The U.S. Navy’s Diving and Salvage Center can be found in a location as obscure as its name—down what was once a country lane in rural Panama City, a now-booming resort cityMore
by Our Diplomatic Affairs Editor
The verdict delivered today by a local court in Surat, Gujarat, sentencing Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to two years in jail in a criminal defamation case has once again brought to light the political polarization and the challenges facing Indian democracy. The case was filed against Gandhi for his alleged “Modi surname” remarks, and the verdict has led to a lot of debate and speculation about the future of Indian politics. Remarkably, shortly after, the court granted bail to Gandhi and issued a stay order for 30 days, allowing the Congress leader to file an appeal in a higher court.
Many people are interpreting this as a setback for Gandhi, who was on a high after completing a 145-day Bharat Jodo yatra (unity march) across 4,000 km and through varied terrains, weather conditions, and demographics. The yatra was seen as a transformative experience for Gandhi, who emerged as an evolved and mature politician who empathizes with all and promises to be different.
However, his opponents saw this as a cynical attempt to revive family-based politics, and the ruling BJP wasted no time in mocking Gandhi’s politics after the yatra. Today’s judgment has given the BJP an opportunity to further humiliate and discredit Gandhi, and it remains to be seen how this will impact his political career and the future of Indian democracy.
It is worth noting that the judgment has raised concerns about the freedom of speech and expression in India, which is a cornerstone of any healthy democracy. The fact that Gandhi has been sentenced to jail for his remarks, regardless of their accuracy or intent, is a worrying sign for those who value free speech and open debate.
Moreover, the timing of the judgment, which came right after Gandhi’s yatra, raises questions about the impartiality and independence of the judiciary. While we do not know whether ruling party elements were motivated by the judgment, it is clear that Indian democracy is on the knife edge.
However, one of the major criticisms of the Congress party has been its over-reliance on the Gandhi family to lead the party. The party has failed to groom and promote young, talented, and merit-based politicians who have the capacity to challenge the BJP and offer new and innovative ideas to the electorate.
This lack of leadership and vision has hurt the party’s fortunes, as it has struggled to connect with voters and win elections in recent years. The BJP, on the other hand, has been successful in projecting itself as a party of change and development, and has managed to win elections by appealing to the aspirations of the electorate.
Moreover, the continued loyalty of the Congress party to the Gandhi family has led to a perception that the party is run by a coterie of loyalists who are more interested in protecting their positions of power and influence rather than working for the betterment of the party and the country.
This perception has damaged the party’s credibility and has led to a loss of trust among voters, who see the party as being out of touch with their aspirations and needs. This has allowed the BJP to present itself as a viable alternative to the Congress party and has led to the erosion of the Congress party’s support base.
Conversely, the overwhelming power and cult-like following that the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi enjoy in India are a cause for concern for the future of Indian democracy. While a strong and decisive leader is necessary for any country, it is also important to ensure that the checks and balances on power are in place to prevent abuse of power and the erosion of democratic values.
The Modi-led BJP has been accused of centralizing power and curtailing dissent, with critics pointing to the use of sedition laws, internet shutdowns, and other measures to suppress dissent and criticism. This has led to concerns that the government is becoming increasingly authoritarian and that dissent and opposition are being stifled.
Moreover, the cult-like following of Modi and the BJP has created an environment where criticism and questioning of the government are seen as anti-national and unpatriotic. This has led to a chilling effect on free speech and open debate, with many people feeling hesitant to express their opinions for fear of retribution.
This situation is not healthy for Indian democracy, as it undermines the very principles on which it is based. Democracy thrives on a diversity of opinions, ideas, and voices, and it is crucial that dissent and opposition are allowed to flourish in order to ensure that the government remains accountable and responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people.
In a nutshell, the sentencing of Rahul Gandhi is a significant event in Indian politics, and it highlights the challenges faced by the country’s democracy. The ruling party’s attempt to humiliate and discredit Gandhi is a worrying sign, and it is crucial that we remain vigilant about the erosion of democratic values and freedoms. It is time for every Indian to rally, regardless of political viewpoint, to support free speech and open debate and demand impartiality and independence from our judiciary to ensure that Indian democracy remains healthy and vibrant.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on Tuesday agreed to strengthen bilateral ties based on principles of good-neighborliness, friendship and win-win cooperation, as well as to deepen the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era.
Describing Xi’s state visit to Russia as “a journey of friendship, cooperation and peace,” experts have said that strengthening China-Russia relations will promote regional peace and stability while contributing to balancing the global strategic landscape.
On Tuesday afternoon local time, Xi held talks with Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow. They had sincere, friendly and fruitful talks on the bilateral ties and major regional and international issues of mutual interest, and reached new, important common understandings in many fields.
Noting that China and Russia are each other’s biggest neighbor, Xi said that consolidating and developing long-term good-neighborly relations with Russia is consistent with historical logic and a strategic choice of China, which will not be changed by any turn of events.
Since his first state visit to Russia 10 years ago, Xi said, China and Russia have enjoyed mutual respect, mutual trust and mutual benefit. Relations between the two countries have grown from strength to strength, showing the features of being more comprehensive, more practical, and more strategic, he added.
No matter how the international landscape may change, China will stay committed to advancing China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for the new era, Xi said.
In the eyes of Amadou Diop, a Senegalese expert on China, Xi’s state visit to Russia is “of great importance,” which will inject strong positive energy into the complex international situation.
“China and Russia are working more closely with developing countries to promote multilateralism and common prosperity, and to respect and protect the interests of developing countries,” said Diop.
Xi’s visit once again testifies to the importance of Russia-China relations and reaffirms that Russia and China will continue to practice true multilateralism, promote the construction of a multipolar world, enhance global governance, and contribute to world development, said Sergei Lukonin, head of the Department of Chinese Politics and Economics at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
During the talks with Putin, Xi pointed out that as permanent members of the UN Security Council and major countries in the world, China and Russia have natural responsibilities to make joint efforts to steer and promote global governance in a direction that meets the expectations of the international community and promote the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.
He called on both sides to enhance communication and coordination on international affairs, especially in the United Nations, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, BRICS and other multilateral frameworks, practice true multilateralism, oppose hegemonism and power politics, contribute to global post-COVID economic recovery, advance the trend toward a multi-polar world, and promote the reform and improvement of the global governance system.
For his part, Putin congratulated China on helping to successfully bring about historic outcomes from the talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran in Beijing, adding that it has fully demonstrated China’s important status and positive influence as a major country in the world.
Russia appreciates China for consistently upholding an objective and impartial position on international affairs, supports the Global Security Initiative, the Global Development Initiative, and the Global Civilization Initiative China has put forward and stands ready to further enhance international coordination with China, Putin said.
For the developing world, said Abdoul Karim Drame, a Malian political columnist and expert on geopolitics, the strengthening of China-Russia relations is expected to promote the developing of a multipolar world, which will allow African countries to better assert their sovereignty by benefiting from more balanced international relations that respect each nation’s political and economic choices.
“I believe Xi’s visit to Russia will inject strong positive energy into international relations and make new contributions to building a community with a shared future for mankind,” he said.
Palestinian political analyst Omar Helmy Al-Ghoul believes that a reasonable international order should uphold multilateralism and treat every country and nation in an equal manner, rather than be dominated by some small circle of countries.
Meanwhile, Xi and Putin stressed on Tuesday that the Ukraine crisis should be solved through dialogues.
In the Joint Statement of the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation on Deepening the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination for the New Era, the two sides oppose the practice by any country or group of countries to seek advantages in the military, political and other areas to the detriment of the legitimate security interests of other countries.
The Russian side reaffirms its commitment to the resumption of peace talks as soon as possible, which China appreciates. The Russian side welcomes China’s willingness to play a positive role for the political and diplomatic settlement of the Ukraine crisis and welcomes the constructive proposals set forth in China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis.
The two sides point out that to settle the Ukraine crisis, the security concerns of all countries must be respected, bloc confrontation should be prevented and fanning the flames avoided.
The two sides also stress that responsible dialogue is the best way for appropriate solutions. To this end, the international community should provide support to the relevant constructive efforts.
China and Russia call for stopping all moves that lead to tensions and the protraction of fighting to prevent the crisis from getting worse or even out of control. They oppose any unilateral sanctions unauthorized by the UN Security Council.
China has launched a “very important initiative” to find a political solution to the Ukraine crisis, and international society should recognize China for its role as a country working for global peace and stability, said Mohammad Reza Manafi, editor-in-chief for the Asia-Pacific news desk of Iran’s official news agency IRNA.
“China has convinced the rest of the world that it believes that world peace and friendship will benefit all people everywhere, and that war and hostility will never serve humanity,” Manafi said.
In the span of only about a week, Vladimir Putin was issued an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court for ongoing war crimes, while Donald Trump looks set to be indicted on felony charges in a Manhattan courtroom. These twin developments seem to signal the beginning of the end of impunity for the world’s two most destructive, authoritarian leaders in a generation, the Hitler and Mussolini of our day, as the democratic world responds to this new breed of violent fascism.
Their crimes are numerous, and extensively documented, and perhaps finally the law will confront these two autocrats with a fondness for unleashing political violence, and terror.
Indeed, Putin launched a brutal war of aggression in the heart of Europe, starting the largest and bloodiest conflict since the Second World War. Trump attempted to defy America’s voters, and keep himself in office with lies, pressure, political violence, and ultimately a siege of the U.S. Capitol, unsuccessfully attacking American democracy from within.
For years, they’ve been intimate partners, bound together in their mutual loathing for Western democratic values, and their violent lust for absolute power. Putin played Trump’s political benefactor, interfering in the 2016 election on his behalf, and enabling his rise to power. In office, Trump returned the favor by weakening America on the global stage, and groveling before Putin in public, siding with him over his own intelligence agencies. He nearly destroyed NATO, and savaged America’s traditional alliances, even as he offered rhetorical and political support to his patron in the Kremlin.
These two men represent humanity’s darkest impulses, toward violent domination, autocracy, political extremism, war crimes, hatred, and genocide. Their poisonous partnership is the nexus of modern global fascism, and right-wing radicalism, on both sides of the Atlantic.
Now, the two aging tyrants are finally facing at least the prospect of justice for their crimes, as one prosecutes a cataclysmic failed war in Ukraine, while the other attempts to finish off the ailing democracy he once led, with a third run at the presidency. It’s a moment of hope, and peril.
An element of genocide
“What the nations can offer in the way of good blood of our type, we will take, if necessary by kidnapping their children and raising them here with us.”
That’s SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler speaking at an infamous secret address in Posen in October, 1943, where he discusses the Third Reich’s policies of ethnic annihilation. The abduction of children en masse is a classic feature of genocide, as articulated by the 20th century’s great genocidaire innovator, Himmler, in a Nazi policy now being widely replicated by Putin in Ukraine.
Indeed, Putin was issued an arrest warrant last week for his role in the abduction of tens of thousands of Ukraine’s children, treated as spoils of war by his regime, and forcibly resettled in Russia at gunpoint. However, this is merely one element of the Kremlin’s larger policy of national and cultural extermination, amid the raining bombs and bullets, as Putin attempts to erase Ukraine from the map.
The Russian dictator has declared the “historical unity” of Russia and Ukraine, arguing that Ukraine as such does not exist, as he goes about trying to annihilate Ukrainians physically, politically, culturally, linguistically, and nationally. He’s razed their cities, slaughtered their civilians, stolen their children, and annexed their territory, using his nuclear weapons to guarantee freedom of action, in what amounts to the gravest threat to global peace and stability since Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht began to devour Europe.
But the Russian military has been utterly unable to stanch fierce resistance, consolidate territorial gains, nor defeat Ukraine’s forces on the battlefield, leading to a protracted bloodbath, as the Western world arms Ukraine to fight back. As the Biden administration leads a coalition of countries to defy Russian aggression, by arming Ukraine to the teeth, Putin’s campaign is in serious jeopardy.
He has failed to subdue or absorb Ukraine, instead embroiling Russia in a strategic nightmare, producing a catastrophic waste of human life, losing hundreds of thousands of his soldiers to casualties, while inflicting mass terror on Ukraine’s towns and cities. After a long delay, the West is now speeding main battle tanks, air defense systems, and long range missile systems into Ukraine, as the war reaches a critical turning point, amid expected Ukrainian counteroffensives.
But Putin has several cards left to play. He was meeting today with his most important international partner, Chinese President Xi Jinping, during a warm three-day summit at the Kremlin in Moscow, where he was received with endless pomp and circumstance. Amid the touted diplomatic friendship, there’s still no sign the Chinese intend to deliver weapons or matériel to Moscow; instead, Xi’s providing crucial political and economic support, or what Secretary of State Antony Blinken called “diplomatic cover” for Putin’s war crimes.
However, Putin has other well-placed allies.
His ideological partners in the United States are beginning to reassert themselves in Washington, as Donald Trump and his lesser protege, Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis, enter the presidential race by declaring they would end American assistance to Ukraine, effectively handing it over to Putin.
The Trump case
Thus, Donald Trump’s possible criminal indictment is reverberating from Washington to New York to Moscow to Kyiv. If the expected indictment does go through, it’s likely to carry inherently unpredictable effects into the budding presidential race, particularly within the Republican Party.
Presumably, it could either strengthen or weaken Trump’s chances in the upcoming primaries, and lead to far-reaching political consequences in the United States of America. Certainly, the Kremlin will be paying extraordinarily close attention, at a moment that could be pivotal for its war effort in Kyiv, and much else.
An indictment could potentially spell the beginning of the end of Trump’s long stranglehold over the Republican Party, offering an opening to DeSantis and others eager to move on from his poisonous leadership, or it could strengthen his grip. After all, he’s survived numerous crises that would’ve permanently ended the careers of most politicians several times over.
And yet, he’s never been arrested, or tried.
It’s something he’s been afraid of his entire life, apparently, leading him to burnish his links with prosecutors in New York. But he has no way to prevent the prosecutors now pursuing him.
This could be the beginning of a ferocious power struggle in the GOP, and see the morphing of Trumpism from a mainstream political movement into a violent right-wing insurgency, to the extent it already isn’t one.
It’s impossible to predict, especially with an uncertain future outcome in court. It could presage a further cascade of criminal charges, with at least four extremely serious criminal investigations currently pending, for hoarding classified documents and instigating a failed coup d’etat, among other inquiries, whereas a failure could doom efforts to hold Trump accountable.
In any case, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin’s destinies remain intertwined, as ever, as both men face the first real consequences from their long and ruthless political careers. Suddenly, Putin faces limitations on his movements, and a barrier to travel in the 123 nations that have signed the Rome Statute (China, U.S., and Russia have not signed those accords).
Trump, for his part, faces the real prospect of being fingerprinted, possibly even handcuffed, and of course incarcerated, however unlikely that might be. Still, it’s something that is reportedly giving him great anxiety, although he apparently craves a “perp-walk” to enrage and galvanize his followers, telling associates it would be a fun experience, according to the New York Times.
Certainly, these legal developments are historic, carrying grave implications for American democracy, but also geopolitically. It’s a moment that’s fraught with tension, and truly unprecedented, as a former American president again seeking the presidency faces the prospect of arrest, and trial.
For a country that’s been traumatized, and battered, by Trump and his minions, it’s been a long time coming. It’s a moment of anxiety and high hope, that finally justice will hold this sociopathic criminal accountable for his wrongdoing, and protect American democracy from a would-be dictator.
But with House Republicans already trying to obstruct justice, and interfere with the prosecution that hasn’t even begun, there are also dark possibilities to contemplate. The United States would be deeply destabilized by a failed prosecution, leaving Trump more powerful, his radicalized party more united around him.
In other words, there are real risks to indicting the Republican frontrunner, and a former American president. However, the risks of not indicting Trump are clear: a lawless nation without recourse to justice, or the rule of law, and the death of our democracy. It’s the kind of country Trump wishes America to be, where the strong cull the weak, and powerful men get away with murder.
If we want to avoid living in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, this is the price. It’s the price of democracy, and freedom from tyranny. Of course, Trump is already wielding his supporters like a cudgel, and he will do everything in his power to obstruct justice, and destabilize the country.
It won’t be easy, but democracy never is.
Views expressed are the author’s own
China’s mediation to normalise Saudi-Iranian diplomatic ties has been widely welcomed internationally, especially in the West Asian region. A clutch of unhappy states that do not want to see China stealing a march on any front, even if it advances the cause of world peace, mutely watched.
The US led this pack of dead souls. But the US is also on the horns of a dilemma. Can it afford to be a spoiler? Saudi Arabia is not only the fountainhead of petrodollar recycling — and, therefore, a pillar of the western banking system — but also America’s number one market for arms exports. Europe is facing energy crisis and the stability of the oil market is an overriding concern.
Saudi Arabia has shown remarkable maturity to maintain that its “Look East” policy and the strategic partnership with China do not mean it is dumping the Americans. Saudis are treading softly.
After all, Jamal Khashoggi was a strategic asset of the US security establishment; the US is a stakeholder in the Saudi succession and it has a consistent record of sponsoring regime changes to create pliable regimes.
Yet, the fact remains that the Saudi-Iranian deal drives a knife into the heart of the US’ West Asian strategy. The deal leaves the US and Israel badly isolated. The Jewish lobby may show its unhappiness during President Biden’s bid for another term. China has stolen a march on the US with far-reaching consequences, which signifies a foreign policy disaster for Biden.
Washington has not spoken the last word and may be plotting to push back the peace process from becoming mainstream politics of the West Asian region. The American commentators are visualising that the Saudi-Iranian normalisation will be a long haul and the odds are heavily stacked against it.
However, the regional protagonists are already creating firewalls locally to preserve and foster the new spirit of recnciliation. Of course, China (and Russia) too lend a helping hand. China has mooted the idea of a regional summit between Iran and the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council by the end of this year.
An unnamed Saudi official told the establishment daily Asharq Al-Awsat that Chinese President Xi Jinping approached Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister, last year about Beijing serving as a ‘bridge’ between the Kingdom and Iran and the latter welcomed it, as Riyadh sees Beijing being in a ‘unique’ position to wield unmatched ‘leverage’ in the Gulf.
“For Iran in particular, China is either No 1 or No 2 in terms of its international partners. And so the leverage is important in that regard, and you cannot have an alternative that is equal in importance,” the Saudi official added.
The Saudi official said China’s role makes it more likely that the terms of the deal will hold. “It (China) is a major stakeholder in the security and stability of the Gulf,” he noted. The official also revealed that the talks in Beijing involved “five very extensive” sessions on thorny issues. The most difficult topics were related to Yemen, the media, and China’s role, the official said.
Meanwhile, there are positive tidings in the air too — the likelihood of a foreign minister level meeting between Iran and Saudi Arabia in the near future and, more importantly, the reported letter of invitation from King Salman of Saudi Arabia to Iranian President Ebrahim Raeisi to visit Riyadh. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian remarked on Sunday with reference to the Yemeni crisis that “We [Iran] are working with Saudi Arabia on ensuring the stability of the region. We will not accept any threat against us from neighbouring countries.”
To be sure, the regional environment is improving. Signs of an overall easing of tensions have appeared. For the first visit of its kind in over a decade, the Turkish Foreign Minister was in Cairo and the Egyptian FM has been to Turkey and Syria. Last week, on return from Beijing, Admiral Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council headed for the UAE where President Sheikh Mohammed received him.
Soon after that, on Sunday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived in the UAE on an official visit. “Syria has been absent from its brothers for too long, and the time has come for it to return to them and to its Arab surroundings,” Sheikh Mohamed told Assad during their historic meeting at the presidential palace.
In an interview with NourNews, Shamkhani described his 5 days’ talks in Beijing leading to the deal with Saudi Arabia as “frank, transparent, comprehensive and constructive.” He said, “Clearing misunderstandings and looking to the future in Tehran-Riyadh relations will definitely lead to the development of regional stability and security and the increase of cooperation between the countries of the Persian Gulf and the Islamic world to manage the existing challenges.”
Evidently, the regional states are tapping the “feel-good” generated by the Saudi-Iranian understanding. Contrary to the western propaganda of an estrangement lately between Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed is identifying closely with the positive trends in the regional environment.
This is where China’s overarching role fostering dialogue and amity becomes decisive. The regional countries regard China as a benign interlocutor and the concerted attempts by the US and its junior partners to run down China make no impact on the regional states.
China has immense economic interests in the region — especially, expansion of the Silk Road in West Asia. The region’s political stability and security, therefore, is of vital interest to Beijing and prompts it to become the sponsor and guarantor of the Saudi-Iranian agreement. Clearly, the durability of the Saudi-Iranian deal should not be underestimated. The Saudi-Iranian agreement will remain West Asia’s most important development for a long time.
Fundamentally, both Saudi Arabia and Iran have compulsions to shift the locus of their national strategies to development and economic growth. This has received scant attention. The Western media has deliberately ignored this and instead demonised the Saudi Crown Prince and created a doomsday scenario for Iran’s Islamic regime.
That said, the known unknown is the tension building up over Iran’s nuclear programme. The issue is among the most prominent points of contention between Tehran and the Kingdom. Also, Israeli threats of attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities are escalating. Significantly, Iran’s FM Amirabdollahian is expected to visit Moscow this week.
A Russian-Chinese coordinated effort is needed to forestall the US from raking up the nuclear issue in tandem with Israel and ratchet up tensions, including military tensions, in such a way that a pretext becomes available to destabilise the region and marginalise the Saudi-Iran agreement as the leitmotif of regional politics.
All parties understand only too well that “If the Beijing agreement materialises, the violent and fanatical right-wing Israeli government will be the first to lose out, as respecting the agreement would give rise to a stable and prosperous regional system that sets the course for further normalisations and all the achievements that ensue from them,” as a Lebanese columnist wrote today in Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.
On balance, the regional states are acting on free will, increasingly and eschewing their determinism that was wedded to decisions and actions that were thought to be causally inevitable. The realisation has dawned now that it is within the capacity of sovereign states to make decisions or perform actions independently of any prior event or state of the universe.
The arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court against Vladimir Putin can only be seen as a publicity stunt by the Anglo-Saxon clique, with the US leading from the rear. Ironically, though, the ICC acted on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Iraq in 2003, which led to horrific war crimes but the “judges” at Hague slept over it. Both Washington and London admit today that the 2003 invasion was illegal — based on trumped up allegations against Saddam Hussein.
There’s no chance, of course, that the ICC warrant will ever be taken seriously. ICC has no jurisdiction in Russia, which, like the US, is not a signatory to the Rome Statute. But the intention here is something else.
The mud-throwing at Putin is yet another display of President Biden’s visceral hatred towards the Russian leader that goes back to a joust in Moscow well over a decade ago when Putin told him off brusquely, and is timed to distract attention from the state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Moscow on Monday, an event that not only has spectacular optics but is sure to intensify the “no limit” partnership between the two superpowers.
The Anglo-Saxon clique is watching with dismay the talks in Moscow tomorrow. To be sure, Moscow and Beijing have decided to stand together to bury the US hegemony.
Today, China exceeds the combined manufacturing capacity of the US and its European allies, and, equally, Russia has emerged as the world’s largest nuclear weapon state superior to the US both in the quantity and quality of weaponry.
It has dawned on the American mind that Russia cannot be defeated in Ukraine. There is a chicken-and-egg situation facing NATO, according to a report in Politico. Massive investments are needed to catch up with Russia’s defence industry but Europe’s ailing economies have other critical priorities of survival and battling mounting social unrest.
The notions of defeating Russia in a proxy war in conditions of “sanctions from hell” have turned out to be delusional. It is the US banks that are collapsing, it is European economies that are threatened by stagnation.
The US’ exasperation is evident in the top secret mission by MQ-9 Reaper drone near the Crimean peninsula on March 14. US Global Hawk drones have been spotted regularly over the Black Sea in recent years but this case is different.
The Reaper’s transponder was switched off as it approached Russia’s temporary regime for the airspace established for the purposes of the special military operation near the Crimean peninsula (which Moscow had duly notified to all users of international airspace in accordance with international norms.)
In the event, Russia’s Su-27 fighter jets outmanoeuvred the Reaper, which lost control and drowned in the Black Sea. Moscow conferred state awards to the two pilots who drove Reaper to the seabed.
Russian ambassador in Washington since warned that while Moscow is not seeking any escalation, any deliberate attack on a Russian aircraft in neutral airspace will be construed as “an open declaration of war against the largest nuclear power.”
If the US had planned the drone incident to test Russia’s reaction, well, the latter has given an unambiguous response. And all this took place in the immediate run-up to President Xi’s visit.
Biden since hit back by welcoming the ICC warrant on Putin saying “it’s justified… (and) makes a very strong point.” But Biden’s ageing memory is failing him again. For, the stated American position on ICC is that Washington not only doesn’t recognise the jurisdiction of the ICC but if any US national is arrested or brought before the ICC, Washington reserves the right to use military force to rescue the detainee!
Furthermore, Washington has threatened reprisal against any country that cooperates with an ICC warrant against a US citizen. The George W Bush administration stated this categorically as US policy on ICC against the backdrop of the Anglo-American clique’s horrific war crimes in Iraq, and the US never resiled from it.
By the way, there has been no referral by the UN Security Council or General Assembly to the ICC. So, who organised this arrest warrant? Britain — who else? The Brits bullied the ICC judges who are highly vulnerable to blackmail, as they draw fat salaries and would sup with the devil if it helped secure extended terms for them at the Hague. This becomes yet another case study of the piecemeal destruction of the UN system by the Anglo-Saxon clique in the recent years.
Suffice to say, the drone incident and the ICC warrant vitiate the climate for any dialogue between Moscow and Kiev. Evidently, the Anglo-Saxon clique is worried like hell that China might spring another surprise as it did by mediating the recent Saudi-Iranian deal.
In a meaningful remark, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Friday that Xi’s visit is partially to promote “peace.” Beijing has already released a “peace plan” for Ukraine, a 12-point agenda for “a political resolution of the Ukraine crisis,” which is on Zelensky’s desk in Kiev although the West studiously chose to ignore it.
In a phone call on Thursday, Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang told his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba that Beijing hopes “all parties will remain calm, rational and restrained, and resume peace talks as soon as possible.”
The Chinese readout said Kuleba discussed “the prospect of peace talks … and noted that China’s position paper on the political settlement of the Ukraine crisis shows its sincerity in promoting a ceasefire and an end to the conflict. He expressed the hope to maintain communication with China.”
Unsurprisingly, Biden is paranoid about China’s push to mediate between Moscow and Kiev. The point is, he and Zelensky are locked in a deathly embrace — the corruption scam involving the activities of Hunter Biden in Kiev is hanging over the father’s political career like the Damocles’ sword, while on the other hand, Zelensky is also fighting for political survival and is increasingly daring to act on his own accord.
Disregarding western doubts about the wisdom of holding the shattered frontline city of Bakhmut in Donbass, Zelensky is digging in and keeping up an attritional defence that may drag on. (Politico)
Evidently, Biden is acting like a cat on the hot tin roof. He can neither let go Zelensky nor can he afford to be locked into a forever war in Ukraine while Taiwan Straits is beckoning him to a greater destiny.
Beijing’s stance has visibly hardened lately and the scorn that the US poured on China’s national pride by shooting down its weather balloon has only exacerbated the distrust. Similarly, the nadir has been reached for Russia with the Reaper drone provocation and the Anglo-Saxon clique’s ICC scam.
Xi has chosen Russia for his first visit abroad in his third term also, the war in Ukraine notwithstanding. While announcing Xi’s visit to Russia, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said, “As the world enters a new period of turbulence and change, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and an important power, the significance and influence of China-Russia relations go far beyond the bilateral scope.”
Again, Biden would have thought he was putting Putin on the mat with the Reaper stunt and the ICC scam. But Putin is nonchalant, choosing today to make his first-ever visit to Donbass.
Putin toured Mariupol, the port city that was bitterly contested by the NATO operatives in league with the Ukrainian Neo-Nazi brigade, drove a vehicle along the city streets, making stops at several locations and surveying reconstruction works. It is a defiant signal to Biden that NATO has lost the war.
The United States plans to form groups of radical Islamists in Syria to destabilize the situation in the country and kidnap Russian and Iranian military, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) said in a press communiqué on Monday.
“[Terrorists] were instructed to incite hostilities in the Syrian south-west, in the central part of the country and east of the Euphrates River. For this, it is planned to form several detachments of radicals totaling about 300 people. After special training, they will be involved in attacks on military facilities in Syria and Iran. Part of the terrorists … are planned to be used in the capital region, including for the abduction of Russian and Iranian military personnel,” the SVR added.
The United States continues to use Islamist groups under its control in Syria to undermine the positions of the legitimate government of this country, headed by President Bashar Assad, the SVR said in a statement. Coordination is carried out from the US Al-Tanf military. The most important operations against government forces are planned by intelligence officers and representatives of the US Central Command.
The United States is planning to hand over dozens of four-wheel drive pickup trucks with heavy machine guns, as well as Igla man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS), TOW and NLAW anti-tank missiles, to Islamist groups in Syria, SVR said.
“At the Al-Tanf [military base], the issues of arming the Daesh* are being resolved. In the near future, the groups being formed should be given several dozen all-wheel drive pickup trucks with heavy machine guns, as well as Igla MANPADS, TOW and NLAW anti-tank missiles,” the SVR said in a statement.
Washington’s close engagement with Islamic terrorists is a manifestation of state terrorism, the statement read.
“The United States continues to use Islamist groups under its control in Syria to undermine the positions of the legitimate government of this country, headed by [President] Bashar Assad,” the SVR said.
Former Prime Minister of Australia Paul Keating has labelled the AUKUS military alliance and more specifically the recently concluded submarine deal as the worst mistake Australia has done in its history. His national press club address has been widely publicised and does not need repetition here.
It is however interesting to discuss a few basic issues he mentioned as reasons for his criticism. Firstly, his assertion that the AUKUS alliance is all about maintaining US hegemony over the South China sea and containing, to the extent possible, China’s ability to move freely within and outside this area of the sea. Secondly, the futility of a few submarines, nuclear or otherwise, attempting to do this in the shallow, easily detectible sea off China and thirdly, the formation of a military alliance that includes Australia where Australia faces no threat militarily from China.
At the outset, in context, it is useful to mention Newtons third law that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The formation of this alliance too could be looked at from this perspective. Accordingly, while trading profitably with each other, the three countries in the Alliance, the US, Australia, and UK, will strengthen their military and China will do their best to outdo, but more importantly outsmart all three. The already accelerated arms race will get to high gear now with billions of dollars being spent more on posturing than on any real military encounter by any of the constituents of AUKUS. Consequences for the ordinary people in all these countries and all other countries will have a flow on effect as funds available for the welfare of the people will be eroded and diverted to military expenditure.
Before Newton, Buddha came out with a truism called dependent origination or in Pali, paticca samuppada. As stated in a Buddhist enquiry article (https://www.buddhistinquiry.org/article/dependent-origination/, “what the dependent origination or paṭicca-samuppāda actually describes is a vision of life or an understanding in which we see the way everything is interconnected—that there is nothing separate, nothing standing alone. Everything effects everything else. We are part of this system. We are part of this process of dependent origination—causal relationships effected by everything that happens around us and, in turn, effecting the kind of world that we all live in inwardly and outwardly.”
This is the first reality one will have to understand and accept as a reality. Many actions will follow from the military alliance and the submarine deal. The alliance appears to not understand and to disregard the interconnected nature of these actions These will lead to ongoing consequences, most which will be negative rather than positive. Although not a military issue, Australia and the world witnessed the reaction of the Chinese government when some actions of Australia, including its role in the WHO attempt to carry out an inspection of Chinese facilities to ascertain whether the COVID virus originated in a Chinese laboratory. This attempt by Australia without any discussion with China, cost the country dearly with several commercial sanctions which incidentally are still in place. As Mr Keating said, diplomatic and commercial disagreements are being linked to non-existent military confrontations in the guise of foreign policy.
The distrust created with China by AUKUS and the submarine deal will have consequential reactions from China. It is hard if not impossible to see how trust can be restored in an environment where diplomacy has been superseded by militarism. It is unfortunate for the future generations that the current leadership of the two major political parties in Australia have consigned them, without any discussion with them, to an uncertain and confrontational future with China, the worlds next superpower in the not-too-distant future.
In any military conflict, irrespective of which side “wins”, there are no real winners or losers. It is just a scenario where the aggressors, the defenders and the bystanders play musical chairs, with each category moving around taking on each other’s roles in a cyclical manner. It is a futile, costly exercise that could have been avoided if disagreements were discussed and resolved through compromise and respect for each other. Many either ignore or are indifferent to the damage a war inflicts on the families and loved ones within each category, and a countless number of people who are not directly associated with a war.
According to the Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I_casualties), the total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was about 40 million: estimates range from around 15 to 22 million deaths and about 23 million wounded military personnel, ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history. The total number of deaths includes from 9 to 11 million military personnel. The civilian death toll was about 6 to 13 million.
During World War 2, estimates for the total number of casualties in the war vary because many deaths went unrecorded. Most suggest that some 75 million people died in the war, including about 20 million military personnel and 40 million civilians. Many civilians died because of deliberate genocide, massacres, mass-bombings, disease, and starvation. The Soviet Union lost around 27 million people during the war, including 8.7 million military and 19 million civilian deaths. (https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-hccc-worldhistory2/chapter/casualties-of-world-war-ii/
Outside of World War 1 and 2, the Korean war, the Vietnam war, the Afghanistan, Iraq and other military conflicts have witnessed the deaths of millions.
If a war is to be fought, and countries are indifferent to the death and destruction it causes, each side has to have the resolve, strength and the equipment to match the other side. As Mr Keating says, whether a few submarines, nuclear powered but firing conventional weapons does not seem to be indicative of parity. In the name of parity, if nuclear weapons are to replace conventional ones, the nuclear arms race will intensify, and more people will face death and destruction if a military engagement occurs and nuclear weapons are used. In such possible scenarios, it likely that China will enhance their defence capability in the face of AUKUS nations ramping their military capabilities. With technology advancements being what they are and potentially exponential advancements, the nuclear submarines being designed and built could well be obsolete when they are built and are seaworthy. The world does spend a lot of money to kill people.
Mr Keatings third point is about the military strategy Australia has chosen in association with the US and UK over a diplomatic strategy with China. He has maintained, rightly, that China is Australia’s largest trading country and therefore commercial considerations rather than military ones should underpin the relations between the two countries. Again, as he says, the country’s foreign policy should not be dictated by military requisites but diplomatic requisites and mutual trust and not distrust. A military build up as envisaged is bound to foster mistrust between China and Australia and eventually impact adversely on the trading relationship between the two countries.
According to the website Statista (https://www.statista.com/statistics/622568/australia-export-partners-by-value/), in 2021, China was Australia’s leading export partner, importing approximately 115 billion U.S. dollars’ worth of goods, followed by Japan and the European Union. Tensions have been building up in China-Australia relations and has impacted on trade.
Data released by the General Administration of Customs (GAC) showed that, in 2022, bilateral trade between the two countries reached US$220.91 billion, down 3.9 percent year-on-year, with Australia’s exports to China amounting to US$142.09 billion, a decrease of 13.1 percent from 2021. China remains a primary export market for many Australian products, such as coal, iron ore, and wine. However, several of these products lost their market share as domestic businesses looked for substitutes to lessen the risk of interruption amid thawing ties (https://www.china-briefing.com/news/china-australia-trade-relations-growing-stronger/). Besides this, the website also states that quote “notwithstanding the scope of market opportunities for China and Australia, bilateral ties have not always been favourable. Over the past five years, tensions have piled up on a range of issues related to technology, politics, and trade. In 2018, invoking concerns for national security, Australia became the first member of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance to prohibit Chinese tech giants Huawei and ZTE telecommunications gear from participating in its telecom infrastructure. In addition, Australia openly supported a number of US-led efforts aimed at containing China’s expanding influence in the Indo-Pacific, including the AUKUS alliance, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, and the Partners in the Blue Pacific. Early in 2020, amid tensions over the nature of COVID-19, bilateral ties took a sudden turn for the worst. China imposed import bans on a variety of Australian exports, including coal, barley, wine, cattle, and seafood. Australia responded by escalating the trade dispute to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and canceling the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) deal previously agreed to between China and the state of Victoria.
Such occurrences have had a negative impact on trade. Australian exports of wine, barley, lobsters, cattle, and coal were severely impacted, while Chinese companies were subject to increased scrutiny, particularly for transactions involving crucial infrastructure. As a result of escalating diplomatic tensions, several Chinese companies adjusted their coal purchases from Australia to reduce potential risks. Consequently, China imported 66.37 million tons less Australian coal in 2021 than it did in 2020, a decrease of more than 85 percent year-on-year” unquote.
In summary, one cannot be but convinced that Mr Paul Keating is right that the AUKUS military alliance and the submarine deal will have a negative effect on Australia/China relations in the long term and that future generations will face the consequences of this serious mis step in military strategy camouflaged as foreign policy. The question the younger generations should ask themselves is whether Australia should overlook the misdemeanours of the US when it supports countries like Saudi Arabia and other dictatorships and argue that they, the USA, is a protector of democracy, and that they are taking on China because of its undemocratic policies and practices. Not much or in fact anything is said about the rise in living standards in China and the very significant drop in poverty levels in China. Nothing is also said about poverty in the USA, the citadel of democracy, where, according to https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2022/demo/p60-277.html, the official poverty rate in 2021 was 11.6 percent, with 37.9 million people in poverty. In contrast, as estimated by the World Bank, China’s poverty rate had fallen from 88 percent in 1981 to 0.7 percent in 2015, as measured by the percentage of people living on the equivalent of US$1.90 or less per day in 2011 purchasing price parity terms, which still stands in 2022 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_in_China).
It does appear that the US is driven by the fear that China will overtake them as the superpower of the world soon and they are garnering support from willing allies like Australia and UK to delay the inevitable as much as possible. The danger for Australia is that they will be like, to quote a pithy Sinhala idiom ‘Girayata ahuwechcha puwak gediya wage (an arecanut caught between the two levers of a giraya, a familiar object in most Sinhala homes, fashioned out of brass, steel, silver or gold and used to slice arecanuts) –a paradoxical situation from which there is hardly any chance of escape. Australia has chosen this path and to be in an Anglo/Indian world, away from South East Asia and China where its prosperity and future lies.
by Our Diplomatic Affairs Editor
During an exclusive interview with our diplomatic affairs editor at his New Delhi office, Ivan Konovalov, Charge de Affairs a.i. at the Embassy of Ukraine in the Republic of India (concurrently in Sri Lanka), expressed his belief that Ukraine would achieve more victories on the battlefield this spring. He emphasized that the Ukrainian people have never desired to engage in war but were compelled to defend themselves against the aggression of Russia. Konovalov asserted that this conflict is imperialist in nature, indicating that Russia’s actions are driven by a desire for territorial expansion and control.
Furthermore, Konovalov stated that the victory of Ukraine would represent a triumph for democracy across the globe, as it would be a victory for the principles of self-determination and the right of nations to decide their own fate. He highlighted the importance of recognizing that the conflict in Ukraine is not merely a regional issue but rather a struggle for values that are fundamental to the democratic world. Ultimately, Konovalov’s comments underscore the ongoing importance of supporting Ukraine in its efforts to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Excerpts from the interview;
Sri Lanka Guardian (SLG): You are playing a key role in these extraordinary times to protect Ukraine’s national interests; What challenges do you and your teammates face as a diplomat representing a country now at war with neighbouring Russia?
Ivan Konovalov (IK): Our small in comparison but capable team in the Embassy is working hard to change the perception of Ukraine in the countries of our accreditation – India, Bangladesh Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal. It’s a priority for Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, as it is stated by the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, to work closer with the countries of Global South on different aspects of cooperation.
SLG: Exactly one year ago, Russia launched a limited military action against your country calling it “demilitarisation and denazification”. Please give a brief overview of the situation as this conflict has completed a year.
IK: First of all let us please use the right words (terms) and timings. It’s not just a conflict, and it’s not a limited military action. It’s Russian full scale war against Ukraine or Russian aggression against Ukraine. Russia is aggressor, Ukraine is a victim of Russian aggression.
In 2014 Russia started this war with illegal annexation of Crimea and further Russian aggression in the East of Ukraine.
So we have 9 years of Russian war against Ukraine and 1 year of full scale aggression against Ukraine.
As of now Ukrainian Armed Forces could kick out Russian occupiers from 40% of territories occupied since February 2022. This spring will bring more victories on the battlefield for Ukraine.
SLG: Some people are arguing that Ukraine is fighting someone else War; in fact, Ukraine is a “scapegoat”, they say. May I have your take, please?
IK: Ukrainians have never chosen war, it was imposed by Russia. This war is imperialist in its nature, one should understand this. Russia couldn’t accept the collapse of Soviet Union and if they conquered Ukraine – that would be just a first step, they would continue this barbaric practices with other countries which they consider to be the sphere of their interests.
We are fighting for our freedom and independence. we fight against Russia protecting others in Europe from this threat and our partners understand this very well.
Ukraine as any other democracy in the world wants to decide its destiny without external dictatorship which Russia tries to impose through our history.
We have our own will to join the EU and NATO as we consider ourselves as an integral part of Europe.
SLG: At the beginning of the conflict, both countries tried to find a solution through negotiation. Do you still believe that Ukraine can find a solution through negotiation? If not, what is the way out?
IK: Moscow has no intention for peace. When they talk about negotiations it means they want time to regroup and replenish supplies and further relaunch their attack on Ukraine. It’s obvious.
Negotiations can happen and should happen one day. But the reason for the negotiations about future peace deal can only begin after unconditional withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of Ukraine within the internationally recognised borders including Crimea. This is also stated in the UN General Assembly Resolution as of 23 February 2023, which was supported by 141 countries.
SLG: What is the outcome of the 10 points peace formula introduced by your president but unfortunately, rejected by Russia stating that the formula is the basis for negotiations?
IK: Russia has not yet shown any readiness to bring a lasting peace, and continues to perpetrate international terrorism, commit genocide against Ukrainians, and commit war crimes.
The Peace Formula’s ten elements, which may be followed collectively or individually, have the potential to bring about long-term peace in Ukraine, Europe, and the globe. We welcome countries from all across the world to join us in making it a reality.
The EU has approved President Zelenskyy’s Peace Formula and committed to actively working with Ukraine to put it into action, which demonstrates that the Formula is completely consistent with core European values and ideals.
Ukrainian Peace Formula is based on respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of any country, with any aggression against a sovereign country being completely unacceptable and those responsible for any
such acts facing justice.
SLG: Do you think NATO and Western countries, who are pouring military equipment, will stand with Ukraine to find a lasting solution soon?
IK: We are deeply grateful to all our allies and all peace-loving states of the world for their support in our fight against evil. Russia has to be defeated so this won’t repeat in future. Our partners are clear – they will stand with Ukraine as long as it takes, till the victory.
Victory of Ukraine is a victory of a democratic world.
SLG: You are representing Ukraine in South Asia; tell us your take on the responses you have from the countries here.
IK: The countries of our accreditation don’t support Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and this is very important. We are grateful for this position. I believe there is much more we can do to deepen our relationship on the mutually beneficial basis.
Russia is deeply concerned with the increasing scale of military aid to Ukraine from the West. Military specialists from the US and other Western countries are actively engaged in training Ukrainian army personnel and are risking the involvement in confrontation with Russian Armed Forces. Unfortunately, this may result in direct clash between Russia and NATO, Russian Embassy in Sri Lanka said in a statement.
“The supplies of military products by the West to the Kiev regime imply the gross violation of international norms of arms trade, which prohibit delivery of weapons and military equipment to the armed conflict zones as well as its transfer to third parties without a consent from the country of origin. These restrictions are of great inconvenience to the collective West, which is trying to use the situation in Ukraine to change the existing rules of arms trade. Moreover, supplies of modern western weapons to Ukraine force Russia to take necessary responsive measures and may eventually result in the spread of the conflict theater to other European regions,” the statement added.
“Another reason for concerns of Russia is a threat of the abovementioned weapons getting to black market and terrorist organizations in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. According to our information, the Kiev regime is now directly involved in shadow arms trade, which makes Western countries guilty of assisting terrorism,” the statement further added.
“Washington is dictating European countries to intensify their military aid to Ukraine, pushing them to increase their state expenses for military and defense purposes. This will inevitably be exploited by American arms producing companies. However, the overall situation results in deepening of global economic crisis.”
“In this regard, the Russia urges the Sri Lanka to oppose the military aid of the Western countries to Ukraine by any means at its disposal. This is even more relevant due to the fact that Sri Lanka has recently gone through the horrors of Easter Sunday attacks and is now going through major economic difficulties, which are the result of global crisis provoked by the West.” the statement concluded.
On March 9, the judiciary of Peru extended the preventive detention of former left-wing President Pedro Castillo from 18 months to 36 months. Castillo was overthrown in a parliamentary coup in December 2022 and was sentenced to 18 months of preventive detention shortly after.
Supreme Court Judge Juan Carlos Checkley ordered the three-year pretrial detention for Castillo over alleged accusations of organized crime, influence peddling, and collusion in cases related to public works contracts and in the sale of fuel to the state-owned petroleum company Petroperú.
The ruling has been widely criticized as being politically motivated and part of the attempt to completely exclude the ousted president from political and civilian life.
In May 2022, the prosecutor’s office began investigating Castillo’s former Transportation Minister Juan Silva and six congressmen of the opposition center-right Popular Action party for irregularities in the tender for the construction of the Tarata III Bridge.
Businesswoman Karelim López, who was being investigated for money laundering at that time, had alleged that Silva accepted bribes in exchange for awarding public work contracts with Castillo’s authorization. Castillo has denied the charges, adding that he and his administration were being politically persecuted by the prosecutor’s office and the judiciary, whom he alleged are controlled by the conservative oligarchy.
Since Castillo’s ouster, thousands of citizens have been mobilizing to demand radical political changes. These include Castillo’s immediate release, his successor Dina Boluarte’s resignation, advancing the elections, and a referendum on a constituent assembly.
The Boluarte government has responded with brutal repression leading to at least 60 deaths and has left more than 1,200 people injured in Peru.
Credit Line: from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service