Thursday 18th of April 2024

a clear diplomatic strategy....

A group of 19 Republicans in Congress has drafted a joint letter to US President Joe Biden calling for an end to aid to Ukraine in the format it has so far, The Hill wrote.

“We are deeply concerned that support for the Ukrainian military threatens further escalation <…> We will strongly oppose all future aid packages unless they are linked to a clear diplomatic strategy to end the conflict as soon as possible,” the letter reads.

According to the congressmen, the Biden administration’s current strategy – constant aid and sanctions – is leading to “escalation and even more violence” and increasing the threat of a direct confrontation with Russia.

“We need to focus on our own military and economic resources “rather than allocating significant resources to foreign conflict,” the letter summarised.

Earlier, the Pentagon reported that total military aid to Kiev since the start of the Russian special operation had reached $36.1 billion.

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facts and humour....

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s New York moment performed the diplomatic equivalent of bringing the house down, writes Pepe Escobar.

Now picture a true gentleman, the foremost diplomat of these troubled times, in total command of the facts and endowed with a delightful sense of humor, taking a perilous walk on the wild side, to quote iconic Lou Reed, and emerging unscathed.

In fact, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s New York moment – as in his two interventions before the UN Security Council on April 24 and 25 – performed the diplomatic equivalent of bringing the house down. At least the sections of the house inhabited by the Global South – or Global Majority.

April 24, during the 9308th meeting of the UNSC under the agenda “Maintenance of international peace and security, effective multilateralism through the protection of the principles of the UN Charter”, was particularly relevant.

Lavrov stressed the symbolism of the meeting happening on the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace, deemed quite significant by a 2018 UN General Assembly resolution.

In his preamble, Lavrov noted how “in two weeks, we will celebrate the 78th anniversary of Victory in World War II. The defeat of Nazi Germany, to which my country made a decisive contribution with the support of the Allies, laid the foundation for the post-war international order. The UN Charter has become its legal basis, and our organization itself, embodying true multilateralism, has acquired a central, coordinating role in world politics.”

Well, not really. And that brings us to Lavrov’s true walk on the wild side, pinpointing how multilateralism has been trampled. Way beyond torrents of denigration by the usual suspects, and their attempt to submit him to an ice cold shower in New York, or even confine him to the – geopolitical – freezer, he prevailed. Let’s take a walk with him across the current wasteland. Mr. Lavrov, you’re the star of the show.


Our way or the highway

That “rules-based order”: “The UN-centric system is going through a deep crisis. The root cause was the desire of some members of our organization to replace international law and the UN Charter with a kind of ‘rules-based order.’ No one saw these ‘rules’, they were not the subject of transparent international negotiations. They are invented and used to counteract the natural processes of the formation of new independent centers of development, which are an objective manifestation of multilateralism. They are trying to contain them with illegitimate unilateral measures, including cutting off access to modern technologies and financial services, ousting them from supply chains, confiscating property, destroying competitors’ critical infrastructure, and manipulating universally agreed norms and procedures. As a result, the fragmentation of world trade, the collapse of market mechanisms, the paralysis of the WTO and the final, already without disguise, transformation of the IMF into a tool for achieving the goals of the United States and its allies, including military goals.”

Destroying globalization: “In a desperate attempt to assert its dominance by punishing the disobedient, the United States went on to destroy globalization, which for many years was extolled as the highest good of all mankind, serving the multilateral system of the world economy. Washington and the rest of the West, which has submitted to it, use their ‘rules’ whenever it is necessary to justify illegitimate steps against those who build their policies in accordance with international law and refuse to follow the selfish interests of the ‘golden billion’. Dissenters are blacklisted according to the principle: ‘Whoever is not with us is against us.’ It has long been ‘inconvenient’ for our Western colleagues to negotiate in universal formats, such as the UN. For the ideological justification of the policy of undermining multilateralism, the theme of the unity of ‘democracies’ as opposed to ‘autocracies’ has been introduced. In addition to the ‘summits for democracy’, whose composition is determined by the self-proclaimed Hegemon, other ‘clubs of the elite’ are being created, bypassing the UN.”

“Garden” vs. “Jungle: “Let’s call a spade a spade: no one allowed the Western minority to speak on behalf of all mankind. It is necessary to behave decently and respect all members of the international community. By imposing a ‘rules-based order’, its authors arrogantly reject a key principle of the UN Charter – the sovereign equality of states. The quintessence of the ‘exclusivity complex’ was the ‘proud’ statement by the head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, that ‘Europe is the Garden of Eden, and the rest of the world is a jungle.’ I will also quote the NATO-EU Joint Statement of January 10 of this year, which states: the ‘United West’ will use all the economic, financial, political and – I pay special attention – military tools available to NATO and the EU to ensure the interests of ‘our one billion’.

NATO’s “line of defense”: “At last year’s summit in Madrid, NATO, which has always convinced everyone of its ‘peacefulness’ and the exclusively defensive nature of its military programs, declared ‘global responsibility’, the ‘indivisibility of security’ in the Euro-Atlantic region and in the so-called Indo-Pacific region. That is, now the ‘line of defense’ of NATO (as a defensive Alliance) is shifting to the western shores of the Pacific Ocean. Bloc approaches that undermine ASEAN-centric multilateralism are manifested in the creation of the AUKUS military alliance, into which Tokyo, Seoul and a number of ASEAN countries are being pushed. Under the auspices of the United States, mechanisms are being created to intervene in maritime security issues with an eye to ensuring the unilateral interests of the West in the South China Sea. Josep Borrell, whom I have already quoted today, promised yesterday to send EU naval forces to the region. It is not hidden that the goal of the ‘Indo-Pacific strategies’ is to contain the PRC and isolate Russia. This is how our Western colleagues understand ‘effective multilateralism’ in the Asia-Pacific region.”

“Promoting democracy”: “Since World War II, there have been dozens of criminal military adventures by Washington – without any attempt to gain multilateral legitimacy. Why, if there are ‘rules’ unknown to anyone? The shameful invasion of Iraq by the U.S.-led coalition in 2003 was carried out in violation of the UN Charter, as was the aggression against Libya in 2011. A gross violation of the UN Charter was U.S. interference in the affairs of post-Soviet states. ‘Color revolutions’ were organized in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan, a bloody coup d’état in Kiev in February 2014, and attempts to seize power by force in Belarus in 2020. The Anglo-Saxons, who confidently led the entire West, not only justify all these criminal adventures, but also flaunt their line of ‘promoting democracy.’ But again, according to its ‘rules’: Kosovo – to recognize independence without any referendum; Crimea – not to recognize (although there was a referendum); Do not touch the Falklands/Malvinas, because there was a referendum there (as British Foreign Secretary John Cleverly said recently). That’s funny.”

The geopolitics of the “Ukrainian issue”: “Today, everyone understands, although not everyone talks about it out loud: this is not about Ukraine at all, but about how international relations will be built further: through the formation of a stable consensus based on a balance of interests – or through the aggressive and explosive promotion of hegemony. It is impossible to consider the ‘Ukrainian issue’ in isolation from the geopolitical context. Multilateralism presupposes respect for the UN Charter in all the interconnectedness of its principles, as mentioned above. Russia has clearly explained the tasks that it pursues as part of a special military operation: to eliminate the threats to our security created by NATO members directly on our borders and to protect people who have been deprived of their rights proclaimed by multilateral conventions, to protect them from the direct threats of extermination and expulsion from the territories where their ancestors lived for centuries publicly declared by the Kyiv regime. We honestly said what and for whom we are fighting.”

The Global South fights back: “True multilateralism at the present stage requires the UN to adapt to the objective trends in the formation of a multipolar architecture of international relations. The reform of the Security Council must be accelerated by increasing the representation of countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The West’s current outrageous overrepresentation in this main UN organ undermines multilateralism. At the initiative of Venezuela, the Group of Friends in Defense of the UN Charter was created. We call on all States that respect the Charter to join it. It is also important to use the constructive potential of BRICS and the SCO. The EAEU, the CIS, and the CSTO are ready to contribute. We are in favor of using the initiative of the positions of regional associations of the countries of the Global South. The Group of Twenty can also play a useful role in maintaining multilateralism if Western participants stop distracting their colleagues from topical issues on its agenda in the hope of muffling the topic of their responsibility for the accumulation of crisis phenomena in the world economy.”


So who’s breaking the law?

After this concise tour de force, it would be immensely enlightening to track what Lavrov has been telling the world since February 2022, in consistent, excruciating detail: the serial international law breakers, in contemporary history, have been the Hegemon and its sorry gaggle of vassals. Not Russia.

So Moscow was completely within its rights to launch the SMO – as it had no alternative. And that operation will be brought to its logical conclusion – inbuilt in the new Russian Foreign Policy Concept published on March 31st. Whatever may be unleashed by the Collective West will be simply ignored by Russia, as it regards the entire combo to be acting outside the norms of international law laid down in the UN Charter.








piggies at the market....

by Tyler Durden

Last August, we were the first to show how Russia circumvented the European embargo on raw materials: it sold liquefied natural gas (LNG) to China, which then resold it to Europe at a substantial markup. And although we also have frequently reported that Russia was using a similar circumvention of oil sanctions, this time using India instead of China, few were prepared to confirm: after all, it would seem very short-sighted for European consumers to pay India extra , while Russia suffers no negative consequences from Europe's derisory "sanctions".

This is no longer the case: Friday, Bloomberg reported that despite Europe's fire and anger over an embargo (which has eased markedly in recent months), "Russian oil still fuels Europe with help from India".

As we reported at the time, last December the EU banned almost all crude oil imports by sea from Russia. Two months later, it extended this ban to refined fuels. However, these rules have not stopped countries like India from grabbing cheap Russian crude, turning it into fuels such as diesel, and shipping it back to Europe at a hefty markup: as the chart shows below, the price differential between Brent and Urals, a by-product of Russian sanctions, is around $25 per barrel, or almost a third of the price of a barrel of crude. Margins on Russian products are even higher when it comes to refined products such as gasoline or diesel.


In fact, India has become so good at reselling Russian oil to the same Europeans who refuse to buy it directly from Moscow for a much lower price, that the Asian country is on track to become Europe's largest supplier of refined fuels this month, while buying record amounts of Russian crude, according to data from analytics firm Kpler.

In other words, Europe continues to buy Russian oil, which allows Putin's military machine to be well funded, but due to the virtue signal exercise of buying Russian oil by mediated, the transaction ends up costing the Europeans billions of dollars more than if they had simply bought the oil directly.





Ukraine’s Ambassador to Ireland, Larisa Gerasko, has called for a boycott of Jameson whiskey after the brand became available, albeit to a limited degree, on the Russian market.

Jameson, owned by the French company Pernod Ricard, resumed sales in Russia late last year, citing the need to protect its local teams, as well as to avoid facing legal trouble over “intentional bankruptcy” in the country. Gerasko, however, has rejected such a rationale, calling for a boycott of the brand until it withdraws completely from Russia.

“On the one hand, this company wants to protect a few employees, but tens of thousands of Ukrainians, every single day, have been killed by Russia,” the envoy told Irish media on Sunday, urging “all companies” to help Kiev and stop trading with Moscow.














Talk about a counteroffensive by the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) has been doing the rounds for months, but it is still not clear when it might begin or whether it will happen at all. Previously, RT analyzed the readiness of the AFU for such an operation, but this time we will discuss the main challenges that may prevent Kiev’s troops from implementing or developing its political leaderships aims. And, perhaps most importantly, those of its Western sponsors.  

What is the AFU’s main challenge in mounting this sort of endeavor?

We currently do not have any idea of where the AFU’s counteroffensive could take place, although Russian military bosses will be well aware of troop movements. If it involves an attempt to breakthrough the front line, then in addition to preparing reserves for battle, the AFU will need high-precision weapons.

Ukrainian troops will have to use long-range artillery rocket systems, including the US-supplied M142 HIMARS MLRS. Since the start of Moscow’s offensive, Kiev has used these systems only from deep within its own territory. However, to achieve momentum and penetrate the defense line, the systems will have to be moved closer to the front. 


The current number of HIMARS rocket launchers (about 35 units) may not be enough for a counteroffensive along the entire front line, which stretches for 1,000km. The systems will probably be concentrated in just one or two directions, but this makes them easier to detect and destroy. Moreover, Ukraine only has a finite supply of missiles for most of its Western weapons systems, like the HIMARS, which means the manner in which they can be used is limited. These systems have never been tested in high-intensity conflicts.

There is currently no doctrine or tested recommendations on using HIMARS/M270 MLRS in combined arms warfare or in such a large-scale war against a technologically advanced enemy.

Difficulties with logistics

Considering the risk of detection in areas with concentrated equipment, and Ukraine’s fear of losing reserves, as we see happening in Artemovsk (Bakhmut), the AFU will likely prepare its most important military formations from 12 to 36 hours before the main strike. In the present conditions, it is nearly impossible to amass enough fuel and ammunition. Not to mention the difficulties in trying to position people secretly. Russia has already used Lancet drones to hit German Gepard anti-aircraft guns and Soviet S-300 missile systems close to the front line. As soon as Ukraine’s previously hidden equipment was moved closer to the front line, it became easier to destroy.

This demonstrates that the routes used for transporting Ukrainian military equipment and the places where it is positioned are under Russian surveillance. If the AFU loses significant amounts of fuel – or transport equipment or engineering units – in the first two or three days, it will have to adjust the counteroffensive’s strategy on the go or implement a backup plan (if it has one). Moreover, Ukraine has no means of transferring reserves by air or conducting amphibious warfare. Its supply and logistics fully depend on roads and railways. In such conditions, the destruction of a bridge or a train line on an important supply route may lead to a disaster at the front. 

With so many challenges, is it possible that the AFU could postpone the counteroffensive?

To successfully carry out a major counteroffensive, the AFU may not employ hi-tech equipment (like Bayraktar drones or M142 HIMARS systems) and instead rely on brute force: artillery, tanks, large numbers of infantry, and enormous amounts of cartridges, missiles, and shells. However, if something goes wrong, it will be difficult for Kiev to quickly replenish its ammunition. Ukraine’s troops are almost entirely dependent on foreign military aid, including critical weaponry like mortar shells, 122mm, 152mm, and 155mm artillery munitions, anti-tank systems, and cartridges for small arms. We can be certain that its General Staff understands this and the counteroffensive will take these restrictions into account. It’s also clear that the AFU lacks the power to break through a three to five line defensive front. 

What conclusion can we reach? 

Judging by the means at the disposal of the AFU, right now, Ukraine is likely to use the units formed with Western help in a rapid attempt to “puncture” the front.

Taking into account the current number of reserves, problems with logistics, and other challenges that will surely surface after the start of the counteroffensive, Kiev’s only realistic option is to launch an attack from a specific and previously unannounced direction.

Possible locations include Kherson, the Lugansk People’s Republic, or Zaporozhye. As a backup option, the AFU may consider attacking villages in the Kursk, Bryansk, and Belgorod regions, which are internationally recognised as part of Russia. However, the main challenge for Ukraine is that its first major strike – or even attempts to accumulate forces – may give the game away, and thus kibosh the whole plan.




Ukraine is holding off on its long-touted counteroffensive against Russia because it currently cannot use Western-provided armor due to bad weather, Kiev’s ambassador to the UK has claimed.

“Obviously, the weather is not allowing so far the heavy tanks to move in the Ukrainian usual spring mud,” Vadim Pristayko told Sky News on Tuesday.

The comments mirrored those made last week by Defense Minister Aleksey Reznikov, who stated that Ukrainian forces were broadly ready for a push against Russia but needed “God’s will, the weather, and a decision of commanders.”