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Monthly Archives: November 2015
When a propaganda channel like Fox News begins to make positive noises about Russia, we must wonder why the narrative has changed so fast and who is pulling the strings. We all know about Fox News, often referred to as … Continue reading
This article first appeared on RT.
Turkey has shown its hand by destroying the Russian warplane over Syria and followed through on its previous threats to Russia. We must now regard Turkey as a hostile state that supports terrorism.
As has been widely reported, on the 24th November, Turkey – an EU aspirant NATO member – shot down a Russian warplane on legitimate Syrian duties. As a result, one pilot is dead and the other was rescued by Russian Special Forces. Another soldier was killed during the rescue operation and Russia lost a rescue helicopter in the process.
Turkey has been sabre-rattling at Russia for some time. It made a tremendous hue and cry about a previous brief accidental incursion into its airspace, backed up with threats and warmongering. Only two days before this incident, Turkey was threatening Russia with ‘serious consequences’ if it didn’t end its operations near the Turkish border.
Turkey’s actions were clearly premeditated rather than a response to an incursion as first claimed. But they didn’t manage to get their story straight and have been backfilling ever since. The ever-changing Turkish version of events has more holes in it than a piece of Swiss cheese. Turkey claims it gave the Russian plane ten warnings but Wikileaks showed us proof that Turkey claimed the planes were allegedly in Turkish airspace for only 17 seconds.
There would have been no time for ten warnings or for the pilot to seek authorisation to fire, so he was acting on a standing order. He had permission in advance from high up the Turkish food chain to shoot a Russian plane down.
Russia says the plane was attacked over Syria and has published credible evidence to prove it. The plane crashed in Syria and the pilots ejected and landed in Syria. Russia has no reason to knowingly enter Turkish airspace while on Syrian duties.
Turkey knows that Russian planes are legitimately operating close to its borders in Syria. So the Turks were not acting against any actual or perceived threat. They are likely hoping to evade any serious Russian retaliation by hiding behind NATO’s skirts with a supportive narrative guaranteed to come from Uncle Sam. NATO has already announced that the organisation agrees with Turkey’s claims and has pledged to stand in solidarity with them.
The attack was premeditated to the extent that even TV crews and others with cameras were standing by waiting to film the events. They were clearly tipped off in advance.
Turkey is now claiming that it didn’t know the plane was Russian and have rushed out a dubious unverified recording of what is claimed to be the warnings given to the ‘unidentified’ plane.
There seems no doubt that the terrorists in the area whose loyalties are with Turkey had a heads-up and instructions to kill the aircrew. That one of them got away with his life is going to be inconvenient for the Turkish narrative. The pilot reports that there were no warnings of any kind, they know the area like the back of their hand and were not in Turkey.
Let’s be realistic here, this was a planned attack, probably cleared in advance with the Americans, with a story concocted in advance to give plausible deniability.
Follow the Money
What Turkey was really reacting to is Russia disrupting the lucrative and murky oil deals some of its officials and family members of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are tangled up in.
Large amounts of stolen oil are transported illicitly by ISIS to Turkey for onward transportation and sale. The profits from which are helping fund the expansion of ISIS and turning a nice profit for some people in Turkey. Russia has been disrupting this supply chain by bombing the tankers and the production plants. This means certain people in Turkey are losing a lot of money due to the effectiveness of Russia’s air campaign. Some sources claim that one of these people is Bilal Erdoğan, son of Turkish president Erdoğan.
Clearly, there is enough money to be made from stolen oil that decision makers in Turkey were prepared to commit a war crime in defence of it and damage Turkish tourism at the same time.
Tourism in Turkey Will Suffer
Turkey may have just imploded its tourism industry overnight. It has long been a very popular destination for tourists from Russia. Over four million tourists from Russia visited Turkey last year.
Russian tour operators Pegas Touristik, Natalie Tours, Biblio Globus and Tez Tour have already announced they are ending package holidays to Turkey.
The backlash against Turkey is already being seen in Russia. There have been protests outside the Turkish embassy in Moscow and Russians are being very vocal on social media.
With Egypt also off the table for many Russians, Greece will no doubt welcome the 2016 influx of tourism from Russia with open arms.
We Need to Rethink Our Attitude to Turkey
President Putin has described Turkey’s actions as a “stab in the back by terrorist accomplices” – and it’s hard to disagree with him.
The West needs to take off its rose-coloured glasses in respect of Turkey. Turkey has spent years allowing terrorism to flourish in the region. Far from trying to usher Turkey gleefully into the EU, as Brussels is trying to do, they should be kept at arms length. Turkey has proved itself to be dishonest, hostile and disingenuous.
Turkey cannot be considered a partner or an ally to countries that are legitimately fighting terrorism. Turkey is complicit in the support of terrorism. They must be treated as such.
Russia is now beefing up its air defences in the region, and future bombing missions will be flanked by fighter planes. It is unlikely that Moscow will be as restrained as they have been on this occasion if something similar happens again. Russian Lieutenant General Sergey Rudskoy was quoted as saying, “We warn that every target posing a potential threat will be destroyed”. If Turkey commits further acts of war against Russia, they know to expect robust military retaliation.
We must now regard Turkey as a hostile state that supports terrorism rather than a European ally and an agreeable holiday destination.
Stuart Smith for RT. Follow Stuart on Twitter @RussianHQ Continue reading
Whilst all eyes are on Syria there has been a steady deterioration of the situation in Ukraine.
In violation of the ceasefire shelling of the territories of the two people’s republics has resumed, and the OSCE has confirmed that the Ukrainian military has moved heavy weapons back to the contact line.
The Ukrainians meanwhile have extended their ban of commercial flights to and from Russia by banning also transit flights.
Ukraine has placed Crimea under food blockade. To the intense embarrassment of its Western backers (see this editorial in the Financial Times, headlined “Kiev should act to end the blockade of Crimea”) it has enlarged this to an energy blockade.
Ukraine claims the power lines to Crimea were destroyed by Crimean Tatar “activists” backed by Right Sector.
Even if this were true, the Ukrainian authorities have done little or nothing to take control of the situation, arrest and punish those responsible for what was after all an act of criminal damage, or carry out the necessary repairs.
Characteristically most Western governments have said nothing, save that there has been some muted criticism from Germany.
Contrast this silence with the furious – and wrong – accusations regularly made in the West against Russia for its supposed use of energy as a political weapon.
All of this is happening to a drumbeat of demands in the Ukrainian media for the country to renounce the Minsk II agreement.
The Russians for their part have responded by stopping coal supplies to Ukraine. Since Ukraine is again failing to pay for its gas, it seems the Russians intend to stop supplying Ukraine with gas on Tuesday.
The two people’s republics have also announced they are stopping their own coal deliveries to Ukraine.
These steps increase the prospects of severe power shortages in Ukraine during what is predicted to be a harsh winter.
The Russians are also due in January to impose sanctions on Ukrainian food imports to Russia. This is in retaliation to Ukraine joining EU sanctions against Russia, and imposing sanctions of its own.
Bizarrely, this systematic severing of trade links with Russia is being hailed in parts of the Western media as proof Ukraine is “successfully reorienting” its trade to the EU and away from Russia, and is becoming “less dependent” on Russia. This of course takes no account of the damage these actions are doing to Ukraine’s economy.
There has also been an orchestrated attempt in recent weeks on the part of some sections of the Western media to talk up Ukraine’s economic situation, with claims that it is “stabilising”. The US credit agency Moody’s has joined in the game by upgrading Ukraine’s credit rating.
To the very limited extent this is true, it is wholly the consequence of the August ceasefire, which stopped the drain of fighting the war on the civilian economy.
The actions the Ukrainian government and “activists” have been taking over the last few weeks puts this in jeopardy.
What is causing this sudden deterioration in the situation?
At its simplest, it is growing alarm in Ukraine that Western – especially European – support for Ukraine is flagging.
It is now widely accepted that Merkel and Obama are becoming increasingly isolated in their insistence that the sanctions against Russia be extended.
In France Nicholas Sarkozy, Hollande’s likely conservative opponent at the Presidential election, has clearly signalled his opposition to sanctions, aligning himself on this issue with Marine Le Pen.
More to the point in Germany Merkel’s coalition partners – the SPD and the CSU – are both becoming openly critical of a sanctions policy with which one senses they both privately always disagreed.
Russia Insider has already discussed the increasingly rebellious line being taken by Sigmar Gabriel, the SPD’s leader and Germany’s Vice Chancellor.
Possibly even more important is the call from Horst Seehofer, leader of the CSU – the CDU’s right wing coalition partner in Merkel’s coalition – for a rapprochement with Russia.
Whilst Seehofer’s comments seem to have been specifically triggered by the migrant crisis and the conflict in Syria, their tone suggests a wider rapprochement.
Interestingly, Seehofer has been forging increasingly close links in recent weeks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban – a bete noir in Washington – who is known to be a strong advocate of good relations between Europe Russia.
Back in September – as the migrant crisis was starting to spiral out of control – Orban made another call for a new relationship between Europe and Russia. Significantly he did this straight after a meeting with Seehofer.
The mounting opposition in Europe to the sanctions is being picked up by the “realists” in the US.
Russia Insider recently republished an article in The National Interest – the main publication in which the US foreign policy “realists” express their views – which should be read as a call to the Obama administration to take the lead in diplomatic discussions with Moscow before the sanctions regime collapses, leaving the US looking isolated and humiliated.
A number our readers misunderstood this article, taking literally its ritual claims about the sanctions’ effectiveness and Putin’s supposedly “desperate situation”.
The sad truth about policy debate in the US today is that it cannot admit defeat, so that even when it retreats it has to claim “victory”.
The key point about the article in The National Interest is not what it says about Putin and Russia.
It is its call for the US to initiate diplomatic negotiations with Moscow to find a face-saving way to end the sanctions before Europe splits away and they fall apart.
The gradual shift towards an improvement in relations with Russia began before Russia’s intervention in Syria.
In fact it has been underway ever since the Minsk II agreement was reached in February. We have discussed the process at length in various articles here on Russia Insider.
However the Russian intervention in Syria and the Paris attacks have markedly accelerated the process, with Western public opinion showing increasing signs of backing Russia.
All of this is causing in Ukraine growing alarm. The Ukrainians must be seething as international attention is refocusing away from them, and as Russia shows signs of winning over Western public opinion to its side.
The consistent response of the Maidan movement whenever it senses it is losing is to double down and escalate and that is what we are now seeing.
A way to rationalise it would be to say that the Ukrainians are trying to provoke Russia into an overreaction, so as to reignite the conflict in order to shore up Western support and get the sanctions – due for renewal in December – extended.
Though this is at a certain level true, it seriously underestimates the purely visceral aspect in Ukrainian behaviour.
For the Maidan movement any sign Russia is gaining credit with the Western public is like a red rag to a bull. There is no need to look for calculation in Ukrainian behaviour in order to understand it.
The underlying problem – as we have said many times – is that the Maidan movement is inherently incapable of the sort of compromise that Minsk II envisages.
To see how that is so, consider what has happened since the October summit in Paris where the Europeans in effect ordered Poroshenko to implement Minsk II within a revised timetable.
The Ukrainians have done nothing of the sort, and the new timetable for carrying out the terms of Minsk II is already slipping.
Any discussion of the internal aspect of the Ukrainian conflict – as opposed to its external aspect – has to proceed from the fact that the present Ukrainian government is simply incapable of compromise unless overwhelming external pressure is brought upon it.
The Russians long ago grasped this. Over the last few weeks there are clear signs the Europeans belatedly are starting to grasp it as well.
The question that remains is for how much longer the Europeans will be prepared to go on making their relations with Russia hostage to the ideological obsessions of the Maidan movement and its neocon supporters.
The mounting evidence – judging from comments by people like Sigmar Gabriel and Horst Seehofer in Germany, Sarkozy in France, and from what happened during the summit in Paris – is that European patience is wearing thin. Continue reading
Note to Cau: You might get away with a 10% “service charge” in Media City or London. In Amsterdam, the service is exceptional so nobody minds.
But in Manchester, this wont really go down well and will alienate you from your potential future clientele.
Had I have been impressed overall, I would have made a £1k booking for my staff Xmas party, as I did in the same location under the previous management last year. This year I will find someplace else.
So overall, I think an ‘average’ is fair.
Don’t pay that service charge people. It is in fact an optional gratuity. If you don’t resist it, it will become commonplace. Continue reading