Tuesday, December 31, 2019

More links


Liberals tweeting the most hawkish garbage on North Korea because they hate Trump is peak 2019. Maddow has even made John Bolton a hero for his critique of Trump's policies. Listening to people who would happily eliminate the DPRK and its 25 million people is stupid & dangerous.  Tim Shorrock 

 

 

1--We Were Warned About the Deep State, but Refused to Listen


Many of the critical tools employed in the coup to paint Donald Trump as a tool of the Russians and to manufacture a pretext for removing him from office, were created more than twenty years ago. I am talking about the surveillance state that the American electorate has ignorantly accepted as necessary in order to keep us safe from terrorists...

The spying got worse. Just ask Donald Trump and the members of his campaign that were targeted first by the CIA and NSA and then by the FBI. Fundamental civil rights were trampled.

The real irony in all of this is that Barack Obama, as President, took credit for helping revise the laws in order to prevent the spying exposed by Edward Snowden. But under the Obama Administration, spying on political opponents--both real and perceived--escalated. We know for a fact that journalists, such as James Rosen and Sheryl Atkinson, were targets and their communications and computers attacked by the U.S. Government.

We know, thanks to a memo released by Judge Rosemary Collyer, that "FBI consultants" were making illegal searches of NSA material using the names of Donald Trump, his family and members of his campaign staff....

What has happened to Donald Trump can happen to any of us. It is time to take this threat seriously and put the intel agencies back into a properly monitored corral. Otherwise, we will lose this Republic

2--NSA Collects ‘Word for Word’ Every Domestic Communication, Says Former Analyst

 

  • RUSSELL TICE:
    This was in 2002-2003 time frame. The NSA were targeting individuals. In that case, they were judges like the Supreme Court. I held in my hand Judge Alito's targeting information for his phones and his staff and his family.
  • JUDY WOODRUFF:
    Bill Binney, what was your sense of who was being targeted and why they were being targeted? And what was being collected, in other words?
    WILLIAM BINNEY, former National Security Agency technical leader: Well, I wasn't aware of specific targeting like Russ was. I just saw the inputs were including hundreds of millions of records of phone calls of U.S. citizens every day. So it was virtually — there wasn't anybody who wasn't a part of this collection of information.
    So, virtually, you could target anybody in this country you wanted....

    • RUSSELL TICE:
      Well, two months ago, I contacted some colleagues at NSA. We had a little meeting, and the question came up, was NSA collecting everything now? Because we kind of figured that was the goal all along. And the answer came back. It was, yes, they are collecting everything, contents word for word, everything of every domestic communication in this country.

      • JUDY WOODRUFF:
        Both of you know what the government says is that we're collecting this — we're collecting the number of phone calls that are made, the e-mails, but we're not listening to them.
      • WILLIAM BINNEY:
        Well, I don't believe that for a minute. OK?
        I mean, that's why they had to build Bluffdale, that facility in Utah with that massive amount of storage that could store all these recordings and all the data being passed along the fiberoptic networks of the world. I mean, you could store 100 years of the world's communications here. That's for content storage. That's not for metadata.
        Metadata if you were doing it and putting it into the systems we built, you could do it in a 12-by-20-foot room for the world. That's all the space you need. You don't need 100,000 square feet of space that they have at Bluffdale to do that. You need that kind of storage for content.


    3--Russia's Putin: US agents gave direct help to Chechens


    Vladimir Putin has accused US agents of directly aiding rebel fighters in the second Chechen war.
    The Russian President made the comments in a film on state-run television marking his 15 years in power.
    The documentary gives considerable time to the conflict in the North Caucasus, a battle for independence that mutated into an Islamist insurgency.
    Mr Putin accuses the West of trying to tear Russia apart by supporting terrorists.
    "Our security services recorded direct contact between North Caucasus fighters and representatives of US intelligence in Azerbaijan," Mr Putin discloses in the lengthy film.

    The first, devastating war with Chechen separatists ended with Russian troops forced to withdraw in 1996.
    Three years later, Mr Putin launched a second campaign vowing to "wipe out the terrorists".
    The war was punctuated by attacks within Russia by Chechens, including the Beslan school siege in 2004 that left more than 300 people dead.
    The revelation fits President Putin's often-repeated narrative of a Russia that sought strong ties with the West as equals after the end of the Cold War, only to be constantly deceived and rebuffed.
    "Even I thought that with the end of the ideological barrier in the form of the Communist Party's monopoly on power, things would change radically," Mr Putin says.
    "But it turns out […] there are geopolitical interests not linked to any ideology at all."

    4--The Chechens' American friends


    But this view of the Russian media is precisely the opposite of the impression I gained while watching both CNN and Russian TV over the past week: the Russian channels had far better information and images from Beslan than their western competitors. This harshness towards Putin is perhaps explained by the fact that, in the US, the leading group which pleads the Chechen cause is the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya (ACPC). The list of the self-styled "distinguished Americans" who are its members is a rollcall of the most prominent neoconservatives who so enthusastically support the "war on terror".

    They include Richard Perle, the notorious Pentagon adviser; Elliott Abrams of Iran-Contra fame; Kenneth Adelman, the former US ambassador to the UN who egged on the invasion of Iraq by predicting it would be "a cakewalk"; Midge Decter, biographer of Donald Rumsfeld and a director of the rightwing Heritage Foundation; Frank Gaffney of the militarist Centre for Security Policy; Bruce Jackson, former US military intelligence officer and one-time vice-president of Lockheed Martin, now president of the US Committee on Nato; Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute, a former admirer of Italian fascism and now a leading proponent of regime change in Iran; and R James Woolsey, the former CIA director who is one of the leading cheerleaders behind George Bush's plans to re-model the Muslim world along pro-US lines.

    ...Coming from both political parties, the ACPC members represent the backbone of the US foreign policy establishment, and their views are indeed those of the US administration....

    Allegations are even being made in Russia that the west itself is somehow behind the Chechen rebellion, and that the purpose of such support is to weaken Russia, and to drive her out of the Caucasus.

    5--Putin claims US intel agencies helped Chechen terrorists


    "we support all the political forces, including the opposition forces, and we're going to continue to do that."


    Putin said the Kremlin hoped for U.S. support in quelling a separatist movement in the Russian republic, but had observed "instead, U.S. special services supporting the terrorists."...

     

    "If we are talking about political support, this does not need proving," Putin said, referring to the negative reaction internationally to Russia's use of force in the tiny region. "This was done publicly, openly. And as far as operational and financial support is concerned—we have such evidence and above all some of it we have already submitted to our American colleagues."..

     

    "In my view, the important thing is that upon us fell the absolutely lasting opinion that our American partners speak about supporting Russia in words, they speak about their preparedness to cooperate, including in fighting terrorism, but in deeds they use these terrorists to unsettle the internal political situation in Russia," Putin told Stone.

     

    6--Putin's role as "peacemaker" could be greatly advanced in Libya dispute

     


    First, Turkey signed a security and military cooperation agreement and a memorandum of understanding regarding the delimitation of maritime jurisdictions in the Eastern Mediterranean. Those documents prevented Greece and the Greek Cypriots to limit Turkey's maritime jurisdiction to the Gulf of Antalya. Alarmed by Ankara's move, Athens has been trying to work more closely with Cairo and Paris. Their foreign ministers will meet in Egypt on Jan. 4, but there can be no "regional cooperation" without Turkey.

    At the same time, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's administration prepares to deploy military personnel to Libya on the invitation of the Government of National Accord (GNA).  ...


    To be clear, the United Nations, the United States and the European Union recognize the Government of National Accord as Libya's legitimate administration – at least on paper. To compel Haftar to negotiate terms, the international community needs to provide military support to the GNA. According to sources, the deployment of Turkish troops could tilt the balance in the GNA's favor.

    In that case, there are obvious questions that need answering: Will Russia, which operates on the ground through "private' military contractors, up the ante? Will the Russians cooperate with Egypt and Greece, risking a confrontation with Turkey? If Russia doubles down, will the United States, which is largely irrelevant in the Libyan theater now, become more actively involved? Can the U.S. and the EU stomach Turkey and Russia rewriting the Libya file?

    An upcoming meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Egypt's Abdel Fattah el-Sissi signals that Washington won't stand idly by as Moscow assumes a more active role in Libya. Meanwhile, Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, are scheduled to meet in Istanbul on Jan. 8. Their discussion will be critically important, as the two leaders could facilitate a political solution in Libya together...

     

    It is possible, however, that Putin will position himself as an "honest broker" between the two warring parties and their supporters. The successful leader-to-leader diplomacy, which Erdoğan and Putin have been exercising for years now, could contribute to peaceful resolution.

    Western and Arab media outlets are already trying to spin Turkey's moves as "neo-Ottomanist" and "Islamist" expansion

     

    7--Will War Derail Trump's Reelection?

     

    Yesterday, U.S. F-15s, in five attacks, hit munitions depots and a command center of the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia in Syria and Iraq, a retaliatory raid for a rocket attack on a U.S. training camp that killed an American contractor and wounded four U.S. soldiers.

    “For those who ask about the response,” warns a Kataib Hezbollah spokesman, “it will be the size of our faith.” One has to expect Iran and its militia in Iraq to respond in kind.

    They have a track record. During 2019, with its economy choked by U.S. sanctions, Iran and its allies sabotaged oil tankers in the Gulf, shot down a $130 million U.S. Predator drone, and shut down with missiles and drones half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production.
    In former times, a confrontation or shooting war often benefitted the incumbent, as there was almost always a rallying to the flag. Those days are gone. This generation has had its fill of wars.

    8--The spooks choice--Pete Buttagieg 

     

    9--The impeachment crisis and US war plans against Russia

     

    Rather, the conflict raging within the state centers on Trump’s decision to temporarily delay a massive weapons shipment to Ukraine.
    The ferocity with which the entire US national security apparatus responded to the delay raises the question: Is there a timetable for using these weapons in combat to fight a war against Russia?

    A New York Times front-page exposé published Monday, coming in at 80,000 words and bearing six bylines, makes it clear that Trump’s decision to withhold military aid—over a month before his phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky—triggered the conflict that led to the president’s impeachment.
    As the Times reports, “Mr. Trump’s order to hold $391 million worth of sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, night vision goggles, medical aid and other equipment the Ukrainian military needed to fight a grinding war against Russian-backed separatists would help pave a path to the president’s impeachment.”

    The newspaper states that Trump decided to hold up the distribution of military aid to Ukraine on June 19 after he read a news article saying that the “Pentagon would pay for weapons and other military equipment for Ukraine, bringing American security aid to the country to $1.5 billion since 2014.

     

     

    10--Washington escalates Mideast war threat with strikes on Iraq, Syria

     


 


Today's Links

 NATO, the Soviet leader said, was “an organization designed from the start to be hostile to the Soviet Union.”.... For a Russian leader to “agree to the borders of NATO expanding toward those of Russia,” he told Clinton during a 1995 meeting at the Kremlin, “would constitute a betrayal of the Russian people.”  Mikail Gorbachev...

 

Defense Minister Pavel Grachev warned Polish leaders that his countrymen saw the NATO alliance as a “monster directed against Russia.

 

what Western companies did in Russia — did to Russia — is more or less what they’ve done to the United States and Europe over the past few decades. It’s just that in Russia they did it basically in a weekend.   Huff post

 

 

 

1--Did Pompeo Go Off Reservation In Iraq Attack?



The entire point of U.S. occupation of the Al-Tanf border crossing into Jordan and the oil fields in Deir Ezzor province is about starving the Syrian government of any reliable energy and revenue.

When Al Qaim/Al Bukamai was opened it was only a matter of time before a major skirmish would occur over it. Israel staged a series of air attacks previously using U.S. assets and air bases to launch them back in September.

Now, we have the convenient excuse for attacking these forces which are part of the Popular Mobiliztion Units, PMU, which Pompeo despises by ‘retaliating’ for a rocket attack on the K1 base near Kirkuk where one U.S. mercenary was killed and a handful of others injured.
The response from the U.S. Air Force was completely out of line with the initial attack and occurred without any attempt by Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to justify it...

The question is whether President Trump is engaged with this policy at all or did Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper go off on their own, pull this trigger and then inform Trump and get him to accept this post hoc?
Everywhere Pompeo goes one week winds up in flames the next anymore. When he visits a trouble spot which Israel and the neoconservatives he represents want destabilized, a miracle occurs the next week.

Before this it was Lebanon and Iraq. This week it’s Ukraine. There is the threat of peace breaking out there with Russia and Ukraine agreeing to terms on both a gas and oil transit contract into Europe which Pompeo is dead set against.
Will we see some attack on Ukrainian forces which break the peace and can be blamed on Russia?
Trump has to know that escalation from here ends with U.S. forces coming home in body bags as PMU forces themselves, go off the reservation during this power vacuum in Baghdad and attack U.S. troops directly....

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking Iran (Pompeo’s demands of Iran are off-the-charts insane), Lebanon (outright blackmail of the Lebanese government) or North Korea (making demands in negotiations which overstep Trump’s promises to Kim Jong-un) Pompeo is always there doing his thinly-veiled Israeli loyalty dance with the subtlety of a freight-train but somehow always framing it as making it Trump’s policy.

This move by Pompeo looks like a classic pre-emptive move to bind Trump down force him into a war which will be unpopular back home. The only one who wins with this attack is Israel.

Mike wants his golden parachute back to the Senate where he can continue doing god’s work for the Israelis, one more voice in a U.S. Senate seemingly without a limit on its thirst for power and the blood of the world.

2--Fed juices the market with repo QE


As it turned out, it was QE from the perspective of the market, which saw the Fed boosting its balance sheet by $60BN per month, and together with another $20BN or so in TSY and MBS maturity reinvestments, as well as tens of billions in overnight and term repos, and soared roughly around the time the Fed announced "not QE."

And so, as the Fed's balance sheet exploded by over $400 billion in under four months, a rate of balance sheet expansion that surpassed QE1, QE2 and Qe

stocks blasted off higher roughly at the same time as the Fed's QE returned, and are now up every single week since the start of the Fed's QE4 announcement when the Fed's balance sheet rose, and are down just one week since then: the week when the Fed's balance sheet shrank...

The result of this unprecedented correlation between the market's response to the Fed's actions - and the Fed's growing balance sheet - has meant that it gradually became impossible to deny that what the Fed is doing is no longer QE. It started with Bank of America in mid-November (as described in "One Bank Finally Admits The Fed's "NOT QE" Is Indeed QE... And Could Lead To Financial Collapse"), and then after several other banks also joined in, and even Fed fanboy David Zervos admitted on CNBC that the Fed is indeed doing QE, the tipping point finally arrived, and it was no longer blasphemy (or tinfoil hat conspiracy theory) to call out the naked emperor, and overnight none other than Deutsche Bank joined the "truther" chorus, when in a report by the bank's chief economist Torsten Slok, he writes what we pointed out several weeks back, namely that "since QE4 started in October, a 1% increase in the Fed balance sheet has been associated with a 1% increase in the S&P500, see chart below." Not that DB has absolutely no qualms about calling what the Fed is doing QE4 for the simple reason that... it is QE4..

In short: the Kool Aid is flowing, the party is in full force and everyone has to dance, because the Fed will continue to perform QE4 at least until Q2 2020. Which reminds us of what we wrote last week, namely that another big bank, Morgan Stanley, has already seen through the current meltup phase, and predicts the "Melt-Up Lasting Until April, After Which Markets Will "Confront World With No Fed Support"."


3--Putin background


He became acting president on 31 December 1999, when Yeltsin resigned. During his first presidency, the Russian economy grew for eight straight years, and GDP measured in purchasing power increased by 72%.[7][8] The growth was a result of the 2000s commodities boom, recovery from the post-Communist depression and financial crises, and prudent economic and fiscal policies.[9][10] In September 2011, Putin announced he would seek a third term as president. ...Putin gained 76% of the March 2018 presidential vote and was re-elected for a six-year term that will end in 2024.

4--December 1991--Dissolution of the Soviet Union



The dissolution of the Soviet Union[a] was the process of internal disintegration within the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), also referred to as the Soviet Union, which began in the second half of the 1980s with growing unrest in the national republics and ended on 26 December 1991, when the USSR itself was voted out of existence by the Supreme Soviet, following the Belavezha Accords. Declaration number 142-Н by the Supreme Soviet resulted in self-governing independence to the Republics of the USSR, formally dissolving the USSR.[1] The declaration acknowledged the independence of the former Soviet republics and created the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), although five of the signatories ratified it much later or did not do so at all. On the previous day, 25 December, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, the eighth and final leader of the USSR, resigned, declared his office extinct and handed over its powers—including control of the Soviet nuclear missile launching codes—to Russian President Boris Yeltsin. That evening at 7:32 p.m., the Soviet flag was lowered from the Kremlin for the last time and replaced with the pre-revolutionary Russian flag.


5--The US ‘Betrayed’ Russia, but It Is Not ‘News That’s Fit to Print’


New evidence that Washington broke its promise not to expand NATO “one inch eastward”—a fateful decision with ongoing ramifications—has not been reported by The New York Times or other agenda-setting media outlets.

In 1990, Soviet Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev agreed not only to the reunification of Germany, whose division was the epicenter of that Cold War, but also, at the urging of the Western powers, particularly the United States, that the new Germany would be a member of NATO. (Already embattled at home, Gorbachev was further weakened by his decision, which probably contributed to the attempted coup against him in August 1991.) Gorbachev made the decision based on assurances by his then–Western “partners” that in return NATO would never be expanded “one inch eastward” toward Russia. (Today, having nearly doubled its member countries, the world’s most powerful military alliance sits on Russia’s western borders.) At the time, it was known that President George H.W. Bush had especially persuaded Gorbachev through Secretary of State James Baker’s “not one inch” and other equally emphatic guarantees. Ever since Bush’s successor, President Bill Clinton, began the still ongoing process of NATO expansion, its promoters and apologists have repeatedly insisted there was no such promise, that it had all been “myth” or “misunderstanding,” and moreover that NATO’s vast expansion had been necessary and has been a great success, actual myths that Cohen also discusses.

Now, however, the invaluable National Security Archive at George Washington University has established the historical truth by publishing, on December 12 of last year, not only a detailed account of what Gorbachev was promised in 1990–91 but the relevant documents themselves. The truth, and the promises broken, are much more expansive than previously known: All of the Western powers involved—the US, the UK, France, Germany itself—made the same promise to Gorbachev on multiple occasions and in various emphatic ways. If we ask when the West, particularly Washington, lost Moscow as a potential strategic partner after the end of the Soviet Union, this is where an explanation begins

And yet, nearly a month after the publication of the National Security Archive documents, neither the Times nor The Washington Post, which profess to be the nation’s most important, reliable, and indispensable political newspapers, has published one word about this revelation.

Putin put it bluntly: “They duped us, in the full sense of this word.” ...

because it has resulted in a Russia semi-encircled by US-led Western military power, an encroachment that continues today. Given all this, we must ask again: Why did neither the Times nor the Post report the archive revelations?

 Most likely because the evidence fundamentally undermines their essential overarching narrative that Putin’s Russia is solely responsible for the new Cold War and all of its attendant conflicts and dangers, and therefore that no rethinking of US policy toward post-Soviet Russia since 1991 is advisable or, it seems, permissible, certainly not by President Donald Trump. 

6---Russia’s got a point: The U.S. broke a NATO promise


In early February 1990, U.S. leaders made the Soviets an offer. According to transcripts of meetings in Moscow on Feb. 9, then-Secretary of State James Baker suggested that in exchange for cooperation on Germany, U.S. could make “iron-clad guarantees” that NATO would not expand “one inch eastward.” Less than a week later, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to begin reunification talks. No formal deal was struck, but from all the evidence, the quid pro quo was clear: Gorbachev acceded to Germany’s western alignment and the U.S. would limit NATO’s expansion. ...

by March 1990, State Department officials were advising Baker that NATO could help organize Eastern Europe in the U.S. orbit; by October, U.S. policymakers were contemplating whether and when (as a National Security Council memo put it) to “signal to the new democracies of Eastern Europe NATO’s readiness to contemplate their future membership.”

At the same time, however, it appears the Americans still were trying to convince the Russians that their concerns about NATO would be respected. Baker pledged in Moscow on May 18, 1990, that the United States would cooperate with the Soviet Union in the “development of a new Europe.” And in June, per talking points prepared by the NSC, Bush was telling Soviet leaders that the United States sought “a new, inclusive Europe.”

It’s therefore not surprising that Russia was incensed when Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, the Baltic states and others were ushered into NATO membership starting in the mid-1990s. Boris Yeltsin, Dmitry Medvedev and Gorbachev himself protested through both public and private channels that U.S. leaders had violated the non-expansion arrangement. As NATO began looking even further eastward, to Ukraine and Georgia, protests turned to outright aggression and saber-rattling..

the evidence suggests that Russia’s protests have merit and that U.S. policy has contributed to current tensions in Europe.

7--How Gorbachev was misled over assurances against NATO expansion


Baker promised Shevardnadze “iron-clad guarantees that NATO’s jurisdiction or forces would not move eastward”. On the same day in Moscow, he famously told the Soviet General Secretary that the alliance would not move “one inch to the east”.

John Dobson, The Perfidious West: Why Putin’s suspicion is justified, Sunday Guardian, 23 December 2017
Andrew Bacevich, When Washington Assured Russia NATO Would Not Expand, The American Conservative, 20 December 2017
Eric Margolis, No to Eastward NATO Expansion? 'Sorry Chump, You Didn't Have It in Writing', Common Dreams, 17 December 2017
Newly Declassified Documents: Gorbachev Told NATO Wouldn't Move Past East German Border, National Interest, 12 December 2017

8-- Russia’s Clash With the West Is About Geography, Not Ideology  Foreign Policy


At his dacha, standing before a map of the newly expanded Soviet Union shortly after Germany’s surrender in May 1945, Josef Stalin nodded with approval. The vast buffer he’d carved out of Soviet-occupied Eastern Europe would now protect his empire against future Napoleons and Hitlers. Stalin then took the pipe from his mouth, waving it under the base of the Caucasus..

Stalin still believed that Truman would ultimately be compelled to concede German unification on Soviet terms — massive reparations and a political structure favorable to the Communists — in order to fulfill his predecessor Franklin D. Roosevelt’s pledge to withdraw U.S. troops from Europe within two years after the war.

The time had come, Marshall decided, for unilateral U.S. action to secure democratic, capitalist government in the parts of Europe still outside Soviet control. In an iconic speech at Harvard University on June 5, 1947, he presented the outline of what would become a massive four-year U.S. aid scheme to support European reconstruction and integration: the Marshall Plan.

Stalin denounced the plan as a vicious American plot to buy political and military domination of Europe. He feared losing control not just of Germany but of Eastern Europe, too. Prior to the launch of the Marshall Plan, Stalin had never been dogmatic about the forms of socialism pursued by countries within the Soviet sphere. Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Romania were all allowed to form coalition governments of one sort or another. His demand had merely been fealty to Moscow on foreign policy. That would soon change. By the end of 1948, Stalin had fully co-opted or crushed the remaining non-Communist elements in the governments of Eastern Europe....

In trying to assure the Russians that NATO was not a threat, the Clinton administration had taken it for granted that legitimate Russian interests, in an era following glasnost and perestroika, would not clash with NATO interests. But this view presumed that the Cold War had been driven by ideology and not geography. Halford Mackinder, the father of geopolitics, would have scoffed at this view. Mackinder, who died in 1947, the year the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan were launched, drew policymakers’ attention to the strategic centrality of the vast Eurasian “Heartland,” which was dominated by Russia. “Who rules East Europe,” he famously wrote in 1919, “commands the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; Who rules the World-Island commands the World.” It was the ideas of Mackinder, and not Marx, that best explained the Cold War.

Russia’s eternal fear of invasion drove its foreign policy then and continues to do so now. “At bottom of [the] Kremlin’s neurotic view of world affairs is [a] traditional and instinctive Russian sense of insecurity,” Kennan wrote in his famous 1946 Long Telegram. Vast, sparsely populated, and with huge transport challenges, Russia had a natural tendency to fracture. Looking outward, Russia was a “land which had never known a friendly neighbor.” Its defining characteristic was its indefensibility. No mountain ranges or bodies of water protected its western borders. For centuries, it suffered repeated invasions. That landscape and history encouraged the emergence of a highly centralized and autocratic leadership obsessed with internal and external security...

Whereas the West sees Russia’s fear of invasion as groundless, history has shown Russian leaders that foreign intentions are typically hidden or fluid. Each age brings a new existential threat; there would always be another Napoleon or Hitler.
After World War II, the threat was, from the Kremlin’s perspective, capitalist encirclement led by Washington and its West German puppet. The incorporation of Ukraine and Belarus (1922) and the Baltic countries (1940) into the Soviet Union, and the creation of buffer states farther east, bolstered Russia’s security at the expense of the West’s. In 1949, splitting control of Germany created a stable equilibrium, one that survived four decades. Once Moscow lost control of Berlin in 1989, however, Russia’s defensive frontier collapsed, forcing it to retreat to borders farther east than they had been since the 18th century...

Western leaders do not need to sympathize with Russia, but if they wish to make effective foreign policies, they do need to understand it. Communism may have vanished from Europe, but the region’s geography has not changed. Russia is, as it has always been, too large and powerful to embed within Western institutions without fundamentally changing them and too vulnerable to Western encroachment to acquiesce in its own exclusion.

The Marshall Plan, which cemented the Cold War, is remembered as one of the great achievements of U.S. foreign policy not merely because it was visionary but also because it worked. It worked because the United States accepted the reality of a Russian sphere of influence into which it could not penetrate without sacrificing credibility and public support.

Great acts of statesmanship are grounded in realism no less than idealism. It is a lesson America needs to relearn.
The excerpt was adapted from Benn Steil’s new book The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War.
Benn Steil is director of international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations. (@BennSteil)
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9--Yes, NATO Expansion Was a Mistake

 

NATO expansion has been a mistake for the U.S. because the U.S. didn’t need to add any more security commitments in Europe or anywhere else after the end of the Cold War. The collapse of the USSR meant that the threat to European peace and security had substantially diminished. There was arguably no need for NATO at all, much less a larger one. The larger alliance has not found “new purpose” through expansion, but continues to cast about looking for some reason to exist now that its only real reason for being, the Soviet Union, has been dead for almost three decades. That first took the form of “humanitarian” intervention in Kosovo, an illegal war that set a precedent that Russia would subsequently exploit, and then it morphed into supporting the unending war in Afghanistan. In 2011, “humanitarian” intervention was once again back on the menu as the alliance was dragged into backing a U.S.-led attack on the Libyan government that destabilized the country and the surrounding region until today. The last twenty years have seen the continued growth of the alliance at the same time that the alliance has become increasingly divorced from its original purpose of defending Europe from attack. NATO’s expansion during that time has been a mistake, and so has NATO’s attempt to reinvent itself for a world where it is no longer needed.

 

10--NATO Enlargement--12 to 29 members

 

Enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is the process of including new member states in NATO. NATO is a military alliance of twenty-seven European and two North American countries that constitutes a system of collective defense. The process of joining the alliance is governed by Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which allows only for the invitation of "other European States", and by subsequent agreements. Countries wishing to join have to meet certain requirements and complete a multi-step process involving political dialogue and military integration. The accession process is overseen by the North Atlantic Council, NATO's governing body.
After its formation in 1949 with twelve founding members,...NATO has added new members seven times since its founding in 1949 to include twenty-nine members.

 


11--The looting of Russia, Weisbrot


Washington's money mandarins, on the other hand, descended upon Russia with enormous wealth and power already in their possession. They have used both to colonize Russia, turning a once developed economy into a Third World country.

The results have been devastating. Over the last eight years, the economy has shrunk by more than half. Russian men can now expect to die in their fifties. The chief economist of the World Bank, Joseph Stiglitz, has noted that the number of Russians living in poverty climbed from two million to sixty million in just a few years.

Stiglitz, who is one of America's most accomplished and respected economists, has recently argued that these results "are not just due to sound policies being poorly implemented." Rather, they are based on "a misunderstanding of the very foundations of a market economy, as well as an excessive reliance on textbook models of economics."

It has been one debacle after another since the IMF introduced its "shock therapy" program in 1992. Like a battered spouse who sees no alternative but to return to her abuser, Russia comes back to the IMF for more credits. But the hundreds of billions that have fled the country in the 1990's have cancelled out this "aid," as well as the meager foreign direct investment, many times over. At the same time Russia has accumulated more than $150 billion in foreign debt, with the burden of debt service now reaching a crushing 29% of export earnings.

At some point any rational, non-corrupt political leader in Russia has to question whether the country's friendly relations with Washington are worth the price of continued impoverishment. That time may be approaching, as Russia elects first a Parliament and then a President over the next 10 months. There will be calls from across the political spectrum to break, or at least loosen, the chains that bind Russia to its Western tormentors.


12--PCR and Michael Hudson--Looting Russia


Russia’s economic problems are due to the looting of the country during the Yeltsin years, to the imposition of neoliberal economics by the Americans, and to financialization as a result of the privatizations.

Russia’s stock market became the darling of the West in the mid-1990s as underpriced mining, oil and infrastructure were sold for a fraction of their value to foreigners, thus transferring Russian income streams abroad instead of leaving the income to be invested in Russia. In effect, Russians were told that the way for their country to get rich was to let kleptocrats, oligarchs, and their U.S. and British stock brokers make hundreds of billions of dollars by privatizing Russia’s public domain.

Washington took advantage of the gullible and trusting Yeltsin government to do as much political and economic damage as possible to Russia. The country was torn apart.  Historic parts of Russia such as Ukraine were split off into separate countries.  Washington even insisted that Crimera, long a part of Russia and the country’s warm water port, was retained by Ukraine when the Soviet Union was dismembered.

People’s savings (called the “overhang”) were wiped out with hyperinflation. Privatization was not accompanied by new investment. The economy was not industrialized, but financialized. The proceeds from privatization were deposited by the Russian government in private banks where the money was used to privatize more Russian assets. The banking system thus served to finance the transfer of ownership, not to fund new investment, and the proceeds were transferred abroad. Russia was turned into a financial colony in which proconsuls created wealth at the top...

Today privatization continues in the de facto privatization of public assets, such as charging fees for use of federal highways.  As the Russian economic profession has been brainwashed by the Americans, the country is devoid of economic leadership.
We have pointed out on more than one occasion that it is nonsensical for Russia to indebt itself by borrowing abroad in order to finance investments. The Russians were sold a bill of goods that the central bank cannot issue rubles unless the rubles are backed by dollars.  This advice served to prevent Russia from using its own central bank to fund public infrastructure and private investment projects by issuing rubles.  In other words, Russia might as well not have a central bank.

Apparently, Russian economists do not understand that Russia does not spend borrowed foreign currencies inside Russia.  If Russia takes a foreign loan, the borrowed money goes into central bank reserves. The central bank then issues the ruble equivalent to be spent on the project, and the cost of the project goes up by the pointless interest paid to the foreign lender.
As far as we can tell, the Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences is so brainwashed by neoliberal economics that their minds are closed to correct policies.  The failure of Russian economic leadership imposes far more costs on the Russian economy than do Washington’s sanctions.

By failing to show firmness, the Russian government encourages the crony system of oligarchs who want a government that they can use for their narrow interests. Their interests include participating in the system of Western plunder known as “globalism.” These client elites of the West oppose a powerful Russian state that could assert itself on the world stage and offer an alternative policy to the West’s policy of plunder.  The influence of this narrow interest group on government policy indicates that the Russian government is compromised...

The Russian government and central bank have been blinded to the fact that Russian infrastructure projects and private investment are not dependent on borrowing dollars abroad or by acquiring dollars by selling Russian assets to foreigners. Such projects can be financed by ruble creation by the Russian central bank.  Money that flows into productive projects that raise output is not inflationary.  Generally speaking, such projects lower costs.
For Russia to succeed, Russia needs an economic re-education and a government that finds its footing in Russian nationalism and discourages Western provocations with firmer responses.
It is our view that the Western world, indeed all of life, has an interest in a Russia too strong to be attacked or provoked as a strong Russia is the only way to curtail the Western aggression that is leading to nuclear war.







While desirous of a new relationship with Russia, the United States saw itself as the Cold War victor and had the power to shape the security dynamic across Europe.


 
 
 


Monday, December 30, 2019

More links

1--The attacks on Barr begin--(Barr must be destroyed to sabotage Durham investigation which is uncovering the crimes of the secret state)


The answer is that America’s conservative movement, having morphed into a religious nationalist movement, is on a collision course with the American constitutional system. Though conservatives have long claimed to be the true champions of the Constitution — remember all that chatter during previous Republican administrations about “originalism” and “judicial restraint” — the movement that now controls the Republican Party is committed to a suite of ideas that are fundamentally incompatible with the Constitution and the Republic that the founders created under its auspices.

Mr. Trump’s presidency was not the cause of this anti-democratic movement in American politics. It was the consequence. He is the chosen instrument, not of God, but of today’s Christian nationalists, their political allies and funders, and the movement’s legal apparatus. Mr. Barr did not emerge in order to serve this one particular leader. On the contrary, Mr. Trump serves a movement that will cynically praise the Constitution in order to destroy it, and of which Mr. Barr has made himself a hero

 

2--A Horowitz Report Reveals Bias, but What Kind?


The Justice Department’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz testified that only two things might explain FBI behavior in the 2016 campaign: gross incompetence or intentional bias. Of course, the choice is no choice given a record of errors all in the same direction. But the bias at work wasn’t Republican vs. Democrat bias, or conservative vs. liberal bias. It was insider vs. outsider bias.

Frame the question as it deserves to be framed: Did the FBI grant the benefit of the doubt to a vetted member of the establishment dragging along a lot of seamy and controversial associations while refusing the benefit of the doubt to an unvetted outsider dragging a load of seamy and controversial associations? The answer is yes....

The FBI persisted in its Carter Page surveillance after it knew its evidence was fabricated and tainted by partisan politics. Its chief sought appointment of a special counsel after he knew the full might of the U.S. establishment had already failed to surface anything on Mr. Trump.

Former intelligence chiefs John Brennan and James Clapper took to the airwaves to denounce Mr. Trump after they knew credible evidence didn’t exist to support their charges. Mr. Brennan gave CNN and MSNBC a “bombshell” they touted for days when he testified early in Mr. Trump’s presidency that the CIA had handed over details of unsavory Trump-Russia connections to the FBI. The FBI later told Mr. Horowitz it never received anything of relevance from Mr. Brennan

Who did this to us? It wasn’t Vladimir Putin. It was us. In this sense, the most malignant actor in U.S. politics is Rep. Adam Schiff —though second place belongs to a U.S. media whose reporting was corrupted by groupthink, lack of historical imagination, personal shallowness and a cowardly weakness for virtue signaling....

I can think of several ways the eventual 2020 Democratic nominee, whoever he or she might be, could do the country a favor and reduce the near-apocalyptic bitterness of the coming election. Disown Adam Schiff just a little. Acknowledge the oafish or worse impact of the U.S. intelligence establishment on the 2016 race and its aftermath. Concede the exaggeration of Mr. Trump’s Russia ties.
All this would still leave complaints about Mr. Trump’s policies, his demeanor, his disdain for allies, his transactional politics, and much else for Democrats to prosecute.

3--Turkey's mega projects challenge the global established order

 

The years between 1947 and 1991 marked a period in which the world was divided into Eastern and Western blocks, with each axis squaring every decision according to its own interests and in which billions of dollars were poured into defense and the space race – this, in lieu of humanitarian development. However, as always, it was always humanity's hope simply to inhabit a world whose economic-political order was based on inclusiveness, justice and prosperity in order to make life on Earth that much more livable for all, without exception. This is why, when the Cold War finally ended, citizens across the world looked to the phenomenon of globalization as an opportunity to realize this hope.

However, the global order that was established through globalization emerged as one centered upon the precepts of neoliberalism and neo-imperialism. Instead of an economic-political order that prioritized inclusiveness, justice and prosperity, it has imposed a globalist understanding that favored solely its own interests. The world's citizens have rejected this imposition. I would like to emphasize again; humankind has rejected the globalist understanding that the established order has tried to impose. After all, had it not, the yearning for a transformative shift toward inclusivity and the freedom for all citizens to travel, work and achieve prosperity would have vanished....

 

a serious test awaits U.S. society and its voters, for the "patriots" to successfully win the struggle where the "globalists" are doomed to lose to a pragmatic president like Trump, a man who is determined to distance the U.S. from strategies, policies and operations that have led to the loss of U.S.' in the international public eye over the past 40 years. It is noteworthy that China's President Xi has stated that, even though Trump has put a strain on China, he would prefer to continue trade negotiations with a pragmatic Trump, over the Democrats.

 

4--Robert Mueller’s Dossier Dodge

 

Why did the special counsel not tell America that Christopher Steele’s information was false?

 

Comey had good reason to dodge. By that time, the Horowitz report makes clear, the FBI knew that most of the Steele dossier’s claims were unreliable. Yet rather than take a hard look at it, Team Mueller made a deliberate choice to tiptoe around it. In his opening statement to Congress when he testified this July, Mr. Mueller declared he would not address “matters related to the so-called Steele dossier,” which he said were out of his purview. 

 

This makes no sense. The Steele dossier was central to obtaining the Page warrant, and the leaks about the dossier fanned two years of media theories about Russian collusion that was one reason Mr. Mueller was appointed as special counsel. Mr. Mueller owed the public an explanation of how much of the dossier could be confirmed or repudiated.

Instead he abdicated, and the mystery is why. Perhaps as a former FBI director, Mr. Mueller wanted to protect the bureau’s reputation. But the best way to do that was to lay out the truth and explain any mistakes. A less generous explanation is that Mr. Mueller was more a figurehead as special counsel, and that the investigation was really run by his deputy Andrew Weissmann.

5--Trump signs Pentagon budget imposing new sanctions on Syria

 

6--Two Colleagues Contradict Brennan's Denial of Reliance on Dossier

 

7--Up and running--Iraq is pumping record oil, creating a ‘fully-blown migraine’ for OPEC’s cutting plans

 

8--Comey and Brennan Contradict Each Other on “Crown Material” (ie. Dossier)…

 

9--AG Barr Says Durham Is ‘Looking At’ Activities Of ‘Private Actors,’ Agencies Beyond FBI

 

10--The impeachment crisis

A plague on both political parties

11--AG Barr warns against 'political' impeachment, hits back at Comey in Fox News interview

 

12--Brennan admits 'there were mistakes made' in FISA applications, suggests FBI was 'overly aggressive

 

13--Giuliani admits to forcing out Voinovich  

 

14--CIA Democrats back CIA-led impeachment

 

15--Harry Reid sent sensitive Trump collusion letter over CIA objections

 

16--Did Obama, Brennan And Clinton Illegally Collude To Take Trump Down? 

 

17--Vladimir Putin’s annual news conference

 

Russia has stressed many times that it supports the legitimate government, in particular, in Syria and other countries where a crisis situation remains. There is also a crisis in Libya. There is a legitimate government recognised by the international community there. The Western media say that Russia supports the so-called Libyan National Army, that Russian mercenaries support them.

Would you comment on this? Will you discuss this with President Erdogan, including the Syrian topic? What else will you discuss? Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Do you believe what is written in the Western media? Read what they write about Turkey and you will change your mind.
Seriously speaking, of course, we are aware of the situation. We know that various countries have relations with both sides in the conflict, and the levels of relations are different.
Russia actually maintains contacts with al-Sarraj’s government and stays in touch with Marshal Haftar. We have a constant dialogue with our partners, including those in Turkey, Europe, and other countries. We understand that this is a very acute issue.

You also know very well who drove the country to this state. Russia was against using military force in Libya, and the UN Security Council Resolution on this prohibited former President of Libya Muammar al-Gaddafi from using the aviation against the opposition, which was armed, by the way. Instead, the Western coalition started using its air force against Libya, perverting the UN Security Council Resolution. As a result of this, a prospering country whose quality of life was close to some European standards is now in ruins, in chaos, torn by an unending civil war. It is very difficult to determine who is right and who is wrong.

In fact, the Russian authorities are in touch with al-Sarraj and Haftar, as I have said. We think that the best solution for all the parties to the conflict would be one that would allow them to end the hostilities and come to an agreement on who, how and on what terms will run the country. I believe that Libya is interested in this.

This is what we will definitely discuss with our partners in Europe. I have just talked about this in a telephone conversation with the German chancellor and the President of France. President Erdogan and I have also discussed this. A Turkish delegation will arrive in Moscow in the next few daysfor a working visit, and their agenda will include this issue. I hope we will find solutions that will be accepted by Libya and the Libyan people, and I hope that together with Special Representative of the Secretary-General Ghassan Salame we will find the final solution.

18--Vladimir Putin took partin the Defence Ministry Board meeting heldat the National Defence Control Centre.

 



 



Today's links

 When the transcript of my meeting with Alexander Downer is released eventually, confirming that Downer and the Australian government were willfully spying on the Trump campaign, the US-Australia relationship will take years to recover, if ever. Bad move Australia. Bad move.  george papadopolous



 

1--Expect more fireworks in Libya-- Erdoğan made up his mind about deploying troops to Libya


Erdoğan highlighted his administration's interest in the Libya question as follows: "Libya is one of Turkey's maritime neighbors due to the convergence of our respective maritime jurisdictions. We will go where we are invited, but we won't go anywhere without an invitation. Now that there is such a standing invitation, we will accept it. We will be accepting an invitation from the country's legitimate government. We will offer all kinds of support to the government in Tripoli, which is fighting against a coup plotter that many European and Arab countries support." Turkey says it will "offer all kinds of military support" to Libya's U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) – which experts say means establishing a military base in the country....

It is no secret that Turkey's decision to deploy military personnel to Libya will unsettle all stakeholders currently operating in the country. The Kremlin was first to issue a statement, as Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov claimed, "The involvement of third countries in Libya would not contribute to the resolution of the crisis."

2--Senate provocations designed to shape Trump foreign policy 


U.S. Senate passed Thursday a resolution recognizing the 1915 events as “Armenian genocide,” in a move that is sure to anger Turkey.

3--Turkey must be included in future gas negotiations in the east Mediterranean


the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, which was held earlier this year, was attended by Israel, Italy, the Palestinian Authority, the Greek Cypriot administration, Egypt, Jordan and Greece. The founding purpose of the forum was to build cooperation among the member states on the use of Eastern Mediterranean natural gas reserves and establish a regional gas market to serve the purposes of the member states. However, Turkey, one of the countries with the longest coasts on the Mediterranean, was not even invited.

Two months later, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended and supported the 6th Trilateral Summit held by Southern Cyprus, Greece and Israel. U.S. support for unilateral moves by Israel and Greece was another factor that fueled the tension....


How the memorandum between Turkey and Libya will be perceived will determine the future of “energy wars” in the Mediterranean. My personal opinion is that inviting Turkey and Libya to talks while discussing the future of the Mediterranean would be the right start 


4--Macron -Russia


over the past few years, there have been various indications by European members of NATO that have suggested the continent is searching for an alternative multilateral security arrangement..

"If we want to build peace in Europe and rebuild European strategic autonomy, we must reconsider our position toward Russia." Macron 

5--Is Turkey the indispensable gas transit country??


Even if Israel succeeds in exporting natural gas from Leviathan, it has to work with other regional countries to deliver it to Europe. Today it looks like it has no option other than Greek Cyprus and Egypt. According to last year's reports, Israel, Greek Cyprus, Greece and Italy have reached an agreement to lay a pipeline connecting Israel's gas reserves to the three countries, in a major project, namely East Med, that will supply gas from the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe. Europe, too, has an interest in seeing the development of the East Med proceed, which would enable it to diversify its energy suppliers and reduce its dependence on Russian gas....

With the agreement between Turkey and Libya, the East Med Project’s pipeline has to go through Turkey's EEZ. It has strengthened Turkey’s hand in the region, and it will provide a direct role in the energy geopolitics game, on a legal basis. For that reason, all the plans that have isolated other regional countries have been turned upside down for now. For Greece, the Greek Cypriot Administration and Israel, the party is over, and they are not dancing anymore 

6--The Turkish Hub--Turkish gas cooperation acquires European dimension


Both targeting the European markets, the SGC and TurkStream pipelines will both traverse Turkey, making the country a transitory crossroads of natural gas from Russia and Azerbaijan. These two projects will enable Turkey to transform into a regional gas hub, a vital element of the European energy security and a meeting point for the energy interests of both Russia and Azerbaijan.

Transit builds independence

The TurkStream gas pipeline project was first initiated by Russia. The plan allows two, 930-km long subsea connectors laid out on the floor of the Black Sea to pump up to 15.7 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas into Turkey. They are laid down to respectively supply consumers in Turkey and Europe with additional volumes of Russian gas. The first line, set to be inaugurated on Jan. 8, 2020, will increase the volume of annual deliveries to Turkey by nearly 16 bcm, sparking fresh concerns with the Russian gas dependence....


The launch of the TurkStream pipeline is set to transform the buyer-seller nature of Turkish-Russian relations, setting to unite the countries as joint providers of pipeline gas to the third markets. For Turkey, the newly launched pipeline is both an imported gas provider and an instrument of becoming a transitory hub of Russian gas to Europe and beyond.

The TurkStream’s second, southern line is set to pass through Turkey to take Russian gas to Bulgaria; from here, moving on to Serbia and, potentially, Hungary. This pipeline will make Turkey an actor with increased leverage in the Russian gas transportation business, and will strengthen its position in the global gas market while buttressing its energy independence overall. 


7--Turkey's safe zone stabilized northern Syria, says Esper


Speaking on Turkey’s operation on northern Syria, Esper stated: “Clearly, President Erdoğan felt the need at this point in time, as I said earlier, since the beginning of this relationship between the United States and the YPG, and later, the SDF under the Obama administration. This has been a long-standing concern, a thorn in the side of Turkey's, and I guess they decided it was time to act.”...

"The United States strategy in the Middle East seeks to ensure the region is not a safe haven for terrorists, is not dominated by any power hostile to the U.S. and contributes to a stable global energy market," Esper said 

8--Sowing dragon's teeth--After U.S. Strike On Iraqi Forces Its Troops Will (Again) Have To Leave


Elijah J. Magnier @ejmalrai - 6:20 UTC · Dec 30, 2019
32 killed and 45 wounded the count of #US violent aggression on #Iraq security forces brigades 45 and 46 last night on a military position established to counter-attack and raid #ISIS remnant at al-Qaem, the borders between Iraq and Syria.


9--Turkey's rising power in world politics--Understanding the history of Muslim humiliation and the emerging world order

 

When the six-century-old Ottoman Empire eventually collapsed, the Islamic world as a whole was colonized by Western powers. The military occupation was crowned by a psychological occupation at the end of which the historical and cultural traditions of the Islamic civilization was condemned to degradation...

 

Although the Turkish War of Independence rapidly succeeded with the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923, most Muslim countries were not able to achieve independence until the 1950s. The eruption of World War II and the succeeding Cold War enabled Muslim countries to pull themselves together. Despite the fact that the Cold War ended with the disintegration of the Soviet Republic and the Eastern bloc, the unipolar world order of the United States did not last long.

At the beginning of the 21st century, Turkey emerged as a rising power in the international arena. Thanks to its substantial state tradition, each international crisis enabled Turkey to prove its significance for the emerging global world order.

Today, Turkey's destiny has become identical to the destiny of its leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. As our century is the century of leaders, this critical juncture constitutes, in the words of the great thinker Sezai Karakoç, the "solstice" for Turkey and Muslims as a whole

10--2019: A disastrous year for Trump’s foreign policy


11--The Coverup--the OPCW suppressing evidence means that the chemical weapons watchdog is no longer credible

 

12--US Media Reveals Putin's ‘Most Remarkable’ Achievement in 20 Years

 

With the US injecting more than double in defence than Moscow spends on everything, Russia is “once again a major power in the Middle East and it’s expanding in Africa for the first time in a generation”, according to Bloomberg.
Under Putin, the government’s balance sheet became “one of the healthiest in the world, earning praise from rating agencies and the International Monetary Fund", the news outlet goes on to say, referring to the Russian President’s “fiscal prudence”, especially after the beginning of the Ukrainian conflict.  
During Putin’s presidency, Russia also managed to restore “some of the geopolitical might wielded by the Soviet Union, irking most of NATO’s 29 nations in the process”.
On top of that, Putin boosted Moscow’s relations with Beijing, reunited Crimea with Russia, “turned the tide of the war in Syria, sold advanced air-defence systems [S-400] to NATO-member Turkey and reached major arms and oil deals with a key US ally, Saudi Arabia, as well as Venezuela”, Bloomberg pointed out.

13--Putin's Russia--Bloomberg


on Tuesday, Putin announced a victory in Russia’s unspoken arms race with the United States, announcing the world’s first use of hypersonic weapons, which he said could hit targets on every continent.
“The Soviet Union has caught up,” said Putin at a meeting in Moscow. “Today we have a situation that is unique in modern history: you are trying to catch up with us.”..

Under Putin, Russia restored part of the geopolitical power exercised by the Soviet Union, angering most of the 29 NATO countries. He has deepened relations with China, annexed Crimea from Ukraine, turned the war in Syria, sold advanced air defense systems to NATO member Turkey, and achieved important arms and oil deals with Venezuela’s key U.S. ally, Saudi Arabia – while allegedly interfering with voices in the US, UK and elsewhere.

Russia is again a major power in the Middle East and is expanding in Africa for the first time in a generation. The Kremlin has resumed military ties with regional power Egypt and war-torn Libya, where a strong man backed by Russian mercenaries is fighting for power with a United Nations-backed government in Tripoli....

The anemic and profit-dependent economy he built is less than 8% the size of the United States. It spends more than twice on defense than Russia on everything, including education, health care and policing.

At the same meeting, Putin boasted of gaining the upper hand over new weapons, and his defense minister complained that he had dropped to ninth place in the world next year, compared to seventh place last year, in military spending. Putin’s fiscal caution, especially since the outbreak of the Ukraine conflict, has made the government’s balance sheet one of the healthiest in the world. Rating agencies and the International Monetary Fund praise them.

Russia has a budget surplus, is relatively low in debt and has one of the largest foreign exchange and gold reserves. But Putin’s reluctance to boost the economy through a comprehensive stimulus package reflects the bottlenecks and inefficiencies of his state-dominated economy. Russia even decided last year to raise the retirement age to save pensions, which led to major protests...

Against the backdrop of growing discontent, Levada said Putin’s approval rate, which was almost 90% given the patriotic zeal that erupted after the annexation of Crimea, has dropped to 68%.  ...

Nevertheless, most older Russians who survived the lost decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and triggered a deeper economic slump than the American Great Depression saw Putin as a savior to reverse the collapse and restore law and order.

On December 30, 1999, Putin, then the youngest of the prime ministers, said that the former superpower would need 15 years and 8% growth to reach today’s GDP per capita is not even “among the world leaders. “

A day later, on New Year’s Eve, a battered president, Boris Yeltsin, resigned and asked Putin to “take care of Russia”. With a new leadership – and rising oil prices – Russia grew over the next eight years and an average of 7 percent in 2012, Portugal would almost have caught this measure before falling back. Nominal gross domestic product (GDP) would peak at 8th this year before falling to 11th in 2018. This roughly corresponds to South Korea with only 35% of the Russian population.

 

14--Putin invites Trump to 75th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory in the Great Patriotic War


Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent a message of greeting to US President Donald Trump and confirmed the invitation to the US leader to visit Moscow in May 2020 for the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory in the Great Patriotic War, the Kremlin’s press-service said.

In his message to Trump "Putin noted that Russia and the US were historically responsible for ensuring global security and stability and that Moscow speaks in favor of normalizing bilateral relations and establishing an equal dialogue based on the mutual respect of interests. The President of Russia also reaffirmed his invitation to Donald Trump to visit Moscow to take part in the celebrations of the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War." 

15--Full interview: Barr criticizes inspector general report on the Russia investigation

 

16--Trump issues hypocritical threat over Syrian offensive

 

in the now nearly two-decade-old “war on terror” waged under the false pretext of defeating Al Qaeda, US imperialism is responsible for the deaths of well over a million civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries, along with the destruction of entire societies....

 

In a further indication of the complex Russian-Turkish relationship in the region, there are increasingly credible reports that Turkey is funneling Islamist militias that it had backed in Idlib province into Libya to fight in defense of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA). The GNA is besieged by the so-called Libyan National Army of Gen. Khalifa Haftar, a former general under Muammar Gaddafi—ousted the in the US-NATO war of 2011—who defected to the US and became an “asset” of the CIA. Aligned with a rival Libyan government in Tobruk, Haftar enjoys the apparent support of Moscow, along with that of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and France.

The sending of Islamist fighters from Syria through Turkey into Libya is a reversal of a rat line that ran in the other direction in 2011, when, with the logistical guidance of the CIA, fighters and weapons were sent from Libya into Syria to wage the war for regime change against Assad.
Meanwhile, the US continues to illegally deploy troops on Syrian territory with what the Pentagon reports is a contingent of 600 soldiers backed by Bradley armored fighting vehicles occupying Syria’s oil fields in the northeastern province of Deir Ezzor. A smaller force is deployed at a base near the southeastern border crossing of Al Tanf, which sits along the strategically important M-2 Baghdad-Damascus highway. The base also provides protection and training for several anti-government militias.

The US presence is aimed at countering Russian, Iranian as well as Chinese influence in Syria and the wider region. Russia has signed agreements with Damascus to exploit Syrian oil, while Beijing has brought Syria into its Belt and Road initiative and is poised to become a principal force in the country’s reconstruction. Washington intends to play the role of spoiler, using sanctions and denying Damascus access to its oil wealth to punish the Syrian population for failing to support the CIA-backed Al Qaeda militias, while seeking to prevent Russia and China from consummating deals with the Assad government.

17--Edward Gallagher, Donald Trump and America’s criminal wars

 

Trump expects to enlist Gallagher, Golsteyn and Lorance in his reelection campaign. He paraded the war criminals at a campaign donors’ function this month, and Gallagher was photographed with Donald Trump Jr. at the Turning Point USA Student Action Conference, an assemblage of fascist-minded youth addressed by the president on December 21. This is part of his effort to base his reelection on appeals to the most violent and reactionary elements of the state apparatus, including the police, Border Patrol, and military Special Forces, and to fascistic elements and disoriented social layers within the electorate....

 

Gallagher may be the personification of homicidal violence, an individual for whom killing became an obsession. But Trump took incalculably more innocent lives through his orders as “commander in chief” to destroy cities like Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

And Trump is not an aberration. He follows a long series of presidents who could and should have stood trial for war crimes. These include, to name only the most recent, the elder George Bush for the Persian Gulf War and the US invasions of Panama and Somalia; Bill Clinton for military intervention in the former Yugoslavia and bomb and missile attacks on Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan; Bush junior for the Iraq War and the invasion of Afghanistan; Barack Obama for continuing these wars and launching new attacks in Libya and Syria and drone warfare around the world.

 

18--PATRICK LAWRENCE: ‘As the Clever Hopes Expire’: A Look Back at the Ending Decade

 

A Pew Research Center study published earlier this year indicated that nearly half the planet now considers the U.S. “a major threat” to their nations. This is almost double the rate of negative views Pew found in 2013, when it began this series of surveys.

Two years ago, the Council on Foreign Relations convened a workshop of Europeans to consider “Managing Global Disorder,” as the event was titled. “To some,” CFR reported afterward, “the principal source of instability has been the overzealous actions of the United States — particularly in the wake of 9/11 — in promoting democracy, human rights, and regime change around the world in contravention of established principles of state sovereignty.”...

A year later and at Washington’s insistence, the U.N. Security Council cited the R2P doctrine as it authorized a disastrous military intervention in Libya. Low and dishonest hardly do justice to Hillary Clinton’s determination to destroy an entire nation. It was Clinton, as Obama’s secretary of state, who persuaded the Russians not to veto the Security Council’s resolution by promising to limit the mission to humanitarian amelioration. NATO bombing operations then led to Muammar Gaddafi’s gruesome assassination —  about which Clinton infamously cackled, “We came, we saw, he died.”...

In 2012, the U.S. began its not-very-covert regime change operation in Syria by arming the very types of jihadist militias it claimed to be countering....

The coup in Egypt was the premier event in 2013. This was a classic case of wholesale deception. The director of this “regime change” op was Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, who green-lighted the Egyptian military’s move against the legitimately elected Mohamed Morsi hours before it began....

The U.S.–cultivated coup in Ukraine, on Feb. 21, 2014, by contrast, was neither neat nor nice. There is abundant evidence of Washington’s key role in this “regime change” — not least a recording of Victoria Nuland, the State Department apparatchik, as she directed the op against the (once again) duly elected president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych....

This brings us to the year now ending. January gave us the attempted-and-failed coup in Venezuela, starring a jumped-up flunky named Juan Guaidó, whose moment, we now read, has passed. In November we saw the coup — and to be clear, there is no other word for it — against the (again, duly elected) Evo Morales in Bolivia.
Even this pencil sketch of the 10 years gone by yields six U.S.–directed coup operations on three continents, four of them successful (Egypt, Ukraine, Honduras and Bolivia).

19--Privatization Is Resurrecting Feudalism

 

20--Congress Just Passed Nightmare Legislation that Strips Trillions in Wealth from the Middle Class

 

Just when one thinks they could not become any more disillusioned with the state of affairs in Washington, along comes something like this to jolt us into the realization that the average American is being sold out daily in startling new, devious ways as the wealth of the nation is, drip by drip, transferred to the one percent.