In contrast to the US where meetings with Russian officials have become almost a taboo one of the candidates in the French presidential race Marin Le Pen decided to make a surprise visit to Moscow at the invitation of the Russian State Duma’s international relations committee. In Moscow she held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin. Ms Le Pen emphasized the counterproductive character of the EU sanctions against Russia and called for cooperation in combating terrorism. Experts suggest that the meetings will help to consolidate her electoral supporters, many of whom have a positive view of Russia’s defense of conservative values. As for the Kremlin, it showed that Russia “reserves the right to meet with representatives of all political forces of the country”, which seems, according to some observers’ opinion, to be a thrust against current neo-McCarthyism in the US.
On Monday, March 20, the first open hearing into President Trump’s alleged Russia ties took place in the US. During a testimony before the House Intelligence Committee FBI director James Comey publicly confirmed that his agency was “investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts”. Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov commenting on the hearings expressed his doubt on the possible appearance of new information and once again emphasized that it is an internal American issue and compared it to hysteria. Later the week CNN exploded another information bomb citing anonymous US officials, who claimed that Trump’s associated possibly coordinated the release of information aimed at damaging Hilary Clinton’s presidential bid with Russian operatives. It is worth noting that almost every article concerning the case includes a remark that counterintelligence investigations tend to be lengthy and, moreover, implies usage of the most classified intelligence programs. So the public isn’t likely to be presented with any evidence and that gives the media a perfect opportunity for new speculations in the future.
Meanwhile, the press published information that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is planning to skip NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, which is scheduled for April 5-6. Reportedly he wants to attend the negotiations between US President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Florida and – this faced even more criticism on the part of some European and American officials and experts – then he plans to visit Moscow for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The basic argument of those who oppose this decision is that Mr Tillerson is going to speak to a NATO rival before having a meeting with America’s allies. In the eyes of small European countries it might show the attitude of the new US administration to the alliance, which, given Trump’s words about “obsolescence” of NATO previously, raises new questions about US commitment to the organization.
By Robert Parry
Russia-bashing and innuendos about disloyal Americans were all the rage at Monday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing on alleged Russian “hacking” of the presidential election, but logic is often missing.
By The Times Editorial Board
The Los Angeles Times
This nation will still have much to do to clarify significant issues in its relationship with Russia.
By Stephen F. Cohen
The “unmasking” of Putin’s American “contacts” is premised on his “act of war” against the United States—for which there is still no evidence.
By Jeff Horwitz and Chad Day
The Associated Press
Before signing up with Donald Trump, former campaign manager Paul Manafort secretly worked for a Russian billionaire with a plan to “greatly benefit the Putin Government,” The Associated Press has learned.
By Michael McFaul
The Washington Post
Of course, many factors combined to produce Trump’s victory, but Putin’s intervention most certainly played a contributing role.
By Arshad Mohammed and John Walcott
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to skip a meeting with NATO foreign ministers next month in order to stay home for a visit by China’s president and will go to Russia later in April, U.S. officials said on Monday, disclosing an itinerary that allies may see as giving Moscow priority over them.
By Zack Beauchamp
Allies and adversaries alike are wondering whether Washington’s true Russia policy is what Mattis is doing or what Trump is tweeting.
By Yascha Mounk
It’s time to return to a Cold War mentality.
Russian President Vladimir Putin made his preferences in the French presidential election clear Friday by hosting far-right candidate Marine Le Pen at the Kremlin, but analysts are skeptical about Russia’s ability to sway the outcome of the vote.
By Luke Harding, Nick Hopkins and Caelainn Barr
Billions of dollars were moved out of Russia in ‘Global Laundromat’ operation, with anonymously owned UK companies playing major role.
Unlike US networks and the BBC, it has a sense of humour and doesn’t do fake news.
By Matthew Rojansky
The Huffington Post
As America looks the other way, the Kremlin is filling the Middle East power vacuum.
Bombs and diplomacy, both part of the toolkit.
For the first time in three years, Russia and Japan have revived an avenue of negotiation that had stalled in the face of enduring tension between the two nations. Foreign and defense ministers from both countries met in Tokyo on Monday to hold 2+2 talks on security issues in the Asia-Pacific region.
By Nick Robins-Early
The Huffington Post
The former Russian member of parliament was fatally shot in broad daylight in Ukraine’s capital.
From the US elections to Ukraine, Russian policy is having a greater impact on global affairs than at any time since the cold war. We scrutinise the man who has done more than anyone to shape those policies, and ask how someone so reviled in the west has been so successful at home.
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