Friday, 10 August 2018

America's new sanctions on Russia

US slanders Russia with new sanctions over Skripal poisoning hoax
The US government displays its lack of contact with reality with sanctions, designed to hurt both US-Russia relations and President Trump.

10 August, 2018

The pattern of slandering all things Russia with or without (usually without) the burden of proof continues in the US.

The US State Department made the decision to impose new sanctions on Russia, based on the insinuation that Russian agencies were involved in the poisoning of Sergey and Yuliya Skripal in Salisbury, England this past March.

The US is imposing new sanctions on Russia over the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK. The measures are scheduled to go into effect on or around August 22, according to the State Department.

The United States…determined under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 (CBW Act) that the government of the Russian Federation has used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law, or has used lethal chemical or biological weapons against its own nationals,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement on Wednesday.

The accusation comes despite there being zero evidence suggesting Moscow was behind the attack.

A State Department official told reporters in a conference call on Wednesday that Washington informed Russia “this afternoon” about the sanctions. The US still wants to maintain relations with Moscow, despite the new sanctions. “We are tough on Russia, at the same time we are quite committed to working to maintain relations because there are important things at stake here,” the official said, as quoted by Sputnik.

London was predictably delighted and rushed to welcome Washington’s announcement of new punitive actions against Moscow. “The UK welcomes this further action by our US allies,” a spokesman for the UK Foreign Office said in a statement. “The strong international response to the use of a chemical weapon on the streets of Salisbury sends an unequivocal message to Russia that its provocative, reckless behavior will not go unchallenged.”

The Duran has followed this case very closely, and there has never been evidence provided by British or international agencies investigating this incident or its sequel that happened last month, to prove conclusively that Russian agencies were involved in poisoning former USSR Spy Sergey Skripal and his daughter Yuliya, in Salisbury in March of this year.

The news of this new set of sanctions was apparently enough to create jitters on the Russian stock exchanges, and the Russian Ruble has fallen to a new 2018 low against the American dollar. Trading went over 66 rubles to the dollar. This marks almost a 20% devaluation in the currency since April of this year, and the worst valuation since mid-November, 2016.

This incident has not gone unanswered in Moscow. The Russian Embassy in the United States called for documentation about the source and reasoning behind these new sanctions, as reported by TASS:

The Russian embassy in the United States has called on the US Department of State to publish correspondence on the introduction of new sanctions on Moscow over the Skripal incident, the embassy said in a statement.

For our part, we reiterated our principle [sic] stands on the events in the UK, which the Embassy had been outlining in corresponding letters to the State Department. We confirmed that we continue to strongly stand for an open and transparent investigation of the crime committed in Salisbury and for bringing the culprits to justice,” the statement reads.

We suggested publishing our correspondence on this issue. No answer has followed so far,” the Russian embassy added.

This pattern of throwing out destructive slander while refusing to provide opportunity for a real answer has permeated American policy towards the Russian Federation with increasing intensity since 2013. It reveals the machinations of a very divided American government, with the “deep State” or establishment politicians and foreign policy makers completely unwilling to even give Russia a fair shake at representing itself.

Sergey and Yuliya Skripal, who were poisoned in Salisbury, England in March 2018. No one really knows who did this.

This policy is shared by the United Kingdom, as this piece by The Duran’s Editor in Chief, Alexander Mercouris shows, with this summary of violations of due process the British authorities are committing with regard to Russia:

(1) The British government is interfering in the conduct of a criminal investigation, with Prime Minister Theresa May and especially Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson pointing fingers at who they say is guilty (Russia) whilst the criminal investigation is still underway;

(2) The British government has said that unless Russia proves itself innocent within a specific time the British government will conclude that it is guilty. As I have explained previously this reverses the burden of proof: in a criminal case it is the prosecution which is supposed to prove the defendant’s guilt, not the defendant who must prove his innocence;

(3) The British government refuses to share with Russia – the party it says is guilty – the ‘evidence’ upon which it says it has concluded that Russia is guilty, the evidence in this case being a sample of the chemical with which it says Sergey and Yulia Skripal was poisoned.

This violates the fundamental principle that the defendant must be provided with all the evidence against him so that he can properly prepare his defence;

(4) The British government is not following the procedure set out in Article IX (2) of the Chemical Weapons Convention to which both Britain and Russia are parties. This reads as follows

States Parties should, whenever possible, first make every effort to clarify and resolve, through exchange of information and consultations among themselves, any matter which may cause doubt about compliance with this Convention, or which gives rise to concerns about a related matter which may be considered ambiguous. A State Party which receives a request from another State Party for clarification of any matter which the requesting State Party believes causes such a doubt or concern shall provide the requesting State Party as soon as possible, but in any case not later than ten days after the request, with information sufficient to answer the doubt or concern raised along with an explanation of how the information provided resolves the matter.

(5) The British authorities are denying the Russians consular access to Yulia Skripal, though she is a Russian citizen who the British authorities say was subjected to a criminal assault on their territory.

This is a potentially serious matter since by preventing consular access to Yulia Skripal the British authorities are not only violating the interstate consular arrangements which exist between Britain and Russia, but they are preventing the Russian authorities from learning more about the condition of one of their citizens who has been hospitalised following a violent criminal assault, and are preventing the Russian authorities from carrying out their own investigation into the assault on one of their citizens which the British authorities say has taken place.

I would add that this obstruction of Russian consular access to Yulia Skripal has gone almost entirely unreported in the British and Western media.

The Americans are playing the same game here, and, regrettably, President Trump’s overtures towards repairing this relationship are almost sure to be torn out from under him by the actions of this virulent group of people. It is quite possible that this is the very reason for these new sanctions.

The perspective of the American government as one divided, with a rabid force in favor of continuing to isolate and vilify a great power in the world for no good reason, is sure to have repercussions. However, given the gradual realignment of Russia and China to be in closer and closer partnership, and Russia’s increasing prominence in Asian and Eastern Hemisphere affairs, the end result of this behavior is likely to damage the United States and its standing in the world over the long run.

Sanctions-Happy US Uninterested in Actual Evidence in Skripal Case

10 August, 2018

If the latest US State Department sanctions against Moscow over the poisoning of the Skripals in Britain seem to be an explosive development stacked atop a pile of unsubstantiated claims, that’s because they are just that, analyst Mark Sleboda told Sputnik Thursday.

The trend in Washington to make vital claims with billions of dollars of sanctions on the line without substantiating those claims is both worrying and increasingly mundane, according to Sleboda, an international affairs and security analyst.

Listen to "Has the Manafort Trial Pulled the Mask off the Mueller Investigation?" on Spreaker.

"It's certainly the case with Russiagate — the demanding of proof, of evidence, has completely fallen flat — but hey, Manafort's taxes, right?" he quipped.

Sleboda told Sputnik: "We've seen it Douma, Syria, where there were all kinds of accusations and then an actual bombing, an airstrike on a sovereign state, because of some supposed chemical weapons. And the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has already come out and said at least the US government's accusation that sarin was used was completely false."

"Even bigger, look at Iran and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Our own intelligence agencies have told us repeatedly that Iran is not building nuclear weapons. But that hasn't stopped any of the last few administrations [from] pursuing prohibitive sanctions," he continued.

"The Trump administration is applying sanctions and tariffs on everyone: tariff war with China; tariffs on Canada and the EU; sanctions on EU companies that do business with Iran; sanctions on EU companies if you do business with Russia; more sanctions on Russia, on top of more sanctions on Russia, on top of more sanctions on Russia. It's pretty hard to find a country in the world the Trump administration is not tariffing or sanctioning right now," the analyst told Fault Lines hosts Lee Stranahan and Garland Nixon.

In the case of the latest sanctions, the US has slapped them on despite the fact that "no evidence has been presented to the public," and that "the investigation hasn't finished yet." The UK police have dozens of theories but no main suspects, he pointed out.
Concerning the use of chemical poisons against Yulia and Sergei Skripal, the latter of whom was once a Russian double-agent during his career in espionage, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow Thursday, "We find the link between the sanctions introduced by the US and the Skripal case to be unacceptable."
Peskov dismissed the notion of Moscow using chemical weapons as "out of the question."
Yulia and Sergei Skripal were found slumped on a park bench in Salisbury, England, in March and found to have been poisoned by the nerve agent Novichok. UK authorities quickly pinned the blame on Moscow.
"Russia did not, and does not, have anything to do with the use of chemical weapons; it is out of the question. Moreover, we cannot even say what was used in the United Kingdom and how, because we do not have any information; we do not have a reply from the UK to our proposal of a joint investigation into this incident, which causes serious concern," the spokesperson said.
"Regarding the sanctions more generally, it suggests to me that there is no constructive or coherent policy toward Russia in Washington," said Sean Guillory, an expert at the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.
"What little policy there is, it's being driven by American domestic politics," Guillory told Sputnik Thursday by email. "At some point someone is going to have to ask what the ultimate end game is."
On Wednesday, the US State Department announced it would be sanctioning Russia for allegedly violating international laws against the use of chemical weapons, and would require UN inspections and other assurances that it intends not to use them in the future. Should Russia fail to comply with these demands, further sanctions could be imposed, including downgrading diplomatic relations.

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