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Russia’s Legacy Term: 2018 – 2024 and Beyond

What the “expert pundits” can not manage to predict about Russia.

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Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, it is said keeps surprising Western pundits – not with any unexpectedly rash surprise announcements, but with his consistent political and diplomatic positions. His is not a cleverly sneaky “disinformation” campaign aimed at undermining democratic “values”. Quite the opposite, he has been consistent, which in the geopolitical dimensions of our time is an exceedingly rare quality.

Since 2000, he has been openly and repeatedly stating that Russia’s sovereign national interests head his agenda. No evangelizing, no regime changes, no funny business. Much criticism has been levelled at Putin for supposedly championing his own brand of “autocratic democracy” and disallowing any competitive opposition within Russia.

That may be true to a degree; however, it is also worth asking whether the Russian national interest is being well served by this approach, especially in this place and at this time.

While it is considered to be in exceedingly bad taste and politically incorrect to say anything positive about Putin, I will have to put my neck on the block. All things considered, and in our imperfect world he does what he says and that resonates positively with most of Russias citizenry. No mean achievement, especially when contrasted and compared to so many countries with far longer “democratic” timelines that are experiencing continually contradictory internal hissy fits, the he-said, she-said crowd.

Consider that since the fall of the Soviet Union there have effectively been only two elected administrations so it might make common sense to demonstrate restraint over any free-for-all power grab by a smorgasbord of parties and interests. This for many is also preferable, at least until the body politic fully matures. Recall that the dominant oligarchic era and its influence was with great difficulty and only recently brought to heel.

Many commentators who try to package Russia’s reality in bytes that can be easily and immediately consumed through various media mostly make similar errors; they view the playing field in Russia through their own national optics, preconceptions and perspectives. Very few make the necessary sacrifice of time and involvement to immerse themselves in the actual “on the ground” 21st century Russian reality. Picturing the world from Des Moines is far different than seeing the world sitting in Omsk, this applies not only to geopolitical perceptions… doesn’t it?

Putin’s third period was eventful: Sanctions, demonization, accusations, polarization with the west, and maintaining the principles of steering an independent sovereign nation through constantly shifting currents and conflicting flows of internationalized political populism from the West.

Putin has now started on his fourth term, many inside the government call this his legacy term. He is not aligned with any political party, which in American political parlance I guess would brand him as an “independent”. He was obviously not elected by interests in the USA, Damascus, Beijing, Kiev, or Brussels, but by Russians with a mandate to continue serving the Russian national interest as best he can, maintaining engagement without submission, and getting down to succession planning.

Commentators and self-styled experts have written and spoken much about what that might mean, and much of that commentary is couched within an aura of sub-rosa plotting, mischief and hidden agendas. So much for expert commentary, the facts, statements and actions speak differently.

It only requires patience to objectively examine the track record of public statements made by the Russian administration on a number of subjects, from economics, Ukraine, Syria, missile strikes, nuclear treaties, Iran, Oil & Gas, NATO, Skripals, China, trade treaties, and the United Nations to get the impression that facts and simple truths no longer matter very much in the west. Diplomacy has been supplanted by unipolar target marketing, and all that it implies.

Some of the standout issues that Russia has been forced to battle include restrictions on their free trade opportunities, the unipolar erosion of diplomatic norms between nations and the increasing disregard of the UN. Underlying much of this is the increasingly urgent need to diversify away from restrictive US Dollar dominated banking and financial systems. In short, to become less reliant on self interested globalized geopolitical groups, and more self sufficient as an independent sovereign nation.

Since the recent March election, the new Russian administration is even now criticized for not doing enough to visibly and sharply reform itself. After all, “reform” is a positive word, isn’t it? It is a “must do” word and concept!

Reform therefore should be all the rage and implemented come what may, and damn the torpedoes! It might be useful to prioritize between “wanted and needed” when making assumptions about the lack or abundance of reforms in Russia.

The 4th term administration under Putin can be described as being an implementation command. Over the past eight years, many of the directions the economy has to develop, diversify into and make operational have to a greater or lesser degree been tested in select regions of the country. Some of these “reforms” needed reworking, some have had to be re-thought, and those that have shown practical and pragmatic benefit will be implemented. Sadly very little was been reported on this in the English language press these past eight years, perhaps it is too practical to be deemed newsworthy?

The Russian saying, “measure twenty times, cut once” applies. The impasse of an “Obamacare” would not go down well if it happened in Russia, nor would trashing established, negotiated treaties be considered right, ethical or proper, but that is just the local Russian take on such developments even though it apparently clashes with the current fashion in some western countries.

On the economic front, the new administration includes several proven players including Elvira Nabiullina, central bank governor, who was responsible for the important economic moves between 2012 and 2018, including the switch to a free-floating ruble, the reduction of inflationary pressures, and the banking system clean up.

Finance minister Anton Siluanov, Kudrin’s former deputy in the ministry. His efforts to shift government borrowing to the domestic market helped Russia demonstrate its resilience under adverse sanctioned circumstances.

Alexei Kudrin now heads Russia’s Audit Chamber, which should appeal to international investors. He is the author of much of the program president Vladimir Putin has adopted for his next six years in office.

With the ever reliable Medvedev as PM, and re-designated insiders administering other branches of government several diversified directions in the economic and administrative fabric of Russia should be apparent in short order. This administrative team whatever it may lack in multi-party diversity, is certainly strongly united as a command structure and fully capable to bringing the planned new programs into being.

Trial programs have been tested in several regions of the country based on creating a unified digital platform for government. This platform will be operating at a nationwide level by 2020. It may cut the number of bureaucrats by as much as 25-30%. Other regional test programs should become national allowing Russia to reduce its commodity export dependence, relying instead on innovative businesses, deeper processing of agricultural, mineral, energy commodities locally and the export of services from financial to IT.

Putin recently said, just after this election, “We need breakthroughs in every area. I am deeply convinced that such a spurt can only be effected by a free society that accepts everything that’s new and advanced,  rejects injustice, backwardness, ignorant traditionalism and a deadening bureaucracy — everything that holds people back from opening up fully.” That sounds classically early 20th century American to me, and looks to be in the sovereign national interest of the country, regardless of which brand of democracy is marketed or advertised. He went on to call for Russia to reduce its poverty level by half before 2024, raise the average life expectancy from 72.5 to 78 years and become one of the world’s five biggest economies.

So here we are, May of 2018. It is worth having a look at the new financial outlooks for the Russian Federation in view of the above, and what “expert pundits” did not manage to predict:

Russia should achieve a 2018 budget surplus of RUB440.6bn ($7.1bn), instead of the previously expected deficit of RUB1.27 trillion ($20.5bn), the government confirmed on May 10. This surplus is roughly 0.45% of GDP instead of the expected deficit of 1.3% of GDP, according to this years amended draft federal budget for 2018. The Finance Ministry also lowered its projected inflation levels, to 2.8% from the previously expected 4%. Inflation has been creeping up this year but remains on the level of 2.2%-2.3% – a record low for the Russian Federation. The recent tumble of the ruble against the dollar caused by the imposition of new US sanctions this past April may spark more inflation, but efforts are underway to mitigate such effects. The Finance Ministry also revised upward Russian budget revenues for 2018, from RUB15.157 trillion to RUB17.032 trillion.

It seems more than strange that this is being promoted in the west as somehow contrary to and subverting established western values. On the contrary, it looks like Russia’s values are exactly in the right place and steadily evolving to be better.

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New Zealand enacts new weapons ban just six days after massacre

The American left is sure to pick this up and start screaming for an “assault weapons ban” because this supports their agenda so well.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Reuters reported on Thursday, March 21 that the Prime Minister of New Zealand enacted a sweeping change, banning weapons of the type that were used in the massacre of at least fifty Muslims, who were gunned down on livestream while in Friday prayer services in Christchurch last week. We quote from the Reuters piece below, with added emphasis:

New Zealand will ban military-style semi-automatic and assault rifles under tough new gun laws following the killing of 50 people in its worst mass shooting, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday.

In the immediate aftermath of last Friday’s shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch, Ardern labeled the attack as terrorism and said New Zealand’s gun laws would change.

“On 15 March our history changed forever. Now, our laws will too. We are announcing action today on behalf of all New Zealanders to strengthen our gun laws and make our country a safer place,” Ardern told a news conference.

“All semi-automatic weapons used during the terrorist attack on Friday 15 March will be banned.”

Ardern said she expected the new laws to be in place by April 11 and a buy-back scheme costing up to NZ$200 million ($138 million) would be established for banned weapons.

All military style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles would be banned, along with parts used to convert weapons into MSSAs and all high-capacity magazines.

Australia banned semi-automatic weapons and launched a gun buy-back after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 in which 35 people were killed.

Ardern said that similar to Australia, the law would allow for strictly enforced exemptions for farmers for pest control and animal welfare.

“I strongly believe that the vast majority of legitimate gun owners in New Zealand will understand that these moves are in the national interest, and will take these changes in their stride.”

This is undoubtedly going to be real red meat (or perhaps real vegetables) for the anti-gun lobby in the United States. This is because New Zealand strongly resembled the US in terms of firearm rights and the penetration of numbers of guns in the populace of this remote island nation. Reuters continues, with statements that would probably surprise, even horrify some gun owners in the States, but which are doubtlessly useful for the application of pressure on such individuals:

New Zealand, a country of fewer than 5 million people, has an estimated 1.2-1.5 million firearms, about 13,500 of them MSSA-type weapons.

Most farmers own guns while hunting of deer, pigs and goats is popular. Gun clubs and shooting ranges dot the country.

That has created a powerful lobby that has thwarted previous attempts to tighten gun laws.

Federated Farmers, which represent thousands of farmers, said it supported the new laws.

“This will not be popular among some of our members but … we believe this is the only practicable solution,” a group spokesman, Miles Anderson, said in a statement.

The main opposition National Party, which draws strong support in rural areas, said it also supported the ban.

The changes exclude two general classes of firearms commonly used for hunting, pest control and stock management on farms.

“I have a military style weapon. But to be fair, I don’t really use it, I don’t really need it,” said Noel Womersley, who slaughters cpoliticalattle for small farmers around Christchurch.

“So I’m quite happy to hand mine over.”

To be absolutely fair, the attack on the mosques was an awful event, made the worse by the shooter’s deliberate attempts to politicize various aspects of what he was doing and what he “stood for” as an attack ostensibly against US President Donald Trump, some seven thousand miles away in the United States.

The immediate reaction of the people interviewed, some among them related or friends with the victims of the massacre, was to embrace the weapons reform laws:

Nada Tawfeek, who buried her father-in-law killed in the attacks, Hussein Moustafa, on Thursday, welcomed the ban.

“It’s a great reaction. I think other countries need to learn from her [Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern],” Tawfeek said.

Mohammed Faqih, a member of the Islamic clergy who flew in from California and attended the funerals for some victims on Thursday, said he was “extremely grateful” for the gun ban.

“I wish our leaders in the States would follow on her footsteps and do the same thing,” he said.

One can expect there to be quite the outcry among American liberals about gun control, especially if anything remotely resembling this event takes place or is thwarted in coming days in the US.

It may seem very cold and cruel to focus on the political angle of this story rather than the human tragedy that it is. However, in this situation we have seen signs that the most vile form of human tragedy has actually taken place – the murder of dozens of innocent people for a mere political point. Indeed this thought has been noted and vilified already, as Mr. R.X. Dentith, writing for the New Zealand website Spinoff here quoted:

American paleo-conservative Rush Limbaugh was one of the first to note: “There’s an ongoing theory that the shooter himself may, in fact, be a leftist who writes the manifesto and then goes out and performs the deed purposely to smear his political enemies, knowing he’s going to get shot in the process. You know you just can’t – you can’t immediately discount this. The left is this insane, they are this crazy. And then if that’s exactly what the guy is trying to do then he’s hit a home run, because right there on Fox News: ‘Shooter is an admitted white nationalist who hates immigrants.’”

…[P]eople like Limbaugh… can’t stomach the idea the terrorist action in Otautahi might be motivated by the kind of rhetoric Limbaugh helps disseminate – tend to think there is a culture war going on, and they are on the losing side.

This war has many names, and the enemy is easily identified: it is the battle against Cultural Marxism; the fight against Toxic Feminism; the resistance to Identity Politics; and the fear of the Great Replacement, the thesis at the heart of the terrorist’s own manifesto.

The Great Replacement thesis posits that the majority white European countries are being “invaded” by non-white, non-European peoples. Not just that, but due to declining birth rates in the West, this “invasion” constitutes a wholesale replacement of the white population over time.

Mr. Dentith tries further to knock down this notion of the Great Replacement. However, he misses a much more basic point.

Someone who goes and takes human lives and broadcasts them for any reason is not a mere political operative. The person who does this is a very sick, deranged human being indeed. Evil is certainly appropriately used here.

However, evil is often quite cunning, and despite the intellectual arguments about the reality or non-reality of any particular manifesto statement, in this case, the killer played the media with infernal intelligence, and they took the bait. It is possible that Prime Minister Ardern also took the bait, in this most awful of bad situations, and to give her credit, she took swift actions to try to “correct” what was wrong.

But the problem here was not the type of weapons used. The problem is the fact that they were used by a person who thought these fifty people’s lives were worth nothing more than a bit of policy change. One of the worst examples of human evil in recent times, this incident shouts to the world that there is a problem, but the problem remains unsolved, even though many people will hand over their firearms out of a genuine wish for compassion to those lost and the hope that somehow this action will prevent a future incident.

But the logic of this emotional reaction is nil. And what is worse is that the American Left knows this, but does not care. The movers and shakers of liberalism will likely milk the actions of sincerely horrified New Zealanders for all they are worth to try at affecting change in American constitutional rights.

And the innocent dead will not rest in peace, because the real problem has not even been examined.

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Upstart Populist Party Shocks In Dutch Election Upset, 2 Days After Utrecht Attack

International reports have described the FvD as receiving “a surge of last-minute support” in the days following the Utrecht attack.

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Via Zerohedge…


Dutch voters have sent shock waves through Europe at the polls on Wednesday in the wake of Monday’s deadly Utrecht terror shooting, in which a now detained 37-year old Turkish man went on a terrifying tram killing spree which left three dead and three injured.

Euroskeptic party, Forum for Democracy (FvD), has emerged victorious in key provincial elections this week, paving the way to making it one of the two largest groups in the Dutch Senate, and representing growing Dutch frustration with the recent unprecedented refugee influx in Europe.

Newcomer Forum for Democracy party is led by 36-year-old Thierry Baudet, who is a critic of the EU and of the Netherlands’ immigration policies, via EPA

International reports have described the FvD as receiving “a surge of last-minute support” in the days following the Utrecht attack, which investigators have since described as having a “terror motive” based on a letter found in shooter Gokmen Tanis’ possession.

Forum for Democracy party leader Thierry Baudet had immediately placed ultimate blame  for the incident on the government’s “lax immigration policies” and provocatively stated a day before the elections (referencing his political rival)

If people want more deadly shootings like the one in Utrecht, then they have to vote for the VVD.

Baudet, riding a wave of renewed Euroskeptic sentiment, and whose party also wants to see more military spending, green initiatives, and an easing on income tax while greatly restricting the borders, said in the aftermath of Wednesday’s vote: “The voters in the Netherlands have spread their wings and shown their true power.”

Referencing the Utrecht attack and other deadly terror incidents on European soil, he added: “We have been called to the front because we have to. Because the country needs us.”

Three were killed and several injured in Monday’s Dutch tram terror attack, which raised the country’s emergency threat level to five as it was unfolding, its highest level.

Interestingly, the 36-year old Baudet and his party continued campaigning down to the last moments even as others stopped in the wake of Monday’s attack which rocked the Netherlands. According to Al Jazeera:

Following the lead of US President Donald Trump, Baudet opposes immigration and emphasises “Dutch first” cultural and economic themes. He opposes the euro and thinks the Netherlands should leave the European Union.

Baudet had continued campaigning when other parties stopped after Monday’s attack in Utrecht, in which a gunman shot three people dead on a tram. The populist leader blamed the incident on the government’s lax immigration policies.

The FvD is now set to take 12 seats in the upper house of parliament, which is equal to Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative VVD Party, a scenario before this week considered unlikely according to many observers.

The FvD slightly outscoring the VVD means Rutte’s government has lost its majority for the 75-seat Senate ahead of upcoming May elections.

In a post-election speech on Wednesday, Baudet described further that what’s now being described in international media as “an upstart populist party [that has] shocked the Dutch political establishment” as punishing the arrogance of elites.

In his pro-Western civilization themed remarks, Baudet added, “We are standing in the rubble of what was once the most beautiful civilization in the world.”

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High-ranking Ukrainian official reports on US interference in Ukraine

It is not usually the case that an American media outlet tells the truth about Ukraine, but it appears to have happened here.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The Hill committed what may well have been a random act of journalism when it reported that Ukrainian Prosecutor General, Yuriy Lutsenko, told Hill.tv’s reporter John Solomon that the American ambassador to that country, Marie Yovanovitch, gave him a “do not prosecute” list at their first meeting.

Normally, all things Russia are covered by the American press as “bad”, and all things Ukraine are covered by the same as “good.” Yet this report reveals quite a bit about the nature of the deeply embedded US interests that are involved in Ukraine, and which also attempt to control and manipulate policy in the former Soviet republic.

The Hill’s piece continues (with our added emphases):

“Unfortunately, from the first meeting with the U.S. ambassador in Kiev, [Yovanovitch] gave me a list of people whom we should not prosecute,” Lutsenko, who took his post in 2016, told Hill.TV last week.

“My response of that is it is inadmissible. Nobody in this country, neither our president nor our parliament nor our ambassador, will stop me from prosecuting whether there is a crime,” he continued.

Indeed, the Prosecutor General appears to be a man of some principles. When this report was brought to the attention of the US State Department, the response was predictable:

The State Department called Lutsenko’s claim of receiving a do not prosecute list, “an outright fabrication.” 

“We have seen reports of the allegations,” a department spokesperson told Hill.TV. “The United States is not currently providing any assistance to the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO), but did previously attempt to support fundamental justice sector reform, including in the PGO, in the aftermath of the 2014 Revolution of Dignity. When the political will for genuine reform by successive Prosecutors General proved lacking, we exercised our fiduciary responsibility to the American taxpayer and redirected assistance to more productive projects.”

This is an amazing statement in itself. “Our fiduciary responsibility to the American taxpayer”? Are Americans even aware that their country is spending their tax dollars in an effort to manipulate a foreign government in what can probably well be called a low-grade proxy war with the Russian Federation? Again, this appears to be a slip, as most American media do a fair job of maintaining the narrative that Ukraine is completely independent and that its actions regarding the United States and Russia are taken in complete freedom.

Hill.TV has reached out to the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine for comment.

Lutsenko also said that he has not received funds amounting to nearly $4 million that the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine was supposed to allocate to his office, saying that “the situation was actually rather strange” and pointing to the fact that the funds were designated, but “never received.”

“At that time we had a case for the embezzlement of the U.S. government technical assistance worth 4 million U.S. dollars, and in that regard, we had this dialogue,” he said. “At that time, [Yovanovitch] thought that our interviews of Ukrainian citizens, of Ukrainian civil servants, who were frequent visitors of the U.S. Embassy put a shadow on that anti-corruption policy.”

“Actually, we got the letter from the U.S. Embassy, from the ambassador, that the money that we are speaking about [was] under full control of the U.S. Embassy, and that the U.S. Embassy did not require our legal assessment of these facts,” he said. “The situation was actually rather strange because the funds we are talking about were designated for the prosecutor general’s office also and we told [them] we have never seen those, and the U.S. Embassy replied there was no problem.”

“The portion of the funds, namely 4.4 million U.S. dollars were designated and were foreseen for the recipient Prosecutor General’s office. But we have never received it,” he said.

Yovanovitch previously served as the U.S. ambassador to Armenia under former presidents Obama and George W. Bush, as well as ambassador to Kyrgyzstan under Bush. She also served as ambassador to Ukraine under Obama.

Former Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who was at the time House Rules Committee chairman, voiced concerns about Yovanovitch in a letter to the State Department last year in which he said he had proof the ambassador had spoken of her “disdain” for the Trump administration.

This last sentence may be a way to try to narrow the scope of American interference in Ukraine down to the shenanigans of just a single person with a personal agenda. However, many who have followed the story of Ukraine and its surge in anti-Russian rhetoric, neo-Naziism, ultra-nationalism, and the most recent events surrounding the creation of a pseudo-Orthodox “church” full of Ukrainian nationalists and atheists as a vehicle to import “Western values” into a still extremely traditional and Christian land, know that there are fingerprints of the United States “deep state” embeds all over this situation.

It is somewhat surprising that so much that reveals the problem showed up in just one report. It will be interesting to see if this gets any follow-up in the US press.

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