By John Helmer, Moscow
At the start of April President Vladimir Putin believed he could postpone Russia’s strategic and battlefield responses to the state of war which the US is escalating. He was to be disappointed.
On April 6, the US Treasury announced it is putting the state aluminium monopoly United Company Rusal out of business, not only in the US but worldwide. Not since July 26, 1941, when President Franklin Roosevelt froze Japanese assets in the US and prohibited all US trade with Japan, especially metals and oil, as well as all US dollar transactions, has the American state attempted such a thing against a rival Great Power. Roosevelt calculated it was one deterrent step short of US war with Japan. Everybody understands now that miscalculation led to Japan’s decision to make its preemptive strike against the US Navy at Pearl Harbor, five months later.
There is another, earlier precedent for the US Treasury’s act of war against Russia. That was on November 21, 1806, when Napoleon issued his Berlin Decree. That forbade the export of British goods to Europe or other states controlled by the French military, or the imports of goods on which Britain depended from its empire. Too weak to defeat the British Navy or invade the British islands, Napoleon opted for economic sanctions, retaliating for the trade blockade imposed by the British Navy around the French coastline, starting in May of that year. “It being right,” Napoleon had declared as the justification for his blockade, “to oppose to an enemy the same arms she makes use of, to combat as she does, when all ideas of justice and every liberal sentiment (the result of civilization among men) are discarded.” The British had extended war beyond military operations, Napoleon added in his decree: “it cannot be extended to any private property whatever, nor to persons who are not military, and until the right of blockade be restrained to fortified places, actually invested by competent forces.” The Continental Blockade, thus launched, lasted until Napoleon’s first abdication in April 1814.
On the fourteenth of this month the US launched its assault on Syria, agreeing in advance with the Russian General Staff to avoid Russian forces and Russian-defended targets. That attack was a military failure. But with continuing Israeli operations from the air against Syrian, Iranian and Russian targets, Putin has been requested by the General Staff and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to authorize the deployment of Russian S-300 missile defences to deter and destroy fresh attacks. Putin has been delaying this decision.
Then on April 25 US forces broke into the Russian consulate at Seattle. This was the second such attack by the US on Russian diplomatic territory in the US; the earlier one was on September 2, 2017, when the Russian consulate in San Francisco and simultaneously, Russian trade mission offices in Washington and New York.
The Russian Foreign Ministry called the US actions “illegal invasion”, and violations of the Vienna Convention, but not acts of war.
In the past four weeks Putin has called his Security Council into session just twice. The first was on April 6, to discuss, according to the Kremlin communique, border control plans. The second Council meeting took place on April 19, which the Kremlin reported as discussing “the recent Western airstrikes…[and] measures to prevent floods and wildfires.”
Putin took several important decisions besides, but he did it out of sight at the Novo-Ogaryovo dacha, and for his own reasons kept them secret. (more…)