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By John Helmer, Moscow

At the start of April President Vladimir Putin believed he could postpone Russia’s strategic and battlefield responses to the state of war which the US is escalating.  He was to be disappointed.

On April 6, the US Treasury announced  it is putting the state aluminium monopoly United Company Rusal out of business, not only in the US but worldwide.  Not since July 26, 1941,  when President Franklin Roosevelt froze Japanese assets in the US and prohibited all US trade with Japan, especially metals and oil, as well as all US dollar transactions,   has the American state attempted such a thing against a rival Great Power. Roosevelt calculated it was one deterrent step short of US war with Japan. Everybody understands now that miscalculation led to Japan’s decision to make its preemptive strike against the US Navy at Pearl Harbor, five months later.

There is another, earlier precedent for the US Treasury’s act of war against Russia. That was on  November 21, 1806, when Napoleon issued his  Berlin Decree. That forbade the export of British goods to Europe or other states controlled by the French military, or the imports of goods on which Britain depended from its empire. Too weak to defeat the British Navy or invade the British islands, Napoleon opted for economic sanctions, retaliating for the trade blockade imposed by the British Navy around the French coastline, starting in May of that year.  “It being right,” Napoleon had declared as the justification  for his blockade, “to oppose to an enemy the same arms she makes use of, to combat as she does, when all ideas of justice and every liberal sentiment (the result of civilization among men) are discarded.”  The British had extended war beyond military operations, Napoleon added in his decree: “it cannot be extended to any private property whatever, nor to persons who are not military, and until the right of blockade be restrained to fortified places, actually invested by competent forces.” The Continental Blockade, thus launched, lasted until Napoleon’s first abdication in April 1814.

On the fourteenth of this month the US launched its assault on Syria, agreeing in advance with the Russian General Staff to avoid Russian forces and Russian-defended targets. That attack was a military failure. But  with continuing Israeli operations from the air against Syrian, Iranian and Russian targets, Putin has been requested by the General Staff and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to authorize the deployment of Russian S-300 missile defences to deter and destroy fresh attacks. Putin has been delaying this decision.

Then on April 25 US forces broke into the Russian consulate at Seattle. This was the second such attack by the US on Russian diplomatic territory in the US; the earlier one was on September 2, 2017, when the Russian consulate in San Francisco and  simultaneously,  Russian trade mission offices in Washington and New York.

The Russian Foreign Ministry called the US actions “illegal invasion”, and violations of the Vienna Convention,  but not acts of war.

In the past four weeks Putin has called his Security Council into session just twice. The first was on April 6, to discuss, according to the Kremlin communique, border control plans.   The second Council meeting took place on April 19, which the Kremlin reported as discussing “the recent Western airstrikes…[and]  measures to prevent floods and wildfires.”

Putin took several important decisions besides, but he did it out of sight at the Novo-Ogaryovo dacha, and for his own reasons kept them secret. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

There are two reasons why  the aluminium metal markets are not making long-term bets on the price of the metal, the alumina required to make it, and the share prices of the metal producers, including Russia’s aluminium monopoly United Company Rusal. The first reason is that the US Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin (lead image, right) has decided to eliminate Rusal’s controlling shareholder, Oleg Deripaska (left), but leave Rusal to carry on its business without him.  The second reason is that President Vladimir Putin cannot make up his mind on whether to sacrifice Deripaska for the good of the company and Russia’s metal industry.  If Putin refuses Mnuchin’s deal, the US sanctions to put the company out of business, announced on April 6, will be enforced in full.  Pricing the consequences now of then is next to impossible.

According to Mnuchin’s statement on Monday, “RUSAL has felt the impact of U.S. sanctions because of its entanglement with Oleg Deripaska, but the U.S. government is not targeting the hardworking people who depend on RUSAL and its subsidiaries. RUSAL has approached us to petition for delisting.  Given the impact on our partners and allies, we are issuing a general license extending the maintenance and wind-down period while we consider RUSAL’s petition.”

On Tuesday Putin responded  through his spokesman  Dmitry Peskov. “so far it is difficult to say how consistent our American counterparts are in their approach. We still consider these sanctions to be illegal. We believe that in relation to a single company such actions are akin to asset grabbing.” 

That is Deripaska himself doing the talking. The only man in Russia who thinks that state recovery of a heavily indebted asset from an oligarch is an asset grab is Deripaska. Putin has yet to disagree. Mnuchin has given Putin six months until October 23 to make up his mind. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

A politician becomes a psychopath when he or she acts without calculating the consequences for approval rating and voter support. The same thing goes for ministers and their advisers who urge military operations abroad which make voters feel unsafe at home. Fear and insecurity aren’t good for incumbents.

President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May both made this miscalculation when they launched their April 14 attack on Syria. In the latest political polls they are now worse off than they were before the attack. The military operation, according to US and UK poll compilations, has reversed the positive trend in their standing with voters since the start of this year. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

US President Donald Trump didn’t mean to start a revolution. President Vladimir Putin tried persuading him not to. But on April 14 the revolution was launched by American warplanes, surface ships and a submarine.

The outcome is that the US can no longer count on air superiority anywhere in the world where Russian air defences operate, backed by Russian command-and-control systems. Without air superiority, the US has no force multiple on the ground of the magnitude required for the Pentagon to attack; that is, the ratio of American men and firepower the Pentagon calculates for making sure their enemies on their ground can be defeated.  

This is revolutionary, and has spread instantly to every war front — the Russian lines with NATO; the Korea-Japan front; the Taiwan Straits and South China Sea for China; and the Indian Ocean for India and Pakistan.  

The treaties which promise US allies that an attack on them will draw US military support for their collective defence – Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty (NATO), Article 4 of the Australia New Zealand US Treaty (ANZUS), Article 3 of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio), and the Japan, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Pakistan and Israel defence treaties – are dead letters.

So long, shock and awe – that was the American warfighting doctrine against people who lack Russian-standard defences. 

(more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

There are many Russian reasons why no Russian, man or woman, has trusted Oleg Deripaska (lead picture, on the wall), control shareholder and chief executive of the state aluminium monopoly Rusal (Russian Aluminium), for more than a few months at a time. The reasons have varied from business to business, contract to contract, individual to individual.  But now that the US Treasury has put Deripaska and Rusal out of business, one week before the Russian General Staff demonstrated that it can put the air forces of the US out of the attack business, the plan for the future of Rusal is simple.

There are six points under discussion in the Kremlin.  President Vladimir Putin must decide and  announce his running orders; appoint a Russian military officer with at least one tour under fire in Syria  to implement the orders;  and retire Deripaska from command of anything of state  importance.  

(more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

US Government economic sanctions have a hundred-year long history in US statutes and court cases, starting in 1917 when the US was at war with Germany. Trading with the Enemy Act was what the first statute was called.   It was clear then who the enemy was, and there was a shooting war in the Atlantic and in Europe to prove it.

Many US wars later, most of them for reasons which turned out to be lies, US Government sanctions have been endorsed by the American courts as a defence against an attacker whose method always included the use of force. But not now.

On Friday April 6, the US Treasury, headed by by Steven Mnuchin (lead image, centre), introduced a new type of economic sanction; read the official announcement.  For the first time, the individuals and companies targeted have no record for using force, and there is no evidence of their intention to use it. Instead, they are accused, and by the new sanctions punished, for things which American citizens have the constitutional right to exercise – the freedom of association and the freedom of expression.

The Russian targets of the new sanctions, announced Mnuchin, are proscribed for the full range of economic sanctions because of their association with the Russian government, and because they are Russians doing business in Russia. “The Russian government operates for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs and government elites,” Mnuchin said, stamping his foot where Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and C. Wright Mills have famously trod before.  “The Russian government engages in a range of malign activity around the globe”. Ergo, a Russian businessman associating with the Russian government and growing rich is a threat to the equitable distribution of income and capital in Russia; ergo, he is a threat to the security of the United States. Never before has Russian capitalism been declared an enemy of American socialism, and forbidden to borrow, lend, own or trade with Americans or the US dollar. (more…)

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Right – Mayor of Moscow Sergei Sobyanin at the Security Council meeting on April 6; on his right,  General Valery Gerasimov,  Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces and First Deputy Defence Minister. Official Kremlin publication: http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/57213


Right – Sobyanin at the Easter service at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral on April 8; on his right. President Vladimir Putin. Official Kremlin publication: http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/57221

By John Helmer, Moscow

Father Politics, like Mother Nature, abhors a vacuum.

And so it was, even before the US Treasury announced its newest sanctions against Russian individuals and their companies for “malign activity around the globe”, that President-elect Vladimir Putin was preparing a successor cabinet of ministers on the principle that they would be organized as a headquarters staff for fighting a war on all fronts, without the option of negotiating terms with the enemy.

The impact of the US sanctions, along with the campaign of the British Government in the Skripal affair, and the Syrian front action escalating since the weekend, have reinforced what had already been decided in the Kremlin.  The new government is to be a war cabinet. In Russian parlance, a Stavka. (more…)

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Source: http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/57213


Source: http://www.mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/3155552

By John Helmer, Moscow

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Salisbury Hospital’s chief administrator and chief doctor refuse to say they are holding consent forms signed by Sergei Skripal and Yulia Skripal. Without those forms, and proof the hospital has obtained them from the Skripals since they regained consciousness last week, the hospital is making claims about their privacy which are improper, according to the practice rules of the British National Health Service, and unlawful violations of their human rights, according to British and European law. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Empires are just like everything else going down the toilet. Bits always stick on the porcelain which require more flushing.  Embarrassing bits.  

Now in its fifth week since the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury on March 4, the bits that cannot be flushed away are producing an odour whose obviousness is embarrassing for  Salisbury Hospital and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The hospital is treating the Skripals for their medical welfare and is required by hospital policy and  UK law to be accountable to their next of kin. Their rights of access to and from the hospital are also required by  European Human Rights Convention.  The evidence now accumulating is that the hospital is detaining and isolating the Skripals against their will, preventing contact with their family. Requested to explain this and identify her legal authority, the response of the hospital’s chief executive, Cara Charles-Barks, is to stonewall.

The OPCW, comprising 192 states which have signed, ratified and enacted the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC),  is governed by a 41-member Executive Council, and administered by a Secretary-General and a staff based in The Hague. They represent the management arm of the Convention to ensure that everyone follows its provisions.  But in acting on the Skripal case, the OPCW is voting in secret and  violating the articles of the Convention itself. The OPCW’s spokesman, an American named Deepti Choubey, refuses to reply to questions claiming the right of confidentiality according to the Convention and the OPCW’s policy. When asked to identify which provisions of the Convention apply, and what is the text of the OPCW policy on confidentiality, Choubey’s response is to stonewall.  (more…)