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3 reasons why UK poisoning is one big ‘May-Johnson’ government cover up (Video)

The Three Most Important Aspects of the Skripal Case so Far.

Alex Christoforou

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Keep calm and backpedal.

The UK Foreign Office was busted yesterday deleting a tweet on Russia producing the nerve agent allegedly used to poison Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

A UK military laboratory said it could not identify the source of the nerve agent used in the attack.

That’s despite Britain accusing Russia of orchestrating the attack moments after it happened, and with zero evidence produced, now two weeks after the fact.

The Three Most Important Aspects of the Skripal Case so Far…and Where They Might be Pointing: Via The Blog Mire…


I have now asked a total of 50 questions around the Skripal case, which you can find here and here. Having gone back through these questions, as far as I can see only three have been answered by the release of public information or events that have transpired. These are:

  • Are they (Sergei and Yulia Skripal) still alive?
  • If so, what is their current condition and what symptoms are they displaying?
  • Can the government confirm that its scientists at Porton Down have established that the substance that poisoned the Skripals and D.S. Bailey was actually produced or manufactured in Russia?

On the first two points we are now told that Yulia Skripal’s condition has significantly improved to the point where she is said to be recovering well and talking. However, although this provides something of an answer to these questions, it also raises a number of others. Is she finally being allowed consular access? Is she being allowed to speak to her fiancé, her grandmother, or her cousin by telephone? Most importantly, how does her recovery comport with the claim that she was poisoned with a “military-grade nerve agent” with a toxicity around 5-8 times that of VX nerve agent?

On the other point, we do now have a definitive answer from none other than the Chief Executive of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down, Gary Aitkenhead: No, Porton Down was not able to identify the substance as being produced or manufactured in Russia.

It is important that reasonable questions continue to be raised, as they not only help clarify the actual issues, but the answers — or lack thereof — are also a good barometer as to how the official narrative stacks up. As a keen observer of the case — especially since it took place just a few hundred yards from my home in Salisbury — I have to say that the official narrative of the British Government has not stood up to even the most cursory scrutiny from the outset. In fact, there are three crucial issues that serve to raise suspicions about it, and to my mind these issues are the most important aspects of the case so far:

  1. The absurd speed at which the British Government reacted to the incident
  2. The British Government’s ignoring of legal frameworks and protocols
  3. The large number of discrepancies between events and the official narrative

Let’s just look at these in turn.

1. The absurd speed at which the British Government reacted to the incident

I remain astonished at the manner and the speed with which the British Government reacted to this incident. There was the speed with which the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, first pointed the finger of culpability, less than 48 hours after the incident, and before any investigation or analysis of the substance had taken place. There was the speed with which Porton Down was apparently able to analyse and identify the substance, even though it is set to take the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) at least three weeks to carry out a similar identification. There was the speed with which the British Government officially accused the Russian Government of being behind the incident, and the 36-hour ultimatum given to it to prove its innocence without being given any of the evidence that apparently showed its culpability. There was the speed with which the British Government, armed with evidence that looked like it was put together by a rather dull 14-year-old on work experience, managed to convince a number of other countries to expel diplomats, including 60 from the United States.

Why, if it was so sure of its claims, did the British Government feel the need to act so hastily and recklessly, rather than await the results of the investigation?

2. The British Government’s ignoring of legal frameworks and protocols

Not only has the British Government acted with lightning speed, it has also ridden roughshod over a number of international legal agreements and protocols.

Firstly, there is the involvement of the OPCW. What ought to have happened is the British Government should have invited the OPCW in as part of the investigation immediately upon suspicion of the use of a nerve agent. However, according to the British Government’s own timeline, it wasn’t until March 14th– the day that Mrs May formally announced the culpability of the Russian State to Parliament – that she actually wrote to the OPCW to involve them in the case. This is, I understand, contrary to the obligations Britain has as a member of the OPCW, and signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

In addition, the British Government has refused to provide evidence to the Russian Government. Again, my understanding is that this is contrary to the protocols set out in the CWC.

The British Government has also refused to grant the Russian Embassy in London consular access to two Russian nationals, Sergei and Yulia Skripal, which it is legally obliged to do under Articles 36 and 37 of the 1963 Vienna Convention and Article 35 (1) of the 1965 Consular Convention.

Why, if it was so sure of its claims, did the British Government feel the need to ignore international agreements to which it is a signatory, and instead act in this opaque and frankly suspicious manner?

3. The number of oddities and discrepancies in the official narrative

The speed of apportioning blame and the ignoring of international legal agreements might not have looked nearly as suspicious had the narrative presented by the British Government and the facts on the ground been in harmony with one another. But they have not been. Instead, many of the actual events that have transpired over the weeks since the incident was first reported simply do not fit the overarching explanation given. Below are five of the most important:

1. As mentioned above, the Chief Executive of Porton Down, Gary Aitkenhead has confirmed that the laboratory was unable to identify the origin of the substance used to poison the Skripals. This is in direct contradiction to the claims made by the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, who said the following on the Andrew Marr Show on 18th March:

“Obviously to the best of our knowledge this is a Russian-made nerve agent that falls within the category Novichok made only by Russia, and just to get back to the point about the international reaction which is so fascinating…”

If it’s made only by Russia, as Mr Johnson claimed, then it must have originated in Russia. Right? Yet Mr Aitkenhead says they were unable to identify where it was made.

Then in an interview with Deutsche Welle two days after his above comments, Mr Johnson was categorical about the source of the nerve agent as being Russian. Here’s the exchange:

Interviewer: You argue that the source of this nerve agent, Novichok, is Russia. How did you manage to find it out so quickly? Does Britain possess samples of it?

Johnson: “Let me be clear with you … When I look at the evidence, I mean the people from Porton Down, the laboratory …”

Interviewer: “So they have the samples …

Johnson: “They do. And they were absolutely categorical and I asked the guy myself, I said, ‘Are you sure?’ And he said there’s no doubt.”

Who “the guy” is, perhaps we’ll never know. The cleaner perhaps? I suppose a politician of Mr Johnson’s calibre will happily try to weasel his way out of the implications of what he said. But to us lesser mortals, it does rather look like he was deliberately misleading, doesn’t it

2. Much of the investigation initially concentrated on where the Skripals were poisoned. Amongst the suggestions made were the bench on which they collapsed, the Zizzi restaurant where they had eaten, Ms Skripal’s luggage or Mr Skripal’s car. Then, some 24 days after the incident, it was announced that a high concentration of the “military-grade nerve agent” had been found on the front door, and that this was the likely place of poisoning. Yet it is known that after leaving the house, Mr Skripal and his daughter drove into the City Centre, went to the Mill pub, and then to the restaurant where they ate a meal together. In other words, according to the door theory, the two of them were poisoned by a military grade nerve agent, which then took over three hours to have any effect. Odd, wouldn’t you say?

3. Furthermore, it has been stated that the two of them became ill at the same time on the bench in the Maltings. Therefore, if they were poisoned at the front door, this would mean that not only did the two of them feel little or no effects for the three hours or so that followed, but it would also mean that a large 66-year-old man and an averagely built 33-year-old woman, of different height, weight and metabolism, somehow succumbed to the effects of poisoning at exactly the same time, some three hours or so later. Again, is that not very odd?

4. The claim that they were poisoned by a military grade nerve agent, of a type said to be 5-8 times the toxicity of VX nerve agent, is itself surely open to question. Both Mr Skripal and his daughter not only survived, but Yulia Skripal is now said to be sitting up and talking just weeks later. Perhaps it is possible to survive a miniscule dose of such a nerve agent. The problem with this is that according to many earlier claims, there were significant traces of the substance in various parts of the City of Salisbury, which indicates that it cannot have been a very miniscule amount that they came into contact with at the door. Which means that we are being asked to believe that they were poisoned by “more than a miniscule amount” of this deadly poison, but both somehow survived, despite neither receiving an antidote (a fact now confirmed by Gary Aitkenhead). Does that not seem improbable?

5. The official explanation – that this was planned and authorised at the highest level within the Russian Government – would lead one to believe that the action was carried out by top level agents of the FSB. Yet the mode of attack – nerve agent apparently smeared or sprayed on the door – has to be one of the least effective methods that could be used to assassinate anyone. For a start, it rains a lot in Salisbury, and it did indeed rain on the day of the poisoning. If the substance was left at the front door (assuming it was the outside), the attacker(s) could have had no guarantee that it would not be washed off before Mr Skripal touched it. Nor could they have had any guarantee that he, as opposed to his daughter or perhaps a delivery person etc, would come into contact with it. And of course there is the fact that Mr Skripal is still alive. Does any of this seem consistent with the narrative of a professional, Kremlin-authorised hit-job.

Conclusion

Where does this leave us? The official narrative would have us believe that the Russian Government authorised the killing of a has-been (former?) MI6 spy, who it had freed in 2010 and who presumably posed no threat to it, just a week before the Russian election and weeks before the World Cup, using a nerve agent with an exclusively Russian signature, in a way (on the door) that could not guarantee the intended target would touch it. This would be difficult enough to swallow by itself, but the British Government’s rush to judgement, disregard for law, and the many discrepancies in the actual events themselves make this scenario absurdly implausible.

Another possibility – that the British Government or intelligence services were behind the incident – has been given great credibility by the British Government itself, in its absurdly quick reaction to the incident and its blatant ignoring of legal protocols. These actions were bound to fuel suspicions about the possibility of its own involvement, and I have to say that such suspicions are absolutely legitimate precisely because of the way it has behaved. However, it must be said that the oddities and discrepancies in the case don’t lend themselves very well to the idea of a carefully planned false flag. If British intelligence had planned a hit job on Mr Skripal using a military-grade nerve agent “of a type developed by Russia”, in order to then pin the blame on the Russian Government, I doubt very much that Mr Skripal and his daughter would still be alive, or that the explanation for where the poison was administered would be changing on a daily basis, or that the British Government’s evidence to other countries would have been as risible as it was (unless of course our intelligence agencies are as incompetent as such a scenario would require them to be, that is).

My hunch — and it is just that — is that Mr Skripal himself was perhaps still working for British intelligence, and may have been in possession of a nerve agent. Somehow, this involvement went wrong, and he ended up accidently poisoning himself and his daughter on the bench in The Maltings. The Government then scrambled to concoct a story in order to cover up the real story of a Russian working for MI6 and handling nerve agents, and so quickly decided to point the finger at that most convenient scapegoat, the Russian Government.

The reason that I’m attracted to this possibility is that it explains all three aspects I have described above, and which I think are the most important aspects of the case. The rush to judgement — which looked like panic-mode to me — could have been an attempt to divert attention away from the investigation looking at the possibility of Mr Skripal having military grade nerve agent in his possession. The ignoring of international legal protocols, at least for a time, could have been done to ensure that the case was not probed by any outside body, which may well have exposed discrepancies. And it could also explain many of the oddities mentioned above, such as traces of nerve agent apparently being found in various places in Salisbury, since these could have come about because Mr Skripal was in possession of some sort of nerve agent when he left his house that day.

As I say, this is just a hunch and purely speculative. I am probably wrong. But unless the British Government is able to produce far better evidence than it has so far produced, to back up the claims it has made, I shall consider it a more credible possibility than the one they have sold to the British public.

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Whose Money Stoked Religious Strife in Ukraine – and Who Tried to Steal It?

Was $25 million in American tax dollars allocated for a payoff to stir up religious turmoil and violence in Ukraine?

Jim Jatras

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Authored by James George Jatras via Strategic Culture:


Was $25 million in American tax dollars allocated for a payoff to stir up religious turmoil and violence in Ukraine? Did Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (unsuccessfully) attempt to divert most of it into his own pocket?

Last month the worldwide Orthodox Christian communion was plunged into crisis by the decision of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Constantinople to recognize as legitimate schismatic pseudo-bishops anathematized by the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is an autonomous part of the Russian Orthodox Church. In so doing not only has Patriarch Bartholomew besmirched the global witness of Orthodoxy’s two-millennia old Apostolic faith, he has set the stage for religious strife in Ukraine and fratricidal violence – which has already begun.

Starting in July, when few were paying attention, this analyst warned about the impending dispute and how it facilitated the anti-Christian moral agenda of certain marginal “Orthodox” voices like “Orthodoxy in Dialogue,” Fordham University’s “Orthodox Christian Studies Center,” and The Wheel. These “self-professed teachers presume to challenge the moral teachings of the faith” (in the words of Fr. John Parker) and “prowl around, wolves in sheep’s clothing, forming and shaping false ideas about the reality of our life in Christ.” Unsurprisingly such groups have embraced Constantinople’s neopapal self-aggrandizement and support for the Ukrainian schismatics.

No one – and certainly not this analyst – would accuse Patriarch Bartholomew, most Ukrainian politicians, or even the Ukrainian schismatics of sympathizing with advocacy of such anti-Orthodox values. And yet these advocates know they cannot advance their goals if the conciliar and traditional structure of Orthodoxy remains intact. Thus they welcome efforts by Constantinople to centralize power while throwing the Church into discord, especially the Russian Church, which is vilified in some Western circles precisely because it is a global beacon of traditional Christian moral witness.

This aspect points to another reason for Western governments to support Ukrainian autocephaly as a spiritual offensive against Russia and Orthodoxy. The post-Maidan leadership harp on the “European choice” the people of Ukraine supposedly made in 2014, but they soft-pedal the accompanying moral baggage the West demands, symbolized by “gay” marches organized over Christian objections in Orthodox cities like AthensBelgradeBucharestKievOdessaPodgoricaSofia, and Tbilisi. Even under the Trump administration, the US is in lockstep with our European Union friends in pressuring countries liberated from communism to adopt such nihilistic “democratic, European values.”

Perhaps even more important to its initiators, the row over Ukraine aims to break what they see as the “soft power” of the Russian Federation, of which the Orthodox Church is the spiritual heart and soul. As explained by Valeria Z. Nollan, professor emerita of Russian Studies at Rhodes College:

‘The real goal of the quest for autocephaly [i.e., complete self-governing status independent of the Moscow Patriarchate] of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is a de facto coup: a political coup already took place in 2014, poisoning the relations between western Ukraine and Russia, and thus another type of coup – a religious one – similarly seeks to undermine the canonical relationship between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Moscow.’

In furthering these twin objectives (morally, the degrading of Orthodox Christianity; politically, undermining the Russian state as Orthodoxy’s powerful traditional protector) it is increasingly clear that the United States government – and specifically the Department of State – has become a hands-on fomenter of conflict. After a short period of appropriately declaring that “any decision on autocephaly is an internal [Orthodox] church matter,” the Department within days reversed its position and issued a formal statement (in the name of Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, but clearly drafted by the European bureau) that skirted a direct call for autocephaly but gave the unmistakable impression of such backing. This is exactly how it was reported in the media, for example, “US backs Ukrainian Church bid for autocephaly.” Finally, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo weighed in personally with his own endorsement as did the US Reichskommissar for UkraineKurt Volker.

The Threat…

There soon became reason to believe that the State Department’s involvement was not limited to exhortations. As reported by this analyst in October, according to an unconfirmed report originating with the members of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (an autonomous New York-based jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate), in July of this year State Department officials (possibly including Secretary Pompeo personally) warned the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (also based in New York but part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate) that the US government was aware of the misappropriation of a large amount of money, about $10 million, from estimated $37 million raised from believers for the construction of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine in New York. The State Department warning also reportedly noted that federal prosecutors have documentary evidence confirming the withdrawal of these funds abroad on the orders of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. It was suggested that Secretary Pompeo would “close his eyes” to this theft in exchange for movement by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in favor of Ukrainian autocephaly, which helped set Patriarch Bartholomew on his current course.

[Further details on the St. Nicholas scandal are available here, but in summary: Only one place of worship of any faith was destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attack in New York and only one building not part of the World Trade Center complex was completely destroyed. That was St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, a small urban parish church established at the end of World War I and dedicated to St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, who is very popular with Greeks as the patron of sailors. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, and following a lengthy legal battle with the Port Authority, which opposed rebuilding the church, in 2011 the Greek Archdiocese launched an extensive campaign to raise funds for a brilliant innovative design by the renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava based on traditional Byzantine forms. Wealthy donors and those of modest means alike enthusiastically contributed millions to the effort. Then – poof! In December 2017, suddenly all construction was halted for lack of funds and remains stalled to this day. Resumption would require having an estimated $2 million on hand. Despite the Archdiocese’s calling in a major accounting firm to conduct an audit, there’s been no clear answer to what happened to the money. Both the US Attorney and New York state authorities are investigating.]

This is where things get back to Ukraine. If the State Department wanted to find the right button to push to spur Patriarch Bartholomew to move on the question of autocephaly, the Greek Archdiocese in the US is it. Let’s keep in mind that in his home country, Turkey, Patriarch Bartholomew has virtually no local flock – only a few hundred mostly elderly Greeks left huddled in Istanbul’s Phanar district. (Sometimes the Patriarchate is referred to simply as “the Phanar,” much as “the Vatican” is shorthand for the Roman Catholic papacy.) Whatever funds the Patriarchate derives from other sources (the Greek government, the Roman Catholic Church, the World Council of Churches), the Phanar’s financial lifeline is the ethnic Greek community (including this analyst) in what is still quaintly called the “Diaspora” in places like America, Australia, and New Zealand. And of these, the biggest cash cow is the Greek-Americans.

That’s why, when Patriarch Bartholomew issued a call in 2016 for what was billed as an Orthodox “Eighth Ecumenical Council” (the first one since the year 787!), the funds largely came from America, to the tune of up to $8 million according to the same confidential source as will be noted below. Intended by some as a modernizing Orthodox “Vatican II,” the event was doomed to failure by a boycott organized by Moscow over what the latter saw as Patriarch Bartholomew’s adopting papal or even imperial prerogatives – now sadly coming to bear in Ukraine.

…and the Payoff

On top of the foregoing, it now appears that the State Department’s direct hand in this sordid business may not have consisted solely of wielding the “stick” of legal threat: there’s reason to believe there was a “carrot” too. It very recently came to the attention of this analyst, via an unsolicited, confidential source in the Greek Archdiocese in New York, that a payment of $25 million in US government money was made to Constantinople to encourage Patriarch Bartholomew to move forward on Ukraine.

The source for this confidential report was unaware of earlier media reports that the same figure – $25 million – was paid by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to the Phanar as an incentive for Patriarch Bartholomew to move forward on creating an independent Ukrainian church. Moreover, Poroshenko evidently tried to shortchange the payment:

‘Peter [Petro] Poroshenko — the president of Ukraine — was obligated to return $15 million US dollars to the Patriarch of Constantinople, which he had appropriated for himself.

‘As reported by Izvestia, this occurred after the story about Bartholomew’s bribe and a “vanishing” large sum designated for the creation of a Unified Local Orthodox Church in Ukraine surfaced in the mass media.

‘As reported, on the eve of Poroshenko’s visit in Istanbul, a few wealthy people of Ukraine “chipped in” in order to hasten the process of creating a Unified Local Orthodox Church. About $25 million was collected. They were supposed to go to the award ceremony for Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople for the issuing of a tomos of autocephaly. [A tomos is a small book containing a formal announcement.] However, in the words of people close to the backer, during the visit on April 9, Poroshenko handed over only $10 million.

‘As a result, having learned of the deal, Bartholomew cancelled the participation of the delegation of the Phanar – the residence of the Patriarch of Constantinople, in the celebration of the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia on July 27 in Kiev.

‘”Such a decision from Bartholomew’s side was nothing other than a strong ultimatum to Poroshenko to return the stolen money. Of course, in order to not lose his face in light of the stark revelations of the creation of the tomos of autocephaly for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Peter Alexeevich [Poroshenko] had to just return those $15 million for the needs of Constantinople,” a trusted source explained to reporters.

‘For preliminary information, only after receiving the remaining sum, did Bartholomew finally give his consent to sending a delegation of the Phanar to Kiev … ‘

Now, it’s possible that the two identical figures of $25 million refer to two different pots of money (a cool $50 million!) but that seems unlikely. It’s more probable the reports refer to the same sum as viewed from the sending side (the State Department, the Greek Archdiocese) and the delivery side (Poroshenko, Constantinople).

Lending credibility to the confidential information from New York and pointing to the probability that it refers to the same payment that Poroshenko reportedly sought to raid for himself are the following observations:

  • When Poroshenko generously offered Patriarch Bartholomew $10 million, the latter was aware that the full amount was $25 million and demanded the $15 million Poroshenko had held back. How did the Patriarch know that, unless he was informed via New York of the full sum?
  • If the earlier-reported $25 million was really collected from “a few wealthy people of Ukraine” who “chipped in,” given the cutthroat nature of disputes among Ukrainian oligarchs would Poroshenko (an oligarch in his own right) have risked trying to shortchange the payment? Why has not even one such Ukrainian donor been identified?
  • Without going into all the details, the Phanar and the Greek Archdiocese have a long relationship with US administrations of both parties going back at least to the Truman administration, encompassing some decidedly unattractive episodes. In such a history, a mere bribe for a geopolitical shot against Moscow would hardly be a first instance or the worst.

As one of this analyst’s Greek-American connections puts it: “It’s easy to comprehend the Patriarchate bowing to the pressure of State Dept. blackmail… not overly savory, but understandable. However, it’s another thing altogether if Kiev truly “purchased” their autocephalous status from an all too willing Patriarchate … which would relegate the Patriarch to ‘salesman’ status and leave the faithful wondering what else might be offered to the highest bidder the next time it became convenient to hold a Patriarchal ‘fire sale’ at the Phanar?!”

To add insult to injury, you’d think Constantinople at least could pay back some of the $7-8 million wasted on the Crete 2016 debacle to restart the St. Nicholas project in New York. Evidently the Phanar has better things to spend it on, like the demonstrative environmentalism of “the Green Patriarch” and, together with Pope Francis, welcoming Muslim migrants to Europe through Greece. Of course maybe there’s no need to worry, as the Ukraine “sale” was consistent with Constantinople’s papal ambitions, an uncanonical claim to “universal” status, and misuse of incarnational language and adoption of a breathtakingly arrogant tone that would cause even the most ultramontane proponent of the Rome’s supremacy to blush.

Finally, it seems that, for the time being at least, Constantinople doesn’t intend to create an independent Ukrainian church but rather an autonomous church under its own authority. It’s unclear whether or not Poroshenko or the State Department, in such event, would believe they had gotten their money’s worth. Perhaps they would. After all, the issue here is less what is appropriate for Ukraine than what strikes at Russia and injures the worldwide Christian witness of the Orthodox Church. To that end, it doesn’t matter whether the new illegal body is Constantinopolitan or Kievan, just so long as it isn’t a “Moskal church” linked to Russia.

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EU Army: Fact or Fiction? (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 152.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and International Affairs and Security Analyst via Moscow, Mark Sleboda discuss the possibility, and feasibility, of putting together an EU army, as French President Macron is now boasting about.

Will an EU Army replace, rival, or fold into NATO? How will the US respond to Europe’s military initiative, and how will Russia deal an EU army?

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Via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


“Insulting” – that’s how US President Donald Trump sharply reacted to the idea of a “real European army” proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron.

And it was how Macron rationalized the need for an independent military force for Europe that perhaps most irked the American leader.

Speaking on a tour of World War I battlefields in northern France last week, Macron said that Europe needed to defend itself from “China, Russia and even the United States of America”.

It was a pretty extraordinary choice of words by the French leader. To frame the US among an array of perceived foreign enemy powers was a devastating blow to the concept of a much-vaunted transatlantic alliance.

Since the Second World War, ending 1945, the concept of an American-European alliance has been the bedrock of a supposed inviolable, mutual defense pact. That nearly seven-decade alliance is now being questioned more than ever.

Macron’s call for a European army was further backed up by German Chancellor Angela Merkel who also pointedly said this week that Europe can no longer rely on the US for its defense.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has welcomed the proposal for Europe to form its own military organization, independent from Washington. No doubt, Moscow views such a development as augmenting a move towards a multipolar international order, which Russia and China, among others, have been advocating in opposition to American ambitions of unipolar dominance.

When Trump arrived in Paris last weekend along with dozens of other world leaders, including Putin, to commemorate the centennial anniversary marking the end of World War I, there was a notable frostiness between Macron and the American president. Only a few months ago, Macron and Trump had appeared the best of friends in what some observers referred to as a “bromance”.

During the Paris events, Macron sought to placate Trump by saying that the European army proposal would have a “complementary” role to the US-led NATO military alliance. However, their relationship further soured when Macron later delivered a speech in which he made a veiled rebuke of Trump’s “nationalist” politics.

Days later, on returning to Washington, Trump then fired off a fusillade of angry tweets attacking Macron in very personal terms over a range of issues, including “unfair” economic trade and France’s alleged ungrateful attitude towards the US liberation of Paris from Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

The rift between the US and Europe has been brewing even before Trump’s presidency. For years, Washington has been carping that the Europeans need to spend more on military defense, claiming that the US has been shouldering the burden for too long. Trump has taken the griping to a new, higher level. Recall that he has threatened to pull out of NATO because the Europeans were “free loading” on American “protection”.

The irony is that now the French and German leaders are talking about setting up their own military defenses, Trump has blown a fuse.

Evidently, the American contention is not about “burden sharing” of defense. If Washington was genuinely aggrieved about supposedly defending Europe at too much of its own expense, then Trump, one would think, would be only too glad to hear that the Europeans were at last making their own military arrangements, and taking the burden off Washington.

This gets to the heart of the matter about the real purpose of NATO and presence of tens of thousands of US troops stationed in bases across Europe since 1945. American military presence in Europe is not about “protecting” its supposed allies. It is, and always has been, about projecting American power over Europe. In reality, American troops and bases in Europe are more functioning as an occupying force, keeping the Europeans in line with Washington’s strategic objectives of hegemony over the continent.

Macron and Merkel’s vision of a European army is probably fanciful anyway, without any real prospect of materializing. How such a new defense arrangement would work independently from the 29-member NATO alliance led by the US seems unwieldy and impractical.

But the latest tensions between Washington and European leaders over military organization demonstrate the real nature of America’s relationship to Europe. It is about domination by Washington over Europe and has little to do with partnership and protection.

When Trump and previous US presidents have urged greater military spending by Europe the ulterior agenda is for Europeans to pay more to underpin American military presence, not for Europeans to find their own independent defense arrangement.

Tensions in the transatlantic axis seem to be coming to a head, heightened by Trump’s nationalistic “America First” policy. Rivalries are sharpening over trade, US sanctions on Iran, Trump’s threats against European energy plans with Russia, the Paris Climate Accord, and squabbling over NATO expenditures.

There is nothing progressive about Macron or Merkel’s call for a European army. It is more to do with France and Germany wanting to assert themselves as great powers and to shake off American tutelage out of frustration with Trump’s domineering petulance.

Only last week, Macron caused controversy when he praised French military general Philippe Pétain who collaborated with Nazi Germany as leader of Vichy France (1940-44). Macron wants a European army to satisfy his own nationalistic ambitions of revamping French global power. This week, he spent the night onboard a refurbished French aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, from which he gave a media interview saying that being “an ally of America meant not being a vassal”. Touché!

A progressive challenge from Europe to American power would not involve setting up a new army. Instead it would involve Europeans pushing for the disbandment of NATO as an obsolete organization and for the withdrawal of US-led forces which are dangerously amassing on Russia’s border.

Nonetheless, the one positive thing to emerge from the transatlantic spat over military defenses is that it illustrates more than ever how European protection is not the real purpose of Washington’s relationship to the continent. The purpose is one of using Europe as a platform for projecting America’s power, in particular against Russia.

The recent announcement by the Trump administration that it is willing to rip up yet another nuclear arms control treaty – the INF following the ABM in 2002 – clearly shows that Washington, ultimately, has recklessly scant concern for Europe’s security with regard to a possible future war with Russia.

For Washington, despite all the chivalrous rhetoric, Europe is not a partner nor even an ally. It is a vassal. Admittedly, thousands of American troops died while bravely fighting wars in Europe. But they are distinct from the US ruling class. At bottom, Europe is merely a battlefield for American military power, just as it was in two previous world wars. One hundred years after the end of World War I, the same callous calculus for the imperial planners in Washington is at play.

European ideas for independent defense is why Washington has reacted so furiously. It’s not willing to give up its European front.

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Zuckerberg Clings To Power While Sandberg Claims Ignorance After Damaging NYT Report

The New York Times reported that Facebook hired GOP PR firm, Defenders, to smear liberal detractors as Soros operatives. 

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Facebook executives Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are battling backlash over an explosive investigation by the New York Times into Facebook’s mercenary damage control tactics in the wake of several major scandals.

Despite fresh calls from investors for Zuckerberg to step down in his dual role as CEO and chairman and appoint an independent director to oversee the board, the 34-year-old tech titan brushed off the suggestion during a Thursday call with journalists.

“A company with Facebook’s massive reach and influence requires robust oversight and that can only be achieved through an independent chair who is empowered to provide critical checks on company leadership,” said New York City comptroller, Scott Stringer.

Zuckerberg disagrees. “I don’t think that that specific proposal is the right way to go,” said the Facebook CEO when asked if he would consider stepping down, adding that other initiatives had been launched to “get more independence into our systems.”

The measures include creating an independent body to advise the company on decisions over whether controversial content should remain on the site.

Ultimately, he said Facebook is never going to eradicate mistakes. “We’re never going to get to the point where there are no errors,” he told reporters. “I’m trying to set up the company so that way we have our board, and we report on our financial results and do a call every quarter, but that also we have this independent oversight that is just focused on the community.” –Business Insider

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, meanwhile, is claiming ignorance – telling CBS This Morning co-host Norah O’Donnell “we absolutely did not pay anyone to create fake news – that they have assured me was not happening.”

In their Wednesday exposé – the culmination of interviews with over 50 current and former company executives, lawmakers, government officials, lobbyists and congressional staff members,the New York Times reported that Facebook had hired GOP PR firm, Defenders, which smeared liberal detractors as Soros operatives – and worked with a sister company to create negative propaganda about competitors Google and Apple.

Mr. Kaplan prevailed on Ms. Sandberg to promote Kevin Martin, a former Federal Communications Commission chairman and fellow Bush administration veteran, to lead the company’s American lobbying efforts. Facebook also expanded its work with Definers.

On a conservative news site called the NTK Network, dozens of articles blasted Google and Apple for unsavory business practices. One story called Mr. Cook hypocritical for chiding Facebook over privacy, noting that Apple also collects reams of data from users. Another played down the impact of the Russians’ use of Facebook.

The rash of news coverage was no accident: NTK is an affiliate of Definers, sharing offices and staff with the public relations firm in Arlington, Va. Many NTK Network stories are written by staff members at Definers or America Rising, the company’s political opposition-research arm, to attack their clients’ enemies. –NYT

Meanwhile, Sandberg stressed that Facebook was undertaking new security measures, telling O’Donnell: “Our strategy was to shore up the security on Facebook and make major investments there,” and that the company had made significant investments in combatting fake news and foreign influence.

“It was not what I was doing nor was it the company’s strategy to deflect, to deny or to hire PR firms to do things. That’s not the strategy. And I was part of none of that. We’ve taken great steps, we’ve made huge investments. We’ve invested a ton in AI and technology and if you were following us before the election you saw those efforts pay off. We were able to take down lots of stuff over and over, over and over because we were now focused on this,” said Sandberg.

When asked if rank-and-file employees are confident in her, Sandberg replied: “Yes, I believe so.

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