RT.com for apr 19/20

British warships set sail for Black Sea showdown with Russia, days after American sailors ‘cancel’ plan to chart course for region
RT.com, Apr 9 2021

Two British gunboats will soon be cutting through the waters off the south coast of Russia, amid escalating tensions between Moscow and the West over troop deployments and NATO military activity on Russia’s border with Ukraine. The Sunday Times reported over the weekend that a Type 45 destroyer, armed with anti-aircraft missiles, and a Type 23 submarine-hunting frigate will detach from the Royal Navy’s carrier fleet in the Mediterranean in order to pass into the Black Sea next month. At the same time, defense sources told the newspaper that British warplanes would be standing ready on the country’s flagship aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, to intervene, should the vessels run into problems. Like other carriers, the waterborne runway, which can carry up to 60 jets and helicopters, is banned under international treaties from entering the Black Sea. The move comes after Moscow ordered its own navy to carry out live-fire exercises in the region. In a statement last week, defense chiefs said that a frigate, Admiral Makarov, had been dispatched to the waters, along with ships Grayvoron and Vyshny Volochek, which will be supported by a missile-wielding hovercraft and a minesweeper. Large landing vessels, used for amphibious invasions, will also take part in the drills, along with fighter jets and helicopters. The officials said:

The role of a mock enemy will be played by maritime targets.

The war games were announced just days after Turkish envoys claimed they had received notification that two US Navy ships would pass through their territorial waters on the way to the Black Sea. The move was widely seen as a show of support for Ukraine, where hostilities between government forces and troops fighting for two breakaway republics in the east of the country have escalated in recent weeks. However, within a few days, the Pentagon was claiming the warships’ movements had been misunderstood by Ankara, and had never actually been confirmed. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has since claimed the US “canceled” the plans. No reasons were given, and Washington insisted any courses charted by its sailors would be “routine.” The US has expressed concern about “credible” reports of Russian troops massing on the borders with Ukraine, and, earlier this month, State Dept spokesman Ned Price issued a “call on Russia to refrain from escalatory actions.” Dmitry Peskov told reporters:

The situation on the contact line in Ukraine is extremely unstable. The dynamics of the development of this state of affairs, and the behavior of the Ukrainian side, creates the danger of a resumption of full-scale hostilities.

Capitol Police officer media claimed was ‘killed’ in Jan 6 riot died of NATURAL CAUSES, says medical examiner
RT.com. Apr 19 2021

Officer Brian Sicknick of the US Capitol Police died after suffering two strokes, but there was no evidence of internal or external injuries from the Jan 6 unrest, the Washington, DC medical examiner has finally revealed. Sicknick, 42, died after suffering two strokes at the base of the brain stem caused by a clot in an artery, medical examiner Francisco J Diaz said on Monday. The autopsy found no evidence of internal or external injuries, or an allergic reaction to chemical irritants, Diaz added. Diaz told the Washington Post that “all that transpired played a role in his condition,” but declined to say if Sicknick had a pre-existing medical condition, citing privacy laws. Monday’s revelation undermines the official narrative about the Jan 6 “insurrection,” as it was labeled by the Democrats and the corporate media, in which hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol grounds during a joint session of Congress meeting to certify Biden’s 2020 electoral victory. Capitol Police initially said that Sicknick “succumbed to his injuries” on Jan 7. Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said on Jan 8 that Sicknick died of “the injuries he suffered defending the US Capitol.” Sicknick’s cremated remains were honored in the Capitol rotunda before he was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in early February. Media reports citing unnamed sources claimed for months he had been struck with a fire extinguisher, but no evidence was ever provided, or found. Two men were charged last month for allegedly assaulting him with “bear spray.” Sicknick’s death was even cited in the impeachment claims against Trump by congressional Democrats, who sought to disqualify the 45th president from federal office in the future by claiming he “incited insurrection” against the government that resulted in the officer’s death. While media reports spoke of a “deadly insurrection” that killed five, counting Sicknick, the only person in the Capitol that was actually killed was pro-Trump protester Ashli Babbitt, fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer. The officer has not been named and will not face charges, authorities announced last week. Three more pro-Trump demonstrators died that day, but their cause of death was either natural or accidental. Diaz did not explain why it took more than three months to announce the results of the autopsy. Nor have there been any apologies from the media outlets that promoted the narratives about his death, in the wake of the revelation. Commenting on the findings, the Capitol Police tweeted:

Journalist Glenn Greenwald was among the voices who condemned the media cynicism in the case, accusing the corporate talking heads of never caring about Sicknick in the first place. Greenwald tweeted:

OAN journalist Jack Posobiec tweeted:

America can successfully defend Taiwan against China, but only in its dreams
Scott Ritter, RT.com, Apr 19 2021

The US military has deteriorated to the point that the only way it could win a simulated war game in which it was called upon to defend Taiwan from a ‘Chinese invasion’ force was by inventing capabilities it does not yet possess. In 2018/19, the USAF conducted detailed simulated war games that had its forces square off against those of China. On both occasions, the US was decisively defeated, the first time challenging the Chinese in the South China Sea, and the second time defending Taiwan against a Chinese invasion. In 2020, the US repeated the Taiwan scenario and won, but only barely. The difference? In both 2018 and 2019, it played with the resources it had on hand. Last year, it gave itself a host of new technologies and capabilities that are either not in production or aren’t even planned for development. In short, the exercise was as far removed from reality as it could get. The fact is the US can only successfully defend Taiwan from a full-scale Chinese invasion in its dreams.

What the current war games underscored is that, as currently configured, equipped and deployed, the USAF lacks the required combination of lethality and sustainability necessary to wage full-scale conventional conflict against a peer-level foe. The mix of aircraft currently in the USAF inventory was unable to ‘compete’ in the war game, even the current model of F-35 was excluded as not being up to the task of fighting and surviving against the Chinese military. Instead, the wargamers completely altered the composition and operational methodology of the USAF, providing it with combat aircraft that are either still on the drawing board, or have not even been considered for procurement yet. They also completely altered the ‘layout’ of forces, manufacturing new airfields that do not exist, and connecting them with command-and-control capabilities just as fictional. There was a time when the notion of US air superiority, if not supremacy, was virtually guaranteed on any battlefield that could be imagined. This was especially true in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the corresponding disintegration of Russian combat power. The US was able to hold onto this edge over the course of the 1990s simply by exploiting the advantages accrued from years of investment made in modern aircraft and combat systems during the Cold War, and the fact no other nation was able and/or willing to invest in their respective military to challenge the US in that arena.

The events of 9/11 proved to be seminal in the decline of American military power. The US poured its entire national security focus into defeating the forces of ‘global terrorism’ and engaged itself in the futile act of ‘nation-building’ in Afghanistan and Iraq. In doing so, the needs of one combatant command, CENTCOM, responsible for US military interests in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, took priority over all others. Gone were the days when the US spent billions of dollars preparing to fight a major war in the Pacific, another major war in Europe, and a ‘holding action’ in the Middle East. In the post-9/11 world, the sole focus of the US military became low-intensity conflict and counter-insurgency. Every aspect of military existence, recruiting, training, organization, equipment, employment and sustainability, was defined by the needs of CENTCOM in fighting the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. If something did not further the CENTCOM mission, it was either discarded or modified so it would.

The US military spent itself in the CENTCOM AOR, physically, fiscally, morally and intellectually. Every single principle of war necessary for a military to prevail was sacrificed in the deserts and mountains of Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, with the political decision having been made to depart Afghanistan, and a similar decision being brooded regarding Iraq and its corollary conflict in Syria, the US military is a fundamentally broken institution. It lost its ‘forever wars’ in the Middle East and Southwest Asia by not winning. As such, the senior leadership at the helm of the US military has been conditioned to accept defeat as de rigueur. It comes with the territory, a reality explained away by lying, either to yourself, to your superiors or to both. Too many successful careers were created on the backs of lies repackaged as truth, defeats sold as victories and deficits portrayed as assets.

In many ways, the recently concluded USAF war game is a byproduct of this psychosis – an exercise in self-delusion, in which reality is replaced by a fictional world where everything works as planned, even if it does not exist. The USAF cannot wage a successful war against China today. Nor can it do so against Russia. Its ability to sustain a successful air campaign against either Iran or North Korea is likewise questionable. This is the kind of reality that would, in a world where facts mattered, cost a lot of senior people their jobs, in uniform and out. The culpability of this systemic incompetence is so widespread, however, that there can be no serious accounting for what has transpired. Instead, the USAF, having been confronted by the reality of its shortcomings, ‘invents’ a victory. In and of itself, this ‘victory’ is meaningless. If China were to invade Taiwan, there is literally nothing short of employing nuclear weapons the US could do to stop it. But by ‘beating’ China using fictional resources, the USAF has created a blueprint of procurement that will define its budgetary requests for the next decade. In doing so, however, the USAF is simply repeating the mistakes of the CENTCOM-driven ‘forever war,’ focusing on achieving ‘victory’ in one theater of operations at the exclusion of all others. By building a fictitious ‘model’ military for the purpose of prevailing in a simulated war game in which every advantage was conceded to the US, the USAF is simply continuing the pattern of behavior built around lies, deceit and self-deception that has guided it, and its senior officers and civilian leadership, for the past two decades. The end result will be that, even if the USAF gets all the tools and capabilities it claims it needs to win in any ‘defense of Taiwan’ war game (and it will not), the only way it can prevail in any such conflict will be in its dreams.

Duterte says he will send Philippines’ navy ships into South China Sea to ‘stake claim’ over oil resources
RT.com, Apr 19 2021

The Philippines will send naval vessels into the disputed South China Sea in a bid to defend what it claims are its oil and mineral resources, President Rodrigo Duterte has said, in remarks he partly directed at China. Duterte said in a speech on Monday:

I will send my grey ships there to stake a claim. I am not interested in a quarrel over fishing, but I will protect our oil. If they start drilling oil there, I will tell China, is that part of our agreement? If that is not part of our agreement, I will also drill oil there.

The president’s announcement of a potential show of military strength comes after political opponents warned him against bowing to Beijing amid alleged Chinese incursions into the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Opposition senator Leila de Lima said in a statement last week:

Duterte’s policy of groveling before China risks the Philippines becoming another one of China’s satellites.

China has repeatedly denied allegations it has encroached on the Philippines’ territory unnecessarily and said it wants only to “safeguard” its own territorial sovereignty and maritime rights. Duterte has tried to build bridges with Beijing in recent years, saying that he wants his country’s ties with China to remain friendly. He has also said that the Philippines is not able to exercise its jurisdiction in the South China Sea, which many Filipinos call the Luzon Sea, due to China’s power, despite an international arbitration tribunal in 2016 recognizing the Philippines’ sovereignty over its EEZ. In 2018, China and the Philippines signed a memorandum of understanding over oil and gas reserves in the South China Sea as they agreed to cooperate over energy in the region. However, last October Duterte approved a proposal by the Dept of Energy to resume oil and gas exploration in the disputed ocean. Since last month a fleet of Chinese boats was reported to have been moored at the Whitsun Reef, which is part of the Spratly Islands archipelago in the Philippines’ EEZ, but is claimed by governments of both countries.

Czech PM says Russia did NOT attack country, alleged blowing up of munition depot was ‘not act of state terrorism’
RT.com, Apr 19 2021

Russia “did not attack” the Czech Republic and the 2014 explosions at the Vrbětice arms depot were “not state terrorism,” Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis told reporters, but insisted the ‘GRU’ was still involved in the blast. Babis said on Monday:

It was not an act of state terrorism, which means that Russia did not attack the Czech Republic. Once again, it was not an act of state terrorism, it was an attack on goods belonging to a Bulgarian arms dealer.

He maintained, however, that the presence of ‘GRU’ agents in Czechia is “absolutely unacceptable” and that they “messed up” the alleged attack. Babis’ remarks seemed to be a partial climb-down from Prague’s position over the weekend, as Czechia expelled 18 Russian diplomats and blamed the seven-year-old incident on alleged agents of Russian military intelligence, the same two fingered by the NATO-backed outfit Bellingcat as culprits in the 2018 Salisbury ‘novichok poisoning’ incident. The current theory held by the Czech police was that the weapons, owned by a Bulgarian arms dealer, were rigged to explode once they were delivered to a buyer in a third country, but there was still “sufficient evidence” to believe Moscow’s spies were behind it, Interior Minister Jan Hamacek told Ceske Noviny on Sunday. Two people died in the first of the two explosions at Vrbetice, in Oct 2014. Another blast took place at the depot in December that year. The munitions affected were owned by a Bulgarian arms dealer, and their final destination was rumored to be Ukraine or Syria. Czechia has now accused Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, said by Bellingcat to be the culprits for the alleged poisoning of the Skripals in the UK, of masterminding the Vrbetice blasts as well. Moscow has denied the allegations and in response ordered 20 Czech diplomats to leave Russia. Hamacek, who is also the acting Czech foreign minister, was taken aback by the retaliation, saying it was “stronger than we expected” and complaining at a press conference after the meeting of EU foreign ministers that Czechia was a “victim of Russian operations.” The surprise claim by the Czechs seems to have derailed both a bid by Russia’s atomic energy developer Rosatom to build a power plant at Dukovany, and the planned trip by Hamacek to Moscow, for talks about providing Prague with the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine. PM Babis said on Monday:

I made it clear that I did not like the trip to Moscow. I did not want Jan Hamacek to fly to Moscow. In the end, it turned out that he’s not going.

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