Hollande Putin
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France and Russia have agreed to cooperate in the fight against the Daeshbags. The news comes after Hollande and Putin met in Moscow yesterday, where they agreed to share intelligence, intensify and coordinate airstrikes together, and jointly make sure their airstrikes concentrate on "terrorist" groups, including Daesh. Putin clarified:
... we will exchange information with France about the areas that are being held by healthy opposition, not terrorists, and will refrain from delivering air strikes at them. We will also exchange information, when we - France and Russia - know for sure that certain areas are captured by terrorist organisations, and we will coordinate our efforts with regard to those areas.
It looks like France really is allying with Russia, to the extent it is able -- something the U.S. has refused to do. Putin said he and Hollande "are looking at this kind of cooperation as concrete and practical input towards forming a broad anti-terrorist coalition, a broad anti-terrorist front under the auspices of the United Nations. I will note that the number of nations sharing this initiative is growing." He also said that both parties "agreed to continue working together very actively within the framework of the International Syria Support Group and promote the fulfilment of all agreements reached within this group, first and foremost with regard to the deadlines and parameters for holding intra-Syrian talks."

Hollande reiterated these points, calling such a coalition "the most important reality in today's world" and stressing that France has "done everything we can to ensure that our military will be actively involved in eliminating ISIS." He even said the UK and Germany are on board for this kind of coordination. (Germany will primarily be providing reconnaissance.) On the political side, he said:
"We believe that the following conditions should be met if we are to ensure a political transition process. A coalition government, an independent government, should be formed during a transition period. This transitional period should lead to the adoption of a new constitution, elections should be held with the participation of all political factions, groups and members of the expatriate community. And it goes without saying that Assad does not have any role to play in the future of his country.

However, in order to achieve this, it is imperative that Russia should play the main, one of the main roles in this process. I've told Mr Putin that France is ready and willing to work with Russia hand in hand towards our common objective, which is to fight terrorist groups, above all ISIS. It is for this reason that I believe our meeting today to be of utmost importance".
Yeah, "it goes without saying"... More like it's not worth saying at all, because it's US BS. But there's nothing in the Vienna agreement about Assad having to go. If the Syrian people want him, that's their right. So on the one hand Hollande parrots the U.S. talking point, but on the other stresses that "all agreements reached" by the Syria Support Group should be implemented. He also had this to say: "The only goal that we should all set for ourselves is the fight against ISIS and the elimination of the terrorists. We have no other goals."

Hollande can get away with speaking out of both sides of his mouth here. The transition process can't begin until Daesh is destroyed, and a lot of things can change politically in that time. For now, "Assad has to go" is a hollow statement. France's actions, if legit, speak louder: cooperation with Russia, actually targeting CIA-backed Daeshbags.

France is in an interesting position. As a U.S. vassal, it can't ditch the U.S. completely. But it can capitalize on public support for the war on Daesh/IS following the Paris attacks and it can piggyback the U.S. narrative in order to do what Russia is doing: actually fighting terrorists abroad (the domestic front is a separate issue). There's not much the U.S. can do about that. France "has a right to defend itself", right? And it's bombing Raqqa, the capital of terror.

One thing France can't do is work directly with Assad. That would be one step too far outside of the Western narrative. Solution?
Hollande: This is being done under the right to self-defence. And we have this right because we know for sure that the terrorists who acted in Paris and in the Paris suburb of Saint Denis were trained in Syria and, unfortunately, were trained very well to carry out these terrible terrorist attacks.
This is apparently a compromise Putin (and Assad) are willing to make. Hollande can't openly align with Putin and Assad, but he can do so by proxy, coordinating with Russia.

Putin reiterated his call for a real coalition, first made at his UN speech on September 28th:
We respect the US-led coalition and are ready to work with it. However, we believe that it would be better to create a unified, single coalition, which would make it easier for us to coordinate joint efforts in the existing environment. I think that it would be easier and more efficient this way. But if our partners are not ready for that... If our partners are not ready to work this way, fine. As for us, we are ready to operate in a different format that would be acceptable for our partners. We are ready to work together with the US-led coalition.

It goes without saying that incidents like the downing of a Russian jet and the death of Russian servicemen, a pilot and a marine trying to rescue his brothers in arms, are absolutely unacceptable. We assume that this won't happen again. Otherwise, we don't need such teamwork with anyone, with any coalition or any countries.
In the battle of words, Putin always wins. How can the U.S. refuse such a reasonable offer? Of course, the reason they can't, or won't, is because they have not been serious about fighting terrorism. Putin has put them in a position where they have to choose between attacking their own assets and appearing as if they're either unwilling or unable to launch an effective war against terror. A unified coalition would ensure targets actually get hit, that the right targets get hit (in other words, not civilian infrastructure, which the U.S. continues to target instead of Daesh: US-Led Coalition Targets Water Pumping Stations in Aleppo), and that Daesh is ultimately destroyed. Dirty tricks are much more difficult when you have to operate in an open and transparent relationship. And so far, the U.S. has been unwilling to give up their dirty tricks.

A Stab in the Back

If the goal of shooting down the Russian jet near the Turkish border was to sour Russian relations not just with Turkey but also other NATO members, it didn't work. When asked about the jet, Putin displayed his tact:
As you know, Turkey is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. France is also a member of NATO, so we understand France's situation. However, President Hollande communicated his condolences to us in connection with our military casualties, and we are grateful to him for that.
I never thought I'd say it, but good job Hollande.

On Turkey's assertions, Putin pointed out the obvious:
Regarding Turkey's Air Force allegedly failing to recognise Russian aircraft, this is simply not possible! The aircraft have insignia that are clearly visible, indicating that they are Russian aircraft, not anything else. This is the first thing I wanted to say.

Second, I've already said, and will say again: under our agreement with the United States, we have shared information on where our pilots will fly, at what flight levels, where and when. As we understand it, this is an operating coalition. Turkey is a part of this coalition. Thus, they should have been informed that the Russian Air Force was operating in the area. Who else could it be? How would they act if they knew it was an American jet? Would they hit it? This is all nonsense. These are just excuses. It's highly regrettable that instead of seriously analysing this issue and making sure that such incidents never happen again, we are hearing inconclusive explanations and statements that they don't have anything to apologise for. Anyway, this is Turkey's choice, not ours.
"As we understand it..." I love it.

Putin also had a pointed question to ask regarding the moderate terrorists who executed the parachuting pilot:
In this regard, I would like to comment on what we are hearing today about some tribes that are close to Turkey, the Turkomen... Well, first of all, it begs the question: What are members of Turkish terrorist organisations doing there? They take pictures of themselves and post them online.
Good question. Maybe it has something to do with Turkey being one of the biggest sponsors of terrorism in Syria...

Putin alluded to this after summing up recent military successes in Syria:
...militants from the so-called Islamic State and other radical groups are suffering heavy losses. We have disrupted the extremists' operating mechanisms, damaged their military infrastructure and significantly undermined their financial base - I am referring first and foremost to illicit trade in oil, which generates immense profits for the terrorists and their sponsors.

Those who apply double standards when dealing with terrorists, using them to achieve their own political aims and engaging in unlawful business with them, are playing with fire. History shows that sooner or later such actions will backfire against those who abet criminals.
In response to another question on the subject, Putin was more specific:
You have also asked about oil and it being allegedly destroyed in Turkey? At the G20 meeting that took place, by the way, in Turkey's Antalya I showed a photograph, as I have already mentioned publicly, taken by Russian pilots from a height of five thousand metres above the ground. The photo shows a line of oil trucks that disappears over the horizon. It looks like a live oil pipeline. Oil is being supplied from territories controlled by terrorists in Syria at an industrial scale. It comes from these territories, not from somewhere else.

We can see from above where these trucks are heading. They are driving towards Turkey, day and night. I can presume that Turkey's top leaders are unaware of this. This would be hard to believe, but it is possible theoretically.
However, this doesn't mean that the Turkish authorities shouldn't cut off these illegal transactions. There is a special UN Security Council resolution to this effect, which prohibits buying oil directly from terrorists, because these barrels contain more than oil - there is the blood of our people. The terrorists use the money from oil to buy weapons and ammunition, and then organise these bloody acts, with our plane over Sinai, in Paris, and other cities and countries around the world.

If Turkey is destroying it, we don't see any smoke or flames from burning oil. Again, we're talking about amounts on an industrial scale. A plant would have to be built to destroy that much oil. None of that is really happening. If top level leaders in Turkey know nothing about this, then tell them now.

I admit that there may be some elements of corruption or collusion. Let them figure it out. However, we have no doubt about this oil going straight to Turkey. We can see it from the air: fully laden trucks go there and come back empty. Then again, they leave terrorist-held Syria for Turkey fully loaded, and return empty. We see it every day.
How in the world is this not front-page news in the West? Does Turkey really not control it's border with Daesh-occupied northern Syria? Of course it does. Are Turkish officials really unaware that endless convoys are daily making the trek into and out of Turkey carrying this illegal oil? That's nonsense. So why, oh why aren't Erdogan and his associates rotting in prison? Because they are a NATO member, and because NATO (i.e. the U.S.) is an even greater sponsor of terrorism. Putin has tactfully avoided going that far, but that can't last forever. He avoided naming Turkey until it had the audacity to violate Syrian airspace and fire on a Russian jet. What will the States have to do before he exposes them, too?

Putin's rationale for deploying the S-400 to Syria is also worth quoting at length:
We haven't had these kinds of systems in Syria because we have acted on the assumption that our planes were flying at altitudes beyond the reach of the terrorists' criminal hands. They don't have military equipment that can shoot down aircraft at an altitude of over 3,000 to 4,000 metres. It did not occur to us that we could be hit by a country that we considered our ally.

After all, our bombers, flying at altitudes of 5,000 - 6,000 metres, were absolutely unprotected, unprotected from possible attacks by fighter jets. If we'd known that this was possible, first of all, we would have deployed these systems there a long time ago to protect our aircraft.

Second, there are other technical and military means, for example, fighter escorts or at least technical means of defence against missile attacks, including thermal defence. The experts know how to do this.

But we didn't do this, to reiterate, because we considered Turkey to be a friendly state and simply didn't expect an attack from that side. This is why we regard this attack as treacherous.

Now we see what's possible, and our people were killed. We're duty bound to ensure the safety of our air force. This is why we've deployed the modern S-400 system there. It's a long range air-defence system and is one of the most effective such systems in the world.

However, we won't limit ourselves to this. If necessary, we'll support our air operations with fighter jets, and any other means, including electronic warfare systems. We have plenty of alternatives, and now we'll use them.

This is not in conflict with what we're doing with the US-led coalition. We exchange information with them, but now we're very worried about the nature of this exchange and the results of this cooperation.

Look, we informed our American partners in advance when our pilots were going into action and where, in what air corridors. The American side, which leads the coalition, to which Turkey is also a party, knew about the location and time of our operation. And this is precisely where we were hit.

The question is, why did we pass this information to the Americans? Either they are not in control of what their allies are doing or they hand out this information every which way without understanding the implications. Of course, we'll have to hold some serious consultations with our partners on the issue. However, the air defence systems are not in any way directed against our partners with whom we're fighting the terrorists in Syria.
It's a shame that a Russian pilot and marine had to die to make this development possible, but it couldn't have been done any other way. If Russia had deployed its S-400 from the beginning, they would have been harshly criticized, and their motives would have been questioned. "ISIS doesn't have jets, so just who are you suggesting are your enemies?" It would have been one more example of "Russian aggression". There's no good way to counter such paramoralistic innuendos, so Putin took the high road: taking his enemies at their word that they are his 'friends', until they publicly prove otherwise, as Turkey has just done.

Make no mistake about it, Russia is in hostile territory. Turkey, NATO and the U.S. are enemies of Russia and the multipolar world as a whole. And Russia knows it. From the beginning of the Russian campaign in Syria, there was a very real threat that these enemies would do something belligerent. That S-400 should have been there from the beginning, but that was a political impossibility. Putin and his military made the right choice. By assuming friendship, they made a public display of their good intentions, trustworthiness, and willingness to let bygones be bygones in exchange for serious changes in criminal Western policies. And they let their enemies reveal themselves for what they truly are: treacherous. And Russia comes out smelling like roses.

Despite the extreme efforts of the Western cabal to demonize everything Russia does, Putin is slowly but surely winning the war for the hearts and minds of the global public.