Putin’s Firebird versus Chinese Dragon

Anna van Densky. OPINION.

The predictions are plentiful at the IV inauguration of the very same Russian ruler. However only few are optimistic ones, the majority is fearing the deepening schism between Russia and the West, the revival of the Cold War modus operandi, and even risk of the accidental eruption of the III World war. But if not following the extreme scenarios, what the EU can expect from the IV mandate of Vladimir Putin? Clearly not much in terms of science, progress or respect of human rights, but highly likely the continuation of stagnation  with the subsequent loss of traditional Russian spheres of influence like Balkans, Caucasus, and Central Asia.

The recent events in Armenia showed the fragility of the only ally in the Caucasus, and the switch of Kazakh alphabet to Latin letters indicated to direction of the development the leadership has chosen, clearly not impressed by Kremlin’s achievements. For traditional allies and neighbours Russia is not an attractive construct: rusting vertical of power, causing corruption at all levels, elite openly preferring to keep their fortunes and families abroad; economy firmly becoming a global supplier of raw materials; and declining population. The latter deserves some special attention, because with the current trends Siberia is rapidly inhabited by Chinese neighbours, hardworking and politically inactive, filling working places of those Russians who leave for the European part of the country, or void of many of extinct villages. The process called by the Siberians themselves as ‘Chinese colonisation‘.

When voting Putin for the fourth time, Russian have chosen for a traditional biologic cycle of political power change, it means that the current model will come to a natural end in 15  year from now, when Putin‘s close cercle reaches the age it would be physically unable to keep a grip on power, and even on their own fading away lives. No one is immortal. But what kind of Russia will the West encounter then?..

Culturally in 15-20 years Russia will be a different place. At present 38 million Chinese live in bordering Heilongjiang province, while in the entire Siberia just 36 million, and lately in the province the Communist party allowed to have a third child to the couples with the higher income. Growing population with growing needs, and limited resources, but remembering Deng Xiaoping advise they keep low profile, while “aiming to do something big.” In social media Russians share posts about Chinese taking over enterprises and territories. Siberians have collected 140 000 signatures under petition to Putin, asking him to stop the commercial destruction of forests, but in vain.

Cornered by the Western sanctions, Kremlin has little choice to turn to the East, selling natural resources, and welcoming Chinese workers to cope with the economic trouble caused by the stance of the West. Above it all the Chinese are so much friendlier to Kremlin, never reminding about Human rights, Freedom of speech, or requesting the liberation of political prisoners. What a stark contract with the West!

However the Chinese factor is not the only one, the other element is rapid spreading of Islam over Russian territory. In case the current trends stay in 20 year from now the country’s population will transform from predominantly Orthodox to Muslim. One more challenge for Europe, desperate to cope with radical Islam and home-grown terrorists.

In his inauguration speech Vladimir Putin compared Russia to Phoenix – magic Firebird, living rebirth. However even a very myopic observer could notice, that after each crisis Russian Firebird comes smaller in size, with further shrinking population. Would it come back as a Firebird after a quarter of a century of Putin‘s uninterrupted rule? Or will it be consumed by the Chinese Dragon? (The President himself has well prepared his children, who learned Chinese language at school:)

To conclude, the fourth inauguration of Vladimir Putin is a turning point, a clear choice for decline and Russia’s disintegration. Subsequently the EU needs to adjust its four road maps with Moscow, conducting its foreign policy having in view the upcoming Russia‘s ethnic, and religious change. Abyssus abyssum invocat! (One abuse leads to another).

Image: Siberia becoming a desert, while the forests are cut out in barbaric way, and sold to Chinese companies. Source: social media.

Siberian forest cut out

Armenia political crisis deepens

Armenian opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan has failed in his bid to become interim prime minister short of eight votes. The next step in legal procedure is the second Parliament sitting in a week time, expected to end in the similar stalemate, leading to dissolving of the institution, and snap elections. However, Republicans hope to organise the process, continuing to cling to power against all odds.

After a day of debate in the Parliament, Pashinyan  didn’t receive enough support despite being the only candidate for the post, while collecting 45 votes, eight short of the 53 he needed to have a majority in the 105-seat legislature. 

In  a very intense and sharp debate all parties had a consensus on keeping the matter as ‘interior policy problem’, without challenging any issues of foreign policy, and respecting international agreements and obligations, namely vis-à-vis Russia, the European Union, the Council of Europe and the other international organisations. They also agreed that the only way of the impasse lies though general elections.

However  the ruling Republican party was not willing to abandon power without resistance, motivating their disagreement to endorse the candidacy of Pashinyan as interim PM in his lack of a governing experience, especially taking into consideration complexity of military-political situation with  the frozen conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. The denial allowed Pashinyan to remind to his opponents that  Nelson Mandela became South African President after long stay in prison brought to power by will of people, which is a decisive force in a democratic process. In his exchange with MP he also presented his views on a broad spectrum of issues, including Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, relations with Russia, Georgia, and denied any personal contacts with Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny and Georgia’s Mikhail Saakashvili.

“Grilled” in a tough American style by MPs  Pashinyan said he would increase defence budget, blaming that last 15 years government failed to level military might with Azerbaijan. He also vowed to create conditions for repatriating Armenians from abroad, including those who would bring investments, linking the process to a substantial reform of system of justice, liberating it from its ‘totalitarian mentality‘. He put to shame Republicans, blaming them temptation to curb the judiciary to serve their political interests, even degrading to keeping ‘prisoners of thought’. The substantial amount invested in judiciary was spent on exterior – buildings and judges outfits, but not on establishing of its independence, he added.

An issue of ethnic minorities took a special place in a debate: Pashinyan insisted they don’t have political freedoms, and are almost obliged to be loyal to a dominant political force, the practise he would certainly end, opening to them an opportunity to join political life, and to choose freely, including joining the opposition.

However it was the question of children and youth that fueled most anger from the Republicans who considered Pashinyan  crossed red lines, inviting schoolchildren to join the protests. They received an answer that it is an experience, and education of civility, which would stay with them, and hopefully pass on to the future generations. The position forced one of the MPs to leave the audience in a protest for 10 minutes.

The rejection of Republicans to accept  the will of people, endorsing the only candidate as an interim PM to organise snap elections, caused the continuation of protests.

Pashinyan called the citizens to go on with actions of civil disobedience, he also addressed transport workers asking to join the strike to ensure a total paralysis, forcing ruling party of Republicans to accept the democratic transition without further delay.

 

 

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#Armenia unexpected break away

Today’s vote at noon in Armenian parliament electing Prime Minister is crucial for the future of Armenians, but also the Caucasus, and the Kremlin, gradually losing influence in the region. While oil-rich Azerbaijan manifests its affiliation with Turkey, and Georgia is open about is ambition to join NATO, Armenians, as the last ally of Russia in the region abruptly, and unexpectedly are breaking away led by an opposition politician Nikol Pashinyan,  who has never been hiding his pro-European stance.

Massive street manifestations are rather startling as a phenomenon for the ex-Soviet Republic, where leaders are not used to democratic accountability. At first glance the current turmoil came as a result of a political miscalculation of a former President Serzh Sargsyanwho ‘mechanically’ applied Kremlin scheme of moving from President’s to Prime Ministers chair to continue his unchallenged rule from a different office interior decorations.

The scenario was clearly not appreciated by Armenians, who considered the manipulation as a fraud: while reforming the country from a presidential to a parliamentary republic, Sargsyan ensured citizens, that he is not going to claim any more mandates.  But later he broke his promise arranging  for himself the Prime Minister’s chair, and fueling the indignation of Armenians, who streamed into the streets, manifesting their protest.

However there is more to indignation of Armenians than discontent with their former President attempt to impose himself in Vladimir Putin‘s style as a tsar or an eternal ruler. There is an entire rejection of outdated Russian authoritarian system, plagued with corruption and nepotism. If in the Soviet era the information flows were under strict control of the Communist party, nowadays it is increasingly difficult to govern neglecting ‘demos‘, who is intensely communicating with each other via smartphones.

In age of Digital revolution, when people can easily find an alternative information via internet, the role of Armenian diaspora in Europe and the USA is not the least factor to contribute public opinion disposition. People to people contacts with friends and family members, sharing experiences of life in democratic societies became an efficient engine of progress, shifting Armenians away from outdated authoritarian rule of heirs of Soviet nomenklatura. 

The experts would say that Russia can not be rapidly removed or replaced or abandoned due to its status in resolution of Nagorno-Karabakh frozen conflict, offering to Armenia military and political guarantees, through Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). And they are right. Pashinyan has already confirmed that in case his party leads the country, no changes will be introduced to its membership in both CSTO (‘Tashkent Treaty’), or Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

However, now it is too early for Pashanyan to reveal his real aims.

Unlike Sargsyan, he did not fight in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK), and does not have any personal affiliation to the region claiming independence. Like many of Armenians of his generation he presumably wishes to move on with the resolution of the conflict, inclining to a compromise to end the stalemate, and isolation of his country in the Caucasus. Subsequently in coming years it will be increasingly difficult for Kremlin to keep the alliance with #Yerevan, in total absence of incentives, relying only on protracting the NK stalemate.

The entire situation with street protests in Armenia is a definite indicator of Russia‘s loss of influence in the region and an absolute decline. It is reminiscent of the other colored revolutions in ex-Soviet Republics, coming as unpleasant surprise to Kremlin inhabitants unable to understand the people’ rejection of their obsolete modus vivendi on the ruins of Soviet Empire in a perimeter protected by ballistic missiles. The very same missiles which did not save their predecessors from collapse.

Syria versus OPCW

A global chemical weapons watchdog OPCW says it has deployed fact-finding teams to investigate an alleged chemical attack in Douma, a town in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta kept in hands of insurgents.

The Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirms that the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) team is on its way to Syria and will start its work as of Saturday 14 April, 2018,” – the official confirmed.

The announcement came a few days after the alleged chemical attack which, according to NGOs on the ground, claimed the lives of more than 85 civilians and harmed thousand more.

Syrian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Bashar Al-Jaafari confirmed Damascus’ readiness to provide unlimited assistance to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) mission coming to the city of Douma in order to investigate into an alleged chemical attack.

“My country Syria stresses its unlimited cooperation with the OPCW to fulfill the commitments stated in the convention of the prohibition of the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons,Al-Jaafari said during an emergency meeting on Syria at the UN Security Council this week.

Once again Al-Jaafari reminded that Syrian government has no possession of any chemicals weapons including chlorine that was allegedly used over the weekend in Douma, he added.

The Syrian Arabic Republic stresses once again it does not possess any chemical weapons of any type, including chlorine,”Al- Jaafari said, while addressing UN.

However the record of co-operation between OPCW and Syrian government is far from being flawless. Back in 2017 Syria rejected the conclusions of the report of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism on Khan Sheikhoun incident because it was not “neutral and not professional, and it built its false charges against Syria on the process of fabricating evidence and manipulating informationAl-Jaafari claimed.

In a session (November 2017) of the Security Council on the report OPCW-UN Joint Mechanism, Al-Jaafari wondered how the Mechanism didn’t consider Khan Sheikhoun incident as a political issue, saying “Since when is chemical terrorism considered a fully technical issue and not a political one?”

Al-Jaafari said that some states’ governments claim that they adhere to ethics and they consider themselves as custodians of the provisions of international law and the UN Charter while at the same time they adopt policies that violate these noble moral principles and they exploit them to implement their destructive interference agendas“.

Al Jafari UN

“Some UN committees, such as the Joint Mechanism, which should be neutral, professional, and credible, have proven through their work that they are biased and politicized,” Al-Jaafari continued ‘(2017).

Ambassador cited a number of examples indicating to lack of neutrality and professionalism by the Joint Mechanism, and regretted that the  report on the internal investigations on the incident of Khan Sheikhoun did not reveal the truth about the attack.

Syria-OPCW turbulent record casts doubts if the current mission findings would be accepted by Syrian government as objective. Subsequently it asises even more doubts if military action is an adequate solution: Saddam Hussein also claimed he had no chemical weapons of mass destruction, however four star US Gen.Colin Powell had an alternative point of view…

The question on alleged chemical weapons use in Syria leads the West to another dilemma: is Abu-Bakr al Baghdadi a viable alternative to Bashar Al-Assad?

#Skripal’ assassination omitted truth

The omitted factors in presumption of Moscow deliberate assault on a former KGB Colonel Sergei Skripal with Cold War mass-destruction chemical weapon Novichok reduce the blame of Prime Minister Theresa May to a highly subjective hypothesis.
Challenging the official conclusions, different episodes from Novichok sinister legend frame the official British version as endogenous, thus serving the political strategy of accusing Kremlin, but not pursuing the search of the truth, which goes begging…

Skripal arrest
Arrest of Colonel Sergei Skripal in his apartment. Moscow, 2004.

The narrative of Novichok is deeply rooted in Cold War, when the USSR was flaunting its military might. The Communist party was so proud of a possession of such a powerful chemical weapon, that honoured both inventors of NovichokVladimir Ouglev (Владимир Углев) and Vil Mirzayanov (Виль Мирзаянов) with Lenin Prize (1991) for a break-thought in science. The special achievements of this new generation of nerve agents were it is unprecedented might – with one liter of liquid a population of multi-million city could be destroyed without a chance of recovery. The other characteristic was in method of application – in unremarkable composing elements, which represent no danger to humans if kept apart, will produce a lethal effect when assembled.
“Scripals are practically dead”, said the Vil Mirzayanov, an immigrant in the USA since collapse of the Soviet Empire. “And even if they survive, they will never recover”, he added. There is not antidote to Novichok.

Vil Mirzayanov
Vil Mirzayanov (Виль Мирзаянов) one of inventors of USSR chemical weapon of mass destruction – Novichok. Facebook page.

Tragically Skirpals attacked with nerve agent were not the only victims who came to public attention. The sinister story of Russian banker Ivan Kivelidi (1995) assassinated by application of chemical weapon to a telephone in his office,  shocked Russians. His secretary (30) and coroner (40) who performed autopsy on Kivelidi’s body also lost their lives – the poison was so powerful, that continued the devastation in derivatives.
After this sequence of suspicious deaths the investigation led to an employer of the scientific laboratory in the institute where the chemical was invented, and his wealthy client, who purchased the formula, – a businessman and former victim’s partner – Vladimir Khutsishvili. Both men arrested and sentenced. It is useful to mention that Kivelidi was not just “a” banker, but a chair of a club of bankers, with a pronounced interest in politics.

Russian banker Ivan Kivelidi poisoned by a powerful nerve agent (1995)
Russian banker Ivan Kivelidi assassinated in Moscow by a powerful nerve agent (1995)

However it was unclear then how the former partner managed to insert the nerve agent in the telephone membrane – one should have special costume,  triple layer gloves and gas mask to survive the manipulation, but the accused Vladimir Khutsishvili entered the office of the victim in tenue de ville

At present one of two Novichok inventors lives in the USA, Mirzaynov claims that he revealed the formula of the chemical in his book, and at collapse of the USSR warned Americans about this secret Russian weapon, that should have been included in the list of prohibited substances. Russian expert at United Nations Igor Nikulin confirmed that the formula of Novichok was known by the potential foes after collapse of the USSR.

At present Russians instantly deny the possession of Novichok – in 1997 Kremlin ratified the Convention of prohibition of chemical weapons, and subsequently President Putin received report of a complete destruction of the entire Soviet arsenal in Russian Federation. But Igor Nikulin added that Novichok samples could have been kept in any of the former Soviet Republics after collapse of the Communist system. In the USSR one of the leading production laboratories of chemical weapons was situated in Noukous, in Uzbekistan,  outside Russian jurisdiction, where the government worked closely with the USA in destruction of its arsenal.

Considering these omitted in public debate factors – the leak of Novichok formula from laboratory in 90th, and migration of  its inventor Vil Mirzayanov to the USA,  the access to production and samples in Soviet Republics, which became independent states, – the circle of potential holders of the nerve agent formula is significantly larger than Lubyanka secret service office in Moscow.

Beyond mentioned above, there are too many inexplicable elements in the assassination of Sripals: why father and daughter collapsed at the same moment? If she was the one who brought poison in her luggage from Moscow, and was exposed to it first, logically there should have been a time difference in their collapse, but there was not. If the suitcase was contaminated with such a powerful nerve agent as British media reports claim, all workers along the air transport chain should have been dead by now, but fortunately there are no reports of any ‘suspicious deaths’ so far. But was it Novichok, or some other nerve agent?.. Only an independent international inquiry can establish the truth, until independent experts have an access to the information, the accusations would remains in the realm of hypothesis, serving political concept of demonizing Russians, and dragging the world backward into Cold War era, where Skirpal belongs.

Recruited by MI6 while serving as a military attaché of Russian Embassy in Spain, Skripal sold 20 000 pages of secret documents, receiving more than £100 000 in 10 years before his arrest in 2004, and subsequent sentence for 13 years.
The former double agent was pardoned five years later in a swap operation between Moscow and Washington. Freed, the disgraced Colonel installed in a small English town of Salisbury, not far from his recruiter, where he led low profile lifestyle, until the spectacular assassination, worth masterpieces of Bondiana, when Skripal’s name stormed the headlines of media worldwide, and ascended to UN debate.

Skripal black cat
Skripal’ black cat vanished. Neighbours in Salisbury suspect it died from nerve agent. (Image from social networks).

 

 

#RoadToBrexit as a daydream

Undoubtedly the Manson House speech of the Prime Minister Theresa May has many virtues, offering constructive proposals for Article 50 agreement.  In general it is also attempts to appeal to common sense of the EU leaders, and is reflecting an intense search for the best possible new formula for matching interests of both parties, instead of fitting into old EU dogmas of ‘four freedoms’. May’s vision of the basis of post-Brexit engagement is orientated towards future: robotics and artificial intelligence, the new technologies and most of all the British genius, which brought the nation to the forefront of the Digital Revolution. But can this dazzling and dynamic new engagement attract Brussels?..

If we agree on the leading role of the “outstanding individuals” in sculpturing history, and take a close-up on European Union protagonists influencing Brexit negotiations, we’ll see that they function in totally different modus operandi than the looking forward British PM. The European Commission president (the ‘Prime Minister of Europe’) Jean-Claude Juncker is concerned with keeping the EU project intact in its original form, repeatedly referring to the forefathers – Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet who resurrected Europe from the ashes of the WWII on entirely new basis. Devoting his life to the ideas of the United States of Europe, Juncker’s major preoccupation is the risk of Brexit provoking a collapse of the entire 70 years old architecture, erected gradually after the European Coal and Steel Community united in 1950 in order to secure lasting peace.

Ideologically Juncker faces similar problems in dealing with Brexit as the Pope, who faced unpleasant news from a rebellious English King, rejecting to acknowledge his authority, and thus pay tribute to the Holy See. Juncker’s preoccupation is not to let the heresy to spread, subsequently the creation of a new ‘dynamic and vibrant’ engagement with London would be detrimental to the original project, showing to the other member-states, that life outside the EU can be so much better than inside.

In this case May’ appeal to embrace together the wonders of Digital Revolution falls on deaf ears: Juncker, as usual, is looking backward, contemplating ashes of the WWII. Keeping in mind the origins of the European project, the protection of its ‘sacred’ four freedoms from British ‘heresy’ becomes paramount. Allowing the new engagement to be a success means to give in to those, who ‘betrayed’ the great idea of Schuman, and  ‘tricked’ Britons into the trap of leave vote – an unthinkable compromise for such a ‘guardian’ of the EU Treaties as Jean-Claude Juncker.

In this context one can not exclude the ‘no-deal’ scenario, when the UK faces Brexting on WTO rules. Anyway, when dealing with dogmatics, it would be useful to keep an ace up the sleeve:)

 

The Cheat La Tour

Pharisees welcome to #Haiti!

Anna van Densky, OPINION

The linguistic argument over  President Trump choice of epithet to describe the situation of rampant criminality in Haiti ( 219 murders per 100,000 a year), and some other African countries overshadowed the concern with the situation itself, becoming a hysteria of Pharisees, outraged for pointing to  the unpleasant truth.

African nations started to express their protest and request apology for the unflattering comparison, being used to comfortable “politically correct” public discourse, indulging in escapism. The population rushed to express their frustration and rage in destruction. (Image below: spontaneous protests in H&M store in South Africa against epithet “shit hole”, reportedly used by President Trump.

A discussion in White House with President Donald Trump on immigration regulation that suggested asylum for people from Haiti and other likewise places, caused a whirlwind of emotions. Why US citizens  should welcome immigrants from “shithole countries” rather than from Norway? The question the President reportedly asked, according to sources present in conversation leaked to press and make headline. But it is not rate of gang rapes that concerned the general public, but an obligation to hide the abhorrent reality, making it a taboo. The next question is how to fight evil, if politicians are not allowed to raise an issue without censorship?

Pipe

“It is not a pipe!” says the line on painting of the father of Surrealism Renée Magritte. The international politics has become totally surrealistic, rejecting realities, and sheltering in illusions. While the UK FCO travel advice  (see below) warns about horrors of Haiti, Pharisees among the US #Democrats attack the President for using an epithet, slightly hinting on degradation of failed states and territories, with highest rates of murders and gang rapes on planet Earth. Pharisees do not attack the problem, they attack the President pursuing their own political aims, manipulation public opinion in their own selfish interest, waging infowar against Republicans. However it is time to establish the truth, all Pharisees should present a reason for their indignation. If President is wrong, they should leave for next holiday there:)  Welcome to #Haiti! We are waiting in anticipation for the photographs on your Facebook pages:)

FCO Haiti travel