Over the weekend, President-elect Trump received two journalists from mainstream European print media — The Times of London and the German magazine Bild — for a joint interview in New York City’s Trump Tower. The event was videotaped and we are seeing some remarkable sound bites, particularly those of interest to the British and German publics.
For the government of British Prime Minister Theresa May, nothing could have sounded sweeter than Donald Trump’s statement that she would be invited for talks in the White House shortly after he is sworn in on Jan. 20 and that he seeks very quickly to reach agreement on a bilateral free trade pact. The effect of the pledge itself, even ahead of its successful implementation, assures the British that the sting of severing ties with the European Union will be greatly offset by new commercial possibilities in the world’s biggest economy; in this way, it strengthens May’s hand enormously as she enters into talks with the E.U. leadership over the detailed terms of what will apparently be a “Hard Brexit.”
Further adding to her leverage with the E.U. were Trump’s remarks suggesting that the E.U. will face stern trade pressure, beginning with Germany and its automobile industry, to do more to manufacture in the U.S. That precisely raises the relative importance of the U.K. market, which the E.U. will otherwise lose if it imposes severe penalties on Britain in negotiations over Brexit.
For the general public’s consumption, Donald Trump used the interview to explain his special affection for Britain, speaking about his Scottish mother’s delight in the Queen and her watching every royal event on television for its unequaled pageantry. But we may expect that Prime Minister May will find there is a bill to pay for the “special relationship” with the U.S. under President Trump.
Rather than the British media’s early speculation that Prime Minister May would be the one to set the misguided Trump straight about the nefarious Vladimir Putin, she may now have to become a leading European advocate for détente with Russia at Trump’s behest. In this connection, British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson’s advice to Congress during his visit to Washington last week that Official Washington “stop demonizing Putin” may well have been a straw in the wind.
For the Germans, Trump also offered a bit of flattery, saying how much he respected their Chancellor Angela Merkel. However, as he went on, he virtually flattened the Iron Lady’s reputation by calling her open-door policy of admitting migrants into Germany and the E.U. a catastrophe. He noted that Merkel’s controversial position had swayed the election results in Britain on Brexit and may lead to the departure of other countries from the E.U. Given his staff’s consultation with Marine Le Pen, a visiting French candidate for the presidency from the right-wing Front National, Trump’s list surely includes France.
Finally, among the sound bites that will be featured in media coverage of the interview, we hear Donald Trump describe NATO as an outdated organization that needs overhaul. However, apart from his reiterated insistence that Member States must pay their fair share, which he claims only Britain and four others from the 28 Member States are currently doing, the interview offers no specifics on what kind structural change, if any, he seeks for NATO. We only hear that NATO has not been prepared to deal with the threat of international terrorism.
Views on Russia
But it was in another area, Trump’s remarks on Russia and the terms he named for possibly lifting sanctions, that we find convincing proof that the President-elect’s approach to foreign affairs is not just the sum of isolated tactical considerations but a complete reinvention of the guiding principles of U.S. foreign policy. What we are witnessing is a shift to a new strategic, geopolitical paradigm.
In the past couple of decades, going back to the second term of President Bill Clinton, the ideology of neoconservatism with its stress on “democracy promotion” as being the whole of national interest, dictated policy decisions that amounted to the tail wagging the dog. The Baltic States were admitted into NATO in its 2004 enlargement because they wanted it. The decision to station U.S., German and other NATO brigades in Poland and other states along the Russian border taken last July in Warsaw and implemented, in the case of Poland, by U.S. forces in the past several days, was justified by the anxiety of these countries over the possibility of Russian aggression, even though NATO’s action has been highly provocative vis-à-vis Russia and brought the major nuclear powers ever closer to direct confrontation.
In the interview, Trump changed entirely the metrics by which sanctions on Russia would be lifted. Instead of fulfillment of the Minsk Accords over Ukraine’s ethnic Russian Donbas region – which nationalist hardliners in Kiev had the power to block – Trump conditioned the relaxation of sanctions on progress in curbing the nuclear arms race and moving toward significant nuclear disarmament, issues that are fully within the power of the Kremlin to implement.
To be sure, these issues today are more complex than they were in the heyday of disarmament talks. The recent obstacles include the U.S. anti-ballistic missile installations in Poland and Romania, the forward stationing of NATO human and materiel resources in the former Warsaw Pact countries, and the standing invitations to Ukraine and Georgia to enter NATO. So any negotiations between Washington and Moscow will be very complex.
But Trump’s statement shows that he is focused on the big picture, on the triangular relationship between Washington, Moscow and Beijing that he believes to be of vital importance in keeping the peace globally, rather than on some amorphous reliance on expanding democracy globally on the unproven assumption that democracies among themselves are peace-loving.
These elements in Donald Trump’s thinking, quite unexpected in a businessman, bring him very close to the Realism of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, while his setting nuclear disarmament as a key goal, aligns him with Ronald Reagan and — strange to say — with Barack Obama at the very start of his presidency.
If Donald Trump can stave off the jackals from the Western mainstream media and the U.S. foreign policy establishment – a combination that has formed a snarling circle around him even before he takes office – he may have a chance to make historic changes in international relations toward a more peaceful world.
Gilbert Doctorow is the European Coordinator of The American Committee for East West Accord Ltd. His latest book, Does Russia Have a Future? was published in August 2015.
Since becoming the US Commander-in-Chief in 2008, Barack Obama charted a thinly veiled anti-Russia course that many failed to anticipate or appreciate due to the media-generated hype of “hope and change” that accompanied his rise to power.
Few modern leaders have entered the world stage with more fanfare than Barack Hussein Obama. After George W. Bush’s eight-year War on Terror tour, many were ready to believe America’s first black president would throw the US juggernaut into reverse. Indeed, so mesmerized was the global village with Obama, who never brokered so much as a used car deal, it nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize after less than two weeks in office.
To understand the source of our enchantment, we have to rewind to January 2007, shortly before Obama’s meteoric rise: The relationship between the US and Russia had just entered severe turbulence as the Bush administration, top heavy with vicious neocons, announced it would drop a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe, with missile silos in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic. The system, Washington explained, was to guard Europe from a rogue missile strike, ostensibly from Iran, despite the fact that such a reckless move on the part of Tehran would have meant quick US-assisted suicide.
Moscow was not fooled. This was made clear on February 12, 2007 when Vladimir Putin delivered his now famous speech at the Munich Security Conference. The Russian leader warned the stony-faced delegates assembled there: “Plans to expand certain elements of the anti-missile defense system to Europe cannot help but disturb us. Who needs the next step of what would be, in this case, an inevitable arms race? I deeply doubt that Europeans themselves do.”
Putin went on to slam the American “hyperpower” and its well-trained NATO attack dog for pursuing a “world of one master, one sovereign” that will spark an “inevitable arms race.”
Putin’s reality check came about three decades too late to break Europe’s heavy American chains, thereby proving the ‘Stockholm syndrome’ – the curious psychological condition when hostages develop a helpless attachment to their captors – can affect entire nations and even continents as well.
Suffice it to recall, later in Obama’s presidency, Europe’s muted reaction when an idealistic young American, Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor turned whistleblower, handed over thousands of classified documents detailing a US surveillance program that spanned the entire planet. Even Angela Merkel’s private cell phone was considered fair game. Yet the astonishing revelations did little to dampen Europe’s commitment to the Obama administration’s policies.
But all that was in the future. In the meantime, the world held its breath at the abyss, placing its faith in the “hope and change” snake oil an Illinois Senator named Barack Obama was peddling via teleprompter to a war-weary world that was increasingly willing to believe just about anything.
Obama’s ‘Reset’ snow job
When Barack Obama emerged victorious in America’s 2008 game of thrones, there was a promising break in the storm clouds. Experts consulted their battered almanacs and predicted brighter days ahead in the US-Russia relationship. Unfortunately, the geopolitical weathermen got it wrong. Tragically wrong. And it all began with an innocuous sounding plan – the US-Russia “reset” – rolled out by the seemingly well-intentioned Obama administration.
In March 2009, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met in Geneva, where Clinton presented her counterpart with a cute “reset” button to signal in the much-anticipated dawn in bilateral relations. Although the largely symbolic gesture made for a great photo-op, the reset moment was beset with glitches from the very start.
Much to the apparent embarrassment of the attendees, the US State Department had misspelled the word ‘reset’ on the thingamajig in the Russian version; instead of “reset” it spelled – ominously and even prophetically – “overload.”
Lavrov and Clinton laughed off the technicality, cracked a few jokes, and pressed the plunger, thereby committing both sides to a tragic farce. Lavrov could not have predicted such a backfire, however, since it was difficult to expect nothing less than miracles from the affable black guy from Hawaii who spoke so eloquently about ridding the planet of nuclear weapons, heralding in an age of world peace, and all that.
In any case, Moscow had no other choice but to believe him.
A few months later, when Obama announced he was going to “shelve” the missile defense plans of his hawkish predecessor, it appeared the US leader was truly the real deal. The belligerent Bush years, it now appeared, was nothing but an historic anomaly, a forlorn figure in the rear-view mirror; America had conquered its aggressive neocon alter-ego after all.
Those happy sentiments lasted for about as long as it took to read that line. Yes, Obama would “shelve” Bush’s ambitious missile defense plans, but, with a sleight of hand and a lot of flip-flop, the deceptive Democrat unveiled his own jazzy surround system – the sea-based Aegis SM-3 interceptors and forward-based radar, which turned out to be – surprise, surprise – every bit as lethal as the Bush variant.
The Obama administration, however, apparently forgot that while the rest of the world played checkers, the Russians preferred chess. Robert Gates, then defense minister, acknowledged as much when he noted, “the Russians quickly concluded that the Obama plan was even worse from their perspective, as it eventually might have capabilities that could be used against Russian intercontinental missiles,” the Washington Post reported.
This admission blew the cover off of Obama’s greatest deception, the US-Russia reset hoax. So now the question was no longer: Would the United States shelve the missile defense system? But rather: Would it cooperate with Russia on the system, thus sparing Eastern Europe another arms race?
The answer to that question should have been obvious. After months of wild goose chases around negotiating tables, Moscow understood that the Obama administration was simply bluffing in order to buy time.
In November 2011, then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced the formal end of missile defense talks (and the implicit beginning of an arms race). In fact, the Obama administration – the very same nice people who introduced the reset idea – refused to even provide written assurances that the system would not pose a threat to Russia’s ballistic missile force, thereby upsetting the regional strategic apple cart.
Medvedev said Russia would, among other immediate errands, deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, equip Russia’s strategic ballistic missiles with advanced warheads that are impervious to the missile defense system, and deploy offensive weapon systems able to “take out any part of the US missile defense system in Europe.”
If any of these moves on the part of Russia could be considered “aggressive,” Washington had nobody but itself to blame.
Yet, the US has talked up the mythical threat of “Russian aggression” among its NATO client states to such a feverish pitch that these governments could not refute the groundless charges without appearing to be disloyal to Washington. In other words, NATO members are not allies of the United States by mutual consent, but rather allies by arm-twisting compulsion.
This brings us to the most dangerous part of the Obama administration’s double-dealing: Moscow itself is beginning to feel threatened by what it views – and rightly, I believe – to be American aggression on anabolic steroids.
Here is what Putin had to say about the US missile defense system, which has just gone live in Romania: “They say [the missile systems] are part of their defense capability, and are not offensive, that these systems are aimed at protecting them from aggression. It’s not true,” the Russian leader said. The “great danger” is that the launchers can be used to fire US Tomahawk missiles “in a matter of hours,” Putin said.
Meanwhile, technological advances will only make the system increasingly more versatile and powerful. And exactly where the magic tipping point is, when the ‘defense’ system shifts the global strategic balance, nobody can say with certainty. Putin acknowledged this, saying “technologies are developing, and we know around what year the Americans will get a new missile, which will have a range not of 500 kilometers, but 1,000, and then even more – and from that moment they will start threatening our nuclear capability.”
This deadly threat to Russia’s national security – a threat the United States would never accept if the situation were reversed – naturally places those nations hosting the US missile defense system square in Russia’s cross-hairs. It also makes it highly unlikely that Moscow will concede to further nuclear missile cuts. Only a fool would take a dagger over a sword while his opponent reaches for a bigger shield.
Indeed, not only did the double-dealing on the missile defense system trigger another arms race, it has threatened the New START Treaty – a nuclear arms reduction agreement signed into force by Medvedev and Obama on April 8, 2010 in Prague.
Here is where the deceitful nature of Obama’s ‘reset’ is clearly revealed: At the very same time the United States was building for itself a mighty shield in Eastern Europe, capable of neutralizing Russian ballistic missiles, it was also working to have Russia dramatically reduce its nuclear ‘sword’ through New START. Obviously, the United States can’t have it both ways, but that doesn’t mean it won’t stop trying.
It is interesting to note that US President-elect Donald Trump has just suggested that he would consider the possibility of ending the sanctions regime against Russia in return for “dramatically reducing” nuclear weapons.
“They have sanctions on Russia — let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia. For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially,” Trump told The Independent.
Trump may be many things, but a fool he is not. So he must certainly understand that those weapons are Russia’s only viable protection against the US missile defense, which, as we’ve said, could turn offensive in a matter of minutes. Moscow, it would appear, is hardly in a position to negotiate on these weapons.
What price reset?
The full implications of Barack Obama’s pure deception over the missile defense system proved that the so-called “reset” – or “overload” – had been nothing but a ploy, a smoke and mirrors diversionary tactic, in the hope of lulling Russia into believing that Washington was sincere about turning a new page in US-Russia relations. It was not.
A heavy footnote that needs mentioning is that the key architect of the US-Russia reset was Michael McFaul, whose research, according to his own webpage, focused on “Russian electoral trends, post-communist regime change, and American foreign policy.”
Little surprise, then, that Moscow expressed serious reservations when Obama broke with diplomatic protocol and named the non-career academic – the esteemed doctor of regime change, thank you very much – as US Ambassador to Russia in January 2012.
Would it surprise anyone that US diplomats have engaged in espionage in Russia and actively participated in the rallies staged by Russian opposition forces, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov revealed this week.
“In addition to spying, US Embassy diplomats have repeatedly been seen taking part in the rallies of opposition, anti-government forces, unauthorized rallies, including times when they wore disguise. Do the math yourselves,” Lavrov stated.
Clearly, the reset was doomed to failure from the start, not because of any lack of will, but rather because the Obama administration was committed to it never succeeding in the first place.
Fast forward to 2016, and it is no coincidence that we see more than just the US missile defense system on Russia’s border. The New Year is barely underway and already we have dozens of US tanks, equipment and thousands of US soldiers fanning out across Poland and the Baltic States for what promises to be a continuous rotation of American military force – exactly the sort of provocation US planners need to keep the entire region believing in the myth of “Russian aggression” and NATO members cracking open their wallets to buy up more US-made military hardware.
So where is that promise of cooperation Barack Obama made to Russia when he first entered office? It’s in that same state of limbo where other famous Obama promises – like shuttering Guantanamo Bay detention facility and working to bring about global peace – are located: neither here nor there. A big part of the explanation is that the neocons are still calling the shots in Washington.
Meanwhile, the US mainstream media continues to serve up heavy helpings of fake news with regards to Russia, like this opening line from The Spectator, which says it all: “Is the Russian president really crazy enough to launch a new wave of invasions, or is it all a clever bluff?”
The intelligent, well-informed reader would immediately ask: “What Russian invasions?” After all, the only time Russia initiated a military operation against a sovereign state was in August 2008 after Georgian forces invaded Tskhinval, the capital of South Ossetia, killing 12 Russian peacekeepers that had been stationed there.
Although the Western media absolved then Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili of any wrongdoing at the time, an independent European investigation quietly concluded a year later that Georgia was indeed responsible for the instigating the five-day conflict.
Who could have predicted eight years ago that Barack Obama, the ‘peace president,’ would turn out to be many times more belligerent than the ‘war president’ George W. Bush?
The warring peace president
As Obama’s final year winds down, some incredible statistics are beginning to emerge that show how militaristic the United States has become under Obama.
“From Albania to Uruguay, Algeria to Uzbekistan, America’s most elite forces – Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets among them – were deployed to 138 countries in 2016,” according to figures supplied to TomDispatch by US Special Operations Command. That figure is a surge of 130 percent since the gung-ho days of the Bush administration.
In the very same year, the Obama administration dropped an estimated 26,171 bombs, with most of them falling on the people of Syria and Iraq. US bombs also hit targets in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. That’s seven Muslim countries by the way.
Reset or not, there is no way Russia would have just sat back and watched as the Obama administration storm-trooped its way through the Middle East and beyond.
Considering these truly disturbing figures, it is clear that the US military – and its commander-in-chief – was out of control, drunk on absolute power, and wreaking mayhem around a punch-drunk planet for the past eight years. The data also goes far at explaining Washington’s marked hostility to Russian efforts to lend its military assistance in Syria against the terrorists of Islamic State. Although it was largely due to Russia’s air campaign that places like Aleppo and Palmyra were eventually liberated, today the Obama administration pretends Russia did nothing of significance in Syria.
On the weekend, Ash soon-to-be-relieved-of-his-imperial-command Carter, US Defense Secretary, actually had the gall to say that Russia forces have achieved “virtually nothing” in Syria. Nothing that could have been considered treacherous, he could have added.
The irony of the comment is so heavy it practically drips off the page: When Russia remained on the sidelines of the Ukrainian civil war, refusing to get involved in the affairs of its neighbor, it was falsely accused in Western media of actually invading that country. On the other hand, when Russia was invited to enter the territory of Syria by its president to fight against Islamic State, which it did with stunning results, it was said by Washington to have “contributed nothing” to the Syrian efforts.
All things considered, the reasons are obvious why the US-Russia reset never worked from the beginning. It was predetermined to fail from the outset because America – due to its supreme arrogance and exceptionalism – believes it has no need of allies or partnerships.
That conceit is the fatal flaw of every dying empire.
Robert Bridge, an American writer and journalist based in Moscow, Russia, is the author of the book on corporate power, “Midnight in the American Empire”, released in 2013.
President Obama has decided to send 300 US Marines back into Afghanistan’s Helmand Province – the first time in three years that the US military has been sent into that conflict zone.
Almost all of Helmand’s districts, except for the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, are either heavily embattled or fully controlled by the Taliban. The province is the leading opium producer in the country.
Despite all the promises to withdraw, 8,400 US troops will remain in Afghanistan as the president leaves office on January 20. If the US pulls out, the Afghan government will hardly be able to hold power.
American forces have been engaged in combat action there for over 15 years – the longest war waged by the United States – without end to hostilities in sight.
Around 200 NATO soldiers, mainly Italians, have also been deployed to Afghanistan’s volatile western province of Farah after attempts by Taliban fighters in recent months to overrun its capital city.
About a third of the country – more territory than at any time since 2001 – is either under insurgent control or in risk of coming under it. The Taliban forces have challenged Afghan security forces for a number of key cities in 2016. With fighting under way in 24 of the 34 provinces, the government’s ability to control the country is questioned.
Last December, General John Nicholson, the chief US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, said the government directly controls about 64 percent of the population of 30 million, down slightly from 68 percent earlier in 2016.
According to Robert Grenier who served as CIA’s top counter-terrorism official and was the station chief in Islamabad, Pakistan, from 1999 to 2002, there are significant parts of the country, particularly in the south and the east, where it seems inevitable that the Taliban will further consolidate their control. The Afghan forces had more than 15,000 casualties in the first eight months of 2016, including more than 5,500 deaths.
The administration in Kabul lacks unity while the clout of regional leaders and warlords is growing. The UN says 7 million people in Afghanistan need aid. 2.2 million of them suffer from malnutrition. Poverty and unemployment prompt young Afghans to join extremist groups.
After the Russian forces in Syria struck the oil infrastructure under the control of Islamic State (IS), the issue of controlling heroin routes in Afghanistan became even more important for the group. According to the Russian Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN), the IS militants make $1 billion a year from Afghan heroin. The possibility of alliance between the Taliban and IS is a real nightmare.
Afghan officials have approached Russia asking it to resume cooperation. Its representatives believe that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has a role to play in managing the crisis in the country. NATO officials have also made statements in support of resuming Russia-NATO cooperation in Afghanistan. The cooperation was suspended after Crimea became part of the Russian Federation in 2014.
Moscow allowed land transit though its territory of non-military freight from NATO and non-NATO ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) countries. NATO used the transit center near Ulyanovsk. The parties implemented a program of common training for the prevention of drug trade in Central Asia.
Russia sold military equipment and ammunition to support the NATO operations in Afghanistan. For instance, in 2010 NATO bought 31 Russian Mi-17 helicopters to refurbish them for the Afghan army.
Against the background of ballyhoo raised in the United States regarding the “threat” coming from Moscow, Washington has partially lifted sanctions against Russian cooperation with Afghanistan on helicopter maintenance. It was not the only time. The US has broken its own sanctions regime allowing the acquisition of Russian technology for its space program.
The Afghan government badly needs more Russian helicopters to repel Taliban and IS attacks. In 2016, it formally asked the Russian government to start the deliveries.
If Russia delivers its aviation equipment to Afghanistan, it will need to train Afghan personnel. Formally, that’s what US and NATO are doing in Afghanistan now- they are in the country on advising and training missions. In fact, it will mean the resumption of cooperation while carrying out the same mission.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently expressed concern over the situation in Afghanistan and called for taking urgent steps to tackle the problem. The instability in that country spreads to Central Asia posing a direct threat to Russia’s security. Roughly, 2,000 militants operating in the Afghan northern provinces come from the countries of the post-Soviet space.
There is a growing risk of extremist attacks on the states allied with Moscow. Fighters with combat experience received in Syria have already been spotted in the Uzbek Fergana Valley. The infiltration of Islamic State (IS) into Afghanistan threatens the Russian North Caucasus and the Volga region. Besides, Afghan heroin kills 25,000 Russians annually.
Afghanistan is a burning issue – a problem that only an international effort can solve. This is an issue of common interest for Russia and the Alliance. The situation in the country could be discussed within the framework of Russia-NATO Council. On January 4, the Russian Foreign Ministry made a very important statement saying Russia was ready to restore the relations with NATO. Afghanistan could become a starting point on the way of rebuilding the broken relationship.
US President-elect Donald Trump has hinted that the US could lift its sanctions against Russia, called Merkel’s migrant policy “a catastrophic mistake” and branded NATO “obsolete” in a new interview for The Times and Bild.
The interview was given in the President-elect’s office in Trump Tower, just days before his inauguration.
Trump was quite straightforward in speaking out in favor of some common ground with Moscow.
“They have sanctions on Russia — let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia. For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially,” Trump said to the two media outlets.
At the same time, sanctions aren’t affecting Russia well, [and] “something can happen that a lot of people are going to benefit,” he added.
Moving on to other topical issues, Trump slammed Angela Merkel’s migrant policy as “a catastrophic mistake,” saying that Germany shouldn’t have taken “all these illegals.”
“Nobody even knows where they come from,” Trump added.
Trump wasn’t optimistic about the fate of the EU, either, saying that there is basically one country that benefits from staying in the bloc.
“You look at the European Union and it’s Germany. Basically a vehicle for Germany. That’s why I thought the UK was so smart in getting out.”
Trump thinks it was the refugee influx that was “the final straw that broke the camel’s back” for the EU.
“I believe others will leave. I do think keeping it together is not going to be as easy as a lot of people think. And I think that if refugees keep pouring into different parts of Europe, it’s going to be very hard to keep it together because people are angry about it,” he said.
Another block that, according to Trump, has long outlived its usefulness, is NATO, as it is “obsolete,”“was designed many years ago” and some of its members aren’t paying in enough.
“The countries aren’t paying their fair share so we’re supposed to protect countries. There’s five countries that are paying what they’re supposed to. Five. It’s not much,” Trump said.
US policies came under fire afterward, with Trump branding the US-Iran nuclear agreement “one of the dumbest deals” he’s ever seen, and then calling the invasion of Iraq “possibly the worst decision, ever made in the history of our country. It’s like throwing rocks into a beehive.”
However, there was at least one thing Trump was very enthusiastic about – and that’s Brexit.
Citing the fall in the British pound, Trump said “business is unbelievable in a lot of parts of the UK, as you know. I think Brexit is going to end up being a great thing.”
Also, the president-elect said he was planning to make a trade deal with the UK “very quickly.”
“I’m a big fan of the UK, we’re going to work very hard to get it done properly.”
Last but not least, Trump was asked about his social media presence and whether he would tune it down after the inauguration. In short, the answer is no.
“@realDonaldTrump I think, I’ll keep it. I’ve got 46 million people right now — [on] including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, so I’d rather just let that build up.”
And the tweeting is here to stay, the president-elect said.
“I thought I’d do less of it, but I’m covered so dishonestly by the press that I can put out Twitter – and it’s not 140, it’s now 280 – and as soon as I tweet it out — this morning on television, Fox — ‘Donald Trump, we have breaking news.’”
Just when you thought ‘Fake News’ had nowhere else to go, up pops BuzzFeed to take it to a whole new level. The site’s publication of an unverified, error-filled dossier on Donald Trump and his alleged links to Russia, marks a new journalistic low.
It shows us just how desperate those who want to sabotage better relations between the US and Russia have become.
It’s also been claimed by “people familiar with the matter” that the document was the work of a former British MI6 agent – who we’re now told has “gone into hiding.”
If true, the involvement of ‘James Bond’ in this wouldn’t be the greatest surprise. For when it comes to trying to subvert democracy by playing the ‘Russian threat’ card, the UK Intelligence Services have plenty of previous experience. In fact, the ‘Golden Showers’ dossier – and the way it has come to the public’s attention – has uncanny similarities with another piece of ‘fake news’ which was making the rounds back in 1924 – and which was also designed to put the kibosh on rapprochement with Russia.
In January of that year, Britain’s first ever Labour government came to power. Labour’s economic program was timid – but what really alarmed the Establishment was the party’s stated desire to improve relations with the Soviet Union. Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald gave full diplomatic recognition to the Soviet government in February, proposed new treaties with Moscow, and opened up negotiations about a British loan to the USSR.
That simply could not be allowed to happen. After Labour’s Attorney-General dropped the prosecution of a Communist writer who had urged soldiers not to fire on their fellow workers during a strike, the Liberals and Conservatives joined up to vote for an inquiry, with the motion drafted by Sir John Simon, who later called the incident ‘Trumpery.’
A new general election was called for late October. Just four days before the poll: a sensation. Under the headlines “Civil War Plot by Socialists’ Masters: Moscow Orders to Our Reds; Great Plot Disclosed,” a letter appeared in the Daily Mail newspaper purporting to be from a leading Bolshevik Grigory Zinoviev.
It was marked “very secret” and contained orders on how to organize a revolution in Britain. The letter said that Labour’s recognition of the Soviet government would aid the communist cause.
The Kremlin vehemently denied the authenticity of the document. “Well, they would say that wouldn’t they,” said the Russia-bashers, with a knowing wink.
“The ‘Red letter’ caused a great stir,” wrote historian A. J. P. Taylor. “Labour was denounced as the accomplice of the Communists; alternatively as their dupe.”
Perhaps the Tories would have won anyway, but damage was done to Labour, who lost forty seats. The Conservatives returned to power after less than year out of office and didn’t sign a new treaty with Moscow. The anti-Russian Establishment could sleep easily once again – the Soviet Union’s isolation would continue.
It is now universally accepted that the Zinoviev letter was a fake. In 1999, a new report commissioned by Labour Foreign Secretary Robin Cook found that the letter was forged by a MI6 agent’s source and “probably was leaked from SIS [the Secret Intelligence Service, commonly known as MI6] by somebody to the Conservative Party Central Office.”
Back in 1924, it had been the Kremlin that had been telling the truth. It was those who had not wanted better relations with Moscow – the spooks, anti-Russian politicians and their allies in the media – who were promoting ‘fake news.’ Anyone else see the parallels with today?
The Zinoviev letter of 1924 was not the only time the British intelligence services have tried to bring down those who wanted closer ties with Moscow. In his 1987 book Spycatcher, former MI5 Assistant Director Peter Wright revealed plots by M15 (and the CIA) to destabilize Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson in the 1960s and 70s. We know that MI5 kept a secret file on Wilson throughout his years in Parliament.
Critics of Wilson accused him of being ‘paranoiac,’ but as noted in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you. Now, in 2017, it’s not Ramsay MacDonald or Harold Wilson, but Donald Trump who’s being targeted.
‘Golden Showers,’ as dodgy a document as the Zinoviev letter, has exactly the same aim: to wreck any hopes of improved relations with Russia and to keep a Cold War going.
If The Donald continues to call for a new ‘partnership’ with Russia, then, we will be told, it’s all because he’s being blackmailed by Putin. There can be no other explanation. But, in fact, it’s the Western intelligence services and their political/media allies who are doing the blackmailing. The message to any prospective leader of the US or Britain is clear – if you don’t toe the Establishment line on Russia, we will do everything we can to destroy you. The pressure on Donald Trump to ‘conform’ on Russia is tremendous. It’s this attempt to bully foreign policy ‘dissidents’ into taking the Deep State line, and the complicit role of the media in promoting/publicizing fake news which furthers the agenda, which is the big story. When it was #PizzaGate everyone laughed, but when it was Golden Showers it was a case of: “True or not true – this is an important story which needs airing!”
And that’s because of the geo-politics.
To update the A. J. P. Taylor quote about Labour and the Zinoviev letter: ‘Trump was denounced as the accomplice of the Russians; alternatively as their dupe.’ It’s the same for any leading public figure who wants a change in Western foreign policy.
To understand why the prospect of better relations with Russia terrifies the Deep State, all we have to do – as I noted here – is to follow the money trail.
As the great Upton Sinclair might have put it, it’s hard to get someone to understand there is no ‘Russian threat’ when their (very high) salary depends on there being a ‘Russian threat’ – and promoting that ‘Russian threat’ very aggressively.
To justify its enormous budget – particularly at a time of ‘austerity’ – MI6, like NATO, needs a Russian bogeyman. Only in December, the Head of the service, Alex Younger, attacked Russia for their operations in Syria, which have thwarted the plans of the British and American elites and their regional allies for ‘regime change’ in the country.
It’s worth noting that not just the ‘Golden Showers’ dossier, but the ‘Russia hack’ claims, have been linked to British Intelligence.
Then of course there’s the various ‘pundits’ and ‘experts’ whose salaries are paid by ‘non-partisan’ think-tanks which are financed by US defense companies. And the bellicose Bear-baiting politicians whose campaigns are funded by the military-industrial establishment.
Cold War uber-hawk Henry ‘Scoop Jackson,’ whose name lives on in the hardcore anti-Russian neocon ‘think tank’ the Henry Jackson Society, was nicknamed the ‘Senator from Boeing’ because of his links to the defense industry.
The public in America and Britain might want their countries to get along better with Russia and work together in fighting genuine threats like ISIS [Islamic State, formerly ISIL]; the problem is that too many people in elite circles do not.
British leftists who are delighting in what’s happening to Trump at the moment: beware. For the very same strategy will be deployed against UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn if he continues to defy the spooks and neocon gatekeepers by calling for an end to Cold War 2.0. Who knows? A dodgy dossier on ‘Corbyn the Collaborator’ might already have been prepared and be ready for circulation to ‘sympathetic’ journalists and anti-Russian websites, whose principled opposition to ‘fake news’ and disseminating unverified claims will mysteriously disappear.
Neil Clark is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and blogger. He has written for many newspapers and magazines in the UK and other countries including The Guardian, Morning Star, Daily and Sunday Express, Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, The Spectator, The Week, and The American Conservative. He is a regular pundit on RT and has also appeared on BBC TV and radio, Sky News, Press TV and the Voice of Russia. He is the co-founder of the Campaign For Public Ownership @PublicOwnership. His award winning blog can be found at http://www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. He tweets on politics and world affairs @NeilClark66
Denmark’s Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen has launched a series of wide-ranging and grave accusations against Moscow, saying that it presents a “direct, very frightening and serious threat” against his homeland.
“We need to make clear to ourselves in Denmark that we are in danger, and we need to act upon this,” the center-right politician told the Danish Berlingske newspaper.
Frederiksen was asked to expound on his brief in the first extensive interview since the 69-year-old was appointed to his post in November last year. Instead, the politician, who previously served as minister of finance during two stints, spoke almost exclusively about Russia.
“State-supported Russian hacker groups are ready to attack hospitals, infrastructure and the electrical supply by breaking into computer systems and creating a mess of notices and treatments within the health system,” said Frederiksen, referring to a report published by the country’s intelligence agency last month, as well as conversations with other Western politicians and security officials.
And why would Russia target civilian infrastructure in a small country with which it shares no border? “To spread fear and insecurity among the population and paralyze our democracy.”
“It’s a way to destabilize our countries and democracies in a very physical and tangible way, and this places an urgent demand on our resources to defend ourselves against such attacks,” said Frederiksen.
Frederiksen’s accusations echo those of US intelligence officials, who published a report last week, alleging that Russia ordered hackers to meddle in the US election, specifically by releasing emails related to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied charges of interference.
‘We must spend more on NATO to stop Russians from trying anything’
The politician also believes that the Iskander-M missiles that Russia has deployed in its westernmost exclave of Kaliningrad pose an immediate danger to Denmark.
“We can confirm that the Russians are right now installing new missiles in Kaliningrad that can reach Copenhagen. That is of course a major risk,” said Frederiksen.
Moscow says the missiles are a response to the continuing unrolling of the US missile defense shield across Eastern Europe, and has beefed up its other armaments in the region, following an increase in NATO presence on the Russian border. The Western alliance is seeking to limit Moscow’s purported ambitions in the region through Operation Atlantic Resolve, commenced following the breakout of the conflict in Ukraine in 2014, and comprises the transfer of troops and modernized equipment to Eastern Europe.
Frederiksen also said that Russia’s “increased military activity” in the Arctic, in which both Moscow and Copenhagen have territorial claims – the latter through Greenland – were another potential source of conflict, which must require “extensive monitoring.”
As a solution, Frederiksen advocates increased military spending, though he declined to specify if Denmark intended to hit the NATO target of 2 percent of GDP being spent on defense (currently it spends 1.17 percent).
“NATO must be our common defense and our deterrent. We have to show the strength that it takes, and thus spend the money it takes to prevent the Russians from trying anything. That is basically what is the essence of our thinking,” said Frederiksen.
As a symbolic gesture Frederiksen emphasized the importance of the deployment of 200 Danish soldiers as part of the new 5,000-strong rapid response force in Eastern Europe next year.
“It is not of course because we think that the 200 Danish soldiers can stop the Russian army. But they should know that the territorial defense of the immediate area begins there and crossing the line, then the common solidarity in NATO will take effect,” said Frederiksen.
The newspaper said that the Russian embassy refused to comment on the accusations.
Few in Europe expected Donald Trump to win the U.S. Presidential elections last November. The picture painted by the media and political class was convincing: despite the pent-up anger being expressed through protest candidates, Hillary Clinton was headed towards a decisive victory, as the majority of Americans couldn’t stomach someone as outrageous and unconventional as the reality TV star turned politician.
That’s not what happened, of course, as Trump earned an Electoral College victory by winning enough votes in key Midwestern states that have suffered from a loss of manufacturing jobs in recent decades. His victory has shaken the Western world to its core, making it clear that business as usual is no longer possible in terms of both economic and foreign policy.
In Europe the signs of the anti-establishment sentiment that dominated the U.S. election campaign have been present for some time. The most obvious example was the Brexit vote in June 2016, in which the population of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. But protest movements have actually been on the rise for several years now, driven by the same basic issues as in the United States: a sense of economic and social insecurity – accompanied by a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment – driven by an economic policy that has made life harder for the middle class while enriching those at the top.
The growing anger against the institutions of the European Union, considered the main culprit for the failed economic policies, has made the élites desperate for some sense of stability, to help them weather the storm. As a result, a potential Clinton victory was openly welcomed by most political leaders.
After Trump’s victory, there were numerous press reports of worries among European governments regarding the incoming Administration’s foreign policy. Trump is understandably seen as unpredictable, but the key point revolves around his attitude towards Russia, the same issue that is currently dominating the institutional fight in the United States right now.
Just after the election The New York Times ran a story entitled “For Europe, Trump’s Election is a Terrifying Disaster,” suggesting that under the new President, the United States may embrace authoritarianism and no longer defend democracy. It was a theme that other mainstream news outlets also pushed.
On Nov. 17, The Associated Press wrote: “NATO members and other European countries are worried that under Trump, the U.S. will stop trying to police Russia’s behavior the way it has under Obama. Most concerning to U.S. allies are Trump’s effusive comments about Russian President Vladimir Putin, one of the first world leaders he spoke to after winning the election.”
While it is true that former Soviet bloc countries such as Poland and Latvia would prefer to maintain the current hardline position towards Russia, the reality is that the largest E.U. members – France, Italy and Germany – actually stand to benefit from the diplomatic approach promised by President-elect Trump.
This doesn’t mean they supported his candidacy, though. First of all, they were told that he couldn’t win; and second, a Trump victory would seem to encourage the anti-establishment movements already on the rise in Europe, which threaten both the E.U.’s status quo and the jobs of key leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Hillary Clinton was seen as representing continuity, and for the many politicians who seek to curry favor with the transatlantic elites, it was best to show their Clinton bona fides in view of the upcoming change in power. For example, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi – now out of office due to a stinging anti-establishment vote in a referendum on proposed constitutional reforms – repeatedly broke diplomatic protocol and publicly criticized Trump during the election campaign.
However, over the course of 2016 it became clear that Clinton’s foreign policy was far more aggressive than Barack Obama’s, as the President had actually been seeking collaboration with Russia for several years on issues, such as constraining Iran’s nuclear program and negotiating an end to the Syrian conflict, despite heavy opposition from within his own administration.
Indeed Trump’s openness towards Vladimir Putin seems even more heretical now because most have chosen to forget that Obama himself had sought close cooperation with Putin on several key issues. For instance, Secretary of State John Kerry’s diplomacy last year on Syria almost succeeded in implementing intelligence sharing and joint airstrikes by the two powers, before being effectively thwarted by the Pentagon and other U.S. institutional opposition in September 2016.
Now Obama seems to have forgotten his former position, and decided to fully toe the anti-Russian line, apparently convinced that he must do his part in the campaign to weaken Trump and prevent him from being an effective president, even in areas where their positions are not far apart.
It is possible that Trump will accelerate the timid attempts of his predecessor to abandon the “regime change” policies that have led to numerous disasters in the Middle East, and heightened tensions with Russia. The President-elect seems determined to pursue this path more openly than Obama, who worked slowly towards this goal while seeking to placate his critics with more bellicose language in his public statements.
Doubts About the U.S. Hardline
Although European nations have been heavily involved in recent regime change adventures (the U.K. in Iraq and France in Libya, for example), there is a widespread preference in Western Europe for avoiding further conflict with Russia. The U.S. position on the events in Ukraine, for example, is often seen as one-sided, and the notion of NATO expansion to Russia’s borders seems like an unnecessary and dangerous provocation that can only makes things worse.
Western sanctions against Russia, and Russia’s retaliatory sanctions on food imports, have cost European economies over $100 billion in trade, according to some estimates, hitting the agricultural sector especially hard. In addition, Russia has been concluding more economic agreements with countries such as China, leading to fears of permanent consequences for Europe.
For this reason, France, Italy and Germany have all repeatedly stated their desire to reduce or remove the sanctions altogether. The hope is that an agreement can be reached to defuse tensions in Ukraine, based on support for the Kiev government but broad autonomy for the ethnic Russian areas in eastern Ukraine.
Despite this desire to head off further conflict, European governments are usually careful not to openly break with U.S. policy; they are key members of NATO and have no desire to distance themselves from the leader of the alliance. However, if Donald Trump follows through on his stated goal of working “together with Russia,” the countries of Western Europe in particular may welcome the opportunity to advance their own economic interests and avoid finding themselves in the middle of a new Cold War.
Andrew Spannaus is a freelance journalist and strategic analyst based in Milan, Italy. He is the founder of Transatlantico.info, that provides news, analysis and consulting to Italian institutions and businesses. His book on the U.S. elections Perchè vince Trump (Why Trump is Winning) was published in June 2016.
German politicians have raised concern about thousands of NATO troops and equipment, along with hundreds of tanks, that have been sent to Poland and countries bordering Russia in what has been touted by Washington as “defense against Russian aggression.”
“It does not help us if tanks will be going up and down on both sides of the border,” Brandenburg’s leader and SPD party member, Dietmar Woidke, told RBB. “I hope everyone will keep calm.”
“I believe that despite all the difficulties, we should seek dialogue with Russia,” he added on Thursday, warning that relations with Moscow could worsen even further.
Germany’s ruling CDU party called Woidke’s standpoint “strange,” with parliamentary faction leader Ingo Senftleben saying the operation “takes place within the framework of the contractual arrangements of NATO and at the explicit request of Poland.”
NATO’s buildup in Europe also came under fire from Germany’s Die Linke party. “Tanks do not create peace, anywhere,” Christian Görke stressed in a statement, RBB reported.
Tobias Pflueger of Die Linke slammed the stationing of US tanks and military equipment in Poland, saying this will trigger an arms race and lead to an “escalation in relations with Russia,” Focus Online reported.
Washington says the shipload of American military hardware that has recently arrived in the northern German port of Bremerhaven is meant to boost its commitment to its allies against a perceived Russian threat, and ensure that Europe remains “whole, free, prosperous, and at peace.”
Crowds of people marched through Bremerhaven on Saturday to protest the deployment and transport of NATO troops and weapons through the city. Hundreds of American tanks, trucks, and other military equipment bound for Poland, said to be the largest arms shipment since the fall of the Soviet Union, arrived at the German port on Friday to be transferred to Eastern Europe.
The protesters marched through the city holding signs and banners reading, “No NATO deployments! End the militaristic march against Russia!” and “Out of NATO.”
“There is, starting from Washington DC, a major push to do everything possible in the next two weeks to create unending hostility between the West and Russia that can’t be undone by Donald Trump or anyone else. Even at the risk of open violence, rather than simply Cold War hostility.
“This is highly preferable to weapons profiteers as against actual peace breaking out, which is their greatest fear,” author and journalist David Swanson told RT on Monday.
“It is clearly an escalation that involves numerous facets including propaganda about Russian crimes in the US media; that includes shipping troops and equipment to the border; that includes expanding NATO and pushing hard on other NATO members to join in this escalation where you have serious protests in Germany by those who want peace [and are] against sending Germans or Americans from Germany eastward, as they should. There are not enough of us in the US similarly protesting,” he added.
Over the last few days, some 2,800 pieces of military hardware and 4,000 troops have arrived at the port in Bremerhaven. The new forces will first be moved to Poland, where they will take part in military drills at the end of the month. They will later be deployed across seven countries, including the Baltic states, Bulgaria, Romania, and Germany. A headquarters unit will be stationed in Germany.
The delivery of US Abrams tanks, Paladin artillery, and Bradley fighting vehicles marks a new phase of America’s continuous presence in Europe, which will now be based on a nine-month rotation.
“Let me be clear: This is one part of our efforts to deter Russian aggression, ensure the territorial integrity of our allies, and maintain a Europe that is whole, free, prosperous, and at peace,” US Air Force Lieutenant General Timothy M. Ray declared on Sunday, as quoted by Reuters.
Operation Atlantic Resolve, a large-scale military venture officially touted by Washington as a demonstration of “continued US commitment to the collective security of Europe,” began in April of 2014 after Crimea voted to split from coup-stricken Ukraine and rejoin Russia in a referendum.
It seems so strange, twenty-seven years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, to be living through a new Cold War with (as it happens, capitalist) Russia.
The Russian president is attacked by the U.S. political class and media as they never attacked Soviet leaders; he is personally vilified as a corrupt, venal dictator, who arrests or assassinates political opponents and dissident journalists, and is hell-bent on the restoration of the USSR.
(The latter claim rests largely on Vladimir Putin’s comment that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a “catastrophe” and “tragedy” — which in many respects it was. The press chooses to ignore his comment that “Anyone who does not miss the Soviet Union has no heart, while anyone who wants to restore it has no brain.” It conflicts with the simple talking-point that Putin misses the imperial Russia of the tsars if not the commissars and, burning with resentment over the west’s triumph in the Cold War, plans to exact revenge through wars of aggression and territorial expansion.)
The U.S. media following its State Department script depicts Russia as an expansionist power. That it can do so, so successfully, such that even rather progressive people — such as those appalled by Trump’s victory who feel inclined to blame it on an external force — believe it, is testimony to the lingering power and utility of the Cold War mindset.
The military brass keep reminding us: We are up against an existential threat! One wants to say that this — obviously — makes no sense! Russia is twice the size of the U.S. with half its population. Its foreign bases can be counted on two hands. The U.S. has 800 or so bases abroad.
Russia’s military budget is 14% of the U.S. figure. It does not claim to be the exceptional nation appointed by God to preserve “security” on its terms anywhere on the globe. Since the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the U.S. has waged war (sometimes creating new client-states) in Bosnia (1994-5), Serbia (1999), Afghanistan (2001- ), Iraq (2003- ), Libya (2011), and Syria (2014- ), while raining down drone strikes from Pakistan to Yemen to North Africa. These wars-based-on-lies have produced hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, millions of refugees, and general ongoing catastrophe throughout the “Greater Middle East.” There is no understating their evil.
The U.S. heads an expanding military alliance formed in 1949 to confront the Soviet Union and global communism in general. Its raison d’être has been dead for many years. Yet it has expanded from 16 to 28 members since 1999, and new members Estonia and Latvia share borders with Russia.
(Imagine the Warsaw Pact expanding to include Mexico. But no, the Warsaw Pact of the USSR and six European allies was dissolved 26 years ago in the idealistic expectation that NATO would follow in a new era of cooperation and peace.)
And this NATO alliance, in theory designed to defend the North Atlantic, was only first deployed after the long (and peaceful) first Cold War, in what had been neutral Yugoslavia (never a member of either the Warsaw Pact nor NATO), Afghanistan (over 3000 miles from the North Atlantic), and the North African country of Libya. Last summer NATO held its most massive military drills since the collapse of the Soviet Union, involving 31,000 troops in Poland, rehearsing war with Russia. (The German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier actually criticized this exercise as “warmongering.”)
Alliance officials expressed outrage when Russia responded to the warmongering by placing a new S-400 surface-to-air missiles and nuclear-capable Iskander system on its territory of Kaliningrad between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic coast. But Russia has, in fact, been comparatively passive in a military sense during this period.
In 1999, as NATO was about to occupy the Serbian province of Kosovo (soon to be proclaimed an independent country, in violation of international law), nearby Russian peacekeepers raced to the airport in Pristina, Kosovo, to secure it and ensure a Russian role in the Serbian province’s future. It was a bold move that could have provoked a NATO-Russian clash. But the British officer on the ground wisely refused an order from Gen. Wesley Clark to block the Russian move, declaring he would not start World War III for Gen. Clark.
This, recall, was after Bill Clinton’s secretary of state, Madeleine Albright (remember, the Hillary shill who said there’s a special place in hell reserved for women who don’t vote for women) presented to the Russian and Serbian negotiators at Rambouillet a plan for NATO occupation of not just Kosovo but all Serbia. It was a ridiculous demand, rejected by the Serbs and Russians, but depicted by unofficial State Department spokesperson and warmonger Christiane Amanpour as the “will of the international community.” As though Russia was not a member of the international community!
This Pristina airport operation was largely a symbolic challenge to U.S. hegemony over the former Yugoslavia, a statement of protest that should have been taken seriously at the time.
In any case, the new Russian leader Putin was gracious after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, even offering NATO a military transport corridor through Russia to Afghanistan (closed in 2015). He was thanked by George W. Bush with the expansion of NATO by seven more members in 2004. (The U.S. press made light of this extraordinary geopolitical development; it saw and continues to see the expansion of NATO as no more problematic than the expansion of the UN or the European Union.) Then in April 2008 NATO announced that Georgia would be among the next members accepted into the alliance.
Soon the crazy Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili, emboldened by the promise of near-term membership, provoked a war with the breakaway republic of South Ossetia, which had never accepted inclusion of the new Georgian state established upon the dissolution of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1991. The Ossetians, fearing resurgent Georgian nationalism, had sought union with the Russian Federation. So had the people of Abkhazia.
The two “frozen conflicts,” between the Georgian state and these peoples, had been frozen due to the deployment of Russian and Georgian peacekeepers. Russia had not recognized these regions as independent states nor agreed to their inclusion in the Russian Federation. But when Russian soldiers died in the Georgian attack in August, Russia responded with a brief punishing invasion. It then recognized the two new states of South Ossetia and Abkhazia (breakaway states in what had been the Georgian SSR) six months after the U.S. recognized Kosovo.
(Saakashvili, in case you’re interested, was voted out of power, disgraced, accused of economic crimes, and deprived of his Georgian citizenship. After a brief stint at the Fletcher School of International Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University — of which I as a Tufts faculty member feel deeply ashamed — he was appointed as governor of Odessa in Ukraine by the pro-NATO regime empowered by the U.S.-backed coup of February 22, 2014.)
Sen. John McCain proclaimed in 2008: “We are all Georgians now,” and advocated U.S. military aid to the Georgian regime. An advocate of war as a rule, McCain then became a big proponent of regime change in Ukraine to allow for that country’s entry into NATO. Neocons in the State Department including most importantly McCain buddy Victoria Nuland, boasted of spending $5 billion in support of “the Ukrainian people’s European aspirations” (meaning: the desire of many Ukrainians in the western part of the country to join the European Union — risking, although they perhaps do not realize it, a reduction in their standard of living under a Greek-style austerity program — to be followed by NATO membership, tightening the military noose around Russia).
The Ukrainian president opted out in favor of a generous Russian aid package. That decision — to deny these “European aspirations” — was used to justify the coup.
But look at it from a Russian point of view. Just look at this map, of the expanding NATO alliance, and imagine it spreading to include that vast country (the largest in Europe, actually) between Russia to the east and Poland to the west, bordering the Black Sea to the south. The NATO countries at present are shown in dark blue, Ukraine and Georgia in green. Imagine those countries’ inclusion.
And imagine NATO demanding that Russia vacate its Sevastopol naval facilities, which have been Russian since 1783, turning them over to the (to repeat: anti-Russian) alliance. How can anyone understand the situation in Ukraine without grasping this basic history?
The Russians denounced the coup against President Viktor Yanukovych (democratically elected — if it matters — in 2010), which was abetted by neo-fascists and marked from the outset by an ugly Russophobic character encouraged by the U.S. State Department. The majority population in the east of the country, inhabited by Russian-speaking ethnic Russians and not even part of Ukraine until 1917, also denounced the coup and refused to accept the unconstitutional regime that assumed power after February 22.
When such people rejected the new government, and declared their autonomy, the Ukrainian army was sent in to repress them but failed, embarrassingly, when the troops confronted by angry babushkas turned back. The regime since has relied on the neo-fascist Azov Battalion to harass secessionists in what has become a new “frozen conflict.”
Russia has no doubt assisted the secessionists while refusing to annex Ukrainian territory, urging a federal system for the country to be negotiated by the parties. Russian families straddle the Russian-Ukrainian border. There are many Afghan War veterans in both countries. The Soviet munitions industry integrated Russian and Ukrainian elements. One must assume there are more than enough Russians angry about such atrocities as the May 2014 killing of 42 ethnic Russian government opponents in Odessa to bolster the Donbas volunteers.
But there is little evidence (apart from a handful of reports about convoys of dozens of “unmarked military vehicles” from Russia in late 2014) for a Russian “invasion” of Ukraine. And the annexation of Crimea (meaning, its restoration to its 1954 status as Russian territory) following a credible referendum did not require any “invasion” since there were already 38,000 Russian troops stationed there. All they had to do was to secure government buildings, and give Ukrainian soldiers the option of leaving or joining the Russian military. (A lot of Ukrainian soldiers opted to stay and accept Russian citizenship.)
Still, these two incidents — the brief 2008 war in Georgia, and Moscow’s (measured) response to the Ukrainian coup since 2014 — have been presented as evidence of a general project to disrupt the world order by military expansion, requiring a firm U.S. response. The entirety of the cable news anchor class embraces this narrative.
But they are blind fools. Who has in this young century disrupted world order more than the U.S., wrecking whole countries, slaughtering hundreds of thousands of innocents, provoking more outrage through grotesquely documented torture, generating new terror groups, and flooding Europe with refugees who include some determined to sow chaos and terror in European cities? How can any rational person with any awareness of history since 1991 conclude that Russia is the aggressive party?
And yet, this is the conventional wisdom. I doubt you can get a TV anchor job if you question it. The teleprompter will refer routinely to Putin’s aggression and Russian expansion and the need for any mature presidential candidate to respect the time-honored tradition of supporting NATO no matter what. And now the anchor is expected to repeat that all 17 U.S. intelligence services have concluded that Vladimir Putin interfered in the U.S. presidential election.
Since there is zero evidence for this, one must conclude that the Democratic losers dipped into the reliable grab bag of scapegoats and posited that Russia and Putin in particular must have hacked the DNC in order to — through the revelation of primary sources of unquestionable validity, revealing the DNC’s determination to make Clinton president, while sabotaging Sanders and promoting (through their media surrogates) Donald Trump as the Republican candidate — undermine Clinton’s legitimacy.
All kinds of liberals, including Sanders’ best surrogates like Nina Turner, are totally on board the Putin vilification campaign. It is sad and disturbing that so many progressive people are so willing to jump on the new Cold War bandwagon. It is as though they have learned nothing from history but are positively eager, in their fear and rage, to relive the McCarthy era.
But the bottom line is: U.S. Russophobia does not rest on reason, judgment, knowledge of recent history and the ability to make rational comparisons. It rests on religious-like assumptions of “American exceptionalism” and in particular the right of the U.S. to expand militarily at Russia’s expense — as an obvious good in itself, rather than a distinct, obvious evil threatening World War III.
The hawks in Congress — bipartisan, amoral, ignorant, knee-jerk Israel apologists, opportunist scum — are determined to dissuade the president-elect (bile rises in my throat as I use that term, but it’s true that he’s that, technically) from any significant rapprochement with Russia. (Heavens, they must be horrified at the possibility that Trump follows Kissinger’s reported advice and recognizes the Russian annexation of Crimea!) They want to so embarrass him with the charge of being (as Hillary accused him of being during the campaign) Putin’s “puppet” that he backs off from his vague promise to “get along” with Russia.
They don’t want to get along with Russia. They want more NATO expansion, more confrontation. They are furious with Russian-Syrian victories over U.S-backed, al-Qaeda-led forces in Syria, especially the liberation of Aleppo that the U.S. media (1) does not cover having no reporters on the ground, and little interest since events in Syria so powerfully challenge the State Department’s talking points that shape U.S. reporting, (2) misreports systematically, as the tragic triumph of the evil, Assad’s victory over an imaginary heroic opposition, and (3) sees the strengthening of the position of the Syrian stats as an indication of Russia’s reemergence as a superpower. (This they they cannot accept, as virtually a matter of religious conviction; the U.S. in official doctrine must maintain “full spectrum dominance” over the world and prohibit the emergence of any possible competitor, forever.)
The first Cold War was based on the western capitalists’ fear of socialist expansion. It was based on the understanding that the USSR had defeated the Nazis, had extraordinary prestige in the world, and was the center for a time of the expanding global communist movement. It was based on the fear that more and more countries would achieve independence from western imperialism, denying investors their rights to dominate world markets. It had an ideological content. This one does not. Russia and the U.S. are equally committed to capitalism and neoliberal ideology. Their conflict is of the same nature as the U.S. conflict with Germany in the early 20th century. The Kaiser’s Germany was at least as “democratic” as the U.S.; the system was not the issue. It was just jockeying for power, and as it happened, the U.S. intervening in World War I belatedly, after everybody else was exhausted, cleaned up. In World War II in Europe, the U.S. having hesitated to invade the continent despite repeated Soviet appeals to do so, responded to the fall of Berlin to Soviet forces by rushing token forces to the city to claim joint credit.
And then it wound up, after the war, establishing its hegemony over most of Europe — much, much more of Europe than became the Soviet-dominated zone, which has since with the Warsaw Pact evaporated. Russia is a truncated, weakened version of its former self. It is not threatening the U.S. in any of the ways the U.S. is threatening itself. It is not expanding a military alliance. It is not holding huge military exercises on the U.S. border. It is not destroying the Middle East through regime-change efforts justified to the American people by sheer misinformation. In September 2015 Putin asked the U.S., at the United Nations: “Do you realize what you’ve done?”
Unfortunately the people of this country are not educated, by their schools, press or even their favorite websites to realize what has been done, how truly horrible it is, and how based it all is on lies. Fake news is the order of the day.
Up is down, black is white, Russia is the aggressor, the U.S. is the victim. The new president must be a team-player, and for God’s sake, understand that Putin is today’s Hitler, and if Trump wants to get along with him, he will have to become a team-player embracing this most basic of political truths in this particular imperialist country: Russia (with its nukes, which are equally matched with the U.S. stockpile) is the enemy, whose every action must be skewed to inflame anti-Russian feeling, as the normative default sentiment towards this NATO-encircled, sanction-ridden, non-threatening nation, under what seems by comparison a cautious, rational leadership?
CNN’s horrible “chief national correspondent” John King (former husband of equally horrid Dana Bash, CNN’s “chief political correspondent”) just posed the question, with an air of aggressive irritation: “Who does Donald Trump respect more, the U.S. intelligence agencies, or the guy who started Wikileaks [Assange]?”
It’s a demand for the Trump camp to buy the Russian blame game, or get smeared as a fellow-traveler with international whistle-blowers keen on exposing the multiple crimes of U.S. imperialism.
So the real question is: Will Trump play ball, and credit the “intelligence community” that generates “intelligence products” on demand, or brush aside the war hawks’ drive for a showdown with Putin’s Russia? Will the second Cold War peter out coolly, or culminate in the conflagration that “Mutually Assured Destruction” (MAD) was supposed to render impossible?
The latter would be utterly stupid. But stupid people — or wise people, cynically exploiting others’ stupidity — are shaping opinion every day, and have been since the first Cold War, based like this one on innumerable lies.
Gary Leupp is a Professor of History at Tufts University, and author of numerous works on Japanese history. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
Scores of people have staged a protest in a northern German port city against the deployment and transport of NATO troops and weapons through the city.
The protest was held in the port city of Bremerhaven on Saturday.
US military hardware, including 87 tanks and 144 Bradley fighting vehicles, were docked in the port city a day earlier for eventual transfer to NATO member countries in Eastern Europe to enhance what was described as “deterrence against possible Russian aggression.”
The protesters marched through the city, holding signs and banners that read, “No NATO deployments! End the militaristic march against Russia!” and “Out of NATO.”
“I am here to explain peace to Russians, because I am afraid of new wars… and this big maneuver is one that quite scares me, and I am here to speak against this,” a protester said.
The deployment by the US military, which also includes the mobilization of 4,000 troops, is aimed at shoring up NATO’s “Operation Atlantic Resolve,” which entails military buildup in Poland and the Baltic countries to counter perceived Russian aggression. US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced the move last year, declaring that the force would take part in regular military drills across the region with NATO allies.
Russia has repeatedly voiced concern about the US-led alliance’s military build-up near its borders. In response to NATO’s aggressive moves, Russia has beefed up its southwestern military capacity.
NATO has suspended all practical cooperation with Russia as part of efforts by the US, Europe, and their allies to exert pressure on the Kremlin following the Crimean Peninsula’s separation from Ukraine and adhesion to Russia. In 2014, the majority ethnic Russians in Crimea voted to join the Russian Federation in a referendum not sanctioned by the Ukrainian authorities.
Western countries have been fearful of a repeat of that scenario in other countries, and have sought to boost their defenses under NATO’s umbrella.
12 dead, about 40 injured, is the result of the latest terror attack in Berlin, when on 19 December, a truck plouged into a Christmas market at Berlin’s Bretscheideplatz, near the lush Kurfuerstendamm.
Is it not a ‘déjà-vu’ of not even half a year ago, when in Nice, France, on 14th July a truck mowed down hordes of people celebrating Bastille Day?
In Berlin, the first ‘culprit’ was a Pakistani who apparently ‘escaped’. When later he turned up and explained with proof his innocence, they had to let him go. In the cabin of the truck they also found a dead man of Polish origin. He couldn’t be accused, since he was dead.
Then the chase was stalled, until miraculously, about a day later, they found in the truck identity papers of a Mr. Anis Amri (24) of Tunisian citizenship beneath the driver’s seat. As is usual with these terrorists, they like to leave their ID cards behind. It seems to be part of their strategy to be caught and killed.
Then, once more there was a ‘suspect’, who could be chased, throughout Europe.
At three in the morning of December 23, again miraculously, Anis Amri turned up on a plaza in Milan, got allegedly into a confrontation with two policemen, who claimed he pulled a gun, when one of them shot and killed him. No witness, no proof.
Two Italian policemen killed a young man, whom – they say – they didn’t even have a clue who he might be. They became heroes, literally overnight. Italy’s new PM, Paolo Gentiloni, thanked and congratulated them; and so did Mme. Merkel and her Interior Minister, Thomas de Maizière.
The same pattern all over again.
DEAD MAN CAN’T TALK. It’s Paris (Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan); Nice; Brussels; Munich; Orlando, Florida; San Bernardino, California …… all over again- and again – and again.
The ‘plowing-through-a-celebrating-crowd’ is in many regards “a carbon copy” of the 14th July massacre in Nice (see image below). At the end, the designated ‘Muslim’ terrorist was killed. No witness. No testimony.
Don’t believe one minute that your respective governments didn’t and don’t know what’s going on.
Who are the real perpetrators?
The real perpetrators are not Muslims. They are your own spineless puppet governments, all of which (covertly) support the ISIS and al Qaeda. They obey orders to demonize the Muslim faith and society.
That’s what the west knows best – denigrating and discriminating, accusing the innocent, to serve their purpose, sanctions for those who do not submit.
In reality, no change for the last 800-some years, colonizing, exploiting, murdering the people of Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Today’s ‘leaders’ are the descendants of the colonial era killers of times past. They form the core of our “western killer civilization”.
These western ‘leaders’ are mere puppets, because they have been put in ‘power’ by the the elusive elite, also called the “Deep State” – the Deep State gone global.
Democracy is dead. It’s become a useless defunct slogan. No so-called election over the past decade or so, in the western world has been democratic. They were all scams and manipulations of peoples’ minds and wills.
And if they didn’t conform to what the Washington masters and their supreme masters needed, Plan B of ‘regime change’ kicked in.
They have become experts of semi-clandestine ‘regime change’ through parliamentary coups – i.e. Paraguay, Ukraine, Brazil, Greece, Portugal, Spain and many others.
If these eventually ‘elected’ western leaders (sic-sic), from Obama, to Merkel, Hollande, May, Gentiloni – and the entire EU / OECD clan, don’t behave, they are ‘cooked’, the target of political destabilizaion. That’s the extent of impunity which drives this hegemonic and criminal process towards the New World Order, or the One World Order, led by the global finance and war industry.
The finance clan, the lords of money, the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, Morgans, et al, the FED, BIS (Bank for International Settlements, the secretive central bank of all central banks) and Goldman Sachs, have to act fast; otherwise they might lose the key instrument of their power – the sham dollar pyramid economy – may fall apart, before they have actually reached their goal – a world under constant chaos, never-ending conflicts and wars.
A world under which a small elite, enslaves the 99.99% of ‘Us, the People’ — under ever worsening life conditions, unemployment, misery, disease, privatized social services, all contributing to a steady decline in life expectancy.
Among their instruments is permanent chaos. Economic dislocation and social crises.
Open borders forced by trade lobbies and WTO (World Trade Organization) will wipe out small farmers and manufacturers in developing countries, thus eventually handing monopolies to large, mostly US corporations, to the detriment of already impoverished nations, whose vulnerability will be further abused to extract their natural resources for a pittance, so they may repay their IMF / World Bank imposed and leveraged debt.
Floods of refugees from war zones to industrialized wealthy countries, currently happening from the war-torn Middle East to Europe, will disrupt the labor market, push down wages, create massive unemployment. These are all tools towards enslavement of populations. People who have to fend and fight for daily food and often for sheer survival, have no energy or time to take to the streets and protest. That’s the plan; already being enacted. Just look at Greece.
What does all that have to do with the Berlin massacre? – Everything. Berlin, like Paris, Brussels, Munich, Orlando… is just a cog in the wheel of the monster’s drive towards full world hegemony.
Unexpected, haphazard carnage and terror acts are spreading misery, poverty and fear.
People who are afraid will call for more police and military protection.
They will voluntarily give up their human and civil rights for what they hope will be more ‘protection’, being totally oblivious to the fact that the very governments from whom they are seeking more protection are those that commit these acts of treason and terror, those who are behind the killings. The Anglo-american controlled presstitute mainstream media is in permanent brainwashing mode. Unless you search the news and information for yourself on alternative media, they will never tell you the truth, but their lies, after lies, after more of the same lies will fabricate the public truth.
Peoples’ fear and absence of civil rights are easy steps towards increased militarization of the west, already happening – look at France – President (sic) Hollande was just able to extend the State of Emergency through July 2017. [The Paris November 2015 terror attacks played a key role in justifying the State of Emergency.]
The goal is to include it into the French Constitution, basically putting the French people under permanent actual or threat of Martial Law. Others might follow – Germany, Italy – all those whose constituents are ever warier of the EU and their ‘monopoly money’, the euro, and who may seek EUREXIT. This would break the camel’s back, so to speak, or at least put a wrench in the boundless onslaught of the hegemon.
Peoples’ fear may also re-strengthen the faltering justification of NATO. The fall of NATO must be halted. NATO is the Deep State’s warrior flagship, the military fear- and war monger vis-à-vis Russia and eventually China – the last vestiges to be conquered by the self-styled almighty empire, the invisible elite that pretends to rule the globe. Fortunately, they cannot stand up to the Russia-China chess duo which is gradually outsmarting the west’s ostentatious killer exploits.
Imagine, your own spineless governments, following orders of the globalized Deep State – in Berlin, Munich, Nice, Paris, Brussels, Orlando, and an almost endless list of false flags.
How can we respect our so-called leaders? They have zero esteem for us, who are their bread-earners. They kill us, no hesitation, if it pleases them and serves their purpose – and their greed.
In the case of Berlin, is the German government complicit? Blaming Muslims, finding a pre-identified victim, Mr. Anis Amri, who most likely had no clue that he was framed.
In Italy, the police catch him (or somebody who has been given the pre-identified Tunisian victim’s name), they kill him – and, bingo – case closed. Another fear-inflicting false flag was born and concluded, advancing the bulldozer of empire’s destruction a notch closer to Full Spectrum Dominance.
The MSM will do the rest – until the next fake exploit. Be prepared. But this can happen only if we let our governments get away with it, if we close our eyes to reality; if we keep believing the presstitute media.
People wake up! – Boycott the MSM. Take the time to seek the truth elsewhere, for example, on RT, TeleSur, Global Research, ICH, New Eastern Outlook (NEO), CounterPunch, The Saker, Voltairenet — and many more. The Deep State cannot win without your participation.
Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a former World Bank staff and worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He writes regularly for Global Research, ICH, RT, Sputnik, PressTV, The 4th Media, TeleSUR, TruePublica, The Vineyard of The Saker Blog, and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance.
Copyright © Peter Koenig, Global Research, 2016
In late 2016, US President-elect Donald Trump made known his stance on a key military program. He assailed cost overruns for the Lockheed Martin-built F-35 Lightning II fighter jet that had spiraled «out of control». The plane is to replace aging fighters used by the Air Force, the Navy and the Marine Corps. The 15-year project has been dogged by problems and costs that have escalated to an estimated $380bn. Mr. Trump vowed to save billions of dollars on military programs once he enters office on January 20.
The statement may have far-reaching consequences as the US tactical nuclear modernization plans in Europe are intertwined with the F-35 program. The B61-12 warhead will be integrated on the Lightning II. It is going through the final development phase prior to production. If Donald Trump takes the decision to suspend the F-35, the B-61-12 upgrade program – a major obstacle on the way of reaching arms control agreements with Russia and a factor to spur an arms race in Europe – will probably be suspended too. It opens new prospects for tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) control in Europe.
The first days of New Year is always the time to reflect on the past. It brings to mind the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives (PNI) – the spectacular breakthrough achieved without binding documents. With no agreement to sign, the parties achieved tangible progress based on mutual trust.
In September and October 1991, US President George H.W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev announced a series of policy initiatives declaring that the United States and the Soviet Union – and later Russia – would reduce their arsenals of TNW and delivery vehicles. Russian President Boris Yeltsin reaffirmed and even expanded Gorbachev’s statement in the name of Russia in January 1992. At the December 21, 1991 conference in Alma-Ata, the Soviet Republics of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine pledged to return all Soviet tactical nuclear weapons on their territories to Russia by July 1, 1992. The three states met their commitments. The US removed the weapons from South Korea, Japan and greatly reduced their numbers in Europe.
According to experts’ estimates, Russia and the US reduced their TNW arsenals by 75% and 90% respectively in the period of 1991-2010. The reductions took into account NATO’s superiority in conventional weapons. One of the most significant results was the fact that since the PNIs became effective TNWs never went to sea.
Today the US possesses several hundred tactical nuclear warheads, of which approximately 180 are nuclear gravity bombs stored in five European countries (Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey). It is estimated that Russia retains 2,000 usable nonstrategic weapons, all of which are stored on the national territory. Since 2010, the Barack Obama administration has stated many times that its goal was to seek further reductions in all types of nuclear weapons. Moscow believes Washington should first withdraw all of its TNWs to the continental USA. With US nuclear-capable aircraft in Europe aging and the F-35 plans put into doubt, the plans to upgrade the existing nuclear munitions to the B61-12 version may never come to fruition.
Once the process is to become stalled due to technical reasons, it would be only logical for Russia and the US to get the issue of TNWs back to the arms control agenda. Republican President George Herbert Walker Bush was no great friend of Russia but a huge stride was made to promote arms control. As Republican Donald Trump takes office, it’s logical to revive the spirit of those days.
It is especially important to remember the success of presidential nuclear initiatives at the time the 115th Congress appears to be adamant to continue the vigorous anti-Russia policy. A PNI needs no congressional approval and, as history showed, it may be much more fruitful in pure practical terms than the agreements approved or ratified by lawmakers. Remember the 1972 ABM Treaty?
It’s not TNW only. Those where the days when the 1972 Incidents at Sea Agreement (IncSea) as well as the 1989 Agreement on Prevention of Dangerous Military Activities (PDMA) worked. Unlike today, no serious incidents occurred neither at sea, nor in air space above it. The IncSea was observed even in the heat of the 1973 Yom Kippur war. Today, the texts of the agreements could be perfected with provisions included to make sure no plane or ship comes too close, no provocative steps are taken and safe distances are observed.
In 2016, Russia offered to take the bull by the horn and launch roundtable discussions to do away with the dangerous threat. For instance, installing transponders could be a significant contribution into the solution of the problem. NATO rejected the offer. It can be changed now. Russia and the US could make it a bilateral issue to make others follow. This is the time to start taking one step after another to reverse the dangerous trend leading Russia and the US to the revival of Cold War. Whatever can be done, should be done.
With Donald Trump as the US President, it would be logical to revive the spirit of PNIs – the atmosphere of trust created by Soviet-Russian leaders and conservative Republican commander-in-chief who was Ronald Reagan’s Vice President. This is a page of history to be remembered by hawks in Congress applying vigorous efforts to spoil the bilateral relationship as much as they can. Nothing prevents Russia and the US to repeat the success story of the early 1990s. President Putin and President Trump can make statements on arms control initiatives of their own. History shows it works.