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Alexis Tsipras puts on a necktie, places noose around Greece’s neck (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 36.

Alex Christoforou

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While many Syria party members hailed Tsipras’ victory, the reality is that Greece will be stuck in its bailout for years to come.

The terms of Greece’s exit make it extremely difficult for the next government to bring life to an ailing economy. Greece may have exited the Troika austerity plan, only to enter a new austerity outside of ECB and EU protection.

After long insisting he would only wear a necktie when Greece’s debt problem was solved, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras finally put on a tie last Friday, after he formally announced Greece’s exit form years of eurozone austerity.

Tsipras said…

“Today is an important day for all, but primarily it belongs to those who for eight years was viciously hit by the crisis, for those who saw a lifetime of toils destroyed and those who carried the burden for the country.”

Eurozone finance ministers offered Greece a 10-year deferral and maturities extension on a large chunk of past loans as well as 15 billion euros in new credit to ensure Athens can stand on its own feet after it exits its bailout in August.

Greece’s has a debt mountain equal to approximately 180% of GDP, the highest in the 19-country eurozone.

Greeks have seen their economy shrink by a quarter, unemployment hit record high and salaries and pensions slashed by about 40% since first falling into crisis in 2010.

Greece has already undergone three international bailouts.

A smiling Tsipras addressed members from his radical left Syriza, and right coalition partner Independent Greeks…

“Bets are made to be won. It’s a bit difficult (wearing the tie) but I will get used to it.”

Tsipras publicly removed the tie about half an hour later.

Fofi Gennimata, head of Socialist PASOK party, was not impressed with Tsipras’ theatrics: “The noose around the neck of Greeks remains.” 

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss whether Greece’s exit from austerity is really an exit at all, or just another political ploy with no real economic relief in sight for the Greek people.

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Via Bloomberg

In a way, the debt relief deal Greece has received as it exits its bailout makes good sense: It keeps the country on a tight leash, all but eliminating the possibility that it will go on a borrowing spree in the financial markets and misspend the money as it’s done before. On the other hand, the scheme gets superimposed uncomfortably onto the country’s political cycle: It puts the next government on the spot, making a backlash against it all but inevitable.

The deal hammered out by the Eurogroup, comprising the euro zone finance ministers, extends by 10 years the maturities of 130.9 billion euros ($152.4 billion) in old bailout loans, which make up about 40 percent of Greece’s total debt. They are already due in more than 30 years, but the new deal also defers interest payments on them by a decade. Besides, Greece gets 15 billion euros in cheap funding (the average rate for these bailout loans was 1.62 percent as of the end of March) that it can use to repay expensive debt to the International Monetary Fund, some 2.6 billion euros of which is due by the end of 2019.

It’s at the higher end of what was expected given Germany’s decidedly ungenerous stance on Greek debt, and it’ll let Greece tap the markets, though as Bloomberg Opinion’s Marcus Ashworth writes, it’s not clear investors will turn up in their numbers. The debt deferments are contingent on a large primary surplus (before debt repayments and interest) of 3.5 percent until 2022 and then 2.2 percent until 2060, as well as a whole program of tough economic and governance measures, which will be controlled by the creditors in the course of quarterly inspections. In other words, the country’s exit from the bailout program is far from clean.

It’s easy, therefore, for the political rivals of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to claim that Greece doesn’t get much out of the deal and that it’s not really a bailout exit. “Nothing exciting,” Costis Hatzidakis, vice president of the opposition New Democracy party grumbled about the exit terms. He described them as putting Greece in a “fish bowl” until 2022 with enough cash to pay off maturing debt but not much ability to borrow privately: The interest Greece has to pay on bonds is still too high at about 4.2 percent.

That fits the recent assessment of a group of European economists led by Jeromin Zettelmeyer of the Peterson Institute of International Economics. They wrote:

In the best-case scenario, Greece would maintain high primary surpluses until 2022 or 2023, but a longer period of exceptional fiscal discipline, as imagined by the Eurogroup, is very unlikely. By the late 2020s, it will be clear that the Greek debt dynamics are again unsustainable. At that point, however, the costs of restoring Greek debt sustainability will be much higher than they are today, because a large new stock of expensive private sector debts will have accumulated in the meantime. These debts would either need to be restructured or — in effect — repaid by the European official sector.

New Democracy isn’t just making populist noises. It’s highly likely that it will run the next government, to be elected by October, 2019. It has led the polls since 2016, gradually expanding its lead over Tsipras’s leftist Syriza bloc. Tsipras  appears resigned to a loss next year and mainly interested in assuring his legacy: That would explain his recent efforts to resolve the dispute with neighboring Macedonia over its name, to which Greek governments have long claimed the former Yugoslav republic has no right. The compromise has led to suggestions that Tsipras deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, since the name deal would remove a major obstacle to the entire former Yugoslavia’s ending up in the European Union, but it doesn’t help Tsipras at home where most Greeks oppose it.

If the center-right New Democracy wins next year and consolidates power, quick economic gains will be required if it hopes to keep some modicum of public trust. After all the hardship Greece has endured, the roughly 2 percent a year growth the Bloomberg consensus forecast promises the country in 2018, 2019 and 2020 is painfully insufficient. But how does one stimulate growth while forced to maintain large primary surpluses and only borrow at rates that can make Greece’s debt look unmanageable again by the end of the electoral cycle in 2023?

Ironically, New Democracy, which lost power to Syriza in 2015 because Tsipras promised an end to austerity and a debt write-off, is now in Syriza’s position, bemoaning Tsipras’s inability to reduce the face value of the debt and Greece’s lack of leverage in speeding up economic growth. If it tries to run up Greece’s private debt to spur investment, it may get slapped on the wrist or create a new debt crisis for the next four-year parliamentary period.

The heavy-handed bailouts may have helped keep Greece running and in the euro zone, but, just as their critics have claimed, they have rendered the Greek democracy somewhat redundant. Officially out of the bailout program, Greece still cannot really make its own policy. It may be doomed to a cycle of protest votes, weak governments, and, unless these governments are prudent, debt crises. Breaking that cycle might just be a goal that would justify allowing some moral hazard; it’s just hard to imagine the creditors trusting Greece again enough to loosen the leash.

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Crimea: The Geopolitical Jewel Russia Continues to Polish

As Putin continues to polish his Black Sea jewel, Europe has to decide if it is going to continue playing the U.S’s games over Ukraine or begin the next phase of its independence.

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Authored by Tom Luongo via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


With all that is happening in the world Crimea has taken a bit of a backseat recently. Yes, the US, EU and Canada just added more sanctions on Russia via the odious Magnitsky legislation but this is inconsequential.

There’s been a flurry of good news coming out of Crimea and the Black Sea recently that bears discussion. Let’s start with the most important. President Vladimir Putin was in Crimea earlier this week to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the peninsula’s reunification with Russia. There he also officially inaugurated two major upgrades to Crimea’s power grid.

Located in Simferopol and Sevastopol, two new power plants will produce 940 megawatts and secure Crimea’s energy needs for now and into the future.

Power has been Crimea’s Achilles’ heel since breaking off from Ukraine in 2014. It received almost 90% of its power from the mainland. In November 2015, the trunk lines into Crimea were sabotaged by Ukrainian nationalist radicals, encouraged by President Petro Poroshenko plunging it into darkness as winter took hold.

Does this sound familiar? A place that defies US edicts geopolitically is first hit with a full trade embargo, sanctions and threatened militarily by proxies before having its electricity shut off?

*Cough* Venezuela *Cough*

And there are reports that the US has game-planned a similar fate for Iran as well. For Crimea it was easy because of the single-point-of-failure, the trunks from the mainland. For Venezuela it was as well, with the Guri dam, which affected nearly 70 percent of the country.

So, Putin timing the fifth anniversary of reunification with the announcement of the plants moving to full operational status was yet another smooth bit of international political maneuvering.

A not-so-subtle poke in the eye of the Gang Who Can’t Sanction Straight in D.C. as well as lame duck Poroshenko. Elections are at the end of the month and this celebration by Russia and Crimea will not sit well with many Ukrainians, especially the diaspora here in the US which is virulently anti-Putin in my experience.

Secure and stable power generation is a hallmark of a first world territory. Without that economic growth and stability are impossible. This is why to first help stabilize the situation in Crimea after the blackout Russia brought in 400 MW of power across the Kerch Strait from Krasnodor.

Tying Crimea to the mainland via the Kerch Strait bridge was a masterstroke by Putin. The initial power lines were simply a necessity. For those that complain he isn’t doing enough to counter US and European aggression need only look at the Kerch Strait bridge.

Not only did the Russians not seek international approval given the nearly universal refusal to recognize Crimea as Russian they built the thing in a time frame that defies description.

Imagine if this had been an EU project. They would still be debating the initial engineering plans and the political effects on some protected minority.

Not only does it open up the Eastern Black Sea to trade via Crimea but it ends the use of the Sea of Azov as a potential staging ground for naval provocations as last fall’s incident proved. Ukraine is cut off from acting aggressively and cannot count on any help from the US and Europe.

Moreover, Crimea is now permanently Russia’s. And every bit of infrastructure Russia builds there ties the two further together and weakens any bonds Crimea had with Ukraine. The resultant growth and modernization will make its way, economically and culturally back into southern Ukraine and erode the hard border over time.

This is far more important than striking out and metaphorically punching Poroshenko in the mouth, that many of Putin’s detractors wish for.

Presidents change, after all. Patience and attrition is how you beat an aggressive, distant enemy like the US

To remind everyone just how insane the Trump White House has become on matters international, no less than Vice President Mike Pence lobbied Germany to provoke another naval incident at the Kerch Strait.

If there was ever an example of how little Trump’s gang of moldy neocons think of Europe it is this bit of news. In effect, Pence was saying, “We can’t start a war with Russia because it would go nuclear, but you can because Russia can’t live without your trade.”

This coming after the US unilaterally pulled out of the INF treaty and is now flying nuclear bombers to eastern Europe. The message is clear. If the EU doesn’t get with this open-ended belligerent program against Russia and China of John Bolton’s they will be the ones paying the price when chaos breaks out.

On the other side there is Putin; building bridges, pipelines, power plants and roads.

He’s making it clear what the future holds not only for Europe but the Middle East, central Asia and India. We will defend Crimea at all costs, develop it not only into a tourist destination but also a major trade hub as well.

You are more than welcome to join us. But, we don’t need you.

These power plants will raise Crimea’s power output well beyond its current needs, allowing first export of power as well as providing the foundation for future growth.

And as if it weren’t coordinated in any way, the Chinese, on the morning of Putin’s speech, announced that Crimea would be an excellent fit for investment projects attached to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

That’s according to the head of the association of Chinese compatriots on the peninsula, Ge Zhili. “Our organization is bolstering cooperation ties, exchanges and friendly contacts with the Crimean society,” he said at an event dedicated to the fifth anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with Russia, which was held in the Russian Embassy in Beijing on Monday.

It is also ready to contribute to the establishment of “reliable partner ties” and the explanation of legal details of business cooperation with Crimea, Ge Zhili said. “The Chinese society hopes for the development of friendly cooperation with Crimea; we are ready to overcome difficulties for fruitful results.”

Again this is a direct challenge to the US who has Crimea under strict sanctions in the West. China is happy now to move forward with integrating Crimea into its plans. It’s just another example of how Russia and China simply ignore Trump’s fulminations and move on.

I can’t wait until I get to write this article all over again, this time about North Korea, now that Bolton has thrown Russian and Chinese assistance in getting North Korea to the negotiating table back in their face by destroying the Hanoi talks.

This announcement is not to be underestimated given that Chinese Premier Xi Jinping is in Rome this week to open up relations with the new Italian government. Five Star Movement’s Leader Luigi Di Maio said he would welcome becoming a part of BRI, much to the consternation of Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as his coalition partner Lega Leader Matteo Salvini.

It’s already well known that Salvini is interested in ending sanctions on Crimea and re-opening trade with Russia. Italy is desperate for new markets and opportunities, currently stifled under the euro itself as well as Germany’s insistence on austerity hollowing out Italy’s economy and its future prospects.

These issues as well as energy security ones are coming to a head this year with Brexit, the European Parliamentary elections in May and the completion of the Nordstream 2 pipeline later this year.

As Putin continues to polish his Black Sea jewel, Europe has to decide if it is going to continue playing the U.S’s games over Ukraine or begin the next phase of its independence. Salvini will lead a Euroskeptic revolt within the European Parliament in May. It may be big enough to finally defy Merkel and end EU sanctions on Russia over Crimea.

At that point the US will also have a choice, burn down the world economy with even more sanctions, tariffs and acts of war or accept the facts on the ground.

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Moment of Truth on Second Referendum: The Plan All Along or a Head Fake?

If we assume a third meaningful vote goes ahead next week that included the provision for a second referendum, and that it passes with a majority, the motivation for extending Article 50 would then be clear.

The Duran

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Authored by Steven Guinness:


The news that Theresa May has officially requested an extension to Article 50 until the end of June has been in the making since the European Court of Justice announced in December 2018 that the UK has the right to unilaterally revoke the article at any point prior to the UK leaving the EU.

In an article published at the time, I argued that the ECJ’s decision was designed to begin the process of the government legislating for a second referendum. To quickly summarise what has happened since, in the past three months the Brexit withdrawal agreement was rejected twice by the House of Commons, Theresa May survived a series of no confidence votes, parliament stated its opposition to both a no deal scenario and holding a second referendum before supporting an extension to Article 50, and finally speaker John Bercow announced that the government would only be allowed to put the Brexit withdrawal agreement to parliament again if it contained a ‘new‘ proposition.

Regular readers will know that since last year my position on Brexit has been consistent, in that I believe a no deal exit from the EU is the most likely outcome and that a ‘People’s Vote‘ could be used to facilitate this eventuality.

One explanation for why the Prime Minister has requested only a three month extension to Article 50 is that it would avoid the UK having to take part in upcoming EU parliamentary elections. Whilst this is possible, I do not think it is the primary reason.

Last week, Independent MP Sarah Wollaston tabled an amendment that called for Article 50 to be extended and for a second referendum on Brexit to be held. The amendment was comprehensively defeated, with the majority of the opposition Labour party abstaining from the vote. Elements of the party and The People’s Vote campaign went on record as saying that the timing of the amendment was too soon, and so as a result they did not rally behind it.

As with other supposed set backs to another vote, critics rounded on the news believing that the result killed off any prospect of another referendum from materialising. As I have stressed before, this interpretation is I believe premature.

On the same day as Wollaston’s defeated amendment, parliament voted by a majority to take no deal ‘off the table‘. But this was only in relation to the exit date of March 29th. It did not account for an extension of Article 50 and with that a new exit date.

It also needs to be stressed that the motions against a no deal and a second public vote were non-binding on the government. What neither did is definitively rule out the possibilities.

A month ago I wrote how on March 23rd a ‘Put it to the people‘ march is taking place in London that will call for a referendum on the government’s Brexit withdrawal agreement. With just a couple of days to go, the line from the European Union is that a request to extended Article 50 would only be granted by its 27 member states for a specific purpose. To extend in order to just give more time for negotiations on an non-negotiable deal would not be acceptable.

Tied in with this was House of Commons speaker John Bercow’s announcement that he would dismiss a motion for a third meaningful vote on the withdrawal agreement unless it was markedly different from what has already been rejected.

Asked by MP Geraint Davies if a meaningful vote would be ‘intrinsically different‘ if it included the provision for the final say going to a public vote, Bercow responded by saying that he would look at the specifics but would ultimately abide by the principle that the proposition should be ‘different‘ and ‘not the same or substantially the same‘.

In other words, Bercow has left open the possibility. It is highly unlikely that either he or the European Union would reject a proposal that would legislate for an act of ‘democracy‘.

With the last ‘People’s Vote‘ march this Saturday, it appears to now be designed to move sentiment in favour of a second referendum prior to the original exit day of March 29th. Potential evidence for this comes from EU Commission President Jean Claude Junker, who has strongly intimated that a decision on whether to grant an extension to Article 50 will not be taken until next week,which means after the referendum march. Assuming an extension is approved, the EU may then go on to state that it is a one time deal to accommodate a public vote and that it cannot be extended for a second time.

As for Theresa May’s proposal of extending Article 50 until June 30th, EU Council President Donald Tusk has said a short extension is possible but would be ‘conditional on a positive vote on the withdrawal agreement in the House of Commons‘.

Many parliamentarians who twice rejected the withdrawal agreement have indicated that they would support it a third time round if it included the proposition for the public to have the final say. This seems to be the direction of travel and the only way in which the deal would be accepted by the speaker as a new proposition.

Of more interest to me, though, is the motivation behind an extension to Article 50 that would only last until June 30th.

It was a few of weeks prior to Donald Trump securing the U.S. presidency that I first mentioned how when the 2016 EU referendum took place, it occurred at the same time central bank chiefs were gathering in Basel for the Bank for International Settlements annual conference. This is a conference that always takes place in the latter part of June.

At the start of January I raised the suggestion that a June referendum could become a reality. My suspicion is that if a second vote goes ahead, it would take the form of a streamlined campaign, one that would offer the public the options of supporting Theresa May’s deal (assuming it still stands), remaining in the EU or leaving on World Trade Organisation terms. This would mean a second referendum taking place in around twelve weeks time.

Should this be the case, then the vote would likely coincide with the movements of the BIS once more. And if my prediction of a no deal exit from the EU is proven correct, the economic fallout from this scenario would require close coordination between central banks, given that currency and equity markets would be heavily impacted.

What Brexit and Trump’s victory showed is that in the background key globalist institutions were convening. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that moves to extend Article 50 are coinciding with the EU Council Summit on March 21st and 22nd – the same two days where a meeting in Cambridge is scheduled between the BIS, the Bank of England, Cambridge University and the University of Basel. The topic? ‘New Economics of Exchange Rate Adjustment‘. The Bank of England and the Federal Reserve also meet this week to decide on interest rates.

If we assume a third meaningful vote goes ahead next week that included the provision for a second referendum, and that it passes with a majority, the motivation for extending Article 50 would then be clear.

Something else to consider is that under this scenario, those in parliament who want to remain in the EU would have to vote in support of leaving the union just so they can secure a referendum for which they would campaign to remain in the bloc. The sense of betrayal already felt by swathes of the electorate would only be heightened if they witnessed MP’s using the deal as nothing more than an opportunity to cancel Brexit altogether.

The next round of theatrics would be over the question on the ballot paper. Recall that in previous weeks the likes of Lord Kerr (author of Article 50 and a member of the Executive Committee of the Trilateral Commission), Chuka Umunna, founder of Best for Britain Gina Miller and ex Prime Minister Tony Blair have all raised the prospect of the ballot containing three options – one of which would be for a ‘hard‘ Brexit.

The popular consensus is that another referendum would offer just two options, to either leave with the negotiated deal or remain in the EU. This would eliminate from the campaign the possibility of a no deal Brexit, something which I have reasoned is beneficial to globalists as they would use it to scapegoat the vehicles of resurgent nationalism / protectionism as being responsible for a major impending economic downturn, but also as an opportunity to further centralise power.

For this reason, I expect a no deal option would be presented to the British public. As in 2016, opinion polls all point to the electorate wanting to remain in the EU. They were wrong then and I believe would be wrong again.

A new leave or ‘hard‘ Brexit campaign would play upon the desires of many to ‘take back control‘ of the United Kingdom from the ‘elites‘ and to talk up the prospects of the country, whereas a remain campaign runs the risk of being condescending to the public by pushing the narrative that they were conned the first time round, or worse were ignorant in their societal outlook.

In the middle would sit Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement. If indeed it was carried forward to a referendum, it is feasible that it would become a theatrical tug of war between hard ‘Brexiteers‘ and remainers to convert those minded to support the deal over to their side.

Growing public sentiment is that the establishment have been doing everything it can to overturn the first referendum result. Faith in politicians has never been lower than it is today. In such a febrile atmosphere, if you give voters the option of voicing their discontent through the ballot box, the chances are that they will deliver in kind.

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Trump Demands Tribute from NATO Vassals

The one thing that we should all understand, and which Trump perfectly and clearly understands, is that the members of NATO are a captive audience.

Strategic Culture Foundation

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Authored by Tim Kirby via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Regardless of whether one loves or hates President Trump at least we can say that his presidency has a unique flavor and is full of surprises. Bush and Obama were horribly dull by comparison. Trump as a non-politician from the world of big (real estate) business and media has a different take on many issues including NATO.

Many, especially in Russia were hoping that “The Donald’s” campaign criticism of NATO would move towards finally putting an end to this anti-Russian alliance, which, after the fall of Communism really has no purpose, as any real traditional military threats to Europe have faded into history. However, Trump as President of the United States has to engage in the “realpolitik” of 21st century America and try to survive and since Trump seems rather willing to lie to get what he wants, who can really say which promises from his campaign were a shoot and which were a work.

So as it stands now Trump’s recent decision to maintain and build US/NATO bases across the world “and make country X pay for it” could mean anything from him trying to keep his campaign promises in some sort of skewed way, to an utter abandonment of them and submission to the swamp. Perhaps it could simply be his business instincts taking over in the face of “wasteful spending”. Making allies have to pay to have US/NATO forces on their territory is a massive policy shift that one could only predict coming from the unpredictable 45th President.

The one thing that we should all understand, and which Trump perfectly and clearly understands, is that the members of NATO (and other “allies”) are a captive audience, especially Germany, Japan and South Korea, which “coincidentally” are the first set of countries that will have to pay the “cost + 50%” to keep bases and US soldiers on their soil. Japan’s constitution, written primarily by American occupation forces forbids them from having a real military which is convenient for Trump’s plan. South Korea, although a very advanced and wealthy nation has no choice but to hide behind the US might because if it were to disappear overnight, then Gangnam would be filled with pictures of the Kim family within a few weeks.

In the past with regard to these three countries NATO has had to keep up the illusion of wanting to “help” them and work as “partners” for common defense as if nuclear and economic titan America needs countries like them to protect itself. Trump whether consciously or not is changing the dynamic of US/NATO occupation of these territories to be much more honest. His attitude seems to be that the US has the possibility to earn a lot of money from a worldwide mafia-style protection scam. Vassals have no choice but to pay the lord so Trump wants to drop the illusions and make the military industrial complex profitable again and God bless him for it. This level of honesty in politics is refreshing and it reflects the Orange Man’s pro-business and “America will never be a socialist country” attitude. It is blunt and ideologically consistent with his worldview.

On the other hand, one could look at this development as a possible move not to turn NATO into a profitable protection scam but as a means to covertly destroy it. Lies and illusion in politics are very important, people who believe they are free will not rebel even if they have no freedom whatsoever. If people are sure their local leaders are responsible for their nation they will blame them for its failings rather than any foreign influence that may actually be pulling the real strings.

Even if everyone in Germany, Japan and South Korea in their subconscious knows they are basically occupied by US forces it is much harder to take action, than if the “lord” directly demands yearly tribute. The fact that up to this point US maintains its bases on its own dime sure adds to the illusion of help and friendship. This illusion is strong enough for local politicians to just let the status quo slide on further and further into the future. Nothing is burning at their feet to make them act… having to pay cost + 50% could light that fire.

Forcing the locals to pay for these bases changes the dynamic in the subconscious and may force people’s brains to contemplate why after multiple-generations the former Axis nations still have to be occupied. Once occupation becomes expensive and uncomfortable, this drops the illusion of friendship and cooperation making said occupation much harder to maintain.

South Korea knows it needs the US to keep out the North but when being forced to pay for it this may push them towards developing the ability to actually defend themselves. Trump’s intellectual “honesty” in regards to NATO could very well plant the necessary intellectual seeds to not just change public opinion but make public action against US/NATO bases in foreign countries. Japan has had many protests over the years against US bases surging into the tens of thousands. This new open vassal status for the proud Japanese could be the straw to break the camel’s back.

Predicting the future is impossible. But it is clear that, changing the fundamental dynamic by which the US maintains foreign bases in a way that will make locals financially motivated to have them removed, shall significantly affect the operations of US forces outside the borders of the 50 States and make maintaining a global presence even more difficult, but perhaps this is exactly what the Orange Man wants or is just too blind to see.

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