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US orders closure of Russian consulate in SF, annexes in DC, NYC…

August 31, 2017 Leave a comment

WASHINGTON (AP) — In an escalating tit-for-tat, the United States forced Russia on Thursday to shutter its consulate in San Francisco and scale back its diplomatic presence in Washington and New York, as relations between the two former Cold War foes continued to unravel.

The Trump administration said the move constituted its response to the Kremlin’s “unwarranted and detrimental” decision to force the U.S. to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia. The U.S. gave Russia a mere 48 hours to close its San Francisco consulate, along with smaller Russian posts in Washington and New York.

“The United States is prepared to take further action as necessary and as warranted,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert. Still, she said the U.S. hoped both countries could now move toward “improved relations” and “increased cooperation.”

Russia said it regretted the order and pointed the finger at the U.S. for starting the “escalation of tensions” between the nuclear-armed powers. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Kremlin would return the volley by retaliating for the U.S. retaliation. The Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow was studying the decision to determine its response.

U.S. ties to Russia have soured in recent years over deep disagreements about Ukraine, Syria and Russian hacking. To the surprise of those who anticipated that President Donald Trump’s election would reverse that trend, the feud has only worsened this year, even as investigators continue probing whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Moscow’s efforts to help him get elected.

In addition to its consulate, the Russians by Saturday must close an official residence in San Francisco. Though Russia can keep its New York consulate and Washington embassy, Russian trade missions housed in satellite offices in those two cities must shut down, said a senior Trump administration official. The official briefed reporters on a conference call on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. isn’t expelling any Russian officials, so those who work at the shuttered offices can be reassigned elsewhere in the U.S., the official said. One of the buildings is believed to be leased, but Russia will maintain ownership over the others, the official said, adding that it would be up to Moscow to determine whether to sell them or otherwise dispose of them.

The forced closures were the latest in an intensifying exchange of diplomatic broadsides with origins in Washington’s opposition to Russia’s actions in Ukraine and its interference in the 2016 presidential election.

In December, former President Barack Obama kicked out dozens of Russian officials in the U.S., shuttered Russian recreational compounds in New York and Maryland, and sanctioned Russian individuals and entities. Russian President Vladimir Putin held off on any retaliation, and the next month, Trump took office, having campaigned on hopes of improving U.S.-Russia ties.

But earlier this month, Trump begrudgingly signed into law stepped-up sanctions on Russia that Congress passed in an attempt to prevent Trump from easing up on Moscow. The Kremlin quickly retaliated, announcing the U.S. must cut its own embassy and consulate staff down to 455.

Although Russia said 755 personnel would have to go to reach that number, Washington never confirmed how many diplomatic staff it had in Russia at the time. As of Thursday, the U.S. has complied with the order to reduce to 455, officials said.

That reduction also led the U.S. to temporarily suspend processing non-immigrant visas for Russians seeking to visit the U.S. Visa processing will resume soon, but at a “much-reduced rate” owing to fewer staff to process the visas, the official said. Earlier, the U.S. had said it would start processing visas only at the embassy in Moscow, meaning Russians could no longer apply for visas at the U.S. consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok.

Despite the exchange of penalties, there have been narrow signs of cooperation between the two countries that has transcended the worsening ties. In July, Trump and Putin signed off on a three-way deal with Jordan for a cease-fire in southwest Syria that the U.S. says has largely held intact.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson conveyed the decision to shutter the Russian posts to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in a Thursday phone call in which he also told Lavrov that the U.S. had complied with Moscow’s order to cut its diplomatic staff. Lower-level officials also spoke to their Russian counterparts in the U.S. about the details of the new U.S. order.

Given the reciprocal nature of the escalating tensions over the past year, it was likely the Kremlin would feel compelled to respond by taking further action against Washington. Nevertheless, the United States argued that the score has been evened.

U.S. officials pointed out that Russia, when it ordered the cut in U.S. diplomats, had argued it was merely bringing the size of the two countries’ diplomatic presences into “parity.” Both countries now maintain three consulates on each other’s territory and ostensibly have similar numbers of diplomats posted, though such numbers are difficult to independently verify.

“The United States hopes that, having moved toward the Russian Federation’s desire for parity, we can avoid further retaliatory actions by both sides,” Nauert said.

Associated Press writer Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

 

Russia Kills 800 ISIS Terrorists Overnight As US Rescue Survivors

August 30, 2017 1 comment

Russian forces killed over 800 ISIS terrorists in Syria over the weekend as US troops airlifted the remaining survivors to safety, according to eyewitnesses

Syrian troops supported by Russian warplanes conducted one of the biggest operations against ISIS to-date, with over 800 ISIS militants, 13 tanks, and 39 pickup trucks equipped with machine guns completely destroyed, the Russian Defence Ministry confirmed.

Abna24.com reports: “On August 27, 2017, the [Syrian] government forces’ units have annihilated ISIS’s most battle-tested and well-armed group with massive support of the Russian Aerospace Forces in the Euphrates River valley near the city of Tell Ghanem al-Ali.”

“Currently, a grouping of Syrian government troops is rapidly carrying out an offensive along the eastern shore of the Euphrates River, moving toward Deir ez-Zor. The goal is to unblock this city and destroy the last stronghold of ISIS in Syria,” the Defense Ministry said.

The Syrian army and self-defense units supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces have significantly advanced toward Deir ez-Zor from three directions, the Russian General Staff said earlier this week.

The lifting of siege of Deir ez-Zor will lead to the complete defeat of the most combat-effective formations of ISIS terrorist group in Syria, the chief of the Russian General Staff’s Main Operational Directorate said on Friday.

Deir ez-Zor, located on the shores of the Euphrates River to the northeast of Damascus, and a military airfield near the city have been besieged by ISIS for over three years, with food and ammunition only being delivered by air.

In Rare Show of Force, Russia Shows It Won’t Play Ball With North Korea

August 30, 2017 Leave a comment

Russia has been relatively quiet in regards to North Korea, but don’t misread their silence for disinterest. On the contrary, Russia has a significant interest in the Hermit Kingdom. It’s one of three nations that shares a border with North Korea.

The 11 mile long Russia-North Korea border is hugely important. To travel from one country to the other, one must cross over the Tumen River by way of the Friendship Bridge. The mode of transportation is by train, and the only passengers allowed aboard are Russians and North Koreans. The train that passes over that bridge is the longest direct train line in the world. It runs from Pyongyang to Moscow, a distance of 6,383 miles.

Clearly, Russia has influence over North Korea, but we don’t now how Russia will wield that influence and how North Korea will react.

This week, as joint exercises took place between the United States and South Korea, North Korea launched another rocket. Russians used the occasion to send several TU-95 bombers, also known as “Bears,” to fly over the Sea of Japan, the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. “Bears” are Russia’s nuclear delivery system.

This was so significant a move on Russia’s part that both Japan and South Korea sent fighter jets to escort the bombers and make certain they did not turn aggressive. Accompanying the Russian “Bears” were Russia’s Sukhoi 35S fighter jets and an A50 advance warning plane. The A50 is similar to the US AWACS, a mobile radar and communication station. Both the AWACS and the A50 can track movements and be used as control systems for smart bombs. They see the field of engagement for hundreds of miles.

At first glance, it would appear that with this move Russia was intending to check the military intentions of the United States, Japan and South Korea. This is true, but Russia was interested in attracting another audience: North Korea.

On multiple levels, Russia is responding to the new sanctions imposed on North Korea, China and Russia by the U.S. Treasury. The purpose of the new sanctions is, ultimately, to restrict the North Korean weapons industry. By sending the nuclear bomber and its escorts, Russia made its military might clear to the world. Its message is that Washington can slap sanctions on Moscow, but Moscow will emerge triumphant.

For North Korea the message is inescapable. This demonstration of air might was not initiated in defense of North Korea; it was an opportunity for Russia to strut its stuff and pound its chest.

Other players in the region understand that Russia seeks to expand its role, but North Korea needed a little convincing. They got the memo but—until now—didn’t realize its importance. But now it’s perfectly clear to them that Russia does not play the same way the West does. For years, the United States played cat and mouse with North Korea. The Russians just pounce.

Two questions arise. Will Russia take more drastic actions than sending off a scary but still symbolic flight? And will North Korea respond?

Time will tell. There is no way to predict Russia’s and North Korea’s actions.

Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator, author the “The Micah Report,” and host of the weekly TV show “Thinking Out Loud w Micah Halpern.” Follow him on twitter: @MicahHalpern

Russia Unveils ‘Invisible’ Supersonic Fighter Jets Hard To Track On Enemy Radars

August 28, 2017 Leave a comment

Officially revealing the fifth generation of Sukhoi-57 supersonic stealth fighter aircraft, Russia has made a statement that it is in the game of stealth warfare. The Sukhoi-57 is designed to compete with the American F-22 Raptor and the Chinese Shenyang J-31 Falcon Hawk, claimed the official statement from the Russian Ministry of Defence.

T-50 was created for qualitative superiority over predecessors, opponents and competitors,” says MIA’s Alexander Khrolenko. “This is the answer to the US aircraft of the fifth generation F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II.

A T-50 prototype for the Su-57 flies at the MAKS 2011 air show.

During its prototype days, it was named the PAK FA T-50. However, the new Sukhoi-57, which is Russia’s first stealth fighter, has been now given an official name: the Su-57.

The Su-57 has more than 365 days of vigorous testing. According to Yuri Slusar, chair of United Aircraft Corporation, the multi-role stealth jet fighter is expected to enter the military service in 2019.

The Su-57 flying upside down.

Colonel General Viktor Nikolaevich Bondarev, head of the Russian Air Force, says the Su-57 is a wonderful machine, adding “”every country probably wants planes such as this, and we have them”.

One of the main requirements for a fifth-generation fighter is the stealth-ness, which reduces the probability of detection by the enemy. The shape of the airframe is determined by technologies used to reduce visibility used in its design.

Medium-range, active radar homing air-to-air missile.

According to the reports, the Su-57 will be able to carry R-77 or RVV-AE missiles that can travel to a range of 124.274 miles versus the AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile), which is made in the United States and can only be fired at a target under 99.4194 miles.

The Daily Mail reports:

“In 2015, it was reported that it will be able to fly at a maximum altitude of 20 kilometers with top speeds of 2,600 kilometers per hour. Russia’s state military aviation manufacturer has previously claimed the jet will be cheaper to produce than its US equivalent with units costing less than £120million. The country’s armed forces will receive an initial batch of 12 of the aircraft.”

Russia sends nuclear-capable bombers on mission near South Korea, Japan

August 25, 2017 Leave a comment

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian nuclear-capable strategic bombers have flown over the Pacific Ocean, the Sea of Japan, the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea, prompting Japan and South Korea to scramble jets to escort them, Russia said on Thursday.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said in a statement the Tupolev-95MS bombers, code named “Bears” by NATO, flew over neutral waters and were accompanied by Russian Sukhoi-35S fighter jets and A-50 early warning and control aircraft.

It gave no details about the overall number of aircraft that had taken part in what it called a pre-arranged flight and did not say when or why the mission took place.

The TU-95MS bombers were refueled in mid-air during the mission, the ministry said.

During parts of the route, the bombers were escorted by South Korean and Japanese military jets, it added.

Russia, which shares a border with North Korea, has repeatedly voiced concerns about rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula caused by Pyongyang’s nuclear missile program, and has complained about Japan’s plans to deploy a U.S. anti-missile system on its soil.

Diplomatic row escalates tensions as US limits visa services in Russia

August 23, 2017 Leave a comment

Source: Niles Niemuth

The US Embassy in Moscow announced Monday that it will curtail the issuance of nonimmigrant visas in response to the Russian government’s decision to expel hundreds of US diplomats and contractors late last month. The Russian move came after the US Congress, by an overwhelming majority, passed a new sanctions bill targeting the country.

A statement published on the embassy website of the US Mission to Russia announced that the curtailment of staff will result in the suspension of nonimmigrant visa operations from August 23 until September 1.

Nonimmigrant visa interviews are set to resume in September at the US Embassy in Moscow. However, these services will be suspended indefinitely at US consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok.

Thousands of Russian citizens are expected to be impacted by the curtailment of the visa approval process. The US Embassy and its consulates issued 190,000 visas in 2016. Tourists, students and other travelers from outside Moscow who wish to visit the US will have to make the long trip to the capital for their visa interview.

The changes will also impact those applying for immigration visas, potentially delaying long scheduled interviews, extending the amount of time between the application and approval or denial by US authorities.

“You now have an entire nation’s work coming through one office with far fewer staff,” Matthew Morely, an American immigration attorney in Moscow, told Reuters. “This scenario would be like all of America suddenly only having one office in Los Angeles to process (visa applications from) New York, Chicago, DC, Boston and Miami.”

At a press conference in Moscow Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denounced the visa restrictions as an effort to foment opposition in order to overthrow the government of President Vladimir Putin.

“The American authors of these decisions have come up with another attempt to stir up discontent among Russian citizens about the actions of the Russian authorities,” Lavrov said. “Their logic is well known—the logic of those who organize ‘color revolutions’—and it is the inertia of the Obama administration, pure and simple,” he concluded.

The latest diplomatic maneuver by the US sets the stage for a response from the Russian government that can be framed as unjustifiably aggressive and used as justification for a further escalation of tensions between the world’s two largest nuclear-armed powers.

Russian Senator Igor Morozov, a member of the Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee, had warned at the end of July that a move by the US to limit visa approvals would be met by reciprocal measures impacting US citizens seeking approval to travel to Russia.

However, on Monday Lavrov seemed to rule out the possibility of a response that would involve limiting the visa process. “As for our countermeasures, as I’ve said, we should take a closer look at the decisions that the Americans have announced today,” he told reporters. “We’ll see. I can only say one thing: We won’t take it out on American citizens.”

US President Donald Trump begrudgingly signed the sanctions legislation, which also targets Iran and North Korea, into law earlier this month. Trump objected in two signing statements to the fact that the bill limited the administration’s ability to negotiate any changes to the sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama administration in December 2016 over Moscow’s alleged interference in the US election.

While Moscow repeatedly denied any intervention in the election, Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats from the United States and closed two diplomatic compounds. This has been connected to the anti-Russia campaign that has been used to pressure Trump and ensure that tensions between the two countries remain high.

The anti-Russia campaign has been the all-consuming focus of the Democratic Party as it has sought to maintain the aggressive footing the Obama administration maintained towards Russia. Trump had made clear in his campaign and as president that he hoped to develop better relations with Putin, in order to focus attention on preparing for war with China.

To the sections of the American ruling class with which the Democrats are aligned, Russia is seen as the main barrier to US hegemony over the Eurasian land mass and the Middle East, particularly Syria, where Russian military intervention has frustrated American efforts to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad.

Significantly, the sanctions that Trump signed into law impact not only Russia, but also the European Union, straining diplomatic ties between the US and its ostensible allies. French, British, Dutch, Austrian and German firms all could face financial penalties for their involvement in the Nordstream2 pipeline, which transmits Russian natural gas to Germany. EU officials have warned that they are preparing countermeasures if the sanctions impact their economies.

“It’s Clear That He Is Not A Man Of God”: Putin Blasts The Pope As Evidence Leaks

August 18, 2017 1 comment

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave an address to the Naval Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Kronstadt, in which he stated his problems with Pope Francis. The Russian President has been known to be patient, blunt, as well as honest as his feelings toward the head of the Catholic Church are less than flattering. He stated, “If you look around at what he (the Pope) says it’s clear that he is not a man of God. At least not the Christian God, not the God of the Bible.” The legitimacy of the Pope’s faith came into play which caused further inquiries about the legitimacy of his Papal throne.

Putin could not have been more blunt when he told those who were listening the speech that the Pope is not a man of God. His claims that Pope Francis uses his position of power over millions across the globe to push a Marxist and communist agenda that is a danger to the very Western civilization that he supposedly represents. Francis has done little to stop these remarks as his advocating for open borders and washing migrants feet have many Catholics across the globe worried that he is playing politics.

President Putin may be the boogeyman that Western media despises but his approach towards geopolitics as well as European Leaders paves a new path for negotiations across the globe. He has been accused by baseless Western elitist sources of “hacking” the election in order to give the Presidency to Donald Trump.

The only basis for this style of slander would be if voter machines malfunctioned or democratic strongholds suffered acts of terrorism to stop voters from voting, but neither of these things happened. If Putin is to blame, then his only crime is doing real journalism that exposed the DNC as corrupt and traitorous criminals by publishing their emails for every American to see. Instead of condemning him, we as Americans should be thanking him, but most logical and reasonable Americans know that Russia had nothing to do with it.

However, Pope Francis’ continual appeasement towards political correctness as well as Muslims who would see his head chopped off are more worrying than Putin’s attempts to protect Russian interests. Putin’s accusations of Godless Pope have brought new questions to light as for the legitimacy of his papacy.

In Catholic tradition, in order for one to become the Pope one must first become an ordained priest and then the consecrated Bishop of Rome. Pope Francis, or Jorge Borgoglio, did neither of those things during his rise to the papacy, thus calling his legitimacy into question. The Pope has used his authority and power to preach political agendas as his hard line stances against elected officials and policies of other nations suggest his agenda is similar to other globalists.

His criticisms of Donald Trump made many in the US wonder why he is so concerned with the elections of a foreign nation. After all, does he not have a flock of Christians suffering the effects of genocide in the Middle East to attend to? His approach towards the unquestioned acceptance of Muslims and advocating of a Marxist agenda is both unsettling and disgusting as Muslims want him dead and Marxists hate Christianity.

Fortunately, there are still those who would challenge the authority of a secretly elected tyrant. Leaders like Putin and Trump may not be Western media’s favorite leaders, probably due to their attempts to halt the advancement of globalism, but they are willing to stand up to those who would have their word as law.

Francis and leaders like Merkel, Macron, Schultz, and Tusk are political bullies who want their way and want no one to say otherwise. Their hopes of up-heaving  Europe with the introduction of mass immigration are becoming a reality as thousands of migrants come everyday with no intentions of becoming “European.”

Putin’s statements regarding the political and Marxist nature of Pope Francis should have everyone keeping a closer eye on the man who acts as the voice of the church. Their attempts to remove the sovereignty of nations and fill it with mindless Marxists or Islamists will not be as easy as planned so long as those with a conscience and open eyes can see what they are doing.

Pope Francis has done so much for the migrants of Europe while essentially casting out Christians who have been systematically persecuted and killed across the Middle East. If Putin is to believed and this man does not actually believe in the Christian God, then whom does this man serve?

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