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Russia Increases Its Defense, While U.S. Backs Down From Provoking WW III

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Ever since Joe Biden became America’s President in January, America’s hostile and threatening actions and rhetoric against (as Biden refers to him) the ‘killer’ Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President, have made clear to Putin that the U.S. Government’s determination to impose regime-change upon Russia will continue undiminished. This hostility from Biden has dashed Putin’s hope that the string of sanctions which the U.S. Government has constantly been adding to ever since President Obama started the anti-Russian sanctions in 2012, would end, or at least not continue to be added to, under Biden. 

Perhaps the clincher, in Putin’s mind, was Biden’s appointment, on January 16th (four days prior to becoming President), of Victoria Nuland to the #2 spot in the U.S. State Department, where, during Obama’s Presidency, as a third-ranked official there who reported directly to Obama (instead of to her nominal boss the Secretary of State), she had planned, and organized the bloody coup that installed a rabidly anti-Russian Government in Ukraine on Russia’s border. This coup in Ukraine is as if during the Cold War the Soviet Union were to have perpetrated a bloody coup installing an anti-U.S. government in Mexico or in Canada (something that the U.S. Government would never have tolerated for even a moment — consider the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 as an example), and Putin now is making clear that he will not tolerate any further increases in America’s anti-Russian threats and aggressions. (In fact, Nuland also was one of the chief planners of America’s aggressions against Syria, which has long been an ally of Russia. The plans against both Ukraine and Syria were first being firmed-up under her during 2011. Obama intended even when he entered office in 2009, to replace Syria’s Government, but the decision to replace Ukraine’s Government didn’t come right away. On 12 April 2010 Yanukovych met the U.S. President at the White House, to which Obama had invited him, but Yanukovych refused Obama’s suggestions that Ukraine join America’s alliance against Ukraine’s next-door neighbor Russia. On 2 July 2010, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Yanukovych held a joint press conference in Kiev, where she said that she had discussed with Yanukovych joint military exercises with U.S. forces against his neighbor, Russia. Yanukovych declined the demands, and Nuland already by no later than 23 June 2011 was planning for the coup. This regime is out to conquer Russia, any way it can.)

What is most remarkable about the U.S.-and-allied press coverage of the February 2014 coup in Ukraine is that it is always being misrepresented in the U.S.-and-allied countries as a ‘democratic revolution’, and nobody in the U.S.-and-allied countries (other than a few journalists in small non-mainstream media, such as I) has publicly called attention to the fact that is was a coup, which fact was clearly on display in the phone-conversation between Nuland and the U.S. Ambassador in Ukraine that was first posted to the internet on 4 February 2014, three weeks before the coup that placed “Yats” Yatsenyuk into power there: Nuland, who was a third level down in the State Department’s bureaucracy, was, in that conversation, actually instructing the U.S. Ambassador whom to get appointed to run the new Government after the coup would be over: “Yats.” She made that choice. Nobody in Ukraine did. Nor did the U.S. Secretary of State — her nominal boss. John Kerry, who was the U.S. Secretary of State, wasn’t the person who made that incredibly important decision, and the CIA also wasn’t the agency which did — Nuland, herself, made the decision, in this case; and the U.S. Ambassador there was, clearly, accepting her authority, to be speaking on behalf of the President of the United States: Barack Obama. That coup was clearly planned by the White House. And it was run through the State Department, not through the CIA (which had been the U.S. regime’s traditional method for coups). The CIA was just paying the bribes and hiring the goons, not doing the planning, for this operation. (Furthermore, the conversation, at its very end, dotted the “i”s on her authority and indicated that V.P. Biden was aware that she possessed direct authority from Obama to make these decisions. Biden’s claims during the 2020 Presidential contest, saying that Obama had given Biden the authority to run the Ukrainian operation, were lies. He was a mere functionary, and, even at that, functioned only after the coup was already over. At 4:05- in the video, Nuland said, “… when I wrote the note, [Jake] Sullivan’s [note has] come back to me VFR [meaning in response to her formal request to make these decisions without needing higher-level authorization] saying ‘you need [[V.P.]] Biden[’s approval] and I said [to Sullivan that Biden would give her that formal authorization] probably tomorrow for an ‘atta boy’ [meaning that Biden’s okay was only a formality] and to get the dets [details] to stick; so, Biden’s willing.” The Ambassador response to this was “Okay, great; thanks,” meaning that he had no question, and this exchange ended their conversation. For more details decoding that conversation, see here and here.) 

On 23 November 2020, CBS headlined “Biden to appoint Jake Sullivan as national security adviser” and also reported that Antony Blinken would be the Secretary of State. Sullivan and Blinken were friends of Nuland, and all of them had long records as neoconservatives; but nonetheless the subsequent appointment of Nuland to be #2 at State was a shocker because Nuland was a neocon even amongst neocons. In fact, she had been Dick Cheney’s national security advisor when George W. Bush was President. She has been a constant, probably planning all of the 21st Century U.S. invasions and coups. No one is more bloodthirsty than she. But Biden calls Putin a “killer.”

America’s meta-strategy, at least since 2006, has been to ‘win’ WW III against Russia, whereas Russia has always remained with what had been the meta-strategy on both sides, of having nuclear weapons only in order to be able to deliver an annihilating retaliatory response if the opposite side blitz-attacks it with nuclear weapons. That previous (in the United States, but still current in Russia) meta-strategy is called “Mutually Assured Destruction,” or “M.A.D.” for short.

As I had headlined and documented on 3 May 2017, “America’s Top Scientists Confirm: U.S. Goal Now Is to Conquer Russia”. That article quoted America’s top experts on nuclear war as saying that America’s “boosting the overall killing power of existing US ballistic missile forces by a factor of roughly three … creates exactly what one would expect to see if a nuclear-armed state were planning to have the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war by disarming enemies with a surprise first strike.” This would nearly be sufficient superiority of U.S. forces to fulfill the plan which had been first described publicly in America’s two most prestigious international relations journals, as being a suitable replacement for “M.A.D.”: “Nuclear Primacy”. That’s the goal for America to blitz-nuclear attack Russia so quickly that Russia won’t have enough time to launch a retaliatory response. America’s Establishment wants it to happen. (They are even buying luxurious deep-underground nuclear-bomb-proof shelters so that they will be among the few survivors from it.)

Putin is now taking the situation to be so dangerous for Russia so that he has publicly established “red lines” in U.S. policies, which, if crossed by the United States or its allies, might be responded to by Russia’s being the first to strike — the start of WW III — even though that would destroy the entire world, including Russia itself.

Though he takes a great risk with these “red lines,” he seems to believe that by establishing them, there is less of a risk to Russians than if he continues to pretend that M.A.D. remains as being American policy. He is, in effect, forcing Joe Biden to choose now, between Nuclear Primacy versus M.A.D. Putin is now publicly warning the U.S. Government and America’s allies what could possibly be responded to by Russia’s blitz-attacking them. That’s what this new Russian policy is all about: pre-announced red lines.

The biggest hot spot, where a world-destroying nuclear war is the likeliest to be sparked, is in Ukraine, after Barack Obama’s February 2014 coup in Ukraine (on Russia’s border) which coup illegally and violently overthrew Ukraine’s democratically elected President and replaced him by a racist-fascist (or nazi) anti-Russian regime that promptly began an ethnic cleansing operation in its far south and far east in order to eliminate voters who had (in the far east, the Donbass region) voted 90%+ for him, and (in the far south, including Crimea) voted 75%+ for him. (Only by eliminating those people could the Obama-imposed regime remain in power after an election.) Obama had started planning this operation in 2011, and by the time of June 2013 a part of this plan was for America to replace Russia’s largest naval base, which was (and remains) in Crimea, by establishing yet another U.S. naval base there. (Putin — with the strong backing of the Crimean people — blocked that part of Obama’s plan.)

On April 15th, the U.S. regime’s Associated Press (AP) propaganda agency headlined a thousand-word “EXPLAINER: What’s behind the conflict in eastern Ukraine?” and devoted one section of it to “WHAT ARE THE ROOTS OF THE CONFLICT?” and another section to “WHAT’S THE U.S. ROLE?”, but nowhere in it was anything that has just been documented here, via the links, to be true — none of that was — even so much as just mentioned, in that entire ‘news’ article.

Here are headlines from April 17th regarding Ukraine:

“Ukraine’s military chief urges authorities to refrain from creating armed formations”: This reports an announcement by Ukraine’s Government telling its independently organized volunteer nazi battalions: please do not invade Donbass unless and until authorized to do so. Those battalions had previously been given to understand that they would soon be authorized to invade. The Ukrainian General is here telling those battalions (such as the nazi Azov Battalion, which has been championed by the U.S.-and-allied governments) that premature actions on their part might be exploited by Russia for its purposes (for Russian propaganda). This plea to those far-right mercenaries can only be very disappointing to them. Both of Ukraine’s two nazi Parties, Svoboda (originally the Social Nationalist Party of Ukraine), and Right Sector (meaning “Right Wing” in the extreme senses), are on the front lines there, and have publicly threatened to overthrow Ukraine’s current President if he fails to invade Donbas soon. Those mercenaries could quickly turn against him.

“Russia Shuts Ukraine’s Military Access To [the Sea of Azov]”: Beginning “next week,” and continuing at least until October, Russia will prevent any military vessels of or allied with the United States from passing through the Kerch Strait, which transits from the Black Sea, into the Sea of Azov, which latter is Ukraine’s sole coastal waters. (That U.S.-written headline erroneously said “Russia Shuts Ukraine’s Military Access To Black Sea,” because confusing the Black Sea with the Sea of Azov is common. However, that news-report provided an excellent map which shows what the article was actually reporting: Russia will close off U.S-and-allied warship-access to Ukraine’s coast.) The implication of this news-report is that until (at least) October, Ukraine must avoid invading Donbas, or else do it without being able to be militarily resupplied by the U.S. and its allies. 

“FAA issues warning for flights in Russia-Ukraine border airspace”: This is a warning to airlines to avoid that area because of the possibility of war breaking out imminently there (warning them to avoid events like the 17 July 2014 MH17 incident).

In other words: Putin is finally putting his foot down. He won’t tolerate any more of what Obama and Trump were dishing out.

On April 15th a headline was “U.S. drops plans to send destroyers into the Black Sea due to concerns over Russia”. This is one of several strong signs that Biden understands that crossing one of Putin’s red lines would be extremely dangerous.

The stooge-President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, appears to be trapped between what he has promised to do — which is for Ukraine to retake both Donbas and Crimea (the same thing that his predecessor Petro Poroshenko had promised)  — and what will be within his power to do. Even the U.S. empire, which had placed him (and Poroshenko — and Poroshenko’s predecessor “Yats” Yatsenyuk) into nominal control over that country, won’t actually risk WW III in order to keep him in power there. At the present point in time, the best that Zelensky can reasonably hope for is to survive beyond his clearly doomed Presidency. He is learning that being a stooge is not a comfortable position to occupy.

On April 20th, the U.S. Democratic Party news-summary site “Political Wire” headlined “Leaked Ukraine Memo Shows Scope of Russia Aggression” and reported that “‘Russia has been holding last-minute military exercises near commercial shipping lanes in the Black Sea that threaten to strangle Ukraine’s economy,’ according to an internal document from Ukraine’s ministry of defense reviewed by Axios” (another Democratic Party ‘news’ site). In an America whose population is torn between the suckers of Democratic Party billionaires versus the suckers of Republican Party billionaires, each Party’s ‘news’ sites reaches virtually only that Party’s voters; and, so, the most popular of the many reader-comments there is blindly pro-Biden (like pro-Trumpers are about Trump), from “S1AMER”: “The economic base of Russia is shaky at best, and nearly all Russians can see that and personally feel it. So Putin no doubt thinks he can get restive Russians to rally around him if he invents a war (‘Ukraine invaded us!’) or just elevates the profile of a common enemy (‘US and NATO are picking on us!’). (And, of course, all this mightily distracts the Russian populace from the imminent death of Putin’s most effective opponent [here presumably Navalny].) Disaster appears likely to be lurking around the corner. We should be very glad we have our current president on the job, and that NATO and the USA and other decent countries just might do all (or at least most) of the right things going forward.”

Author’s note: first posted at Strategic Culture

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Russia, Turkey and the new geopolitical reality

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Putin erdogan sochi

The recent Russia – Turkey summit in Sochi, even though yielding no tangible outcomes (as became clear well before it, the summit would  not result in the signing of any agreements), has evoked a lot of speculation – ranging from assumptions of the “failure” of talks to fairly optimistic forecasts for the future of bilateral relations.

What can be seen as a clear result of the meeting is that the two sides acknowledged readiness for further dialogue. A dialogue is vital also in view of the fact that western countries have been curtailing their military and political presence in the region, which has thus led to the formation of a terrorist state in Afghanistan.

According to Sergei Lavrov, terrorist threat persists and has even been intensifying in Idlib: «Terrorist groups operating from beyond the Idlib de-escalation zone continue to attack the positions of the Syrian army, what’s more, they have been trying to act against the Russian contingent», – the Russian foreign minister told a news conference following talks with his Egyptian counterpart, after the summit in Sochi. A solution to the problem lies, he said, in “complete implementation of the agreements signed by Presidents Putin  and  Erdogan to the effect that terrorists, first of all, from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, should be isolated regardless of whatever new slogans they might come up with and for the purpose of quelling all these terrorist groups”.

As a final agreement on de-escalation in Idlib is expected to be reached, sources report a build-up of Syrian army forces along the Syrian side of the demarcation line, on the one hand, and a concentration of Turkish military groups, on the other (whereas after talks in Sochi the Turkish military started to retreat to the north – A.I.) Opposition representatives have been making aggressive statements again, even though in Sochi, Dmitry Peskov said,  the two sides reiterated their “commitment to earlier agreements, underscored the need to implement  these agreements by clearing Idlib of terrorist groups which  were still there and which could pose a threat and  launch a fierce attack against the Syrian army”.

Turkey keeps accusing Russia of breaching a ceasefire agreement for the northwest of Syria of March 5, 2020, while Russia maintains that Turkey is not acting on its commitments and that it is unable (or unwilling? – A.I.) to separate terrorists from armed opposition. For these mutual accusations the two presidents use politically correct statements, while their discontent over the situation is articulated by foreign ministers, press secretaries and MPs.

In brief, Moscow’s position is as follows: Bashar Assad is a legally elected head of the Syrian Arab Republic, the territorial integrity of which is beyond doubt.  A compromise with Damascus calls for similar steps from the opponents, whereas confrontation in Idlib and in other hot spots across Syria should be the responsibility of countries whose troops are deployed there without the approval of the UN or without invitation from official Damascus. These countries are known – the United States and Turkey.

While Moscow and Ankara are often at odds over the Sunni opposition, their attitudes to Kurdish nationalists are less of a clash. Moscow sees them as “mere” separatists who “have not been lost” for Damascus, while Ankara describes them as terrorists that should be eliminated or neutralized by a buffer zone which Turkey has been building and strengthening for several years.

Some experts and politicians believe that this will last forever. In 1920, the already not quite Ottoman but not yet Turkish Parliament adopted the so-called National Vow, which specified that New Turkey would include Syrian and Iraqi territories, which currently border Turkey. Even though the move failed, the National Vow is still, if only unofficially, seen as a founding ideological document of the Turkish Republic, the implementation of which cements the authority of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Moreover, areas occupied by the Turkish army (which make up more than 10% of the Syrian territory) are used for accommodating Syrian refugees, of which there are over three and a half million in Turkey proper. Turks’ growing discontent over the presence of such “guests” is adding to social instability. A new influx could trigger a public outcry in the run-up to parliamentary elections scheduled for 2023.

In all likelihood, Ankara believes that any serious concessions in Idlib will entail the collapse of the entire “buffer zone” project and will invalidate three military operations and the multimillion investments. In addition, it will bring back “the Kurdish issue”, destroy the image of Turkey as a trustworthy ally, and will inflict irreparable damage on the reputation of the incumbent authorities.

Nevertheless, Cumhuriyet observer Mehmet Ali Guller argues that Erdogan suggested readiness to make concessions when he said: «We agree that the time has come to secure a final and lasting solution to the Syrian issue. We announced that we are open for any realistic and fair steps in this direction».

From our point of view, there is nothing about “concessions” in what Erdogan says but what is clear is that he is, if only unwillingly, beginning to accept The Syrian reality. After years of demanding the removal of Bashar Assad, the Turkish leadership no longer issues statements to this effect, though it refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of the incumbent regime (contacts at intelligence agency level do not count), promising to withdraw troops only after the establishment of “democratic rule” in Syria. But democracy as seen through the Middle East realities is something vague and unclear.

Furthermore, Erdogan is forced to “re-evaluate values” by a growing tension in relations with western allies. The Turkish president, after years of speaking strongly in favor of American presence in Syria, is now calling for the withdrawal of the  American contingent from the country.

A consolidated position of Ankara’s western partners on Russia-Turkey relations was formulated by Die Zeit: during talks with the Russian leader in Sochi Erdogan played the role of a “requestor”, since he “missed a decisive factor – the West”, which he needs as “a critically important partner, which makes it possible for Ankara not to bow to Russia”. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu did not agree to that: «We are a NATO member, on the one hand, but on the other hand, our relations with Russia are progressing…..Why should we make a choice [between them]?».

«It’s no secret that Ankara’s and Moscow’s interests in the region do not  coincide…..[but] The positive responses of the two countries’ leaders on the results of talks in Sochi suggest that Moscow and Ankara are prepared to remove all misunderstandings by dialogue», – Ilyas Kemaloglu, political analyst with Marmara University, says. Haberturk Media Holding observer Cetiner Cetin argues that American troops’ “flight” from Afghanistan and their gradual departure from other regions is creating a new geopolitical reality, which means that “Turkey might continue to distance itself from NATO in order to find itself among top players within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization”.

While economic ties between Russia and Turkey are mostly problem-free, the political relations are often an issue. However, every time they meet, Putin and Erdogan manage not only to “quell” conflict, but to make a way for cooperation. The reason is that the two countries, despite their tactical differences, share the strategic goals: diktat of the West is unacceptable, the leading role in the East should belong to regional powers. As long as we share these goals, a Russia-Turkey alliance will be beneficial for both parties.

From our partner International Affairs

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The 30th Anniversary of the Renewal of Diplomatic Relations Between Russia and Israel

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Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey V. Lavrov’s article for the Israeli Newspaper “Yedioth Ahronoth” dedicated to the 30th Anniversary of the Renewal of Diplomatic Relations Between Russia and Israel, October 15, 2021.

On October 18, Russia and Israel celebrate the 30th anniversary of the renewal of full-fledged diplomatic relations – the beginning of a new era of common history.

Turning to the pages of the past, let me recall that the USSR was the first country to recognize de jure the State of Israel back in May 1948. Of course, there were ups and downs in the chronicle of our relationship. Today, it could be assessed with confidence that Russian-Israeli mutually beneficial cooperation has stood the test of time and continues to actively develop in all directions.

Its foundation is formed by an intensive political dialogue, foremost – at the highest level. Inter-parliamentary contacts are progressing, bolstered by Friendship Groups established in the legislative bodies of our countries. Inter-ministerial communications are carried out on a regular basis.

Over the past decades, a solid experience of diversified cooperation has been accumulated in such spheres as economics, science and technology, healthcare and education. More than twenty acting intergovernmental agreements reflect the richness of the bilateral agenda.

Our mutual practical cooperation has significant potential. A number of joint projects are being successfully implemented. Many initiatives have received the support of the President of the Russian Federation and the Prime Minister of the State of Israel. The interest of Israeli business circles in entering the Russian market continues to grow. Despite the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, by the end of 2020 trade between Russia and Israel decreased by only 3.9%, and in January-July this year it increased by 51.8% over the previous year’s period. The key coordinating mission in these common efforts is fulfilled by the Joint Russian-Israeli Commission for Trade and Economic Cooperation, founded in 1994. We are interested in the early resumption of its work in full.

A special role in strengthening the unifying baselines of our relations as well as ensuring their stability and continuity belongs to humanitarian contacts. We appreciate the high level of mutual understanding between the peoples of Russia and Israel, connected by a common historical memory and convergence of cultures. It is encouraging that this thread, which has no geographic boundaries, is only getting stronger in course of time.

There are millions of Russian-speaking compatriots living in Israel, including descendants both from the former Republics of the USSR and from the Russian Federation. Veterans of the Great Patriotic War, survivors of the siege, former prisoners of concentration camps are among them. The fate of these people is of major interest to us.

Most vigorous rejection of the attempts of historical revisionism, combatting the distortion of the genesis, course and generally recognized international legal outcomes of the World War II have always united Russia and Israel. We will continue to coordinate our efforts, and specifically at the UN, to counter this shameful phenomenon.

While in some countries of Central and Eastern Europe Nazi henchmen are being brought to the level of national heroes and neo-Nazi tendencies are being revived, the memory of the decisive contribution of the heroic soldiers of the Red Army to the Victory over Nazism, the saving of Jews and other peoples from extermination, the liberation of the world from the horrors of the Holocaust is sacred in Israel. We see how Israeli colleagues – at the state and public levels – encourage the activities of the veterans and compatriots movements, conduct active work to educate the younger generation.

It is difficult to overestimate the significance of the law on Celebrating the Victory Day over Nazi Germany on May 9, approved by the Israeli parliament in 2017. It is particularly telling that on the 76th anniversary of the Great Victory, celebrated this year, festive events and commemorative parades along with the Immortal Regiment march were held in more than 45 Israeli cities. Thousands of Israelis of all ages as well as officials participated. This scale speaks for itself.

Cooperation in the field of education and science – whether through student and academic exchanges or joint scientific research continues to move forward. Every year, students from Israel get an opportunity to receive higher education in Russian universities. All of them are sincerely welcome there.

We hope that it will be possible to restore mutual tourist flows as soon as the sanitary and epidemiological situation improves. Russia is traditionally one of the top three countries in terms of the number of visitors to Israel.

The Russian-Israeli dialogue is vigorously advancing through the foreign ministries. It is obvious that without constructive interaction of diplomats it is impossible to solve a number of international and regional problems that are of paramount importance both for ensuring the prosperous future of the peoples of Russia and Israel just as for strengthening international and regional security and stability. From this perspective, diversified contacts between the Security Councils and the defense ministries of our countries have also proven themselves well. On a regular basis it allows us to compare approaches and take into account each other’s legitimate interests.

Russia is pursuing an independent multi-vector foreign policy, contemplating pragmatism, the search for compromises and the observance of balances of interests. Creation of the most favorable external conditions for our internal socio-economic development remains its backbone. We have no ideological likes and dislikes, or any taboos in relations with our foreign partners, therefore we can play an active role in the international arena and specifically through mediation in the settlement of conflicts.

We are interested in continuing consultations with our Israeli partners on security and stability issues in the Middle East. We always draw attention to the fact that comprehensive solutions to the problems of the region must necessarily take into account the security interests of Israel. This is a matter of principle.

At the same time, we are convinced that there is no alternative to the two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on a generally recognized international legal basis. We strongly support direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. A comprehensive solution to all issues of the final status is possible only through it. We are ready to work with Israeli colleagues, including multilateral formats, primarily in the context of the renewal of work of the Middle East Quartet of international mediators in close cooperation with representatives of the Arab League.

I am convinced: it is in the common interest to maintain the momentum. Ahead of us are new milestones and additional opportunities not only to continue, but also to enrich the positive experience of multifaceted cooperation for the benefit of our states and peoples, in the interests of peace and stability.

Source: Minister of Foreign Affairs

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The Emerging “Eastern Axis” and the Future of JCPOA

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Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Saeed Khatibzadeh recently said that Tehran would further strengthen its ties with Moscow via a strategic partnership. Said Khatibzadeh  ‘The initial arrangements of this document, entitled the Global Agreement for Cooperation between Iran and Russia, have been concluded’

    This agreement will be similar in nature to the agreement signed by Iran with China in March 2021, dubbed as the strategic cooperation pact, which sought to enhance economic and strategic relations (China would invest 400 Billion USD in infrastructure and oil and gas sector while also strengthening security ties). Commenting on the same, Khatibzadeh also said that an ‘Eastern axis’ is emerging between Russia, Iran and China.

    Closer ties with Russia are important from an economic, strategic point of view, and also to reduce Iran’s dependence upon China (many including Iran’s Foreign Minister had been critical of the 25 year agreement saying that it lacked transparency). Iranian Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on the eve of his Russia visit from October 5-6th, 2021 also stated that Iran while strengthening ties would not want to be excessively dependent upon either country.

Iranian Foreign Minister’s visit to Russia

    Iranian Foreign Minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian  during his Russia visit  discussed a host of issues with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov including the current situation in Afghanistan, South Caucasus, Syria and the resumption of the Vienna negotiations.

Russia and Iran have been working closely on Afghanistan (on October 20, 2021 Russia is hosting talks involving China, India, Iran and Pakistan with the Taliban).

It is also important to bear in mind, that both Russia and Iran have flagged the non-inclusive nature of the Taliban Interim government. Russia has in fact categorically stated that recognition of Taliban was not on the table. Said the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly,   ‘the whole gamut of Afghan society — ethno-religious and political forces — so we are engaging in contacts, they are ongoing.’

China’s approach vis-à-vis Afghanistan

Here it would be pertinent to point out, that China’s stance vis-à-vis Afghanistan is not identical to that of Moscow and Tehran. Beijing while putting forward its concerns vis-à-vis the use of Afghan territory for terrorism and support to Uyghur separatist group East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), has repeatedly said that there should be no external interference, and that Afghanistan should be allowed to decide its future course. China has also spoken in favor of removal of sanctions against the Taliban, and also freeing the reserves of the Afghan Central Bank (estimated at well over 9 Billion USD), which had been frozen by the US after the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban.

If one were to look at the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action JCPOA/Iran Nuclear deal, Russia has been urging Iran to get back to the Vienna negotiations on the one hand (these negotiations have been on hold since June), while also asking the US to return to its commitments, it had made under the JCPOA, and also put an end to restriction on Iran and its trading partners.

Conversation between US Secretary of State and Russian Foreign Minister

The important role of Russia is reiterated by the conversation between US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken with Russian Foreign Minister. Angela Merkel during her visit to Israel also made an important point that both China and Russia had an important role to play as far as getting Iran back on JCPOA is concerned. What is also interesting is that US has provided a waiver to the company building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline connecting Russia and Germany. The US has opposed the project, but the Department of State said waiving these sanctions was in US national interest. Both Germany and Russia welcomed this decision.

In conclusion, while there is no doubt that Russia may have moved closer to China in recent years, its stance on Afghanistan as well as it’s important role in the context of resumption of Vienna negotiations highlight the fact that Moscow is not keen to play second fiddle to Beijing. The Biden Administration in spite of its differences has been engaging closely with Moscow (a number of US analysts have been arguing for Washington to adopt a pragmatic approach vis-à-vis Russia and to avoid hyphenating Moscow with Beijing).  In the given geopolitical landscape, Washington would not be particularly averse to Tehran moving closer to Russia. While the Iranian spokesperson, Saeed Khatibzadeh spoke about a Eastern axis emerging between Moscow, Tehran and Beijing, it would be pertinent to point out, that there are differences on a number of issues between Moscow and Beijing. The Russia-Iran relationship as well as US engagement with Russia on a number of important geopolitical issues underscores the pitfalls of viewing geopolitics from simplistic binaries.

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