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7 ways the US plans to destabilize Russia ahead its March presidential election

Vladimir Putin will stand for a 4th term as president – meanwhile the US does what it can to undermine Russia

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(off-guardian) – Russian March 2018 Presidential Elections are approaching. Putin has recently announced that he will run as a candidate. The global players who don’t want Putin to stay in power will likely do everything possible to get rid of him. Let’s explore some possible pressure points and try to predict the most unpleasant developments.

The measures to destabilize Russia amid the elections are most likely to be complex and could potentially include:

1. Exacerbating situation in Eastern Ukraine/Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic. A coordinated, big scale assault on break-away regions by the Kiev government and ultra-nationalist battalions, if successful, could be exploited informationally by evoking a public discourse inside Russia about Putin betraying the people of Donbass/Novorossia, or being incapable of helping them, which could potentially decrease his approval ratings domestically. There are reports of soldiers from the US National Guard, namely the New York’s 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT), being moved to Ukraine in late October 2017, so we might expect some dangerous provocations early next year. Also, as post-2014 history shows, any increase in military clashes between the Kiev government and Donbass rebels could as well be used internationally to demonise Russia and Putin personally (by blaming it on him directly), which could conveniently serve as a justification for tougher economic sanctions, thus enabling more intense economic warfare against the Russian Federation.

2. Direct US/NATO attack against the Syrian government. Similar to what happened on April 07, 2017, the United States government could use casus belli (manufactured by, say, the White Helmets) to launch a series of missile/airstrikes on the Syrian Arab Army forces, leaving Russia with very little choice but to leave its Syrian ally behind and surrender its geostrategic interests in the region in order to evade direct military confrontation with the United States government (the confrontation that could potentially escalate to a nuclear war). That would not only plummet Putin’s domestic approval ratings, but would also harm his reputation in the Muslim world and in Arabic speaking countries, compromising Russia’s foreign policy in the Middle East, Central Asia, Pakistan, as well as potentially spawning an anti-Putin sentiment in the Caucasus region. Such strategy would certainly be dangerous to play, because it, indeed, can lead the world to a Nuclear Apocalypse; yet, given the observed desperation and lack of wisdom among certain circles in the modern US elite, we can’t rule this scenario out completely.

3. Banning Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyengchang and excluding Russian athletes and representatives from various international sports organisations. This has already happened. Russian track and field athletes were previously banned from participating in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio. Then the entire Russian Paralympic team got under a “blanket ban” followed by a WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) report written by a Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, who accused the Russian government of running a state-funded doping program. The report was based on unverifiable testimony given by the former head of Russia’s anti-doping agency (RUSADA) Gregory Rodchenkov. Rodchenkov’s sister Maria was accused of selling illicit substances by the Russian Federal Drug Control Service way back in 2011. Rodchenkov himself was also accused of being complicit in the illegal drug sale, but he managed to evade jail because he was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (F32.3). Yet, the written testimony of a convicted drug dealer (convicted by the Russian government itself!) who also suffers from mental health issues was enough to play as key evidence in the case against the Russian government, which originally led to the ban of the entire Russian Paralympic team in 2016, and now also to the ban of the Russian Olympic team in 2018. It is noteworthy that Russian athletes are given an option to participate in the Games under the Neutral Flag, which further suggests the political nature of the ban, as opposed to doping and genuine concerns for fair competition. It is also noteworthy that banning athletes from Olympic Games based on their nationality (as opposed to individual bans, e. g. when a specific athlete shows positive doping test results) violates the Fundamental Principles of Olympism outlined in the official Olympic Charter. Competitive sports have always been a significant part of Russia’s culture, with the Olympic Games playing a vary important role in forming national pride. Humiliating Russian athletes in Pyengchang 2018 by not letting them perform under the national flag will certainly sow disappointment and dissatisfaction among Russian general public, which can potentially be harvested to destabilise the political situation amid the Presidential Elections in March.

4. Expanding and intensifying economic sanctions on Russian businessmen and oligarchs in order to mobilise them against Putin and his strategic course. Back in April 2017, following the US Tomahawk missile attack on Syrian Shayrat airbase, US State Secretary, Rex Tillerson stated that Russia must choose between Assad and the United States. Tillerson knew about Syria’s strategic importance to Russia and that Putin isn’t going to give it up easily, so it could be speculated that his message was addressed not to Putin but to Russian oligarchs and those segments of the Russian political elite who are oriented towards the economic integration with the Western world (principally the neo-liberal “reformers” from the 1990s Yeltsin era). Essentially, the Russian elites were told that if they don’t oust Putin, they are going to lose their personal wealth and power (and many Russian oligarchs and businessmen are known to keep their finances offshore). So we might expect certain segments of Russian elites mobilising their political, organisational and media resources amid the March 2018 election in an effort to destabilise the political climate and prevent Putin from being re-elected.

5. Expanding and intensifying sanctions against Russia in the energy sector in an effort to decrease Russia’s economic security. Nowadays, Russia is heavily dependant on oil and natural gas sales to the European Union countries. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, a significant portion of all the replaceable parts in the Russian oil and natural gas mining equipment has been imported from the West. The United States already implemented sanctions that forbid Western companies to trade and cooperate with Russia in spheres such as oil mining, oil refinery and oil transportation back in August 2017. If sanctions intensified and/or expanded, the Russian companies would have to invest time and resources into developing and implementing technologies that would allow Russians to replace sanctioned items. Such investment could potentially cripple the entire Russian natural resource mining industry for an indefinite period (especially given that, before the sanctioned items are replaced, the industry wouldn’t be able to function at an optimal level). The economic consequences would be felt by the public, decreasing people’s financial security and overall quality of life. The resulted dissatisfaction could potentially be utilised for social and political destabilisation amid the Presidential Elections.

6. Targeting the construction of Turkish Stream and Nord Stream 2 pipeline projects to decrease Russia’s economic security. Since the start of the Ukrainian Crisis in 2014, and due to increased risks of gas supply interruptions, Russia has been working on two major natural gas pipeline projects to create alternatives to the old pipeline routes that go through Ukraine. One route is being constructed to supply gas to Turkey and South Europe through the Black Sea (Turkish Stream) and the other one is being built to supply  EU countries with natural gas through the Baltic Sea (Nord Stream 2). Before Turkish Stream, Russia was working on the South Stream project, with original plan of supplying gas to Europe through Bulgaria, but the European Parliament forced the Bulgarian government to freeze the construction works in 2014 due to increased tensions with Russia over Crimea, so the original project had to be cancelled and all efforts refocused on the alternative route through Turkey. The Nord Stream 2 has also been repeatedly met with attempts to sabotage the project by the pro-Transatlantic elites in an effort to minimise the EU-Russian trade and to make the EU switch to the American gas imports instead.  So, for example, the US senator John McCain (a huge “friend” of Russia) was sending letters to European Commission in 2016, accusing Russia of trying to make EU more dependant and urging European officials to cancel the project. Recently, on 29 November 2017, John McCarrick, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the US Bureau of Energy Resources Department, made a statement asserting that Nord Stream 2 will not happen. It is evident that there are certain political forces within the US establishment who are interested in disrupting the EU-Russian gas and oil trade, and that they have been working systematically to actualise their interests. Compromising Russia’s economic security by torpedoing major gas pipeline projects amid the March 2018 elections could play into the hand of those who want Putin gone.

7. Assassinating opposition figures to provoke organised uprising. Killing political activists, journalists and prominent Putin critics would most certainly consolidate the “liberal” opposition inside Russia, sow hysteria and provide grounds for further system destabilisation. The socio-political algorithms could be employed as follows: first, a marginal opposition figure/Putin critic is assassinated, Putin and his security services are blamed immediately. Social media is then used to spread alarmist views and hysteria, making opposition feel threatened, most likely leading to unification and consolidation among its members, as well as attracting new people to the movement. The assassinated figure is iconised and turned into a symbol of a newly formed “resistance”. Shortly after, people flood the streets to commemorate the dead and to protest the regime. From there, further provocations (ranging from police clashes to unseen snipers) and escalations become possible. The history of “colour revolutions” (e. g. the “Arab Spring” or the recent Euromaidan events in Kiev) provide multiple examples of how street protests can be exacerbated into riots that eventually lead to social polarisation, political destabilisation and regime change. Given its effectiveness and well-developed algorithms, this particular option is likely to be considered by the forces who want to see Putin gone. The role of the “sacrificial victim”, in such a case, could be played by marginal political activists who are known to public yet who don’t have any real political and/or legal potential (thus rendering them “expendable”). Potential candidates could be people like Alexey Navalny (who can’t legally run for president due to his criminal record and yet is popular among teenagers and young adults as a “corruption fighter”), Ilya Yashin, or Mark Feygin, for instance. Assassination of Russian opposition figures would also allow the Western mainstream media to further demonise Putin, with Western politicians potentially using it as a justification for further economic sanctions.

8. Terrorist attacks. Terrorist plots that target civilian infrastructures to sow fear and a sense that the government can’t protect its people can potentially be used in an effort to discredit Putin in his presidential campaign. This particular strategy is less likely to be employed because, among all, it is most likely to cause the opposite effect, e. g. Russian people consolidating around their leader in the face of terrorist threat. But, again, given the intellectual and organizational degradation of the US elites we’ve been observing in the last few decades, this scenario can’t be ruled out completely. It is noteworthy that Russia has been a target of terrorist attacks regularly in the past, starting from the times of two Chechen Wars in the 1990s and the early 2000s, as well as the terrorist attacks in more recent years, most prominently the bus stop bombing in Volgograd in late 2013 amid Sochi Winter Olympic Games and the April 2017 Saint-Petersburg metro bombing (coinciding with Putin’s meeting Belarusian president Lukashenko in the city on that day).

***

The destabilising measures listed above are most likely to be employed simultaneously, in a complex and systematic manner. Russia might see itself being attacked from all the fronts in the early 2018: pro-Russian rebels and pro-Russian authorities being slaughtered in a massive attack in Donbass, Russia losing face in the Middle East while its allies in Syria are being extensively bombed by American warplanes, Russia’s strategic pipeline projects being cancelled, all while Russian athletes are being humiliated by IOC authorities under a neutral flag in South Korea, bombs are going off in airports and at train stations, and there are violent teenage riots in Moscow, Saint-Petersburg and Ekaterinburg, with people being murdered on the streets by unseen snipers. And, just to finish it all off, outraged by Western economic sanctions, Russian oligarchs and some influential people in the Kremlin are turning against Putin amid the March Presidential Elections. To say that the Russian leader would be in a difficult situation in such a case would be an understatement.

Further, president Donald Trump, while facing impeachment threats at home, would be relatively easy to manipulate into obnoxious military actions against Russia’s allies in Syria and Eastern Ukraine/Donbass, so that he could prove to the neoconservatives and to the domestic CNN- and MSNBC-watching populace that he is not an agent of Putin and that he can be a “true American leader” who “stands up to the bullies”. Note that launching Tomahawk missiles against a Syrian airbase in April 2017 has been Trump’s  only mainstream media “superstar moment” so far, with all American major news channels praising him for his actions. So there is no guarantee that he will not resort to it again while facing extreme political pressure by those who want Putin gone.

And there are many segments among the Western/Transatlantic elites who want to see Putin gone. He (and Russia as whole) has been an obstacle to their global hegemony, starting from the 2007 Munich speech, in which Putin condemned the current unipolar world order, stating that the US “has overstepped its national borders in every sense”. He further consolidated his “evil dictator” status when he prevented Obama from invading Syria in 2013, and then again in 2014 when he ruined the US and NATO plans of installing military bases in Crimea, thus preventing their dominance in the Black Sea region.

So, there are plenty of reasons for the Western elites to try to prevent Putin from being re-elected in March 2018, and they will do everything in their power to bury him from the international scene. The question of whether or not they will be able to execute all their plans (and whether their actions will actually lead to the desired outcomes) remains open. Putin himself isn’t novel to strategic and political games, after all. Besides, most Russian people have lived through Perestroika and they still remember the 1990s, so one should never underestimate the power of Russian cynicism while trying to manipulate the Russian public with socio-political technologies from outside.

Better be prepared for anything than sorry, though.

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Don’t Laugh : It’s Giving Putin What He Wants

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself.

Caitlin Johnstone

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Authored by Caitlin Johnstone:


The BBC has published an article titled “How Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon” about the Kremlin’s latest addition to its horrifying deadly hybrid warfare arsenal: comedy.

The article is authored by Olga Robinson, whom the BBC, unhindered by any trace of self-awareness, has titled “Senior Journalist (Disinformation)”. Robinson demonstrates the qualifications and acumen which earned her that title by warning the BBC’s audience that the Kremlin has been using humor to dismiss and ridicule accusations that have been leveled against it by western governments, a “form of trolling” that she reports is designed to “deliberately lower the level of discussion”.

“Russia’s move towards using humour to influence its campaigns is a relatively recent phenomenon,” Robinson explains, without speculating as to why Russians might have suddenly begun laughing at their western accusers. She gives no consideration to the possibility that the tightly knit alliance of western nations who suddenly began hysterically shrieking about Russia two years ago have simply gotten much more ridiculous and easier to make fun of during that time.

Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the emergence of a demented media environment wherein everything around the world from French protests to American culture wars to British discontent with the European Union gets blamed on Russia without any facts or evidence. Wherein BBC reporters now correct guests and caution them against voicing skepticism of anti-Russia narratives because the UK is in “an information war” with that nation. Wherein the same cable news Russiagate pundit can claim that both Rex Tillerson’s hiring and his later firing were the result of a Russian conspiracy to benefit the Kremlin. Wherein mainstream outlets can circulate blatantly false information about Julian Assange and unnamed “Russians” and then blame the falseness of that reporting on Russian disinformation. Wherein Pokemon Go, cutesy Facebook memes and $4,700 in Google ads are sincerely cited as methods by which Hillary Clinton’s $1.2 billion presidential campaign was outdone. Wherein conspiracy theories that Putin has infiltrated the highest levels of the US government have been blaring on mainstream headline news for two years with absolutely nothing to show for it to this day.

Nope, the only possibility is that the Kremlin suddenly figured out that humor is a thing.

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself. The hypocrisy is so cartoonish, the emotions are so breathlessly over-the-top, the stories so riddled with plot holes and the agendas underlying them so glaringly obvious that they translate very easily into laughs. I myself recently authored a satire piece that a lot of people loved and which got picked up by numerous alternative media outlets, and all I did was write down all the various escalations this administration has made against Russia as though they were commands being given to Trump by Putin. It was extremely easy to write, and it was pretty damn funny if I do say so myself. And it didn’t take any Kremlin rubles or dezinformatsiya from St Petersburg to figure out how to write it.

“Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council researcher on Russian disinformation, told the BBC that attempts to create funny memes were part of the strategy as ‘disinformation for the information age’,” the article warns. Nimmo, ironically, is himself intimately involved with the British domestic disinformation firm Integrity Initiative, whose shady government-sponsored psyops against the Labour Party have sparked a national scandal that is likely far from reaching peak intensity.

“Most comedy programmes on Russian state television these days are anodyne affairs which either do not touch on political topics, or direct humour at the Kremlin’s perceived enemies abroad,” Robinson writes, which I found funny since I’d just recently read an excellent essay by Michael Tracey titled “Why has late night swapped laughs for lusting after Mueller?”

“If the late night ‘comedy’ of the Trump era has something resembling a ‘message,’ it’s that large segments of the nation’s liberal TV viewership are nervously tracking every Russia development with a passion that cannot be conducive to mental health – or for that matter, political efficacy,” Tracey writes, documenting numerous examples of the ways late night comedy now has audiences cheering for a US intelligence insider and Bush appointee instead of challenging power-serving media orthodoxies as programs like The Daily Show once did.

If you wanted the opposite of “anodyne affairs”, it would be comedians ridiculing the way all the establishment talking heads are manipulating their audiences into supporting the US intelligence community and FBI insiders. It would be excoriating the media environment in which unfathomably powerful world-dominating government agencies are subject to less scrutiny and criticism than a man trapped in an embassy who published inconvenient facts about those agencies. It certainly wouldn’t be the cast of Saturday Night Live singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to a framed portrait if Robert Mueller wearing a Santa hat. It doesn’t get much more anodyne than that.

Russia makes fun of western establishment narratives about it because those narratives are so incredibly easy to make fun of that they are essentially asking for it, and the nerdy way empire loyalists are suddenly crying victim about it is itself more comedy. When Guardian writer Carole Cadwalladr began insinuating that RT covering standard newsworthy people like Julian Assange and Nigel Farage was a conspiracy to “boost” those people for the advancement of Russian agendas instead of a news outlet doing the thing that news reporting is, RT rightly made fun of her for it. Cadwalladr reacted to RT’s mockery with a claim that she was a victim of “attacks”, instead of the recipient of perfectly justified ridicule for circulating an intensely moronic conspiracy theory.

Ah well. People are nuts and we’re hurtling toward a direct confrontation with a nuclear superpower. Sometimes there’s nothing else to do but laugh. As Wavy Gravy said, “Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don’t have a sense of humor it just isn’t funny anymore.”

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EU’s ‘toothless’ response to creation of Kosovo army risks worsening the crisis – Moscow

Russia’s ambassador to the UN said that the EU could have and should have done more to stop the breakaway region from creating its own army.

RT

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Via RT…


The creation of Kosovo’s own 5,000-strong army is a threat to peace and security in a turbulent region and may lead to a new escalation, Russia’s UN envoy has warned, calling the EU’s lackluster response irresponsible.

Speaking at the UN Security Council emergency meeting on Kosovo, Russia’s ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzya said that the EU could have and should have done more to stop the breakaway region from creating its own army to replace its lightly armed emergency response force.

“The EU reaction to the decision by Pristina cannot be described as other than toothless. This irresponsible policy has crossed the line,” Nebenzya said, after the UNSC meeting on Monday.

The diplomat said the lack of decisive action on the part of the 28-member bloc was a “great disappointment,” adding that the EU seems to “have turned a blind eye on the illegal creation of Kosovo’s ‘army.’”

The law, approved by Kosovo lawmakers on Friday, paves the way for doubling the size of the current Kosovo Security Force and for turning it into a de facto army, with 5,000 soldiers and 3,000 reservists.

The move did not go down well even with Kosovo’s usual backers, with both NATO and the EU voicing their indignation. NATO’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg called the decision “ill-timed” and lamented that Kosovo’s authorities had ignored “the concerns expressed by NATO.”

The EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, has echoed those concerns, saying in a statement that the mandate of Kosovo’s forces “should only be changed through an inclusive and gradual process” in accordance with the state’s constitution.

The only nation to openly applaud the controversial move was the US, with its ambassador to Kosovo, Phillip Kosnett, saying that Washington “reaffirms its support” for the upgrade as it is “only natural for Kosovo as a sovereign, independent country” to have a full-fledged army.

The Kosovo MPs’ decision has drawn anger in the Serbian capital Belgrade and provoked a strong response from Moscow, which calledon the UN mission in Kosovo to demilitarize the area in accordance with UNSC resolution 1244, and to disband any armed units.

Nebenzya pointed out that the UN resolution does not allow any Kosovo Albanian military units to be present in the region’s territory. He accused Western countries, including members of the NATO-led international peacekeeping force (KFOR), of “condoning and supporting” the violation by Pristina of the resolution.

It is feared that the army, though a relatively small force, might inflame tensions in the region and impede attempts at reconciliation between Pristina and Belgrade. Serbia has warned that it might consider an armed intervention if the army becomes a threat to the 120,000-strong Serb minority in Kosovo.

“The advance of Kosovo’s army presents a threat to the peace and security in the region, which may lead to the recurrence of the armed conflict,” Nebenzya stated.

In addition to creating its own army, Kosovo in November hit Serbia with a 100 percent import tariff on goods, defying calls by the US and the EU to roll the measure back.

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Ukraine’s President Says “High” Threat Of Russian Invasion, Urges NATO Entry In Next 5 Years

Poroshenko is trying desperately to hold on to power, even if it means provoking Russia.

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Via Zerohedge


Perhaps still seeking to justify imposing martial law over broad swathes of his country, and attempting to keep international pressure and media focus on a narrative of “Russian aggression,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko denounced what he called the high “threat of Russian invasion” during a press conference on Sunday, according to Bloomberg.

Though what some analysts expected would be a rapid flair up of tit-for-tat incidents following the late November Kerch Strait seizure of three Ukrainian vessels and their crew by the Russian Navy has gone somewhat quiet, with no further major incident to follow, Poroshenko has continued to signal to the West that Russia could invade at any moment.

“The lion’s share of Russian troops remain” along the Russian border with Ukraine, Poroshenko told journalists at a press conference in the capital, Kiev. “Unfortunately, less than 10 percent were withdrawn,” he said, and added: “As of now, the threat of Russian troops invading remains. We have to be ready for this, we won’t allow a repeat of 2014.”

Poroshenko, who declared martial law on Nov. 26, citing at the time possible imminent “full-scale war with Russia” and Russian tank and troop build-up, on Sunday noted that he will end martial law on Dec. 26 and the temporarily suspended presidential campaign will kick off should there be no Russian invasion. He also previously banned all Russian males ages 16-60 from entering Ukraine as part of implementation of 30 days of martial law over ten provinces, though it’s unclear if this policy will be rescinded.

During his remarks, the Ukrainian president said his country should push to join NATO and the EU within the next five years, per Bloomberg:

While declining to announce whether he will seek a second term in the office, Poroshenko said that Ukraine should achieve peace, overcome the consequences of its economic crisis and to meet criteria to join the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization during next five years.

But concerning both his retaining power and his ongoing “threat exaggeration” — there’s even widespread domestic acknowledgement that the two are clearly linked.

According to The Globe and Mail:

While Mr. Poroshenko’s domestic rivals accuse him of exaggerating the threat in order to boost his own flagging political fortunes — polls suggest Mr. Poroshenko is on track to lose his job in a March election — military experts say there are reasons to take the Ukrainian president’s warning seriously.

As we observed previously, while European officials have urged both sides to exercise restraint, the incident shows just how easily Russia and the West could be drawn into a military conflict over Ukraine.

Certainly Poroshenko’s words appear designed to telegraph just such an outcome, which would keep him in power as a war-time president, hasten more and massive western military support and aid, and quicken his country’s entry into NATO — the latter which is already treating Ukraine as a de facto strategic outpost.

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