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China may finance Russia’s natural gas pipeline to Europe

RT | June 22, 2017

Gazprom’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline may get Chinese financing if European companies are forced out of the project by the latest round of US sanctions, business daily Vedomosti reports.

Russian officials have already contacted Chinese banks, sources have told the media.

“Nord Stream 2 has a good rate of return and low risks for creditors. Chinese banks may be interested,” explains Aleksey Grivach, deputy CEO at Russia’s National Energy Security Fund.

The extension will double the existing pipeline which delivers natural gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea and is estimated to cost €9.5 billion.

Initially, Engie, OMV, Royal Dutch Shell, Uniper, and Wintershall were to get a 50 percent stake minus one share in Nord Stream 2. However, red tape at the European Commission made Gazprom and its partners come up with another financing option. Under this plan, European companies will each provide an equal long-term loan to Gazprom, which will fully own the pipeline.

Financing of Nord Stream 2 may be affected by new US sanctions which target firms investing in Russian gas and oil projects. According to the new bill passed by the US Senate, and currently, before the House of Representatives, companies will be forbidden from making investments of over $1 million in the Russian energy sector.

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin met the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, Ben van Beurden. Among other things, they discussed Nord Stream 2. Van Beurden told Interfax the new project “will be realized for the benefit of all parties – both Europeans and the Russian Federation.”

June 22, 2017 Posted by | Economics | , , | Leave a comment

Ever Closer to War

By Brian CLOUGHLEY | Strategic Culture Foundation | 21.06.2017

The Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has warned that the likelihood of a catastrophic nuclear war is closer than since 1953. As explained by the Bulletin, in 1947 it devised the Doomsday Clock «using the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero) to convey threats to humanity and the planet».

Each year «the decision to move (or to leave in place) the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock is made by the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 15 Nobel laureates». In 1953 the Clock was at two minutes to midnight. In the worst years of the cold war it was at 3 minutes to midnight when, in 1984 it was recorded that «US-Soviet relations reach their iciest point in decades. Dialogue between the two superpowers virtually stops. Every channel of communications has been constricted or shut down; every form of contact has been attenuated or cut off…»

And now, in 2017, it is apparent that channels of communication with Russia are being deliberately cut off — and the hands of the Doomsday Clock have been placed at just two-and-a-half minutes from midnight.

Disaster looms.

And as it looms, the United States Senate is heightening its global confrontational approach and announced that it intends to penalise Russia for a number of supposed misdemeanours.

Senator Lindsey Graham told CBS News that the Senate will «punish Russia for interfering in our elections» — concerning which allegation there has not been one shred of proof provided by anyone. All-embracing inquiries are under way, of course, but be assured that if there were the slightest, tiniest, most microscopic morsel of actual proof of any interference, it would by now have been leaked to the media and made headline news.

Senator Graham excelled himself by telling President Trump, via CBS News, that «You’re the commander in chief. You need to stand up to Russia. We’re never going to reset our relationship with Russia until we punish them for trying to destroy democracy. And that starts with more sanctions».

Then the CBS interviewer brought up the subject of the many inquiries into allegations of Trump-Russia plotting and mentioned that a Democrat had said the investigations were a «fishing expedition… What’s your response to that?»

The Senator replied «That’s not your, none of your business. We’re going to do what we think is best. The Russians interfered in our election. They’re doing it all over the world. No evidence yet that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. I don’t believe the president colluded with the Russians, just because of the way he behaves. There’s zero evidence that President Trump did anything wrong with the Russians. There’s overwhelming evidence that Russia is trying to destroy democracy here and abroad. And if you forgive and forget with Putin, you’re going to get more of the same and you’re going to entice Iran and China to come in 2018 and 2020».

The US Senate believes there is «zero evidence» that President Trump had help from Russia in his election campaign — which is true — but also thinks there is «overwhelming evidence» that Russia is trying to influence voting in America, although there is not a shred of proof to that effect.

The Senator spoke with the authority, force and majesty of the US Senate, and the world has to accept that his pronouncements represent the wishes of the legislators of his mighty nation which is intent on imposing harsher sanctions on Russia. As observed by Forbes, the new Bill «punishes Russian oil and gas firms even more than the current sanctions regime… Russia has no friends on Capitol Hill».

It is intriguing that the sanctions focus on oil and gas production, and Bloomberg reported that Germany and Austria consider «the measures sought to bolster US economic interests and included an unacceptable intervention in the region’s energy sector». In an unprecedented expression — indeed, explosion — of disapproval, Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Austria’s Chancellor Christian Kern said in a joint statement that «Europe’s energy supply is a matter for Europe, not the United States of America… instruments for political sanctions should not be tied to economic interests» and that the Senate’s amendment heralded a «new and very negative quality in European-American relations».

As London’s Financial Times reported, «the Russia sanctions outline opposition to Nord Stream 2, a pipeline that will double capacity for Gazprom… to supply gas to Europe under the Baltic Sea. The measures could affect European energy companies, including Shell, Engie and OMV, which are financing the pipeline. Shares in all four companies tumbled on Thursday».

Washington’s mission of lucrative destruction was partly achieved, but that’s where we come to the essence of the matter. The part of the Sanctions Bill involving Russia was an add-on to a series of vindictive measures against Iran, but it seemed a good idea to also sanction Russia’s oil and gas production, because nobody would benefit more than the oil and gas companies of the United States.

Bloomberg explained that the Nord Stream pipeline «would compete with US exports of liquefied natural gas to Europe». And the Senate made it plain that the US government «should prioritize the export of United States energy resources in order to create American jobs, help United States allies and partners, and strengthen United States foreign policy».

It’s difficult to see how the Senate’s arrogant dabbling might «help allies and partners,» but those in America who own energy resources and want to continue making vast profits continue to help their allies and partners in the Senate and the House. Without their financial support, many legislators would never have got to Washington.

As recorded by Open Secrets, companies closely associated with oil and gas production gave US politicians over fifty million dollars in 2015-2016 to help their democratic election:

Top Contributors, 2015-2016

Contributor Amount
Koch Industries $9,501,803
Chevron Corp $5,116,216
Ariel Corp $4,809,612
Stewart & Stevenson $4,127,231
Western Refining $4,067,802
Petrodome Energy $3,000,000
Chief Oil & Gas $2,977,493
Hunt Companies $2,709,917
Marathon Petroleum $2,398,781
Edison Chouest Offshore $2,198,872
Energy Transfer Equity $2,164,853
Kinder Morgan Inc $2,112,160
American Petroleum Institute $2,085,345
Exxon Mobil $2,065,787
Occidental Petroleum $1,855,908
Devon Energy $1,811,364
Otis Eastern $1,733,017
Honeywell International $1,461,284
Anadarko Petroleum $1,343,741
Red Apple Group $1,218,312

Source: By kind permission of the Center for Responsive Politics

And Senator Lindsay Graham was given a bundle by many commercial organisations, headed by Nelson, Mullins, whose $254,247 in 1993-2016 no doubt helped him along the way. Nelson Mullins, incidentally, has attorneys who «have experience in advising electrical and pipeline providers on legal matters». Then he got $175,605 from SCANA, which is «a $9 billion energy-based holding company, based in Cayce, South Carolina… Its businesses include… natural gas utility operations and other energy-related businesses». Another of Senator Graham’s generous sponsors is the Fluor Corporation ($94,801) which «understands the critical success factors driving onshore oil and gas production and terminal businesses, providing practical solutions to maximize project investment».

It doesn’t matter to these people, or to the legislators they’ve bought with their donations, that the Doomsday Clock has ticked closer to the midnight of Armageddon, and that the hostile approach of the United States is alienating a proud nation that can take only so much before it reacts against Washington’s aggressive confrontation. The sleazy hypocrisy of US legislators is legendary, but it is their ignorance greed and arrogance that are worrying.

While Senator Graham was dancing to the tune of his oil angels, the Washington Post reported that seven percent of American adults believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows. That is «16.4 million misinformed, milk-drinking people». The representative of FoodCorps which encourages sensible nourishment said this was unfortunate, and «We still get kids who are surprised that a French fry comes from a potato, or that a pickle is a cucumber. Knowledge is power. Without it, we can’t make informed decisions».

Just like the US Senate.

June 21, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

EU: Another Step Down the Slippery Slope

By Andrei AKULOV | Strategic Culture Foundation | 19.06.2017

The EU Commission has launched legal action against Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland which refused to take in refugees from Italy and Greece. The three EU states have acted «in breach of their legal obligations», the Commission said in a statement, adding that it had previously warned the countries to observe «their commitments to Greece, Italy and other member states». The three member states «have not yet relocated a single person», the statement says. The EU members under fire remain defiant.

In September 2015, the EU committed to relocating up to 160,000 refugees from the two countries within two years. However, not all EU states have found the measures acceptable, saying that the migrant crisis cannot be solved through obligatory quotas. Hungary and Slovakia are currently challenging the decision in the EU Court of Justice, and an advocate-general of the court will issue an opinion on July 26. Slovakia was able to avoid legal action against it by responding to EU warnings and opening its doors to a small group of migrants.

Only 20,869 of the 160,000 refugees have so far been relocated in the EU. More than 1.6 million asylum seekers have arrived in Europe since the start of the refugee crisis in 2014.

Now the Commission has launched infringement procedures against the three nations refusing to comply, before possibly referring them to the top European court. The legal battle could last many months or, even, years. As a result, the three states could be imposed financial penalties.

The very fact of launching legal procedures heats up tensions inside the EU at the time the bloc is going through a period of instability and uncertainty, with its unity tested by Brexit, weak economies and growing support for Eurosceptic and nationalist-minded parties.

Perhaps, it’s easier to pay fines than take in refugees and face grave security problems as a result. Going to the bottom of it – it’s not fines that really matter. All the countries opposing the EU migration policy are net beneficiaries of EU funding. A mood is developing among the older EU members to withhold cohesion funds from countries that oppose the relocation of refugees, although no legal basis for this actually exists. But if it starts, the EU will become a battlefield to make the vaunted unity a pipedream. If the events turn this way, the EU will become very much different from what it is today.

The Visegrád countries (V4) – Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary – have found common ground in recent years opposing the EU’s relocation policy and rejecting the idea of a two-speed Europe, but also in advocating the preservation of the Union’s cohesion policy. Indeed, why should East Europeans share the burden of the immigration crisis, especially in view that security policy is a national, not European, competence? These countries call for strengthening of the national states in EU decision-making process.

Poland and Hungary have joined together recently to oppose Brussels stance on human rights.

The V4 also oppose the two-speed» and «multi-speed» concepts supported by EU founders. They believe that the idea would turn them into «second class» members of the bloc.

The «East European revolt» is just part of a bigger process with deepening EU divisions and alliances being formed inside the alliance.

Prospect for the future? The situation inside the EU has bleak prospects for improvement. It calls for a closer look at the recent developments inside the EU. In February, the European Parliament backed three resolutions on strengthening centralization of the bloc. One of the resolutions proposes limiting or even totally abolishing the right of individual member states not to comply with collective decisions – just exactly what the East European members oppose so vehemently. The adoption of the resolutions may be the first step towards a fundamental change in the EU Treaty.

In February, leaders of the lower chambers of parliaments of Germany, Italy, France, and Luxembourg published a letter demanding a «Federal Union» be implemented without delay. It was published by Italian La Stampa on February 27. They call for «closer political integration — the Federal Union of States with broad powers. «Those who believe in European ideals, should be able to give them a new life instead of helplessly observing its slow sunset», the paper reads.

The idea to create a «common European defense» is a dubious endeavor; it presupposes additional financial burden at the time the US increases pressure to make Europeans raise NATO expenditure. Add to this the need to pay more for the migrants against the background of stagnating economy to see how unrealistic all these plans are. Europeans have already been made pay more for US liquefied gas for political reasons, while Russia can offer supplies at much lower prices.

Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian Prime Minister and European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, believes that the European Union must reform, or face the risk of collapse as a result of internal and external challenges. Noam Chomsky, a prominent US scholar, has predicted that the EU will disintegrate. The EU will collapse in 2017, predicts Mark Blyth, a lecturer in political economy at Brown University in the US, known for forecasts to come true.

The event marks a turning point in EU history. This is the first time EU members will face legal procedures for non-compliance with the rules established by Brussels. It shows how the migration crisis has divided the bloc. The process will not die away, migrants will continue their route north to the wealthier countries and the tensions inside the EU will grow. Rival blocs and perpetuate divisions will not disappear, turning the EU into a patchwork of blocs within blocs. The project of European integration does not look viable anymore. Legal actions cannot bridge the differences dividing its members.

June 19, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mission Complete: What the US Really Had in Mind for Ukraine

A simmering conflict in the center of Europe, which can be re-ignited at any time

Sputnik – June 14, 2017

On Tuesday, political specialists from the Moscow-based advisory group Foreign Policy presented their report on four possible scenarios for the further development of Ukraine. Sputnik Radio discussed the suggested scenarios with political analyst Vladimir Zharikhin, who also explained what the US has already completed in the country.

On Tuesday, Nikolai Silaev, Senior Researcher at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and Research Director for Foreign Policy, and Andrei Sushentsov, the Valdai Club’s Program Director and a managing partner with Foreign Policy presented their report on four possible scenarios for the further development of Ukraine.Russia’s Kommersant newspaper obtained a copy of the analysis. The authors suggest that both a large hot war and a comprehensive political settlement of the Donbass separatist crisis are equally unlikely to happen in Ukraine in the nearest future.

They put forward the four scenarios they deem possible for the future of the country, based on the assumption that Ukraine will take a back seat in the agendas of the major players – the US, EU and Russia. The authors specifically note that there are no longer people who are interested in Ukraine within US President Trump’s circle, as Joe Biden and Victoria Nuland had been during the Obama administration.

“Without the supervision of the US, the government in Kiev resumed its military and political experiments in Donbass in January-February 2017,” the paper notes.

“The Ukrainian crisis continues to evolve within the boundaries of the constants defined by the spring of 2015: a large hot war is unlikely, the settlement [of the crisis] is frozen, and the Minsk agreements remain the basis of the political process,” the newspaper quotes the report as saying.

The first of the scenarios, entitled “movement in the rut”, suggests the retention of political stability in the country at its current level and ongoing support of the Ukrainian government by the West. The Western leaders, however, silently recognize the weakness of President Poroshenko, the failure of any reforms and the escalating struggle between different political forces.A large-scale offensive of the Ukrainian army in Donbass is unlikely as Kiev fears its defeat.

The second scenario, “Kiev on a trailer,” suggests internal political destabilization in the country. In its mild form, it is a confrontation between the President and the new country’s parliament, due to be formed after early parliamentary elections. In its acute form, it evolves into massive street protests, including armed conflicts, the threat of a coup and the collapse of government agencies.

Under this scenario, the settlement in Donbass is fully blocked, amid an increased risk of the resumption of large-scale military operations. In this case the West can become hostage to its own sluggish foreign policy regarding Ukraine.

In the third variant, “Collapse and indifference,” the US and EU are less interested in Ukraine. Financial aid from the West is shrinking, and Kiev’s authorities face the immediate threat of a new macroeconomic catastrophe. Western mainstream media and politicians criticize Kiev for failed reforms, uncontrolled political violence and the growing influence of radical nationalists.

The summary: the ruling circles lose their key source of power – explicit support from the West. It is no longer possible or becomes very difficult to continue “selling” the conflict in the east of the country as the “defense of Europe from Russian aggression.”

The final scenario, “A threat of isolation”: the political regime in Kiev maintains stability, however its support from the West is declining. The OSCE representatives, leaders of Germany and France (part of the Normandy Four group) publicly nod and comment on situations when Ukraine’s actions contradict its obligations under the Minsk agreements and prevent the settlement of the conflict in Donbass.

“In the rhetoric of the Western politicians, the issue of lifting anti-Russian sanctions is being increasingly separated from the issue of the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis,” the report says. However there are no pre-conditions for the early parliamentary elections. The authorities are still able to keep the country under control. The political influence of the right-wing armed groups is waning. The shelling of Donbass and armed incidents at the line of contact both ebb.

In conclusion, the report suggests that the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis is possible only in the event of a compromise among all the external players. However, the compromise is highly unlikely: Russia does not want Ukraine to be consolidated along Western and anti-Russian lines. The West doesn’t want Ukraine to be consolidated along pro-Russian lines.

Funeral of militia men in Donetsk Region
© Sputnik/ Gennady Dubovoy
The Ukrainian government, in turn, will remain divided over the two options for consolidation. Meanwhile, the external players should take into account the possibility of a new spiral of the Ukrainian crisis amid the electoral cycle of 2018. There is every chance for the repetition of the so-called Euromaidan scenario.

“It is in everyone’s common interest not to turn Ukraine into a battlefield between Russia and the West,” the authors therefore concluded.

Radio Sputnik discussed the report with Deputy Director of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) Institute Vladimir Zharikhin, who suggested that the first scenario is the most probable.

“Unfortunately the Ukrainian leadership has lost its subjectivity, or personality, long ago. I mean that the key decisions in Ukraine are made not by the Ukrainian leaders but by external players. If we suggest that the events will continue to develop in the way they are doing now, the first scenario is the most probable,” he told Sputnik.

The political analyst also noted what the US has already completed in Ukraine.

“Any speculations regarding whether the West has become tired of Ukraine and whether it will now leave it alone have no grounds. The Western countries, at least the US, have completed what they were initially after: they have created a simmering conflict in the center of Europe, which can be re-ignited at any time. However, from their point of view, it’s best to let it simmer for a while,” Zharikhin said.

The expert also pointed out that the Ukrainian conflict won’t resolve itself.

“If the Ukrainian authorities try to follow the wisdom of Chinese general Sun Tzu ‘If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by,’ those are irrelevant illusions. They won’t float by,” Zharikhin said.

The political analyst, however, noted that no matter how paradoxical it sounds, the Ukrainian authorities nevertheless strengthen their authority.

“The Ukrainian leaders are destroying their country, but strengthening their own authority. Through destroying of the remains of the democratic order in the country, tightening their authority and intimidating the population, they consolidate power,” he concluded.

SEE ALSO:

Cold Rolled Facts: Ukraine No Longer Top-10 Steel Maker, Metallurgy Sector Dying

Over 10,000 Killed, Nearly 24,000 Injured in Ukraine’s Conflict Since 2014 – UN

June 14, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Putin, Ukraine and What Americans Know

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | June 13, 2017

A prime example of how today’s mainstream media paradigm works in the U.S. is the case of Ukraine, where Americans have been shielded from evidence that the 2014 ouster of democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych was a U.S.-supported coup d’etat spearheaded by violent neo-Nazi extremists.

As The New York Times has instructed us, there was no coup in Ukraine; there was no U.S. interference; and there weren’t even that many neo-Nazis. And, the ensuing civil conflict wasn’t a resistance among Yanukovych’s supporters to his illegal ouster; no, it was “Russian aggression” or a “Russian invasion.”

If you deviate from this groupthink – if you point out how U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland talked about the U.S. spending $5 billion on Ukraine; if you mention her pre-coup intercepted phone call with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt discussing who the new leaders would be and how “to glue” or how “to “midwife this thing”; if you note how Nuland and Sen. John McCain urged on the violent anti-Yanukovych protesters; if you recognize that snipers firing from far-right-controlled buildings killed both police and protesters to provoke the climactic ouster of Yanukovych; and if you think all that indeed looks like a coup – you obviously are the victim of “Russian propaganda and disinformation.”

But most Americans probably haven’t heard any of that evidence revealing a coup, thanks to the mainstream U.S. media, which has essentially banned those deviant facts from the public discourse. If they are mentioned at all, they are lumped together with “fake news” amid the reassuring hope that soon there will be algorithms to purge such troublesome information from the Internet.

So, if Americans tune in to Part Three of Oliver Stone’s “The Putin Interviews” on “Showtime” and hear Russian President Vladimir Putin explain his perspective on the Ukraine crisis, they may become alarmed that Putin, leader of a nuclear-armed country, is delusional.

A Nuanced Perspective

In reality, Putin’s account of the Ukraine crisis is fairly nuanced. He notes that there was genuine popular anger over the corruption that came to dominate Ukraine after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991 and the selling off of the nation’s assets to well-connected “oligarchs.”

Putin recognizes that many Ukrainians felt that an association with the European Union could help solve their problems. But that created a problem for Russia because of the absence of tariffs between Russia and Ukraine and concerns about the future of bilateral trade that is especially important to Ukraine, which stood to lose some $160 billion.

When Yanukovych decided to postpone the E.U. agreement so he could iron out that problem, protests erupted, Putin said. But — from that point on — Putin’s narrative deviates from what the U.S. government and mainstream media tell the American people.

“Our European and American partners managed to mount this horse of discontent of the people and instead of trying to find out what was really happening, they decided to support the coup d’etat,” Putin said.

Contrary to the U.S. claims blaming Yanukovych for the violence in the Maidan protests, Putin said, “Yanukovych didn’t give an order to use weapons against civilians. And incidentally, our Western partners, including the United States, asked us to influence him so that he did not give any orders to use weapons. They told us, ‘We ask you to prevent President Yanukovych from using the armed forces.’ And they promised … they were going to do everything for the opposition to clear the squares and the administrative buildings.

“We said, ‘Very well, that is a good proposal. We are going to work on it.’ And, as you know, President Yanukovych didn’t resort to using the Armed Forces. And President Yanukovych said that he couldn’t imagine any other way of dealing with this situation. He couldn’t sign an order on the use of weapons.”

Though Putin did not specifically finger blame for the sniper fire on Feb. 20, 2014, which killed more than a dozen police and scores of protesters, he said, “Well, who could have placed these snipers? Interested parties, parties who wanted to escalate the situation. … We have information available to us that armed groups were trained in the western parts of Ukraine itself, in Poland, and in a number of other places.”

After the bloodshed of Feb. 20, Yanukovych and opposition leaders on Feb. 21 signed an accord, brokered and guaranteed by three European governments, for early elections and, in the meantime, a reduction of Yanukovych’s powers.

Ignoring a Political Deal

But the opposition, led by neo-Nazi and other extreme nationalist street fighters, brushed aside the agreement and escalated their seizing of government buildings, although The New York Times and other U.S. accounts would have the American people believe that Yanukovych simply abandoned his office.

“That’s the version used to justify the support granted to the coup,” Putin said. “Once the President left for Kharkov, the second largest city in the country to attend an internal political event, armed men seized the Presidential Residence. Imagine something like that in the U.S., if the White House was seized, what would you call that? A coup d’etat? Or say that they just came to sweep the floors?

“The Prosecutor General was shot at, one of the security officers was wounded. And the motorcade of President Yanukovych himself was shot at. So it’s nothing short of an armed seizure of power. Moreover, one day afterwards he used our support and relocated to Crimea (where he stayed for more than a week) thinking that there was still a chance that those who put their signatures on the (Feb. 21) agreement with the opposition would make an attempt to settle this conflict by civilized democratic legal means. But that never happened and it became clear that if he were taken he would be killed.

“Everything can be perverted and distorted, millions of people can be deceived, if you use the monopoly of the media. But in the end, I believe that for an impartial spectator it is clear what has happened – a coup d’etat had taken place.”

Putin noted how the new regime in Kiev immediately sought to limit use of the Russian language and allowed extreme nationalist elements to move against eastern provinces known as the Donbass where ethnic Russians were the vast majority of the population.

Putin continued, “First, there were attempts at arresting them [ethnic Russians] using the police, but the police defected to their side quite quickly. Then the central authorities started to use Special Forces and in the night, people were snatched and taken to prison. Certainly, people in Donbass, after that, they took up arms.

“But once this happened, hostilities started so instead of engaging in dialogue with people in the southeast part of Ukraine, they [Ukraine government officials] used Special Forces, and started to use weapons directly – tanks and even military aircraft. There were strikes from multiple rocket launchers against residential neighborhoods. … We repeatedly appealed to this new leadership asking them to abstain from extreme actions.”

However, the civil conflict only grew worse with thousands of people killed in some of the worst violence that Europe has seen since World War II. In the U.S. mainstream media, however, the crisis was blamed entirely on Putin and Russia.

The Crimea Case

As for the so-called “annexation” of Crimea, a peninsula in the Black Sea that was historically part of Russia and that even after the Soviet break-up hosted a major Russian naval base at Sevastopol, Putin’s account also deviated sharply from what Americans have been told.

When Stone asked about the “annexation,” Putin responded: “We were not the ones to annex Crimea. The citizens of Crimea decided to join Russia. The legitimate parliament of Crimea, which was elected based on the Ukrainian legislation, announced a referendum. The Parliament, by an overwhelming majority, voted to join Russia.

“The coup d’etat in Ukraine was accompanied by a surge in violence. And there was even the threat that violence would be perpetrated by nationalists against Crimea, against those who consider themselves to be Russian and who think Russian is their mother language. And people got concerned — they were preoccupied by their own safety.

“According to the corresponding international agreement [with Ukraine], we had a right to have 20,000 people at our military base in the Crimea. We had to facilitate the work of the Parliament of Crimea, the representative government body, in order for this Parliament to be able to assemble and affect actions in accordance with the law.

“The people had to feel they were safe. Yes, we created conditions for people to go to polling stations, but we did not engage in any hostilities. More than 90 percent of the Crimean population turned out, they voted, and once the ballot was cast, the [Crimean] Parliament, based on the outcome of the referendum, addressed the Russian parliament, asking to incorporate it into the Russian Federation.

“Moreover, Ukraine lost the territory, not due to Russia’s position, but due to the position assumed by those who are living in Crimea. These people didn’t want to live under the banner of nationalists.”

Stone challenged some of Putin’s concerns that Ukraine might have turned the Russian naval base over to NATO. “Even if NATO made an agreement with Ukraine, I still don’t see a threat to Russia with the new weaponry,” Stone said.

Putin responded: “I see a threat. The threat consists in the fact that once NATO comes to this or that country, the political leadership of that country as a whole, along with its population, cannot influence the decisions NATO takes, including the decisions related to stationing the military infrastructure. Even very sensitive weapons systems can be deployed. I’m also talking about the anti-ballistic missile systems.”

Putin also argued that the U.S. government exploited the situation in Ukraine to spread hostile propaganda against Russia, saying:

”Through initiating the crisis in Ukraine, they’ve [American officials] managed to stimulate such an attitude towards Russia, viewing Russia as an enemy, a possible potential aggressor. But very soon everyone is going to understand, that there is no threat whatsoever emanating from Russia, either to the Baltic countries, or to Eastern Europe, or to Western Europe.”

A Dangerous Standoff

Putin shed light, too, on a little-noticed confrontation involving a U.S. destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, that steamed through the Black Sea toward Crimea in the middle of the crisis but turned back when Russian aircraft buzzed the ship and Russia activated its shoreline defense systems.

Stone compared the situation to the Cuban Missile Crisis when a Soviet ship turned back rather than challenge the blockade that President John Kennedy had established around the island. But Putin didn’t see the confrontation with the U.S. destroyers as grave as that.

Putin said, “Once Crimea became a full-fledged part of the Russian Federation, our attitude toward this territory changed dramatically. If we see a threat to our territory, and Crimea is now part of Russia, just as any other country, we will have to protect our territory by all means at our disposal. …

“I wouldn’t draw an analogy with the Cuban Missile Crisis, because back then the world was on the brink of a nuclear apocalypse. Luckily, the situation didn’t go so far this time. Even though we did indeed deploy our most sophisticated, our cutting-edge systems for the coastal defense,” known as the Bastion.

“Certainly – against such missiles as the ones we’ve deployed in Crimea – such a ship as the Destroyer Donald Cook is simply defenseless. … Our Commanders always have the authorization to use any means for the defense of the Russian Federation. … Yes, certainly it would have been very bad. What was the Donald Cook doing so close to our land? Who was trying to provoke whom? And we are determined to protect our territory. …

“Once the destroyer was located and detected, they [the U.S. crew] saw that there was a threat, and the ship itself saw that it was the target of the missile systems. I don’t know who the Captain was, but he showed much restraint, I think he is a responsible man, and a courageous officer to boot. I think it was the right decision that he took. He decided not to escalate the situation. He decided not to proceed. It doesn’t at all mean that it would have been attacked by our missiles, but we had to show them that our coast was protected by the missile systems.

“The Captain sees right away that his ship has become the target of missile systems – he has special equipment to detect such kinds of situations. … But indeed we were brought to the brink, so to speak. … Yes, certainly. We had to respond somehow. Yes, we were open to positive dialogue. We did everything to achieve a political settlement. But they [U.S. officials] had to give their support to this unconstitutional seizure of power. I still wonder why they had to do that?”

It also remains a question why the U.S. mainstream media feels that it must protect the American people from alternative views even as the risks of nuclear confrontation escalate.

Regarding other issues discussed by Putin, click here.

June 14, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

How the Establishment Imposes ‘Truth’

By Gilbert Doctorow | Consortium News | June 12, 2107

For the last quarter century or more, Western foreign policy has claimed to be guided by promotion of “democratic values,” among which none shines brighter than freedom of speech and the related freedom of the press. European Union institutions have repeatedly been quick to denounce authoritarian regimes in the greater European area for arrests or murders of journalists and for the shutting down of media outlets that crossed some government red line.

In the past year, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey may have headed the list in Brussels for such offenses, especially since the crackdown that followed an attempted coup last summer. The E.U.’s supposed guardians of the free press also put Vladimir Putin’s Russia on the short list of countries where journalism is said to be severely constrained.

However, against this backdrop of European moral posturing, there are troubling examples of how the E.U. itself deals with journalists who challenge the dominant groupthinks. The E.U. finds its own excuses to stifle dissent albeit through bloodless bureaucratic maneuvering.

For instance, in April 2016, I wrote about how a documentary challenging the Western narrative of the circumstances surrounding the death of Kremlin critic Sergei Magnitsky in 2009 was blocked from being shown at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium.

The last-minute shutting down of the documentary, “The Magnitsky Act: Behind the Scenes,” was engineered by lawyers for William Browder, the influential chairman of the investment fund Hermitage Capital and an associate of Magnitsky.

Based in London, Browder has been an unrelenting crusader for imposing sanctions on Russian officials allegedly connected to Magnitsky’s death in prison. Browder successfully pushed for the U.S. Congress to approve the 2012 Magnitsky Act and has lobbied the European Parliament to pass a similarly punitive measure.

Then, in April 2016, Browder pulled off a stunning show of force by arranging the cancellation of “The Magnitsky Act” documentary just minutes before invitees entered the auditorium at the European Parliament building for the showing.

Browder blocked the documentary, directed by Andrei Nekrasov, because it carefully examined the facts of the case and raised doubts about Browder’s narrative that Magnitsky was an innocent victim of Russian repression. The E.U.’s powers-that-be, who had fully bought into Browder’s Magnitsky storyline, did nothing to resist Browder’s stifling of a dissenting view.

Which appears to be part of the West’s new approach toward information, that only establishment-approved narratives can be presented to the public; that contrarian analyses that try to tell the other side of a story are dismissed as “fake news” that should rightly be suppressed. (When the Magnitsky documentary got a single showing at the Newseum in Washington, a Washington Post editorial misrepresented its contents and dismissed it as “Russian agitprop,” which was easy to do because almost no one got to see what it said.)

Bureaucratic Runaround

I got my own taste of the E.U.’s bureaucratic resistance to dissent when I applied to the Media Accreditation Committee of the European Commission on March 2 seeking a press pass to act as the Brussels reporter of Consortiumnews.com.

This Committee issues accreditation for all the European Institutions, including the only one of interest to me, the European Parliament. The Committee is a law unto itself, a faceless bureaucratic entity that deals with applicants only via online applications and sends you back anonymous emails. The application process includes several steps that already raise red flags about the Commission’s understanding of what it means to be from the “press” or a “journalist” deserving accreditation in the Twenty-first Century.

First, under the Committee’s rules, a journalist must be a paid employee of the given media outlet. This condition generally cannot be satisfied by “stringers” or “freelancers,” who are paid for each assignment or an individual story, a payment arrangement that has existed throughout the history of journalism but has become more common today, used by mainstream media outlets as well as alternative media, which generally pay little or nothing. I satisfied that requirement with a Paypal credit note from Consortiumnews.

The Commission also must have the media outlet on its approved list. Regarding Consortiumnews, an Internet-based investigative news magazine dating back to 1995 and operating in the Washington D.C. area, the Commission apparently wasn’t sure what to do.

So, like bureaucratic institutions everywhere, the Committee played for time. It was only on June 6 that I received the review of my application. The finding was that 1) I needed to present more proof that my employer is paying me regularly, not just once, and 2) I needed to supply further articles showing that I am not merely published regularly, as was clear from my uploaded articles with the initial application, but that I am published precisely on the subject of activities at the European institutions.

I was assured that pending delivery of these proofs and completion of my request, I could ask for ad hoc accreditation “to the individual institutions for specific press events you would need to cover.”

In fact, I had withheld from my application my most recent published essay on a panel discussion in the E.U. Parliament devoted to censuring Russia’s alleged dissemination of “fake news.” That discussion was run by a Polish MEP and former Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs from the determinedly anti-Russian party of the Kaczynskis. The title of my essay was “Europe is brain dead and on the drip.” I had felt that this particular piece would not further the cause of my press pass.

Still, the insincerity of the E.U. press accreditation committee’s response to my application is perfectly obvious. A journalist can write articles about the European Institutions when he or she has free run of the house via a press pass and can ascertain what is going on of interest. Without a press pass, you do not know what or whom is worth covering.

And in this connection, “specific press events” are among the least desirable things going on at the E.U. for purposes of a genuine practicing journalist. They are useful only for lazy journalists who will send along to their editor the press release and a few canned quotes obtained by showing up at a press briefing in time for the coffee and sandwiches.

In short, I will not be issued a press pass and the Committee will not bother to address the real reason for refusal: that Consortiumnews is not on the Committee’s short list of acceptable media. Not to mince words, this is how the E.U. bureaucracy manages skeptical media and stifles dissenting voices.

NBC’s New Star v. Putin

Meanwhile, the mainstream Western media continues to hammer home its propaganda narratives, especially regarding Russia. Another case study unfolded over the past week with NBC’s new star reporter Megyn Kelly interviewing Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 2 on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

This latest NBC crime against professional journalism becomes apparent when you compare the full version of the interview as it was broadcast on Russia’s RT network and the edited version that NBC aired for its American audience. The most shocking discrepancy involved a segment in which Kelly aggressively questioned Putin about what she said was Americans’ understanding of his government, namely one that murders journalists, suppresses political opposition, is rife with corruption, etc.

In the NBC version, Putin’s answer has been cut to one empty introductory statement that “Russia is on its way to becoming a democracy” bracketed by an equally empty closing sentence. In the full, uncut version, Putin responds to Kelly’s allegations point by point and then turns the question around, asking what right the U.S. and the West have to question Russia’s record when they have been actively doing much worse than what Kelly charged. He asked where is Occupy Wall Street today, why U.S. and European police use billy clubs and tear gas to break up demonstrations, when Russian police do nothing of the sort, and so on.

Simply put, NBC intentionally made Putin sound like an empty authoritarian, when he is in fact a very sophisticated debater, which he demonstrated earlier in the day at an open panel discussion involving Kelly who became the event’s laughingstock. Regarding the bowdlerized interview, NBC management bears the prime responsibility for distorting the material and misleading its viewers.

Interviews by serious news organizations can be “hard talk,” as the BBC program of the same name does weekly. The journalist in charge can directly and baldly challenge a political leader or other public personality and can dwell on an issue to arrive at exhaustive responses that then allow viewers to reach their own conclusions.

However, in the interview at hand and in the earlier panel discussion, Kelly repeated the same question about alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. election even after she had received an exhaustive answer from Putin several times. Clearly she was reading from a script given to her by management and was not permitted to react to what took place in the interview exchange.

Given that Putin’s answers then were shredded in the NBC cutting room, we may explain the objectives of NBC’s executives as follows: to present themselves and their featured journalist to the American audience as being so respected by the Kremlin that the Russian president accorded an exclusive interview. Second, to show the American audience that they used the opportunity not to allow the Russian President to pitch his views to the U.S. home audience but instead to hit him with all the charges of wrongdoing that have been accumulating in the American political arena.

In other words, NBC got to show off Kelly’s supposed boldness and the network’s faux patriotism while sparing the American people from hearing Putin’s full answers.

A Harvard Dissent

Although this emerging paradigm of righteously suppressing challenges to mainstream narratives appears to be the wave of the future – with the modern censorship possibly enforced via Internet algorithms – some voices are protesting this assault on the Enlightenment’s trust in human reason to sort out false claims and advance factual truth.

At the May 25 commencement at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard President Drew Faust delivered an impassioned defense of free speech. She spoke about the institution and its obligations as generator and protector of “truth” and knowledge arrived at by free debate and challenge of ideas.

This is not to say that there was perfect clarity in her message. She left me and other attendees somewhat uncertain as to whose rights of free speech she was defending and against what sort of challenge. Given the political persuasion of students and faculty, namely the middle-of-the-road to progressive wings of the Democratic Party, one might think she had in mind such causes célèbres as the ongoing verbal attacks against Linda Sarsour, a Muslim (Palestinian) graduation speaker at CUNY.

Indeed, in her speech, Drew Faust pointed to the more vulnerable members of the student body, those from minorities, those from among first generation college students who might be intimidated by hurtful speech directed against them. But it is more likely that she drew up her speech having in mind the controversy on campus this spring over the rights of speakers disseminating hated ideas to appear on campus. That issue has come up repeatedly in the student newspaper The Crimson, and it may be said to date from the scandal at UC Berkeley over the cancellation of controversial far-right speaker Milo Yiannopoulos.

However, I believe the main weight of her argument was directed elsewhere. Primarily, to the processes by which truth is determined. She was defending the appropriateness of sharp debate and airing of views that one may dislike intensely on campus:

“Universities must model a commitment to the notion that truth cannot simply be claimed, but must be established – established through reasoned argument, assessment, and even sometimes uncomfortable challenges that provide the foundation for truth.”

Though this idea rests at the heart of the Enlightenment, it has faded in recent years as various political and media forces prefer to simply dismiss contrary evidence and analysis by stigmatizing the messengers and – whenever possible – silencing the message. This approach is now common inside the major media which lumps together cases of fact-free conspiracy theories and consciously “fake news” with well-researched information and serious analyses that clash with conventional wisdom.

No Sharp Edges

From my experience as an organizer of public events over the past five years, I learned that the very word “debate” finds few defenders these days. Debate suggests conflict rather than consensus. The politically correct term for public discussions of even hot issues is “round tables.” No sharp corners allowed.

But Faust said: “Ensuring freedom of speech is not just about allowing speech. It is about actively creating a community where everyone can contribute and flourish, a community where argument is relisted, not feared. Freedom of speech is not just freedom from censorship; it is freedom to actively join the debate as a full participant. It is about creating a context in which genuine debate can happen.”

Besides the value of honest debate as a method for ascertaining truth, Faust also noted that suppression of diverse opinions can blind those doing the suppression to growing unrest among the broader public, an apparent reference to the surprising election of Donald Trump.

Faust continued: “Silencing ideas or basking in intellectual orthodoxy independent of facts and evidence impedes our access to new and better ideas, and it inhibits a full and considered rejection of bad ones. From at least the time of Galileo, we can see how repressing seemingly heretical ideas has blinded societies and nations to the enhanced knowledge and understanding on which progress depend.

“Far more recently, we can see here at Harvard how our inattentiveness to the power and appeal of conservative voices left much of our community astonished – blindsided by the outcome of last fall’s election. We must work to ensure that universities do not become bubbles isolated from the concerns and discourse of the society that surrounds them.”

Of course, the inconvenient truth is that Harvard University has long been a “bubble,” especially in the area of policy research that most interests me and may be vital in avoiding a nuclear catastrophe: Russian studies.

Over the past few years of growing confrontation between the U.S. and Russia, amid vilification of the Russian President and the Russian people and now encompassing the hysteria over “Russia-gate,” colleagues with long-standing and widely acknowledged expertise in Russian affairs including Ambassador Jack Matlock and Professor Stephen Cohen have been repeatedly denied any possibility of participating in “round tables” dedicated to relations with Russia that might be organized at Harvard’s Kennedy Center or the Davis Center.

These policy centers have become pulpits to stridently expound orthodoxy per the Washington consensus. Thus, the flaccid argumentation and complacency of U.S. foreign policy are aided and abetted by this premier university, which, along with Columbia, created the very discipline of Russian studies in 1949. So, by wallowing in this consensus-driven groupthink, Harvard contributes to dangerously biased policies that could lead to World War III. In that case, truth – or as Harvard might say, Veritas – would not be the only casualty.

No doubt there are other faculties at Harvard which also are desperately in need of renewal following President Drew Faust’s call for debate and free speech. Nonetheless, Dr. Faust’s celebration of open debate and free speech represented a welcome tonic to the close-mindedness of today’s Russia-bashing.

Her speech is all the more noteworthy as it marks one of the first steps by liberals and Democratic Party stalwarts to acknowledge that those whom Hillary Clinton condemned as “deplorables” must be heard and reasoned with if U.S. democracy is to become great again.


Gilbert Doctorow is an independent political analyst based in Brussels.  His last book, Does Russia Have a Future? was published in August 2015.  His forthcoming book, Does the United States Have a Future?

June 13, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

Two Years of “Wrong” Votes: The Media Take Aim at Democracy

By Kit | OffGuardian | June 11, 2017

Jeremy Corbyn has won two leadership contests, and gained the largest vote share for Labour in decades. Hillary Clinton had to cheat to get past Bernie Sanders, and was then humiliated by Donald Trump. The UK voted to leave the EU. After two years of getting the “wrong” results thanks to voters refusing to do as their told, some areas of the media and intelligentsia are finally asking the tough question: Is voting bad for democracy?

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m starting to see a pattern emerge.

In the wake of the Brexit vote (and, to a lesser extent, the Dutch rejection of Ukraine-EU links) no word was dirtier to the MSM than “referendum”. The conclusion seeming to be that resorting to plebiscitary democracy was bad for the country, and bad for democracy itself.

David Mitchell wrote that parliament was meant to make hard decisions for us. Natalie Nougayrède argued that “the mob” undermined our “elite institutions”. The New York Times featured an article headlined:

Why Referendums (sic) Aren’t as Democratic as They Seem

The article argues that voters will vote to undermine their own best interests, and so they shouldn’t be allowed to. Also it disempowers voters because:

Voters must make their decisions with relatively little information, forcing them to rely on political messaging — which puts power in the hands of political elites rather than those of voters.

This fallacy was repeated over and over and over and over and over again.

The general message was – Referenda are bad. They cheapen our democracy. Voting can go wrong. People aren’t informed enough. When you take a plebiscite, all you get is the opinion of plebs. Ban them completely.

Bloomberg even had a Justin Fox article headlined:

Voters Are Making a Mess of Democracy

That was a year ago, and things have only got worse since then. Now not only direct democracy, but all kinds of democracy, are being attacked.

The New York Times deserves special mention here. Neo-con Pulitzer prize winner Bret Stephens bemoans the “Year of Voting Recklessly”. His article demonstrates total ignorance of the world at large, history, British politics and morality. The article is a cesspool of ill-informed bigotry and bias, declaring anybody to the left of Ronald Reagan a “Marxist”, and gently undermining the idea of democracy because “voters are idiots”.

His childish ad hom assaults on Corbyn demonstrate everything wrong with the political establishment on the far side of the pond (and increasingly in Britain too), concerned only with labels and point scoring. There is not one word about policy in the article, just an all-out adolescent tirade against everybody on either side who disagrees with him. That this kind of author can win a Pulitzer prize shames American society.

Elsewhere, the Los Angeles Times has an Op-ed titled:

The British election is a reminder of the perils of too much democracy

In which James Kirchick dismisses, with a perfectly straight face and absolutely no sense of the absurd, the idea of “The People”:

“The people” — that expression beloved of Third World tyrants and increasingly adopted by leaders in advanced industrial democracies — got their say.

It seems the author either never new, or has forgotten, that “We, the people” are the first words of his country’s constitution. Perhaps he thinks it’s in sarcastic quotes there, too.

I’m not sure which of Washington, Jefferson or Adams, Mr Kirchick considers a “third world tyrant”. I’m not even completely sure he knows who they are.

Meanwhile, on June 1st Vox published a story headlined:

The problem with democracy: it relies on voters

And then followed that up with this, on June 9th:

What if “more public participation” can’t save American democracy?

These articles are based on this paper from the Brookings institute, titled:

More professionalism, less populism: How voting makes us stupid, and what to do about it

An argument against democracy based on the assumption that…

Populism cannot solve our problems… because its core premises and reforms are self-defeating. Research has shown that voters are “irrationally biased and rationally ignorant,” and do not possess the specialized knowledge necessary to make complex policy judgments.

Brookings have form in this area, having previously published articles and papers with titles such as: Democracy does not cause growth and Is too much democracy responsible for the rise of Trump?.

The agenda is clear – they are trying to encourage those that fancy themselves “informed” to take up an academic position that disdains the idea of the great unwashed having a say on important matters. Persuading real “useful idiots” how smart it would be to disempower themselves in service to the state.

Maybe you’re not familiar with the Brookings Institute. Here’s their about page blurb:

The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC. Our mission is to conduct in-depth research that leads to new ideas for solving problems facing society at the local, national and global level.

Which is delightfully vague. A glimpse at their sources of funding clarifies things rather:

As of 2016 the Brookings Institution had assets of $473.8 million. Its largest contributors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Hutchins Family Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, the LEGO Foundation, David Rubenstein, State of Qatar, and John L. Thornton.

In 2014, it received $250,000 from the United States Central Command of the United States Department of Defense.

I don’t know how much money you can accept from the USDoD and still claim to be “non-partisan”, but apparently it’s more than $250,000.

Interestingly, if we re-visit the above Vox articles, we can focus on this little green box just under the title:

It seems these articles were published under Polyarchy, a new section devoted entirely to publishing releases from the New America think-tank, an NGO whose about page contains an incredibly predictable, and very familiar list of financial supporters. Including JP Morgan Chase, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the US State Department.

Exactly the same people supporting the Brookings Institute.

Voices are popping up all over the media, telling us democracy doesn’t work, that the system is failing and that voting gives too much power to idiots. We’re being slowly introduced to the idea that the educated and sophisticated opinion is that democracy just doesn’t work, and if we ever really want to sort out the world’s problems, we might have to let go of this antiquated institution.

Strangely, all these media voices seem to be getting paid by the same handful of billionaires, banks and businesses.

Apparently Bill Gates and George Soros really don’t like us being able to vote.

This was first brought to my attention by Adam Johnson on twitter:

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June 11, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment

An Intolerable Europeanization of ‘Antisemitism’ Blackmail

Union Juive Française Pour La Paix* | June 7, 2017

On 1 June, the European Parliament voted, by a very large majority, for a new resolution on antisemitism. It goes without saying that we deplore, yet again, the singling out of antisemitism from other manifestations of racism. Not a word on the others, whereas, for example, Islamophobia is rampant and Romophobia is deadly. But it’s more serious. At closer inspection, it’s not so much a matter of reining in antisemitism as of restricting free speech and of criminalizing any criticism of Israel.

The resolution, by means of paragraph 2, embodies the criteria proposed by the ultra-Zionist International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) to define antisemitism. If this recognizes as antisemitism the hate of Jews qua Jews, the definition does not stop there. Thus “Denying the Jewish people (sic) their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” also falls within the definition. Ditto “Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic (sic) nation”. Antisemitism? *

The UK and Austria have recently adopted this definition, and the disastrous effects have not taken long to make themselves felt. It is in this environment that the Palestine Expo 2017 in London was almost cancelled under pressure, planned for early July.

In France as well, the refrain which insidiously combines the least criticism of Israel and/or of Zionism to that of antisemitism plays non-stop. No need for the IHRA definition in France!

However, if the vote of this resolution in the European Parliament is not legally binding, it contributes to reinforcing the rancid climate where criticism and Israel in the same sentence is silenced and criminalized. The vote constitutes a devious attack against free speech through the medium of the only democratic institution in the European Union.

With the notable exception of the European United Left / Nordic Green Left and some Greens, all the Parliamentary groupings have listened more or less religiously to the whingeing of the hyperactive pro-Israeli lobbies – in the first rank of which is the IHRA and the European Jewish Congress – which have ultimately won out after a long and costly campaign.

But we’re not deceived. This resolution has not been gained only under pressure. It’s a vote of conviction. It has been approved by a large majority comprising an alliance not as diverse as appears at first sight: from the right wing of the social democrats to the nationalist and anti-Semite extreme right – all, with rare exceptions, have voted for the resolution.

Without a tacit ideological bond founded on an Islamophobia essentially taken for granted and the unfailing strategic support of the Neoconservatives for Israel, such a coalition would have been inconceivable. It suffices to scratch below the surface of the ‘good intentions’ of this resolution to readily discern its raison d’être, which besides has little to do with the situation of Europe Jewry. It’s necessary to highlight that there is no officially condoned antisemitism in Europe, and that this vote is clearly intended to prevent not genuine antisemitism but the legitimate political criticism of a state, of its policies and of its character.

The vote on this resolution brings home to us that, here in Europe, the right to criticize Israel is based on the general freedom of political expression – an asset so precious and fragile that it is necessary to defend it at all costs.

The Union Juive Française pour la Paix was established in 1994, and was a foundation member of the Fédération des Juifs européens pour une Paix juste in 2002. The UJFP has as its masthead: The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians can only be resolved by the cessation of the dominance of one people by another, by the implementation of the right to self-determination for the Palestinian people and of the right to create its own independent state. No just and durable solution is possible without a total withdrawal of Israel from all territories that it has occupied since 1967, without the right of return for Palestinian refugees and without an end to internal Israeli apartheid which constrains its Palestinian population to second-class status.

This article appeared on the UJFP website on 3 June, and was reproduced on Comité Valmy.

* Translated by Evan Jones.

Translator’s Note:

The May 2016 IHRA declaration includes in its list of ‘contemporary examples of antisemitism’ the item ‘Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel’. Given that the central thrust of the IHRA definition of antisemitism fuses the state of Israel indissolubly with Jewry in toto, this item is a glaring anomaly. More, are there ‘actions of the state of Israel’ that Jews might find distasteful? It suggests that the authors are either thick as two bricks or they have a brutal sense of humour.

June 7, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 3 Comments

Question Deleted

By Rima Najjar | CounterPunch | June 5, 2017

For some time now, the discourse on Israel has been shifting from a place where Israeli “hasbara” disinformation had the upper hand no matter where one turned, to a place where Israeli criminal policies are more frankly discussed and the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS), is now championed by some academic associations, church groups and labor unions in the United States and elsewhere.

Jewish Voice for Peace and other activist groups have come out with statements not only advocating BDS, but also criticizing Zionism and its definition of Jewish nationalism as practiced by the Jewish state. In a letter protesting the cancellation of a hiring search for the ‘Edward Said Professor of Middle East Studies’ professorship at CSU Fresno, Jewish Voice for Peace states: “The Jewish people are not a monolith on this or any other issue.”

In response to these advances in the struggle for Palestinian liberation, one area remains taboo and that is to question (and thereby delegitimize) Israel by opposing its heart of darkness – i.e., its “right to exist” as a Jewish state (a partition of Mandate Palestine) belonging, not to its indigenous population, but to the “Jewish people” worldwide. This right to exist as a Zionist entity presupposes that Jewish communities around the world are a monolith Zionist “nation” in the way Israel defines Jewish identity, which in its corollary, denies the self-determination of Palestinian Arabs in their own homeland.

What’s appalling is that not only is it taboo to discuss the legality and legitimacy of Jewish self-determination, it is also taboo to even ask the question. The following is my answer to a question asked on the social media Q/A service called Quora, which was promptly thrown into the trash bin along with my answer and that of others posted there.

Because Israel’s creation is based on force of arms, Zionist terror and pre-planned ethnic cleansing, that is to say, the near-eradication of Arab Palestine, as well as violations of international law and is therefore an easy target of delegitimazation, it has relied heavily on the Balfour Declaration (1917), which supports the establishment in Palestine of a “Jewish national home” for the “Jewish people” to legitimize itself.

The Balfour Declaration was incorporated by the League of Nations in 1922 into the British Mandate of Palestine (with the caveat that the rights of the absurdly-phrased “non-Jewish communities,” then 90% of Palestine’s population, would be maintained). That document, however, does not translate into “self determination in the form of a Jewish state,” nor was it meant as such, despite its deceptive language .

Jewish identity politics and literature are rife with contradiction, controversy and confusion. But Israel, while denying the legal existence of Palestinian Arabs as “a people,” defines Jewishness through descent – supposedly unbroken bloodlines from antiquity to the present.

The following is quoted from the UNESCO document on Israel and Apartheid found here.

“The State of Israel enshrined the central importance of descent in its Law of Return of 1950 (amended in 1970), which states that: ‘For the purposes of this Law, ‘Jew’ means a person who was born of a Jewish mother or has become converted to Judaism and who is not a member of another religion.”

Descent is crucial to Jewish identity discourse in Israel because direct lineal descent from antiquity is the main reason given by political-Zionist philosophers for why Jews today hold the right to self-determination in the land of Palestine. In this view, all Jews retain a special relationship and rights to the land of Palestine, granted by covenant with God: some schools of Zionism hold that Israel is the successor State to the Jewish kingdoms of Saul, David and Solomon. That claim is expressed, inter alia, in the Declaration of Independence of Israel, which affirms that Jews today trace their ancestry to an earlier national life in the geography of Palestine and therefore have an inalienable right to “return”, which is given precedence over positive law…. That claim to unbroken lineal descent from antiquity attributes collective rights to the “land of Israel” to an entire group on the basis of its (supposed) bloodlines. The incompatible claim that Jewishness is multiracial, by virtue of its character as a religion to which others have converted, is simply absent from this formula.

So where does that leave the Palestinians, the indigenous people of Palestine? Keep in mind that indigeneity is defined as:

… populations composed of the existing descendants of the peoples who inhabited the present territory of a country wholly or partially at the time when persons of a different culture or ethnic origin arrived there from other parts of the world, overcame them, by conquest, settlement or other means, reduced them to a non-dominant or colonial condition; who today live more in conformity with their particular social, economic and cultural customs and traditions than with the institutions of the country of which they now form part, under a state structure which incorporates mainly national, social and cultural characteristics of other segments of the population which are predominant.

(a) they are the descendants of groups, which were in the territory at the time when other groups of different cultures or ethnic origin arrived there;

(b) precisely because of their isolation from other segments of the country’s population they have almost preserved intact the customs and traditions of their ancestors which are similar to those characterised as indigenous;

(c) they are, even if only formally, placed under a state structure which incorporates national, social and cultural characteristics alien to their own.

In 1986, the following rather important line was added;

any individual who identified himself or herself as indigenous and was accepted by the group or the community as one of its members was to be regarded as an indigenous person.

Today, Israel pursues its claim to legitimacy primarily through discrediting Palestinians, the indigenous people, in a relentless, public relations, diplomatic and lawfare campaign, so successful, it has rendered the international community impotent in upholding international law as it applies to the Palestinian people, including the right of self-determination. Lawfare efforts, for example, are currently focused on criminalizing Boycott (BDS) activism.

The European Union Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism has accordingly included in its working definition of anti-Semitism as: “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of the State of Israel is a racist endeavour”.

In 2016, the United States passed the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, in which the definition of anti-Semitism is that set forth by the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism of the Department of State in a fact sheet of June 8, 2010. Examples of anti-Semitism listed therein include: “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist”.

In my opinion, Israel will be legitimized only when it stops obstructing the exercise of Palestinian right to self-determination, a right “authoritatively” recognized by international law:

“The status of the Palestinians as a people entitled to exercise the right of self-determination has been legally settled, most authoritatively by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in its 2004 advisory opinion on Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”.

The counterarguments advanced by Israel and supporters to rationalize and legitimize policies that deny Palestinian rights and affirm the rights of “the Jewish people” include claims that the determination of Israel to remain a Jewish State is consistent with practices of other States, such as France; Israel does not owe Palestinian non-citizens equal treatment with Jews precisely because they are not citizens; and Israeli treatment of the Palestinians reflects no “purpose” or “intent” to dominate, but rather is a temporary state of affairs imposed on Israel by the realities of ongoing conflict and security requirements. … A further claim that Israel cannot be considered culpable for crimes of apartheid because Palestinian citizens of Israel have voting rights rests on two errors of legal interpretation: an overly literal comparison with South African apartheid policy and detachment of the question of voting rights from other laws, especially provisions of the Basic Law that prohibit political parties from challenging the Jewish, and hence racial, character of the State.

Yes, Palestine does exist and will continue to exist, because of Palestinians’ incredible steadfastness.

As Rabbi Brant Rosen expressed it:

“The choice we ultimately face is one between a Jewish state vs. international law, justice and human rights for all.”

Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem.  She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank. 

June 5, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | 3 Comments

Ending NATO, a Monstrous Institution

By Karel van Wolferen • Unz Review • June 5, 2017

Their anxiety about the future of NATO, recently on full display again when the American president was in Europe, could not be bettered as a measure of the incapacity of Europe’s top politicians to guide their continent and represent its populations. Through its provocations of Moscow, NATO systematically helps increase the risk of a military confrontation. By thus sabotaging its declared purpose of preserving collective security for the countries on either side of the Atlantic, it erases its fundamental reason for being and right to exist.

Grasping these facts ought be enough to fuel moves aimed at quickly doing away with NATO. But it is terrible for more and easily overlooked reasons.

NATO’s survival prevents the political entity that is the European Union from becoming a significant global presence for reasons other than its economic weight. If you cannot have a defence policy of your own you also deprive yourself of a foreign policy. Without a substantive foreign policy, Europe does not show anything that anyone might consider ‘a face’ to the world. Without such a face to the outside, the inside cannot come to terms about what it stands for, and substitutes meaningless platitudes for answers to the question as to why it should exist in the first place.

NATO is an example of an institution that has gotten completely out of hand through European complacency, intellectual laziness, and business opportunism. As a security alliance it requires a threat. When the one that was believed to exist during the Cold War disappeared, a new one had to be found. Forged for defence against what was once believed to be an existential threat, it only began actually deploying its military might after that threat had disappeared, for its illegal war against Serbia. Once it had jumped that hurdle, it was encouraged to continue jumping toward imagined global threats. Its history since the demise of its original adversary has been deplorable, as its European member states were made party to war crimes resulting from actions at Washington’s behest for objectives that have made a dead letter of international law. It has turned some European governments into liars when they told their populations that sending troops to Afghanistan was for the purpose of assorted humanitarian purposes like reconstructing that country, rather than fighting a war against Taleban forces intent on reclaiming their country from American occupation.

Afghanistan did not, as was predicted at the time, turn into a graveyard for NATO, next to that of the British Empire, the Soviet Union and – farther back – Alexander the Great. Having survived Afghanistan, NATO continued to play a significant role in the destruction of Gaddafi’s Libya, and in the destruction of parts of Syria through covertly organising, financing, and arming ISIS forces for the purpose of overthrowing the Assad government. And it continues to serve as a cover for the war making elements in Britain and France. America’s coup in the Ukraine in 2014, which resulted in a crisis in relations with Russia, gave NATO a new lease on life as it helped create an entirely uncalled for and hysterical fear of Russia in Poland and the Baltic states.

NATO repudiates things that we are said to hold dear. It is an agent of corruption of thought and action in both the United States and Europe. Through propaganda that distorts the reality of the situation in the areas where it operates, and perennial deceit about its true objectives, NATO has substituted a now widely shared false picture of geopolitical events and developments for one that, even if haphazard, used to be pieced together by independent reporters for mainstream media whose own tradition and editors encouraged discovery of facts. This propaganda relies to a large extent on incessant repetition for its success. It can generally not be traced to NATO as a source of origin because it is being outsourced to a well-funded network of public relations professionals.

The Atlantic Council is NATO’s primary PR organization. It is connected with a web of think tanks and NGO’s spread throughout Europe, and very generous to journalists who must cope with a shrinking and insecure job environment. This entity is well-versed in Orwellian language tricks, and for obvious reasons must mischaracterise NATO itself as an alliance instead of a system of vassalage. Alliance presupposes shared purposes, and it cannot be Europe’s purpose to be controlled by the United States, unless we now accept that a treasonous European financial elite must determine the last word on Europe’s future.

An influential policy deliberation NGO known as the International Crisis Group (ICG), is one of the organizations linked with the Atlantic Council. It operates as a serious and studious outfit, carrying an impressive list of relatively well-known names of associates, and studies areas of the world harbouring conflicts or about-to-be conflicts that could undermine world peace and stability. Sometimes this group does offer information that is germane to a situation, but its purpose has in effect become one of making the mainstream media audience view the situation on the ground in Syria, or the ins and outs of North Korea, or the alleged dictatorship in Venezuela, and so on, through the eyeballs of the consensus creators in American foreign policy.

NATO repudiates political civilisation. It is disastrous for European intellectual life as it condemns European politicians and the thinking segment of the populations in its member states to be locked up in what may be described as political kindergarten, where reality is taught in terms of the Manichean division between bad guys and superheroes. While Europe’s scholars, columnists, TV programmers and sophisticated business commentators rarely pay attention to NATO as an organization, and are generally oblivious to its propaganda function, what it produces condemns them to pay lip service to the silliest geopolitical fantasies.

NATO is not only terrible for Europe, it is very bad for the United States and the world in general, for it has handed to America’s elites important tools aiding its delusional aim of fully dominating the planet. This is because NATO provides the most solid external support for sets of assumptions that allegedly lend a crucial moral dimension to America’s warmaking. NATO does not exist for the sake of indispensable European military prowess, which hardly has not been impressive. It exists as legal justification for Washington to keep nuclear weapons and military bases in Europe. It obviously also exists as support for America’s military-industrial complex.

But its moral support ought to be considered its most significant contribution. Without NATO, the conceptual structure of a ‘West’ with shared principles and aims would collapse. NATO was once the organisation believed to ensure the continued viability of the Western part what used to be known as the ‘free world’. Such connotations linger, and lend themselves to political exploitation. The ‘free world’ has since the demise of the Soviet Union not been much invoked. But ‘the West’ is still going strong, along with the notion of Western values and shared principles, with ‘the good’ in the form of benevolent motives automatically assumed to be on its side. This gives the powers that be in Washington a terrific claim in the realm of widely imagined moral aspects of geopolitical reality. They have inherited the mantle of the leader of the ‘free world’ and ‘the West’, and since there has not been a peep of dissension about this from the other side of the Atlantic, the claim appears true and legitimate in the eyes of the world and the parties concerned.

In the meantime the earlier American claim to speak and act on behalf of the free world was broadened and seemingly depoliticised by a substitute claim of speaking and acting on behalf of the ‘international community’. There is of course no such thing, but that doesn’t bother editors who keep invoking it when some countries or the bad guys running them do things that are not to Washington’s liking. Doing away with NATO would pull the rug from under the ‘international community’. Such a development would then reveal the United States, with its current political system and priorities in international affairs, as a criminal power and the major threat to peace in the world.

I can hear an objection that without this resonance of moral claims the activities serving the ‘full spectrum dominance’ aim would have been carried out anyway. If you think so, and if you can stand reading again what the neocons were producing between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraqi in 2003, subtract all references to moral clarity and the necessity for the United States to serve as moral beacon for the world from that literature, and you will see that preciously little argument remains for American war-making that ensued.

The spinelessness of the average European politician has added up to huge encouragement of the United States in its post-Cold War military adventurism. With forceful reminders from Europe about what those much vaunted supposedly shared political principles actually stood for, American rhetoric could not have been the same. Strong European condemnation of the shredding of the UN Charter, and the jettisoning of the principles adopted at the Nuremberg trials, would have made it much more difficult for George W Bush, Dick Cheney, and the neocons to go where blind fanaticism and hubris, with imagined economic advantage, took them. Perhaps more importantly, it might have given a relatively weak American protest movement the necessary added energy to rise to the level of effectiveness once attained by the anti-Vietnam activists as they imprinted themselves on the political culture of the 60s and 70s. European dissent might not have halted but could have slowed the transformation of much of the mainstream media into neocon propaganda assets.

As it is, NATO exists today in a realm of discourse in which revered post-World War II liberal conditions and practices are still believed to exist. It is an apolitical and ahistorical realm determined by hubris and misplaced self-confidence, in which powers that have utterly altered these practices and negated its positive aspects are not acknowledged. It is a realm in which America’s pathological condition of requiring an enemy as a source of everlasting profit is not acknowledged. It is a realm in which America’s fatuous designs for complete control over the world is not acknowledged. It is a realm of foreign policy illusions.

NATO is supposed to guard putative Western values that in punditry observations have something to do with what the Enlightenment has bestowed on Western culture. But it deludes staunch NATO supporters, who cannot bring themselves to contemplate the possibility that what they have long trusted to be an agent of protection, has in fact become a major force that destroys those very qualities and principles.

There is a further more tangible political/legal reason why NATO is monstrous. It is steered by nonelected powers in Washington, but is not answerable to identifiable entities within the American military system. It is not answerable to any of the governing institutions of the European Union. Its centre in Brussels exists effectively outside the law. Its relations with ‘intelligence agencies’ and their secret operations remain opaque. Who is doing what and where are all questions to which no clear, legally actionable, information is made available.

NATO has thereby become a tool of intimidation lacking any compatibility with democratic political organisation. An autocrat aspiring to unfettered rule with which to operate anywhere in the world would find in NATO the ideal institutional arrangements. All this should be of our utmost concern. Because all this means that NATO is now one of the world’s most horrible organizations that at the same time has become so politically elusive, apparently, that there is no European agent with enough of a grip on it to make it disappear.

June 4, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 2 Comments

European Parliament calls on members to adopt Israel-related definition of antisemitism

If Americans Knew | June 2, 2017

The European Jewish Press reports that the European Parliament has adopted a resolution calling on all member states to adopt a definition of anti-Semitism that contains Israel-centric items.

The resolution was adopted at its plenary session in Brussels and officially endorses the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism. The definition consists of a synopsis followed by guidelines that include Israel related items originally created by an Israeli governmental minister in 2003. This formulation has since been disseminated around the world.

For more information see: International campaign is criminalizing criticism of Israel as ‘antisemitism’

June 2, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 2 Comments

Secretive Bilderberg Group to talk Russia, Trump & ‘war on information’

RT | May 31, 2017

Many of the world’s most powerful people are gathering for the annual meeting of the mysterious Bilderberg Group this week. Russia, the Trump administration and ‘The war on information’ are among key topics up for discussion.

This year’s gathering takes place in Chantilly, Virginia, less than 30 miles from the White House, and goings on in the Oval Office are top of the agenda for the 131 people who’ve confirmed they’re attending.

Many top White House figures will be at the four-day event, including the Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, National Security Advisor HR McMaster and Assistant to the President Christopher Liddell.

Other topics up for discussion include ‘Russia in the international order,’ China, ‘The Trans-Atlantic defence alliance: bullets, bytes and bucks,’ ‘The war on information,’ ‘Direction of the EU’ and ‘Why is populism growing?’

This year’s event marks the 65th meeting of the infamously-secretive group which has met every year since 1954. Denis Healey, Joseph Retinger, David Rockefeller and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands were the group’s founders.

The group says the conference is “designed to foster dialogue between Europe and North America.” Each year it’s attended by people from the fields of politics, industry, finance, media and academia. About two thirds of the participants come from Europe and the rest from North America.

As well of some of Trump’s top brass, other attendees this year include Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, Republican senators Tom Cotton and Lindsey Graham, and Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai.

Editors, and chief commentators, from several world famous publications including Bloomberg, The Economist, The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal,  Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera and the London Evening Standard will also be in attendance.

Notorious for the lack of information about what happens during the discussions, meetings are closed to the public and to reporting journalists. All of the the meetings are held under the Chatham House Rule, which means that participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speakers can be revealed. Also, no minutes are taken and no report is written.

Nobody can buy their way into the meetings, rather they have to be invited. The invited guests are not allowed to bring their partners and the group reportedly never visits the same hotel twice.

Among the most famous past attendees are Henry Kissinger (who is going again this year), Bill Gates, numerous members of European royal families, Bill Clinton, and Margaret Thatcher, who both attended before they rose to power.

June 1, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular | | 2 Comments