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25 things revealed about Vladimir Putin by Oliver Stone in the Putin Interviews

Russian President Vladimir Putin over the course of the Putin Interviews gives an insight into his personality such as he has never done before.

Alexander Mercouris

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I have now watched the first three episodes of the Putin Interviews, which is sufficient to give an overview of the series.

In my opinion it is by far the best and most interesting series of programmes which have appeared on Western television about Vladimir Putin.

I would say that claims that Oliver Stone fails to raise ‘difficult subjects’ with Putin are simply untrue.  All the usual stories about Putin – his KGB past, his reputed homophobia, his ‘billions’, his ‘murders’, his ‘aggressions against Georgia and Ukraine’ etc – are all there.

There is also one telling moment when Stone and Putin strongly disagree with each other.  This is in relation to a recent Russian law that requires Russian internet providers to store data for longer than previously, and to hand it over to the Russian security services if requested following a court order.

The US whistleblower Edward Snowden has denounced this law as a ‘big brother’ law.  Stone clearly agrees with him and tells Putin as much.  Putin predictably enough doesn’t agree.

The key difference between Stone and other Western interviewers is that Stone doesn’t try to get the better of Putin by bullying and hectoring him.

This more conventional approach in my experience invariably ends in disaster, resulting in the humiliation of the Western interviewers rather than Putin, as Putin invariably turns out to be far better informed about the facts than the interviewers are and is by now well practised in dealing with the absurdities they throw at him.  The recent Megyn Kelly fiasco is merely the latest example.

By contrast by letting Putin talk and by conducting what are in effect long conversations with him, Stone let Putin speak for himself, in this way revealing the man. For anyone who really wants to get to know Putin – as opposed to the comic strip villain of the Western media – these programmes are both essential and compelling viewing.

Given that we are talking about is 20 hours of interviews distilled into four programmes each lasting more than an hour, any selection of key points or highlights must be arbitrary.  I make no apology for the fact mine are.  Here they are

(1) Putin came across to me as a very Russian man.  I have seen him twice in person (at the SPIEF plenary sessions in 2014 and 2016) and I have watched many of his interviews, but I have never previously sensed this so strongly.

Putin’s initial reticence in dealing with a Westerner, his readiness to speak more freely as his trust grows, his extraordinary directness, and his worldliness, are all in my experience very Russian, as is his habit of sometimes giving terse or monosyllabic answers – “yes”, “no”, “not quite like that” etc.

In all other respects Putin as he appeared in the Putin Interviews is Putin very much as I have come to know him: humorous, extremely polite, very self-controlled (he barely reacted when Stone told him of the comparison Hillary Clinton has made between him and Hitler) and completely on top of his brief.  He never evaded any questions or appeared at a loss for an answer on any question of substance.

(2) Putin’s combination of directness and worldliness is almost certainly the quality that Western leaders who have to deal with him find most unnerving.  Not only is his conversation totally free of clichés – so unlike Western political rhetoric today – but he even says at one moment “I know how the world works”.  At another point he jokes that if Russia had the same resources for intelligence gathering as the US does “probably we would be as bad as they are”.  I cannot imagine any Western leader making a joke like that, especially on camera.

Western leaders – who know that Putin in his cynical assessments of their motives is invariably right, but who are never able to admit as much probably not even to themselves –  must find this both infuriating and alarming, and this surely is one reason why they both fear him and dislike him so much.

(3) Putin has become completely disillusioned with the US.  He makes it quite clear throughout the interviews that he feels that the US took Russia for a ride at the end of the Cold War, and has never stopped being hostile to Russia even as Russia reached out to it.  With hindsight he is astonished at the misguided trust Russia placed in the US and in its promises – for example not to expand NATO eastward – and though he clearly wants ‘dialogue’ with the US, the possibility of mutual trust and genuine friendship between the US and Russia at least whilst he is President is surely gone.

(4) Following from (3), Putin – speaking before the US election – made it quite clear that he had no expectations of any significant improvement in relations between the US and Russia regardless of who won the election on the grounds that whoever is President the US ‘bureaucracy’ (by which Putin clearly means the US political class) is single-mindedly committed to its policy of hostility towards Russia.  He provides a striking example of this by telling a story of how the CIA sent Russia a defiant letter saying it would continue its contacts with Chechen terrorists notwithstanding the disapproval of US President George W. Bush.

Putin said these words before the US election and before the Russiagate scandal well and truly got off the ground.  Reflecting on this scandal since then, Putin must feel that his words of cynicism about the US have been completely vindicated.

(5) Though Putin appears at times unwilling to discuss the motives behind US foreign policy – at one point he jokes that he will explain it all at great length and in great detail after he retires – it is in fact obvious that he feels that the so-called ‘unipolar’ moment following the end of the Cold War went to the US’s head, and caused it to embark on a megalomaniac policy of world domination.

He sees in this the cause of all the major problems in international relations, including the catastrophic breakdown in relations between Russia and the US, the chaos in the Middle East, and – as he said at length – the rise of violent Jihadism and the crises in Ukraine and Syria.

He says that as a result of this policy the US is making repeated mistakes and is becoming less efficient because this policy is unachievable and is causing the US to lose touch with reality.

(6) It is clear that for Putin the US anti-ballistic missile programme is a very big deal, and that he considers that it is clearly aimed at achieving US military dominance over Russia.  However he seems fully confident of Russia’s ability to counter this programme at a fraction of its cost.  He clearly sees this programme as another manifestation of the lack of realism of US policy and of its hegemonic drive.

(7) Notwithstanding his conviction that the US’s policy of achieving world domination is unachievable and unrealistic, Putin is seriously troubled by the fanaticism of those driving it.  When Stone tells him that the neocons scare him Putin replies that they scare him too.  It is the only moment in the Putin Interviews when Putin admits to fear.

(8) Putin takes great pride in Russia’s sovereignty and independence – by which he of course means its independence from the US.  He contrasts this with the way the US’s ‘allies’ have in effect made themselves ‘vassals’.  He points out that what this actually means is that the US has no real ‘allies’ at all.

Though the Putin Interviews never touch on relations with China, it is almost certainly a contrast with Russia’s alliance with China that Putin is making.  Pointedly, he says that ‘true’ allies never spy on each other, as the US spies on its ‘allies’ in Europe.

That incidentally provides confirmation that Russia and China do not spy on each other.

Putin points out that it is because Russia is sovereign and independent that it was able to give refuge to Edward Snowden.  He says that very few countries in the world today are truly sovereign and independent in the way that Russia is, and that Snowden was very lucky to find himself in one which was and which was therefore able to protect him.

(9) Putin also takes great pride in his success in turning round Russia’s economic situation.  He points to the transformation in real incomes in the period since he became President.  He also contrasts the heavy indebtedness of the US economy with the lack of indebtedness of Russia’s.  The first three episodes of the Putin Interviews which I have seen unfortunately touched very little on Russia’s internal situation or how Putin sees it, and this in my opinion is a major omission of the programme.

(10) Putin does however touch on some of the internal structures of Russia’s government and political system.  He refers to the Security Council – Russia’s most important policy making body – pointing out that it meets regularly every week.  There is even a brief photograph of it in session.

This is a unique reference to this key Russian institution in any Western discussion of Russia or of the Russian political system.

Contrary to Western myth the programme shows that Putin works very hard, consults widely with his officials – Stone is astonished at the number of ministers and officials who report to Putin on any particular day – and that the way the top levels of the Russian government work, far from being personalised and informal as the West imagines, are in reality highly structured.

(11) With respect to (10), Putin is however quite clear that Russia today is a democracy.  This is of course the most contentious topic of all, with the Western media and the Western political class passionately disagreeing (it is now standard practice in the British media to refer to Putin as “the dictator of Russia”).

Putin ridiculed suggestions that the Russian government controls the entire Russian media or is even able to do so, referred to Russia’s multiparty political system and corrected Stone on the alleged difficulty of registering a political party in Russia.

Western viewers might be surprised to see Russian television film incorporated in the programme showing Russian political leaders – Zyuganov, Mironov and Zhirinovsky – engaging in fiery denunciations of Putin, in Zhirinovsky’s case in the presence of Putin himself.

(12) One of the central stories of the Putin mythology – believed in even by many of Putin’s admirers as well as his detractors – is that shortly after he became President he called all the oligarchs together to a meeting and told them that they would be allowed to retain their properties and businesses provided they did not interfere in politics.

Putin alludes to this meeting but gives a different account of what he said at it.  He claims that he told the oligarchs that they would be allowed to retain their properties and businesses, even if they obtained them illegally, provided that in future they obeyed the law.

I have no doubt that this is what really happened at the meeting, and that the story of Putin striking a bargain with the oligarchs in which he in effect coerced their loyalty by threatening to take their property if they were disloyal to him is false.

(13) Putin gives a unique insight into his style of work.  Not only is he very much a hands-on manager – Stone makes a highly pointed contrast to the lackadaisical style of management of former US President Ronald Reagan – but in the numerous meetings Putin convenes to discuss problems he is not satisfied and dislikes ending meetings until a solution is found.  He compares himself to a painter who dislikes getting up from a painting until the painting is complete.

By Putin’s own admission that means that meetings almost invariably overrun their times.  Putin is notorious in the West for his habit of turning up late to appointments.  This style of work provides the reason why.

Though it must make heavy demands on the officials who attend these meetings, this style of work does have the immense advantage of producing decisions which can then be acted on.  With Putin there is evidently no question of the can being kicked down the road.

(14) Putin takes obvious pride in the effectiveness of both Russia’s intelligence services and its military.  Though he has apparently been the target of no fewer than five assassination attempts he trusts his security services to keep him safe.  Though he was careful on camera to say nothing that might ruffle feathers, he is clearly amused – and proud – of the fact that Russia is able to field highly effective armed forces at only a tenth of the cost of those the US and at less cost than those of Saudi Arabia.

(15) Putin places a very high value on frankness and honesty, and expects his own honesty to go unquestioned.  When Stone floated the possibility of Russia releasing the CIA’s letter discussed in (4), he said his word about it should be enough.  He also hinted at the very great weight he is known to place on personal loyalty when he said that it is not right for him to discuss the faults of his predecessors – Gorbachev and Yeltsin – in the case of Yeltsin undoubtedly in part because Yeltsin was once his boss.

(16) Despite the extraordinary tension in international relations, Putin overall comes across very much an optimist.  He clearly believes that the ‘correlation of world forces’ is moving in Russia’s favour, and he repeatedly accuses Western leaders of short term thinking and of failing to see the direction of events clearly.  Though Stone never asks him to enlarge on this, it is clear that the reason for Putin’s optimism is the continued decline of US and Western power, the corresponding growth of Russia’s power, and above all the rise of a new centre of power in China.

Quite clearly, though he believes Russia is going through a difficult period at the moment, in the not so long term Putin expects the international situation to stabilise on Russia’s terms, and foresees a world in 20-30 years which is radically different from the world as it exists today.

Whilst these were for me the main points to come out of the Putin Interviews, there were also some interesting pieces of trivia, of which the ones that stood out for me were the following

(17) Putin’s office suite in the Senate Building in the Kremlin is located the same room as the one used by Stalin for his Kremlin office from 1939 until his death in 1953.  Our sister publication Russia Feed has provided the extract from the Putin Interviews in which Putin shows Stone round his office.

Pictures of the office when Stalin used it are surprisingly hard to find on the internet – the reconstruction at the Stalin Museum in Gori which is often shown is either wrong or must be of another office – but a very accurate reconstruction appears at the beginning of this episode of the Soviet spy drama Seventeen Moments of Spring.

To Russians of a certain generation Stalin’s Kremlin office is as famous as the Oval Office in the White House is to Americans, and its appearance is familiar to them from countless films, such as the Fall of Berlin (made in 1949 during Stalin’s lifetime) or from the Liberation series made in the 1960s.  The windows of this office overlook Red Square, and according to legend one of them came to be called in Stalin’s lifetime “Stalin’s window”.

I had suspected for some time that Putin’s office occupies the same room as Stalin’s office because of the obvious similarity in general dimensions and layout.  Putin has now confirmed it.

The fact that Putin’s office is located in the same room as Stalin’s office is not Putin’s choice.  The office suite in the Kremlin he uses was originally created for Boris Yeltsin, and Putin has simply taken it over.  Also, as Putin has pointed out, the room has been been reduced in size since Stalin’s time through the creation of a reading area cut off from the main office by a partition wall.

(18) Putin’s father appears to have been a much more important person in Putin’s life than had been previously realised.  Putin has a picture of him in naval uniform in his Kremlin office and is clearly proud of his father’s record in the Second World War when his father fought in an NKVD special forces unit on the Leningrad front.

Putin’s father is known to have been a staunch Communist who contrary to myth rose to a fairly senior position in the Leningrad Communist Party.   Though Putin attributes his decision to join the KGB to the influence of films like Seventeen Moments of Spring, I cannot help but wonder whether his father may have played a role in it.

The Putin Interviews by contrast have nothing to say about Putin’s grandfather, in some ways an even more interesting person than Putin’s father, who at the time of the 1917 Revolution was a chef in St. Petersburg’s Astoria Hotel, and who subsequently worked as a chef for both Lenin and Stalin.  He lived into the 1960s, and Putin is known to have known him.

(19) Despite being the son of a committed Communist, and despite having surely been a committed Communist himself when he joined the KGB and worked for it, it is clear that Putin is no longer one and that he feels no lingering loyalty towards the Communist Party or its cause.  Though he says little that is critical of the Communist period, he refers in the Putin Interviews to the “so-called 1917 Revolution” and speaks of the basis of Soviet society as having been inefficient and incapable of reform.

Putin is known to have left both the KGB and the Soviet Communist Party at the time of the August 1991 coup attempt against Gorbachev.  He gives no indication of when he lost his Communist beliefs, but it was probably at this time.

(20) Though Putin is now divorced he still wears his wedding ring.  Like many Russian men he wears it on his right hand, and his watch on his right wrist.  Here is a portrait of Tolstoy also wearing his wedding ring on his right hand.

(21) Putin is clearly a practising and even devout Orthodox Christian.  There are icons in his office and his official residence at Novo Ogaryovo contains a whole Orthodox chapel. It is not however a subject he is much given to talking about.

Putin does not say when he converted to Orthodoxy but his comments appear to link it to his loss of belief in the Communist Party and its cause.

(22) Putin is obviously one of those people who is not well in his physical or mental health unless he is physically active.  Not only does he exercise intensely every day but many of the interviews with Stone were carried out walking, with Stone trying to keep up.

Whilst this constant physical activity – including daily sessions at the gym and in the pool, judo sessions, horse riding on the estate at Novo Ogaryovo, driving his own car, and playing ice hockey – no doubt helps Putin relax and keeps him fit, it must also seriously increase the risk of physical injury, especially as he grows older.  It seems that he no longer has a personal trainer to warn him off exercises that might be dangerous, and that he has already on at least one occasion fallen head first from his horse.  However if anyone in Putin’s entourage has warned him of the risks he is running with all this activity the Putin Interviews give no hint of it.

(23) Putin was prepared to give very little information about the tangled circumstances of his rise to power.  Indeed he claims to be as mystified by the fact that Yeltsin chose him for his successor as everyone else.  He also says that he initially refused Yeltsin’s request that he become Prime Minister of Russia, something which may explain the strange and hitherto unexplained brief premiership of Putin’s immediate predecessor Sergey Stepashin.

However the fact that Putin by his own admission was seriously concerned for his own safety and for that of his family, and that he was worried of what might happen to him if Yeltsin dismissed him, points to a serious political crisis which he is clearly not willing for the moment to talk about.

(24) On the subject of Soviet history, the only previous Soviet or Russian leader of whom Putin speaks with straightforward disapproval is Nikita Khrushchev.  In this Putin echoes what in my experience is the well nigh universal view of Khrushchev in Russia.  Khrushchev has a far lower reputation in Russia than he does in the West.

(25) Certain of Putin’s humorous comments to Stone are being reported in the West as sexist and homophobic despite Putin’s strenuous attempts to appear neither.

I doubt most Russians would see them that way.  On the contrary most Russians – men and women, gay and straight – would take the way the West has reported these comments as further proof the West has lost its sense of humour.

For the record, on the subject of homophobia, I think Putin is basically right when he says in the Putin Interviews that Russian society far from being homophobic is on the contrary basically tolerant and liberal, and that it is indeed altogether more socially liberal than it is widely believed to be in the West.

Those were for me the most striking things to come out of the Putin Interviews.

Western viewers will no doubt be struck by the fluent and forceful way Putin spoke about the Chechen, South Ossetian, Ukrainian and Syrian crises and wars, all of which he discussed at length, and about which he offered a Russian perspective which Western viewers scarcely ever hear.

However the details of these crises and wars – and the differing points of view about them – are subjects with I am very familiar.  For me Putin said nothing about them which was new.

It is Putin the man I was interested in, and it is on this subject that I have chosen to concentrate here.

Though inevitably there is much about Putin that remains unknown, Oliver Stone is to be congratulated on his success in making this very proud and very private man – who is not even prepared to disclose the names of his grandchildren – open himself up to the extent that he did, and as he has never done before.

The Putin Interviews offer us at one and the same time the best biography there is of Putin, and the clearest and most accurate picture of the sort of man he is, of what he believes in, and of how his mind works.

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Honest liberal says he is NOT INTERESTED in policy explanation [Video]

When news anchors try to act like prosecuting attorneys instead of actually interviewing people, we all lose.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One characteristic of modern-day television “news reporting” is that the political news is not truly reported. Rather, if the interviewer disagrees with the one being interviewed, the session turns into interviewer grandstanding. Regrettably, this tactic is used by liberal and conservative journalists alike. However, it is usually not admitted, as the interviewer usually chooses to say things like “I want the truth” when he or she really wants to force the other person to admit the correctness of the interviewer.

Over the weekend, Fox News’ Chris Wallace grandstanded against White House Senior Policy Adviser Stephen Miller. However, Chris Wallace at least was honest about his wish:

STEPHEN MILLER: … At a fundamental level, we could go down into the details, and you know, Chris, I can go down into details as much as you want to, but the bottom line is this…

CHRIS WALLACE: Please don’t! (laughs)

This is a big problem. The responsibility of any good journalist is to get full and accurate information about a given topic. Isn’t it?

Not in the press of our day. Chris Wallace is a valued personality for the Fox News Channel. As a former CBS anchor for 60 Minutes, Wallace brings a well-known face and voice of the mainstream media to Fox, even though he is quite liberal politically, as are many in the entertainment and information professions.

The problem is that the topic here, the facts justifying President Trump’s National Emergency declaration on Friday over the still permeable US-Mexico border, are present in abundance. But Mr. Wallace did not want to know these facts, or perhaps worse, he did not want to let his viewing audience know this information, so he tried to prevent Mr. Miller from talking about those details.

Stephen Miller, thankfully, was not having it. He insisted on giving a full and informed response to Mr. Wallace’s questions, even though Wallace did not want to hear any information.

The rest of the interview is comprised of Mr. Miller trying to dissemimate information and Mr. Wallace trying to block it and refuse it in order to sustain his own preferred narrative.

Chris Wallace’ point of view is that the President called a National Emergency for no good reason, and that President Trump is breaking the law by appropriating money for the Border Wall, something which only the House of Representatives can do, legislatively.

However, the point of view expressed by Mr. Wallace and President Trump is that as Chief Executive of the United States of America, the President is responsible to preserve the country from invasion. For the President, the never-ending waves of illegals coming into the country and not being deported, but rather, released into the US pending trials that they often never attend years later, amounts to a slow invasion.

Strictly speaking, President Trump is correct. The illegals are not (usually) armed representatives of a foreign power, but neither do they become American citizens. Many of them take advantage of generous provisions and loopholes in the law (Mexico teaches them how to do this!) and they therefore earn money but usurp the country of resources.

It has been exceedingly difficult to move the level of interest in stopping illegal immigration in the US. Rush Limbaugh rightly stated in his program on Friday, February 15, what the problem is, and we include some of the details (as we should) for why Mr. Limbaugh says what he says here:

There is a limit on a number of detainees. There is limit on how much of border and fence can be built. There’s a limit on what kind can be built. There’s a limit on modernization. This bill is filled with congressional edicts telling the president of the United States what he cannot do. Now, it authorizes $23 billion for Homeland Security, but it specifies $1.375 billion for fencing and bordering.

But there are so many limits on this as to make this practically irrelevant — by design and on purpose, because I firmly believe that what members of Congress (both parties) actually want with this bill is to send a message that nothing is ever gonna happen as long as Donald Trump is President. The attempt in this budget deal is to send a message to you Trump voters that it’s worthless voting for him, that it is a waste of time supporting him, because they are demonstrating that he can’t get anything done.

This is Pelosi in the House and Schumer in the Senate getting together, because they know when it comes to illegal immigration, these parties are unified, folks. For the most part, the Republicans and Democrats are for open borders. There are exceptions on the Republican side. But there are a lot of Republicans that don’t want Trump to succeed even now. There are a lot of Republicans just after he was inaugurated who don’t want him to succeed. So they come up with a piece of legislation here that is outrageous.

It is outrageous in its denial of the existence of a genuine emergency at the border. They don’t care. They will deal with whatever mess they create. They don’t care how bad it gets because in their world, the only mess is Donald Trump — and since the Russian effort and the Mueller effort and everything else related to that has failed to get his approval numbers down (and that has been the objective from the get-go), this is the latest effort, and it won’t be long… You mark my words on this.

There is an emergency at the US-Mexico border. Last year almost half a million people were apprehended by the Border Patrol and ICE. Many, if not most, though, are still in the United States. They were not all sent back. Some were, and some of them probably have come back in yet again. The fact that our nation’s borders are unrestricted in this manner is absolute folly.

The more American people know the details about what is actually happening at the border, the more they support the wall’s construction and President Trump’s policies. We have seen evidence for this in polling even by liberal network outlets. President Trump managed to call attention to this topic and bring it into the center of the discussion of US domestic policy. Rasmussen reported that the level of approval of Trump’s work to close the border is high – at 59 percent, with only 33 percent disapproving.

The President made this an issue. Chris Wallace tried in his own program to deflect and dissuade information from being brought to the attention of the American viewers who watch his program.

This is not journalism. It is reinforcement of propaganda on Mr. Wallace’s part, defense against facts, and an unwillingness to let the American people have information and therefore to think for themselves.

Unfortunately, such practices are not limited to Mr. Wallace. Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and others all utilize this form of questioning, and it is a shame, because the news reporter no longer reports the news. When a talking head on TV or radio places himself or herself as the Gatekeeper to allow or prevent information from reaching the American people, this is highly presumptuous, ego driven and almost always, dishonest.

Worse, such an approach reinforces this message to American people: “You cannot think for yourself. It is too hard, so we will do your thinking for you. Trust us!”

This style of journalism became more and more popular over, under the “appearance” of “tough questioning.” However the usual course of “tough questioning” is ideologically aligned with whatever the journalist thinks, and not at all about what is actually important. Chris Wallace is notorious for doing this with conservatives, and he does aggravate them, but he reduces interviews to an argument between the journalist and the person interviewed.

And usually, this is not the story. This was made absolutely clear in the interview with Stephen Miller, even to the point that Mr. Wallace actually voiced the request, “please don’t (give us all the specifics of this issue.)” 

Good journalism respects the fact that different people have different points of view. Agreement or disagreement with these points is what Op-Ed writing is for. But when Op-Ed is treated as hard fact journalism, we all lose.

We included the whole interview video from the beginning here so that the viewer can take in the whole course of this discussion. It is well worth watching. And as it is well-worth watching, it is also well-worth each person’s own personal consideration. People are smarter than the media would like us to be.

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Macron pisses off Merkel as he tries to sabotage Nord Stream 2 pipeline (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 177.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss an EU compromise for Nord Stream 2 where EU member states, the EU Parliament, and its Commission will give the bloc more oversight on gas pipelines, with one caveat…the Nord Stream 2 project with Russia will not be threatened by the new regulations in the agreement.

Macron pushed hard to have the new regulations include (and derail) Nord Stream 2, an action which annoyed Angela Merkel, who eventually got her way and delivered another blow to Macron’s failing French presidency.

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Via The Express UK

Angela Merkel hit back at Emmanuel Macron over Russia and Germany’s pipeline project, declaring it would “not be a one-sided dependency”. The German Chancellor explained that Germany will expand its gas terminals with “liquified gas”. Speaking at a press conference, Ms Merkel declared: “Do we become dependent on Russia because of this second gas pipeline? I say no, if we diversify. Germany will expand its gas terminals with liquefied gas.

“This means that we do not want to depend only on Russia, but Russia was a source of gas in the Cold War and will remain one.

“But it would not be one-sided dependency.”

Via DW

The EU parliament and its Council are set to adopt new regulations on gas pipelines connecting the bloc members with non-EU countries, the EU Commission announced early on Wednesday.

The upcoming directive is based on a compromise between EU member states and EU officials in Brussels. The bloc leaders agreed to tighten Brussels’ oversight of gas delivery and expand its rules to all pipelines plugging into the EU’s gas distribution network.

“The new rules ensure that… everyone interested in selling gas to Europe must respect European energy law,” EU Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said in a statement.

For example, owners of pipelines linking EU and non-EU countries would also be required to allow access for their competitors. Brussels would also have more power regarding transparency and tariff regulations.

Russian ambassador slams US

Brussels has repeatedly expressed concern over the controversial Nord Stream 2 project which would deliver Russian gas directly to Germany through a pipeline under the Baltic Sea. Many EU states oppose the mammoth project, and the US claims it would allow Moscow to tighten its grip on the EU’s energy policy.

Berlin has insisted that the pipeline is a “purely economic” issue.

Speaking to Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung daily, Russian ambassador to Berlin, Sergey Nechayev, slammed the US’ opposition as an attempt to “push its competition aside” and clear the way for American suppliers of liquefied gas.

“It’s hard to believe that a country that is destroying the rules of free and fair trade, that is imposing import tariffs on its competition, that is flying slogans like ‘America First’ on its flags and often threatens biggest European concerns with illegal sanctions, is now really concerned about European interests,” the Russian envoy said in remarks published in German on Wednesday.

Last week, France unexpectedly rebelled against the project, but Berlin and Paris soon reached a compromise. Thanks to their agreement, the latest deal is not expected to impede the ongoing construction of Nord Stream 2.

Citing sources from negotiators’ circles, German public broadcaster ARD reported that the deal left room for Germany to approve exceptions from the EU-wide rules.

According to the EU Commission, however, exceptions are “only possible under strict procedures in which the Commission plays a decisive role.”

The Gazprom-backed pipeline is set to be completed by the end of the year.

 

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UK Defence Secretary looking for a fight with both China and Russia (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 87.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson’s idea to deploy hard power against China and Russia, starting with plans to send Britain’s new aircraft carrier to the tense sea routes in the South China Sea.

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“Britain’s Gavin Williamson places Russia & China on notice, I’m not joking,” authored by John Wight, via RT

UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson is itching for conflict with Russia and China. He’s not mad. Not even slightly. But he is stupid. Very.

Unlike former fireplace salesman Gavin Williamson, I am no military expert. But then you do not need to be one to understand that while Britain going to war with Russia and China might work as a video game, the real thing would be an exceedingly bad idea.

So why then in a speech delivered to the Royal United Services Institute in London, did Mr Williamson’s argument on the feasibility of the real thing elicit applause rather than the shrieks of horror and demands he be sacked forthwith it should have? This is a serious question, by the way. It is one that cuts through British establishment verbiage to reveal a country ruled not by the sober and doughty political heavyweights of years gone by, but by foaming fanatics in expensive suits

Placing to one side for a moment the insanity of the very concept of Britain deploying hard power against Russia and/or China, the prospect of fighting a war against two designated enemies at the same time is a recipe for disaster. Not satisfied with that, though, Mr Williamson is actually contemplating a conflict with three different enemies at the same time – i.e. against Russia, China, and the millions of people in Britain his government is currently waging war against under the rubric of austerity.

“Today, Russia is resurgent,” Mr Williamson said, “rebuilding its military arsenal and seeking to bring the independent countries of the former Soviet Union, like Georgia and Ukraine, back into its orbit.”

For Mr Williamson and his ilk a resurgent Russia is a bad thing. Much better in their eyes if Russia, after the Soviet era in the 1990s, had remained on its knees as a free market desert; its state institutions in a state of near collapse and tens of millions of its citizens in the grip of immiseration. Yes, because in that scenario Western ideologues like him would have had free rein to rampage around the world as they saw fit, setting fire to country after country on the perverse grounds of ‘saving them’ for democracy.

As it is, he and his still managed to squeeze in a considerable amount of carnage and chaos in the years it did take Russia to recover. The indictment reads as follows: Yugoslavia destroyed; Afghanistan turned upside down; Iraq pushed into the abyss; Libya sent to hell.

By the time they turned their attention to Syria, intent on exploiting an Arab Spring that NATO in Libya transformed into an Arab Winter, Russia had recovered and was able to intervene. It did so in concert with the Syrian Arab Army, Iran and Hezbollah to save the day – much to the evident chagrin of those who, like Gavin Williamson, prefer to see countries in ashes rather than independent of Western hegemony.

As to the facile nonsense about Russia trying to bring Georgia and Ukraine back into its orbit, both countries happen to share a border with Russia and both countries, in recent years, have been used by the UK and its allies as cat’s paws with the eastward expansion of NATO in mind.

It gets worse though: “The Alliance must develop its ability to handle the kind of provocations that Russia is throwing at us. Such action from Russia must come at a cost.”

“Provocations,” the man said. Since British troops have been taking part in exercises on Russia’s doorstep, not the other way round, one wonders if Gavin Williamson wrote this speech while inebriated.

It is Russia that has been on the receiving end of repeated provocations from NATO member states such as the UK in recent times, and it is Russia that has been forced to respond to protect its own security and that of its people where necessary. Furthermore, not only in Russia but everywhere, including the UK, people understand that when you have political leaders intoxicated by their own national myths and propaganda to such an extent as Britain’s Defence Secretary, danger ensues.

The most enduring of those national myths where London is concerned is that the British Empire was a force for good rather than a vast criminal enterprise, that Britain and America won the Second World War together alone, that Iraq had WMDs, and that international law and international brigandage really are one and the same thing.

Perhaps the most preposterous section of the speech came when Mr Williamson tried to fashion a connection between Brexit and Britain’s military strength: “Brexit has brought us to a moment. A great moment in our history. A moment when we must strengthen our global presence, enhance our lethality, and increase our mass.”

Reading this, you can almost hear Churchill turning in his grave. Britain’s wartime prime minister had such as Gavin Williamson in mind when he famously said, “He has all the virtues I dislike, and none of the vices I admire.”

Mr Williamson obviously misread the memo talking up not the opportunity for increased conflict with China after Brexit but trade.

This was not a speech it was a linguistic car crash, one that will forever command an honoured place in compendiums of the worst political speeches ever made. As for Gavin Williamson, just as no responsible parent would ever dream of putting an 10-year old behind the wheel of car to drive unsupervised, no responsible British government would ever appoint a man like him as its Defence Secretary.

In years past, he would have struggled to find employment polishing the brass plate outside the building.

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