OTAN – Q&R – Extrait du point de presse (31 janvier 2022)

Q : Concernant l’envoi de militaires français en Estonie et en Roumanie, quels sont les critères de choix quant aux pays ? Et quelle est l’appellation officielle de la mission ? Les mesures de réassurance de l’OTAN sont-elles l’unique cadre de ces mouvements ?

R : La France participe aux mesures de réassurance de l’OTAN dans le cadre de la présence avancée renforcée (eFP – Enhanced Forward Presence). Depuis 2016, ce dispositif collectif est déployé en Pologne et dans les trois pays baltes (Estonie, Lettonie, Lituanie) pour répondre à des demandes formulées par les pays alliés en question.

Actuellement, la mission française « Lynx » qui regroupe plus de 300 soldats et une douzaine de chars Leclerc y contribue en Estonie.

Elle participe de la posture militaire de défense et de dissuasion de l’Alliance, contribue à la sécurité des Alliés orientaux et démontre la solidarité des Alliés et la capacité de l’Alliance à défendre son territoire.

Le Président de la République a fait état de notre disposition à contribuer à de nouvelles mesures de réassurance dans le cadre de l’OTAN, à destination de la Roumanie, dans un cadre que nous définirons collectivement avec nos Alliés et qui fait actuellement l’objet de consultations au sein de l’Alliance et avec les autorités roumaines.

La ministre des Armées s’est exprimée à ce sujet samedi 29 janvier. M. Jean-Yves Le Drian aura l’occasion d’évoquer ce point à l’occasion de son déplacement à Bucarest les 2 et 3 février prochains.

Originaux: France Diplomatie

Ukraine, Hungary, Soros and Cold Warriors – Antony Blinken’s Family Ties

Antony Blinken has been beating the drum for US military support for the regime in Kyiv against Russia since US President Joe Biden appointed him secretary of state in January 2021.

Confronted with Moscow’s refusal to allow the US and NATO to advance one step closer to its territory, he has attempted to stall and divert attention to other issues, while repeating claims Russia is preparing to invade Ukraine.

Blinken previously played the part of cheerleader for US President Barack Obama’s bombing of Libya in 2011 and helped mastermind the arming of religious sectarian terrorists in Syria.

Such is his attachment to a neo-liberal pet geopolitical project the European Union that he risked a rift in the US-UK ‘special relationship’ by attacking Britain’s exit from the bloc.

But less well-known are his personal family links to both Ukraine and Hungary, along with the colour revolution network of NGOs bankrolled by Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros.

Blinken’s great-grandfather was Meir Blinken, a Jewish-Ukrainian immigrant to the US who became a prolific author, writing primarily in the Yiddish language. The elder Blinken was born in Pereiaslav, the city where the Cossacks of the Ukrainian Hetmantate east of the Dneiper river voted in 1654 to become a tributary state of Moscow.

Pereiaslav is part of the governorate of Poltava, where Tsar Peter the Great defeated the invading army of the Swedish king, Charles XII, in 1709. Poltava became a watchword for the fate of future invaders from western Europe, including French Emperor Napoleon Bonapartes’ Grande Armée in 1812.

Antony Blinken’s father, Donald Blinken, is a retired career diplomat who was US ambassador to Hungary from 1994 to 1997 during the transitional period following the end of the socialist Hungarian People’s Republic.

The Soros Connection

Soros’ Open Society Archives (OSA), based in the Hungarian capital of Budapest, was renamed the Blinken OSA in 2015 following a large donation to its funds by Donald Blinken and his wife, Vera.

The OSA’s website is not bashful about celebrating the former ambassador’s pivotal role in expanding NATO to the east — breaking pledges made by US secretary of state James Baker to Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 and US president Bill Clinton to his successor Boris Yeltsin in 1993 that the Western military bloc would not do so.

“Donald Blinken served as Ambassador at a crucial time, during the process of Hungary’s becoming member of NATO, at the time of the referendum on NATO membership,” it reads. “He played a defining role in setting up the Taszár Air Base that served as the logistical base for the IFOR [the Western military intervention in Bosnia-Herzegovina] and later on for SFOR peacekeeping operations in the Balkans.”

For his repeated stoking of tensions with Moscow, the secretary of state’s father was awarded Hungary’s highest civilian honour and the Pentagon’s Award for Distinguished Public Service.

Vera Blinken was born in Hungary, but fled the country for the US in 1956 with her mother following the defeat of the attempt to overthrow the socialist state and drag Hungary out of the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet-led counterweight to NATO.

Cold War Spectres

The OSA is a wing of Soros’ Open Society Foundations which funds NGO groups working, according to its website, toward “advancing justice, education, public health and independent media” around the world.

Among its first acquisitions was the archive of the Washington-funded anti-Eastern Bloc broadcaster Radio Free Europe, now Radio Liberty. Other artifacts include political materials from subversive organisations in socialist states.

It also holds the personal papers of many former Hungarian anti-communist opposition leaders and exiles, including Béla Király. Király was a general in the army of Hungary’s fascist WWII government who fought on the eastern front, and was later given refuge in the US during the Cold War.

Soros has been accused by some of masterminding the 2014 Maidan Square coup in Ukraine through a vast network of ‘civil society’ groups — with his eye purportedly on destabilising Russia.


Header: Left: Meir Blinken; at right: his great-grandson, Tony Blinken. Centre: the Yiddish newspaper Der Kibetzer. Photo collage: Shimon Briman

The Bolshevik Revolution and the Ukraine crisis: What can they possibly have in common?

Western interference in Russian politics has a long tradition. Lenin’s journey in 1917 probably had the greatest impact. And, 105 years later, an explosive mixture of word salad in the news and military machinery is overshadowing an eastern front that has been built up by the media.

Almost 40 years ago, I learnt in history class that the German general staff had organised a secret operation during World War I to bring Russian communist Vladimir Lenin from his exile in Geneva to Petrograd (now known as St. Petersburg) in a sealed train in April 1917.

This chapter of the war fascinated me. Since then, I have been under the impression that it was a spontaneous operation to pacify the so-called Eastern Front.

The real consequences, of course, were the October Revolution and the collapse of Russia.

The warlike chessboard of Helphand, aka Parvus

It wasn’t until I read a book written in 2000 by Austrian historian Elisabeth Heresch titled ‘Geheimakte Parvus – Die Gekaufte Revolution’ (‘Secret Files: Parvus – The Bought Revolution’), that I realized preparations for a power change in Russia had been long in the making. It was almost a fixed agenda of the foreign ministries in Vienna and Berlin. In their traditional rivalry with the Russian tsars, the Habsburgs were primarily concerned with their power in the Balkans.

The key lobbyist for this foreign interference in Russia was a Minsk-born man, Israel Lazarevich Helphand, who later went by the name of Alexander Parvus.

As a publicist and, above all, as a financier of various revolutionary circles in Europe and in the Ottoman Empire, he pulled many strings from the 1890s onwards. On his chessboard, he moved figures such as Lenin and Trotsky but also the revolutionary Young Turks.

Using thoroughly researched documents, Heresch describes the intrigues of European diplomacy at the beginning of the 20th century, which aimed to stop Russia through anarchy and bring down the country and its people. So, it was not an ad hoc decision to ship the sidelined extreme Bolshevik Lenin to Russia, where the pragmatic Mensheviks had gained the upper hand. Rather, it was the last stone to be added to a pile of stones that had been building up for a long time. It would first affect Europe and later bury Russia.

Germany’s General Erich Ludendorff wrote in 1917: “Lenin’s entry into Russia was successful. It is working just as we wanted.”

Parvus was always involved in this operation. Not only did he pull the strings and place his pieces on the political chessboard, he also made millions doing it. However, his plan to become a minister in Lenin’s revolutionary cabinet did not work out as intended.

Interference then and now

“Only internal unrest will shake the Russian colossus,” wrote the Viennese diplomat Alexander Hoyos in September 1914.

A few weeks earlier, the old Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria had sent Serbia a declaration of war. The text was based on false reports and the world staggered into the Great War. All attempts by Russian Emperor Nicholas II, in particular with telegrams to the German Emperor Wilhelm II, his cousin, to persuade him to find a diplomatic solution failed. Nicholas suggested in vain that the facts surrounding the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in June 1914 should be clarified by means of a precise legal investigation. Incidentally, the two cousins, Niki and Willi, often corresponded in English.

Austrian diplomacy also proved to be particularly active in its commitment to promoting revolutionary movements in Russia, as well as the formation of a Ukrainian state. In her book, Heresch cites reports such as the following: “Simultaneously, with the beginning of Austria-Hungary’s war with Russia, the Austrian government took measures to spark revolutionary unrest in Russia. To this end, Austrian politicians offered some political émigrés staying in Austria the opportunity to leave for Russia – after providing them with false passports – and carry out revolutionary propaganda there. They were also offered sums of money.”

At the same time, an effort by Vienna and Lausanne was underway to promote the separation of Ukraine via publications such as the German-language daily Der Bund. It was supposedly about “freeing the Ukrainian people from the Russian yoke once and for all”.

Heresch goes on to say that these “proclamations were received extremely negatively by Russian socialists, largely thanks to the fact that the venality of their authors was so clearly expressed”.

Some parallels may come to mind in view of the current situation regarding Ukraine, in which it is almost impossible to distinguish between right and wrong.

The media machine started up in October with a Washington Post report on Russian troop movements on Russian soil, which apparently agitated Ukraine less than it did NATO.

Meanwhile, government officials in Kiev called for calm in the face of Western reports of an impending Russian invasion of Ukraine and the withdrawal of diplomats. Alexey Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said last week: “As of today, we see no evidence in support of an alleged large-scale attack on our country.”

The EU foreign ministers, on the other hand, showed themselves to be more Catholic than the Pope by announcing that any further military aggression against Ukraine would have “massive consequences and severe costs”. This includes a wide range of sanctions against Russian economic sectors and individuals. Work on the preparations for these sanctions has been accelerated.

A dangerous moment

As is so often the case, a mountain of words has been piled up at EU level, which is now being pushed and repeated like a mantra, without anyone daring to respond out loud and independently. We know these rituals from many other dossiers, whether from the Middle East or Southeast Europe.

It almost seems that, both at NATO headquarters and in the US Congress, which are teeming with energy lobbyists – and, yes, it’s still about the Nord Stream 2 pipeline – or in the EU councils, war reporting is already more intensive than in either Ukraine or Russia. This mixture of propaganda – such as British media reports alleging there’s a Russian plot to install “a puppet leadership in Kiev” – a tangible mobilisation and thousands of US soldiers on this new, artificially created eastern front, is highly explosive.

Unlike 100 years ago, there is no perfidious character like Parvus pulling the strings, as described by Heresch. Rather, many unscrupulous cooks are making a porridge on which many may burn their mouths. A combination of arrogance and ignorance has only ever created chaos.

The history of Russia knows its constants, which are determined, among other factors, by geography. But it also has its variables – and these are determined by the people involved.

Source: Karin Kneissl – RT

  • Dr. Karin Kneissl – is Austria’s former minister of foreign affairs. In June 2020, Dr. Kneissl published her book titled ‘Diplomacy Makes History – The Art of Dialogue in Uncertain Times’ (Olms Verlag, Hildesheim). The central point of the book is “Diplomacy means commitment to dialogue – no matter the circumstances.”


Arriving at the Finland Station in Russia’s former capital of Petrograd (modern-day St. Petersburg), Lenin climbed atop an armored train car to address the thousands of his followers who had gathered. In a now-historic speech, Lenin argued that the Bolshevik Party must use armed force to seize control from the provisional government that had been formed after Tsar Nicholas II’s abdication.

“The people need peace; the people need bread; the people need land. And they give you war, hunger, no bread. … We must fight for the socialist revolution, fight to the end, until the complete victory of the proletariat. Long live the worldwide socialist revolution!” he cried that night.

Watch: Thousands protest over COVID restrictions in Europe

Thousands of people took part in a protest against COVID-19 restrictions in Prague, the Czech Republic, on Sunday, claiming that current restrictions are a “road to hell.”

The demonstrators protested against the government’s COVID-19 policies, which include a ban on the unvaccinated in restaurants, in Prague’s Wenceslas Square.

“The state should listen to the people’s demands. The arrangements and restrictions lead us on the road to hell,” shouted one protester, according to Reuters, while others waved Czech flags and chanted.

A similar protest against COVID-19 restrictions in October 2020 led to clashes with law enforcement after police fired water cannons at protesters and deployed tear gas.

Demonstrators at the time were protesting against mask mandates, social distancing policies, and caps on social gatherings.

Diners at restaurants in the Czech Republic are currently required to show proof of vaccination or recovery from a recent COVID-19 infection.

The same rules apply to accommodation, night clubs, and cultural venues such as museums in the country.

Since a new center-right government took office in mid-December, the Czech authorities have given up on the idea of introducing vaccine mandates for healthcare workers, police, soldiers as well as for seniors over 60.

The new government of PM Petr Fiala argued that compulsory vaccinations would only stir divisions in society.

He, nevertheless, stated that vaccination was the “best way” to fight the pandemic.

This month, Czech Health Minister Vlastimil Valek said the idea of mandatory vaccination was “nonsense from the start.”

Source: RT

Israel: A Profile in Vaccine failure and a Warning to the World

Israel’s daily COVID-19 cases reach record 83,653,” says Wednesday’s news wire.

“COVID-19 in Israel: Serious cases increase tenfold in span of a month, continue to rise,” announces a recent headline from the Jerusalem Post.

Elsewhere we learn that Israel’s positive test rate is a staggering 29.63 percent. This means that nearly one-third of all COVID tests taken by Israelis are coming back positive.

Israel is obviously a country in deep COVID trouble with the SARS-CoV-2 virus running out of control in that nation.

Revealingly, Israel happens to be one of the most heavily vaccinated countries in the world.

Some 80 percent of its adult population have been double vaccinated and some 55 percent have received a booster.

Even though Israel’s population is heavily vaccinated and boostered, the country is posting unprecedented case numbers.

On January 25, Israel reported over 101,905 cases which is more than 10 times its pre-vaccination high.

In other words, now that the Israeli people have been mass injected with the mRNA vaccines, their cases have gone up by more than 1000 percent.

Neither has the heavy vaccine coverage reduced the incidence of serious COVID.

Last week, Israel’s weekly COVID hospital admissions reached a record that exceeded the country’s pre-vaccine high by nearly two hundred percent.

At the beginning of the worldwide vaccination crusade, the vaccinators and their collaborators told us that the COVID vaccines were highly effective.

The figures bandied about were 94 to 95 percent.

If this were even remotely true, Israel would have triumphed over COVID months ago.

Instead, we get this headline: Highly vaccinated Israel has the most COVID-19 cases per capita in the world.

After more than a year of frenzied injectioneering, Israel’s numbers are worse than ever. Not only have the vaccines not conquered COVID, but they have also made the situation worse.

Israel’s plight mirrors that of other highly vaccinated countries that have also experienced record-breaking case numbers.

This is what mass injecting of the mRNA vaccines into a population gets you: the more you vaccinate against COVID-19 the more COVID-19 you get.

And we are not even talking about the side effects of these improperly tested vaccines, which have seriously injured and killed hundreds of thousands of people.

Reports of death to the VAERS system exploded after the introduction of the COVID vaccines.

As of January 14, there have been more than one million reports of adverse reactions to VAERS in connection with the mRNA injections.

In the last twelve months, more than one thousand studies and articles appeared in peer-reviewed scientific journals that discuss the serious side effects of these experimental mRNA products.

And yet, even as we speak, a campaign is underway to inject all Israelis above 18 years of age with a second booster.

This is a hail Mary – a shot in the dark – by the vaccinators.

We know that the fourth shot will not work. Less than two weeks ago, The Times of Israel ran an article titled: Israeli trial, world’s first, finds 4th dose ‘not good enough’ against Omicron.

The piece quoted Prof. Gili Regev-Yochay, a lead researcher in the experiment, who confirmed that the vaccines are simply “not good enough” to counteract the Omicron variant.

Despite this, the vaccinators in Israel – as well as in some other places – have decided to go ahead with administering the doomed fourth dose while exposing its recipients to the risk of serious side effects.

The vaccinators are doing this even though they know that repeated mRNA injections progressively destroy the immune system of their recipients.

This is what we read in a recent Bloomberg report:

“European Union regulators warned that frequent COVID-19 booster shots could adversely affect the immune response and may not be feasible. Repeat booster doses every four months could eventually weaken the immune response and tire out people, according to the European Medicines Agency.”

According to Marco Cavaleri, the Head of Biological Health Threats and Vaccines Strategy at the European Medicines Agency (EMA),

… boosters “can be done once, or maybe twice, but it’s not something that we can think should be repeated constantly.”

Given all the information we now have, the decision by the Israeli authorities to administer the ineffective and dangerous fourth shot violates the principles of sound science, reason, and moral law.

Israel is a case study of vaccine failure and of the brutal mindset of the vaccinators who willingly sacrifice people’s health and lives.

Source: Vasko Kohlmayer – American Thinker

What Canada truckers’ ‘Freedom Convoy’ is all about

After a week-long drive from British Columbia province, a group of Canadian long-haul truck drivers – dubbed the ‘Freedom Convoy’ – made its way across the country to Ottawa, the national capital in the eastern province of Ontario on Saturday. The big rigs now dominate the national capital, casting a long shadow over political discourse both in the country and beyond.

Thousands of truckers, and supporters, continue to protest against the federal government’s vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 policies – under the glare of law enforcement officials and the national media spotlight.

Here’s what we know so far.

1. So, what kicked off the ‘Freedom Convoy’ exactly?

Until mid-January, cross-border truck drivers in Canada were exempt from vaccine requirements – meaning they could drive to the US and back without needing to prove vaccination status.

After the government instituted a mandate that imposed a quarantine on unvaccinated drivers, a band of truckers in western Canada organized a cross-country drive to protest in Ottawa.

The movement gathered momentum and public support as it traveled east. It also garnered the backing of those who are opposed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government and that of anti-vaccine mandate groups frustrated with pandemic restrictions that they view as “political overreach.”

According to a statement by organizers, the convoy demands that federal and provincial governments shut down vaccine passports and all other “obligatory vaccine contact-tracing programs,” and “terminate COVID-19 vaccine mandates.”

2. Are there really thousands of trucks on the road?

In its statement on Wednesday, the organizers said that “although our initial convoy [was] estimated to be 1,600 trucks, that number significantly increased to 36,000 trucks in just a few days.

It is now estimated that the number of heavy trucks heading to Ottawa is closer to 50,000.”

However, national media outlets and law enforcement bodies have reported anywhere from “hundreds” of trucks to figures in the low thousands over the past week. Some calculations have also accounted for cars and SUVs that have also apparently latched onto the convoy.

The real figure likely lies somewhere in between – with the Canadian Trucking Alliance having estimated that the vaccine mandate would affect some 16,000 drivers since it claimed that between 85-90% of the country’s 120,000 cross-border truckers have been jabbed.

3. Do the truckers have popular support?

Over the past week, videos on social media platforms and news footage have shown trucks and other vehicles chugging along highways and city streets, cheered on by crowds of people gathered on the roadsides and overpasses. Large groups of people have also been waving Canadian flags and holding up signs that take aim at both Trudeau and his policies. The organizers have claimed to “have the support of millions of Canadians from across the country.”

While authorities have not released figures about the number of people who arrived in Ottawa, local police sources told media outlets that the crowds in the capital’s Downtown area and Parliament Hill were similar to those seen during large gatherings on major public holidays – typically running into the tens of thousands.

Reports in Canadian media have also highlighted crowds gathering for local rallies being held at various places in support of the Freedom Convoy.

Another metric that hinted at the movement’s wider popularity is a GoFundMe campaign that has seen Can$ 8.6 million (US$ 6.7 million) raised from over 108,000 people over the past week.

However, the truckers’ demonstration has also prompted criticism from those who consider its participants to be “far-right” and spreading “disinformation.” Ottawa police have told the media they were preparing for counter-protests and that they have received a “direct threat” aimed at officers from an unspecified individual. Officials have also been warning some “extremist” groups might try to capitalize on the mass protest, with the New Democratic Party leader going as far as saying that some “elements” were “attempting to turn the convoy into a Canadian version of the terrorist attacks on the US Capitol.”

4. How long will the truckers’ protest last?

According to a running clock on the group’s official webpage, the “Countdown to Freedom” ends in less than a day, as of the time of writing. The most recent updates about their itinerary for Sunday show a prayer service for 11am (Eastern Standard Time) and a press conference at 1pm, where additional details may be announced.

The protesters had planned to encamp in Ottawa for at least the weekend, but police sources have suggested that the rally could potentially continue into the next week.

5. Has the ‘Freedom Convoy’ protest in Ottawa been peaceful?

The city’s police force has reportedly been augmented by officers from other parts of the province as well as members of the national security and intelligence community to stop potential unrest. Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly had described the situation on Friday as “unique, fluid, risky, and significant” and warned of threats from “lone wolf” actors who may have infiltrated the crowds. He also warned of “social media actors” who are “inciting hate, violence, and in some cases, criminality to take place.”

However, no violence, arrests or injuries have been reported by authorities so far and the convoy organizers have said the “movement is a peaceful protest” and does “not condone any acts of violence.”

In a statement on Friday, the Freedom Convoy organizers had urged participants to “treat all police officers with respect” and “not make any type of threat.”

6. Where is Justin Trudeau in all of this?

Prime Minister Trudeau and his family were apparently shifted to an “undisclosed location” in Ottawa on Saturday due to security concerns.

Several trucks in the convoy displayed slogans and signs such as “F**k Trudeau,” with protesters apparently using as a rallying cry his earlier dismissal of the movement as the voices of a “fringe minority” that harbored “unacceptable views.” Some have reportedly called for Trudeau to be charged with treason or beaten up.

In one of his last interviews prior to being moved, Trudeau expressed concern on Friday about the potential for violence – claiming the movement has “morphed into something a lot larger” but was still “a very small, very angry group… who are really trying to lash out.”

7. What are people outside Canada saying about the truckers’ protest?

The unusual scale and scope of the protest has captured public attention outside the country.

Former US President Donald Trump praised the convoy participants at a rally in Texas on Saturday, noting that they were “doing more to defend American freedom than our own leaders by far.”

Other prominent individuals that have spoken in support include Tesla CEO Elon Musk, podcaster Joe Rogan and comedian Russell Brand. Reactions from some liberal pundits and US media has been mostly negative, with some opinions linking the protesting truckers to far-right groups, white supremacist ideologies and COVID misinformation. The Washington Post has published an opinion piece calling on Canada to “confront the toxic ‘Freedom Convoy’ head-on,” in which columnist David Moscrop described the truckers as “a fringe group” and claimed they were “driven by a generalized rage, misplaced anger about supply-chain challenges and antigovernment sentiment.”

Source: RT

Can Europe survive without Russian gas?

The US and the European Union are threatening Russia with sweeping sanctions in the event of a military conflict with Ukraine. These could include Russian exports of oil, natural gas, and raw materials. However, experts warn that such measures would backfire on Europe, depriving the continent of Russia’s natural gas supplies and other commodities. With gas prices already sky-high, storages at multiple year-lows, and spring warmth still weeks away, Europeans might have to seek alternative suppliers to heat and light their homes.

What could halt Russian gas supplies to Europe?

Washington has threatened Russian businesses, energy companies, and even President Vladimir Putin personally with sanctions if Russia makes an offensive move against its neighbor.

The Biden administration has also been pressuring EU partners to block the certification of the newly built Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which could have remedied the starving European gas market with its 50 billion cubic meters of gas annually.

Moscow has not made any declarations regarding closing the taps on Europe, and major energy exporter Gazprom has been pumping gas in accordance with existing contracts. Russian gas flows have shrunk in recent months, prompting some Western analysts to claim that Russia could use its gas as leverage in response to sanctions.

Would Russia cut off gas supplies to Europe?

This is highly unlikely, unless new sanctions target Russia’s ability to get paid for its exports. Europe remains the most profitable market for Russian gas.

In 2020, Russia delivered 175 billion cubic meters of gas to the continent, much more than to its second-largest market, Asia-Pacific. Russia would not put its key source of revenue at risk. Gas flows from Russia to Europe were not interrupted even at the height of the Cold War.

In fact, historically, energy supplies stopped only once – during Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union during WWII. However, supplies could be stopped by Western sanctions themselves – for instance, if Russia is cut off from the SWIFT payment system.

Why is SWIFT so critical?

SWIFT is the main global provider of secure payments and bank transfers. Think of it as a credit card for individuals and countries. Without SWIFT, most countries which use the payments network cannot pay for Russian energy supplies, and Russia has no way of receiving the funds. Since we are talking about multibillion-dollar transactions, and containers of cash are out of the question, it is very difficult to find an alternative way to do business.

Western banks would have to send money to Russia’s neighbors, and then the funds would have to be transferred to Russia through the Russian payment system SPFS. This would deal a huge blow to the entire global economy and make large transactions with Russia virtually impossible to carry out.

However, disconnecting Moscow from SWIFT would not only hurt Russia, but Europe and other countries as well, since it would effectively cut off the West from Russian energy supplies.

How badly does Russia need the European market?

Although, as previously noted, Europe is a key source of revenue, the country could survive without it. Russia could find other suitors for its gas in Asia.

As of November 2021, shipments through the Russian gas pipeline to China, the Power of Siberia, exceeded 13 billion cubic meters, which is over three times their volume in 2020. Japan and South Korea also purchase significant amounts of Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the Arctic.

In the future, India could become a potentially huge market for Russian gas.

Why does Europe need Russian gas supplies?

More than half of the EU’s energy needs (61%) are met by imports, according to Europe’s statistics agency.

Russia is the main EU supplier of natural gas, accounting for over 46% of gas imports as of the first half of 2021.

Most of the gas comes via the Yamal-Europe pipeline, which connects the EU with Russian gas fields through Ukrainian territory. If Russia closes the taps due to sanctions, or if the gas flow is disrupted due to some infrastructure damage resulting from a hypothetical conflict in Ukraine, Europe would lose the bulk of gas supplies – which are difficult, if not impossible to replace on short notice.

This would propel gas prices, which nearly doubled last year, to new record highs.

What other gas suppliers does Europe have?

According to Eurostat, apart from Russia, the EU gets its gas from Norway (20.5%), Algeria (11.6%), the United States (6.3%) and Qatar (4.3%), as well as some other states whose combined share is a little over 10%.

However, Norway has been unable to meet the demand throughout 2021, with North Sea fields undergoing heavy maintenance after pandemic-induced delays, while other suppliers have too small a share in the European gas market at their current volumes to make a difference in case of a flow disruption.

Can other suppliers cover the shortfall in Russian gas supplies?

The US administration has reportedly been in talks with Qatar on the possibility of increasing LNG shipments to Europe, but so far to no avail.

Experts cited by Bloomberg say Qatar is already producing at full capacity, and most of its cargoes are sent to Asia under long-term contracts, which it can hardly break for fear of losing the valuable market.

Even if the US finds a way to boost LNG deliveries to Europe, energy prices would jump nonetheless, as US LNG is more expensive than Russian natural gas.

Algeria may have spare production and pipeline capacity to boost supplies to Europe if called upon, a government source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told S&P Global Platts on Tuesday. Those could be delivered as LNG or via Algeria’s direct pipelines to Spain and Italy, the source said. However, no official reports regarding the matter have been issued, while Algeria’s major pipeline linking it to Europe via Morocco was shut down last year.

What are Europe’s alternatives to gas as an energy source?

Europe has a number of alternative energy sources, but none of them could be called upon to substitute for natural gas.

The EU’s decision to turn to weather-dependent sources of energy like wind and solar power over ‘dirty’ fossil fuels has already, at least in part, led to the current energy crisis.

Coal has also soared in price, as Europe, China, and others have been looking for alternatives to gas amid the global pandemic crisis in recent months.

Finally, Europe (with the exclusion of France) has been shutting down another crucial source of energy – nuclear power plants – amid its push to phase out atomic energy after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.

The plants can still be salvaged if the recently proposed draft bill to label nuclear energy as ‘green’ comes through, but both the bill and the revival of the closed plants, as well as the construction of new ones, will take time, which Europe does not have.

Source: RT

EU threatens to halt Nord Stream 2 & cut Russia off from SWIFT

The EU is discussing the possibility of excluding Russia from the SWIFT international bank payment system and completely putting a halt on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline if Moscow launches an invasion of Ukraine, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has revealed.

Speaking to CNN on Thursday, the Eurocrat said the EU would not rule out any possible angles for sanctions, adding that nothing is “off the table.”

The EU and the US are currently working on a package of measures designed to deter Russia from considering a military incursion into Ukraine. Moscow stands accused of placing 100,000 troops on the border, with some alleging it is planning an attack. This claim has repeatedly been denied by the Kremlin.

Von der Leyen’s latest statement comes despite some reports that many foreign leaders have given up on some of the harshest sanctions, including on the financial and energy sectors, due to fears that the European economy and the continent’s energy security could see significant blowback.

These include the suggestion that the EU could place a total ban on the usage of Nord Stream 2, a controversial gas pipeline that connects Russia to Germany.

“I want to be very clear: Nothing is off the table, everything is on the table,” von der Leyen said when asked directly if the EU would make sure the energy system is stopped from ever being used. She repeated the same line when also asked about SWIFT.

“The Commission is responsible for designing, shaping, and developing the sanctions – in the financial field, in the economic field, in the technology field. This includes everything,” she explained.

According to von der Leyen, any EU sanctions against Russia would have a devastating effect. Brussels is Moscow’s largest trading partner, and 75% of direct foreign investment in Russia comes from the EU, she explained, suggesting that economic measures would be painful.

Earlier in January, German newspaper Handelsblatt reported that the EU and the US had refused to consider disconnecting Russia from the SWIFT international bank payment system.

It noted that it could destabilize financial markets and help create an alternative payment infrastructure that would no longer be dominated by Western nations.

American outlet Bloomberg later reported that Germany had demanded that proposed sanctions against Russia would not include restrictions on energy, insisting that the sector be exempted if measures are taken to block banks’ access to US dollars.

Source: Jonny Tickle – RT

Mossad officer resigns after clashing with Israel’s spymaster

Channel 13 News reports that due to significant differences of opinion with Mossad director David Barnea, the leader of the Mossad’s ‘Cesarea’ special operations unit will be leaving his position.

According to the report, due to the difficulties involved in employing Israeli agents in countries around the world in the modern era, the head of the Mossad, Barnea, informed the commander of the unit that he intended to make significant changes in the way the Cesarea unit operates.

The commander clarified that he did not intend to implement the changes required, and at the end of a tense conversation it was decided that he would be asked to leave his position.

The commander’s deputy and several other agents resigned along with him. A new commander has been assigned and will implement the desired reforms in the near future.

When Barnea took office, several senior Mossad officials decided to retire, including the head of the technology department, head of the counterterrorism department, and the head of the department for handling agents.

It is estimated that these resignations were likewise brought on by the announcement of the changes Barnea intended to implement.

Source: Arutz Sheva

It is the fourth time that a senior Mossad official has resigned in seven months since Barnea replaced Yossi Cohen as director of the agency.

Last year, Mossad’s head of technology, head of operations, and head of anti-terrorism all resigned from their positions over alleged conflict with Barnea.

Barnea, who joined Mossad in 1996 before becoming head of its Tzomet Division in 2013, Mossad deputy head in 2019, and finally director of the agency in 2021, has been described as a “gadget-loving killing machine” and has reportedly sought to take Mossad back to a code of absolute silence – threatening both current and former agents who speak to the media about operations.

After being appointed director of the agency by former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in June, Barnea singled out Iran as its top priority, accusing the country of “making constant progress toward a weapons of mass destruction program.”

Source: RT

Gasoline prices in Israel to rise sharply Monday night

Following the sharp rise in the price of oil on global markets, the maximum price of government price controlled 95 octane gasoline at self-service pumps in Israel will rise sharply on Monday night at midnight February 1, 2022 by NIS 0.34 to NIS 6.71 per liter [2.11 USD], the Ministry of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources has announced.

The charge for receiving full-service at pumps from gas station attendants will remain NIS 0.21.

The maximum price of government price controlled 95 octane gasoline at self-service pumps in Eilat where there is no VAT will fall by NIS 0.29 to NIS 5.74 on Monday night.

  • The charge for receiving full-service at pumps from gas station attendants in Eilat will remain NIS 0.18.

The price of a barrel of Brent crude oil has risen for the past six consecutive weeks and is currently at $91 a barrel, a seven year-high, on concerns about the situation of a war between Russia and Ukraine.

Source: Globes

  • Published by Globes, Israel business news – en.globes.co.il – on January 30, 2022.

Bennett’s Media Blitz Reveals PM’s post-Netanyahu Strategy

Seven and a half months into his term as prime minister, Naftali Bennett gave a series of interviews for the weekend newspapers and managed the impressive feat of not delivering any policy headlines whatsoever.

In the six interviews, he spoke about all the policy areas – Iran, COVID, the Palestinians and the economy – but said absolutely nothing new about any of them. These were political, not policy, interviews in which Bennett gave the first indication of what he plans to do in 18 months’ time when he’s no longer prime minister.

In every interview, Bennett insisted that he had specifically chosen to speak to the public through the media while the Omicron wave was still close to its peak, rather than doing the easy thing and waiting a few more weeks until the expected dip in cases and hospitalizations, because he wanted to explain his government’s strategy to the public. But if that really was the thinking, why not do it a month ago when public uncertainty and despair were much deeper?

More likely, the timing was due to the lull in talks over his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu’s possible plea deal.

Netanyahu can’t sign a deal until a new Attorney General has been appointed. And with this hiatus in the speculation over the Likud leader’s political future, Bennett had an opportunity to interject and try to change the accepted narrative that, without Netanyahu around, his disparate governing coalition won’t have much of an incentive to stick together.

He repeated the same message: Likud is undergoing a period of toxic turmoil that won’t end anytime soon, even if Netanyahu leaves the scene, and the coalition partners don’t have any appetite to go backward. At least that’s what Bennett insisted. But he was caught off guard by Nachum Barnea, who got him to admit in his Yedioth Ahronoth interview that there were those in the coalition who felt it may have already served its purpose.

This was Bennett’s purpose: to try to convince readers that his government, with all its contradictions and obstacles, is still viable. And that he remains viable not just at the current prime minister but perhaps as a future one as well. However, that will be almost as difficult as replacing Netanyahu and becoming prime minister in the first place.

Bennett is still haunted by his predecessor. In his two previous rounds of media interviews since coming to office – to the local television and radio channels, and the handful he gave to foreign media – he tried to avoid mentioning Netanyahu altogether.

This time around, he was more open to discussing him – especially the smear campaigns Netanyahu’s proxies have launched against him on social media, including the most recent allegation that his mother, Myrna, is Catholic.

Bennett made clear that he holds Netanyahu directly responsible for orchestrating these smears. (In his interview with Haaretz’s Yossi Verter, he spoke in detail about how Netanyahu had personally threatened to do this before Bennett formed the government.)

There was a reason Bennett, who claims to have a thick skin, is going into this now: he has settled on a long-term political strategy of his own.

Despite some pundits’ predictions that Bennett would move to the center, he is now trying to redefine the “national camp,” insisting in all the interviews that he is still a staunch right-winger and that the post-Netanyahu nationalist base he is building will be “built on a direction, not on a man.”

He chose to do three of his interviews with right-wing newspapers – Israel Hayom, Makor Rishon and the Jerusalem Post – and talked up his achievements in that field:

… the plan to double the number of Israelis living on the Golan Heights; standing up to the Biden administration on the reopening of the Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem; and preventing diplomatic talks with the Palestinian Authority. (He insists that the meetings his ministers have had with Palestinian counterparts were not on “diplomatic” matters.)

He sidestepped his still-dismal standing in the polls with clichés like “I’m not sitting with a stopwatch” and “I’m not looking for quick victories.” The polls clearly frustrate him – he’s a politician – but he’s also pragmatic and realizes that it will take time for the right wing to recalibrate and settle down in the post-Netanyahu era.

As difficult as it is, Bennett is trying to draw a line beneath the Netanyahu era and lay the foundations for a new Israeli right. In his interview with Maariv’s Ben Caspit, he didn’t deny that there would probably be a merger of the anti-Netanyahu right-wing parties in the next election. However, he acted coyly when asked who would lead that new party.

Bennett’s new right isn’t obsessed with leaders and, as he made clear, it would be much more inclusive than Bezalel Smotrich’s far-right Religious Zionism party, which according to Bennett is neither religious nor Zionist.

Over a quarter of Bennett’s term is over, and he also made clear that he is still committed to handing over to Yair Lapid in August 2023. Until then, he wants to maintain what he described to Israel Hayom’s Moria Kor as “a government without dramas,” one in which all eight parties with their very different agendas can deliver for their specific constituencies.

He seems content for now to be a short-term prime minister who, as he claims, “saved Israel from spiraling into the chaos of fifth and sixth elections,” which could have jeopardized the Jewish state’s very survival. But he’s still only 49, with young children who are suffering his absence, so he won’t mind having to leave the top job next year. He will then embark on his new mission: to rebuild Israeli nationalism.

Source: Anshel Pfeffer – HAARETZ

Header: Bennett at the prime minister’s office in JerusalemCredit: Emil Salman

Outgoing Attorney-General Mandelblit’s veiled attack on Netanyahu at final cabinet speech

Tuesday will be Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s last day in office, and on Sunday, he attended his final cabinet meeting, after six years in his position.

During the meeting, Mandelblit shared an insight he reached over the years, saying, “It is the government’s responsibility to ensure the rule of law,” in an apparent reference to what he perceived as attempts to subvert the rule of law during the term of the former Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Members of the government are obligated to protect the rule of law as part of their obligation to the public,” Mandelblit added.

“They must place the interests of the state foremost, before any political or personal interests. A government that weakens the rule of law or, G-d forbid, acts against it, harms the public interest.”

Mandelblit was even more pointed as he noted,

“Certain people have attempted to present harm done to the rule of law as an ideological process under the banner of ‘governance,’ but time after time we have seen that what really lay behind such processes was simply the wish to advance personal interests – while at the same time severely damaging the fundamental principle of being true to the public interest.

“The rule of law is not something particular to the Attorney-General,” he added.

“It is a basic component of any democratic country and one which the government is obligated to protect, for the sake of its citizens and in the public interest. In one speech, I called it ‘legal security’ – for it is a form of protection for the nation, just like military security or health security or economic security and so forth.”

Mandelblit then referred to his successor, saying, “In a short while, I hope, a new Attorney-General will be appointed to serve after me, and I know that he will inherit a wonderful system that will help him to carry out his role in all areas.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett then spoke a few words, saying, “Today we are taking our leave of Attorney-General Mandelblit. There has barely been a single day when the State of Israel has not faced challenges in the area of international law. Our enemies use every tool available against us. The role which you played to protect the State of Israel, its soldiers and citizens, on the international stage, has been incredibly significant and as such we owe you a great debt of gratitude. In the name of the government, we thank you, Avichai, for many long years of devoted service to the State of Israel.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz also paid tribute to Mandelblit, writing on Facebook, “I know very well how much he contributed to the security of the State of Israel and to protecting it as a democracy. In the most dramatic moments of the State, when there were those who attempted to shake its democratic foundations, Avichai was there.”

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar also paid his respects to Mandelblit, writing on Twitter, “During historic times, Dr. Avichai Mandelblit played a crucial role in preserving the rule of law and protecting Israeli democracy. He fulfilled his role while enduring constant and unrestrained attacks, but he stuck to the truth. When the dust settles, it is this that will be remembered.”

Source: Arutz Sheva

Cabinet extends Green Pass rules by 1 week

The Cabinet on Sunday approved the extension of the Green Pass regulations by one week until next Sunday.

The government also approved the extension of the crowd restrictions in a closed place (up to 50 people in a place operating without a Green Pass) and the extension of the Purple Pass in commercial places.

In addition, regulations in educational institutions that require teaching staff to present a Green Pass and stipulate the obligation to wear a mask in classrooms have been extended until Sunday, February 27, 2022.

The Green Pass regulations applicable to employees of health and welfare institutions will be extended until Tuesday, March 1.

The decisions will take effect subject to the approval of the Knesset’s Constitution and Education Committees.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett expressed cautious optimism about that the Omicron coronavirus wave had peaked, saying at the opening of the cabinet meeting:

“We are seeing the beginning of a stabilization trend in the Omicron wave. I am choosing my words in order to avoid giving an impression to the effect that it is over and end-of-Omicron celebrations that are out of place. At the moment, at these very hours, we are dealing with severe pressure at the hospitals where there is still a large number of people who are infected.”

“The new education plan that we activated is putting 2.5 million pupils under the testing radar twice a week. This morning my wife and I carried out the tests on the children. This is how we reveal verified cases and avoid being infected. Parents need to show responsibility, take care to test the children properly and send them to school only if they feel well. A few more weeks like this, if we all act responsibly, together we will get through this wave as well,” Bennett said.

Source: Arutz Sheva

Peace with US only possible after ‘new world order’ – Putin ally

Hopes that rock-bottom relations between Moscow and Washington can be turned around are unlikely at present, a top Russian politician has claimed, arguing that only when a new world order is established will there be less conflict between the two states.

Speaking as part of an interview with Ukraina.ru earlier this week, Aleksey Pushkov, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, who previously served as chairman of the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, cast his view on the current power dynamic on the world stage.

“The US is a hegemon that is gradually losing its position in the world,” he claimed.

“They suffered a very serious defeat in the Middle East, they lost Syria, they lost the battle for Afghanistan, they were forced to withdraw almost all of their troops from Iraq at the end of 2021.”

According to the Russian senator, US officials “are trying to maintain their dominant influence by having conflicts simultaneously with Russia and China, although with different degrees of intensity.” Pushkov noted that this creates a nervous environment both in America and the rest of the world.

“The US no longer treats us as a secondary power,” he explained. “They treat us as a paramount power, which is why they cite Russia, not China, as one of the main problems facing the Biden administration in 2022.”

Pushkov warned that it will be “a year of crisis between Washington and Moscow.”

“As I understand it, they now want to solve the ‘Russian problem,’ that is, to subjugate practically all of Europe, pushing Russia to its very outskirts,” he said.

“This is exactly what they need Ukraine for. The next phase will be a political or even military confrontation with China.”

Pushkov added that America’s political and financial elite “believe that they are the only ones who can run the world,” and do not intend to let anyone else take the helms.

“So, until a new world order is established in which the US is weaker and its role is diminished, we will be in more or less acute political conflict with them.”

His remarks come amid an increasingly tense stand-off between East and West, with senior American officials accusing Moscow of amassing troops and hardware near the Ukrainian border ahead of an invasion.

Last week, Biden threatened to hit Russian President Vladimir Putin with sanctions like “he’s never seen” before in the event of an incursion, which the Kremlin has repeatedly denied having any plans of staging.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, warned against a move such as this earlier this month, stating that “the imposition of sanctions against the head of state and against the leader of Russia … is a measure that is comparable to severing relations.”

Source: RT

Trump says Biden sending troops to wrong border

Speaking at a “Save America” rally in Conroe, Texas on Saturday, former President Donald Trump blasted the Biden administration for “obsessing over how to protect Ukraine’s border,” while accusing it of turning a blind eye to the crisis at the US’ own border with Mexico.

“Everyone in Washington is obsessing over how to protect Ukraine’s border, but the most important border in the world right now for us is not Ukraine’s border, it’s America’s border,” Trump told his supporters.

Citing record-high numbers of illegal migrants reaching the US-Mexico border, the ex-president likened the influx of people to an “invasion” threatening US security.

He went on to argue that Joe Biden had already “surrendered” the US border, and “now the entire planet is intruding across it as though America has been defeated on the field of battle.”

“Before our leaders talk about invasions of other countries they need to stop the invasion of this country,” Trump added, suggesting that the US should ramp up troops at its southern border instead of deploying American soldiers closer to Russia’s doorstep.

“Before Joe Biden sends any troops to defend a border in Europe, he should be sending troops to defend our border right here in Texas.”

Trump spoke at the rally just a day after Biden told the media that American troops would be sent to Eastern Europe “in the near term.” Earlier this week, the Pentagon had put some 8,500 troops on “heightened alert” with a view to dispatching them to region.

While the Pentagon ruled out the possibility of US military involvement in “combat operations” in Ukraine, top US generals painted a grim picture of the aftermath of a potential full-blown conflict between Kiev and Moscow, warning of “horrific” consequences and “significant casualties,” even though Russia has consistently denied it’s planning to invade its neighbor.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also sought to dismiss reports of an “imminent” invasion of Ukraine by Russia, pleading with Western media and politicians to stop causing unnecessary panic.

Source: RT