Archive for the ‘Russia’ Category


The social network, more than any other technology tool, was singled out on Friday by the Justice Department when prosecutors charged 13 Russians and three companies for executing a scheme to subvert the 2016 election and support Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign. In a 37-page indictment, officials detailed how the Russians repeatedly turned to Facebook and Instagram, often using stolen identities to pose as Americans, to sow discord among the electorate by creating Facebook groups, distributing divisive ads and posting inflammatory images.

The special counsel’s indictment detailed how crucial Facebook and Instagram were to the Russian campaign to disrupt the presidential election.

90 YEARS AGO TODAY THE REVOLUTION LOST ITS WAY.

Ninety years ago this month, Leon Trotsky, one of the early leaders of the Communist Party, was exiled by his rival Joseph Stalin to what is now Kazakhstan, clearing the way for Stalin’s complete control of the Soviet Union.
An ever-wandering revolutionary, Trotsky was no stranger to exile.

More than a decade before, in January 1917, The Times noted his arrival in New York City: a “Russian journalist and Socialist” who had been “expelled from four lands.”
Trotsky and his family lived only briefly in New York — what he called “the city of prose and fantasy, of capitalist automatism, its streets a triumph of Cubism” — before he returned to Russia to help lead the Bolshevik Revolution.

After the death of Vladimir Lenin in 1924, Stalin and his faction propounded “socialism in one country.” Trotskyists bristled, calling for a “permanent revolution,” global in scope, and accused Stalin of betraying Lenin’s vision.

The feud between Stalin and Trotsky would culminate in the anti-Trotskyist show trials in Moscow and the terrifying purges of the 1930s. It ended in Mexico City, where Trotsky settled, when he was killed by an ax-wielding assassin, NKVD agent Ramon Mercader, in 1940.

from NYT


What a difference a year – an eternity in geopolitics – makes. No one could see this coming; the ideological matrix of all strands of Salafi-jihadi terror – which Russia fights no holds barred, from ISIS/Daesh to the Caucasus Emirate – beating a path to the Kremlin and about to embrace Russia as a strategic ally.

The House of Saud was horrified by Russia’s successful campaign to prevent regime change in Syria. Moscow was solidifying its alliance with Tehran. Hawks in the Obama administration were imposing on Saudi Arabia a strategy of keeping oil prices down to hurt the Russian economy.

Now, losing all its battles from Syria to Yemen, losing regional influence to both Iran and Turkey, indebted, vulnerable and paranoid, the House of Saud has also to confront the ghost of a possible coup in Riyadh against Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, a.k.a. MBS, as Asia Times reported. Under so much pressure, who’re you gonna call?

The ultimate ghost-buster; Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Interesting to see how Malaysia is getting closer to the US while the rest of the world enters Putin’s tent.

October 12, 2017

The House of Saud Bows to the House of Putin

Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC by 2.0

What a difference a year – an eternity in geopolitics – makes. No one could see this coming; the ideological matrix of all strands of Salafi-jihadi terror – which Russia fights no holds barred, from ISIS/Daesh to the Caucasus Emirate – beating a path to the Kremlin and about to embrace Russia as a strategic ally.

The House of Saud was horrified by Russia’s successful campaign to prevent regime change in Syria. Moscow was solidifying its alliance with Tehran. Hawks in the Obama administration were imposing on Saudi Arabia a strategy of keeping oil prices down to hurt the Russian economy.

Now, losing all its battles from Syria to Yemen, losing regional influence to both Iran and Turkey, indebted, vulnerable and paranoid, the House of Saud has also to confront the ghost of a possible coup in Riyadh against Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, a.k.a. MBS, as Asia Times reported. Under so much pressure, who’re you gonna call?

The ultimate ghostbuster; Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Essentially, the House of Saud is obsessed by three main vectors; low oil prices; Iran and Shi’ism; and what to make of US foreign policy under Trump. Let’s take them one by one.

I want my S-400s

As much as a Moscow-Washington reset remains doomed, even with the implosion of Russia-Gate, House of Saud advisers must have known that the Kremlin won’t ditch its strategic relationship with Iran – one of the key nodes of Eurasia integration.

Moscow will keep aligned with Iran across “Syraq”; that’s part of the “4+1” (Russia-Syria-Iran-Iraq, plus Hezbollah) alliance in the Levant/Mesopotamia, an incontrovertible (and winning) fact on the ground. And that does not preclude Russia’s increasingly cozy relationships across the Arab world – as with Egypt, Jordan, the UAE and Libya.

What concerns Moscow, deeply, is Saudi (formal or informal) financing of Salafi-jihadi outfits inside Russia. So a high-level line of communication between Moscow and Riyadh works towards dissipating any misunderstandings regarding, for instance, jihadism in Tatarstan and Chechnya.

Moscow does not buy the much-spun (in the West) Iranian “aggressive behavior” in the Middle East. As a key negotiator of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Russia very well knows that Iran’s ballistic missile program is actually the key target of Trump’s imminent decertification of the Iran deal.

These missiles actually represent dissuasion against any possible US attack, “leading from behind” or not. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) in Tehran has made it quite clear the ballistic missile program does not fall into the JCPOA, and will remain active.

Enter the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Saudis and Rosoboronexport (Russia’s state body for exporting military hardware) signed in Moscow for the purchase of the S-400 missile system; the Kornet-EM system; the TOS-1A; the AGS-30; and last but not least the new Kalashnikov AK-103.

The S-400 success story is unequivocal. Iran bought it. Turkey bought it. Now Saudi Arabia buys it – even after splurging a fortune in US weapons during Trump’s by now infamous “sword dance” visit to Riyadh.

So no wonder, after the S-400 news, the US State Department like clockwork approved the possible – that’s the operative word – $15 billion sale of 44 THAAD launchers and 360 missiles to Saudi Arabia, a very good business for Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.

The Pentagon’s defense security cooperation agency said, “this sale furthers US national security and foreign policy interests, and supports the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of Iranian and other regional threats.” Cynics already envisage a battle of Iranian S-400s and Saudi THAADs “moderated” by Saudi S-400s.

We are the new OPEC

King Salman may have boarded the Saudi Arabian Airlines flight, but the real architect of the pivot to Russia is MBS. Oil in Saudi Arabia accounts for 87% of budget revenues, 42% of GDP, and 90% of exports. MBS is betting all his cards on the Vision 2030 program to “modernize” the Saudi economy, and he knows very well it will be impossible to pull off if oil prices are low.

At the Russia Energy Week forum in Moscow, Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said the Aramco IPO – a key driver of funds to Vision 2030 – will happen in the second half of 2018, contradicting Saudi officials who earlier stated the IPO was once again postponed to 2019. And no one can tell whether it will take place in the NYSE or not.

Meanwhile, the priority remains the OPEC / non-OPEC deal (with Russia at the forefront) to “stabilize” oil prices, clinched in November 2016 to cut production. President Putin tentatively agreed the deal could be extended beyond March 2018, something to be discussed in detail at the next OPEC meeting in Vienna in late November.

The deal may certainly be seen as a purely strategic/economic measure to stabilize the oil market – with no geopolitical overtones. And yet OPEC is geared to become a brand new animal – with Russia and Saudi Arabia de facto deciding where the global oil markets go, and then telling the other OPEC players. It’s open to question what Iran, Algeria, Nigeria, Venezuela, among others, will have to say about this. The barely disguised aim is to bring oil prices up to a band of $60-75 a barrel by the middle of next year. Certainly a good deal for the Aramco IPO.

There were a rash of other deals clinched in Moscow – such as Aramco and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) $1 billion fund for oil-services projects in Russia, plus another $1 billion for a technology fund.

This synergy implies Saudi Arabia investing in top Russian energy assets and Russia, for instance, supplying gas to the Saudi petrochemical industry and reducing drilling/production costs. Certainly a good deal for Vision 2030.

The new sheriff in town

To say that the Saudi pivot to Russia is rattling nerves across the Beltway is an understatement. The CIA is not exactly fond of MBS. 9/11-related puzzles are bound to resurface.

What’s also clear is that the House of Saud has realized it cannot be left to watching camels as the great Eurasia integration caravan picks up speed. Russia has pipelines crisscrossing most of Eurasia. China is building rail lines connecting all of Eurasia. And we haven’t even touched specific Saudi-Chinese projects part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Those were the days of King Abdulaziz and FDR aboard the USS Quincy in the Suez Canal forging a strategic partnership; the days of Washington leading Saudi Arabia to increase oil production, drive down prices and weaken the USSR; the days of the Afghan jihad. Now there’s no US dependence on House of Saud oil anymore. And jihadist blowback is the name of the security game.

It may be too early to identify the Saudi pivot to Russia as the shift of the century. It is though a certified game-changer. Moscow is about to become the new sheriff in town, in virtually any town across Southwest Asia. And it’s getting there on its own terms, without resorting to a Colt dialectic. MBS wants energy/defense cooperation? He gets it. MBS wants less Russian cooperation with Iran? He doesn’t get it. OPEC aims at higher oil prices? Done. And what about the S-400s? Free – sort of – for all.

This piece first appeared in Asia Times.

More articles by:

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).  His latest book is Empire of ChaosHe may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.


The tragic and outrageous shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 on its journey from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur over Ukrainian airspace on Thursday is a direct consequence of the ongoing war in Ukraine. Even while offering solace to the family of the dead, the international community needs to fix the responsibility for the firing of the missile that brought down MH17 that was flying at 33,000 feet above sea level, with 298 people on board.

The blame game has already started among the Ukrainian government, the pro-Russian rebel forces fighting the separatist war in the eastern part of the country, and Russia itself. There have been previous instances of Ukraine’s military aircraft getting shot down in the same region. It is surprising that MAS and some other international carriers have been sticking to this dangerous airspace all these weeks and months and only now have decided to steer clear of the zone. The Ukrainian rebels, the prime suspects, were perhaps targeting another Ukrainian military aircraft expected at that time; they even claimed they were in possession of missiles and had shot down a military aircraft.

Big powers playing proxy, aiding rebels to defeat the incumbent is not new and the US did the very same thing through her CIA in funding and arming the Taliban – including anti aircraft Stinger missiles -to oust the Russians in Afghanistan. As an aftermath, the Taliban has arms and deadly Stinger missiles even till to day. Now it seems it is the Russian’s turn to suffer a similar odium. Russia should put an end to separatist rebels group. We should not forget that history is full of examples where countries have created groups for their benefits but later on these groups have created problems for these countries. Even Malaysia helped the Moro separatist in Southern Philippines at one time and now the same group is creating trouble in Sabah and things have back fired big time for Malaysia, while I’m writing this piece there is even a curfew being declared in the east-coast of Sabah. What goes around sure comes around…

This ghastly tragedy could not have come at a worse time for us in Malaysia. Hardly four months ago, MH370 mysteriously went missing while on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Even debris has not been found till to date and there is no clue on what happened to it.

The fallout of the war in Ukraine, in which Russia has played a controversial role, has now become an even bigger international issue with the shooting down of our MAS aircraft. Some countries have already called for the United Nations to play a more decisive role in ending this conflict and also taking charge of the investigation. There were a couple of other aircraft quite close to the site where MAS flight MH17 was shot down. Russian President Vladimir Putin was reportedly in the air at the same time. An Air India aircraft carrying Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a diversion to avoid this zone. Tragedies such as this only revive the demand for international aviation organisations to take a more active and dynamic role in tracking or monitoring flights in the interests of the safety of passengers. Airlines will have to accept such a monitoring mechanism sooner rather than later. The Ukrainian authorities have already begun a probe and have taken note of some Twitter posts purportedly put out by the separatists who they say are to blame. The immediate need is to order a full-fledged international investigation into this tragedy, as demanded by our Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, perhaps headed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

Unfortunately, no remedy is available to Malaysia or to MAS whose plane has been shot. Further, one wonders whether there is any remedy available to crew and passengers’ relatives. What can be done by the United Nations to avoid such attacks in future? It appears that United Nation is simply a helpless watcher, just as it is in case of Israeli attack on Palestine’s Gaza residents.

In this tragedy, we all must stand together as Malaysians. But again I say, what goes around sure comes around…