Growing Influence in Sub-Saharan Africa
Arkady SAVITSKY | 05.06.2018 | WORLD / Africa

Rwanda wants to buy Russian air defense systems. The issue was discussed during the visit of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to that country on June 3. The Rwandan security forces already use helicopters, small arms and Ural Typhoon mine-resistant armored trucks produced in Russia.

Moscow has recently ramped up its military assistance to the Central African Republic (CAR) upon the request of the country’s government. Last month, Russian President Putin met CAR’s President Faustin Archange Touadera in St. Petersburg to hold talks on boosting bilateral ties, including military cooperation. It’s done in strict compliance with international law. In December 2017, the UN Security Council approved a deal allowing Russia to send arms and military instructors to that crisis-hit country. The UN was provided with the serial numbers of the transferred weapons to enable international observers to track them. The arms deliveries are gratuitous.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a traditional ally of the West, has begun shifting its foreign policy priorities looking for other partners. Last month, the DR Congo’s government announced its decision to revive the 1999 military agreement with Russia. It wants Moscow to deliver armament and train military personnel of the DRC. It also hopes to expand the bilateral economic cooperation, covering the mineral production, agriculture and humanitarian contacts.

In 2017, Russia signed a $1 billion defence cooperation agreements with Angola and Nigeria. Moscow and Luanda are in talks on increasing the scope of military ties.

Russian Rosoboronexport has long-term relations with Angola, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda, Zimbabwe and several other sub-Saharan nations that include arms sales and equipment maintenance. Since 2013, the construction of service centers has been in full swing. In 2017, Russian weapons were delivered to the following sub-Saharan African nations: Kenya, Nigeria, Mali, and Angola (Su-30K jets). A contract was confirmed with Equatorial Guinea for purchase of Pantsyr-S1 air defense systems. In August 2017, Burkina Faso ordered two Mi-171 helicopters. Russia is the leading arms importer to the region, accounting for 30% of all supplies.

Russia’s weapons are in high demand being cheap and effective as has been proven by their use during the Syrian conflict. The thriving military cooperation goes hand in hand with developing ties in other areas. Trade with African countries located south of the Sahara desert was $3.6 billion in 2017. For comparison, it was $3.3 billion in 2016 and $2.2 billion in 2015. Russia is involved in exploration, mining, and energy projects. ALROSA, a diamond-mining company, operates in Angola, South Africa, Sierra Leone and Namibia. The talks are on the way to reach an agreement with the African partners to avoid double taxation and protect intellectual property.

Transport and agriculture are promising areas for joint projects. The construction of nuclear science centers in Zambia and Nigeria, as well as a nuclear power plant in South Africa, a BRICS member, are on the talks’ agenda. In April, the government of Sudan invited Russia to take part in its energy projects. Khartoum and Moscow enjoy special relationship. Last year, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir asked the Russian president for “protection from the aggressive acts of the United States.” 28 out of 55 African nations have growing trade with Russia. Cooperation with Ghana, Tanzania has promising future. Angola, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe are historical friends with experience of doing business with Russian partners. The relations with the African Union are considered in Moscow as an issue of special importance.

In March, FM Lavrov toured Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Ethiopia to boost multifaceted relationships. The same month, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) was signed to open new horizons for economic cooperation. In January, the Single African Air Transport Market was launched to be made even more attractive with coming in force of the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, the right of Establishment and the Right of Residence. Russian businessmen will get more information on new opportunities when they visit the first Intra-African Trade Fair to take place in Cairo on December 11-17, 2018. The program of Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) held in May included special sessions on business and investment opportunities within the framework of the “Russia – Africa Business Dialogue.” The SPIEF-2018 held two special celebrations to mark Africa Day and the 55th anniversary of the African Union.

The US influence in the sub-Saharan Africa is on the wane. In contrast, Russia is making strides to strengthen its position in the region. President Vladimir Putin announced the policy of boosting ties with the region in 2006 when he visited Sub-Saharan Africa. He kept his word. The region has become an essential vector for the foreign policy of Russia, which is becoming another major player on the continent.

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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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Russian Defense Minister Shoigu presents video of new Su-57 fighter launching new cruise missile from its weapons bay – By Tyler Rogoway (thedrive.com) (SOTT)

Russian Su-57 fighter jet

© DefenseWorld.net
Russian Su-57 fighter jet

Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has presented video of the country’s new Su-57 fighter-you can read our full analysis on this often misunderstood aircraft here-launching a new cruise missile from its internal weapons bay. This is the first video we know of not only of this missile being tested, but also of the Su-57s weapons bays in use.

In his statement, Shoigu mentions the Russian Ministry of Defense’s large effort to test and evaluate new weapons on the Syrian battlefield, but it’s not clear if this launch took place over the war-torn country or not. He says the test occurred in February, which is the same month a pair of Su-57s briefly deployed to Syria under puzzling circumstances. That excursion lasted less than two days and what the aircraft were doing there and why they returned home so quickly remains a mystery. It is possible that the Su-57s were there to test the missile on real targets, or the test could have just as easily occurred on ranges within Russia’s own borders.

The missile being launched appears to be the Kh-59MK2, a standoff weapon designed especially for the Su-57 and the confines of its two ventral weapons bays. The subsonic cruise missile has a modular, rectangular design that incorporates some stealthy features and coatings. It navigates using INS with embedded GPS (GLONASS/Navstar). An infrared seeker is used for terminal homing, allowing it to hit moving targets, have its final point of impact fine-tuned for maximum effect, or to be retargeted in real-time. The ability to loiter over a target area is another possibility based on the capabilities of similar designs.

A two-way data-link provides man-in-the-loop control between the missile and the launching aircraft all the way till impact. It would also be capable of hitting targets autonomously, at least stationary ones, albeit without the exacting precision that man-in-the-loop control provides. Range and payload estimates vary widely, but it’s likely to be able to reach targets at least 150 miles away while carrying a 500lb warhead. The modular nature of the design may allow for multiple configurations, such as larger fuel sections to be swapped for smaller warhead sections. But basically this thing is something between Israel’s Delilah and the U.S. Navy’s SLAM-ER.

Kh-59MK2 displayed at MAKS 2015

© Vitaly V. Kuzmin
Kh-59MK2 displayed at MAKS 2015

The missile will provide the fledgling Su-57 with a critical standoff attack capability, allowing it to stay far enough away from threatening air defense systems to remain undetected while still being able to attack them, or any targets under their protective umbrella. The use of an infrared seeker also puts maritime targets at risk.

I have already written at length about how the Su-57’s weapons menu is being creatively tailored to overcome some of its most apparent weaknesses, and seeing the Kh-59MK2 enter the testing phase so early in the Su-57s career certainly supports that narrative.

The entire video of Shoigu’s statement can be seen below, with the Su-57 segment beginning at time index 5:30:

If it works as intended, the weapon and its derivatives will also be a highly attractive export product for Russia’s defense-industrial apparatus, and it’s not as if a Su-57 is required to put it to use. Operators of modern Flanker and Fulcrum variants are likely to find its capabilities very attractive as well and Russia could incorporate it onto other platforms once it is operational such as the Su-30/34/35. The big question is will Russia actually buy them in substantial numbers. If Syria has taught us anything, Russia still relies heavily on dumb bombs and unguided rockets for the vast majority of its aerial combat punch.

But at least for the Su-57, of which there are less than a dozen in existence nearly a decade after it was first unveiled, the Kh-59MK2 will provide the jet with some serious standoff precision strike capabilities.

Press review: Sizing up Putin’s new cabinet and who benefits most from Gazprom’s projects – By TASS

May 21, 13:00 UTC+3

Top stories in the Russian press on Monday

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© Mikhail Metzel/TASS

 

Media: New cabinet appointed as reforms are around the corner

Putin’s new cabinet is a ‘compromise’ of elite groups of technocrats loyal to the president, experts polled by RBC daily presume. According to political analyst Yevgeny Minchenko, the new cabinet consists of heavyweight ministers that can well be considered as President Putin’s direct appointees, among them Sergei Shoigu, Sergey Ivanov, Anton Siluanov, Alexander Novak and Denis Manturov, while the newly appointed ministers have major influential groups backing them.

Natalia Akindinova, Director of the Center of Development at the Higher School of Economics, considers the new cabinet to have a high degree of continuity regarding its economic policy. For example, First Deputy PM Anton Siluanov who managed to defend a tough approach to additional budget expenditures amid the crisis will head the financial and economic bloc. Former head of the Account Chamber Tatyana Golikova, which enjoys President Putin’s confidence, will be in charge for the social bloc. Alexey Gordeyev who carried out mass-scale reforms in the agriculture sector in the early 2000s, will return as Deputy PM.

The new government is expected to take the quantum leap announced during the presidential campaign, worth an unprecedented 25 trillion rubles ($400 bln), and carry out unpopular reforms under Finance Minister Siluanov’s control.

 

Meanwhile, the most surprising thing about the new cabinet is a “common feeling” that it has no “breakthrough”, according to political scientist Abbas Gallyamov speaking with RBC. However, Vedomosti writes that now it is not going to be easy to avoid reforms, particularly due to the retirement age hike already announced by PM Medvedev.

The key thing is to prepare a sound program of reforms for the whole economy, head of the Economic export group Yevsey Gurvich told Vedomosti. As experience from recent years has shown, monetary policy can help avoid a serious crisis, but not shift from stagnation to growth. A whole set of institutional and structural measures is needed to ensure sustainable economic growth, Vedomosti says.

 

 

Kommersant: Sanctions no reason to freeze ties, says Bulgarian leader

Hours are left before Bulgarian President Rumen Radev arrives in Russia to meet with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow on Monday and then move on to Sochi to speak with President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday. This is going to be the first meeting between both presidents in a decade. “The absence of top-level dialogue for such a long period of time does not meet the interests of our peoples,” Radev said in an interview with Kommersant daily, adding that ‘public diplomacy’, and “communication between tourists, actors, professionals, journalists, and cultural exchange have never stopped.”

“As acting chair of the European Union Council,” Bulgaria strives for a constructive and meaningful dialogue with its partners, Radev told the paper. Asked what made the country refrain from expelling Russian diplomats amid the Salisbury incident unlike most western countries and choose only to recall its ambassador for a week, he said that “a responsible decision like that was the only possible one in a challenging situation requiring forward-looking moves.” Speaking about sanctions and Sofia’s plans to support potential further expansion of anti-Russia restrictions, he said that “sanctions aren’t forever.”

“They are not a trigger to freeze relations. Sanctions hurt all countries and are a nonworking instrument. Moreover, I assume that free trade facilitates peace more through creating interrelations, which no one wants to break,” the Bulgarian president said.

According to Radev, “the EU restrictions against Russia are aimed at solving the Ukrainian crisis. The removal of sanctions is linked to full compliance with the Minsk accords by all sides. Their implementation would restore confidence between the European Union and Russia thus, it would further deepen and expand bilateral cooperation between Bulgaria and Russia. “The EU and Russia have to decide on how they want to build their relationship and on how we are going to solve the issues in dispute – with dialogue or without it. Talks have intensified recently. Chancellor (Angela) Merkel visited Sochi several days ago. Today and tomorrow we will be discussing Bulgarian-Russian relations with Prime Minister Medvedev and President Putin, and (French) President (Emmanuel) Macron will arrive in Russia in coming days, which I think is a promising trend,” he explained.

Speaking about energy cooperation between Moscow and Sofia, the president noted that “Bulgaria needs direct supplies of Russian gas via the Black Sea.” “Let’s call it ‘Bulgarian Stream’. This approach is in line with common sense, energy safety and efficiency requirements, not only for Bulgaria, but also for the European Union overall,” he said. “Both for Russia and for Bulgaria it is logical to choose Bulgarian territory as a route for expanding Russian natural gas supplies, which is why it is in our common interest to ensure direct access to Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast for Russia gas,” Radev added.

 

RBC: Subcontractors benefit most from Gazprom’s projects, analysts say

Sberbank CIB has pointed to the subcontractors of Russia’s top gas producer, Arkady Rotenberg and Gennady Timchenko among them, as the ‘big winners’ thanks to the company’s projects to construct export-oriented pipelines of the Power of Siberia, Nord Stream 2 and Turkish Stream, RBC says. In their recent report of Russian oil and gas business, Sberbank CIB analysts said that investments in those projects are generating a low return. According to the report, Gazprom’s decisions are absolutely logical if the company is managed in the interests of its subcontractors, rather than for gaining commercial profit.

“The report is a commercial product, which is not for a wide audience and is meant only for highly-qualified investors, who are clients of Sberbank CIB,” the bank’s representative told RBC.

A representative of Arkady Rotenberg, co-owner of Stroygazmontazh, told the newspaper that the company is not a beneficiary of Gazprom’s investment program as the Power of Siberia gas pipeline will remain in the company’s ownership and it will gain its final benefit once this investment project is implemented.

“Stroygazmontazh only participates in the project as a general subcontractor and fulfills construction and installation works on a paid basis within the framework of agreements made,” the representative added. Stroytransneftegaz, 50% of which is owned by Timchenko and his family, did not provide any commentary.

Sberbank CIB analysts estimate the total expenses shelled out on the construction of the Power of Siberia, Nord Stream 2 and Turkish Stream at $93.4 bln. They cast doubt upon the contract to supply 38 bln cubic meters of gas to China annually being beneficial amid the average crude price of $65 per barrel. They also stress the high cost of the Power of Siberia’s construction compared with the Altai project considered earlier ($55.4 bln for Power of Siberia versus $10 bln for Altai), RBC writes. The construction of ‘streams’ – to the northern and southern parts of Europe – is also beneficial for the subcontractors in the first place due to the high cost of onshore infrastructure, Sberbank CIB said. Analysts added that the implementation of both projects might not make it possible to abandon gas transit through Ukraine, which has been consistently mentioned as the main objective of the projects.

 

Krasnaya Zvezda: US violates short, intermediate range missiles deal

The United States has breached the agreement on short- and intermediate-range missiles as it is developing missile systems with an air range of 500 to 5,000 kilometers, the Russian Defense Ministry’s head of National Nuclear Risk Reduction Center Sergei Ryzhkov said in an article in the Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) newspaper.

“Russia has been bringing up the issues related to violations of the short-and intermediate-range missiles deal by the US side for several years already. For example, the US is developing and conducting flight tests with ballistic missiles having a range of 500 to 5,000 kilometers bypassing the agreement,” he said. Washington rationalizes the new missile systems development by the fact that they are “not more than ballistic target-missiles,” while “all those developments are conducted to test the global anti-missile system.”

According to Ryzhkov, “the development and flight tests of such missiles sets a precedent for bypassing the agreement on short-and intermediate-range missiles as those missiles can deliver weapons within a range limited by the deal.”

Washington has been alluding to a potential breach of the agreement on short-and intermediate-range missiles after Russia launched its Iskander-M (NATO reporting name: SS-26 Stone) tests, after which the White House officially stated that the Russian missile Novator 9M729 allegedly violated the INF deal, in November 2017. Ryzhkov considers those accusation “unfounded and unspecific.”

“The US side misrepresents the alleged violation as a true fact, without mentioning the essence of the violation, and where and how it has been revealed,” he said, adding that “such a policy pursues the main objective of diminishing Russia and present it as a country that violates international deals.” The official also noted that Washington is seeking to eliminate the agreement, which may have serious implications for the global community.

 

Vedomosti: Chinese online platform eyes Russian e-commerce market

Tmall, owned by China’s Alibaba Group, plans to become one of top online players in Russia by the end of this year, Vedomosti says. The seller of famous brands has leased a warehouse in the South Gate Industrial Park near Domodedovo Airport, Anton Panteleyev, a representative of Tmall and AliЕxpress in Russia, told Vedomosti.

The Chinese e-commerce player, which launched operations in Russia in September 2017, is the second online platform of Alibaba in the country after AliExpress.

JLL’s Yevgeny Bumagin suggests that the decision to invest in Russian logistics is related to the strategy of China’s online giant, which sees potential in cultivating online sales in Russia. Currently, retail sales, including e-commerce, is the main driver of warehouse market development. Online retail players ensured a quarter of demand for storage space in the Moscow Region last year, he explained.

Data Insight’s Fyodor Virin believes the objective of entering Russia’s top five online stores is not an extremely challenging one. The market is not consolidated and the biggest players occupy small portions of it. However, he doubts that Tmall will meet its goal by this year, though it may well catch up with the five biggest players in terms of the number of orders by the end of 2018, he noted.

 

TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in the press review

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