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8 points about the crisis in Catalonia

The crisis in Catalonia was provoked by Catalonia’s nationalists, not by the Spanish government, and if handled firmly is neither big nor dangerous

Alexander Mercouris

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As the Catalonia crisis slides towards its climax, a number of misconceptions about it need urgently to be set aside.

(1) The illegality of the independence referendum does matter

Firstly, the crisis was triggered by the decision of Carles Puidgemont and of the Catalan regional government to call an independence referendum which was unconstitutional and therefore illegal.

I am troubled by the willingness of many people to disregard the illegality of the Catalan referendum and to support – apparently without giving much thought to the consequences – what was an exercise in straightforward law breaking.

This has gone along with all sorts of claims that Spain’s constitution can somehow be disregarded in this instance because constitutions supposedly derive their legitimacy from popular consent, which in Catalonia’s case the Spanish constitution is supposedly lacking.

These are wild and dangerous arguments.  Of all political systems democracy is the one which depends most on rigorous observation of the constitution and the law.  When these are disregarded and unconstitutional and illegal actions are taken and become the norm it is democracy itself which breaks down.

That is precisely what happened for example in Ukraine, where the whole root of the present crisis is the Maidan movement’s persistent refusal to respect the outcome of democratic and constitutional elections which it loses, and its willingness – as in its overthrow in February 2014 of President Yanukovych – to use unconstitutional and illegal methods to further its objectives.

The result in Ukraine was to bring the whole constitutional and legal order of Ukraine by 2014 crashing down with an unconstitutional government illegally installed by violent methods triggering secessionist moves by those who felt rightly that their constitutional and democratic rights and protections had been illegally taken from them.

That is absolutely not the situation in Catalonia today, and the parallels some people I suspect are making – if only in their own minds – between the post 2014 independence movements in Crimea and Donbass and the one in Catalonia today are false ones and should be rejected.

The fact that some people in Catalonia are unhappy with the present situation cannot be taken to mean that the constitution of the whole of Spain – of which Catalonia is only a part – no longer has consent or legitimacy and can simply be disregarded and set aside.  That is to privilege the obsessions of a small minority of Spain’s people over those of the great majority, something which would not only make constitutional government in Spain or indeed anywhere else where that principle was applied impossible, but which is in fact the reverse of what democracy is supposed to be.

I would add that the fact that in other more established democracies – such as the United States – the constitution and the law are being repeatedly violated by those in authority is certainly not something which ought to be cited as a precedent for Catalonia to follow.  On the contrary it is a cause for concern about the future of democracy in the United States.

(2) Violence in Catalonia was caused by the staging of an illegal referendum

The single fact which possibly more than any other has caused an outpouring of support for the Catalan independence movement is the appearance of riot police in Catalonia attempting to stop the illegal referendum from taking place.  This has triggered a predictable – and intended – storm of criticism of the Spanish authorities for supposedly responding violently to the Catalan people’s peaceful exercise of their supposed right to vote in the referendum.

This ignores the fact that the reason there was violence in Catalonia was because an act of illegality took place there.  To be clear wherever illegal gatherings happen (Navalny’s protests in Russia and the Maidan movement’s illegal occupation of Kiev’s Maidan Square are cases in point) there is always an inherent potential for violence, and the staging in Catalonia of an illegal referendum is no exception.

One should be very slow in situations like the one in Catalonia before criticising the Spanish authorities and the Spanish police for taking action to uphold the law.

Whilst what riot police do can always be made to look ugly, given that what took place in Catalonia was illegal I do not think that the actions of the Spanish authorities or of the Spanish police were disproportionate or unduly violent.  Reports of serious injuries are very few, and of reports of deaths thankfully there are none.

As was the case during the Slovene crisis of 1991, in Ukraine during the Maidan riots of 2013/2014, during the Libyan and Syrian protests of 2011, and during Navalny’s various protests in Moscow and elsewhere since then, I have no doubt that part of the intention behind the illegal staging of the referendum in Catalonia was precisely to provoke a reaction by the authorities and the police which could be presented to the outside world as a case of the authorities ‘violently cracking down on peaceful protests’.

I am always surprised by how easily manipulated people are by this tactic.

(3) The Spanish authorities almost certainly had no alternative but to react as they did

Here I must make some qualifications, since I accept that it is possible that the Spanish authorities may have had other more peaceful options than the ones they used in dealing with this crisis.  I do not know enough about the internal situation in Spain to know for sure one way or the other.  However I doubt that the overwhelming majority of those who pronounce confidently on this issue from the other side know much about the internal political situation in Spain either.

Again I feel that far too many people have been in a rush to make assumptions about possible alternative peaceful options for the Spanish government to have used to deal with this crisis, which because of the actual situation today in Spain may not in fact exist.

For example I question whether the fact that the Spanish authorities responded passively to an earlier referendum is as important as some people think.  It is surely possible – even likely – that the political situation in Spain and Catalonia is now such that what it was possible to ignore before is impossible to ignore now.  Giving a proper answer to this question requires a deep knowledge of Spanish domestic politics which I do not have, but which I doubt that most of the people who pronounce on this matter have either.

Ultimately a state which is not prepared to take action to defend the constitutional and legal order upon which it is based has no future.

It was the persistent refusal or inability of Mikhail Gorbachev’s government to act decisively to reassert its authority (derived from the Soviet constitution) in places like the Baltic States, Moldova and the Transcaucasus which in the end undermined its authority across the whole USSR, causing the USSR itself to collapse.

By contrast it was the Chinese government’s determined reassertion of its authority during the Tiananmen protests of 1989 which secured its survival, and China’s stability thereafter.

Ultimately if the Spanish government were to ignore persistent blatant illegality in Catalonia its authority would collapse there, with the likely result that it would in time collapse across the whole of the rest of Spain as well.  Quite possibly that was the point which the Spanish government felt had been reached when this latest illegal referendum was called.

If so then the Spanish government’s decision to send police to Catalonia to reassert its authority and that of the constitution and of the law in the face of what was a concerted illegal challenge to its authority was almost certainly – in terms of its own and the Spanish state’s survival – politically speaking the right one and indeed the only one.

(4) There are no grounds to say that the Spanish courts behaved in a biased way in striking down sections of an autonomy agreement reached between a previous Spanish government and Catalonia

Again it concerns me that so many people have uncritically accepted this claim of Francoist bias on the part of the Spanish judiciary, self-serving on the part of Catalonia’s nationalists though it is.

Ultimately there is no better judge of Spain’s constitution and law than Spain’s own courts.  Possibly some of the judges in those courts are old fashioned people of right wing and conservative views.  However General Franco – Spain’s former fascist dictator – has now been dead for 42 years.  It beggars belief that after 42 years of constitutional democracy (a period longer than Franco’s rule) the entire Spanish legal and judicial system should continue to be permeated with his thinking.

I have seen no sustained legal criticism of the Spanish court decisions which are being objected to, and I see no reason therefore to think that those decisions were either biased or wrong.

The fact that the Catalan authorities secured for themselves in negotiations with an earlier Spanish government more than they may have been legally entitled to under Spain’s constitution does not mean that they are justified now in acting illegally simply because decisions in the courts have gone against them.

No one has a right to act illegally because they lose a case in court – the idea is actually absurd – and elected authorities such as the ones in Catalonia especially should not do so.

(5) the Catalan authorities did not need to act illegally to secure independence or greater autonomy for Catalonia

Again it concerns me how readily the obviously self-serving claim that a resort to illegality is somehow justified because of the supposed impossibility of otherwise extracting concessions from the Spanish state is being accepted.

Spain is not a monolith and Catalonia is one of its biggest provinces and is also its richest province.  That means that a Catalan government committed to the objective of greater autonomy or even independence for Catalonia has any number of legal options it could turn to in order to achieve its objective.

There are for example political forces in the rest of Spain – such as for example Podemos – with which it might be able to ally itself with in order to secure a new Spanish government with which it could negotiate greater autonomy or even independence.   It could also press for changes to Spain’s constitution – which can be amended in a legal and constitutional way, like any other constitution can – to achieve those objectives.

It could incidentally also have chosen to stage the recent vote not as a binding independence referendum but as a non-binding opinion poll in order to show how strong feeling in support of independence within Catalonia is.

Instead the present Catalan government wilfully chose the path of illegality thereby – almost certainly intentionally – triggering the present crisis.

The fact that it chose to act in this way instead of choosing one of the legal and constitutional (though incremental) options available to it makes me in fact question the whole foundation myth of this whole crisis: that there is a strong majority in Catalonia which supports independence from Spain.

Generally speaking a resort to illegality by a nationalist movement only takes place within a democratic and constitutional framework when the nationalist movement itself doubts that it has the support it says it does.  The intention is to use illegality to provoke a reaction from the authorities in order to polarise opinion and harden support behind the nationalist movement.

That for example was what lay behind the resort to illegality in Ukraine in 2004 and 2014, and it seems to me that that is what we are seeing being attempted in Catalonia now.

(6) Negotiations may not offer a solution

The claim that negotiations are the route out of the crisis is something which is always said in crises of this sort, and it perhaps the most dangerous myth of all.

The proper solution of the crisis in Catalonia is not negotiations.  It is a return to legality.

When President Yanukovych of Ukraine in 2014 sought to negotiate with the leaders of the Maidan movement who were acting illegally he did not secure a peaceful or proper solution to the crisis in Ukraine.  He secured instead his own downfall and that of the whole constitutional order of Ukraine.

In this case if the Catalan government persists in its claim that the illegal referendum has given Catalonia a ‘right’ to secede from Spain then negotiations between it and the Spanish government become unwise and even dangerous, since they can appear to be legitimising that objective and the way the Catalan government is going about achieving it.  In that case the ‘negotiations’ simply become a mechanism to achieve Catalan independence from Spain.  Anyone who observed Puidgemont’s speech to the Catalan parliament can see that that is exactly the agenda he is following.

Again it puzzles me that some people are unable to see behind this – wholly transparent – agenda, and construe a purported ‘offer’ from Puidgemont for talks – be it noted on his terms – as a ‘last chance for Spain’ when it is in reality the precise opposite.

The Spanish government’s challenge to Puidgemont – to clarify whether he has declared independence or not – by contrast makes total sense, as does the Spanish government’s eight day ultimatum to the Catalan government to scrap its independence declaration or face the consequences.

(7) This is not a major crisis in Spain and for the European Union

Though here I cannot be sure I suspect that the claim that this is a big or serious crisis is the biggest myth of all.

The Spanish government has threatened the Catalan government with the imposition of direct rule from Madrid unless it backs down and cancels its independence declaration.  It has also made it fairly clear that it is considering legal proceedings against the Catalan officials – including Puidgemont – who were responsible for the referendum and for the independence declaration.

This is being universally reported as taking Spain into ‘uncharted waters’, supposedly causing a huge crisis in Catalonia and Spain and ultimately for the EU.

I am not sure why.  No doubt the imposition of direct rule by Madrid would meet with opposition in Catalonia.  However short of a resort to outright violence I have no doubt the resources of the Spanish state would enable it to prevail quickly in the event of a stand-off.  Catalan society is divided on the independence question – with much of Catalonia’s working class said to be opposed – so it is difficult to see how opposition could be sustained for very long.

Needless to say if there is a resort to violence the resources of the Spanish state will quickly contain it.  A Spanish state that was able to defeat the challenge of Basque terrorism can certainly counter any threat of violence coming from within Catalonia.  I would add that in the event that they were to resort to violence – which I think is very unlikely – the Catalan nationalists would quickly lose support within Catalonia itself.

Here it is essential to make a point made previously by Haneul Na’avi.  The Catalan independence movement is in no sense a revolutionary movement.  It is not calling for a revolutionary transformation of Catalan or Spanish society.  Mostly it is a conservative middle class movement anxious to shore up the economic and cultural privileges of Catalonia’s conservative middle class.  That all but excludes any real possibility of it posing any true sustained challenge either to the Spanish state or to the EU or to the neoliberal global order, always provided that the Spanish government keeps its head and preserves its domestic support.

As for the European Union, the Catalan nationalists have pledged their loyalty to it.  Apparently they hope this will win them sympathy and support from the European Union, just as it did for Slovenia in 1991.

In that they are likely to be disappointed.  Though there may be some officials within the EU bureaucracy in Brussels who are sympathetic to Catalonia’s cause, the most powerful EU states – Germany, France and Italy, all of which face potential challenges from independence movements of their own – are all but certain to side with Spain, their fellow EU state, against them.

The basic lesson of the last 25 years is that no secessionist movement strongly opposed by the government of the state it is looking to secede from can win independence unless it has strong support from powerful outside powers.  As of this moment the Catalan independence movement has no such support – or none that matters – and unless that changes  – and there is no reason to think it will – that dooms its independence bid to certain failure.

Much will depend on how the Spanish government handles the situation over the next few weeks.  Provided it keeps its nerve and avoids being provoked into either excessive overreaction or unnecessary concessions, the strong odds seem to me to be that it will prevail, and that following a few days or even weeks of protests its imposition of direct rule on Catalonia will be seen to be successful.

In that case after a short time I would expect opinion in Catalonia – already divided on the independence question – to start to swing back towards the government, and the crisis in Catalonia to subside.

(8) Russia does not support Catalan independence 

It is actually ridiculous to waste time on this point and I only do so because a few people in Spain and the US who have lost all touch with reality appear to believe it.

The Russian government’s position is that the crisis in Catalonia is a strictly Spanish internal matter.  However in private I have no doubt the Russian government’s sympathies are not with the Catalans but with Spain.

Though the two countries are hardly close, relations between Russia and Spain are cordial, with Spain being one of those countries which in 2014 expressed doubts about the wisdom of the EU imposing sanctions on Russia.

Beyond that however is the overriding concern for Russia that the break up of Spain would increase regional instability – something the Russians deeply mistrust – without conferring on Russia any obvious advantages.  To be clear, quite how a pro-EU, right wing, Atlanticist independent Catalonia – which is what Puidgemont says he wants – would benefit Russia completely escapes me.

I am sure that no one in authority in Moscow wants to see that, and the Russian government’s repeated public pronouncements that it wants to see the crisis in Catalonia resolved peacefully within the framework of Spain constitution and its law should be accepted as its true position.

Summary

Internal crises in various states like the one in Spain and Catalonia blow up from time to time.  In my opinion when they do they pose little danger to world peace or to the international system unless they directly impact on the national security interests of the Great Powers.

In Catalonia’s case neither the US nor Russia – the two Great Powers which in this region matter – have any interest in an independent Catalonia, whilst the two other Great Powers – China and India – are certain to oppose it, and the dominant regional power – Germany – is certain to oppose it also.

That almost certainly means that provided the authorities in Madrid keep their nerve they should be able to contain this crisis with little difficulty. Whilst the challenge of Catalan nationalism will doubtless continue for a time to pose problems for the Spanish state, there is no reason to think it cannot surmount them.

As for Mariano Rajoy – Spain’s much maligned Prime Minister – the high probability is that he will emerge from this crisis with his popularity and authority enhanced amongst Spain’s people, so that he will win a victory in the election which he is likely to call soon.  In saying this I should make clear that (1) for entirely different reasons unrelated to the Catalan crisis I neither like nor support Rajoy; and (2) that it is important to stress that for Rajoy it is ultimately the support he gets in Spain from its people and from the leading Western powers which matters, and not what the international liberal commentariat says about him.

It is essential when discussing a crisis like this to keep a clear head.  Crises of this sort only start to become dangerous when the myths conjured up by those who intentionally trigger them start to become accepted as facts.  That is what happened disastrously in 1991 in Yugoslavia and in 2014 in Ukraine.

There is no reason to do this in Catalonia’s case and thankfully the indifference of the Great Powers to this crisis makes it unlikely it will happen.

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Is the Violent Dismemberment of Russia Official US Policy?

Neocons make the case that the West should not only seek to contain “Moscow’s imperial ambitions” but to actively seek the dismemberment of Russia as a whole.

The Duran

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Authored by Erik D’Amato via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity:


If there’s one thing everyone in today’s Washington can agree on, it’s that whenever an official or someone being paid by the government says something truly outrageous or dangerous, there should be consequences, if only a fleeting moment of media fury.

With one notable exception: Arguing that the US should be quietly working to promote the violent disintegration and carving up of the largest country on Earth.

Because so much of the discussion around US-Russian affairs is marked by hysteria and hyperbole, you are forgiven for assuming this is an exaggeration. Unfortunately it isn’t. Published in the Hill under the dispassionate title “Managing Russia’s dissolution,” author Janusz Bugajski makes the case that the West should not only seek to contain “Moscow’s imperial ambitions” but to actively seek the dismemberment of Russia as a whole.

Engagement, criticism and limited sanctions have simply reinforced Kremlin perceptions that the West is weak and predictable. To curtail Moscow’s neo-imperialism a new strategy is needed, one that nourishes Russia’s decline and manages the international consequences of its dissolution.

Like many contemporary cold warriors, Bugajski toggles back and forth between overhyping Russia’s might and its weaknesses, notably a lack of economic dynamism and a rise in ethnic and regional fragmentation.But his primary argument is unambiguous: That the West should actively stoke longstanding regional and ethnic tensions with the ultimate aim of a dissolution of the Russian Federation, which Bugajski dismisses as an “imperial construct.”

The rationale for dissolution should be logically framed: In order to survive, Russia needs a federal democracy and a robust economy; with no democratization on the horizon and economic conditions deteriorating, the federal structure will become increasingly ungovernable…

To manage the process of dissolution and lessen the likelihood of conflict that spills over state borders, the West needs to establish links with Russia’s diverse regions and promote their peaceful transition toward statehood.

Even more alarming is Bugajski’s argument that the goal should not be self-determination for breakaway Russian territories, but the annexing of these lands to other countries. “Some regions could join countries such as Finland, Ukraine, China and Japan, from whom Moscow has forcefully appropriated territories in the past.”

It is, needless to say, impossible to imagine anything like this happening without sparking a series of conflicts that could mirror the Yugoslav Wars. Except in this version the US would directly culpable in the ignition of the hostilities, and in range of 6,800 Serbian nuclear warheads.

So who is Janusz Bugajski, and who is he speaking for?

The author bio on the Hill’s piece identifies him as a senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, a Washington, D.C. think-tank. But CEPA is no ordinary talk shop: Instead of the usual foundations and well-heeled individuals, its financial backers seem to be mostly arms of the US government, including the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the US Mission to NATO, the US-government-sponsored National Endowment for Democracy, as well as as veritable who’s who of defense contractors, including Raytheon, Bell Helicopter, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and Textron. Meanwhile, Bugajski chairs the South-Central Europe area studies program at the Foreign Service Institute of the US Department of State.

To put it in perspective, it is akin to a Russian with deep ties to the Kremlin and arms-makers arguing that the Kremlin needed to find ways to break up the United States and, if possible, have these breakaway regions absorbed by Mexico and Canada. (A scenario which alas is not as far-fetched as it might have been a few years ago; many thousands in California now openly talk of a “Calexit,” and many more in Mexico of a reconquista.)

Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine a quasi-official voice like Bugajski’s coming out in favor of a similar policy vis-a-vis China, which has its own restive regions, and which in geopolitical terms is no more or less of a threat to the US than Russia. One reason may be that China would consider an American call for secession by the Tibetans or Uyghurs to be a serious intrusion into their internal affairs, unlike Russia, which doesn’t appear to have noticed or been ruffled by Bugajski’s immodest proposal.

Indeed, just as the real scandal in Washington is what’s legal rather than illegal, the real outrage in this case is that few or none in DC finds Bugajski’s virtual declaration of war notable.

But it is. It is the sort of provocation that international incidents are made of, and if you are a US taxpayer, it is being made in your name, and it should be among your outrages of the month.

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Vladimir Putin visits Serbia, as NATO encircles the country it attacked in 1999 (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 171.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Russian President Vladimir Putin’s official visit to Serbia.

Putin met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to further develop bilateral trade and economic relations, as well as discuss pressing regional issues including the possibility of extending the Turkish Stream gas pipeline into Serbia, and the dangerous situation around Kosovo.

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Via RT


Russian President Vladimir Putin got a hero’s welcome in Belgrade. The one-day visit to the last holdout against NATO’s ambitions in the Balkans may have been somewhat short on substance, but was certainly loaded with symbolism.

Even before he landed, the Russian leader was given an honor guard by Serbian air force MiGs, a 2017 gift from Moscow to replace those destroyed by NATO during the 1999 air campaign that ended with the occupation of Serbia’s province of Kosovo. Russia has refused to recognize Kosovo’s US-backed declaration of independence, while the US and EU have insisted on it.

Upon landing, Putin began his first official trip of 2019 by paying respects to the Soviet soldiers who died liberating Belgrade from Nazi occupation in 1944. While most Serbians haven’t forgotten their historical brotherhood in arms with Russia, it did not hurt to remind the West just who did the bulk of the fighting against Nazi Germany back in World War II.

After official talks with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Putin visited the Church of St. Sava, the grand Orthodox basilica set on the spot where the Ottoman Turks torched the remains of the first Serbian archbishop back in 1594, in an effort to maintain power.

Sava, whose brother Stefan became the “first-crowned” king of medieval Serbia, was responsible for setting up the autocephalous Serbian Orthodox Church exactly eight centuries ago this year. For all its own troubles, the Serbian Church has sided with Moscow in the current Orthodox schism over Ukraine.

Russian artisans have been working on the grand mosaic inside the basilica, and asked Putin to complete the design by placing the last three pieces, in the colors of the Russian flag.

Whether by sheer coincidence or by design, Putin also weighed in on Serbia’s culture war, giving interviews ahead of his visit to two daily newspapers that still publish in Serbian Cyrillic – while the majority of the press, whether controlled by the West or by Vucic, prefers the Latin variant imported from Croatia.

Western media usually refer to Serbia as a “Russian ally.” While this is true in a historical and cultural sense, there is no formal military alliance between Moscow and Belgrade. Serbia officially follows the policy of military neutrality, with its armed forces taking part in exercises alongside both Russian and NATO troops.

This is a major source of irritation for NATO, which seeks dominion over the entire Balkans region. Most recently, the alliance extended membership to Montenegro in 2017 without putting the question to a referendum. It is widely expected that “Northern Macedonia” would get an invitation to NATO as soon as its name change process is complete – and that was arranged by a deal both Macedonia and Greece seem to have been pressured into by Washington.

That would leave only Serbia outside the alliance – partly, anyway, since NATO has a massive military base in the disputed province of Kosovo, and basically enjoys special status in that quasi-state. Yet despite Belgrade’s repeated declarations of Serbia wanting to join the EU, Brussels and Washington have set recognition of Kosovo as the key precondition – and no Serbian leader has been able to deliver on that just yet, though Vucic has certainly tried.

Putin’s repeated condemnations of NATO’s 1999 attack, and Russian support for Serbia’s territorial integrity guaranteed by the UN Security Council Resolution 1244, have made him genuinely popular among the Serbs, more so than Vucic himself. Tens of thousands of people showed up in Belgrade to greet the Russian president.

While Vucic’s critics have alleged that many of them were bused in by the government – which may well be true, complete with signs showing both Vucic and Putin – there is no denying the strong pro-Russian sentiment in Serbia, no matter how hard Integrity Initiative operatives have tried.

One of the signs spotted in Belgrade reportedly said “one of 300 million,” referring to the old Serbian joke about there being “300 million of us – and Russians.” However, it is also a send-up of the slogan used by current street protesters against Vucic. For the past six weeks, every Saturday, thousands of people have marched through Belgrade, declaring themselves “1 of 5 million” after Vucic said he wouldn’t give in to their demands even if “five million showed up.”

The opposition Democrats accuse him of corruption, nepotism, mismanagement, cronyism – all the sins they themselves have plenty of experience with during their 12-year reign following Serbia’s color revolution. Yet they’ve had to struggle for control of the marches with the nationalists, who accuse Vucic of preparing to betray Kosovo and want “him to go away, but [Democrats] not come back.”

There is plenty of genuine discontent in Serbia with Vucic, who first came to power in 2012 on a nationalist-populist platform but quickly began to rule as a pro-NATO liberal. It later emerged that western PR firms had a key role in his party’s “makeover” from Radicals to Progressives. Yet his subsequent balancing act between NATO and Russia has infuriated both the NGOs and politicians in Serbia beholden to Western interests, and US diplomats charged with keeping the Balkans conquered.

Washington is busy with its own troubles these days, so there was no official comment to Putin’s visit from the State Department – only a somewhat pitiful and tone-deaf tweet by Ambassador Kyle Scott, bemoaning the lack of punishment for $1 million in damages to the US Embassy during a 2008 protest against Kosovo “independence.” Yet as far as Western media outlets are concerned, why Moscow seems to be vastly more popular than Washington on the streets of Belgrade nonetheless remains a mystery.

By Nebojsa Malic

 

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Curious Bedfellows: The Neocon And Progressive Alliance To Destroy Donald Trump

The neocon metamorphosis is nearly complete as many of the neocons, who started out as Democrats, have returned home, where they are being welcomed for their hardline foreign policy viewpoint.

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via OffGuardian.com:


The Roman poet Ovid’s masterful epic The Metamorphoses includes the memorable opening line regarding the poem’s central theme of transformation. He wrote In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas corpora, which has been translated as “Of shapes transformed to bodies strange, I purpose to entreat…”

Ovid framed his narrative around gods, heroes and quasi-historical events but if he were around today, he would no doubt be fascinated by the many transformations of the group that has defined itself as neoconservative.The movement began in a cafeteria in City College of New York in the 1930s, where a group of radical Jewish students would meet to discuss politics and developments in Europe. Many of the founders were from the far left, communists of the Trotskyite persuasion, which meant that they believed in permanent global revolution led by a vanguard party. The transformation into conservatives of a neo-persuasion took place when they were reportedly “mugged by reality” into accepting that the standard leftist formulae were not working to transform the world rapidly enough. As liberal hawks, they then hitched their wagon to the power of the United States to bring about transformation by force if necessary and began to infiltrate institutions like the Pentagon to give themselves the tools to achieve their objectives, which included promotion of regime change wars, full spectrum global dominance and unconditional support for Israel.

The neocons initially found a home with Democratic Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, but they moved on in the 1970s and 1980s to prosper under Ronald Reagan as well as under Democrat Bill Clinton. Their ability to shape policy peaked under George W. Bush, when they virtually ran the Pentagon and were heavily represented in both the national security apparatus and in the White House. They became adept at selling their mantra of “strong national defense” to whomever was buying, including to President Obama, even while simultaneously complaining about his administration’s “weakness.”

The neoconservatives lined up behind Hillary Clinton in 2016, appalled by Donald Trump’s condemnation of their centerpiece war in Iraq and even more so by his pledge to end the wars in Asia and nation-building projects while also improving relations with the Russians. They worked actively against the Republican candidate both before he was nominated and elected and did everything they could to stop him, including libeling him as a Russian agent.

When Trump was elected, it, therefore, seemed that the reign of the neocons had ended, but chameleonlike, they have changed shape and are now ensconced both in some conservative as well as in an increasing number of progressive circles in Washington and in the media. Against all odds, they have even captured key posts in the White House itself with the naming of John Bolton as National Security Adviser and Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State. Bolton’s Chief of Staff is Fred Fleitz, a leading neocon and Islamophobe while last week Trump added Iran hawk Richard Goldberg to the National Security Council as director for countering Iranian weapons of mass destruction. Goldberg is an alumnus of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which is the leading neocon think tank calling incessantly for war with Iran.

Meanwhile, the neocon metamorphosis is nearly complete as many of the neocons, who started out as Democrats, have returned home, where they are being welcomed for their hardline foreign policy viewpoint. Glenn Greenwald reports that, based on polling of party supporters, the Democrats have gone full-Hillary and are now by far more hawkish than the Republicans, unwilling to leave either Syria or Afghanistan.

The neocon survival and rejuvenation is particularly astonishing in that they have been wrong about virtually everything, most notably the catastrophic Iraq War. They have never been held accountable for anything, though one should note that accountability is not a prominent American trait, at least since Vietnam. What is important is that neocon views have been perceived by the media and punditry as being part of the Establishment consensus, which provides them with access to programming all across the political spectrum. That is why neocon standard-bearers like Bill Kristol and Max Boot have been able to move effortlessly from Fox News to MSNBC where they are fêted by the likes of Rachel Maddow. They applauded the Iraq War when the Establishment was firmly behind it and are now trying to destroy Donald Trump’s presidency because America’s elite is behind that effort.

Indeed, the largely successful swing by the neocons from right to left has in some ways become more surreal, as an increasing number of progressive spokesmen and institutions have lined up behind their perpetual warfare banner. The ease with which the transformation took place reveals, interestingly, that the neocons have no real political constituency apart from voters who feel threatened and respond by supporting perpetual war, but they do share many common interests with the so-called liberal interventionists. Neocons see a global crisis for the United States defined in terms of power while the liberals see the struggle as a moral imperative, but the end result is the same: intervention by the United States. This fusion is clearly visible in Washington, where the Clintons’ Center for American Progress (CAP) is now working on position papers with the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

One of the most active groups attacking President Trump is “Republicans for the Rule of Law,” founded by Bill Kristol in January 2018, as a component of Defending Democracy Together(DDT), a 501(c)4 lobbying group that also incorporates projects called The Russia Tweets and Republicans Against Putin. Republicans Against Putin promotes the view that President Trump is not “stand[ing] up to [Vladimir] Putin” and calls for more aggressive investigation of the Russian role in the 2016 election.

DDT is a prime example of how the neoconservatives and traditional liberal interventionists have come together as it is in part funded by Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire co-founder of eBay who has provided DDT with $600,000 in two grants through his Democracy Fund Voice, also a 501(c)4. Omidyar is a political liberal who has given millions of dollars to progressive organizations and individuals since 1999. Indeed, he is regarded as a top funder of liberal causesin the United States and even globally together with Michael Bloomberg and George Soros. His Democracy Fund awarded $9 million in grants in 2015 alone.

Last week, the Omidyar-Kristol connection may have deepened with an announcement regarding the launch of the launch of a new webzine The Bulwark, which would clearly be at least somewhat intended to take the place of the recently deceased Weekly Standard. It is promoting itself as the center of the “Never Trump Resistance” and it is being assumed that at least some of the Omidyar money is behind it.

Iranian-born Omidyar’s relationship with Kristol is clearly based on the hatred that the two share regarding Donald Trump.

Omidyar has stated that Trump is a “dangerous authoritarian demagogue… endorsing Donald Trump immediately disqualifies you from any position of public trust.”

He has tweeted that Trump suffers from “failing mental capacity” and is both “corrupt and incapacitated.”

Omidyar is what he is – a hardcore social justice warrior who supports traditional big government and globalist liberal causes, most of which are antithetical to genuine conservatives. But what is interesting about the relationship with Kristol is that it also reveals what the neoconservatives are all about. Kristol and company have never been actual conservatives on social issues, a topic that they studiously avoid, and their foreign policy is based on two principles: creating a state of perpetual war based on fearmongering about foreign enemies while also providing unlimited support for Israel. Kristol hates Trump because he threatens the war agenda while Omidyar despises the president for traditional progressive reasons. That hatred is the tie that binds and it is why Bill Kristol, a man possessing no character and values whatsoever, is willing to take Pierre Omidyar’s money while Pierre is quite happy to provide it to destroy a common enemy, the President of the United States of America.

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