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Navalny’s latest Moscow protest was a total FAIL

Alexander Mercouris

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Much to the disappointment of the Western media, which has been building up the – illegal – run of the Russian ‘non-system’ neoliberal opposition politician Alexey Navalny in March’s Presidential election for more than a year, the protests he called on Sunday 28th January 2018 fizzled out to practically nothing.

Lest anyone think this is my assessment, here is the assessment of the protests given by Russia’s Human Rights Council as reported by Russia’s official news agency TASS

About 5,000 people took part in rallies organized by Russian opposition activist and blogger Alexei Navalny across Russia, chairman of the presidential human rights council, Mikhail Fedotov, told TASS on Sunday.

“According to preliminary data, about 5,000 people took part in rallies of Alexei Navalny’s supporters, both authorized and unauthorized,” he said, adding that final data would be available when all public rallies were over.

He called on both Navalny’s supporters and the authorities to demonstrate restraint. “Rallies are still going on and I call on both side to show restraint and observe laws,” he stressed.

Kirill Kabanov, a council member, said earlier the unauthorized rally in Moscow had brought together 400 people, including reporters.

 According to the official website of the human rights council, about 1,000 people took part in Navalny’s rally in Yekaterinburg, about 600 people – in Novosibirsk, some 550 – in Nizhny Novgorod, 380 – in Perm, 350 – in Chelyabinsk, 270 – in Omsk, 230 – in Saratov, 220 – in Samara, 205 – in Krasnoyarsk, 200 – in Tomsk, 200 – in Vladivostok, 190 – in Irkutsk, 150 – in Khabarovsk, 150 – in Barnaul, 150 – in Kemerovo, 120 – in Izhevsk, 115 – Tyumen, 100 – in Orenburg, 80 – in Kurgan, 70 – in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, 63 – in Chita, 60 – in Ulan-Ude, 50 – in Astrakhan, 35 – in Yakutsk, 35 – in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, 20 – in Magadan, 16 – in Blagoveshchensk, and one person – in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.
Russia’s Human Rights Council stands at the extreme liberal end of the Russian political establishment.
Not only did it actively campaign for the release of the then jailed Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, but it also published a report claiming that Sergey Magnitsky, William Browder’s associate and the person who is at the focus of the so-called Magnitsky scandal, was mistreated and probably tortured by the Russian authorities and that this was the cause of his death.
The report of Human Rights Council on the causes of Magnitsky’s death has been challenged by a different report by Russia’s Investigative Committee, which unlike the Human Rights Council is a police and investigative agency.  It concluded that Magnitsky had died because of negligent treatment by the prison authorities of a pre-existing medical condition.
Western governments have however unsurprisingly preferred the Human Rights Council’s report, which is cited in the preamble of the US’s Magnitsky Law.
More recently the Human Rights Council had a long and heated meeting with President Putin on 30th October 2017, over the course of which the well know former Soviet dissident Lyudmila Alekseyevna lobbied on behalf of Nikita Belykh, the former Governor of the Kirov Region who is being prosecuted on fraud charges, whilst other members of the Human Rights Council brought up subjects close to Russian liberal hearts such the murder of the liberal politician Boris Nemtsov, the supposedly ‘hysterical’ nationalist atmosphere in Russia, and the alleged denial by the authorities in St. Petersburg of venues for protests called by none other than Navalny himself.
The members of the Human Rights Council are not therefore in any sense the sort of people who would be expected to downplay the size of any protests called by a liberal ‘non-system’ politician like Navalny.  On the contrary they are far more likely to overstate their size and significance of the protests rather than downplay them.
Their estimate that the total number of people taking part in the protests called was 5,000 across the whole of Russia must therefore be treated if not exactly as definitive then at least as authoritative, even if the estimate of 400 people at the Moscow protest is almost certainly too low (other estimates put the size of this protest at between 1,000 and 1,500 people)
A protest wave totalling 5,000 to 6,000 people in a country of 144 million people hardly qualifies as a protest wave at all.  As my colleague Seraphim Hanisch correctly says, it is not even newsworthy, and if it happened in any other country it would almost certainly not be reported at all.
Even Navalny’s most fervid supporters in the Western media have been unable to conceal their disappointment.  Here is a typical description of the protests in a report by Reuters

The numbers attending Sunday’s protests across Russia — some shouting “Putin is a thief” — appeared lower than previous demonstrations staged by Navalny, Reuters reporters said, suggesting momentum may have shifted away from him.

(bold italics added)

The whole Navalny phenomenon serves as a case study of Western wishful thinking about Russia.

 A bizarre editorial published today by the Times of London – obviously written in anticipation of much bigger protests on Sunday – highlights the extent of this.  It makes the simply extraordinary claim that Navalny is more in tune with the opinions of Russians than is Vladimir Putin

After 18 years of Putinism, the country’s political process has all the verve of the Novodevichy cemetery.

It is no triumph to rule over a forcibly becalmed people. Mr Putin has yet to come up with an election programme. There are hints of a readiness to make some kind of peace in Ukraine and rebuild relations with the West to ease sanctions. But even this suggests that the president is more concerned with enriching his courtiers than improving the lot of the Russian people.

The core issues are those being addressed by Mr Navalny. In unashamedly populist style, he has highlighted the feathered lifestyle of the oligarchs, promising “hospitals and roads instead of palaces for officials”. Uprooting corruption, he says, will free up cash for education and healthcare. Courts will become more independent, media given more freedom, safeguards introduced for competitive elections. There will, he promises, be a generous minimum wage and subsidised loans to allow more young people to buy homes.

The programme may not be realistic but it addresses the concerns of the middle class — the garage owners who are fed up with paying bribes, the entrepreneurs squeezed out by fixed procurement contracts, and young families in small towns who just want better schooling for their children.

Mr Putin has neglected such concerns. If he thinks Mr Navalny is a charlatan, he should fight him on the election stump. Instead, he sends in his goons and in doing so says everything Russians need to know about the hollowness of his rule.

To suppose that Navalny, who can bring out crowds of no more than 5,000 to 6,000 people across the whole of Russia, is more in tune with public opinion in Russia than Vladimir Putin, who has an approval rating of over 80%, is not just outlandish; it is positively fantastic.

Even as propaganda it is simply too ridiculous to work.

Yet this is the delusional thinking which underpins far too much Western reporting of Russia.

Before leaving the subject of Sunday’s protests a few further points about Navalny need to be made:

(1) The constant practice in both the Western and even in parts of the Russian media of saying that Navalny has been ‘banned’ from standing in the Presidential election needs to be seriously challenged.

Navalny was not ‘banned’ from standing in the election since he was not eligible to stand in the election in the first place.

Navalny is not eligible to stand in the election because he has two unspent criminal convictions both of which come with suspended prison sentences, and his standing in the election as a result of these convictions would be contrary to the provisions of Russia’s constitution and election laws.

Russia’s Electoral Commission – chaired by the liberal former Yeltsin era government minister Ella Pamfilova – has ruled as much, as have Russia’s Supreme Court and – more recently – its Constitutional Court.

Given this clear legal position – which is by the way the same in most countries – these institutions had no choice but to make the rulings that they did since for them to have done otherwise in order to allow Navalny to stand would have broken the law.

As I have discussed previously, Navalny, who is by training a lawyer, undoubtedly knows this. His entire ‘election campaign’ was therefore phoney from the start, notwithstanding which he persisted in it, and raised money from the public in support of it.

(2) One of the reasons why the protests Navalny calls are invariably small – and this was also true by the way of his ‘bigger’ protests last year – is because he persists, completely unnecessarily, in staging his protests illegally.

In the case of the Moscow protest yesterday the Moscow city authorities offered Navalny two legal venues where he could have held his protest legally and peacefully.

Instead, in wilful contempt of the law, Navalny chose to stage his protest illegally along Tverskaya – just as he did a year ago – disregarding the fact that this is not only a key traffic artery but is also Moscow’s main street running through the heart of Moscow’s business and entertainment district and therefore likely to be full of ordinary people going about their normal business on a Sunday.

In the event the police on this occasion took little action other than arrest Navalny himself, obviously because the size of the crowd (estimates range between 400 and 1,500) was too small to affect Moscow’s normal life.

It is a consistent fact of Russian political life that in this very orderly and law abiding country Russians will not turn out in large numbers for protests which are staged illegally.

It has long been my opinion that one of the principal reasons why the opposition protests in 2011 to 2012 were so much larger than usual was not because there was any significant increase in pro-opposition sentiment at that time but because in a change to their usual tactics the protest leaders – including Navalny himself – decided to conduct their protests legally in the venues offered by the authorities.

That meant that many more people turned up than would have been the case if the protests had continued to be staged illegally.

By contrast Navalny’s persistent habit since the end of the 2011 to 2012 protests of staging his protests illegally means that far fewer people attend them than might otherwise do.

This pattern of persistent law breaking is incidentally very characteristic of Navalny, both in his business dealings – as shown by his two convictions – and in his political activities – as shown by his running and raising money for a phoney election campaign and by his persistent habit of staging illegal protests.

The reality is that far from Navalny being harassed by the Russian authorities in the way that the editorial in the Times of London says, they actually treat him with kid gloves.

Despite two criminal convictions, repeated and flagrant violations of his bail conditions and of the conditions of his two suspended prison sentences, and despite an almost unending succession of public order offences, he has never served any significant time in prison.

Nor have the Russian authorities taken any step to suppress his blog.

A cynic would say that the Russian authorities have no reason to act otherwise since Navalny’s behaviour makes the case against him for them.

(3) It has become increasingly clear over the last year that the primary motive for Navalny’s behaviour is not to challenge Vladimir Putin for the Presidency. As the Times of London admits in its editorial even Navalny himself acknowledges that he has no chance of winning an election against Putin in any circumstance.

Rather Navalny’s primary motivation is to preserve his position as the de facto leader of Russia’s ‘non-system’ liberal opposition by preventing any alternative leader from emerging.

His real purpose in running a phoney election campaign and in staging illegal protests is to take attention away from other liberal ‘non-system’ politicians who might otherwise attract attention so as to keep attention focused on himself.

That is why he is now calling for an election boycott.

If Navalny were a serious politician really interested in building up a strong liberal opposition to the government in Russia he would not have run a phoney Presidential campaign and would not now be calling for a boycott.

He would be supporting other legally eligible liberal ‘non-system’ candidates for the Presidency such as Grigory Yavlinsky or Ksenia Sobchak, and would be campaigning on their behalf.

Navalny’s call for a boycott is instead calculated to reduce their vote, and to be clear that is unquestionably its purpose.  As Navalny knows perfectly well, it is liberal candidates like Yavlinsky and Sobchak who are most likely to be hurt by a boycott of the election by the sort of liberal voters who are most likely to heed Navalny call, whereas Putin’s prospects of being resoundingly re-elected are not going to be affected by any call Navalny makes for a boycott in the slightest.

This fact is very well understood by other liberal ‘non-system’ politicians in Russia even it is completely lost on Russian affairs ‘commentators’ in the West, which explains why so few of them have any time for Navalny.

I am not sympathetic to the liberal ‘non-system’ opposition in Russia.

These people had their chance in the 1990s when they failed disastrously.

Since then they have shown no regrets for what happened and have made no acknowledgement of their failure, and nor have they given the slightest sign that they have learnt anything from it.

At the same time I acknowledge as a political fact that there is a certain percentage of the Russian population which shares their views, though how large it is it is difficult to say.  Claims that it is as much as 10-15% of the Russian population are I am sure over-estimates, but there is no doubt these people exist, and that they have a right and indeed a need to be represented.

That Navalny is not the person to represent them or to provide them with political leadership should by now be obvious.

On the contrary the way Navalny conducts himself serves only to divide and discredit further a liberal ‘non-system’ opposition which is already divided and discredited.  As a result it remains locked in the political ghetto it has been in ever since it lost power in the 1990s.

The fact that Western governments and the Western media – who presumably want to see Russia’s liberal ‘non-system’ opposition win – are unable to see this, and continue to support Navalny despite the damage he is doing to the liberal ‘non-system’ opposition that he pretends to lead only shows how little they understand Russian politics or indeed Russia.

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Putin Keeps Cool and Averts WWIII as Israeli-French Gamble in Syria Backfires Spectacularly

Putin vowed that Russia would take extra precautions to protect its troops in Syria, saying these will be “the steps that everyone will notice.”

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Authored by Robert Bridge via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


By initiating an attack on the Syrian province of Latakia, home to the Russia-operated Khmeimim Air Base, Israel, France and the United States certainly understood they were flirting with disaster. Yet they went ahead with the operation anyways.

On the pretext that Iran was preparing to deliver a shipment of weapon production systems to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israeli F-16s, backed by French missile launches in the Mediterranean, destroyed what is alleged to have been a Syrian Army ammunition depot.

What happened next is already well established: a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft, which the Israeli fighter jets had reportedly used for cover, was shot down by an S-200 surface-to-air missile system operated by the Syrian Army. Fifteen Russian servicemen perished in the incident, which could have been avoided had Israel provided more than just one-minute warning before the attack. As a result, chaos ensued.

Whether or not there is any truth to the claim that Iran was preparing to deliver weapon-making systems to Hezbollah in Lebanon is practically a moot point based on flawed logic. Conducting an attack against an ammunition depot in Syria – in the vicinity of Russia’s Khmeimim Air Base – to protect Israel doesn’t make much sense when the consequence of such “protective measures” could have been a conflagration on the scale of World War III. That would have been an unacceptable price to achieve such a limited objective, which could have been better accomplished with the assistance of Russia, as opposed to NATO-member France, for example. In any case, there is a so-called “de-confliction system” in place between Israel and Russia designed to prevent exactly this sort of episode from occurring.

And then there is the matter of the timing of the French-Israeli incursion.

Just hours before Israeli jets pounded the suspect Syrian ammunition storehouse, Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan were in Sochi hammering out the details on a plan to reduce civilian casualties as Russian and Syrian forces plan to retake Idlib province, the last remaining terrorist stronghold in the country. The plan envisioned the creation of a demilitarized buffer zone between government and rebel forces, with observatory units to enforce the agreement. In other words, it is designed to prevent exactly what Western observers have been fretting about, and that is unnecessary ‘collateral damage.’

So what do France and Israel do after a relative peace is declared, and an effective measure for reducing casualties? The cynically attack Syria, thus exposing those same Syrian civilians to the dangers of military conflict that Western capitals proclaim to be worried about.

Israel moves to ‘damage control’

Although Israel has taken the rare move of acknowledging its involvement in the Syrian attack, even expressing “sorrow” for the loss of Russian life, it insists that Damascus should be held responsible for the tragedy. That is a highly debatable argument.

By virtue of the fact that the French and Israeli forces were teaming up to attack the territory of a sovereign nation, thus forcing Syria to respond in self-defense, it is rather obvious where ultimate blame for the downed Russian plane lies.

“The blame for the downing of the Russian plane and the deaths of its crew members lies squarely on the Israeli side,” Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said. “The actions of the Israeli military were not in keeping with the spirit of the Russian-Israeli partnership, so we reserve the right to respond.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, took admirable efforts to prevent the blame game from reaching the boiling point, telling reporters that the downing of the Russian aircraft was the result of “a chain of tragic circumstances, because the Israeli plane didn’t shoot down our jet.”

Nevertheless, following this extremely tempered and reserved remark, Putin vowed that Russia would take extra precautions to protect its troops in Syria, saying these will be “the steps that everyone will notice.”

Now there is much consternation in Israel that the IDF will soon find its freedom to conduct operations against targets in Syria greatly impaired. That’s because Russia, having just suffered a ‘friendly-fire’ incident from its own antiquated S-200 system, may now be more open to the idea of providing Syria with the more advanced S-300 air-defense system.

Earlier this year, Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached an agreement that prevented those advanced defensive weapons from being employed in the Syrian theater. That deal is now in serious jeopardy. In addition to other defensive measures, Russia could effectively create the conditions for a veritable no-fly zone across Western Syria in that it would simply become too risky for foreign aircraft to venture into the zone.

The entire situation, which certainly did not go off as planned, has forced Israel into damage control as they attempt to prevent their Russian counterparts from effectively shutting down Syria’s western border.

On Thursday, Israeli Major-General Amikam Norkin and Brigadier General Erez Maisel, as well as officers of the Intelligence and Operations directorates of the Israeli air force will pay an official visit to Moscow where they are expected to repeat their concerns of “continuous Iranian attempts to transfer strategic weapons to the Hezbollah terror organization and to establish an Iranian military presence in Syria.”

Moscow will certainly be asking their Israeli partners if it is justifiable to subject Russian servicemen to unacceptable levels of danger, up to and including death, in order to defend Israeli interests. It remains to be seen if the two sides can find, through the fog of war, an honest method for bringing an end to the Syria conflict, which would go far at relieving Israel’s concerns of Iranian influence in the region.

 

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Clinton-Yeltsin docs shine a light on why Deep State hates Putin (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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Bill Clinton and America ruled over Russia and Boris Yeltsin during the 1990s. Yeltsin showed little love for Russia and more interest in keeping power, and pleasing the oligarchs around him.

Then came Vladimir Putin, and everything changed.

Nearly 600 pages of memos and transcripts, documenting personal exchanges and telephone conversations between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, were made public by the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Dating from January 1993 to December 1999, the documents provide a historical account of a time when US relations with Russia were at their best, as Russia was at its weakest.

On September 8, 1999, weeks after promoting the head of the Russia’s top intelligence agency to the post of prime minister, Russian President Boris Yeltsin took a phone call from U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The new prime minister was unknown, rising to the top of the Federal Security Service only a year earlier.

Yeltsin wanted to reassure Clinton that Vladimir Putin was a “solid man.”

Yeltsin told Clinton….

“I would like to tell you about him so you will know what kind of man he is.”

“I found out he is a solid man who is kept well abreast of various subjects under his purview. At the same time, he is thorough and strong, very sociable. And he can easily have good relations and contact with people who are his partners. I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the nearly 600 pages of transcripts documenting the calls and personal conversations between then U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, released last month. A strong Clinton and a very weak Yeltsin underscore a warm and friendly relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

Then Vladimir Putin came along and decided to lift Russia out of the abyss, and things changed.

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Here are five must-read Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges from with the 600 pages released by the Clinton Library.

Via RT

Clinton sends ‘his people’ to get Yeltsin elected

Amid unceasing allegations of nefarious Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election, the Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges reveal how the US government threw its full weight behind Boris – in Russian parliamentary elections as well as for the 1996 reelection campaign, which he approached with 1-digit ratings.

For example, a transcript from 1993 details how Clinton offered to help Yeltsin in upcoming parliamentary elections by selectively using US foreign aid to shore up support for the Russian leader’s political allies.

“What is the prevailing attitude among the regional leaders? Can we do something through our aid package to send support out to the regions?” a concerned Clinton asked.

Yeltsin liked the idea, replying that “this kind of regional support would be very useful.” Clinton then promised to have “his people” follow up on the plan.

In another exchange, Yeltsin asks his US counterpart for a bit of financial help ahead of the 1996 presidential election: “Bill, for my election campaign, I urgently need for Russia a loan of $2.5 billion,” he said. Yeltsin added that he needed the money in order to pay pensions and government wages – obligations which, if left unfulfilled, would have likely led to his political ruin. Yeltsin also asks Clinton if he could “use his influence” to increase the size of an IMF loan to assist him during his re-election campaign.

Yeltsin questions NATO expansion

The future of NATO was still an open question in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and conversations between Clinton and Yeltsin provide an illuminating backdrop to the current state of the curiously offensive ‘defensive alliance’ (spoiler alert: it expanded right up to Russia’s border).

In 1995, Yeltsin told Clinton that NATO expansion would lead to “humiliation” for Russia, noting that many Russians were fearful of the possibility that the alliance could encircle their country.

“It’s a new form of encirclement if the one surviving Cold War bloc expands right up to the borders of Russia. Many Russians have a sense of fear. What do you want to achieve with this if Russia is your partner? They ask. I ask it too: Why do you want to do this?” Yeltsin asked Clinton.

As the documents show, Yeltsin insisted that Russia had “no claims on other countries,” adding that it was “unacceptable” that the US was conducting naval drills near Crimea.

“It is as if we were training people in Cuba. How would you feel?” Yeltsin asked. The Russian leader then proposed a “gentleman’s agreement” that no former Soviet republics would join NATO.

Clinton refused the offer, saying: “I can’t make the specific commitment you are asking for. It would violate the whole spirit of NATO. I’ve always tried to build you up and never undermine you.”

NATO bombing of Yugoslavia turns Russia against the West

Although Clinton and Yeltsin enjoyed friendly relations, NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia tempered Moscow’s enthusiastic partnership with the West.

“Our people will certainly from now have a bad attitude with regard to America and with NATO,” the Russian president told Clinton in March 1999. “I remember how difficult it was for me to try and turn the heads of our people, the heads of the politicians towards the West, towards the United States, but I succeeded in doing that, and now to lose all that.”

Yeltsin urged Clinton to renounce the strikes, for the sake of “our relationship” and “peace in Europe.”

“It is not known who will come after us and it is not known what will be the road of future developments in strategic nuclear weapons,” Yeltsin reminded his US counterpart.

But Clinton wouldn’t cede ground.

“Milosevic is still a communist dictator and he would like to destroy the alliance that Russia has built up with the US and Europe and essentially destroy the whole movement of your region toward democracy and go back to ethnic alliances. We cannot allow him to dictate our future,” Clinton told Yeltsin.

Yeltsin asks US to ‘give Europe to Russia’

One exchange that has been making the rounds on Twitter appears to show Yeltsin requesting that Europe be “given” to Russia during a meeting in Istanbul in 1999. However, it’s not quite what it seems.

“I ask you one thing,” Yeltsin says, addressing Clinton. “Just give Europe to Russia. The US is not in Europe. Europe should be in the business of Europeans.”

However, the request is slightly less sinister than it sounds when put into context: The two leaders were discussing missile defense, and Yeltsin was arguing that Russia – not the US – would be a more suitable guarantor of Europe’s security.

“We have the power in Russia to protect all of Europe, including those with missiles,” Yeltsin told Clinton.

Clinton on Putin: ‘He’s very smart’

Perhaps one of the most interesting exchanges takes place when Yeltsin announces to Clinton his successor, Vladimir Putin.

In a conversation with Clinton from September 1999, Yeltsin describes Putin as “a solid man,” adding: “I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

A month later, Clinton asks Yeltsin who will win the Russian presidential election.

“Putin, of course. He will be the successor to Boris Yeltsin. He’s a democrat, and he knows the West.”

“He’s very smart,” Clinton remarks.

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De-Dollarization Tops Agenda at Russia’s Eastern Economic Forum

The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) was held in Vladivostok on Sept.11-13. Founded in 2015, the event has become a platform for planning and launching projects to strengthen business ties in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Via Strategic Culture

This year, the EEF brought together delegations from over 60 countries to discuss the topic “The Far East: Expanding the Range of Possibilities”. A total of 100 business events involving over 6,000 participants were held during the three days.

1,357 media personnel worked to cover the forum. Last year, the number of participants was 5,000 with 1,000 media persons involved in reporting and broadcasting. The EEF-18 gathered 340 foreign and 383 Russian CEOs. Nearly 80 start-ups from across South-East Asia joined the meeting.

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This year, a total of 175 agreements worth of 2.9 trillion rubles (some $4.3 billion) were signed. For comparison, the sum was 2.5 trillion rubles (roughly $3.7 billion) in 2017.

They included the development of the Baimsky ore deposits in Chukotka, the construction of a terminal for Novatek LNG at Bechevinskaya Bay in Kamchatka and the investment of Asian countries in Russia’s agricultural projects in the Far East.

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Mail.Ru Group, Megafon and Chinese Alibaba inked an agreement on establishing AliExpress trade joint venture. Rosneft and Chinese CNPC signed an oil exploration agreement.

The Chinese delegation was the largest (1,096 people), followed by the Japanese (570 members). The list of guests included the president of Mongolia and prime ministers of Japan and South Korea.

It was also the first time Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the event to meet his Russian counterpart. The issue of de-dollarization topped the agenda. Russia and China reaffirmed their interest in expanding the use of national currencies in bilateral deals.

During the forum, Kirill Dmitriev, the head of RDIF, said the fund intends to use only national currencies in its transactions with China starting from 2019. It will cooperate with the China Development Bank.

This “yuanification” is making visible progress with Shanghai crude futures increasing their share of oil markets up to 14 percent or even more. China has signed agreements with Canada and Qatar on national currencies exchange.

READ MORE: Eastern Economic Forum opens new chapter in US-Russia dialogue

De-dollarization is a trend that is picking up momentum across the world. A growing number of countries are interested in replacing the dollar. Russia is leading the race to protect itself from fluctuations, storms and US-waged trade wars and sanctions.

Moscow backs non-dollar trade with Ankara amid the ongoing lira crisis. Turkey is switching from the dollar to settlements in national currencies, including its trade with China and other countries. Ditching the US dollar is the issue topping the BRICS agenda. In April, Iran transferred all international payments to the euro.

The voices calling for de-dollarization are getting louder among America’s closest European allies. In August, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for the creation of a new payments system independent of the US.

According to him, Europe should not allow the United States to act “over our heads and at our expense.” The official wants to strengthen European autonomy by establishing independent payment channels, creating a European Monetary Fund and building up an independent SWIFT system.

Presenting his annual program, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Sept. 12 for the European Union to promote the euro as a global currency to challenge the dollar.

According to him, “We must do more to allow our single currency to play its full role on the international scene.” Mr. Juncker believes “it is absurd that Europe pays for 80 percent of its energy import bill – worth 300 billion euros a year – in US dollars when only roughly 2 percent of our energy imports come from the United States.” He wants the raft of proposals made in his state of the union address to start being implemented before the European Parliament elections in May.

70% of all world trade transactions account for the dollar, while 20% are  settled in the euro, and the rest falls on the yuan and other Asian currencies. The dollar value is high to make the prices of consumer goods in the US artificially low. The demand for dollars allows refinancing the huge debt at low interest rates. The US policy of trade wars and sanctions has triggered the global process of de-dollarization.

Using punitive measures as a foreign policy tool is like shooting oneself in the foot. It prompts a backlash to undermine the dollar’s status as the world reserve currency – the basis of the US economic might. The aggressive policy undermines the US world standing to make it weaker, not stronger.

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