I almost always agree with the courageous whistleblowing former UK Ambassador Craig Murray, but not including this from him on April 25th:
“I condemn the invasion of Ukraine and I have no hesitation in calling Putin a war criminal. However for precisely the same reasons so are Bush and Blair [for their invasion of Iraq]. It astonishes me how very few people in the media are prepared, in the current emergency, to acknowledge this.”
Here’s why I don’t “acknowledge this”:
When Bush/Blair invaded Iraq on 20 March 2003, it was entirely on the basis of lies by themselves and their respective Administrations, and by their mainstream ‘news’-media, which stenographically conveyed those politicians’ lies to the public despite knowing, even at the time, that at least some of those lies WERE lies and yet they failed to point this crucial fact out to their audiences at the time or even afterward. (Instead, the falsehoods had been mere ‘intelligence failures’ — which was/is another lie, retrospectively piled on top of the main one.)
U.S. President George W. Bush seems to have been informed, in advance, about a New York Times article (which was the lead-story in the newspaper on Sunday, 8 September 2002), titled “U.S. SAYS HUSSEIN INTENSIFIES QUEST FOR A-BOMB PARTS”, in which the sources were anonymous “Administration officials.” The story concerned “aluminum tubes” that were “intended as casing for rotors in centrifuges, which are one means of producing highly enriched uranium … to make an atomic bomb, Bush administration officials said today.”
We just heard the Prime Minister talk about the new report. I would remind you that when the inspectors first went into Iraq and were denied — finally denied access, a report came out of the Atomic — the IAEA that they were six months away from developing a weapon. I don’t know what more evidence we need [in order for Congress to authorize an invasion of Iraq].
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Absolutely right.
Then, as soon as the weekend was over, on Monday 9 September 2002, was issued by the IAEA the following:
Related Coverage: Director General’s statement on Iraq to the IAEA Board of Governors on 9 September 2002 [this being a republication of their notice three days earlier, on 6 Sep.].
Vienna, 06 September, 2002 – With reference to an article published today in the New York Times [which, as usual, stenographically reported the Administration’s false allegations, which the IAEA was trying to correct in a way that would minimally offend the NYT and the U.S. President], the International Atomic Energy Agency would like to state that it has no new information on Iraq’s nuclear programme since December 1998 when its inspectors left Iraq [and verified that no WMD remained there at that time]. Only through a resumption of inspections in accordance with Security Council Resolution 687 and other relevant resolutions can the Agency draw any conclusion with regard to Iraq’s compliance with its obligations under the above resolutions relating to its nuclear activities.
Contact: Mark Gwozdecky, Tel: (+43 1) 2600-21270, e-mail: M.Gwozdecky@iaea.org.
It even linked to the following statement from the IAEA Director General amplifying it:
Since December 1998 when our inspectors left Iraq, we have no additional information that can be directly linked without inspection to Iraq’s nuclear activities. I should emphasize that it is only through resumption of inspections that the Agency can draw any conclusion or provide any assurance regarding Iraq’s compliance with its obligations under these resolutions.
So, this was proof of the falsehood of Bush’s and Blair’s reference, on September 7th, to the IAEA, in which Bush-Blair were saying that, upon the authority of the IAEA itself, there was “the new report … a report came out of the Atomic — the IAEA that they were six months away from developing a weapon. I don’t know what more evidence we need.”
Because of the news-media’s ignoring the IAEA’s denial of the President’s statement, the author of the IAEA’s denial, Mark Gwozdecky, spoke again nearly three weeks later, by phone, with the only journalist who was interested, Joseph Curl of the Washington Times, who headlined on 27 September 2002, “Agency Disavows Report on Iraq Arms” — perhaps that should instead have been “President Lied About ‘Saddam’s WMD’” — and Curl quoted Gwozdecky: “There’s never been a report like that [which Bush alleged] issued from this agency. … When we left in December ’98 we had concluded that we had neutralized their nuclear-weapons program. We had confiscated their fissile material. We had destroyed all their key buildings and equipment.” Other news-media failed to pick up Curl’s article. And, even in that article, there was no clear statement that the President had, in fact, lied — cooked up an IAEA ‘report’ that never actually existed. Actually, the IAEA hadn’t even so much as been mentioned in that New York Times article.
Bush had simply lied, and Blair seconded it, and the ‘news’-media stenographically accepted it, and broadcasted their lies to the public, and continued to do so, despite the IAEA’s having denied, as early as September 6th, that they had issued any such “new report” at all. (The IAEA had, apparently, somehow known in advance that someone would soon be saying that the IAEA had issued a report alleging that Iraq was resuming its nuclear program.) Virtually all of the alleged news-media (and not only the NYT) entirely ignored the IAEA’s denial (though it was not merely one bullet, but rapidly fired on four separate occasions, into the wilderness of America’s ‘news’-media) that it had issued any such “report.” All of them were actually only propaganda-media: they hid the fact that George W. Bush was simply lying. Both the U.S. Government and its ‘news’-media were frauds.
The day after that 7 September 2002 unquestioned lie by Bush, saying Iraq was only six months from having a nuclear weapon, and citing the IAEA as his source for that, the New York Times ran their article. It included such hair-raisers as “‘The jewel in the crown is nuclear,’ a senior administration official said. ‘The closer he gets to a nuclear capability, the more credible is his threat to use chemical or biological weapons. Nuclear weapons are his hole card.’” The fake ‘news’ — stenography from the lying Government and its chosen lying sources (in this case anonymous Administration-officials) — came in an incessant stream, from the U.S. Government and its ‘news’ media (such as happened also later, regarding Honduras 2009, Libya 2011, Yemen 2011-, Syria 2011-, Ukraine 2014, and Yemen 2015-). Do the American people never learn — ever — that their Presidents and ‘news’-media) now lie routinely?
Also on Sunday, September 8th, of 2002, the Bush Administration’s big guns were firing off against Iraq from the Sunday ‘news’ shows; and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice delivered her famous “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud” statement, which was clearly building upon the lying Bush allegation of the day before, that the International Atomic Energy Agency had just come up with this ominous “Atomic” “new report.”
Then, President Bush himself, on 12 September 2002, addressed the U.N. General Assembly, seeking authorization to invade:
We will work with the U.N. Security Council for the necessary resolutions. But the purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced — the just demands of peace and security will be met — or action will be unavoidable. And a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power.
Events can turn in one of two ways: If we fail to act in the face of danger, the people of Iraq will continue to live in brutal submission. The regime will have new power to bully and dominate and conquer its neighbors, condemning the Middle East to more years of bloodshed and fear. The regime will remain unstable — the region will remain unstable, with little hope of freedom, and isolated from the progress of our times. With every step the Iraqi regime takes toward gaining and deploying the most terrible weapons, our own options to confront that regime will narrow. And if an emboldened regime were to supply these weapons to terrorist allies, then the attacks of September the 11th would be a prelude to far greater horrors.
Bush (and Blair) failed to win any authorization to invade, but did it anyway. They should be hung for it. They were atop a bi-national and entirely bipartisan (in each of the two countries) public-deception operation, like had occurred in Germany during Hitler’s time. (Hitler was a boon for his nation’s armaments-makers then, just as America’s Presidents now are for America’s armaments-firms.)
And both of America’s political Parties are controlled by their billionaires, who fund the political careers of the politicians whom those mega-donors want to become s‘elected’ by the public to win public offices. For example, whereas George W. Bush lied America into invading and destroying Iraq, Barack Obama and Joe Biden lied America into believing that their coup overthrowing and replacing Ukraine’s democratically elected Government in February 2014 was instead a ‘democratic revolution’ there. It’s so bad that even the progressive Democratic Party site, David Sirota’s “The Daily Poster,” has NEVER exposed anything about that Obama coup and about those Obama-Clinton-Biden lies about Ukraine, and about the U.S. Government’s planned conquest of both Russia and China — the things that might actually produce WW III (in other words: are even more important than what they do report about). In fact, Sirota had the nerve, on 15 February 2022, to post to Vimeo an anti-Republican-Party propaganda video, “The Pundits Who Lied America Into A War”, against the Republican Party’s liars who deceived the American people into invading and destroying Iraq in 2003 — though almost all leading Democrats, including Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton, had voted in the U.S. Senate for (not against) that lie-based invasion, and though all Democratic-Party ‘news’-media (and not ONLY the Republican-Party ones) unquestioningly transmitted the Bush-Administration’s lies to the American people, against Iraq, in order to fool Americans into supporting the then-upcoming U.S. invasion. That Sirota video entirely ignores the Democratic-Party “Pundits” — such as the Party’s think tank, the Brookings Institution, whose Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, propagandized on TV and elsewhere to invade Iraq (such as in Pollack’s Council on Foreign Relations article, “Invasion the Only Realistic Option to Head Off the Threat from Iraq, Argues Kenneth Pollack in The Threatening Storm” did). Whereas Democrats blame Republicans, and Republicans blame Democrats, it’s the billionaires of BOTH Parties who actually fund all of these lies and liars — and who continue to fund those liars’ careers, and to present them on their ’news’-media as ‘experts’, to fool the public to okay the trillions of dollars that the U.S. Government pays to those billionaires’ corporations such as Lockheed Martin, to profit from those wars. It’s hypocrisy on top of lying, so as to convey an impression that neoconservatism — U.S. imperialism — is a ‘Republican’ (or else a ‘Democratic’) evil, when it’s ACTUALLY an evil by the billionaires who fund BOTH Parties AND who fund the ’news’-media, both liberal and conservative, and who profit from those invasions. It’s not just the lies of America’s Presidents; it is the lies that are funded by America’s billionaires, who placed such people as that into Congress and the White House. This regime is an aristocracy, and imperialism is second nature to aristocrats. But an aristocracy is a dictatorship by the very rich — NOT any sort of democracy. This is the type of dictatorship that America now has — NOT a Republican dictatorship, or a Democratic dictatorship, but a dictatorship by the aristocracy, of BOTH Parties. They have made a mockery of their ‘democracy’. Practically everything they do is fake, except the vast harms that they produce.
Putin, regarding Ukraine, was responding (stupidly, in my opinion, but that’s another matter) to the U.S. regime’s very real “provocations” (as he typically understates such things) against Russia’s most vital national-security interests. Russia has (and for years has publicly stated) a vital national-security interest in preventing nuclear weapons against Russia being installed on or near Russia’s border. It’s true in 2022, just as America had a vital national-security interest in preventing nuclear weapons against America being placed 100 miles from America’s border during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. It wasn’t a made-up, lying, pretext for an invasion, like America’s “Saddam’s WMD” lies were in 2002 and 2003. That makes all the difference.
Russia is America’s victim in this. And America chose and trained and is arming Ukraine to serve as the first battleground of its World War III to conquer Russia. Biden and his team should be tried as international war-criminals, but Putin and his team aren’t anywhere even nearly as bad as all U.S. Presidents during this Century are and have been. Putin made a strategic error by invading Ukraine prematurely, as he did. But that does’t automatically make him a “war criminal.” He is trying to defend Russia’s most crucial national-security interests. That’s no lie — and that makes all the difference.
The Moscow–Tehran Axis: Alliance without Rigid Obligations
Russia and Iran are finding ever more points of convergence in their foreign policies and across the domain of economic cooperation. It is no coincidence that a record number of high-level visits between the two countries have taken place this year, the most recent being Vladimir Putin’s visit to Tehran to take part in the Syria summit of the leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran.
Fostering relations with Iran, along with the continued functioning of the Astana Process, demonstrate Moscow’s increasing use of pragmatism in its foreign policy: any non-Western power is a welcomed partner, even if there are contradictions and inconsistencies in its relations with Russia.
Biden in the Background
The Astana summit and Putin’s visit to Tehran came immediately after U.S. President Joe Biden’s tour of the Middle East. Despite numerous commentators suggesting that the Russian leader’s visit to Iran was a “response” to the initiative of the American president, there is no real substance to this argument. What Biden’s trip does do is place the trilateral meeting in the Iranian capital into a wider context.
The Middle East is one of those regions where the presence of the United States and Russia matters, although the dynamics of their engagement are diametrically opposed to one another. While Washington is gradually pulling out of the region that holds less and less allure for the White House, Moscow is doing exact the opposite, being increasingly pulled into the processes unfolding in the Middle East.
The basic approaches of the two sides differ as well. The United States has become accustomed to finding allies in the region so that they can become conductors of its policy, while at the same time looking for key troublemakers that it can try to contain and isolate. Russia, on the other hand, does not have friends or enemies in the region. Over the past decade, Moscow has been trying to act as a universal mediator, maintaining relations with all the key forces in the Middle East.
Against the backdrop of the events in Ukraine, the United States has set about trying to turn Russia into an international pariah. Moscow sees the Middle East as a possible route to circumventing the sanctions, even if partially, so it is only logical that Washington would seek to isolate Russia in the region. This is proving somewhat difficult, however, even with its impressive list of allied states and the lukewarm reaction of Middle Eastern countries to Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine. For one thing, no one in the Middle East wants to be faced with a choice between Moscow and Washington. In the Middle East, Russia remains a player to be reckoned with, and its interests coincide with those of almost all the countries in the region—including Washington’s partners—on a whole range of issues.
Take Turkey, for example, a NATO member who has serious disagreements with Russia over Syria, Libya and the South Caucasus. Worse still, Ankara has openly criticized Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, lending active support to Kiev by supplying hi-tech weapons. At the same time, Turkey, much as Russia, does not hide its annoyance at the U.S.-established order in the regions adjacent to its territory, notably the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean. Let’s not forget Russia–Iran trade relations as trade turnover between the two amounted to some $33 billion in 2021 and the bilateral trade is expected to reach even greater heights by year-end 2022. Given this, Ankara will clearly want to continue dialogue with Moscow, both with regard to Syria and on other issues.
A somewhat similar situation has been the case for the Arab countries in the Persian Gulf. Not a single one of these has joined the Western sanctions against Russia, and the United Arab Emirates is turning into something of a hub for Russian capital. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has made it clear that his country places its agreements with OPEC+, where Russia is a key player, above U.S. interests, and Joe Biden’s visit did nothing to change this.
Outside the Persian Gulf, President of Egypt Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has also refused to pursue a policy to isolate Moscow. Cairo has been one of the biggest importers of Russian weapons in recent years. And, like the United Arab Emirates, the country is also cooperating with Russia on Libya. Finally, there is another important U.S. partner, namely, Israel. Despite some friction with Moscow, Tel Aviv is still willing to cooperate with Russia to sustain its policy of containing the Iranian threat in Syria. In other words, all these players have more than enough reason to turn their backs on the binary approach that Washington imposes on them, where they are forced to choose between the United States and Russia.
The Astana Model
It would be quite a mistake to dub Joe Biden’s tour of the Middle East a complete failure. He got some wins here and there, such as the Saudi decision to open flights to and from Israel. Besides, it is unlikely that the U.S. was harboring any real hopes to reverse the regional alignment, including the attitudes towards Russia, all in a single trip. What is telling here is the situation as such. The events in Ukraine were indeed a turning point in relations between Moscow and the West—however, the Middle East did not undergo any major changes until February 24, 2022, and later.
Today, the situation in the region is much different to the Cold War-style polarization that analysts bring up so frequently. The Middle East of 2022 is a complex combination of multi-vector approaches of various countries. All this is not so much a reflection of Washington’s weakness as it is an illustration of the fact that Russia continues to be an important and legitimate player for Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and this is unlikely to change any time soon.
It is this difficult political climate that gave rise to the Astana format, a platform where the parties with different approaches—and even waging a proxy war against each other—can come to the negotiating table as partners who resolve issues. True, this format may only have worked in relation to the Syrian dossier in years gone by, but the most recent summit took the paradoxical relations between the countries to a new level. Turkish drones carry out targeted attacks on the Russian Army, which in turn shoots them down. But this did not prevent Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan from sitting at the same table and having a constructive conversation at the meeting in Tehran. Moreover, one of the main topics on the summit’s side-lines did not even have anything to do with the region, and that was finding a solution to the issue of exporting grain through the Black Sea.
This has nothing to do with banal hypocrisy on the part of sides with opposing interests. The participants in the Astana summit were not hiding behind smiles, sticking their middle finger up at each other from inside their pockets… no, they held a constructive dialogue. The grain issue was eventually resolved thanks to the negotiations between Turkey and Russia, and the summit in Tehran was largely responsible for getting the two together in the first place.
The Astana summit is swiftly turning into a model that reflects the basic principles of Russia’s foreign policy. What this model essentially boils down to is political realism in its purest form, where everyone is invited to cooperate, regardless of accumulated problems and disagreements, assuming the sides have overlapping interests.
And the invitation has effectively been extended to the West: despite the proxy conflict waged between Europe and Russia on the Ukrainian soil and despite the economic war in the form of sanctions, Moscow is nevertheless prepared to sell oil and gas to Europe. “Gazprom has always fulfilled and will continue to fulfil its obligations in full. If that’s what European countries want, of course, as they are the ones closing the pipes,” Vladimir Putin noted calmly at a press conference following the Tehran summit.
At the same time, the Astana format stands at odds with the traditional integration models of the West, which believes similar values to be a prerequisite for alliances. Certainly, the Americans do not always follow this approach. Still, even those relationships where common values typically play little if any role—such as that between the United States and Saudi Arabia—become bogged down by human rights issues (in this case, Biden’s condemnation of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi). In the present situation, we see that the Astana model of radical realism allows Russia, in such a difficult situation, to pursue dialogue with all players in the Middle East, while the United States is facing problems talking to its traditional allies.
With the relations with the West collapsed owing to the Ukraine crisis, Russia’s policy towards Iran is increasingly perceived as a policy case that could be heading in a promising direction. Putin’s trip to Iran did not bring any significant breakthroughs, although news reports about the summit and events surrounding it were overwhelmingly positive. One newsworthy item, for example, was the launch of the rial/rouble pair on the Tehran Currency exchange on the day of the summit, while another was a memorandum signed between National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and Gazprom to involve investments of approximately $40 billion into Iran’s oil sector.
Some important news came out shortly after the Russian President’s visit, such as the decision to increase the number of flights between Russia and Iran up to 35 per week, or the announcement that an agreement on the supply of aircraft parts and maintenance work was being drawn up, or plans to earmark $1.5 billion for the development of railway projects in Iran.
It must be noted here that there is no guarantee that all these initiatives will be successful in the end. For one, timelines have not been set out for most of the projects, and not all of them will even reach the stage of implementation. And those that do—for example, the supply of aircraft parts—will concern a limited set of products. The Iranian aviation industry has been in a rut for a number of years now, thanks to the sanctions. They have learned to make certain things on their own, sure, but most parts are either imported through third countries or stripped from old planes that no longer fly.
Despite all this, some projects might turn out to be rather successful. The number of areas where cooperation between the two countries is possible is clearly expanding, and this is thanks to the sudden spike in interest on the Russian side in Iran. In addition to this, traditional pockets of cooperation are getting a new push. For example, the export of Russian agricultural products against the backdrop of the global food problem is fast becoming a key element of Iran’s food security. And the North–South Transport Corridor, which has been operating in test mode for the past few years, could very well become the main export route for Russian products.
A certain rapport can also be witnessed in the domain of foreign policy. Iran’s reaction to the events in Ukraine was more positive than that of the other Middle Eastern states. During his meeting with Vladimir Putin in Tehran, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, stressed that NATO would have started a war with Russia on the pretext of Crimea if it had not been stopped in Ukraine. Certain changes can also be seen in Syria, where Russia’s responses to the actions of Israel are becoming increasingly harsh. Finally, the hallmark of the trilateral summit in the Iranian capital was the attempt of Tehran and Moscow to convince Ankara to abandon its military operations in Syria.
Be that as it may, there is no way the alignment between Russia and Iran would turn into a full-fledged alliance. The main reason why this will never happen is because of Russia’s image in Iran, which is riddled with negative historical connotations. Distrust of Tehran and a poor understanding of its policies can be found among the Russian elite as well. Besides, the sides disagree quite strongly on a number of issues, including their respective policies in the Middle East and how to resolve the territorial disputes over the Caspian Sea.
Also keep in mind that Russia and Iran are competitors in the energy market. The agreement with Gazprom largely stems from Russian efforts to gain leverage over the Iranian oil and gas industry. Exactly how much leeway the Iranian side will give to Russian companies remains to be seen.
However, paradoxical as it may sound, the bunch of contradictions that has accumulated in Russia–Iran relations does not stand in the way of rapprochement between the two countries. Russia is realistic in its approach, and this makes it possible to focus on areas of common interest, even when there are far more problems in bilateral relations, for example in Moscow’s relations with Ankara. At the same time, both Moscow and Tehran are extremely interested in an alternative to the West-dominated economic order. Neither country can do this alone, but these two “political outcasts” countries are better suited to the task than anyone else.
Here, positive developments were reflected in the conclusion of a long-term strategic agreement between Russia and Iran similar to the documents that Tehran signed with China and Venezuela. Judging by what Russian officials said, the project will be finalized quite soon. Importantly, the agreement will take the form of a memorandum—a formal confirmation that the intentions do not impose any direct obligations on the two countries. The “Russia–Iran axis” will continue to move in more or less the same direction. Relations between the two countries may well expand and deepen with each passing year to never-before-seen levels, but the sides harbor no intention of taking any unwanted obligations, including becoming allies.
From our partner RIAC
Astana Trilateral Summit 2022: What did Russian President Achieve?
Since he launched the fateful invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Russian President had not traveled outside the former Soviet territories. His only visit outside Russia was to “friendly” Central Asian States in June, where he predictably received a warm reception. The first trip by Putin outside former Soviet territories proved to be to the Iranian capital Tehran for the Astana Trilateral Summit — a forum established for the settlement of the Syrian conflict and features key players in the Syrian conflict: Russia, Iran, and Turkey. Unsurprisingly, the Syrian conflict took a back seat and the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine dominated the discussions at the trilateral summit.
After the boycott of Putin by the Western world, the Russian leader has been attempting strategic and economic reorientation toward Asia and has achieved considerable success in making up for the losses in revenues incurred owing to the Western economic sanctions by selling oil at heavily discounted prices to countries like China and India. The trip to Iran provided the beleaguered Russian leader an opportunity to dissipate the impression of Russian isolation — no matter if the support extended is from a state under the severest of Western sanctions – Iran. The outright endorsement of his Ukraine invasion and scathing condemnation of the Western world was precisely the music Putin wanted to hearken and the Iranian Supreme Leader had plenty to offer.
Nonetheless, being under Western sanctions has positioned both the countries abreast and Russia, by offering even cheaper energy rates, has captured the energy and steel markets previously held by under-sanctions Iran. The shift did cause some resentment in Iran and Putin sought to assuage the Iranian grievances by signing the $40 billion deal between the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and Gazprom for the development of oil and gas fields in Iran. Nonetheless, the suspicions do persist as the Iranian Supreme Leader pushed Russians to follow up and fulfill the agreements signed between the two countries in the oil and gas sectors.
Putin’s Tehran visit has cemented Russia’s position as an important power broker in the Middle East having friendly relations with countries on both sides of the regional Middle Eastern divide. Besides its longstanding relationship with Iran, Russia’s intervention in the Syrian civil war forestalled the almost certain downfall of Bashar’s regime and the country is also a party in the Libyan civil war, wherein it patronizes the warlord Khalifa Haftar. Moreover, Russia now has a multifaceted relationship with the USA’s Arab allies — particularly Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar — primarily owing to the convergence of their energy interests in OPEC Plus. The Arab countries also avoided harshly denouncing the Russian invasion of Ukraine — as the West would have anticipated — so as to avoid antagonizing Moscow, and top Saudi and Emirati royals reportedly declined calls from President Biden during the initial days of the invasion.
Days before Putin visited Tehran, President Biden took a trip to the Middle East and in his address to a gathering of Arab leaders, tried to reassure Washington’s Arab allies that the superpower remains committed to the region and urged oil-rich Arab nations to increase their oil production to mitigate global oil price shock caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Following Biden’s visit, the de facto Saudi ruler Muhammad Bin Salman and President Putin during a phone call agreed to keep coordinating within the framework of OPEC Plus. Accordingly, during the cartel’s meeting held on August 3rd the OPEC Plus members agreed to make a small increase in the oil production, which is unlikely to drastically impact the energy prices as President Biden counted upon.
Even more remarkably, in utter defiance of the US sanctions, Saudi Arabia is importing Russian oil at discounted price for domestic use while selling its oil at higher prices in the international market. In effect, in a major geopolitical turnaround for Moscow in the Middle East, Putin has been able to reaffirm its partnerships, and the days of Arab capitals uncritically following Washington’s lead are all but over.
Putin’s meeting with Turkish President Erdogan during Astana Summit also captured headlines — initially after the Russian President was left awkwardly standing for around 50 seconds waiting for his Turkish counterpart before their meeting and successively for the discussions between the two strongmen to strike a deal to freight the Ukrainian grain from its three Black Sea ports (the deal has now been reached). During the discussions on Syria, Erdogan reportedly talked about the Russian President as “My dear friend Putin” in an exhibition of the close relationship between the two strongmen. Though Turkey and Russia feature on the opposite sides of equations in the Syria, Libya, Azerbaijan-Armenia, and Ukraine conflicts, they have long-lasting trade and energy ties. Turkey, despite being a member of NATO, did not join the Western sanctions against Russia and is now buying more oil from Moscow. Correspondingly, Moscow looks to Turkey as a partner — nonetheless a difficult one — among a host of antagonists and as a crucial market for its energy products and wheat. Yet another meeting between the two leaders in the Russian city of Sochi further hollows Western gambits to isolate Russia for its invasion of Ukraine; meanwhile, Putin continues to assemble allies.
Russia (Re)Schedules African Leaders Summit for 2023 in St. Petersburg
With perspectives on making a well-designed substantive agenda, African leaders will be getting ready for the next grand photo opps, witness the delivery of those sparkling high-powerful speeches and finally sign series of new bilateral agreements during the upcoming second Russia-Africa summit scheduled for mid-June 2023 in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Despite the unprecedented sanctions and information warfare launched by the United States and its satellites, Africa has become a priority of Russia’s foreign policy, according to Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, noting further that “Russia highly appreciates the readiness of Africans to further step up economic cooperation, and the signed agreements and the results will be consolidated at the forthcoming second Russia-Africa summit.”
During his late July visit to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Lavrov informed in one of his speeches about broadening African issues in the “new version of Russia’s Foreign Policy Concept against the background of the waning of the Western direction” and this will objectively increase the share of the African direction in the work of the Foreign Ministry. Relating to the next summit mid-June in 2023, “a serious package of documents that will contain almost all significant agreements” is being prepared, he emphasized illustrating his passion for signing agreements.
Arguably the number of agreements signed is not the criteria for measuring success of influence in Africa. Nevertheless, Lavrov said that the two most important goals of the summit will be to sign off on “a memorandum of understanding between the government of the Russian Federation and the African Union on basic principles of relations and co-operation” and “a memorandum of understanding between the Eurasian Economic Commission and the African Union on economic co-operation.”
Russia already has thousands of decade-old undelivered pledges and several bilateral agreements signed with individual countries, yet to be implemented, in the continent. In addition, during the previous years, there has been an unprecedented huge number of working visits by state officials both ways, to Africa and to the Russian Federation.
After the first summit, Russia–Africa discussions become a permanent fixture at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, while Roscongress continues working on the African track until the next Forum. That Sochi summit brought together 54 African states, 45 of which were represented by their heads of state, and also attended by the heads of executive bodies of eight African regional organizations.
President Vladimir Putin and Egypt’s Abdelfattah El-Sisi underlined the importance of opportunities to develop investment and trade between which would help to strengthen relations in line with the 2063 concept [agenda] developed by the African Union. And that Russia has, with a vast array of competencies in previous years, is ready to implement joint projects aimed at improving people’s quality of life in Africa.
In total, there were 268 speakers participated in various discussions of topical issues. Resultantly, 92 agreements and contracts were signed at the summit. There were two key agreements that include: (i) Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Russian Federation and the African Union on basic principles of relations and cooperation was adopted at the Summit in the presence of Vladimir Putin and Abdelfattah El-Sisi.
(ii) a Memorandum of Understanding between the Eurasian Economic Commission and the African Union on economic cooperation was signed by Tigran Sargsyan, the Chairman of the EEC Board, and Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission.
Then, at the initiative of African participants, a new dialogue mechanism – the Russia-Africa partnership forum – has been created. It was agreed that top-level Russia-Africa meeting will take place within its framework once every three years, alternately in Russia and in an African state. Both Russia and Africa could not agree on the summit in 2022, and in an African country.
The Heads of State and Government from Africa and Russia adopted a final declaration that reflects the principles coordinated by the two sides, the most important of which, according to El-Sissi, are:
–. respect for international law and the UN Charter,
–. the movement towards peace and security through the creation of more equal and fair international relations
–. and a world order based on the principles of multilateralism, respect for national sovereignty, non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries
–. and the peaceful settlement of crises, as well as the protection of national identity and civilisational and cultural pluralism.
“Our declaration has reaffirmed the goals of Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We have approved a ministerial mechanism for promoting dialogue and partnership. We appreciate all these moves and believe that they have created a solid foundation for the further development of Russian-African relations,” said El-Sissi.
In an authoritative policy report presented last November titled – Situation Analytical Report – and prepared by 25 Russian policy experts, it was noted that “the intensification of political contacts is only with a focus on making them demonstrative.” The number of high-level meetings has increased during the previous years but the share of substantive issues on the agenda remains small. There are few definitive results from such meetings. Next, there has been a lack of coordination among various state and para-state institutions working with Africa.
Late July 2022, TASS news agency reported that Russia has always offered African countries mutually partnership based on mutual interests, unlike some other partners. “We always offer equal cooperation. We offer projects that would be of interest to this or that side. It is never a one-way street other partners often offer to Africans, sometimes implicitly, sometimes openly,” Deputy Speaker of Russia’s Federation Council (Upper Parliament House), Konstantin Kosachev, said in an interview with Russia’s TV Channel One.
He noted that Russia and Africa have many spheres for cooperation. “They include high technologies, the nuclear industry, machine-building, medicine, pharmaceuticals, the development of transport infrastructure, and, naturally, the energy sector. Each of these topics are important for African countries,” he added.
That said, preparations for the next Russia-Africa summit mid-2023 are currently underway. “The Russian side aims to continue preparing the second and aims at making it as efficient as possible. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other ministries are taking steps to build a full and mutually beneficial cooperation between Russia and the African countries, including the formation of a reliable social and economic infrastructure, food and energy security on the continent,” according to Oleg Ozerov, Ambassador-at-Large and Head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum.
With its impressive relations, Russia has not pledged concrete funds toward implementing its policy objectives and tasks in Africa. Moreover, Russian officials have ignored the fact that Russia’s overall economic engagement is largely staggering and various business agreements signed are still not fulfilled with many African countries. There is a distinctive divide between what has been pledged and promised at high-level meetings and summits, compared to what has actually materialized on the ground. For now there is very little to celebrate, except for speeches, photo-opps and sign a new communique (joint declaration), at the next African leaders summit in St. Petersburg in 2023.
Worth saying here that African leaders are waiting to cut white ribbons marking the successful completion of Russian-managed something. Really it is time to swift from regular rhetoric and move on towards implementing the package of bilateral agreements especially those involving infrastructure investments, and further determine financing sources for concrete projects and deliver on decade-old pledges and promises made to the people of Africa.
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