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America’s sectarian violence is a symptom of a lack of national confidence

Nations at peace with themselves tear down statues and fight over history far less than nations suffering an internal or external crisis.

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One of the strange knock-on effects of the recent events in Charlottesville in the American state of Virginia is that the American liberal-left has decided to pause from re-inventing the Cold War with the Soviet Union and has instead resurrected the American Civil War.

One could easily say that such things are symptomatic of a left that refuses to examine its own policies which have not only failed at the ballot box but have deeply divided America along sectarian lines.

For over a year, Russia was the enemy of the self-identified patriotic liberal left. It was Russians who were meddling in US elections, it was Russians who deprived Hillary Clinton of her ‘anointed’ election victory and everywhere in the world, it was Russians who were the proverbial bad guys whether they were fighting terrorism in Syria or building internal bridges across the Kerch Strait.

Now though, there is a new enemy which in terms of time is an old enemy: that enemy is fellow Americans. Just as modern Russia is not the Soviet Union neither technically nor ideologically, the states which once comprised the Confederate States of America are in the United States and have been since 1865. Nor are all of the so-called and at times self-defined alt-right from the American deep south, they are from every state in the US.

But the over all narrative is a re-invention, perhaps even a re-inversion of the US Civil War, even if the characters are slightly different. Where in the actual Cold War, it was generally the interventionist right as best represented by the John Birch Society that wanted to purge communist influence at home while opposing it abroad, in the new Cold War, it was the anti-religious liberal-left against Orthodox/moderately conservative modern Russia and everything it actually and more often than not supposedly stands for.

Today, in the repeat of the US Civil War, it is not really about preserving the historical memory of the 1860s, but rather, the conflicts revolve around using the Civil War as a jumping-off point to fight battles which did not exist in the 1860s.

The statures of Robert E. Lee and other Confederate generals and leaders are now defended by the literally reactionary right on the basis of opposing condemnation by the liberal-left that has less to do with what Robert E. Lee actually stood for than what they have retroactively made him out to stand for by the liberals.

Today, according to the left, Robert E. Lee stands not for the Confederacy per se, but for someone who opposes homosexual politics, opposes mass immigration, opposes Donald Trump’s border wall, opposes transvestites in the military and opposes Hillary Clinton. If this list sounds absurd, this is because the narrative is absurd. It is literally impossible for the long dead Lee to have opinions on issues and people which did not exist during his lifetime.

In this sense the alt-right have adopted Lee and his statues as the antithesis of what the left wants to stand for. The left has consequently achieved a success in forcing the right to react to their post-factual definition of what Robert E. Lee and his comrades stood for, as opposed to forcing the right to explain let alone defend what they actually stood for.  This is not historical revisionism but rather fake-history which both the left and those who react against the left have bought into. If people were arguing about statues of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton at least one could say the violence was connected to reality rather than distopian fiction disguised as real history.

It is not an infrequent occurrence however for nations searching for an explanation to a contemporary crisis to re-invent both the facts and collectively agreed upon history of events in order to justify, explain or even excuse a present day crisis.

All of this speaks to a country deeply ill at ease with itself and deeply lacking in confidence.

In the former East Germany, communist statues still line many streets in the former Soviet allied state. Most of these monuments remain erect as symbols of an era in time that will almost certainly not be revisited but can still be discussed in a manner that is mostly civilised. This is not to say that modern Germany is perfect. It is far from perfect and its current demographics shifts are making things only more difficult for many. But still the contrast with Poland is striking, especially since Poland faces fewer external crises than Germany.

By contrast, Poland is a country that has faced many more tensions than modern Germany. With an economy that has never reached modern German levels, with a current dispute raging with the EU which it joined much more recently than Germany (West Germany being a founding member) and with an anti-Russian narrative which promulgates a sense of paranoia that Russia is about to invade at any moment, even though this bears no relationship to present realities; many Poles feel apprehensive.

This apprehension has led Poles to make the decision to tear down Soviet War Memorials which commemorate the Red Army’s liberation of the country, a liberation which contrary to the present Polish mainstream narrative, was welcomed by millions of Poles who were happy to be free of fascist domination.

For a country that keeps telling itself (and others) that it is the strongest and most free in the world, America is looking far more like conflict ridden Poland than a modern Germany that has learned to cope with many aspects of its controversial 20th century past.

For decades, the statues of Robert E. Lee and other Confederate Americans stood in various southern states with little notice. There were occasional debates but they never resulted in the kind of bloodshed and civil strife of 2017.

What has changed? Is the ‘solid south’ rising again? Is state’s rights a big issue? Is the abhorrent institution of slavery back in fashion? The answer to all of these questions is ‘no’. In fact, Donald Trump talked less about state’s rights than just about any so-called right wing candidate in recent US electoral memory.

What has changed is that America has lost its confidence and a nation ill at ease with its present will often dig up the past both literally and metaphorically, rather than examine the past intelligently and civilly. In this sense America’s geo-political decline is having repercussions on the home front. Where America used to tear down statues in other people’s countries, its inability to do so eerily corresponds with fights over statues at home.

At this very uncivil moment in American domestic history, the Cold War has been replaced by an even older war, this time one which actually killed Americans and many of them at that.

 

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Russia ranks HIGHER than Switzerland in these areas of doing business

Some curious things happened with several businesspeople who attended World Cup events in Russia.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin

One of them was a distinctly renewed interest in doing business inside the country, and another was the realization to what extent perceptions have been tainted by media and political rhetoric directed against any real or imagined nastiness attributed to Russia these days.

These past few weeks have been invaluable, at the very least by affording a clear picture of Russia through which almost all anxiety-ridden preconceptions were illuminated and dispelled. More disturbing was the fact that the several businesspeople I was dealing with were furious. They were livid for being played for fools, and felt victimized by the dismally untrue picture painted about Russia and Russians in their home countries, both by their own politicians and the press.

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Most felt that they have been personally sanctioned by their own countries, betrayed through lack of clear unbiased information enabling them to participate and profit from Russia opportunities these past three growth years in spite of “sanctions”.

The door to doing good business in Russia has been and is open, and has been opening wider year after year. That is not just “highly likely”, but fact. Consistently improving structures, means and methods to conduct business in Russia sustainably, transparently and profitably are now part of the country’s DNA. It is a process, which has been worked on in the west for more than a century, and one, which Russia has only started these past 18 years.

True, there are sanctions, counter-sanctions, and regulations governing them that must be studied carefully. However if you are not a bank or doing business with those persons deemed worthy of being blacklisted by some countries “sanctions list”, in reality there are no obstacles that cannot be positively addressed and legally overcome despite the choir of political nay-sayers.

READ MORE: Russia just dumped $80 BILLION in US debt

The days of quickly turning over Russia opportunities into short-term cash are rapidly fading, they are a throwback to the 1990’s. Today the major and open opportunities are in the areas for Foreign Direct Investments. The nature of FDI is long term to make regularly recurring sustainable returns on investment.

Long term, Russia always was and increasingly confirms that it is a vibrant and attractive market. There is a significant consumer market with spending power, a well-educated workforce, a wealth of resources and the list goes on. The economic obstacles encountered have largely been imposed from without, and not from the dynamics and energies of the Russian economy itself.

Eventually sanctions will end, although the timeline is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile business continues, and any long-term engagement within Russia by establishing a working presence will yield both short and long-term investment rewards. These will only be amplified when the sanctions regimes are removed. In any event, these aspects are long-term investment decisions and one of the criteria in any risk assessment.

For some added perspective, Russia is ranked by the Financial Times as the No.2 country in Europe in terms of capital investments into Europe. It has a 2017 market share of 9% (US$ 15.9 billion) and includes 203 business projects. This is 2% higher than 2016 and better that 2014/2015 when sanctions were imposed.

Another item of perspective is the Country Risk Premium. All investors consider this when calculating the scope for long-term return on investments. What may surprise some is that Russia is no longer ranked as a very high-risk country. For comparisons sake: The risk premium for Germany is zero (no extra risk), the risk premium for Italy is 2.19%, and for Russia, it is 2.54%. When compared to politically popular investment destinations like Ukraine the risk premium is 10.4%  – food for thought. Bottom line is that the risks of investing in Russia are a smidge higher than investing in Italy.

Russia is ranked 35 among 190 economies in the ease of doing business, according to the latest World Bank annual ratings. The ranking of Russia improved to 35 in 2017 from 40 in 2016 and from 124 in 2010. It may also surprise some to learn that as concerns protecting the rights of minority investors, paying taxes, registering property and some other aspects of the World Bank comparisons, Russia comes out better than Switzerland (See: Rankings).

From operational standpoints, establishing an invested presence in Russia does not mean one must adopt Russian managerial methods or practices. The advantages for established foreign companies is that their management culture is readily applied and absorbed by a smart and willing workforce, enabling a seamless integration given the right training and tools.

The trend towards the ultimate globalization of business despite trade wars, tariffs, sanctions and counter-sanctions is clear. The internet of the planet, the blockchain and speed of information exchange makes it so whether we wish it or not. Personally, I hope that political globalization remains stillborn as geopolitics has a historical mandate to tinker with and play havoc with international trade.

Russia occupies a key strategic position between Europe and Asia. The “west” (US/Europe) have long had at times rather turbulent relationships with China. At the same time the Chinese are quite active investors in both the US and Europe, and western companies are often struggling to understand how to deal with China.

The answer to this conundrum is Russia: this is where East and West will ultimately come together with Russia playing a pivotal role in the relations between the west and China. At the end of the day, and taking the strategic long-term economic view, is what both Chinese and Western companies are investing in when they open their activities in Russia.

If long-term commitment and investment in Russia were simply a matter of transferring funds then I would not be bothering with this opinion article. Without a doubt, there are structural issues with investing in Russia. A still evolving and sometimes unclear rule of law, difficulties obtaining finance for investments directed towards Russia, the unique language and culture of business in the country. Nevertheless, companies that have an understanding and vision of global strategy will manage with these issues and have the means to mitigate them.

Money and other invested resources do not and should not play politics; any investment case when evaluated on objective financial criteria will reveal its fit, or lack of, within a company’s global strategic business objectives. The objective criteria for Russia over any long term horizon is both convincing and strong. This has been repeated by all of the businesspeople I have met with these past few weeks. Without doubt we shall see some new companies coming into the Russian market and objectively exploring the gains their playing fair business football here will yield.

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Media meltdown hits stupid levels as Trump and Putin hold first summit (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 58.

Alex Christoforou

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It was, and still remains a media meltdown of epic proportions as that dastardly ‘traitor’ US President Donald Trump decided to meet with that ‘thug’ Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Of course these are the simplistic and moronic epitaphs that are now universally being thrown around on everything from Morning Joe to Fox and Friends.

Mainstream media shills, and even intelligent alternative news political commentators, are all towing the same line, “thug” and “traitor”, while no one has given much thought to the policy and geo-political realities that have brought these two leaders together in Helsinki.

RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou provide some real news analysis of the historic Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki, without the stupid ‘thug’ and ‘traitor’ monikers carelessly being thrown around by the tools that occupy much of the mainstream media. Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

And if you though that one summit between Putin and Trump was more than enough to send the media into code level red meltdown, POTUS Trump is now hinting (maybe trolling) at a second Putin summit.

Via Zerohedge

And cue another ‘meltdown’ in 3…2…1…

While arguments continue over whether the Helsinki Summit was a success (end of Cold War 2.0) or not (most treasonous president ever), President Trump is convinced “The Summit was a great success,” and hints that there will be a second summit soon, where they will address: “stopping terrorism, security for Israel, nuclear proliferation, cyber attacks, trade, Ukraine, Middle East peace, North Korea and more.”

However, we suspect what will ‘trigger’ the liberal media to melt down is his use of the Stalin-esque term “enemy of the people” to describe the Fake News Media once again…

 

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While US seeks to up the ante on pressure on the DPRK, Russia proposes easing sanctions

These proposals show the dichotomy between the philosophy of US and Russian foreign policy

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The United States last week accused the DPRK of violating refined petroleum caps imposed as a part of UN nuclear sanctions dating back to 2006, and is therefore submitting a proposal to cut all petroleum product sales to North Korea.

The Trump administration is keen on not only preserving pressure on North Korea over its nuclear arms development, but in increasing that pressure even as DPRK Chairman, Kim Jong-Un, is serially meeting with world leaders in a bid to secure North Korea’s security and potential nuclear disarmament, a major move that could deescalate tensions in the region, end the war with the South, and ease global apprehensions about the North’s nuclear arsenal.

Meanwhile, Russia is proposing to the UNSC sanctions relief in some form due to the North’s expressed commitment to nuclear disarmament in the light of recent developments.

Reuters reports:

MOSCOW/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Russia’s envoy to North Korea said on Wednesday it would be logical to raise the question of easing sanctions on North Korea with the United Nations Security Council, as the United States pushes for a halt to refined petroleum exports to Pyongyang.

“The positive change on the Korean peninsula is now obvious,” said the ambassador, Alexander Matsegora, according to the RIA news agency, adding that Russia was ready to help modernize North Korea’s energy system if sanctions were lifted and if Pyongyang can find funding for the modernization.

The U.N. Security Council has unanimously boosted sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, banning exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capping imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

China tried late last month to get the Security Council to issue a statement praising the June 12 Singapore meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and expressing its “willingness to adjust the measures on the DPRK in light of the DPRK’s compliance with the resolutions.”

North Korea’s official name is Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

But the United States blocked the statement on June 28 given “ongoing and very sensitive talks between the United States and the DPRK at this time,” diplomats said. The same day, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi about the importance of sanctions enforcement.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due to informally brief U.N. Security Council envoys along with South Korea and Japan on Friday.

Diplomats say they expect Pompeo to stress the need to maintain pressure on North Korea during his briefing on Friday.

In a tweet on Wednesday Trump said he elicited a promise from Russian President Vladimir Putin to help negotiate with North Korea but did not say how. He also said: “There is no rush, the sanctions remain!”

The United States accused North Korea last week of breaching a U.N. sanctions cap on refined petroleum by making illicit transfers between ships at sea and demanded an immediate end to all sales of the fuel.

The United States submitted the complaint to the U.N. Security Council North Korea sanctions committee, which is due to decide by Thursday whether it will tell all U.N. member states to halt all transfers of refined petroleum to Pyongyang.

Such decisions are made by consensus and some diplomats said they expected China or Russia to delay or block the move.

When asked on June 13 about whether sanctions should be loosened, Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said: “We should be thinking about steps in that direction because inevitably there is progress on the track that should be reciprocal, that should be a two-way street. The other side should see encouragement to go forward.”

The proposals of both the United States and Russia are likely to be vetoed by each other, resulting no real changes, but what it displays is the foreign policy positions of both nuclear powers towards the relative position of the DPRK and its rhetorical move towards denuclearization. The US demonstrates that its campaign of increased pressure on the North is necessary to accomplishing the goal of a denuclearized Korean peninsula, while Russia’s philosophy on the matter is to show a mutual willingness to follow through on verbal commitment with a real show of action towards an improved relationship, mirroring on the ground what is happening in politics.

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