Voices from Russia

Saturday, 24 February 2018

24 February 2018. Babylon Bee Posts Satire on Russiagate… Good Stuff

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Here is the satire referenced:

Russia Announces New Plan to Let the USA Tear Itself Apart Unaided

On Thursday, after years of meddling by Russian agents, Russia-funded bots, and hacking attempts, the Kremlin announced it would withdraw from all activity in the USA, and would instead allow the country to tear itself apart without any help from them. President Putin said in a press conference:

Our spies and bots simply couldn’t keep up with the rapid pace at which America is destroying itself. They’re on the verge of tearing each other to shreds. Really, it’s quite impressive. Our spies stationed abroad tried their hardest to divide America, but were outpaced and outclassed at every turn by the country’s highly-motivated politicians and partisan activists, who are doing a far better job than his own spies could at ripping the country apart. They don’t need our help, apparently. So, we’ll just get out of the way and let them have at it. Bravo, America!

22 February 2018

Babylon Bee

http://babylonbee.com/news/russia-announces-new-plan-just-let-u-s-tear-apart-unaided/

This is satire, but it has truth in it. Remember what satire is… it’s using irony and humour to say “unsayable” things. This is stark truth… the USA is ripping itself apart and has done so since the time of Ronald Reagan. We’re paying for “Greed is good” and “The race goes to the swiftest”. Do note that the Born Again crowd cheers the nabobs of selfishness on. It tells you much about both groups, does it not?

VVP simply believes, “A bad peace is better than a good war”… his elder brother died in Leningrad during the siege due to starvation-related disease. Nearly all Russians feel the same way. Russians think that Americans are crazy to call World War II “the Good War”. As one of my friends at the Centre put it:

Only unbalanced and insane people call war “good”.

America IS tearing itself apart. Clinton and Trump are only symptoms… not causes. Neoliberalism is ripping the USA apart… its interlocutors simply watch and wonder. They aren’t doing anything… we’re doing it all on our own.

BMD

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Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Putin Warned Netanyahu About Syria

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In the aftermath of the shooting down by Syria of an Israeli F-16, President Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu had a telephone conversation. Even by its standards, the Kremlin’s summary of the conversation is extremely short:

The discussion focused on the actions of the Israeli Air Force, which carried out missile strikes in Syria. The President of Russia spoke out in favour of avoiding any steps that could lead to a new round of confrontation, which would be dangerous for everyone in the region.

This pithy report of the conversation between the Russian and Israeli leaders matches the scant information the Russians provided of the talks between Putin and Netanyahu in January. However, it isn’t difficult to understand current Russian policy with respect to the conflict between Syria and Israel, and it puzzles me that there’s so much confusion about it. The first point is that Russia is now the guarantor of the survival of President Assad and of his government. Constant speculation that the Russians might abandon President Assad in order to achieve peace in Syria, or might force a loose decentralised structure upon Syria, which the Syrian government doesn’t want, is misplaced. Prior to Russia’s intervention in the Syrian conflict in September 2015, Russia consistently resisted pressure from the USA and its allies to agree to the ousting of President Assad. Russia repeatedly vetoed Resolutions presented to the UN Security Council by the Western Powers intended to achieve the ousting President Assad. After Russia intervened in the Syrian conflict in 2015, Russia resisted further pressure from the USA to agree to President Assad’s ouster, whether in return for a junior place in the USA’s anti-ISIS coalition or in return for the promise of joint military operations between Russia and the USA against al-Qaeda. I discussed the failure of former US Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempt in Moscow in July 2016 to get the Russians to agree to the ouster of President Assad here.  In a follow-up article I said this:

The story of the diplomacy of the Syrian conflict is a continuous repetition of the same mantra… the USA pushes Russia to agree to have President Assad removed. The USA makes various offers or threats to Russia to cajole or force their agreement. Russia responds that President Assad’s future is a strictly Syrian internal matter, which they won’t involve themselves in. The USA walks away, baffled and angry. In truth, the inability of the US and its Western and Arab allies to accept that Russian opposition to their policy in Syria and elsewhere is for real and that they can’t bully or bribe Russia to change it is one of the oddest things about the whole Syrian conflict. Despite the fact that Russia has gone repeatedly out of its way to explain their policy, the USA and its allies seem incapable of believing that Russia is serious about it. They always seem to think that Russia is just playing some cynical game and that if they make the right sort of offer, or put under it the right sort of pressure, it can bring Russia around and make it agree to let Assad go.

If Russia wasn’t prepared to agree to force President Assad’s ouster when his government controlled only a small strip of territory along Syria’s coast and when Aleppo… Syria’s biggest city… seemed to be about to slip out of President Assad’s control, then, they aren’t going to agree to force President Assad’s ouster now, when they helped him secure control of all of Syria’s main cities… including Damascus and Aleppo… and when his army has reached the Iraqi border in Syria’s farthest east. After investing so much in President Assad’s survival and in the survival of his government, it’s inconceivable that Russia would abandon him now, and I’m sure that no one in any position of authority in Moscow is considering it. At the same time, no one in Moscow wants to see Russia embroiled in the Syrian-Israeli conflict, which far predates Russia’s intervention in Syria, and which goes back all the way to the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948.

Following the 1967 Six Day War, the Russians did commit themselves wholeheartedly to one side in the Arab-Israeli conflict… backing the Arabs diplomatically, arming the Arabs intensively, sending a strong military force to defend Egypt in 1970 from Israeli air attack, and breaking off diplomatic relations with Israel. The result for Moscow was a catastrophe. It alienated the USSR’s large Jewish community and it found that by making an enemy of Israel it further poisoned its relations with the Western powers at precisely a time when it was seeking détente with them. The USSR quickly discovered that its Arab “allies”, in whom it had invested so much, were both ungrateful and treacherous so that by 1980 the USSR’s entire position in the Middle East completely collapsed. The final straw came after the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979, when volunteers from across the Arab world rushed to fight in Afghanistan, in a way that they’d never shown the slightest indication of wanting to do against Israel on behalf of the Palestinians. Not surprisingly, since the mid-1980s, therefore, Russia determined never to become directly involved in any part of the Arab-Israel conflict again. Thus, whilst Russia maintains good relations with Arab states, and whilst Russia continues to voice support for the Palestinians, Russia always strove to maintain good relations with Israel as well, forging significant economic links with Israel.

Beyond this, given that Russia already has its hands full in Syria, fighting all sorts of Jihadist and proxy forces there on behalf of President Assad and his government, it has no wish or need to complicate this already complicated task further by taking on Israel… the Middle East’s military giant, with nuclear weapons and the Middle East’s strongest air force… on behalf of Syria as well. Therefore, provided Israeli attacks on Syria don’t go beyond the routine attacks which Israel has launched against Syria for decades, which long predate Russia’s intervention in Syria, and provided the Israelis take no step to threaten the existence of the Syrian government or interferes in Syrian military operations against the Jihadist groups Russia is fighting, Russia will do nothing about them. However, conversely, if Israeli attacks on Syria threaten either the Syrian government or interfere in Syrian military operations against the Jihadist groups Russia is fighting, then, Russia will respond sharply, as they did in March last year when they summoned the Israeli ambassador for a dressing down at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after an Israeli airstrike against the Tiyas airbase, which appeared to have the intent of interfering with the Syrian offensive against ISIS.

Right at the start of the Russian intervention in Syria, on 21 September 2015, President Putin had a series of meetings and conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu over the course of which he would’ve carefully explained Russian policy to the Israeli leader, setting out the ground rules. The Russian and Israeli leaders agreed during that summit to a “deconfliction” mechanism; which confirmed that Russia made it clear over the course of that meeting that they weren’t interested in and wouldn’t interfere in “routine” Israeli air strikes against Syria. Here’s how Reuters reported it:

On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a visit to Moscow that Israel and Russia agreed to coordinate military actions over Syria in order to avoid accidentally trading fire. Recent Russian reinforcements for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which regional sources say include warplanes and anti-aircraft systems, worry Israel, whose jets have on occasion bombed the neighbouring Arab country to foil suspected handovers of advanced arms to Assad’s Lebanese guerrilla ally Hizbullah. Briefing Israeli reporters after he met President Putin, Netanyahu said he’d come with the goal of “prevent(ing) misunderstandings between IDF units and Russian forces” in Syria, where Assad is fighting Islamist-dominated insurgents in a civil war. Netanyahu added that he and Putin “agreed on a mechanism to prevent such misunderstandings”. He didn’t elaborate. There was no immediate comment from the Kremlin. In earlier remarks, as he welcomed Netanyahu to the presidential residence in Novo-Ogaryovo, outside Moscow, Putin said Russian actions in the Middle East would always be “responsible”. Underlining the importance of Netanyahu’s one-day visit to Moscow, Israel’s premier took along its armed forces chief of and the general in charge of Israeli military intelligence. Putin, who shares the Western concern about the spread of Islamic State influence, pledged to continue military support for Assad, assistance that Russia says is in line with international law. Russia focused its forces on Syria’s coast, where Moscow keeps a Mediterranean naval base. The USA, which along with its allies has been flying missions against Islamic State insurgents in Syria, also held so-called “deconfliction” talks with Russia.

This report of the agreement Putin and Netanyahu reached on 21 September 2015 confirms that Russia made clear to Israel that they had no interest in preventing “routine” Israeli strikes against Syria, and that their intervention in Syria didn’t intend to prevent such strikes. At the time, Russia would also have said the same thing to President Assad and to the Iranian government: Russia intervened in Syria to save a Syrian government under attack by Jihadist terrorists and threatened with régime change by the USA, not to help Syria prosecute its longstanding conflict with Israel. However, the other side of the coin is that just as the Russians won’t act to stop “routine” Israeli airstrikes against Syria, so they won’t act to stop whatever actions Syria takes to defend itself from such strikes. Both “routine” Israeli actions and Syrian counter-actions are part of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Israel-Syria conflict, which doesn’t involve Russia.

Certainly, Russia wasn’t involved in the recent Syrian shooting down of the Israeli F-16 and no one concerned… not the Syrians nor the Israelis… is saying that they were. At the same time, and consistent with its policy, whilst Russia won’t act to stop the Israelis carrying out “routine” airstrikes against Syria or the Syrians shooting down Israeli aircraft which engage in such strikes, Russia will react sharply to any Israeli action that threatens the existence of the Syrian government or which interferes in Syrian military operations against the Jihadists Russia is fighting, just as they did last March. The following words in the Kremlin summary confirm that Putin reminded Netanyahu of this over the course of their recent call:

The President of Russia spoke out in favour of avoiding any steps that could lead to a new round of confrontation, which would be dangerous for everyone in the region.

In other words, Putin told Netanyahu to moderate his reaction to the shooting down of the F-16, and Israel’s relatively mild reaction to the shooting down of the F-16… the retaliatory airstrikes Israel launched after the shoot-down didn’t go beyond the level of “routine” strikes, and didn’t threaten Syrian military operations against the Jihadists (which continue unabated) or the existence of the Syrian government… shows that despite his public bluster, Netanyahu heeded Putin’s call. Almost certainly, Russia balanced this warning to Netanyahu with equivalent warnings to Damascus and Tehran, warning them that they should avoid further escalation. Since it isn’t in Syria’s or Iran’s interests that Syria, which is still in a state of civil war, with large areas under control of the Kurds and the Syrian government’s Jihadist enemies, and with US and Turkish troops on its territory a current threat, should find itself in an all-out conflict with Israel, it’s a certainty that all concerned are heeding these Russian warnings.

If Russia is loathe to take sides in the Arab-Israeli conflict or in the conflict between Israel and Syria, the events of the last few days show how the mere fact of its presence in Syria is nonetheless changing the dynamics of the conflict. As I recently wrote, Syria’s success in shooting down an Israeli F-16 provides confirmation that the military balance in the Middle East is shifting. Something that was beyond Syria’s capabilities until very recently… the shooting down of an Israeli fighter in Israeli-controlled airspace… has now happened. Russia’s intervention in the Syrian conflict brought this about. Without Russia’s intervention, there’d be no Syrian military to shoot down Israeli aircraft, and Russian training, advice, and technical support gave the Syrian military the ability to shoot down Israeli aircraft. Shifting the balance of military power in the Middle East wasn’t the intention behind Russia’s intervention in Syria; however, it’s the product of it. Similarly, Russia warning Israel against taking action in response to the shooting down of the F-16 which might escalate the situation isn’t a case of Russia taking sides in the longstanding conflict between Israel and Syria; however, its effect is to protect Syria from Israeli actions which might’ve happened in response to the shooting down of the F-16 as part of that conflict, if Russia hadn’t been present in Syria and hadn’t given Israel a warning. The result is that Syria successfully shot down an Israeli F-16 and suffered no significant consequences from it. Although the Arab-Israeli conflict continues, and although Israel and Syria will continue to take actions against each other, the dynamic of the conflict has changed.

12 February 2018

Alexander Mercouris

The Duran

http://theduran.com/f-16-shoot-down-putin-warns-netanyahu/

Monday, 29 January 2018

Kremlin sez Putin Congratulated Zeman on Re-Election

Zeman won because many Czechs, like these demonstrators, are anti-American to the bone. CNN doesn’t mention that, do they?

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On Saturday, official Kremlin sources said that President V V Putin congratulated Miloš  Zeman on being re-elected as President of the Czech Republic:

In his congratulatory message, the head of Russian state underlined that the results of the latest election showed Zeman’s high authority as an experienced and responsible politician who put the Czech people’s interests and aspirations into life. President Putin pointed up that Russia highly praises Zeman’s principled stance in favour of friendly Russian-Czech relations and mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields. President Putin confirmed our readiness to continue constructive joint work on bilateral and global agenda and wished Zeman health, well-being, and new success in his state duties.

Earlier on Saturday, Zeman won re-election as President of the Czech Republic in a run-off. He took 51.36 percent of the vote; his opponent, Jiří Drahoš, the former head of the Czech Academy of Sciences, had 48.63 percent of the vote. Voter turnout was 66.6 percent.

27 January 2018

TASS

http://tass.com/world/987229

Editor:

The USA wanted Zeman out. They failed. It looks like the “sole superpower” isn’t what it claims itself to be…

BMD

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Putin Met with Muftis of Russia’s Muslim Spiritual Administrations

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During a trip to Ufa, President V V Putin met with muftis from the Muslim spiritual administrations. Meeting participants discussed current problems relating to cooperation between the government and Muslim religious organisations. Putin said:

I think that it’s important that we meet regularly and discuss issues that interest Russian Muslims, holders of other faiths, and all the citizens of our country in general. Today, in Ufa, we celebrate the 225th anniversary of the foundation of the Muslim Spiritual Assembly established by imperial decree. At that time, at the end of the 18th century, Islam won official recognition as a traditional Russian religion. Naturally, this helped Muslims become true Russian patriots. Islam became a significant factor in our social and political life and made an invaluable contribution to our society’s spiritual and cultural development. Once again, I congratulate you on this historic date.

I’d like to thank you for your work and talk to you about current global trends, including in religious life. Today, an active, and not always positive, process of politicising religion is underway at the global level. This occurs in different directions and in different religions, including Islam. In these circumstances, government authorities and the Russian Muslim community have new problems and challenges. Of course, we can only resolve them together; we’ve talked about this together many times now. Some political parties use Islam, or rather its radical tendencies (which, incidentally, are historically foreign to Russian Muslims), in order to weaken our state, to create zones of so-called externally-driven conflicts in Russian territory, to encourage friction between different ethnic groups and within the Muslim community, and to fan separatist sympathies in the regions. I’m convinced that we must counter such attempts to create divisions using Russian Muslims’ faith in their historical traditions and partnerships with other religions, particularly the Russian Orthodox Church.

Of course, hierarchical command structures are alien to Islam (as, to be frank, they are to many other world religions), which has a variety of different schools and movements. However, Russian Muslims have always been united in their service to society and the state, and against external enemies and all forms of extremism. I am sure that we can maintain and strengthen this unity, even today. We should see Islam’s new “socialisation” as developing traditional Muslim lifestyles, thinking, and views in accordance with current social realities, as opposed to the ideology of radicals, bringing believers back to the Middle Ages. New forms of work… through Muslim cultural centres, Islamic science and education centres, and youth and women’s clubs… are important here. I believe that you can make an important contribution to the social adaptation of people who come to live and work in Russia. Many of them share your religion. They need to hear your voice and feel your presence; otherwise, they become victims of propaganda from various fundamentalist sects.

I also believe that the voice of Russian Muslim leaders should resonate louder in the international arena, amongst the global Islamic community. Today, tensions between the West and the Islamic world are on the rise. Some people try to mess around with this issue and throw fuel on the fire. I want to tell you straight away… we aren’t interested in this. However, at the same time, today, Russia’s presence is in increased demand in the Middle East and the Islamic world as a whole. Moreover, we need to be more proactive, debunking harmful attempts to manipulate humanity using countries and peoples, information and public consciousness. Russia isn’t interested in splitting up or redrawing the Islamic world; on the contrary, it maintains a consistent steady position in favour of strengthening its unity.

In order to meet the challenges of our time successfully, it’s necessary, firstly, to ensure the high credibility of Russia’s Muslim clergy and its Islamic theological schools. Today, there are 82 centralised registered Islamic religious organisations in Russia. Muslims are well aware of the first sura of the Quran, according to which there is no other prophet except Muhammad. However, at the same time we all understand that we mustn’t forget the spiritual leaders themselves… firstly, they’re people with moral authority that they must use for beneficial purposes. The clergy should be educated and enlightened people who can give a clear and impeccable canonical assessment of the most severe challenges and threats we face today. This initiative should be yours; we can’t pass it on to informal leaders who’re actively involved with the faithful. There are individuals who tend to support theological schools and extremist ideas alien to our country, seek to undermine traditional Islam’s position here, the unity of Russian society, and ultimately desire our country’s collapse.

Based on centuries of national experience in religious education and its rich theological heritage, Russian Islam has everything necessary to have its say in development. Therefore, one of our most important tasks is to reconstruct our own Islamic theological schools, which would ensure the sovereignty of Russia’s spiritual space. Most importantly, the majority of international Muslim scholars would recognise such a move. Such schools must respond to the most recent developments in Russia and the world, and evaluate them in ways that are both understandable and credible for believers. I’m sure that if we can achieve this, it’d help you to provide a clear moral assessment of both good and criminal acts.

27 January 2018

RMC Russian Mufti Council

https://muslim.ru/en/articles/127/4804/

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