In a “Russia Insight” TV interview of Russian President Vladimir Putin that was uploaded to youtube with English subtitles on March 10th, NBC’s Megyn Kelly asked him why America’s ABMs wouldn’t be able to knock out Russia’s new missiles. He answered (16:40): “We have created a set of new strategic weapons that do not follow ballistic trajectories, and the anti-missile defence systems are powerless against them. This means that the U.S. taxpayers’ money has been wasted.”
A ballistic missile — the types of missiles at which an ABM or anti-ballistic missile is directed — is not just any type of missile, but instead is a missile with a certain type of trajectory, which goes above the Earth’s atmosphere and then comes down largely using the force of gravity instead of continuously under propulsion and strict control. Putin is saying that Russia’s new missiles, which are designed so as not to be adhering to the flight-paths that ballistic missiles do, can’t be hit by anti-ballistic missiles.
Putin referred to Russia’s largest new missile as “Voyevoda.” The missile’s manufacturer posts online about it, “33 launches in all were conducted, 97.4% of them successful.”
She then asked him whether these weapons will be used only if Russia comes under a nuclear attack, or against any attack; he answered it would be either a nuclear attack “or a conventional attack on the Russian Federation, given that it jeopardizes the state’s existence.” He implied that if an ally of Russia gets attacked, Russia will respond only with non-nuclear forces.
Then, he volunteered to say, in response to a question about what the issues would be that Russia would want formal negotiations with the U.S., that, “today, when we are acquiring weapons that can easily breach all anti-ballistic missile systems, we no longer consider the reduction of ballistic missiles and warheads to be important.”
She asked whether the new weapons he was referring to could be “part of the discussion,“ and he said they “should, of course, be included in the grand total.”
This interview continued with non-nuclear matters, such as the accusations that he had interfered in America’s 2016 Presidential contest, or tried to. His answers were very direct, but viewers who support the ongoing Russiagate investigations will probably not believe his answers.
As regards the weapons-issues, there is posted online a brilliant technical description of the types of engineering issues that the Russians have been developing for decades, in which they’ve led the world and in which their lead has been widening, and which were behind what Putin was speaking about in his March 1st speech. Though that technical description was a reader-comment, instead of an article, it was article-length, and makes the issues clear; and the article that it was commenting upon was itself brilliant: and it links to an earlier brilliant article by Andrei Martyanov; so, all three of those together enable a pretty clear understanding of what’s involved in Russia’s biggest strategic-weapons breakthroughs.
New American-Russian Conflict: A Confrontation beyond Cold War
The conflict between the White House and Grand Kremlin Palace, which by far is more dangerous and intense than that of the Cold War era, seems to have reached its peak.
The 2008 Russo-Georgian War was a clear instance of Russian military confrontation with one of the allies of the United States.
The Russo-Georgian War was a war between Georgia, Russia and the Russian-backed self-proclaimed republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russia and Georgia were both formerly constituent republics of the Soviet Union.
During the battle, Russians troops drew very close to Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, forcing Mikheil Saakashvili, former president of Georgia who was a US ally to surrender. Then, the dialogue between Georgia (US) and Russia began at two levels. On the surface, were the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) special moves for expansion to the East and the adoption of military configurations in the Baltics. However, the underlying agenda for the US was to bring down Russia’s political system through its neighbors like Ukraine.
Today, we are witnessing the power struggle between Russia and the US that has certain properties.
The tension between Moscow and Washington, as mentioned, is rising, and both states more than ever before have been boasting their power to the extent of elimination of the other. Failed plans such as “Anti-Proliferation: to limit the expansion of nuclear weapons technology” and Nuclear Disarmament: to reduce the total number nuclear devices in existence, ideally down to zero,” are clear examples of the conflict.
NATO plays a pivotal role in the recent dispute between the two states. In the summer of 2017, NATO troops held a large scale defensive drill, “Iron Wolf 2017”, on the border separating Poland and Lithuania, to deter Russian aggression.
In response, Russia conducted Zapad 2017 military drills with Belarus in September of the same year in Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad bordering Poland and Lithuania. It was Russia’s largest exercise since the Cold War with 12,700 troops in the drills.
In 2017, Russia tested its new hypersonic missile, 3M22 Zircon, an anti-ship missile with five times the speed of sound.
Clearly, Moscow’s objective is to challenge NATO and the US naval and military capabilities. However, on a larger scale, Russia intends to frighten the US and the EU and create a sense of fear and insecurity through boast of power, a sense of “warning that a war is on the way.” Obviously, here NATO will change the balance of power to the benefit of Russia.
On the other hand, the recent decision by the US and NATO members in the establishment of two command centers in America and Germany against Russia, and enhancement of NATO and US nuclear weapons in German’s territory, reveal Washington’s long-term military strategy against Moscow.
The concerns have put Washington’s and NATO’s at an alert level for a possible military attack on Moscow.
Despite recent warnings from influential political figures like former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev, the late and ongoing conflicts between the US and Russia can lead to a condition far more grim than the Cold War era.
In this mayhem, factors such as “multiplicity of actors,” “increasing the rate of international actors’ vulnerability,” “modernizing nuclear weapons,” will enhance the cost of the new confrontation between Washington and Moscow.
Europe turns into battleground between US, Russia
As the conflict between Washington and Moscow is on the rise, many analysts believe the world will be going through a repeat of tensions of the Cold War era or even worse.
NATO’s (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and Russia’s new type of military drills both represent a radicalization of the climate between the two sides and a shift from “political” dispute to “military” conflict.
Although the real conflict is between Washington and Moscow, NATO’s European member states will inevitably get affected by the dispute, the result of which can severely threaten the European Union’s (EU) security.
European countries were hit the worst post-World War II andCold War and were the main victim of the wars devastating effects due to their geopolitical position.
Today, given the deployment of American’s nuclear missiles in Europe and Russian’s on Western European borders, Europe can once again become the “main battlefield” between the White House and the Kremlin.
Even if no war breaks out between the United States and Russia, European countries will experience the aftermath of the conflict on their economy, which is pretty much dependent on imports and exports, and will be hit by a tsunami of immigration.
Nowadays, the likelihood of the European Union collapse, due to internal and external threats, has increased more than ever before which is a matter of concern for many EU leaders.
In a wrap, European states don’t hold certain theoretical and practical framework or policy in regulating relations with Moscow and Washington, thus many of them have become involved in the conflict between the two powers, a process that can be very dangerous for the European Union.
What can salvage the European continent which is stuck in the middle of the US and Russia’s tug of war is the formation of a coalition of EU member states that are also part of NATO to mediate in the growing crises between the United States and Russia.
Russia Is Offering an Olive Branch, Not Flaunting Nuclear Weapons
President Vladimir Putin’s recent address to the Federal Assembly made quite a splash in the international community. Unsurprisingly, particular attention was paid to the sections of the address in which the president spoke in detail about boosting Russia’s defense capabilities, creating new weapons systems and readiness to ensure national security.
The Kremlin’s critics in the West immediately accused the Russian leadership of “militarism,” “pandering to the military-industrial complex,” stoking international tensions, demonstrating aggressive tendencies and other such sins.
Many analysts have drawn the disappointing conclusion that the tone of the address essentially determines Moscow’s priorities for the next six-year cycle and, moreover, excludes the possibility of meaningful cooperation between Russia and the West in the creation of a new world order.
However, are there sufficient grounds for such a hasty and pessimistic conclusion? Hardly anyone in their right mind, either in the West or in the East, will deny the fact that ensuring a country’s security is a task of foremost importance for any leader. Just how this task is met under particular historical circumstances is another matter.
Historical justice demands recognition of the fact that for a long time, Russia did everything it could to avoid a costly and absolutely unnecessary arms race with the West. Moscow has certainly done its part to meet the West halfway since the end of the Cold War. I would even say that Moscow has done most of the work. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Russia’s Western partners.
I will give an example from my own personal diplomatic experience.
I remember quite well the truly titanic efforts that Russia channelled into its attempt to preserve the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union.
The issue was central at numerous meetings between the presidents of the two countries. For many years, talks on the subject were held between the Foreign Ministers and Defense Ministries. Russia proposed various options for compromise that would have allowed the parties to preserve the Treaty.
The UN General Assembly supported the Treaty, adopting the appropriate resolution by an overwhelming majority vote in late 1999. Many countries, including allies of the United States, viewed the ABM Treaty as the cornerstone of international security.
Unfortunately, all our attempts to salvage it were in vain, despite the fact that Russia was among the first countries to offer support to the United States after the attacks of September 11, 2001, suggesting that we fight international terrorism together.
When Moscow rejected Washington’s proposal that the two countries jointly withdraw from the ABM Treaty, the United States used the relevant article to withdraw unilaterally. In December 2001, the United States announced its withdrawal from the Treaty, giving Russia six months notice. The ABM Treaty was then terminated in 2002.
At the same time, the United States stepped up its efforts to create its own global missile defense system and announced that it would deploy elements of this system in Europe. Representatives of several U.S. administrations earnestly attempted to convince Russia that this was done solely for the purpose of countering the Iranian nuclear threat.
Russia condemned such actions and pointed to their dangerous consequences, yet never gave up trying to arrive at a mutual understanding with the United States on the subject of missile defense. In particular, Russia proposed various plans to create a joint missile defense system in Europe.
Lacking sufficient arguments against Russia’s convincing stance (which, incidentally, enjoyed broad global support), the U.S. leadership was forced to stick to vague general statements, which essentially boiled down to: “the United States does not consider Russia a possible adversary, and the new missile defense system does not threaten Russia’s security. At the same time, Russia, which the United States trusts, can, in turn, develop any systems it deems necessary to ensure its own security.”
It then became crystal clear to everyone that Washington was steering a course for unilateral foreign policy actions intended to establish a unipolar world.
What was Russia’s response? In his address, President Vladimir Putin demonstrated convincingly that if there is no chance of a political agreement with partners, then we need to take adequate military-technical steps. Yet these are forced measures, something that Russia has long tried to avoid.
Achieving political agreements on international security today is infinitely more complex than it was ten to fifteen years ago. But this path is still open.
What is more, it is still preferable for Moscow. The unbiased listener will not find even a hint in the President’s address at the possibility of aggressive steps on Russia’s part, or of it rattling its new weapons systems.
The President noted that, having ensured its own security, Russia does not intend to threaten anyone. Moreover, Russia is open to talks on the full range of international security issues, including, naturally, the issue of arms control.
And this is not mere rhetoric. Has Russia not always stressed its interest in preserving the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), extending the New START Treaty, and boosting nuclear non-proliferation? Has Moscow ever questioned the compliance of all parties concerned with the multilateral agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue? Is Moscow threatening unilateral military action on the Korean Peninsula?
It is important that the world clearly hears and properly understands the signal coming from Moscow. Today, the world is undergoing a profound crisis of the entire global security system. If anyone hopes to use the instability and unpredictability of global politics in their unilateral interests, it will only exacerbate the crisis with all that it entails, including consequences for those very actors who are ready to fan this instability and unpredictability. The international community has already lost enough time since the end of the Cold War.
Moscow is proposing another path: to immediately launch talks on creating a new security system that corresponds to today’s reality. To do this, it is first necessary to abandon outdated stereotypes and simplistic ideas about one’s own infallibility and unlimited authority.
A new, single and indivisible world order may arise only as a result of joint efforts and consideration of the interests of all states, in the East and in the West, large and small, developed and developing.
Russia hopes that its partners will properly understand this signal.
First published in The Moscow Times.
The Eurasian Economic Union: The Core of Continental Integration
The chairmanship in the (EAEU) in 2018 was passed to Russia from Kyrgyzstan. The presidency includes the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council (president level) the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council (prime minister level) and the Council of the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC). Among the main expectations and plans for the year there are:
- The admission of new countries.
- Digital economy development.
- Strengthening of national currencies as a way of de-dollarization.
- Working on conclusion of the agreement on free trade zone with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Among the highlights of the year there are :
– approval of the Customs Code by all country-members of the EAEU;
– coordination of the digital agenda by the member countries of the Union;
– systematic removal of barriers and restrictions in the EAEU markets and
– development of cooperation with other countries.
The year 2017 for the EAEU was marked by positive dynamics in different sectors: on the whole industrial production growth in the Union amounted to 3.6 %, in agriculture – 1.5 %, in freight and passenger turnover – to approximately 7 %. In 2017 the volume of bilateral trade in the Union increased by more than a quarter. Since the beginning of 2017 foreign direct investment (FDI) in the EAEU has almost doubled.
An important line of action of the EAEC, in which significant success has also been achieved, is the establishment of relations with the European Union. As stated by Tigran Sargsyan, Chairman of the Board of Eurasian Economic Commission: “We note that in this year «the ice was broken». This is an important point. Previously, the EU was forced to follow closely what is happening in the EAEU, what institutions we set up and how we adhere to the declared standards. By now the contacts between the EAEC and the EU-level departments of the two commissions have started to develop”. According to the Eurasian Economic Commission, the main buyer of exported goods of the EAEU is the European Union: 50.3 % (of total exports), among them, the main buyers are the Netherlands (10,9 %), Germany (7.3 %), Italy (6,3 %), Poland (3.4 %). It is obvious that sanctions and the food embargo has not prevented the increase in turnover of bilateral trade. According to some experts, there has recently been some positive signals in the launching of the industry dialogue between the EAEU and the EU. Regarding cooperation between the EU and the EAEU in the energy sector, it is important to understand that in the near future the share of the Eurasian continent will account for more than half of the total world electricity demand, and therefore it will have a significant impact on the development of global energy. Note that the planned reforms of the EACE energy market (in 2019-2025) are being developed on the basis of the WTO regulatory framework. This increases the level of compatibility of European and Eurasian energy unions. The Director of the EAEC Integration Development Department, Sergey Shukhno said: “In the foreseeable future the EAEC expects to establish a full-scale dialogue in its relations with the EU.” Business, particularly in Europe, actively promotes contacts between the two unions and, in fact, is a kind of catalyst for the establishment of relations.
Iran plans to join the Union in February 2018. The Iranian market after the lifting of sanctions begins to open up to external players and is very interesting for companies of the countries-members of the Union. In addition, on the list to sign economic and trade agreements with the Eurasian economic Union there are such countries as India, Egypt, Israel, Serbia and Singapore. At present EAEC has been in intensive dialogue with these countries. About 50 countries have expressed a desire to cooperate with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEC), as stated in one of his speeches of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
National currencies and de-dollarization
At present about 70 % of payments for exports in the EAEC are made in national currencies. The use of the national currencies by the members of the Union in mutual transactions helps the business – it reduces currency risks and removes various economic and regulatory barriers. In addition, it helps the EAEC economies to strengthen the macro-economy and to develop local financial markets.
According to a report published by the EDB Centre for Integration Studies the share of Russian ruble in the currency structure of payments in the EAEU has increased over the last six years from 56% to 75%, while the dollar’s share during the same period decreased from 35 % to 19 %. According to their data, the settlements between the countries in rubles make up more than 69 billion dollars, in U.S. dollars – about 18 billion dollars, in Euro – about 5 billion dollars. Strange as it may sound, but the policy to reduce dependence on the dollar was also helped by the economic sanctions imposed by Western countries against Russia in 2014. It should be noted that the Euro is also gradually being pushed out of payments inside the EAEU: if in 2013 the share of Euro settlements was 8%, then in 2017 it was reduced to 6%. According to analysts’ forecasts, if the growth of the ruble’s share continues to grow at the same rate, then the countries of the EAEU can completely switch to trading in rubles by 2023-2025. Of course, much depends on the stability of the world economy.
According to expert assessments, the history of the EAEU began not from the moment of the formation of the Union in 2015, but from the collapse of the USSR. The Eurasian Union began its development under the influence of various factors and not as an attempt to create the USSR 2.0, but as a reaction to global macroeconomic processes. Some western experts point out that this is a Moscow project aimed at strengthening Russia’s geopolitical influence. Moreover, Moscow is called the initiator and the progenitor of new integration in the post-Soviet space. However, the historical fact is that the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev presented the project of the Eurasian Union in March 1994.
To date, the EAEU model is characterized by a market economy and an institutional arrangement in accordance with democratic systems. It is important to note that the decisions, directives and recommendations of the EAEC Council are taken by consensus, which indicates full equality of the participating countries. The EAEU agenda is deliberately limited to economic cooperation. And no matter how Western critics tried, political issues are not within the competence of the EAEU, but are resolved in the formats of bilateral interaction, for example, the Union State of Russia and Belarus, the CSTO and the CIS.
First published in our partner International Affairs
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