Russia holds the key to German sovereignty

A more sovereign Germany closer to Russia and China may be the straw that breaks the US hegemon’s back

By PEPE ESCOBAR

In an interview with popular talk show host Vladimir Solovyov – with the full transcript published by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Lavrov said Moscow “must be ready” for a possible “break with the European Union.”

The ominous break would be a direct result of new EU sanctions, particularly those “that create risks for our economy, including in the most sensitive areas.” And then, the Sun Tzu-style clincher: “If you want peace, prepare for war.”

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov, afterwards, made sure to explain that Lavrov was taken out of context: the media, predictably, had seized on a “sensational” headline.

So Lavrov’s full, nuanced answer to a question about rocky EU-Russia relations must be carefully examined:    

“We believe we would be ready for this. We are neighbors. Speaking collectively, they are our largest trade and investment partner. Many EU companies operate here; there are hundreds or even thousands of joint ventures. When a business benefits both sides, we will continue. I am sure that we have become fully self-sufficient in the defense sphere. We must also attain the same position in the economy to be able to act accordingly if we see again (we have seen this more than once) that sanctions are imposed in a sphere where they can create risks for our economy, including in the most sensitive areas such as the supply of component parts. We don’t want to be isolated from the world, but we must be prepared for this. If you want peace, prepare for war.”

It’s quite clear that Lavrov is not stating that Russia will unilaterally cut off relations with the EU. The ball is actually in the EU’s court: Moscow is stating that it will not exercise a first-strike option to break relations with the Brussels eurocracy. And that in itself would also be quite different from breaking relations with any of the 27 EU member-states. 

The context Peskov referred to is also clear: EU envoy Josep Borrell, after his disastrous trip to Moscow, had raised the issue that Brussels was weighing the imposition of further sanctions. Lavrov’s response was clearly designed to drum some sense into the thick heads of the European Commission (EC), run by notoriously incompetent former German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen and her foreign policy “chief” Borrell.

Plenary session at the European Parliament. Brussels on 09/02/2021. Session pleniere au Parlement Europeen. Bruxelles le 09/02/2021.

Earlier this week, Peskov was forced to come back incisively to the volcanic saga: “Regrettably, Brussels keeps talking about sanctions, so does the United States with maniacal persistency. This is something we will never welcome. It is something that we do not like at all.”

Talk about diplomatic euphemism. 

So the stage is set for a raucous – to say the least – meeting of EU foreign ministers next Monday, where they will discuss – what else? – possible new sanctions. Those most probably would include travel bans and asset freezes on selected Russians, including people very close to the Kremlin, blamed by the EU to be responsible for the jailing earlier this month of right-wing blogger and convicted fraudster (a scam against Yves Rocher) Alexei Navalny.

The overwhelming majority of Russians see Navalny – with a popularity rate of 2% at best – as a lowly, expendable NATO asset. The meeting next week will pave the way for the summit of member state leaders at the end of March, where the EU could – and that’s the operative word – formally approve new sanctions. That would require a unanimous decision by the EU’s 27 member states.

As it stands, apart from the stridently Russophobic usual suspects – Poland and the Baltics – it doesn’t appear Brussels is aiming to shoot itself in the back.  

Remember Leibniz

EU observers obviously have not been observing how Moscow’s pragmatic view of Brussels has evolved in the past few years.

Russia-EU trade will continue, no matter what. The EU badly needs Russian energy; and Russia is willing to sell it, oil and gas, pipelines and all. That’s strictly business. If the EU doesn’t want it – for a basket of reasons – no problem: Russia is developing a steady stream of businesses, energy included, all across East Asia.

The always relevant Valdai Discussion Club, a Moscow-based think tank, for instance, is carefully tracking the trade aspect of the Russia-China strategic partnership:

“US policy will continue to seek a split between China and Russia. Europe remains an important partner for Moscow and Beijing. The situation in Central Asia is stable, but it requires the building up of Russian-Chinese cooperation.”

Putin, laterally, also weighed in on the EU-Russia saga, which is a subtext of that perennial battle between Russia and the West: “As soon as we began to stabilize, to get back to our feet – the policy of deterrence followed immediately… And as we grew stronger, this policy of deterrence was being conducted more and more intensely.”

I hinted last week at the intergalactic-distant possibility of a Berlin-Moscow-Beijing axis.
Media and telecoms analyst Peter G. Spengler in a lengthy email to me elegantly qualified it as belonging to Robert Musil’s sense of possibility, as described in his masterpiece The Man Without Qualities.

Peter Spengler also called attention to Leibniz’s Novissima Sinica, and particularly to an essay by Manfred von Boetticher on Leibniz and Russia, represented by Tsar Peter the Great, in which the role of Russia as a bridge between Europe and China is emphasized.

Even though Leibniz, in the end, never met Peter the Great, we learn that “it was always Leibniz’s goal to get practical application for his theoretical findings. Throughout his life, he was looking for a ‘great potentate’ who was open to modern ideas and with whose help he could realize his ideas of a better world. In the age of absolutism, this seemed to be the most promising perspective for a scholar for whom the progress of science and technology as well as the improvement of education and economic conditions were urgent goals.”

“Tsar Peter, who was as powerful as he was open to all new plans and whose personality fascinated him anyway, must therefore have been an extraordinarily interesting contact for Leibniz. Since Western Europe had come into closer contact with China through the Jesuit mission and Leibniz had recognized the importance of the millennia-old Chinese culture, he also saw in Russia the natural link between the European and Chinese cultural spheres, the center of a future synthesis between the Orient and the Occident. With the emerging upheavals in the Russian Empire, his hopes seemed to be fulfilled: Full of expectation, he followed the changes in Russia, as they were emerging under Peter I.”

Yet to evoke Leibniz at this stage is to dream of heavenly spheres. The pedestrian geopolitical reality is that the EU is an Atlanticist institution – de facto subordinated to NATO. Lavrov might want to behave like a Daoist monk, or even pull a Leibniz, but it’s hard when you’re forced to deal with a bunch of dummies. 

It’s all about sovereignty

Rabid Atlanticists argue that non-entity Navalny is directly related to Nord Stream 2. Nonsense: Navalny was built (italics mine) by the usual suspects as a battering ram to undermine Nord Stream 2.

The reason is that the pipeline will consolidate Berlin at the core of the EU’s energy policy. And that will be a major factor in the EU’s overall foreign policy – with Germany, at least in theory, exercising more autonomy in relation to the US.

So here’s the “dirty” secret: it’s all a matter of sovereignty. Every geopolitical and geoeconomic player knows who does not want a closer Germany-Russia entente.

Now imagine a hegemonic Germany in Europe forging closer trade and investment ties with not only Russia but also China (and that’s the other “secret” inbuilt in the EU-China trade-investment deal).

So whoever is lodged in the White House, there’s nothing else to expect from the US Deep State apart from the “maniacal” push towards perennial, accumulated sanctions. 

The ball is actually in Berlin’s court, much more than in the court of eurocratic nightmare Brussels, where everyone’s future priority amounts to receiving their full, fat retirement pensions tax-free.

Berlin’s strategic priority is more exports – within the EU and most of all to Asia. German industrialists and the business classes know exactly what Nord Stream 2 represents: increasingly assertive German sovereignty guiding the heart of the EU, which translates as increased EU sovereignty.

An immensely significant sign has been recently delivered by Berlin with the approval granted for imports of the Sputnik vaccine.

Is Musil’s sense of possibility already in play? It’s too early to tell. The hegemon has unleashed a no-holds-barred hybrid war against Russia since 2014. This war may not be kinetic; roughly, it’s 70% financial and 30% infowar.

A more sovereign Germany closer to Russia and China may be the straw that breaks the hegemon’s back.

Either the EU ditches neoliberalism or its people will ditch the EU

John Wight has written for a variety of newspapers and websites, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal.

We live in a world fashioned by Washington, and as 2019 approaches the dire consequences remain woefully evident.

In 1948 US State Department mandarin George Kennan – the man credited with devising the policy of containment vis-à-vis the Soviet Union at the end of WWII, – laid bare the focus of US foreign policy in the postwar period:

We have about 50 percent of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population…Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern or relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreamings…We are going to have to deal in straight power concepts.”

The “pattern of relationships” advocated by Kennan is embodied in the panoply of international institutions that have governed our world and dominated the planet’s economic, geopolitical, and military architecture in the seven decades since.

The World Bank and the IMF came out of the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944, along with the establishment of the dollar as the world’s primary international reserve currency.

The Truman administration’s 1947 National Security Act gave birth to a US military-industrial complex that married the nation’s economy to what was destined to become and remain a vast security and intelligence apparatus.

NATO, an instrument of US imperial power, was established in 1949, the year after the Marshall Plan (European Recovery Program) was rolled out with the objective of creating markets and demand in Europe for US exports; Washington having emerged from the war as a global economic hegemon and creditor nation without peer.  A similar plan was also rolled out to rebuild the Japanese economy on the same basis.

Pausing for a moment, it has to count as a remarkable feat of forward thinking on the part of US policymakers, embarking on a plan to not only affect the economic and industrial recovery of its two defeated enemies, Germany and Japan, immediately after the war, but turn them into regional economic powerhouses.

Subsidizing Europe’s postwar recovery was not only of immense economic importance to Washington, it was also of vital strategic importance in pushing back against Soviet influence in Europe. Immediately after the war, this influence was riding high on the back of the Red Army’s seminal role in liberating the continent from fascism, buttressed by resistance movements across occupied Europe in which Communist partisans had been most prominent.

A portion of Marshall aid money – in total some $12 billion (over $100 billion today) over four years between 1948 and 1952 – was diverted to fund various covert operations under the auspices of the CIA, designed to penetrate and subvert those governments and political parties that elicited a leaning towards socialist and communist ideas. 

In their titanic work ‘The Untold History of the United States’, co-authors Peter Kuznick and Oliver Stone reveal that one of those operations involved “supporting a guerrilla army in Ukraine called Nightingale, which had been established by the Wehrmacht in the spring of 1941 with the help of Stephan Bandera, head of the Ukrainian National Organization’s more radical wing OUN-B. The following year, Mikola Lebed founded the organization’s terrorist arm, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army…made up of ultranationalist Ukrainians, including Nazi collaborators.”

Given the nefarious role of Washington and its allies in aiding and abetting the rebirth of ultra-nationalism in Ukraine in our time, Marx’s dictum – History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce – is hard to avoid.

Another institution that was established with US economic and strategic objectives in mind was the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951, the forerunner of today’s European Union. Yes, that’s right; the original incarnation of the EU was a triumph not of European diplomacy but US diplomacy.

In his 2011 book ‘The Global Minotaur’, left-leaning economist Yanis Varoufakis writes:

Students of European integration are taught that the European Union started life in the form of the ECSC. What they are less likely to come across is the well-kept secret that it was the United States that cajoled, pushed, threatened and sweet-talked the Europeans into putting it together…Indeed, it is indisputable that without the United States’ guiding hand the ECSC would not have materialized.”

He goes on:

There was one politician who saw this clearly: General Charles de Gaulle, the future President of France…When the ECSC was formed, de Gaulle denounced it on the basis that it was creating a united Europe in the form of a restrictive cartel and, more importantly, that it was an American creation, under Washington’s influence.”

Washington’s influence over the European Union continues to this day. Most prominently the economic model that underpins this crisis-ridden economic and increasingly political bloc, neoliberalism, is one made in America.

From inception as the lodestar of Western economic thought in the mid 1970s, prior to its adoption as the economic base of the US and UK in the early 1980s, neoliberalism has functioned alongside Washington’s military might and overweening cultural values as part of an architecture of imperialism to which European elites have signed up as fully-fledged disciples, consciously or otherwise.

De Gaulle, as mentioned, was no slouch when it came to understanding that the major threat to European independence and security lay in Washington not Moscow. He championed a ‘Europe of Nations’ after WWII, not supranational institutions that were established with the primary purpose of servicing US economic and strategic interests. As he famously proclaimed: “From the Atlantic to the Urals it is Europe, all of Europe, that will decide the fate of the world.”  De Gaulle’s great fear was a “Europe of the Americans,” which alas is what transpired with the establishment of neoliberalism as the economic foundation of European integration three decades or so later.

De Gaulle took a dim view of the UK in the postwar period, considering London a proxy of Washington. It was a view that gained common currency within French political circles after the debacle known to history as the Suez Crisis, when in 1956 the French and British entered into an ill-fated military pact with Israel to seize control of the Suez Canal from Egypt and effect the overthrow of the country’s Arab nationalist president Gamal Abdul Nasser.

President Eisenhower forced the British into a humiliating retreat, threatening a series of punitive measures to leave London in no doubt of its place in the so-called special relationship. The French had been eager to continue with the Suez operation and were disgusted at London’s craven climb down in the face of Eisenhower’s intervention.

In 1958, two years after the Suez debacle, De Gaulle entered the Elysee Palace as French president. Thereafter, the humiliation of Suez still raw, he embarked on an assertion of the country’s independence from Washington that contrasted with Britain’s slavish and unedifying subservience. The French leader withdrew France from NATO’s integrated command and twice blocked Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community (EEC) – the previous incarnation of today’s EU – on the basis that London would be a US Trojan horse if admitted.

There is, given this history, delicious irony in the fact that the country responsible for injecting the poison of neoliberalism into the EU – the UK under its fanatical leader Margaret Thatcher – is currently embroiled in a messy divorce from the bloc.

The EU in its current form is a latter-day prison house of nations locked inside a neoliberal straitjacket and single currency. Not only can’t it survive on this basis, but it also does not deserve to. Ultimately, either Europe’s political establishment decouples from Washington and its works – the Trump administration notwithstanding – or its peoples will decouple from them and theirs.

As things stand, the latter proposition is far more likely.

Source: https://www.rt.com/op-ed/446788-eu-us-ditch-neoliberalism/

How the New Silk Roads are merging into Greater Eurasia

Russia is keen to push economic integration with parts of Asia and this fits in with China’s Belt and Road Initiative

By PEPE ESCOBAR

The concept of Greater Eurasia has been discussed at the highest levels of Russian academia and policy-making for some time. This week the policy was presented at the Council of Ministers and looks set to be enshrined, without fanfare, as the main guideline of Russian foreign policy for the foreseeable future.

President Putin is unconditionally engaged to make it a success. Already at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in 2016, Putin referred to an emerging “Eurasian partnership”.

I was privileged over the past week to engage in excellent discussions in Moscow with some of the top Russian analysts and policymakers involved in advancing Greater Eurasia.

Three particularly stand out: Yaroslav Lissovolik, program director of the Valdai Discussion Club and an expert on the politics and economics of the Global South; Glenn Diesen, author of the seminal Russia’s Geoeconomic Strategy for a Greater Eurasia; and the legendary Professor Sergey Karaganov, dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs at the National Research University Higher School of Economics and honorary chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, who received me in his office for an off-the-record conversation.

The framework for Great Eurasia has been dissected in detail by the indispensable Valdai Discussion Club, particularly on Rediscovering the Identity, the sixth part of a series called Toward the Great Ocean, published last September, and authored by an academic who’s who on the Russian Far East, led by Leonid Blyakher of the Pacific National University in Khabarovsk and coordinated by Karaganov, director of the project.

The conceptual heart of Greater Eurasia is Russia’s Turn to the East, or pivot to Asia, home of the economic and technological markets of the future. This implies Greater Eurasia proceeding in symbiosis with China’s New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). And yet this advanced stage of the Russia-China strategic partnership does not mean Moscow will neglect its myriad close ties to Europe.

Russian Far East experts are very much aware of the “Eurocentrism of a considerable portion of Russian elites.” They know how almost the entire economic, demographic and ideological environment in Russia has been closely intertwined with Europe for three centuries. They recognize that Russia has borrowed Europe’s high culture and its system of military organization. But now, they argue, it’s time, as a great Eurasian power, to profit from “an original and self-sustained fusion of many civilizations”; Russia not just as a trade or connectivity point, but as a “civilizational bridge”.

Legacy of Genghis Khan 

What my conversations, especially with Lissovolik, Diesen and Karaganov, have revealed is something absolutely groundbreaking – and virtually ignored across the West; Russia is aiming to establish a new paradigm not only in geopolitics and geoeconomics, but also on a cultural and ideological level.

Conditions are certainly ripe for it. Northeast Asia is immersed in a power vacuum. The Trump administration’s priority – as well as the US National Security Strategy’s – is containment of China. Both Japan and South Korea, slowly but surely, are getting closer to Russia.

Culturally, retracing Russia’s past, Greater Eurasia analysts may puzzle misinformed Western eyes. ‘Towards the Great Ocean’, the Valdai report supervised by Karaganov, notes the influence of Byzantium, which “preserved classical culture and made it embrace the best of the Orient culture at a time when Europe was sinking into the Dark Ages.” Byzantium inspired Russia to adopt Orthodox Christianity.

It also stresses the role of the Mongols over Russia’s political system. “The political traditions of most Asian countries are based on the legacy of the Mongols. Arguably, both Russia and China are rooted in Genghis Khan’s empire,” it says.

If the current Russian political system may be deemed authoritarian – or, as claimed in Paris and Berlin, an exponent of “illiberalism” – top Russian academics argue that a market economy protected by lean, mean military power performs way more efficiently than crisis-ridden Western liberal democracy.

As China heads West in myriad forms, Greater Eurasia and the Belt and Road Initiative are bound to merge. Eurasia is crisscrossed by mighty mountain ranges such as the Pamirs and deserts like the Taklamakan and the Karakum. The best ground route runs via Russia or via Kazakhstan to Russia. In crucial soft power terms, Russian remains the lingua franca in Mongolia, Central Asia and the Caucasus.

And that leads us to the utmost importance of an upgraded Trans-Siberian railway – Eurasia’s current connectivity core. In parallel, the transportation systems of the Central Asian “stans” are closely integrated with the Russian network of roads; all that is bound to be enhanced in the near future by Chinese-built high-speed rail.

Iran and Turkey are conducting their own versions of a pivot to Asia. A free-trade agreement between Iran and the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) was approved in early December. Iran and India are also bound to strike a free-trade agreement. Iran is a big player in the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), which is essential in driving closer economic integration between Russia and India.

The Caspian Sea, after a recent deal between its five littoral states, is re-emerging as a major trading post in Central Eurasia. Russia and Iran are involved in a joint project to build a gas pipeline to India.

Kazakhstan shows how Greater Eurasia and BRI are complementary; Astana is both a member of BRI and the EAEU. The same applies to gateway Vladivostok, Eurasia’s entry point for both South Korea and Japan, as well as Russia’s entry point to Northeast Asia.

Ultimately, Russia’s regional aim is to connect China’s northern provinces with Eurasia via the Trans-Siberian and the Chinese Eastern Railway – with Chita in China and Khabarovsk in Russia totally inter-connected.

And all across the spectrum, Moscow aims at maximizing return on the crown jewels of the Russian Far East; agriculture, water resources, minerals, lumber, oil and gas. Construction of liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants in Yamal vastly benefits China, Japan and South Korea.

Community spirit

Eurasianism, as initially conceptualized in the early 20th century by the geographer PN Savitsky, the geopolitician GV Vernadsky and the cultural historian VN Ilyn, among others, regarded Russian culture as a unique, complex combination of East and West, and the Russian people as belonging to “a fully original Eurasian community”.

That certainly still applies. But as Valdai Club analysts argue, the upgraded concept of Greater Eurasia “is not targeted against Europe or the West”; it aims to include at least a significant part of the EU.

The Chinese leadership describes BRI not only as connectivity corridors, but also as a “community”. Russians use a similar term applied to Greater Eurasia; sobornost (“community spirit”).

As Alexander Lukin of the Higher School of Economics and an expert on the SCO has constantly stressed, including in his book China and Russia: The New Rapprochement, this is all about the interconnection of Greater Eurasia, BRI, EAEU, SCO, INSTC, BRICS, BRICS Plus and ASEAN.

The cream of the crop of Russian intellectuals – at the Valdai Club and the Higher School of Economics – as well as top Chinese analysts, are in sync. Karaganov himself constantly reiterates that the concept of Greater Eurasia was arrived at, “jointly and officially”, by the Russia-China partnership; “a common space for economic, logistic and information cooperation, peace and security from Shanghai to Lisbon and New Delhi to Murmansk”.

The concept of Greater Eurasia is, of course, a work in progress. What my conversations in Moscow revealed is its extraordinary ambition; positioning Russia as a key geoeconomic and geopolitical crossroads linking the economic systems of North Eurasia, Central and Southwest Asia.

As Diesen notes, Russia and China have become inevitable allies because of their “shared objective of restructuring global value-chains and developing a multipolar world”. It’s no wonder Beijing’s drive to develop state-of-the-art national technological platforms is provoking so much anger in Washington. And in terms of the big picture, it makes perfect sense for BRI to be harmonized with Russia’s economic connectivity drive for Greater Eurasia.

That’s irreversible. The dogs of demonization, containment, sanctions and even war may bark all they want, but the Eurasia integration caravan keeps moving along.

Yellow Vests: No Coincidence Macron, Merkel and May are in Dire Straits

Ekaterina Blinova10240

The ‘yellow vest’ upheaval has exposed longstanding problems in France’s economy, Christine Bierre, French journalist and chief editor of Nouvelle Solidarité, has told Sputnik, adding that to heal these wounds, the French need to get rid of Brussels’ diktat and take back control of their financial system.

The ‘yellow vests’ protests are continuing to gain momentum in France, with about two thirds of the French supporting the unrest, according to the latest OpinionWay poll.

Speaking to Sputnik, Christine Bierre, French journalist and chief editor of Nouvelle Solidarité, shed the light on the nation-wide upheaval.

‘Over a year, diesel prices have increased by 23 per cent and those of gasoline, by 15 per cent. These hikes [in prices] hit those who live in rural areas and who need energy not only for their cars, but for tractors if they are farmers, boats if they are fishermen, trucks for transporters, fuel for construction workers and for heating’, the journalist said.

She noted that those who cannot afford living in big cities and who live in small towns and in the peripheries had also found themselves between a rock and a hard place, since they have to use their cars to get to megalopolises.

‘Concretely, expenses for energy have gone from 12 per cent per household in the 1960’s, to 30 per cent in 2018’, Bierre stressed. ‘For a couple with two kids using a diesel car and fuel to heat, taxes increased last year by 600 euros; the price of diesel for tractors went from 50 cents a litre to 87 cents, so a farmer using 20,000 litres per year, will pay 7,400 euros more in taxes on energy’.

She pointed out that in general, ‘the middle and the lower middle class and also part of what one calls the “working poor”‘ had fallen prey to the Macron cabinet’s measure.

According to the journalist, the rapid growth of the ‘yellow vests’ movement, which mobilized 300,000 people, ‘revealed, however, that energy prices were just the last straw that provoked the social explosion.’

TICPE and Its Consequences

However, President Emmanuel Macron and his policies are not the only reason for the impoverishment of the French middle class and the current crisis, ‘even though his favouring the richer against the poor has been the most indecent’, the journalist opined.

‘Along with the energy price increases on international spot markets, the real culprit behind the huge rise in energy prices is the tax on energy products, TICPE (Taxe Intérieure de Consommation sur les Produits Energétiques), created in 2000, and used by the state to heavily improve its tax revenues’, she elaborated.

Bierre explained that today this tax ‘represents 57 per cent of the price of diesel and more than 60 per cent of the price of gasoline, mainly because since 2014, the TICPE includes a tax to finance the costs of the energy transition.’

‘This is a progressive tax that grows every year according to a supposed price of carbon per ton of CO2, which is to reach 100 euros in 2030!’ the journalist remarked. ‘In 2015 it was at 14.5 euros, in 2017 — 22 euros in 2017, in 2018 — 44.6 euros and so on.’

She stressed that Macron’s predecessors relied heavily on the taxation of their population to finance their programmes and lately the energy transition, but the incumbent French president ‘is, no doubt, the most outrageous.’

‘Since his coming to power he “granted” 5 billion euros in tax cuts to rich financiers, transforming the tax on large fortunes into a real estate tax only, and reducing the tax on financial profits to a 30 per cent flat tax’, Bierre outlined. ‘At the same time, he reduced state aid to the poor by the equivalent of 4 billion euros (cuts in aids to housing, public jobs and increase of general taxes).’

Yellow Vests: Neither Far-Right nor Far-Left

The question then arises as to what political forces have jumped on the bandwagon of the ‘yellow vests’ movement. According to Bierre, many politicians would like to capitalize on the upheaval, from the far right to the far left camp.

‘The “yellow vests”… have rejected the participation of all political forces as such, and kicked out far right and far left elements attempting to infiltrate them’, she highlighted, adding that the movement had emerged spontaneously protesting against the austerity policies which originate from the 2008 financial crisis and earlier economic strategy.

The journalist has drawn attention to the fact that Macron has refused to hear the plight of the French population so far.

‘[Prime Minister] Edouard Philippe even repeated [on 28 November] that he won’t eliminate the planned increases of energy costs for 2019 and won’t increase the minimum wage’, she remarked. ‘Will Philippe, a close aide to Alain Juppé, end up like his master in 1995, ousted following the strikes, because he was too rigid to change?  Anything is possible.’

According to Bierre, these protests ‘have the potential of a revolutionary movement.’

‘Will the government resist all the pressure, due to the lack of organizational structures and experience [of the protesters]? Perhaps; but it has definitely become the first serious call to bring an end to the arrogance of the Paris elites of the post-De Gaulle era’, she said.

The Lesson of the 2008 Financial Crisis is Still Unlearned

The journalist believes that it is no coincidence that the leaders of major European powers — Germany, France and the UK — are currently facing economic and political difficulties triggering speculations about their possible resignations or early departures.

‘In fact Europe is suffering from the refusal of the Western world to deal with the consequences of the 2008 financial crisis, and with the inequalities created by the financial globalization of the last 30 years’, she opined. ‘Like in the US, in Europe, the middle classes became impoverished during this process, and the poor became even poorer.’

The situation is complicated by the diktat of Brussels, she underscored, adding that EU member-states’ financial systems are being controlled by the European Central Bank, which exerts its supranational authority on the nations.

‘The situation in Europe is worsened by the fact that by adopting the EU supranational treaty, all nations gave up their sovereignty in all matters and today are like bodies with no heads!  As we see in the case of Italy, a non-elected EU Commission is trying to rule over a duly elected Italian government, to forbid them from carrying a policy of investment to create jobs’, Bierre said.

Seeking a Cure

So, what steps should be taken by the government to fix the current situation?

‘Dealing with the European question is not sufficient however, because to create jobs and rebuild our economies, we must take back control of our financial system’, the journalist responded.

She noted that the looming financial crisis that is being predicted by most financial media at this point ‘sets the obvious context for the financial reforms needed to rebuild our nations in response to the current revolts.’

According to Bierre, first, Europeans need ‘a real Glass-Steagall Act which separates speculative banking completely from commercial banking’; second, ‘the reestablishment of sovereign national banks in every country emitting “public credit” for reconstruction of industrial capacities of the devastated European economies based on the policies of the “30 glorious” [post-war boom] years in France’; third, Europe needs to adopt a ‘policy of cooperation with the great powers of this world, Russia, China, India and the United States, to expand and contribute to initiatives like China’s New Silk Road, the Russian Eurasian Economic Union, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.’

Source: https://sputniknews.com/analysis/201811301070254065-macron-merkel-may-eu/

The NATO/EU Rape of ‘Complex’ Macedonia

ALEKSANDAR PAVIC

In an interview for the Russia-1 television channel, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov revealed that he had raised the question of egregious Western meddling into Macedonia’s recent (September 30) referendum and parliamentary voting (October 19) to push through changes to the country’s name and constitution in order accelerate its accession to NATO (and, much later, if ever, to the EU) with US National Security Adviser John Bolton during his recent visit to Moscow.

“I told him we were accused of meddling not only in the US, but also in Spain, in Brexit and now also in anything that happens in the Western Balkans… We said we kept silent on Macedonia’s referendum, while its capital of Skopje was visited by NATO chief Stoltenberg, defense minister Mattis, German chancellor Merkel… who publicly and bluntly demanded that Macedonians ‘vote for their future’ and say ‘yes’ in a referendum on their membership in the EU and NATO by ‘only’ changing their country’s name,” recalled Lavrov, further reminding that the referendum had flopped but that, nevertheless, the Macedonian parliament went ahead with a vote to amend the country’s constitution, and secured the necessary two-thirds vote “through bribes and promises not to start criminal persecution,” overseen by the US Ambassador to Macedonia, who was present during the proceedings and “who did not merely sit there.”

Bolton’s response? According to Lavrov, he simply smiled and replied that Macedonia was a “quite complex country.”

So, there you have it. It’s officially open season on all the world’s “complex” countries – and guess who gets to define “complex” – should they ever even contemplate voting the “wrong way,” as interpreted by the West’s arbiters of democracy, even the avowed “non-interventionists” in the White House.

If anything, Lavrov was understating what some observers literally described as a “rape” of Macedonia’s democratic [sic] institutions on the part of the Western deep state establishment hell-bent on dragging the tiny country into NATO (with the highly unrealistic prospect of EU membership merely being used as a carrot to placate domestic and international public opinion), in order to completely encircle the last staunch anti-NATO holdouts in Europe outside of Russia and Belarus – Serbia and the Serbs in neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina.

It was bad enough that Western officialdom simply ignored the popular will of the Macedonians and collectively pretended that a 36.91% referendum turnout in fact expressed the “will of the majority,” and that it was sufficiently legitimate to move the matter to Parliament, where a two-thirds vote was required to move forward with the process of amending the constitution. This despite the fact that the West’s hand-picked prime minister, Zoran Zaev, had given assurances before the referendum that “citizens will make the decision,” and that Parliament would vote on the necessary constitutional changes only if the referendum was successful (meaning a 50% + 1 turnout and a majority “yes” vote).

Then, five days before the parliamentary vote, US Vice-President Mike Pence sent a “letter of support” to Zaev, ascertaining that Macedonians had, in fact, approved the name change agreement with Greece after all, because, you see, “90% (or less than a third of all the Macedonian voters – author’s note) of those that voted approved the Prespa Agreement.” Two days later, US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Wess Mitchell, fired off a letter to Hristijan Mickoski, the leader of Macedonia’s main opposition party (which opposes the name change agreement with Greece), VMRO-DPMNE, expressing “disappointment” with his party’s negative position vis-à-vis the referendum and the upcoming parliamentary vote and urging him to “create space” for his party’s MPs to vote “free from threats of violence, retribution, or other forms of coercion.”

As it turned out, Mitchell’s just wanted to make sure that “threats of violence, retribution or other forms of coercion” would remain the exclusive domain of Zaev’s puppet government and the US Embassy. And, thus, four days before the parliamentary vote, Zaev put forth an “indecent proposal” for the opposition, i.e. “amnesty for their members who are on trial for unrest at the Assembly that took place on April 27 of last year,” when a former Albanian terrorist guerilla commander was elected as Parliament Speaker under strong US and EU pressure. Or, as Zaev pithily put it: “I know that everything has a price. I am ready to pay it.”

On voting day, October 19, the vote was delayed three times until the necessary two-thirds majority was secured. As to how it was secured was best summarized by a Russian Foreign Ministry statement:

“We consider what happened as a flagrant violation of all norms – both from the point of view of the law and in the moral sense… Eight votes that were necessary to secure a qualified majority were ensured by the means of blackmailing, threats and bribing opposition parliament members. Three of them, purely by chance, were released from arrest on that same day. Two others, who had open cases investigated by special prosecutors, were promised freedom. Others received corrupt financial offers in exchange for ‘the right vote’. Parliament members were locked in their rooms, their cell phones were seized – this is very much in line with the spirit of European democratic practice… The American ambassador was present in the Parliament building until the end of the session, leaving no doubt as to who was leading the process… Such dirty manipulations cannot be considered the expression of will of parliament members….”

That the Russians were not exaggerating was confirmed by, among others, a tweet from Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos: “Who would have thought that in Europe of values and democracy those who do not vote according to instructions are jailed, and those who comply get a 2 million euro bonus in black money.”

Opposition leader Mickoski denounced the parliamentary circus as Macedonia’s “Black Friday” and a case of “classic rape,” and proceeded to expel from the party the seven MPs who changed sides and helped secure the necessary two-thirds vote. Bulgarian daily “Sliven Now” accused the CIA and Greece’s Soros funds of bribing the renegade Macedonian MPs. (Links between US diplomats – specifically the present US Ambassador to Macedonia, Jess Baily – and billionaire interventionist George Soros and their joint work on destabilizing Macedonia using US taxpayer money have been public knowledge for a couple of years.) According to a former adviser to the Macedonian President, Cvetin Chilimanov, the Parliament building was “under siege” on the day of the voting, teeming with politicians, police and officials from the public prosecutor’s office, and opposition leaders claimed that their MPs were offered anywhere from 250.000 to 2 million euros to change their vote.

Naturally, as was the failed referendum, the parliamentary charade was hailed by the usual EU/NATO suspects. EU Commissioner for European Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn gushed that it was “a great day for democracy in Skopje,” adding for good measure his expectation that “the free choice of all MPs is fully respected.” Hahn also issued a supportive joint statement with Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the EU Commission. And NATO’s Gensec Jens Stoltenberg unflinchingly “welcomed” the outcome of the Macedonian parliamentary shenanigans and urged the MPs to “seize this historic opportunity.”

The process is not finished, as two more votes (or “votes”) are pending in what’s left of the Macedonian Parliament – on a draft proposal of the necessary constitutional amendments (needing a simple majority), and on the adoption of the final amendments, for which a two-thirds majority will once again be needed, along with the signature of Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov, who himself boycotted the referendum. If everything goes as planned and/or paid, the scene will then move to the Greek Parliament, which must also vote on the changes. According to the Prespa Agreement, the Macedonian side needs to finish its business by the end of 2018, and it is expected that the Greek Parliament will do its part in early 2019. With a little help from their Western friends, no doubt.

Source: https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2018/10/31/nato-eu-rape-of-complex-macedonia.html?fbclid=IwAR1ziJDIaMinRN8w77utWSmRcAstmC2Egauau4XWEnq0r73WIIHU3txgveg

Polar Silk Road: Why Russia’s Northern Sea Route is the Best Option for China

Russia’s Northern Sea Route emerges as the best option for Beijing’s “Polar Silk Road” project, RIA Novosti contributor Dmitry Lekukh underscores. Besides developing the secure transit routes along the Russian Arctic and Far East, Moscow and Beijing are likely to bolster the exploration of natural reserves in the region, he noted.

China’s newly announced “Polar Silk Road” evokes the memory of President Vladimir Putin’s remark about the possibility to link the Beijing-led One Belt One Road project with Russia’s Northern Sea Route, which is likely to become one of major trade routes connecting Asia and Europe, RIA Novosti contributor Dmitry Lekukh writes.

“The Chinese government hereby issues this white paper, to expound its basic positions on Arctic affairs, to elaborate on its policy goals, basic principles and major policies and positions regarding its engagement in Arctic affairs, to guide relevant Chinese government departments and institutions in Arctic-related activities and cooperation, to encourage relevant parties to get better involved in Arctic governance, and to work with the international community to safeguard and promote peace and stability in, and the sustainable development of, the Arctic,” China’s Arctic Policy white paper, which was released on January 26, reads.

The journalist argued that Russia’s northern route, which goes along Russia’s Arctic and Far East regions, corresponds best to Beijing’s geopolitical interests and security.

Lekukh drew attention to the fact that the trade route through the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean is overburdened. Moreover, the Middle East still remains a hotbed of instability. Another potential route running through Central America — either the existing Panama or the hypothetical Nicaraguan canal — doesn’t meet Beijing’s need to bolster ties between Europe and Asia, the journalist noted.

According to Lekukh, only two polar routes could be of a truly strategic, long-term interest for China: the Northwest Passage, which runs along the northern coast of North America; and Russia’s Northern Sea Route, which appears to be “far more attractive” for the Chinese, as the first lane goes through the territorial waters of Beijing’s geopolitical competitors, the US and its ally, Canada.

“For [Russia], China’s active participation in the development of the Northern Sea Route is attractive not only because of potential investments [into Russia’s economy on the part of Beijing],” the journalist explained, “For us, the Chinese could be of particular interest as constant ‘purchasers of services’… And it’s absolutely logical because the Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese and the countries of the European Union will be also interested in [Russia’s] Northern Sea Route ‘services’.”

However, it’s beyond doubt that China will become the “transit wholesaler” on the NSR, Lekukh highlighted.

Meanwhile, China’s sphere of interest in the Arctic also includes the joint exploration of the region’s natural resources with the Russian Federation; while Moscow, for its part, is vitally interested in Beijing’s helping hand developing the Arctic infrastructure, the RIA Novosti contributor assumed.

Apparently, therefore, the two countries are boosting cooperation in the field of new Arctic technologies for ocean research, modeling of ice loads and ship structural analysis, Lekukh wrote, adding that in December 2017 the St. Petersburg State Maritime Technical University and the China Shipbuilding Research Center struck an agreement to jointly develop these technologies.

“It is a very good sign that the authorities of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China have approximately the same vision for the need to cooperate on the development of this [Arctic] region. Neighborliness and common interests are the best way to establish cooperation, and not only in the ‘Arctic areas’,” the journalist underscored, admitting, however, that it will take time and effort to implement the mutually beneficial Sino-Russian project.

Source: https://sputniknews.com/analysis/201801301061169398-china-polar-silk-road/

It’s not a gas – time for Europe to stand up to US hawks on Russia

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

Will the new tough sanctions package on Russia passed almost unanimously by Congress and awaiting the signature of President Trump be the straw that broke the camel’s back for the European Union?

The bill, which also targets Iran and North Korea, not only expands sanctions against Russia and potentially throws a massive spanner in the works of the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline between Germany and Russia, but also seeks to limit the president’s ability to ease, or lift the sanctions in the future. The message from the neocon dominated Congress is clear: Russia must be kept in the ’sin-bin’(until of course a nice ‘liberal’ who will do everything the hawks in Washington demand comes to power), and economic/business links between Europe and Russia must be broken.

European leaders, many of whom would like to see sanctions on Russia eased have been quick to voice their disapproval. They know the huge cost to their economies the sanctions and Russian countermeasures have had, €4 billion to Italy alone, and further escalation of financial warfare with the Kremlin would be utterly disastrous.

Why should European companies and workers suffer because of the anti-Russian obsession of the American elites? Do we honestly think the US would impose sanctions on a country to its great economic detriment if European countries demanded it? You can literally bet your bottom dollar that they wouldn’t.

“I think the US sanctions are absolutely unacceptable. You can’t mix up political and economic interests, at the expense of European jobs,” was the angry verdict of Austria’s Chancellor Christian Kern.

‘‘Sanctions against Russia should not become a tool of industrial policy in US interests,” said Martin Schaefer, spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry.

“America First cannot mean that Europe’s interests come last,”declared EU President, Jean-Claude Juncker.

Alas, that’s what’s been happening for some time now – and Donald Trump has nothing to do with it.

The sad truth is that since the era of strong, independently-minded leaders such as Charles de Gaulle, Olof Palme, and Bruno Kreisky, Europe HAS subordinated its interests to that of the US and lobbies operating in the US.

Take the 2012 EU sanctions on Iran. At first, Europe resisted pressure from the US (and the pro-Israel lobby), to impose an oil embargo on Tehran over an unproven nuclear weapons program. They eventually succumbed – to great cost to EU member states such as Greece, Spain, and Italy who benefited from the importation of cheaper Iranian oil.

So often in recent years, Europeans have been left picking up the tab for neocon policies.

Consider the refugee crisis. This has been caused in large part due to US-led ‘wars of intervention’ in the Middle East and elsewhere. The vast majority of refugees heading to Europe are coming from countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and Syria, which have either been attacked or invaded by the US or where Washington has backed proxy forces to topple the governments. Of course, imperialistic European countries, under craven ’Atlanticist’ leadership, have played a key role in these conflicts too, with Britain particularly culpable and France too, in regards to the destruction of Libya.

While some European countries, like Germany, have opened their doors quite widely to refugees fleeing the war zones the US has lagged some way behind.

“The US accepts far fewer Syrian refugees than other Western countries,” notes the Guardian.

Now lawmakers on Capitol Hill want to hit European pockets even harder. Congress is clearly out to sabotage the Nord Stream-2 pipeline, with its proposal the US would be able to sanction any company which was involved in the maintenance or development of Russia’s energy export pipelines.

“This bill, if it comes into force, would allow measures against European natural or juridical persons for situations that have no connection with the United States,” declared a statement from the French Foreign Ministry.

Of course, that’s utterly outrageous. But again it’s not without precedent. In 1996 Congress passed the Iran and Libyan Sanctions Act, giving the US the right to impose economic sanctions on firms doing business with those two countries. The Helms-Burton Act of 1996 also penalized foreign companies that did business in Cuba, by preventing them doing business in the US.

It’s not enough the US sanctions countries it doesn’t like, everyone else has to join in too. Or else.

Apologists for 21st-century imperialism would call this “fighting for democracy and human rights.” Straight-talkers would call it what it is: bullying.

We only have to follow the money trail to see who benefits from all of this. If European-Russian energy projects are scuppered, US gas companies, offering more expensive liquefied natural gas, would be the big winners.

Back in June, the first US natural gas was shipped to Poland. “The United States is in a position to start aggressively marketing gas exports to Europe because of its “”fracking revolution,”…After decades of consuming nearly all of the energy it produced, the United States is now expected to become the world’s third-largest exporter of gas by 2020,”enthuses the CIA-seed funded, RFE/RL.

This desire, to dominate Europe’s energy market, and the childish desire of hawks in Congress to get Donald Trump to ‘prove’ he is not a ‘Russian agent’ by signing a bill that will kill off any hopes of better relations between Washington and Moscow, is the background to the new sanctions legislation.

If Europe doesn’t oppose it forcefully, then it’s effectively signing up to its own assisted suicide. Moscow has already said it doesn’t rule out any measures ‘to bring the US to its senses’- and as a first step has ordered the US to reduce its embassy staff in Moscow to 455 people (from about 1,100) and to stop using storage facilities.

Do EU leaders want to join in with foaming-at-the-mouth US neocons and ’liberal hawks’ in their fanatical crusade against Russia? Again, if war does break out, as some seem to want, it’ll be Europe that takes the biggest hit, and not the US.

It’s not hard to find historical parallels. The subservient EU relationship to Washington in recent decades can be compared to the ’Dual Monarchy’ of Austria-Hungary which officially came into being in 1867. While Vienna and Budapest had ’equal’ status, it was clear who called the shots – literally. When Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo in June 1914, it was the Hungarians who urged caution. Hungarian Prime Minister, Count Istvan Tisza, was opposed to any military assault on Serbia without prior diplomatic action and opposed giving Belgrade a list of demands that would be impossible to fulfill. In the end, he capitulated – and the Great War started.

“Tisza resisted for a fortnight,” notes historian Peter Hanak. “In spite of this though, Austrian and German politicians, together with the military, finally convinced him that the time was now ripe for the Central Powers to go to war. Any delay would only serve the interests of the Entente-made up of the ‘enemies’: France, Britain, and Russia.”

The result was a catastrophe not just for Hungary, which lost around two-thirds of its territory, but the whole of Europe. And, in October 1918, Tisza, the man who had caved-in to external pressure, against his own country’s best interests, was shot dead after angry soldiers and workers broke into his house.

As in 1914, Europe is now at a critical point in its history. Will its leaders ‘do a Tisza’ and surrender to the war-hawks, or will they resist the pressure to agree- or acquiesce- to an anti-Russian, anti-European policy which they know is not in their countries’ interests? The next few weeks will tell us all.

Twitter @NeilClark66