A grave danger from the Western mainstream media’s current hysteria about “fake news” is that the definition gets broadened from the few made-up stories that are demonstrably false – often fabricated by kids to get more clicks – to include reasonable disputes about the facts of a complex controversy.
This danger has grown worse because The New York Times, The Washington Post and other major Western news organizations have merged their outrage over “fake news” with the West’s propaganda campaign against Russia by claiming without evidence that the Russian government is somehow putting out false stories to undermine Western democracy.
However, when news organizations actually track down “fake news” outlets, they are usually run by some young entrepreneurs from outside Russia who saw made-up stories as a way to increase revenue by luring in more readers eager for “information” that supports their prejudices.
Yet, a front-page Times article on Tuesday, citing “fake news” as a threat to Europe, contains what arguably is “fake news” itself by claiming that many of the purported 2,500 stories “discredited” by the European Union’s East Stratcom operation have “links to Russia” although the Times doesn’t identify those links.
The article by Mark Scott and Melissa Eddy then goes on to blur these two separate concepts: “In a year when the French, Germans and Dutch will elect leaders, the European authorities are scrambling to counter a rising tide of fake news and anti-European Union propaganda aimed at destabilizing people’s trust in institutions.”
But it is this mushing together of “fake news” and what the Times describes as “anti-European Union propaganda” that is so insidious. The first relates to consciously fabricated stories; the second involves criticism of a political institution, the E.U., which is viewed by many Europeans as elitist, remote and disdainful of the needs, interests and attitudes of average citizens.
Whether you call such criticism “propaganda” or “dissent,” it is absurd to blame it all on Russia. When it comes to “destabilizing people’s trust in institutions,” the E.U. — especially with its inept handling of the Great Recession and its clumsy response to the Syrian refugee crisis — is doing a bang-up job on its own without Russian help.
Yet, rather than face up to legitimate concerns of citizens, the E.U. and U.S. governments have found a convenient scapegoat, Russia. To hammer home this point — to make it the new “groupthink” — E.U. and U.S. leaders have financed propaganda specialists to disparage political criticism by linking it to Russia.
Even worse, in the United States, the Times and other mainstream publications – reflecting the views of the political establishment – have editorialized to get giant technology companies, like Facebook and Google, to marginalize independent news sites that don’t accept the prevailing conventional wisdom.
There is an Orwellian quality to these schemes — a plan for a kind of Ministry of Truth enforced by algorithms to weed out deviant ideas — but almost no one whose voice is allowed in the mass media gets to make that observation. Even now, there is a chilling uniformity in the endless denunciations of Russia as the root of all evil.
Though the Times’ article treats the E.U.’s East Stratcom operatives as 11 beleaguered public servants sticking their fingers in the dike to protect the citizenry from a flood of Russian disinformation, “stratcom” actually is a euphemism for psychological operations, i.e., the strategic use of communications to influence the thinking of a target population.
In this case, the target populations are the European public and – to an ancillary degree – the American people who get to absorb the same propaganda from The New York Times. The real goal of stratcom is not to combat a few sleazy entrepreneurs generating consciously false stories for profit but to silence or “discredit” sources of information that question the E.U. and U.S. propaganda.
NATO has its own Stratcom command based in Latvia that also is assigned to swat down information that doesn’t conform to Western propaganda narratives. The U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy also pour tens of millions of dollars into media operations with similar goals as do major Western foundations, such as currency speculator George Soros’s Open Society. Last December, the U.S. Congress approved and President Obama signed legislation to create an additional $160 million bureaucracy to combat “Russian propaganda.”
In other words, the West’s stratcom and “psychological operations” are swimming in dough despite the Times’ representation that these “anti-disinformation” projects are unfairly outgunned by sinister forces daring to challenge what everyone-in-the-know knows to be true.
If these “stratcom” operations were around in 2002-2003, they would have been accusing the few people questioning the Iraq-has-WMD certainty of putting out “fake news” to benefit Saddam Hussein. Now, journalists and citizens who don’t buy the full-Monte demonization of Russia and its President Vladimir Putin are put into a similar category.
Instead of trusting in the free exchange of ideas, the new attitude at the Times, the Post and other Western news outlets is to short-circuit the process by smearing anyone who questions the official narratives as a “Putin apologist” or a “Moscow stooge.”
Beyond being anti-democratic, this anti-intellectual approach has prevented serious examination of the facts behind the West’s war or words against Russia. To shut down that debate, all you need to do is to say that any fact cited at a Russian news outlet must be false or “fake news.” Any Westerner who notes the same fact must be a “Putin puppet.”
Western “stratcom” doesn’t even want to allow Russian media to criticize politicians who are criticizing Russia. The Times article lamented that “Many false claims target politicians who present the biggest obstacles to Moscow’s goal of undermining the European Union.” The Times, however, doesn’t offer any examples of such “false claims.”
Instead, the Times writes that Russian news channels had “targeted the [French] presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, who belongs to the party and is running on a pro-European Union platform.”
But what does that mean? Is it now an act of aggression when newscasts in one country criticize a leader of another country? If so, are the European news channels that have “targeted” U.S. President Donald Trump somehow deserving of U.S. government retaliation? Doesn’t the E.U. – and by extension The New York Times – accept the idea of political disagreement and debate?
This closed-mindedness is especially dangerous – indeed existentially risky – when applied to a confrontation between nuclear-armed powers. In such a case, the maximum amount of debate should be encouraged, instead of what amounts to blacklisting dissidents in the West who won’t toe the official propaganda lines.
Disturbingly, the leading forces in this suppression of skepticism are the most prestigious newspapers in the United States and Europe. Even after the disastrous experience with the Iraq War and the bogus WMD groupthink, Western news outlets that were party to that fiasco have virtually excluded well-reported articles and documentaries that question the U.S. and E.U. narratives of the New Cold War.
For instance, there has been almost no presentation in the mainstream Western media of an alternative – and I would argue more complete and accurate – narrative of the Ukraine conflict, taking into account the country’s complex history and deep ethnic divisions.
It is essentially forbidden to refer to the violent overthrow of elected President Viktor Yanukovych three years ago as a “coup” or a “putsch” or to cite evidence of a U.S.-backed “regime change,” such as an intercepted phone call between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt in which they discussed how to “glue” and how to “midwife” the installation of a new leadership in Kiev.
In the supposedly “free” West, you can only refer to the post-coup events in Crimea, in which the people of the largely ethnic Russia area voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, as a “Russian invasion.” No skepticism is allowed even though there were no images of Russian troops wading ashore on Crimea’s beaches or Russian tanks crashing across borders. The “invasion” supposedly happened even though no invasion was necessary because Russian troops were already in Crimea under the naval basing agreement at Sevastopol.
Amid the West’s current hysteria about “Russian propaganda,” U.S. and E.U. citizens are not even given the opportunity to watch well-reported documentaries about key moments in the New Cold War, including an eye-opening investigative report debunking the Western propaganda myth constructed around the death of Russian accountant Sergei Magnitsky or a well-produced historical account of the Ukraine crisis.
Western news outlets and governments even take pride in blocking such dissenting views and contrary information from reaching the American and European publics. Like East Stratcom — the E.U.’s Brussels-based 11-member team of diplomats, bureaucrats and former journalists — establishment institutions see themselves bravely battling “Russian disinformation.” They see it as their duty not to let their people hear this other side of the story.
If that is what the West’s institutions have come to — dismissing reasonable criticism and thoughtful dissent as “Russian disinformation” — is it any wonder that they are losing the confidence of their people?
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.
European Union data protection authorities have expressed fresh concerns about the privacy of Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system, despite tweaks being made to the OS after questions were raised about its treatment of personal data last year.
In a letter, the Article 29 Working Group said it still has “significant concerns” about how Microsoft collects and processes users’ personal data, and whether it obtains fully informed consent from users to do so.
“There is an apparent lack of control for users to prevent collection or further processing of such data. As a result, the Working Party specifically requests further explanatory information from Microsoft, as to how the opt-outs, default settings and other available control mechanisms presented during the installation of Windows 10 operating system provide a valid legal basis for the processing of personal data under the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC. This is especially of concern where Microsoft would rely on consent as a legal basis for the processing of personal data,” the statement said.
Windows 10 launched in July 2015, and almost immediately garnered criticism for the use of default settings to harvest voluminous amounts of user data, such as web browsing history, WIFI network names and passwords, in order to display personalized adverts as users browse the web or play games. User data is also fed in to train Microsoft’s Cortana digital assistant.
In response, the Article 29 Working Party instigated an investigation, as did several national data protection authorities, including France’s CNIL. Their independent conclusions were much the same; the company must stop excessive data collection.
Among the breaches CNIL accused Microsoft of were failing to obtain notice for data transfers, breaking cookie law requirements, having inadequate security protections for personal data, failure to file an authorization request for processing personal data for fraud prevention purposes, and breach of cross-border data transfer restrictions.
CNIL set a deadline of January 31 for Microsoft to comply with their recommendations, although the Working Group’s warning suggests the tech giant is yet to fulfil their obligations, meaning it can be fined. In all, Microsoft could face fines of up to US$3.2 million for breaches of domestic privacy laws.
The EU General Data Protection Regulation, due to come into force May 2018, increases the potential penalties for companies breaching EU data protection law, with fines of up to four percent of annual turnover for enterprises found to be non-compliant.
In a statement, European Digital Rights said Microsoft “grants itself very broad rights to collect everything you do, say and write” on Windows 10-equipped devices in order to sell more targeted advertising or to sell your data to third parties.
As if the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign hadn’t been horrendous enough, here comes another one: in France.
The system in France is very different, with multiple candidates in two rounds, most of them highly articulate, who often even discuss real issues. Free television time reduces the influence of big money. The first round on April 23 will select the two finalists for the May 7 runoff, allowing for much greater choice than in the United States.
But monkey see, monkey do, and the mainstream political class wants to mimic the ways of the Empire, even echoing the theme that dominated the 2016 show across the Atlantic: the evil Russians are messing with our wonderful democracy.
The aping of the U.S. system began with “primaries” held by the two main governing parties which obviously aspire to establish themselves as the equivalent of American Democrats and Republicans in a two-party system. The right-wing party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy has already renamed itself Les Républicains and the so-called Socialist Party leaders are just waiting for the proper occasion to call themselves Les Démocrates. But as things are going, neither one of them may come out ahead this time.
Given the nearly universal disaffection with the outgoing Socialist Party government of President François Hollande, the Republicans were long seen as the natural favorites to defeat Marine LePen, who is shown by all polls to top the first round. With such promising prospects, the Republican primary brought out more than twice as many volunteer voters (they must pay a small sum and claim allegiance to the party’s “values” in order to vote) as the Socialists. Sarkozy was eliminated, but more surprising, so was the favorite, the reliable establishment team player, Bordeaux mayor Alain Juppé, who had been leading in the polls and in media editorials.
Fillon’s Family Values
In a surprise show of widespread public disenchantment with the political scene, Republican voters gave landside victory to former prime minister François Fillon, a practicing Catholic with an ultra-neoliberal domestic policy: lower taxes for corporations, drastic cuts in social welfare, even health health insurance benefits – accelerating what previous governments have been doing but more openly. Less conventionally, Fillon strongly condemns the current anti Russian policy. Fillon also deviates from the Socialist government’s single-minded commitment to overthrowing Assad by showing sympathy for embattled Christians in Syria and their protector, which happens to be the Assad government.
Fillon has the respectable look, as the French say, of a person who could take communion without first going to confession. As a campaign theme he credibly stressed his virtuous capacity to oppose corruption.
Oops! On January 25, the semi-satirical weekly Le Canard Enchainé fired the opening shots of an ongoing media campaign designed to undo the image of Mister Clean, revealing that his British wife, Penelope, had been paid a generous salary for working as his assistant. As Penelope was known for staying home and raising their children in the countryside, the existence of that work is in serious doubt. Fillon also paid his son a lawyer’s fee for unspecified tasks and his daughter for supposedly assisting him write a book. In a sense, these allegations prove the strength of the conservative candidate’s family values. But his ratings have fallen and he faces possible criminal charges for fraud.
The scandal is real, but the timing is suspect. The facts are many years old, and the moment of their revelation is well calculated to ensure his defeat. Moreover, the very day after the Canard’s revelations, prosecutors hastily opened an inquiry. In comparison with all the undisclosed dirty work and unsolved blood crimes committed by those in control of the French State over the years, especially during its foreign wars, enriching one’s own family may seem relatively minor. But that is not the way the public sees it.
It is widely assumed that despite National Front candidate Marine LePen’s constant lead in the polls, whoever comes in second will win the runoff because the established political class and the media will rally around the cry to “save the Republic!” Fear of the National Front as “a threat to the Republic” has become a sort of protection racket for the established parties, since it stigmatizes as unacceptable a large swath of opposition to themselves. In the past, both main parties have sneakily connived to strengthen the National Front in order to take votes away from their adversary.
Thus, bringing down Fillon increases the chances that the candidate of the now thoroughly discredited Socialist Party may find himself in the magic second position after all, as the knight to slay the LePen dragon. But who exactly is the Socialist candidate? That is not so clear. There is the official Socialist Party candidate, Benoît Hamon. But the independent spin-off from the Hollande administration, Emmanuel Macron, “neither right nor left”, is gathering support from the right of the Socialist Party as well as from most of the neo-liberal globalist elite.
Macron is scheduled to be the winner. But first, a glance at his opposition on the left. With his ratings in the single digits, François Hollande very reluctantly gave in to entreaties from his colleagues to avoid the humiliation of running for a second term and losing badly. The badly attended Socialist Party primary was expected to select the fiercely pro-Israel prime minister Manuel Valls. Or if not, on his left, Arnaud Montebourg, a sort of Warren Beatty of French politics, famous for his romantic liaisons and his advocacy of re-industrialization of France.
Again, surprise. The winner was a colorless, little-known party hack named Benoît Hamon, who rode the wave of popular discontent to appear as a leftist critic and alternative to a Socialist government which sold out all Holland’s promises to combat “finance” and assaulted the rights of the working class instead. Hamon spiced up his claim to be “on the left” by coming up with a gimmick that is fashionable elsewhere in Europe but a novelty in French political discourse: the “universal basic income”. The idea of giving every citizen an equal handout can sound appealing to young people having trouble finding a job. But this idea, which originated with Milton Friedman and other apostles of unleashed financial capitalism, is actually a trap. The project assumes that unemployment is permanent, in contrast to projects to create jobs or share work. It would be financed by replacing a whole range of existing social allocations, in the name of “getting rid of bureaucracy” and “freedom of consumption”. The project would complete the disempowerment of the working class as a political force, destroying the shared social capital represented by public services, and splitting the dependent classes between paid workers and idle consumers.
There is scant chance that the universal income is about to become a serious item on the French political agenda. For the moment, Hamon’s claim to radicality serves to lure voters away from the independent left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Both are vying for support from greens and militants of the French Communist Party, which has lost all capacity to define its own positions.
The Divided Left
An impressive orator, Mélenchon gained prominence in 2005 as a leading opponent of the proposed European Constitution, which was decisively rejected by the French in a referendum, but was nevertheless adopted under a new name by the French national assembly. Like so many leftists in France, Mélenchon has a Trotskyist background (the Posadists, more attuned to Third World revolutions than their rivals) before joining the Socialist Party, which he left in 2008 to found the Parti de Gauche. He has sporadically wooed the rudderless Communist Party to join him as the Front de Gauche (the Left Front) and has declared himself its candidate for President on a new independent ticket called La France insoumise – roughly translated as “Insubordinate France”. Mélenchon is combative with France’s docile media, as he defends such unorthodox positions as praise of Chavez and rejection of France’s current Russophobic foreign policy. Unlike the conventional Hamon, who follows the Socialist party line, Mélenchon wants France to leave both the euro and NATO.
There are only two really strong personalities in this lineup: Mélenchon on the left and his adversary of choice, Marine LePen, on the right. In the past, their rivalry in local elections has kept both from winning even though she came out ahead. Their positions on foreign policy are hard to distinguish from each other: criticism of the European Union, desire to leave NATO, good relations with Russia.
Since both deviate from the establishment line, both are denounced as “populists” – a term that is coming to mean anyone who pays more attention to what ordinary people want than to what the Establishment dictates.
On domestic social policy, on preservation of social services and workers’ rights, Marine is well to the left of Fillon. But the stigma attached to the National Front as the “far right” remains, even though, with her close advisor Florian Philippot, she has ditched her father, Jean-Marie, and adjusted the party line to appeal to working class voters. The main relic of the old National Front is her hostility to immigration, which now centers on fear of Islamic terrorists. The terrorist killings in Paris and Nice have made these positions more popular than they used to be. In her effort to overcome her father’s reputation as anti-Semitic, Marine LePen has done her best to woo the Jewish community, helped by her rejection of “ostentatious” Islam, going so far as to call for a ban on wearing an ordinary Muslim headscarf in public.
A runoff between Mélenchon and LePen would be an encounter between a revived left and a revived right, a real change from the political orthodoxy that has alienated much of the electorate. That could make politics exciting again. At a time when popular discontent with “the system” is rising, it has been suggested (by Elizabeth Lévy’s maverick monthly Le Causeur) that the anti-system Mélenchon might actually have the best chance of winning working class votes away from the anti-system LePen.
But the pro-European Union, pro-NATO, neoliberal Establishment is at work to keep that from happening. On every possible magazine cover or talk show, the media have shown their allegiance to a “New! Improved!” middle of the road candidate who is being sold to the public like a consumer product. At his rallies, carefully coached young volunteers situated in view of the cameras greet his every vague generalization with wild cheers, waving flags, and chanting “Macron President!!!” before going off to the discotèque party offered as their reward. Macron is the closest thing to a robot ever presented as a serious candidate for President. That is, he is an artificial creation designed by experts for a particular task.
Emmanuel Macron, 39, was a successful investment banker who earned millions working for the Rothschild bank. Ten years ago, in 2007, age 29, the clever young economist was invited into the big time by Jacques Attali, an immensely influential guru, whose advice since the 1980s has been central in wedding the Socialist Party to pro-capitalist, neoliberal globalism. Attali incorporated him into his private think tank, the Commission for Stimulating Economic Growth, which helped draft the “300 Proposals to Change France” presented to President Sarkozy a year later as a blueprint for government. Sarkozy failed to enact them all, for fear of labor revolts, but the supposedly “left” Socialists are able to get away with more drastic anti-labor measures, thanks to their softer discourse.
The soft discourse was illustrated by presidential candidate François Hollande in 2012 when he aroused enthusiasm by declaring to a rally: “My real enemy is the world of finance!”. The left cheered and voted for him. Meanwhile, as a precaution, Hollande secretly dispatched Macron to London to reassure the City’s financial elite that it was all just electoral talk.
After his election, Hollande brought Macron onto his staff. From there he was given a newly created super-modern sounding government post as minister of Economy, Industry and Digital affairs in 2014. With all the bland charm of a department store mannequin, Macron upstaged his irascible colleague, prime minister Manuel Valls, in the silent rivalry to succeed their boss, President Hollande. Macron won the affection of big business by making his anti-labor reforms look young and clean and “progressive”. In fact, he pretty much followed the Attali agenda.
The theme is “competitiveness”. In a globalized world, a country must attract investment capital in order to compete, and for that it is necessary to lower labor costs. A classic way to do that is to encourage immigration. With the rise of identity politics, the left is better than the right in justifying massive immigration on moral grounds, as a humanitarian measure. That is one reason that the Democratic Party in the United States and the Socialist Party in France have become the political partners of neoliberal globalism. Together, they have changed the outlook of the official left from structural measures promoting economic equality to moral measures promoting equality of minorities with the majority.
Just last year, Macron founded (or had founded for him) his political movement entitled “En marche!” (Let’s go!) characterized by meetings with young groupies wearing Macron t-shirts. In three months he felt the call to lead the nation and announced his candidacy for President.
Many personalities are jumping the marooned Socialist ship and going over to Macron, whose strong political resemblance to Hillary Clinton suggests that his is the way to create a French Democratic Party on the U.S. model. Hillary may have lost but she remains the NATOland favorite. And indeed, U.S. media coverage confirms this notion. A glance at the ecstatic puff piece by Robert Zaretsky in Foreign Policy magazine hailing “the English-speaking, German-loving, French politician Europe has been waiting for” leaves no doubt that Macron is the darling of the trans-Atlantic globalizing elite.
At this moment, Macron is second only to Marine LePen in the polls, which also show him defeating her by a landslide in the final round. However, his carefully manufactured appeal is vulnerable to greater public information about his close ties to the economic elite.
Blame the Russians
For that eventuality, there is a preventive strike, imported directly from the United States. It’s the fault of the Russians!
What have the Russians done that is so terrible? Mainly, they have made it clear that they have a preference for friends rather than enemies as heads of foreign governments. Nothing so extraordinary about that. Russian news media criticize, or interview people who criticize, candidates hostile to Moscow. Nothing extraordinary about that either.
As an example of this shocking interference, which allegedly threatens to undermine the French Republic and Western values, the Russian news agency Sputnik interviewed a Republican member of the French parliament, Nicolas Dhuicq, who dared say that Macron might be “an agent of the American financial system”. That is pretty obvious. But the resulting outcry skipped over that detail to accuse Russian state media of “starting to circulate rumors that Macron had a gay extramarital affair” (The EU Observer, February 13, 2017). In fact this alleged “sexual slur” had been circulating primarily in gay circles in Paris, for whom the scandal, if any, is not Macron’s alleged sexual orientation but the fact that he denies it. The former mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, was openly gay, Marine Le Pen’s second in command Florian Philippot is gay, in France being gay is no big deal.
Macron is supported by a “very wealthy gay lobby”, Dhuicq is quoted as saying. Everyone knows who that is: Pierre Bergé, the rich and influential business manager of Yves Saint Laurent, personification of radical chic, who strongly supports surrogate gestation, which is indeed a controversial issue in France, the real controversy underlying the failed opposition to gay marriage.
The Deep State rises to the surface
The amazing adoption in France of the American anti-Russian campaign is indicative of a titanic struggle for control of the narrative – the version of international reality consumed by the masses of people who have no means to undertake their own investigations. Control of the narrative is the critical core of what Washington describes as its “soft power”. The hard power can wage wars and overthrow governments. The soft power explains to bystanders why that was the right thing to do. The United States can get away with literally everything so long as it can tell the story to its own advantage, without the risk of being credibly contradicted. Concerning sensitive points in the world, whether Iraq, or Libya, or Ukraine, control of the narrative is basically exercised by the partnership between intelligence agencies and the media. Intelligence services write the story, and the mass corporate media tell it.
Together, the anonymous sources of the “deep state” and the mass corporate media have become accustomed to controlling the narrative told to the public. They don’t want to give that power up. And they certainly don’t want to see it challenged by outsiders – notably by Russian media that tell a different story.
That is one reason for the extraordinary campaign going on to denounce Russian and other alternative media as sources of “false news”, in order to discredit rival sources. The very existence of the Russian international television news channel RT aroused immediate hostility: how dare the Russians intrude on our version of reality! How dare they have their own point of view! Hillary Clinton warned against RT when she was Secretary of State and her successor John Kerry denounced it as a “propaganda bullhorn”. What we say is truth, what they say can only be propaganda.
The denunciation of Russian media and alleged Russian “interference in our elections” is a major invention of the Clinton campaign, which has gone on to infect public discourse in Western Europe. This accusation is a very obvious example of double standards, or projection, since U.S. spying on everybody, including it allies, and interference in foreign elections are notorious.
The campaign denouncing “fake news” originating in Moscow is in full swing in both France and Germany as elections approach. It is this accusation that is the functional interference in the campaign, not Russian media. The accusation that Marine Le Pen is “the candidate of Moscow” is not only meant to work against her, but is also preparation for the efforts to instigate some variety of “color revolution” should she happen to win the May 7 election. CIA interference in foreign elections is far from limited to contentious news reports.
In the absence of any genuine Russian threat to Europe, claims that Russian media are “interfering in our democracy” serve to brand Russia as an aggressive enemy and thereby justify the huge NATO military buildup in Northeastern Europe, which is reviving German militarism and directing national wealth into the arms industry.
In some ways, the French election is an extension of the American one, where the deep state lost its preferred candidate, but not its power. The same forces are at work here, backing Macron as the French Hillary, but ready to stigmatize any opponent as a tool of Moscow.
What has been happening over the past months has confirmed the existence of a Deep State that is not only national but trans-Atlantic, aspiring to be global. The anti-Russian campaign is a revelation. It reveals to many people that there really is a Deep State, a trans-Atlantic orchestra that plays the same tune without any visible conductor. The term “Deep State” is suddenly popping up even in mainstream discourse, as a reality than cannot be denied, even if it is hard to define precisely. Instead of the Military Industrial Complex, we should perhaps call it the Military Industrial Intelligence Military Media Complex, or MIIMMC. Its power is enormous, but acknowledging that it exists is the first step toward working to free ourselves from its grip.
Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. Her new book is Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton. She can be reached at email@example.com
Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei warned that the real war against the Islamic Republic is an economic and a cultural one.
“Both the former and new administrations in the United States have been threatening us with wars,” said the Leader reacting to all war rhetoric used by Washington against the Islamic Republic.
Addressing a large group of visiting people from Tabriz, Imam Khamenei said: “They have always said that the military option is on the table,” he said.
“But the real war remains to be an economic one, the imposition of sanctions and denying the people the chance to promote businesses and economic and technological activities in the country,” the Leader said.
His eminence also recalled comments by some European officials warning Iranian authorities that Iran had to go to war in the absence of the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Such comments are just plain lies, the Leader said, elaborating on why some insist on threatening Iran with a war option.
“They just want to keep us too much involved with a military war to detract us from the economic war we face,” he said.
“The real war is also a cultural one,” Imam Khamenei added.
The euro currency is a major factor accelerating the process of economic and political disintegration within the European Union, according to Belgian left politician Peter Mertens.
The European Union is now “disintegrating,” Paul Magnette, Minister-President of the Belgian French-speaking region of Wallonia, said in a recent interview with L’Echo.
“We are nearing a process of political disintegration, with some countries becoming ungovernable,” the politician said.
Magnette also criticized the euro currency as poorly thought-out, which accelerated “social and financial deregulation.”
Magnette has been known as a vocal critic of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), a free trade deal between the EU and Canada. In the interview, he also spoke out for withdrawal from the bloc of such countries as Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary, following the Brexit example.
Magnette’s remarks are especially surprising, taking into account the fact that such criticism came from a left-wing and pro-European politician.
Peter Mertens, the leader of the Workers’ Party of Belgium, underscored that in Belgium criticism of the current state of European integration comes from left-wing political forces, not from the right, like in France or in the Netherlands.
“From the very beginning, the euro has been a problem. The currency was designed to serve the interests of Germany, Europe’s strongest economy. It was clear that the European united market was not people’s will. It was a project for the business establishment,” Mertens said in an interview with Sputnik French.
The politician shared Magnette’s suggestion that the eastward expansion of the European Union was not conducted properly.
“In 2007-2008, several Eastern European countries joined the EU. The main reason was that German companies were looking for a cheap labor force. At the same time, it was clear that such countries as Bulgaria and Romania were not as economically developed as Central Europe. As a result, now there are two polarities in the EU, between the north and the south and between the west and the east,” Mertens pointed out.
He also agreed with Magnette that the introduction of the euro only deepened the social and economic divisions within the EU.
“In my opinion, the euro currency system was built under Germany’s surveillance. And I think that to a certain extent the current EU is autocratic and authoritarian,” he said.
Nevertheless, Mertens warned that a withdrawal of Eastern European countries from the EU would not resolve the crisis.
“We should not forget that we need to protect those countries. Now, some political forces call for cooperation only with economically developed countries. But we should continue our cooperation with Poland and other Eastern European countries,” he said.
Mertens also said that criticism of the European Union should not be monopolized by right-wing political movements.
“These concerns [about the crisis in the EU] can be expressed in many ways. For example, criticism can be expressed by the nationalists or the far-rights, like in France and the Netherlands. But it can also come from the left, like in Spain or Wallonia. The common idea is that the current political elites do not represent their people anymore,” Mertens concluded.
Hundreds of Belgian Artists and Academics Urge Government to End Participation in EU Project Cooperating with Israeli National Police
In Belgium, 482 professors and researchers, and more than 190 artists, have written an open letter calling on their authorities to withdraw from participating in a European Union funded research project called LAW TRAIN, in which Belgium and Spain cooperate with the Israeli National Police.
The project, aimed at developing joint interrogation methods, is coordinated by an Israeli university with particularly deep ties to Israel’s army and notorious security services. The signatories of this open letter highlight that Israeli methods are tested on Palestinians. Israel’s illegal detention of Palestinian political prisoners, and the systematic abuse and torture perpetrated by Israeli security forces during interrogations, is well documented. And, in 2016 alone, Israelis interrogated at least 7,000 Palestinians, including over 400 children.
This open letter is part of broader efforts by the Belgian Coalition To Stop Law Train, and broader European-wide efforts against the participation of the Israeli military, homeland security and police sector in research and development funded by the European Union. Other forms of mobilizing have included direct actions, conferences, and lobbying.
With Trump’s arrival in the White House, European leaders were the first to talk of «a new historical era» (Angela Merkel) and the fact that «the old world of the 20th century is over» (Frank-Walter Steinmeier). The alarmism running through these statements is fuelling discussions about the uncertainty and unpredictability of the new American president. In my view, however, judgements on his «unpredictability» should be tempered slightly. At the very least because if a political entity is «unpredictable» and everything surrounding it suddenly becomes uncertain, then one can easily imagine that planning would be impossible, leaving nothing to do but wait and see what Trump is going to do next and then react. Ultimately, this way of thinking will prevent countries from developing their own national strategies.
If there is any «unpredictability» with regard to Trump, then it is only in comparison with the White House’s previous policies, which the new administration will not be pursuing. When Richard Nixon was impeached, it heralded a creeping coup d’etat that resulted in supporters of cosmopolitan finance capital coming to power in the US. Over the past quarter of a century, the interests of American banksters have brought about the large-scale demolition of industry and the middle class in their own country. A huge number of Americans with links to the real economy were never going to be happy with such a state of affairs, and this is where the interests of certain groups of manufacturers coincided with the interests of parts of the middle class and skilled workers. Trump’s arrival in the White House is a victory for this group of manufacturers and workers and is seriously changing the rules of the game that have existed for almost forty years. And in this sense, Trump’s victory could be considered revolutionary.
At the same time, however, Trump’s rhetoric and his ‘soothing’ remarks should not be idealised for a number of reasons.
Firstly, whatever extraordinary personal qualities the president may have, the US political system is designed in such a way that he needs the support of its major segments. Trump is not an island; he is a man of the system, or, to be more precise, a certain part of it. Only «collective Trump» was able to become the president of the United States. Wealth and connections are an indispensable part of big politics and if these are used to achieve supreme power, then this supreme power will, in turn, be used to serve the interests of all those who helped the rise of a new political star.
Secondly, by promoting ‘their’ presidential candidate, stakeholders already have a strategy, a plan of action, the audit results of resources and capabilities. What’s more, domination and influence are primarily ideas that produce money and galvanise other resources. Trump’s team has such ideas. They are balanced and well thought out and show the new US president’s ‘business approach’ to politics. And, equally importantly, Donald Trump is committed. Unlike Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other hired managers of the ‘global elite’, he is sure that he’s right.
Thirdly, the laws governing the development of society, the class struggle, and social solidarity are still in place. As the richest president ever, Trump will not indulge in altruism or hand out money on the streets. His goal is to streamline economic and political institutions, which he’s already doing. The world views he expressed in his inauguration speech are acquiring clear outlines.
Among the recent news stories demonstrating his readiness to back up his words with deeds is his decision to introduce a tax on Mexican oil. This looks like the protection of domestic oil producers with a view to revolutionising the offshore oil and gas sectors. And let it contradict the rules of ‘free trade’ – for Trump and those who brought him to power, these rules mean absolutely nothing. The most important thing is to revitalise the US economy and improve the country’s industrial capacity.
By combining nationalism and protectionism, prioritising America’s internal problems, and appealing to labourers, blue collar workers and America’s Rust Belt, Trump is building on the authority of America’s seventh president, Andrew Jackson (who, incidentally, was the founder of the Democratic Party). Jackson’s ideology and policies are fundamentally different from the Wilsonian principles so dear to those in charge of the Federal Reserve System (it’s no coincidence that America’s 28th president, Woodrow Wilson, who is quite rightly considered to be the founder of the liberal world order project, is on America’s biggest bank note ($100,000)).
By following in Jackson’s footsteps, Trump is putting national interests rather than global leadership at the heart of his policies, and this is an interesting point that will not necessarily coincide with the interests of Russia and may actually go against them. During his inauguration speech, Trump said: «We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first. We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow». These words are worth thinking about.
Fourthly, the respected American analyst Edward Luttwak is convinced that the emergence of a politician like Trump was a reaction to what went before and was 90% unavoidable.
In fact, much of what went before has led to catastrophic changes in global politics. Anti-modern forces have replaced secular regimes in the Muslim world. The strategy of ‘controlled chaos’ chosen by the Democrats has not only helped destroy secular states, but has also given rise to anti-system forces where aggression and destruction, archaism and barbarity have infiltrated Europe along with hundreds of thousands of refugees who no longer have borders. With his global expansion policy, Obama drove the European Union into a trap and contributed to its weakening and imbalance. The split within the American elite and the support for Trump are largely down to a reluctance to repeat Europe’s experience. Hence the tough anti-immigration rhetoric and the new administration’s desire to destroy the Islamic State. That’s on the one hand.
On the other, «collective Trump» knows all too well that expansion does not just bear fruit in the form of military bases, a vassal mentality in the leaders of other countries, cheap goods, and the triumph of the dollar on all continents. Expansion is also a heavy burden that threatens to tear such forces apart. A little breathing space is needed to make a breakthrough and «shine as an example for everyone». Efforts need to be concentrated and regrouped and resources need to be optimised. The entire history of the US has been an alternation of two trends: a period of expansion, of enlargement (under the Democrats Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy) followed by a period of ‘contraction’, of concentration (under the Republicans, with the exception of George W Bush).
Trump as a reaction to what went before is, above all, this much-needed breathing space; it is America focussing on its internal problems; it is a period to digest what has been eaten. Trump’s America could be regarded as America getting ready for a new leap, for new heights. Hence its focus on its own internal problems. This focus is temporary, however. There is no point in portraying Trump as an isolationist. He will implement a foreign policy that will strengthen the US and there are a number of ways that this could happen. By weakening the European Union and China, for example, or by abandoning an active policy towards Ukraine. Ukraine had already become an old suitcase without handles for the Obama administration – difficult to carry, but a shame to throw away. Getting rid of something in politics is the same as losing face, but Trump is not in danger of losing face – he can easily swap Ukraine for other options.
As far as Russia is concerned, Trump’s arrival mostly opens a window of opportunity. While the US digests its thick broth of globalisation, brought to the boil by Obama, Russia will be able to solve a few of its own problems. The most important thing is that it has a clear understanding of these problems, and a clear understanding of America’s new strategy. And with such an understanding, there will be no «unpredictability».
Last month German media revealed that German weapons supplied to Kurdish Peshmerga in northern Iraq are being sold on the black market, where they may end up in the hands of terrorist groups.
Weapons on sale included Heckler and Koch G3 rifles on sale for $1450 and $1800, and Walther P1 pistols with an asking price of $1200.
One arms dealer told a reporter that he could procure the Heckler & Koch G36 assault rifle for $5000.
These weapons sales have also financed the flight of refugees from Iraq to Germany, an Iraqi Kurdish refugee living in Germany told the news program.
Former Peshmerga Mustafa S said that he is one of hundreds of fighters who have sold their weapons to finance their escape from Iraq.
“Mustafa S said that he knows around 100 Peshmerga who have sold their weapons in recent months in order to flee. The situation has become unbearable for many. The low oil price, lack of payment from the Iraqi central government and the battle against Daesh, which guzzles about five million dollars daily, have brought the Kurdish regional government to the brink of bankruptcy. (Mustafa) himself had not been paid for five months and did not know how he was going to pay rent, food, and medicine for his disabled daughter. Now, he lives with his wife and their six children in a home for asylum seekers in East Germany,” Tagesschau reported.
Deputy Chairman of the Die Linke opposition party in the German Bundestag Tobias Pfluger called on the government to stop supplying arms to the Peshmerga. He told Sputnik that the deliveries are counter to the German constitution.
“The interesting thing is that the training missions that are connected with these weapons deliveries break several domestic federal laws. German and EU legislation, the War Weapons Control Act and the Foreign Trade and Payments Act, prohibit direct deliveries to war zones,” Pfluger explained.
The German Defense Ministry has delivered an estimated 2,400 tons of arms and munitions to Kurdish Peshmerga fighters since it began to supply the militia in summer 2014. A government spokesman told NDR and WDR that the government of Iraqi Kurdistan is responsible for the weapons’ misuse.
The German Defense Ministry is committed to the “proper verification of supplied weapons,” and their use in accordance with international law.
However, since the Ministry is unable to trace individual arms, “the sale of individual weapons cannot be excluded with absolute certainty.”
Pfluger said that assurances from local forces that the arms will remain in their possession are “worthless.”
“It is completely perverse that they have to sign a so-called confirmation of retention. That is nothing other than a completely worthless piece of paper because we know that the weapons show up on the markets in Iraq and Syria. In this respect, we say that this commitment must be ended, it is an intensification of the war and is in no way something that creates peace there.”
Peace activist and spokesman for Aktion Aufschrei — Stop the arms trade! Jurgen Grasslin told Sputnik Deutschland that German guns have ended up far removed from their intended destination.
“The federal government usually has no idea where their weapons are actually delivered to, when they are exported. My research, based on (studies of) numerous countries and trips to crisis regions and war zones over the past 30 years, shows clearly that weapons roam. Weapons do not stay in the place where they are delivered.”
Grasslin, author of a book entitled “The Black Book of Arms Trading: How Germany Profits from War” (Schwarzbuch Waffenhandel: Wie Deutschland am Krieg verdient), alleges that German arms deliveries constitute “complicity in murder.”
“If Daesh is firing German weapons, and of course weapons from other countries, that is more than a scandal, it is a breach of the law. It is complicity in murder. You are delivering to a war zone. You know that these weapons don’t stay in the hands of the recipients, and that they land in the hands of the worst terrorist groups, for example Daesh. The people who authorize these arms exports must be named, that is namely members of the Bundessicherheitsrat (Federal Security Council) or Federal Government. The first to be named should be Chancellor Angela Merkel and her deputy Sigmar Gabriel, who lead the Bundessicherheitsrat and are thus responsible for these armed forces.”
Donald Trump needs détente with Russia for precisely the opposite motives to those who oppose him: for the latter, tension with Russia wholly underpins the need for a U.S.-led, global defense posture that can draw on a storied, centuries-old (in the European case), legacy of hostility towards Russia.
The continuance of this global “threat” meme, in its turn, pulls Europe and other pro-Western states into a tighter hug with the U.S. And, last but not least, a globalist defense strategy is an integral component to globalism itself (together with globalist financial institutions, and global economic governance).
At the heart of Trump’s critique of the post-war élites, precisely is the negative impact of globalization on U.S. production, trade and fiscal imbalances, and on the labor market. Trump cites the fact that U.S. industrial capitalism has drastically shifted the locus of its investments, innovations and profits overseas – as the prime example of globalization’s negative effects. To reverse the paradigm, he needs to undo America’s “defense globalization,” which effectively has been the umbrella under which the stealth forces of U.S. financialized globalism, and so-called, “free trade” policies, hide. Détente with Russia therefore, in, and of, itself, would help to dismantle the overarching “globalization paradigm.” This would give the U.S. President a better possibility of instituting a new, more self-sufficient, self-supporting American economy — which is to say, to facilitate the repopulation of the languishing American “Rust Belt“ – with some new, real, economic enterprise.
Détente not only would go a long way to wind back America’s over-extended and often obsolete defense commitments, and to make some of those now-committed “defense” resources newly available for reinvesting in America’s productive capacity needs. But crucially, taking a hammer to the globalized defense paradigm would break down what, until now, has been seen as a homogenized, single, American-led cosmos – into a collection of distinct planets orbiting in a vast space.
This would allow America to cut bilateral trading deals with other states (planets), freed from the need to maintain aloft a global defense “cosmos” primordially dedicated to keeping its “enemy” out, weak and in its own attenuated orbit (with no moons of its own).
President Trump seems to view (even a U.S.-led) global defense “cosmos” as an impediment to his planned transformation of America’s economy: As James Petras has pointed out:
“President Trump emphasizes market negotiations with overseas partners and adversaries. He has repeatedly criticized the mass media and politicians’ mindless promotion of free markets and aggressive militarism as undermining the nation’s capacity to negotiate profitable deals … Trump points to [previous] trade agreements, which have led to huge deficits, and concludes that US negotiators have been failures. He argues that previous US presidents have signed multi-lateral agreements, [primarily] to secure military alliances and bases, [but done so] at the expense of negotiating job-creating economic pacts … He wants to tear up, or renegotiate unfavourable economic treaties while reducing US overseas military commitments; and demands NATO allies [should] shoulder more of their own defence budgets.”
In short, Trump does not particularly want defense solidarity, or even European alliances, come to that. Simply said, such groupings serve (in his view) to inhibit America’s ability to negotiate, on a case-by-case, individual state-to-state, basis – and thus, by using leverage specific to each nation, achieve better terms of trade for America. He would prefer to deal with Europe piecemeal – and not as composite NATO or E.U. “cosmos,” but as the individual recipient (or not) of U.S. defense protection: a negotiating card, which he believes has been inadequately levered by previous administrations.
Remove the “Russian threat” from the game, and then America’s ability to offer – or withdraw – American defense shield becomes a hugely potent “card” which can be used to lever improved trade deals for the U.S., or the repatriation of jobs. In short, Trump’s foreign policy essentially is about trade policy and negotiation advantage, in support of his domestic agenda.
Seen against this background, Russian fears that Trump’s détente initiative cannot be trusted because his true underlying aim is to drive a wedge into the China-Russia-Iran strategic alliance may be misplaced. Trump wants détente with Russia, but that does not necessarily mean that he wants “war” with China. It is not plausible that Trump should want war with China. He wants trade; he believes in trade, but only on “equal” terms – and in any case, China simply doesn’t carry a legacy of China-phobia in any way comparable to the weight and longevity of the Western investment in Russo-phobia. There is no constituency for war with China.
This does not however mean that Russians have nothing to fear, and that Fyodor Lukyanov’s concerns about American wedge-driving, should be dismissed. They should not. But rather the fears, perhaps, should be contextualized differently.
As Paul Craig Roberts, the former Assistant Secretary to the U.S. Treasury, puts it:
“President Trump says he wants the US to have better relations with Russia and to halt military operations against Muslim countries. But he is being undermined by the Pentagon. The commander of US forces in Europe, General Ben Hodges, has lined up tanks on Poland’s border with Russia and fired salvos that the general says are a message to Russia, not a training exercise [see here] … How is Trump going to normalize relations with Russia when the commander of US forces in Europe is threatening Russia with words and deeds?”
And now we have General Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, and well known as an Iranophobe, saying, “As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice”:
Statement by the National Security Advisor
“Recent Iranian actions, including a provocative ballistic missile launch and an attack against a Saudi naval vessel conducted by Iran-supported Houthi militants, underscore what should have been clear to the international community all along about Iran’s destabilizing behavior across the Middle East.
“The recent ballistic missile launch is also in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which calls upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.
“These are just the latest of a series of incidents in the past six months in which Houthi forces that Iran has trained and armed have struck Emirati and Saudi vessels, and threatened U.S. and allied vessels transiting the Red Sea. In these and other similar activities, Iran continues to threaten U.S. friends and allies in the region. Iran continues to threaten U.S. friends and allies in the region…
“As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.”
Add to that statement the upsurge of violence in eastern Ukraine, most probably intentionally provoked by Kiev, and a botched U.S. military operation in Yemen that killed a Navy Seal, 8-year-old Nawar al-Awlaki and “numerous” civilians, and one might conclude that the combination of events are just too much of a coincidence.
Paul Craig Roberts further suggests that “the military/security complex is using its puppets-on-a-string in the House and Senate to generate renewed conflict with Iran, and to continue threats against China” to put a spoke in Trump’s wheel:
“Trump cannot simultaneously make peace with Russia and make war on Iran and China. The Russian government is not stupid. It will not sell out China and Iran for a deal with the West. Iran is a buffer against jihadism spilling into Muslim populations in the Russian Federation. China is Russia’s most important military and economic strategic ally against a renewal of US hostility toward Russia by Trump’s successor, assuming Trump succeeds in reducing US/Russian tensions. The neoconservatives with their agenda of US world hegemony and their alliance with the military-security complex, will outlast the Trump administration” [… and Russia knows this].
No Free Hand
U.S. Presidents – even one such as Trump (who has given very few hostages to fortune during his campaign) – do not have a completely free hand in their choice of key cabinet members: sometimes circumstances demand that a key domestic interest is represented.
The endorsement of General James Mattis from the defense and security Establishment, for example, suggests that he has been wished upon President Trump in order to attend to U.S. security interests. Trump will understand that.
The question rather is whether Trump – in his choice of certain senior posts (i.e. that of General Flynn) – inadvertently, has laid himself open himself to manipulation by his Deep State enemies who are determined to torpedo détente with Russia.
Professor Walter Russell Mead in a recent Foreign Affairs article underlines just how deeply contrarian is Trump’s foreign policy. It runs directly counter to the two principal schools of U.S. policy thinking since WW2 (the Hamiltonians and the Wilsonians), who “both focused on achieving a stable international system with the United States as “the gyroscope of world order.” It is, as Walter Russell Mead describes it, a cultural legacy that is deeply embedded in the American psyche. It is doubtful whether Generals Mattis and Flynn, or others in the team, fully appreciate or endorse the full scope of Trump’s intended revolution. True belief, perhaps, is confined to a small circle around the President, led by Steve Bannon.
In any event, whether by external design or “inadvertent” happenstance, President Trump has two key members of his team, Flynn and Mattis, who are explicit belligerents towards Iran (see here on Mattis on Iran. It is however, less extreme, than the explicit manicheanism of Flynn).
Paul Craig Roberts says that “Trump cannot simultaneously make peace with Russia and make war on Iran and China.” That is true. But neither can Trump pursue his war on Islamic radicalism – the principal plank of his foreign policy platform – and in parallel, pursue a Flynn-esque antagonism towards Iran.
Trump will not co-opt Russia as an “aerial bombing” partner in such a regional war, while America is simultaneously attacking the only “boots-on-the-ground” security architecture that now exists in the Middle East capable of confronting Takfiri jihadism: the Syrian, Iranian, Hashad al-Shaabi and Hezbullah armed forces. There is none other.
It seems that President Trump’s weekend phone call to President Putin has quieted some of Russia’s concerns about the direction of America’s foreign policy, according to Gilbert Doctorow, but Rex Tillerson (now that he has been confirmed as Secretary of State) will need to have a serious discussion with Trump and his inner circle, and colleagues Mattis and Flynn, if Trump does not want his discreet dismantling of globalization disrupted by Russo-phobes – or his own Irano-phobes.
This assumes, of course, that Tillerson is not himself at least partly culturally embedded in the zeitgeist of America as the “gyroscope of the world order,” identified by Walter Russell Mead.
The problem for visionaries of any new order is that inevitably they start with such a tiny base of followers who really “get it.” President Putin likely does “get it,” but can he too dare build from such a narrow base? Can Putin convince colleagues? Most Russians still recall the very bad experience of the Yeltsin détente with America. Can Trump and Tillerson pull this together?
Alastair Crooke is a former British diplomat who was a senior figure in British intelligence and in European Union diplomacy. He is the founder and director of the Conflicts Forum.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May will use the upcoming EU summit in Malta to demand Europe strengthen its commitment to NATO and spend more on defence.
May is expected to conduct a series of one-on-one meetings with EU leaders, including Germany’s Angela Merkel and Spain’s Mariano Rajoy, in order to secure “new, positive and constructive” relationships with the Union.
The prime minister, however, is not expected to attend the part of the talks in which Brexit will be discussed. Instead, she is using the summit as an opportunity to press the EU’s NATO members to fulfil their defence expenditure requirements.
According to a 2016 NATO report, only five of its 28 members actually reached the required defence spending limit of two percent. The list of those failing to spend enough includes Germany, France, and Spain.
Britain’s push for Europe to open its wallet comes after a meeting between Theresa May and US President Donald Trump last Friday.
At a joint press conference, May agreed with Trump that NATO spending should be “fairly shared” among its members.
Trump has in the past criticised NATO as being “obsolete” and “costing too much money.”
The president has also suggested that the US may not come to the assistance of NATO members who do not satisfy the two percent requirement.
May, however insisted she had received a “100 percent” commitment to NATO from the Trump administration. She also promised to “encourage fellow European leaders” to comply with their obligations.
It remains unclear how Britain will convince EU leaders to increase defence spending, as relations with Brussels have been significantly affected by Brexit. One possible way might be to emphasise the threat to European security that is supposedly posed by Russia.
Earlier this week, UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon urged other NATO states to fulfil defence spending targets in order to effectively counter alleged Russian attempts to destabilise the continent.
Fallon has accused Russia of “becoming a strategic competitor to the West” and mounting a sophisticated information and cyber campaign against various NATO members.
Moscow has categorically denied these allegations, describing them as “baseless” and a “witch hunt.”
The first moves by the new US president, Donald Trump, have demonstrated that he is taking his campaign promises seriously and is working to fundamentally restructure the American economic system.
Changes that were seen immediately after Trump’s inauguration: the official White House website deleted its pages that formerly proclaimed support for sexual minorities and the fight against climate change, instead reaffirming its commitment to the goals of energy independence, increased economic growth, and bringing jobs back to the US.
An executive order was signed to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Economic Partnership. This presidential decision received the immediate and unqualified support of the biggest American labor unions – the AFL-CIO and the Teamsters – once considered Democratic strongholds and which had previously been wary of Trump. Geopolitics is giving way to geoeconomics.
On Jan. 24 Trump met with the heads of the three largest US automakers: General Motors; Ford; and Fiat Chrysler, urging them to expand production in the US rather than abroad. He warned that he would attempt to introduce a 35% import tariff on any company that moved its manufacturing overseas and then imported its products back into the US. But if they agreed to his demands, he promised «big league» regulatory and tax relief in order to give American companies an incentive not to move their plants abroad.
All of these actions are evidence of Trump’s determination to limit the expansion of the virtual economy and to begin the country’s reindustrialization. The transformations he has envisioned are so sweeping that it is more fitting to speak of a whole new stage of technological evolution, rather than merely a new approach. It appears that herein lies the root causes of the fierce resistance to Trump found among the ranks of the «global elite».
It would be an oversimplification to think that the new president is bent on taking America backward. His logic is the logic of a new industrialism, in which material production retains its innovative features, but produces tangible, rather than virtual assets. It is, in any case, a move away from a «bubble economy». According to Trump, the economy of a powerful country like the US should be deeply diversified, not one-dimensional as it has become.
There is currently quite a popular school of thought that claims that our society is at a particular stage of technological evolution (some consider this the «third», while others – the «fifth»), which is based on the development of digital technology. A transition to the next phase should be in the offing, which will be dominated by nano- and biotechnology. And the first to make the transition wins. The US has structured its development since the 1970s in accordance with this linear blueprint. It seemed attractive to focus on the high value-added information business, relegating dirty and labor-intensive manufacturing to other countries. The prevailing view – supported by the ideology of globalism – held that since IT-technology originated in the US, Americans would always call the shots.
This self-confidence has undermined the economic foundations of US power. The rest of the human race has risen to meet the Americans’ challenge successfully. A plurality of economic «poles» is appropriate for a politically multipolar world, but the fact that other economic «power centers» are banking on building more multifaceted economic systems is even more important.
Many years ago the US lost its position as a world leader in the production of material goods, and it survives mainly as a broker of financial and technological services, and also thanks to its virtual economy. Manufacturing and agriculture make up only 20% of US GDP – approximately $3.6 trillion out of $18 trillion. In China, those sectors are responsible for half of GDP, or $5.5 trillion out of $11 trillion. In this respect, the Chinese are already seriously outpacing the Americans – and that is according to the current exchange rate, without adjusting to take into account purchasing power parity, which would show that China is even further ahead of the US.
Liberal economists will say that in today’s economy, national wealth depends not so much on material output as on the development of the tertiary sector – the provision of services to final consumers or to other businesses, as well as the securing of patents, standards, etc. And this is true when speaking of the prosperity of the general public, but sovereign power is predicated upon quantities of material goods. And that low output affects, for example, export figures, and consequently – a nation’s ability to maintain an economic presence in the world. America’s total foreign-trade numbers now lag behind those of China, but even those indices are mainly based on imports – when it comes to exports the US is not even in second place. The EU exported $2.26 trillion worth of goods in 2014 (excluding intra-EU trade), China (in 2016) – $2.02 trillion (plus exports to Hong Kong – $0.49 trillion), and the US – $1.47 trillion. The global leader, which is only the third-largest exporter, is condemned to rely on military force to preserve its status, which is in turn detrimental to its ability to remain competitive.
There was an assumption that the decline in material production would be offset by the IT sector, but that is not happening. The Chinese company Lenovo became the global leader in PC sales in 2012, overtaking its biggest rival – America’s Hewlett-Packard. And in 2014, Lenovo took top honors for its sales of laptops as well. The world’s largest manufacturer of telecommunications equipment is also a Chinese company – Huawei, beating out the international giant Ericsson in 2012. And India is on its way to dominating the global software industry.
The emphasis on the virtual economy has also had unforeseen political consequences. For example, the concept of «soft power» is widely believed to be able to offset certain weakened or absent elements of a state’s traditional economic power. But conversely, the enthusiasm for «soft power» has evolved into an ideologization of foreign policy, replacing standard diplomatic tools with ubiquitous manipulation. As a result, US foreign policy is now faced with an even larger number of problems and conflicts. Paradoxically, despite its proclaimed «softness», Washington has increasingly been forced to resort to «hard» interventions abroad in order to maintain its global hegemony.
Trump’s answer to this appears quite reasonable. A country that is fully developed does not need additional proof of its power in the form of interventions. The rest of the world will recognize its real power and always take that into account. As international politics become less ideological, they will also become less prone to conflict.
But it is still too early to judge whether Trump is up to this task. Given the global dissemination of information technologies, it would hardly be possible, for example, to completely «reverse» financial globalization. Trump’s America needs partners, but they should not be chosen with the idea of «teaming up against someone», but with the goal of «teaming up for the sake of something». And there can be no question that Russia has its own interests and its own niche in that.
Norway has summoned Russia’s ambassador to explain why two of its legislators were denied entry visas. Though the officials were placed on “counter-sanctions” lists and denied entry long ago, Norway has somehow found the rejections “incomprehensible.”
An official note containing the same objections preceded the ambassador’s summoning.
“The Foreign Ministry today summoned the Russian ambassador to repeat the protests,” the Norwegian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.
Norway’s Foreign Minister Børge Brende condemned Russia’s denial of the visas in strong terms. The rejected legislators are Bård Vegar Solhjell, the leader of Norway’s Socialist Left party, and Trine Skei Grande, the leader of the country’s Liberal Party.
“These are two distinguished, top-level Norwegian officials, excellent representatives of Norway,” Brende told the reporters, saying “it’s incomprehensible that they not be allowed to enter Russia.”
Although the minister acknowledged that Russia has the right to determine who can enter the country, saying that it’s “obviously up to every country to decide who can enter,” he slammed the denial as “biased, unreasonable and inconceivable.”
The Russian embassy in Oslo has confirmed that the visa requests were rejected as a part of a “mirror response” to Norway adopting the same sanctions that the EU has imposed on Russian citizens, as well as policies discriminating against Russian citizens who want to visit Spitsbergen island.
The list of officials from the EU and other countries who have been banned from entering Russia was provided to Brussels well ahead of time, with advice to inform all those affected, a Russian embassy spokesman stressed. Norway’s FM himself has admitted that the denials were something to be “expected” and that Norway’s reaction to the visa rejections thus appears quite surprising.
Coincidently, the outrage over Russia’s “hostile actions” came just hours after the country’s Police Security Service (PST) determined that Russia poses a “major threat” to Norway, along with Islamism.
Norway joined the EU’s sanctions against Russia and Russian citizens back in 2014 in response to what it called “Russia’s violations of human rights in Ukraine.” The situation escalated in April of 2015 when Russia’s Deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin visited Norway’s Island of Spitsbergen while on a trip to open the ‘North Pole-2015’ station. Norwegian authorities were riled by the visit, as Rogozin was on Europe’s anti-Russia sanction list.
Norway then adopted a measure authorizing the immediate deportation of sanctioned Russian citizens from the archipelago. Though Russia’s Foreign Ministry has protested the regulation, calling it discriminatory and in violation of an agreement on international cooperation on Spitsbergen, it was made permanent last September.