MOSCOW – Russia is ready to discuss the possibility of reducing nuclear arsenals, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a Russian Armed Forces General Staff Military Academy lecture Thursday.
“We are ready to discuss the possibility of further reducing nuclear capabilities, but only taking into account all the factors and not just the number of strategic offensive weapons,” Lavrov said.
Meanwhile, he added that Russia is ready for dialogue with the United States on the reduction of strategic nuclear weapons and believes that more countries need to be involved in the process.
“We are ready, but the conversation must be conducted taking into account all factors that affect strategic stability,” Lavrov said at a Russian Armed Forces General Staff Military Academy lecture.
He underscored the need to wait for Washington to finalize its priorities in the area, and stressed the need for more countries’ involvement in the reduction of nuclear arms.
Both Russia and the United States agreed in 2010, under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) treaty, to decrease the number of deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550 and the number of deployed missiles and bombers to 700. The agreement will expire in 2021, and could be prolonged for no more than five years.
US President Donald Trump has been critical of the deal that he regards as “bad” and “one-sided,” raising concerns.
On February 24, Alexey Pushkov, a senior member of the Russian parliament’s upper house, said Trump’s pledge to boost US nuclear capacities could send the world back into the 20th century by challenging all treaties on strategic arms reduction. On February 28, Russian Deputy Minister of Defense Alexander Fomin said Moscow and Washington should work together under the existing treaty.
On March 8, head of US Strategic Command (STRATCOM) Gen. John Hyten said a potential cancellation of the New START could lead to an arms race.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Monday that the European Union favored deeper cooperation between the United States and Russia on nuclear non-proliferation efforts.
The EU, NATO, and the western alliance have utterly failed the people of eastern Europe. The unrequited love of former Soviet bloc nations is slowly turning to scorn. The Euromaidan and ensuing civil war have laid bare an ideological and cultural divide ages old. With Brussels and NATO reeling from recent events, the fear mongering used to leverage aligned nations is losing its effectiveness.
A meeting in between Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Moldova’s former PM and current head of the Socialist party, Zinaida Greceanîi in Moscow reveals the general eastern shift to Russia. While the world watches and waits on the next fantastical Donald Trump moment, the Russian administration continues to mend fences and to create new bonds of friendship. To the south and west of Moldova a score of EU member states discuss a “Brexit-like” abandonment of a globalist system many see as doomed to failure. And Moldova’s plight since the fall of the Soviet Union is a picture window into the biggest international experiment in history. To quote Ms. Greceanîi on Moldova’s recent elections and the lean toward Russia:
“We won because the majority of Moldovans are for strategic partnership with Russia. In 2014, our current pro-European coalition in the parliament signed an agreement on association with the European Union, and, frankly, we got almost nothing in return from the European Union, while sustaining a major economic setback by losing the Russian market and our strategic partner. This is what happens when politicians who try to destroy age-old ties and traditions between our peoples come to power.”
The Moldovan politician expressed what is a growing sentiment toward the European Union. The poorest country of the former Soviet republics, Moldova is perhaps the most neglected country in Europe. And recent calls from the south for Moldova and Romania to reunite foretell of the wider neglect of nations in the region. Hungary to the west has begun a Russia lean as well, and Bulgaria to the south of Romania was never fully a western satrap. Upheaval in Bucharest over real or perceived corruption by leadership, Greece’s ongoing plight, the old sounds of Serbia and even countries like Slovenia – send a clear signal. We’ve seen the evidence of a collapse of confidence in the western alliance for some time. Tomáš Kostelecký, Director of the Institute of Sociology at the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague had this to say about a series, “25 Years after the fall of the Berlin Wall”:
“Overall I think the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland are examples of countries that came out well, whereas for others it was not so successful.”
A poll conducted in Czech Republic in 2014 showed that more than half the people there considered life before and after Soviet rule the same. In other words, most people in even the richest former Soviet bloc countries see no difference in the two systems. Many people see the spread of so-called democracy as a total lie. While free movement allowing Romanians (for instance) to travel to Germany for better paying jobs is a plus, Romanians choosing to stay home have been devastated by corruption, austerity, and the loss of potential to globalization.
In Romania a poll conducted back in 2014 showed half of Romanians held a positive view of their condemned leader Nicolae Ceausescu and believe that life was better under him. The same poll showed that of the 1,460 respondents, 54 percent claimed that they had better living standards during communism, while 16 percent said that they were worse. I make this point because of the strategic and ideological importance of Romania. Of all the countries in the EU, Romania was by far the most pro-democracy – the people there betting all their futures on the American promise. I know this because my wife is from Romania and her father was one of the unsung heroes of the revolution there in 1989. Romania has a history of picking the wrong side, and EU membership did about as much for Romanians as their brothers and sisters in separated Moldova.
In Hungary the recent visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin sent western mainstream media on a rant. But the fact the Hungarian economy has been hammered by the food embargo introduced by the Kremlin in response to US and EU sanctions against Moscow is but one sour note on EU policies in the region. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade for Hungary, Peter Szijjarto told Kommersant the other day:
“According to our estimates, the loss of profit for Hungary amounts to $6.5 billion over the last three years. We are speaking about exports. Given that the annual volume of Hungarian exports is about $90 billion, the losses are biting,”
Hungary’s recent overtures toward Russia are freaking the parliamentarians in Brussels out at the same time leaders like Germany’s Angela Merkel try and come to grips with thawing of relations between Moscow and Washington under U.S. President Donald Trump. A new wave of populism sweeping all Europe is seen by the left wing as some Russian conspiracy, when in reality the movement is a change of errant course. These former Soviet bloc countries are a kind of litmus tests that shows the EU was never a fair game in the first place. Germany and the central Europeans thrived for a time, while other nations were left to stagnate. In a recent poll conducted in Hungary, 75% of those asked favored pragmatic relations with Russia as opposed to only 5% saying that “Hungary should not even talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin at all”.
The Turkish reset with Russia, especially the renewal of the so-called “south stream pipeline” project mirrors the Russia tilt in Greece, Macedonia, Slovenia, Italy, and other formerly devout NATO-EU devotees. President Putin just recently praised Slovenia for an invite for a Trump-Putin summit in the country’s capital of Ljubljana. Slovenia, the native country of First Lady Melania Trump, is a literal stepping stone in what some will remember from Putin’s Vladivostok to Lisbon initiative. No matter how one classifies all these geo-political moves, the clear trend in favor of Russia ties is crystal clear. The globalist Washington Post called the trend “Europeans bowing to the power of Putin”, when in reality the motives are pragmatism and logic. Moving away from big promises and failure toward a change is only a natural thing.
Finally, in 2014 Germany’s former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder blamed European Union policy for the current situation in Ukraine, and he also urged the West to stop new sanctions on Russia. Now we are seeing that Schroeder was right. At the other end of the German political spectrum, German Left Party (Die LInke), Dr. Sahra Wagenknecht has railed against Chancellor Angela Merkel, NATO, and the west in general for failed policies and the destruction of détente with Russia. At the center of her arguments lay a cerifiable truth of Eastern European affairs since the fall of the Berlin Wall. In an interview with German Radio, Dr. Wagenknecht spoke about America’s “substantial economic interests” (“handfeste wirtschaftliche Interessen”) in the Ukraine, as a big part of Europe’s problem:
“There are substantial economic interests: the Americans have been in the Ukraine since the beginning. They have even made agreements with Ukrainian companies, even investing in some of them. So there are substantial economic interests, and it is all the more critical that Europe not be dragged into this (by the Americans), but that we act in our own interests. This means peace and cooperation of course with Russia, improving the relationship which has cooled off markedly in the past months.”
The common thread running through the new west-east crisis is “financial interest”. This will be the focus of my next report. For now though, it is not the Trump White House that seems in disarray, but Brussels and the NATO alliance. Stay tuned.
Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe.
The two minute hate redefined for the Facebook age
Light often arises from a collision of opinions, as fire from flint & steel”Benjamin Franklin, 1760
“The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” John Stuart Mill
The “collision of opinion” so endorsed by enlightenment thinkers, is not currently encouraged. If someone says something stupid or blatantly false our first response is no longer to try to prove them wrong – it’s to silence them. To quote Jonathan Pie we focus on “stopping debates instead of winning them.” A good recent example of that is the bizarre trial-by-media of Polish right-wing MEP Janusz Korwin-Mikke.
Let’s be clear. JKM seems to hold a pretty reactionary and unpleasant set of views, about women and much else. Speaking as a woman, I’m not a fan of that. Here is the gentleman, talking about the gender pay gap, in the discourse that ignited the current eruption of outrage:
His English is broken, his reasoning shaky and his conclusions pretty flawed. He’s a self-created straw man, waiting to be knocked over by any reasonably intelligent or astute opponent. But what has the response in the media been?
Yes, that’s right, not a series of rational refutations, but a chorus of offended people hurling abuse and demanding the clown be censored.
Piers Morgan, who invited Korwin-Mikke on to Good Morning Britain did little more than exchange playground insults with the man. Korwin-Mikke says his opinions are based on “scientific studies”. Did Morgan bother to ask what these “studies” might be? Did he offer counter-evidence that proves the nonsense Korwin-Mikke is talking?
No. He just called him “stupid” and a “sexist pig”. Ok, maybe JKM is both those things, but that’s not the point. If he’s wrong he should be shown to be wrong, with rebuttal, not ad hominem. What Morgan did, and was lauded for, isn’t debate, it’s an ignorant brawl, or the two-minutes hate. The fact the hate-figure on this occasion is some man with unpleasant ideologies and dodgy data does not make it a great day for democracy.
The call is mounting for Korwin-Mikke to be “kicked out” of the European parliament. The Soros-funded fake grassroots group Avaaz is leading this campaign, and lying about him into the bargain, publishing photos of him doing a Nazi salute, without bothering to tell anyone he was, as the Independent grudgingly confirms in its text, doing this as a derogatory commentary on current German policies, and not as a tribute to Hitler (yes, it was still inappropriate, but that doesn’t justify a blatant falsehood being propagated in pursuance of a witch hunt). Avaaz’s campaign already has over 700,000 signatories. And indeed Korwin-Mikke is going to be dealt with by the EP itself, who have promised:
… a penalty commensurate with the gravity of the offence”
Offence? Is it actually illegal now to say untrue things about women? We’re going to punish this guy, not prove him wrong?
So, who cares, right? So, one misogynistic fool gets falsely maligned and hounded in the tabloids and maybe even “kicked out” of parliament, who is any the worse for it?
To which the obvious reply is – do you really think it will end there? Do you think the neoliberal press and toxic propagandists such as Avaaz are busy fostering this atmosphere of anti-intellectual intolerance just so they can deal with a handful of women-haters or other nasties?
The point is, once you have installed the culture of suppression, you can use it in any way you like.
The insidious new meme being developed in “progressive” places like the Guardian, and other neoliberal strongholds is that free speech is all very well, but has its limits. Not, you understand, the already established limits defined by law which make it clear free speech does not include the right to threaten, defame or incite violence. No, these are new and woolly limits that involve misty concepts like “hate” (not hate-speech, which is also defined by certain laws, but “hate”, which isn’t), and “consensus facts.” We are told that people who transgress these vague new limits need to be stopped – for the good of society. We are told we are living in a time of unprecedented “hate”, even though prosecutions for hate-crime are dropping. We are told we need to take a stand, “stamp out” this “hate” and make a statement of zero tolerance.
On the surface that’s a reasonable thing. No one sane wants to encourage hate or to be a “hater”. But what we may not notice is that the “progressives” advocating this approach never say exactly what they mean by “hater”. “Hater” of what exactly? Ethnic minorities? Women? Trans people? White men? Oligarchs? Israel? Corrupt politicians? The NSA? What if the corrupt politician is a woman? What if the NSA spokesman is black?
And exactly how far can we go to stamp out “hate”? Is it acceptable – for example – to rescind an elected representative’s right to sit in the European Parliament if he’s branded a “hater”? Who would be empowered to make this decision? The parliament itself? Oligarch-funded pressure groups with hordes of unverified signatories? What are the exact definitions? Where is the line drawn? We aren’t told, and that’s probably not an oversight.
“Denier” is another word like “hater.” “Deniers” are the boogeymen to sell us the idea that free speech is dangerous, not just for minorities, but also for the preservation of truth. The same people who talk about “haters” frequently ask how we can allow “deniers” to keep muddying the argument about [insert contentious issue here], when the world/human health/the future of the universe is at stake.
The starting point is always the fallacy that we can establish truth to a degree that makes further discussion of evidence unnecessary and doubt a sort of crime. Once we know the Truth, the argument goes, we don’t really need free speech any more. In fact free speech in a time of established Truth becomes a regressive force, since it will enable those who don’t believe the Truth, or who are paid to besmirch it, to lead the unwary from the path of certainty into darkness and doubt.
If that sounds like religious fundamentalism it’s because essentially that’s what it is. It’s the fundamentalism of a post-deist world. Just as anti-rational, just as anti-factual, just as atavistic as any other expression of certitude that requires unqualified acceptance as the first article of faith. But this particular “fundamentalism” is being used cynically as another way of levering public opinion away from real free speech and toward “modified” free speech, where the right to air your opinion is conditional upon a lot of poorly defined, and often faith-based ideas about public health and social responsibility.
Let’s pause for a moment and evaluate.
Why do so many of the same neoliberals who support environmental disasters such as global wars and nuclear energy, also swarm the issue of climate change, and so vocally agitate for the silencing or denigration of “deniers”? Why when the absolutely not “denialist” IPCC is openly admitting there can at present be no certainty about the extent or direction of longterm global temperatures, is any kind of demurring from the belief that manmade climate change is not only real but deadly, presented to us in the liberal media as something malign or insane that should not be given airtime?
If the IPCC’s 2013 report on everything from the net warming potential of C02 to the true extent of ice-loss in the Arctic, is a long list of best guesses ranging from “high probability” to “low probability”, with no mention of certainty, how do we even begin to justify dismissing and demonising people whose views of these probabilities may be different?
Note, I’m not saying “why do people believe in the reality of manmade climate change”? I absolutely understand why they do. It’s a very reasonable thing to believe. I’m asking specifically why we are being encouraged to consider doubt or even nuance is invalid and should be expunged, when the IPCC and scientists on both sides acknowledge that doubt and nuance of varying degrees, and indeed complete absence of knowledge, inevitably goes with the territory?
Is the demand for the exclusion of certain points of view based on a) the fear the public may get confused by conflicting viewpoints and accidentally let the planet burn up, or b) the recognition this is a nice thin end of a very thick wedge?
Just as no one sane wants to encourage hate, no one rational wants to destroy the planet. It’s a pretty easy sell to persuade us that we shouldn’t listen, or give air time, to lunatics or shills who apparently want to let the oceans swallow the land and the skies boil. I mean, I don’t want that to happen, do you? Faced with a stark alternative, where we either censor the bad guys or let them usher in the end of the world, which side are we going to pick? Green David versus Goliath the Oil Monster, is a no-brainer, add in George Monbiot, or someone, pointing to the undeniably egregious suppression of the connection between smoking and lung cancer as proof that narrow special interests can confuse arguments and hinder progress, and we’re sold. Let’s silence the pesky deniers and save the planet.
The argument is superficially persuasive because it’s partly true. Big Tobacco did use its clout to suppress inconvenient research and pay off scientists to lie or obfuscate, and this had a very negative impact on public health over many years. It’s reasonable to want to avoid that in future.
But let’s stop and think for a moment. How, in heaven’s name, is the fact Big Tobacco managed to suppress research and manipulate the debate an argument for censoring anyone? What this case proves is the need for more openness and debate, not less. It proves that good science will win out over false representation, when both sides are given equal opportunity to be heard. It was Big Tobacco’s big bucks that kept the truth from coming out, not the principle of free speech. Imagine, forty years ago, Philip Morris International had been able to not simply suppress and distort but to label its critics “tobacco deniers” and demand their voice be banned from the airwaves for the good of humanity?
Are we supposed to believe this kind of suppression is a step forward, just because right now the perceived “good guys” are doing it? Or that the new age of “consensus-driven”, Avaaz-sponsored grass-roots endorsed censorship would only be used by the weak against the strong, truth against lies? Are we supposed to believe, once we have set a precedent of denying the “deniers” and the “haters” their platform, the neoliberal media won’t pretty soon be labeling anyone their bosses don’t like a “denier” or a “hater” and demanding they be silenced or sent to jail? And, if we can be persuaded to stop listening to one side of this argument can’t we most likely be persuaded to stop listening to one side of any argument.
Are we supposed to overlook the fact that while Goliath the Oil Monster certainly does fund climate skeptics, “Green David” is backed by some of the richest and most influential people on the planet?
No, once again, I’m not saying manmade climate change isn’t real. I’m saying, quite specifically, that the current drive to politicise and censor this debate has nothing to do with protecting truth or saving the planet and everything to do with attacking the most important principle of freedom. I’m saying Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, George Soros, Richard Branson, Reid Hoffman, Tom Steyer, the UN, NASA, NOAA, the IPCC, the EU, the Democratic Party et al can probably compete on equal terms with Big Oil. I’m saying their message is getting across and the idea that manmade global warming is some underfunded grassroots campaign that needs special pleading to defend its corner is just another way of persuading people that censorship can be progressive. I’m saying let’s stop buying that schtick.
I’m saying we need to reassert the fact that truth doesn’t require to be defended by censorship, government prosecution, or simplistic one-sided arguments. Truth thrives in open debate and the exchange of ideas. It dies when one side is denied a voice because “If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”
And that is only more true when the truth may have a dozen billionaires and the entire neoliberal establishment advocating for it.
I’m saying that in a society of “believers” and “deniers” we all become Inquisitors, of each other and ourselves. We are currently encouraged by our betters to be Brown Shirts, dumb as a bag of hammers, zero-tolerant and proud of it, beating down unacceptable minority views with a big populist stick. We are urged, not to arrive at opinions through analysis, but to just know what’s true, because the right people say so, because our Facebook friends give it a lot of likes, because it just is ok? We don’t engage with different opinions we scream at them until they go away or get put down.
I’m saying that as a modern day Milgram experiment this push to get intelligent, caring people to act like Salem witch hunters is interesting, demonstrating that the smartest, sanest person can be enjoined to act against their deepest ideals and even common sense, if given the proper cues.
We’re forgetting that the point of free speech is it guarantees a voice to the weaker party, the oppressed, the otherwise disenfranchised. And in the age of the internet this principle can be put into practice to a degree unimaginable.
This is why the powerful and the wealthy are currently trying to persuade us to fear and distrust each other. To hate in the name of anti-hate, silence in the name of progress. Bit by bit. Voice by voice. Until the only sound left is the dispossessed lunatic scream.
The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp George Orwell, 1984
PS: Just once again and to be quite sure any skim-readers get the message – No, I am still NOT saying man made climate change is a lie.
Facebook has begun rolling out its much hyped ‘fake news’ crackdown initiative, launching its ‘disputed’ news tag on stories deemed false by fact checking organisations working with the social media giant.
The tool appears to have been unveiled without fanfare in the US, but some users have shared screenshots of it in action on Twitter.
Facebook has added a question to its help center page entitled “How is news marked as disputed on Facebook?.” The section notes, however, that this feature is not yet available to everyone. It is unclear how many people currently have access to the ‘fake news’ debunking feature.
Facebook introduced their solution to false stories last December amid outcries that so-called fake news influenced the outcome of the US presidential election. These unproven claims have been disputed by a Stanford University/NYU study.
As part of the plan, the tech giant partnered with fact checkers that are signatories of Poynter’s International Fact Checking Code of Principles. These include ABC News, FactCheck.org, the Associated Press, Snopes and Politifact.
Stories flagged by Facebook users as ‘fake news’ are passed on to these fact checkers for verification. If the fact-checkers agree that the story is misleading, it will appear in News Feeds with a “disputed” tag, along with a link to a corresponding article explaining why it might be false.
These posts then appear lower in the news feed and users will receive a warning before sharing the story.
Similar efforts are planned in Europe amid threats from the EU to clamp down on the spread of misinformation. Facebook recently revealed fact checking partnerships in Germany and France ahead of respective elections in each country.
Concerns have been raised, however, over the implications of such practices on freedom of speech.
Project Censored, a non-profit that aims to fight censorship through promoting media literacy, views Facebook’s fake news crackdown as “problematic.”
“What Facebook, and the Washington Post’s ill advised list of fake news sites, has attempted to do is make lists of news outlets that are “fake,” Nolan Higdon, faculty advisor at Project Censored told RT.
“However, this is problematic because some news sites have both journalists doing credible work and those disseminating propaganda. While some consumers may be swayed by the digestible notion of “these sites good, these sites bad” lists; it does not solve the problem of people consuming propaganda, “ he added.
The key is education, Higdon insisted, explaining the importance of teaching individuals to examine a media outlet critically.
“Simply creating an arbitrary list of whose websites can and cannot be viewed on Facebook or considered ‘news’ is normalizing censorship instead of informing individuals.”
The US security establishment is trying to justify its existence, says Daniel McAdams of the Ron Paul Peace Institute, commenting on a new report which lists how NATO can help the Baltic States counter Russian ‘hybrid warfare.’
The American global policy think-tank, the RAND Corporation, published a report that claims NATO should do more to counter the potential Russian threat and strengthen the Baltic countries’ forces. The US government-funded body issued a report titled “Hybrid Warfare in the Baltics: Threats and Potential Responses.”
The document raises concern over “Russian use of “hybrid warfare” best understood as covert or deniable activities, supported by conventional or nuclear forces, to influence the domestic politics of target countries.”
The author of the report, Andrew Radin claims “these tactics are of particular concern in the Baltic countries of Estonia and Latvia, which have significant Russian-speaking minorities.” He warns that there is concern Russia will seek to use these minorities to gain influence in the region, “use covert action to seize territory, use subversion to justify a conventional attack, or otherwise use deniable or covert means to gain influence in the Baltics and undermine the EU and NATO.”
RT discussed the report with McAdams and asked him why potential “Russian aggression” is in the spotlight again. Is there a real threat?
In his view, what we are seeing is just another example of the national security establishment in the US “having to justify its existence.”
“The report itself outlines many things that NATO has to do to help the Baltics. The Baltics are absolutely irrelevant to the security of NATO. Their only relevance is geographic. They are close to Russia. Therefore, NATO can hold exercises on Russia’s border to provoke Russia. As far as the Baltics, look at Latvia, for example, if it is so concerned about Russian warfare or hybrid warfare, why do they spend 0.9 percent of their GDP on defense? They are clearly not worried. It really is just a ploy to get more free things from NATO. And for NATO to keep itself alive after it should have been shut down,” McAdams said.
In his opinion, “hybrid warfare” – the report refers to – is a term used when there’s no evidence that Russia has done anything wrong.
It was hybrid warfare when Russia “invaded Ukraine.” And that is just because we didn’t see any Russian military in Ukraine. It was hybrid warfare with “the little green men” in Crimea. Well, those little green men in Crimea were already there legally as part of the leased base in Sevastopol. All of these things are made up, it’s part of NATO’s ongoing aggression toward Russia, provocation of Russia and it is desperate to keep itself alive, to keep its budgets rising,” the analyst said. “And sadly, unfortunately, we are seeing that the US president who was rightly critical of NATO, calling it outdated, said in his recent speech to Congress that he loves NATO and thinks it’s great. So, unfortunately, it looks like it is going to be propped up for a while longer. And yes, it is about money,” he added.
A grave danger from the Western mainstream media’s current hysteria about “fake news” is that the definition gets broadened from the few made-up stories that are demonstrably false – often fabricated by kids to get more clicks – to include reasonable disputes about the facts of a complex controversy.
This danger has grown worse because The New York Times, The Washington Post and other major Western news organizations have merged their outrage over “fake news” with the West’s propaganda campaign against Russia by claiming without evidence that the Russian government is somehow putting out false stories to undermine Western democracy.
However, when news organizations actually track down “fake news” outlets, they are usually run by some young entrepreneurs from outside Russia who saw made-up stories as a way to increase revenue by luring in more readers eager for “information” that supports their prejudices.
Yet, a front-page Times article on Tuesday, citing “fake news” as a threat to Europe, contains what arguably is “fake news” itself by claiming that many of the purported 2,500 stories “discredited” by the European Union’s East Stratcom operation have “links to Russia” although the Times doesn’t identify those links.
The article by Mark Scott and Melissa Eddy then goes on to blur these two separate concepts: “In a year when the French, Germans and Dutch will elect leaders, the European authorities are scrambling to counter a rising tide of fake news and anti-European Union propaganda aimed at destabilizing people’s trust in institutions.”
But it is this mushing together of “fake news” and what the Times describes as “anti-European Union propaganda” that is so insidious. The first relates to consciously fabricated stories; the second involves criticism of a political institution, the E.U., which is viewed by many Europeans as elitist, remote and disdainful of the needs, interests and attitudes of average citizens.
Whether you call such criticism “propaganda” or “dissent,” it is absurd to blame it all on Russia. When it comes to “destabilizing people’s trust in institutions,” the E.U. — especially with its inept handling of the Great Recession and its clumsy response to the Syrian refugee crisis — is doing a bang-up job on its own without Russian help.
Yet, rather than face up to legitimate concerns of citizens, the E.U. and U.S. governments have found a convenient scapegoat, Russia. To hammer home this point — to make it the new “groupthink” — E.U. and U.S. leaders have financed propaganda specialists to disparage political criticism by linking it to Russia.
Even worse, in the United States, the Times and other mainstream publications – reflecting the views of the political establishment – have editorialized to get giant technology companies, like Facebook and Google, to marginalize independent news sites that don’t accept the prevailing conventional wisdom.
There is an Orwellian quality to these schemes — a plan for a kind of Ministry of Truth enforced by algorithms to weed out deviant ideas — but almost no one whose voice is allowed in the mass media gets to make that observation. Even now, there is a chilling uniformity in the endless denunciations of Russia as the root of all evil.
Though the Times’ article treats the E.U.’s East Stratcom operatives as 11 beleaguered public servants sticking their fingers in the dike to protect the citizenry from a flood of Russian disinformation, “stratcom” actually is a euphemism for psychological operations, i.e., the strategic use of communications to influence the thinking of a target population.
In this case, the target populations are the European public and – to an ancillary degree – the American people who get to absorb the same propaganda from The New York Times. The real goal of stratcom is not to combat a few sleazy entrepreneurs generating consciously false stories for profit but to silence or “discredit” sources of information that question the E.U. and U.S. propaganda.
NATO has its own Stratcom command based in Latvia that also is assigned to swat down information that doesn’t conform to Western propaganda narratives. The U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy also pour tens of millions of dollars into media operations with similar goals as do major Western foundations, such as currency speculator George Soros’s Open Society. Last December, the U.S. Congress approved and President Obama signed legislation to create an additional $160 million bureaucracy to combat “Russian propaganda.”
In other words, the West’s stratcom and “psychological operations” are swimming in dough despite the Times’ representation that these “anti-disinformation” projects are unfairly outgunned by sinister forces daring to challenge what everyone-in-the-know knows to be true.
If these “stratcom” operations were around in 2002-2003, they would have been accusing the few people questioning the Iraq-has-WMD certainty of putting out “fake news” to benefit Saddam Hussein. Now, journalists and citizens who don’t buy the full-Monte demonization of Russia and its President Vladimir Putin are put into a similar category.
Instead of trusting in the free exchange of ideas, the new attitude at the Times, the Post and other Western news outlets is to short-circuit the process by smearing anyone who questions the official narratives as a “Putin apologist” or a “Moscow stooge.”
Beyond being anti-democratic, this anti-intellectual approach has prevented serious examination of the facts behind the West’s war or words against Russia. To shut down that debate, all you need to do is to say that any fact cited at a Russian news outlet must be false or “fake news.” Any Westerner who notes the same fact must be a “Putin puppet.”
Western “stratcom” doesn’t even want to allow Russian media to criticize politicians who are criticizing Russia. The Times article lamented that “Many false claims target politicians who present the biggest obstacles to Moscow’s goal of undermining the European Union.” The Times, however, doesn’t offer any examples of such “false claims.”
Instead, the Times writes that Russian news channels had “targeted the [French] presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, who belongs to the party and is running on a pro-European Union platform.”
But what does that mean? Is it now an act of aggression when newscasts in one country criticize a leader of another country? If so, are the European news channels that have “targeted” U.S. President Donald Trump somehow deserving of U.S. government retaliation? Doesn’t the E.U. – and by extension The New York Times – accept the idea of political disagreement and debate?
This closed-mindedness is especially dangerous – indeed existentially risky – when applied to a confrontation between nuclear-armed powers. In such a case, the maximum amount of debate should be encouraged, instead of what amounts to blacklisting dissidents in the West who won’t toe the official propaganda lines.
Disturbingly, the leading forces in this suppression of skepticism are the most prestigious newspapers in the United States and Europe. Even after the disastrous experience with the Iraq War and the bogus WMD groupthink, Western news outlets that were party to that fiasco have virtually excluded well-reported articles and documentaries that question the U.S. and E.U. narratives of the New Cold War.
For instance, there has been almost no presentation in the mainstream Western media of an alternative – and I would argue more complete and accurate – narrative of the Ukraine conflict, taking into account the country’s complex history and deep ethnic divisions.
It is essentially forbidden to refer to the violent overthrow of elected President Viktor Yanukovych three years ago as a “coup” or a “putsch” or to cite evidence of a U.S.-backed “regime change,” such as an intercepted phone call between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt in which they discussed how to “glue” and how to “midwife” the installation of a new leadership in Kiev.
In the supposedly “free” West, you can only refer to the post-coup events in Crimea, in which the people of the largely ethnic Russia area voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, as a “Russian invasion.” No skepticism is allowed even though there were no images of Russian troops wading ashore on Crimea’s beaches or Russian tanks crashing across borders. The “invasion” supposedly happened even though no invasion was necessary because Russian troops were already in Crimea under the naval basing agreement at Sevastopol.
Amid the West’s current hysteria about “Russian propaganda,” U.S. and E.U. citizens are not even given the opportunity to watch well-reported documentaries about key moments in the New Cold War, including an eye-opening investigative report debunking the Western propaganda myth constructed around the death of Russian accountant Sergei Magnitsky or a well-produced historical account of the Ukraine crisis.
Western news outlets and governments even take pride in blocking such dissenting views and contrary information from reaching the American and European publics. Like East Stratcom — the E.U.’s Brussels-based 11-member team of diplomats, bureaucrats and former journalists — establishment institutions see themselves bravely battling “Russian disinformation.” They see it as their duty not to let their people hear this other side of the story.
If that is what the West’s institutions have come to — dismissing reasonable criticism and thoughtful dissent as “Russian disinformation” — is it any wonder that they are losing the confidence of their people?
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.
European Union data protection authorities have expressed fresh concerns about the privacy of Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system, despite tweaks being made to the OS after questions were raised about its treatment of personal data last year.
In a letter, the Article 29 Working Group said it still has “significant concerns” about how Microsoft collects and processes users’ personal data, and whether it obtains fully informed consent from users to do so.
“There is an apparent lack of control for users to prevent collection or further processing of such data. As a result, the Working Party specifically requests further explanatory information from Microsoft, as to how the opt-outs, default settings and other available control mechanisms presented during the installation of Windows 10 operating system provide a valid legal basis for the processing of personal data under the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC. This is especially of concern where Microsoft would rely on consent as a legal basis for the processing of personal data,” the statement said.
Windows 10 launched in July 2015, and almost immediately garnered criticism for the use of default settings to harvest voluminous amounts of user data, such as web browsing history, WIFI network names and passwords, in order to display personalized adverts as users browse the web or play games. User data is also fed in to train Microsoft’s Cortana digital assistant.
In response, the Article 29 Working Party instigated an investigation, as did several national data protection authorities, including France’s CNIL. Their independent conclusions were much the same; the company must stop excessive data collection.
Among the breaches CNIL accused Microsoft of were failing to obtain notice for data transfers, breaking cookie law requirements, having inadequate security protections for personal data, failure to file an authorization request for processing personal data for fraud prevention purposes, and breach of cross-border data transfer restrictions.
CNIL set a deadline of January 31 for Microsoft to comply with their recommendations, although the Working Group’s warning suggests the tech giant is yet to fulfil their obligations, meaning it can be fined. In all, Microsoft could face fines of up to US$3.2 million for breaches of domestic privacy laws.
The EU General Data Protection Regulation, due to come into force May 2018, increases the potential penalties for companies breaching EU data protection law, with fines of up to four percent of annual turnover for enterprises found to be non-compliant.
In a statement, European Digital Rights said Microsoft “grants itself very broad rights to collect everything you do, say and write” on Windows 10-equipped devices in order to sell more targeted advertising or to sell your data to third parties.
As if the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign hadn’t been horrendous enough, here comes another one: in France.
The system in France is very different, with multiple candidates in two rounds, most of them highly articulate, who often even discuss real issues. Free television time reduces the influence of big money. The first round on April 23 will select the two finalists for the May 7 runoff, allowing for much greater choice than in the United States.
But monkey see, monkey do, and the mainstream political class wants to mimic the ways of the Empire, even echoing the theme that dominated the 2016 show across the Atlantic: the evil Russians are messing with our wonderful democracy.
The aping of the U.S. system began with “primaries” held by the two main governing parties which obviously aspire to establish themselves as the equivalent of American Democrats and Republicans in a two-party system. The right-wing party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy has already renamed itself Les Républicains and the so-called Socialist Party leaders are just waiting for the proper occasion to call themselves Les Démocrates. But as things are going, neither one of them may come out ahead this time.
Given the nearly universal disaffection with the outgoing Socialist Party government of President François Hollande, the Republicans were long seen as the natural favorites to defeat Marine LePen, who is shown by all polls to top the first round. With such promising prospects, the Republican primary brought out more than twice as many volunteer voters (they must pay a small sum and claim allegiance to the party’s “values” in order to vote) as the Socialists. Sarkozy was eliminated, but more surprising, so was the favorite, the reliable establishment team player, Bordeaux mayor Alain Juppé, who had been leading in the polls and in media editorials.
Fillon’s Family Values
In a surprise show of widespread public disenchantment with the political scene, Republican voters gave landside victory to former prime minister François Fillon, a practicing Catholic with an ultra-neoliberal domestic policy: lower taxes for corporations, drastic cuts in social welfare, even health health insurance benefits – accelerating what previous governments have been doing but more openly. Less conventionally, Fillon strongly condemns the current anti Russian policy. Fillon also deviates from the Socialist government’s single-minded commitment to overthrowing Assad by showing sympathy for embattled Christians in Syria and their protector, which happens to be the Assad government.
Fillon has the respectable look, as the French say, of a person who could take communion without first going to confession. As a campaign theme he credibly stressed his virtuous capacity to oppose corruption.
Oops! On January 25, the semi-satirical weekly Le Canard Enchainé fired the opening shots of an ongoing media campaign designed to undo the image of Mister Clean, revealing that his British wife, Penelope, had been paid a generous salary for working as his assistant. As Penelope was known for staying home and raising their children in the countryside, the existence of that work is in serious doubt. Fillon also paid his son a lawyer’s fee for unspecified tasks and his daughter for supposedly assisting him write a book. In a sense, these allegations prove the strength of the conservative candidate’s family values. But his ratings have fallen and he faces possible criminal charges for fraud.
The scandal is real, but the timing is suspect. The facts are many years old, and the moment of their revelation is well calculated to ensure his defeat. Moreover, the very day after the Canard’s revelations, prosecutors hastily opened an inquiry. In comparison with all the undisclosed dirty work and unsolved blood crimes committed by those in control of the French State over the years, especially during its foreign wars, enriching one’s own family may seem relatively minor. But that is not the way the public sees it.
It is widely assumed that despite National Front candidate Marine LePen’s constant lead in the polls, whoever comes in second will win the runoff because the established political class and the media will rally around the cry to “save the Republic!” Fear of the National Front as “a threat to the Republic” has become a sort of protection racket for the established parties, since it stigmatizes as unacceptable a large swath of opposition to themselves. In the past, both main parties have sneakily connived to strengthen the National Front in order to take votes away from their adversary.
Thus, bringing down Fillon increases the chances that the candidate of the now thoroughly discredited Socialist Party may find himself in the magic second position after all, as the knight to slay the LePen dragon. But who exactly is the Socialist candidate? That is not so clear. There is the official Socialist Party candidate, Benoît Hamon. But the independent spin-off from the Hollande administration, Emmanuel Macron, “neither right nor left”, is gathering support from the right of the Socialist Party as well as from most of the neo-liberal globalist elite.
Macron is scheduled to be the winner. But first, a glance at his opposition on the left. With his ratings in the single digits, François Hollande very reluctantly gave in to entreaties from his colleagues to avoid the humiliation of running for a second term and losing badly. The badly attended Socialist Party primary was expected to select the fiercely pro-Israel prime minister Manuel Valls. Or if not, on his left, Arnaud Montebourg, a sort of Warren Beatty of French politics, famous for his romantic liaisons and his advocacy of re-industrialization of France.
Again, surprise. The winner was a colorless, little-known party hack named Benoît Hamon, who rode the wave of popular discontent to appear as a leftist critic and alternative to a Socialist government which sold out all Holland’s promises to combat “finance” and assaulted the rights of the working class instead. Hamon spiced up his claim to be “on the left” by coming up with a gimmick that is fashionable elsewhere in Europe but a novelty in French political discourse: the “universal basic income”. The idea of giving every citizen an equal handout can sound appealing to young people having trouble finding a job. But this idea, which originated with Milton Friedman and other apostles of unleashed financial capitalism, is actually a trap. The project assumes that unemployment is permanent, in contrast to projects to create jobs or share work. It would be financed by replacing a whole range of existing social allocations, in the name of “getting rid of bureaucracy” and “freedom of consumption”. The project would complete the disempowerment of the working class as a political force, destroying the shared social capital represented by public services, and splitting the dependent classes between paid workers and idle consumers.
There is scant chance that the universal income is about to become a serious item on the French political agenda. For the moment, Hamon’s claim to radicality serves to lure voters away from the independent left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Both are vying for support from greens and militants of the French Communist Party, which has lost all capacity to define its own positions.
The Divided Left
An impressive orator, Mélenchon gained prominence in 2005 as a leading opponent of the proposed European Constitution, which was decisively rejected by the French in a referendum, but was nevertheless adopted under a new name by the French national assembly. Like so many leftists in France, Mélenchon has a Trotskyist background (the Posadists, more attuned to Third World revolutions than their rivals) before joining the Socialist Party, which he left in 2008 to found the Parti de Gauche. He has sporadically wooed the rudderless Communist Party to join him as the Front de Gauche (the Left Front) and has declared himself its candidate for President on a new independent ticket called La France insoumise – roughly translated as “Insubordinate France”. Mélenchon is combative with France’s docile media, as he defends such unorthodox positions as praise of Chavez and rejection of France’s current Russophobic foreign policy. Unlike the conventional Hamon, who follows the Socialist party line, Mélenchon wants France to leave both the euro and NATO.
There are only two really strong personalities in this lineup: Mélenchon on the left and his adversary of choice, Marine LePen, on the right. In the past, their rivalry in local elections has kept both from winning even though she came out ahead. Their positions on foreign policy are hard to distinguish from each other: criticism of the European Union, desire to leave NATO, good relations with Russia.
Since both deviate from the establishment line, both are denounced as “populists” – a term that is coming to mean anyone who pays more attention to what ordinary people want than to what the Establishment dictates.
On domestic social policy, on preservation of social services and workers’ rights, Marine is well to the left of Fillon. But the stigma attached to the National Front as the “far right” remains, even though, with her close advisor Florian Philippot, she has ditched her father, Jean-Marie, and adjusted the party line to appeal to working class voters. The main relic of the old National Front is her hostility to immigration, which now centers on fear of Islamic terrorists. The terrorist killings in Paris and Nice have made these positions more popular than they used to be. In her effort to overcome her father’s reputation as anti-Semitic, Marine LePen has done her best to woo the Jewish community, helped by her rejection of “ostentatious” Islam, going so far as to call for a ban on wearing an ordinary Muslim headscarf in public.
A runoff between Mélenchon and LePen would be an encounter between a revived left and a revived right, a real change from the political orthodoxy that has alienated much of the electorate. That could make politics exciting again. At a time when popular discontent with “the system” is rising, it has been suggested (by Elizabeth Lévy’s maverick monthly Le Causeur) that the anti-system Mélenchon might actually have the best chance of winning working class votes away from the anti-system LePen.
But the pro-European Union, pro-NATO, neoliberal Establishment is at work to keep that from happening. On every possible magazine cover or talk show, the media have shown their allegiance to a “New! Improved!” middle of the road candidate who is being sold to the public like a consumer product. At his rallies, carefully coached young volunteers situated in view of the cameras greet his every vague generalization with wild cheers, waving flags, and chanting “Macron President!!!” before going off to the discotèque party offered as their reward. Macron is the closest thing to a robot ever presented as a serious candidate for President. That is, he is an artificial creation designed by experts for a particular task.
Emmanuel Macron, 39, was a successful investment banker who earned millions working for the Rothschild bank. Ten years ago, in 2007, age 29, the clever young economist was invited into the big time by Jacques Attali, an immensely influential guru, whose advice since the 1980s has been central in wedding the Socialist Party to pro-capitalist, neoliberal globalism. Attali incorporated him into his private think tank, the Commission for Stimulating Economic Growth, which helped draft the “300 Proposals to Change France” presented to President Sarkozy a year later as a blueprint for government. Sarkozy failed to enact them all, for fear of labor revolts, but the supposedly “left” Socialists are able to get away with more drastic anti-labor measures, thanks to their softer discourse.
The soft discourse was illustrated by presidential candidate François Hollande in 2012 when he aroused enthusiasm by declaring to a rally: “My real enemy is the world of finance!”. The left cheered and voted for him. Meanwhile, as a precaution, Hollande secretly dispatched Macron to London to reassure the City’s financial elite that it was all just electoral talk.
After his election, Hollande brought Macron onto his staff. From there he was given a newly created super-modern sounding government post as minister of Economy, Industry and Digital affairs in 2014. With all the bland charm of a department store mannequin, Macron upstaged his irascible colleague, prime minister Manuel Valls, in the silent rivalry to succeed their boss, President Hollande. Macron won the affection of big business by making his anti-labor reforms look young and clean and “progressive”. In fact, he pretty much followed the Attali agenda.
The theme is “competitiveness”. In a globalized world, a country must attract investment capital in order to compete, and for that it is necessary to lower labor costs. A classic way to do that is to encourage immigration. With the rise of identity politics, the left is better than the right in justifying massive immigration on moral grounds, as a humanitarian measure. That is one reason that the Democratic Party in the United States and the Socialist Party in France have become the political partners of neoliberal globalism. Together, they have changed the outlook of the official left from structural measures promoting economic equality to moral measures promoting equality of minorities with the majority.
Just last year, Macron founded (or had founded for him) his political movement entitled “En marche!” (Let’s go!) characterized by meetings with young groupies wearing Macron t-shirts. In three months he felt the call to lead the nation and announced his candidacy for President.
Many personalities are jumping the marooned Socialist ship and going over to Macron, whose strong political resemblance to Hillary Clinton suggests that his is the way to create a French Democratic Party on the U.S. model. Hillary may have lost but she remains the NATOland favorite. And indeed, U.S. media coverage confirms this notion. A glance at the ecstatic puff piece by Robert Zaretsky in Foreign Policy magazine hailing “the English-speaking, German-loving, French politician Europe has been waiting for” leaves no doubt that Macron is the darling of the trans-Atlantic globalizing elite.
At this moment, Macron is second only to Marine LePen in the polls, which also show him defeating her by a landslide in the final round. However, his carefully manufactured appeal is vulnerable to greater public information about his close ties to the economic elite.
Blame the Russians
For that eventuality, there is a preventive strike, imported directly from the United States. It’s the fault of the Russians!
What have the Russians done that is so terrible? Mainly, they have made it clear that they have a preference for friends rather than enemies as heads of foreign governments. Nothing so extraordinary about that. Russian news media criticize, or interview people who criticize, candidates hostile to Moscow. Nothing extraordinary about that either.
As an example of this shocking interference, which allegedly threatens to undermine the French Republic and Western values, the Russian news agency Sputnik interviewed a Republican member of the French parliament, Nicolas Dhuicq, who dared say that Macron might be “an agent of the American financial system”. That is pretty obvious. But the resulting outcry skipped over that detail to accuse Russian state media of “starting to circulate rumors that Macron had a gay extramarital affair” (The EU Observer, February 13, 2017). In fact this alleged “sexual slur” had been circulating primarily in gay circles in Paris, for whom the scandal, if any, is not Macron’s alleged sexual orientation but the fact that he denies it. The former mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, was openly gay, Marine Le Pen’s second in command Florian Philippot is gay, in France being gay is no big deal.
Macron is supported by a “very wealthy gay lobby”, Dhuicq is quoted as saying. Everyone knows who that is: Pierre Bergé, the rich and influential business manager of Yves Saint Laurent, personification of radical chic, who strongly supports surrogate gestation, which is indeed a controversial issue in France, the real controversy underlying the failed opposition to gay marriage.
The Deep State rises to the surface
The amazing adoption in France of the American anti-Russian campaign is indicative of a titanic struggle for control of the narrative – the version of international reality consumed by the masses of people who have no means to undertake their own investigations. Control of the narrative is the critical core of what Washington describes as its “soft power”. The hard power can wage wars and overthrow governments. The soft power explains to bystanders why that was the right thing to do. The United States can get away with literally everything so long as it can tell the story to its own advantage, without the risk of being credibly contradicted. Concerning sensitive points in the world, whether Iraq, or Libya, or Ukraine, control of the narrative is basically exercised by the partnership between intelligence agencies and the media. Intelligence services write the story, and the mass corporate media tell it.
Together, the anonymous sources of the “deep state” and the mass corporate media have become accustomed to controlling the narrative told to the public. They don’t want to give that power up. And they certainly don’t want to see it challenged by outsiders – notably by Russian media that tell a different story.
That is one reason for the extraordinary campaign going on to denounce Russian and other alternative media as sources of “false news”, in order to discredit rival sources. The very existence of the Russian international television news channel RT aroused immediate hostility: how dare the Russians intrude on our version of reality! How dare they have their own point of view! Hillary Clinton warned against RT when she was Secretary of State and her successor John Kerry denounced it as a “propaganda bullhorn”. What we say is truth, what they say can only be propaganda.
The denunciation of Russian media and alleged Russian “interference in our elections” is a major invention of the Clinton campaign, which has gone on to infect public discourse in Western Europe. This accusation is a very obvious example of double standards, or projection, since U.S. spying on everybody, including it allies, and interference in foreign elections are notorious.
The campaign denouncing “fake news” originating in Moscow is in full swing in both France and Germany as elections approach. It is this accusation that is the functional interference in the campaign, not Russian media. The accusation that Marine Le Pen is “the candidate of Moscow” is not only meant to work against her, but is also preparation for the efforts to instigate some variety of “color revolution” should she happen to win the May 7 election. CIA interference in foreign elections is far from limited to contentious news reports.
In the absence of any genuine Russian threat to Europe, claims that Russian media are “interfering in our democracy” serve to brand Russia as an aggressive enemy and thereby justify the huge NATO military buildup in Northeastern Europe, which is reviving German militarism and directing national wealth into the arms industry.
In some ways, the French election is an extension of the American one, where the deep state lost its preferred candidate, but not its power. The same forces are at work here, backing Macron as the French Hillary, but ready to stigmatize any opponent as a tool of Moscow.
What has been happening over the past months has confirmed the existence of a Deep State that is not only national but trans-Atlantic, aspiring to be global. The anti-Russian campaign is a revelation. It reveals to many people that there really is a Deep State, a trans-Atlantic orchestra that plays the same tune without any visible conductor. The term “Deep State” is suddenly popping up even in mainstream discourse, as a reality than cannot be denied, even if it is hard to define precisely. Instead of the Military Industrial Complex, we should perhaps call it the Military Industrial Intelligence Military Media Complex, or MIIMMC. Its power is enormous, but acknowledging that it exists is the first step toward working to free ourselves from its grip.
Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. Her new book is Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei warned that the real war against the Islamic Republic is an economic and a cultural one.
“Both the former and new administrations in the United States have been threatening us with wars,” said the Leader reacting to all war rhetoric used by Washington against the Islamic Republic.
Addressing a large group of visiting people from Tabriz, Imam Khamenei said: “They have always said that the military option is on the table,” he said.
“But the real war remains to be an economic one, the imposition of sanctions and denying the people the chance to promote businesses and economic and technological activities in the country,” the Leader said.
His eminence also recalled comments by some European officials warning Iranian authorities that Iran had to go to war in the absence of the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Such comments are just plain lies, the Leader said, elaborating on why some insist on threatening Iran with a war option.
“They just want to keep us too much involved with a military war to detract us from the economic war we face,” he said.
“The real war is also a cultural one,” Imam Khamenei added.
The euro currency is a major factor accelerating the process of economic and political disintegration within the European Union, according to Belgian left politician Peter Mertens.
The European Union is now “disintegrating,” Paul Magnette, Minister-President of the Belgian French-speaking region of Wallonia, said in a recent interview with L’Echo.
“We are nearing a process of political disintegration, with some countries becoming ungovernable,” the politician said.
Magnette also criticized the euro currency as poorly thought-out, which accelerated “social and financial deregulation.”
Magnette has been known as a vocal critic of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), a free trade deal between the EU and Canada. In the interview, he also spoke out for withdrawal from the bloc of such countries as Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary, following the Brexit example.
Magnette’s remarks are especially surprising, taking into account the fact that such criticism came from a left-wing and pro-European politician.
Peter Mertens, the leader of the Workers’ Party of Belgium, underscored that in Belgium criticism of the current state of European integration comes from left-wing political forces, not from the right, like in France or in the Netherlands.
“From the very beginning, the euro has been a problem. The currency was designed to serve the interests of Germany, Europe’s strongest economy. It was clear that the European united market was not people’s will. It was a project for the business establishment,” Mertens said in an interview with Sputnik French.
The politician shared Magnette’s suggestion that the eastward expansion of the European Union was not conducted properly.
“In 2007-2008, several Eastern European countries joined the EU. The main reason was that German companies were looking for a cheap labor force. At the same time, it was clear that such countries as Bulgaria and Romania were not as economically developed as Central Europe. As a result, now there are two polarities in the EU, between the north and the south and between the west and the east,” Mertens pointed out.
He also agreed with Magnette that the introduction of the euro only deepened the social and economic divisions within the EU.
“In my opinion, the euro currency system was built under Germany’s surveillance. And I think that to a certain extent the current EU is autocratic and authoritarian,” he said.
Nevertheless, Mertens warned that a withdrawal of Eastern European countries from the EU would not resolve the crisis.
“We should not forget that we need to protect those countries. Now, some political forces call for cooperation only with economically developed countries. But we should continue our cooperation with Poland and other Eastern European countries,” he said.
Mertens also said that criticism of the European Union should not be monopolized by right-wing political movements.
“These concerns [about the crisis in the EU] can be expressed in many ways. For example, criticism can be expressed by the nationalists or the far-rights, like in France and the Netherlands. But it can also come from the left, like in Spain or Wallonia. The common idea is that the current political elites do not represent their people anymore,” Mertens concluded.
Hundreds of Belgian Artists and Academics Urge Government to End Participation in EU Project Cooperating with Israeli National Police
In Belgium, 482 professors and researchers, and more than 190 artists, have written an open letter calling on their authorities to withdraw from participating in a European Union funded research project called LAW TRAIN, in which Belgium and Spain cooperate with the Israeli National Police.
The project, aimed at developing joint interrogation methods, is coordinated by an Israeli university with particularly deep ties to Israel’s army and notorious security services. The signatories of this open letter highlight that Israeli methods are tested on Palestinians. Israel’s illegal detention of Palestinian political prisoners, and the systematic abuse and torture perpetrated by Israeli security forces during interrogations, is well documented. And, in 2016 alone, Israelis interrogated at least 7,000 Palestinians, including over 400 children.
This open letter is part of broader efforts by the Belgian Coalition To Stop Law Train, and broader European-wide efforts against the participation of the Israeli military, homeland security and police sector in research and development funded by the European Union. Other forms of mobilizing have included direct actions, conferences, and lobbying.
With Trump’s arrival in the White House, European leaders were the first to talk of «a new historical era» (Angela Merkel) and the fact that «the old world of the 20th century is over» (Frank-Walter Steinmeier). The alarmism running through these statements is fuelling discussions about the uncertainty and unpredictability of the new American president. In my view, however, judgements on his «unpredictability» should be tempered slightly. At the very least because if a political entity is «unpredictable» and everything surrounding it suddenly becomes uncertain, then one can easily imagine that planning would be impossible, leaving nothing to do but wait and see what Trump is going to do next and then react. Ultimately, this way of thinking will prevent countries from developing their own national strategies.
If there is any «unpredictability» with regard to Trump, then it is only in comparison with the White House’s previous policies, which the new administration will not be pursuing. When Richard Nixon was impeached, it heralded a creeping coup d’etat that resulted in supporters of cosmopolitan finance capital coming to power in the US. Over the past quarter of a century, the interests of American banksters have brought about the large-scale demolition of industry and the middle class in their own country. A huge number of Americans with links to the real economy were never going to be happy with such a state of affairs, and this is where the interests of certain groups of manufacturers coincided with the interests of parts of the middle class and skilled workers. Trump’s arrival in the White House is a victory for this group of manufacturers and workers and is seriously changing the rules of the game that have existed for almost forty years. And in this sense, Trump’s victory could be considered revolutionary.
At the same time, however, Trump’s rhetoric and his ‘soothing’ remarks should not be idealised for a number of reasons.
Firstly, whatever extraordinary personal qualities the president may have, the US political system is designed in such a way that he needs the support of its major segments. Trump is not an island; he is a man of the system, or, to be more precise, a certain part of it. Only «collective Trump» was able to become the president of the United States. Wealth and connections are an indispensable part of big politics and if these are used to achieve supreme power, then this supreme power will, in turn, be used to serve the interests of all those who helped the rise of a new political star.
Secondly, by promoting ‘their’ presidential candidate, stakeholders already have a strategy, a plan of action, the audit results of resources and capabilities. What’s more, domination and influence are primarily ideas that produce money and galvanise other resources. Trump’s team has such ideas. They are balanced and well thought out and show the new US president’s ‘business approach’ to politics. And, equally importantly, Donald Trump is committed. Unlike Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other hired managers of the ‘global elite’, he is sure that he’s right.
Thirdly, the laws governing the development of society, the class struggle, and social solidarity are still in place. As the richest president ever, Trump will not indulge in altruism or hand out money on the streets. His goal is to streamline economic and political institutions, which he’s already doing. The world views he expressed in his inauguration speech are acquiring clear outlines.
Among the recent news stories demonstrating his readiness to back up his words with deeds is his decision to introduce a tax on Mexican oil. This looks like the protection of domestic oil producers with a view to revolutionising the offshore oil and gas sectors. And let it contradict the rules of ‘free trade’ – for Trump and those who brought him to power, these rules mean absolutely nothing. The most important thing is to revitalise the US economy and improve the country’s industrial capacity.
By combining nationalism and protectionism, prioritising America’s internal problems, and appealing to labourers, blue collar workers and America’s Rust Belt, Trump is building on the authority of America’s seventh president, Andrew Jackson (who, incidentally, was the founder of the Democratic Party). Jackson’s ideology and policies are fundamentally different from the Wilsonian principles so dear to those in charge of the Federal Reserve System (it’s no coincidence that America’s 28th president, Woodrow Wilson, who is quite rightly considered to be the founder of the liberal world order project, is on America’s biggest bank note ($100,000)).
By following in Jackson’s footsteps, Trump is putting national interests rather than global leadership at the heart of his policies, and this is an interesting point that will not necessarily coincide with the interests of Russia and may actually go against them. During his inauguration speech, Trump said: «We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first. We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow». These words are worth thinking about.
Fourthly, the respected American analyst Edward Luttwak is convinced that the emergence of a politician like Trump was a reaction to what went before and was 90% unavoidable.
In fact, much of what went before has led to catastrophic changes in global politics. Anti-modern forces have replaced secular regimes in the Muslim world. The strategy of ‘controlled chaos’ chosen by the Democrats has not only helped destroy secular states, but has also given rise to anti-system forces where aggression and destruction, archaism and barbarity have infiltrated Europe along with hundreds of thousands of refugees who no longer have borders. With his global expansion policy, Obama drove the European Union into a trap and contributed to its weakening and imbalance. The split within the American elite and the support for Trump are largely down to a reluctance to repeat Europe’s experience. Hence the tough anti-immigration rhetoric and the new administration’s desire to destroy the Islamic State. That’s on the one hand.
On the other, «collective Trump» knows all too well that expansion does not just bear fruit in the form of military bases, a vassal mentality in the leaders of other countries, cheap goods, and the triumph of the dollar on all continents. Expansion is also a heavy burden that threatens to tear such forces apart. A little breathing space is needed to make a breakthrough and «shine as an example for everyone». Efforts need to be concentrated and regrouped and resources need to be optimised. The entire history of the US has been an alternation of two trends: a period of expansion, of enlargement (under the Democrats Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy) followed by a period of ‘contraction’, of concentration (under the Republicans, with the exception of George W Bush).
Trump as a reaction to what went before is, above all, this much-needed breathing space; it is America focussing on its internal problems; it is a period to digest what has been eaten. Trump’s America could be regarded as America getting ready for a new leap, for new heights. Hence its focus on its own internal problems. This focus is temporary, however. There is no point in portraying Trump as an isolationist. He will implement a foreign policy that will strengthen the US and there are a number of ways that this could happen. By weakening the European Union and China, for example, or by abandoning an active policy towards Ukraine. Ukraine had already become an old suitcase without handles for the Obama administration – difficult to carry, but a shame to throw away. Getting rid of something in politics is the same as losing face, but Trump is not in danger of losing face – he can easily swap Ukraine for other options.
As far as Russia is concerned, Trump’s arrival mostly opens a window of opportunity. While the US digests its thick broth of globalisation, brought to the boil by Obama, Russia will be able to solve a few of its own problems. The most important thing is that it has a clear understanding of these problems, and a clear understanding of America’s new strategy. And with such an understanding, there will be no «unpredictability».