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Are the student demonstrations a sign of a sea change or staged political activism?

This time the debate of Second Amendment rights vs some measure of “gun control” has gotten extremely murky

Seraphim Hanisch

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It is a nasty thing to get political about matters that involve the loss of life of children. The United States, and indeed, many people from the rest of the world who observed the news of the horrific school massacre in Florida not two weeks ago, all are shocked and horrified. Even for staunch supporters of the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms, there seems to be something about this matter that has gotten attention in a way not seen in previous occurrences.

Why this is so is unclear, but that, too has led to some speculation that political activism has seized on this tragedy to advance a leftist cause, that cause being some sort of change regarding guns. What that change actually is supposed to be is less than clear.

President Donald Trump has really handled this in a masterful way thus far. First, he went to Florida to thank the people involved in responding to the shooting. Then he had the students and families up to the White House for a listening session, where he could hear, first hand, what the students and parents have to say about this. He has expressed openness to doing something, and he started with signing an order to make “bump stocks” illegal.

(A bump stock is an add-on device to the stock of a semi-automatic weapon, such as the vilified AR-15, that allows it to act much more “automatic” by using the guns own recoil to load the next round. This device was used in the awful Las Vegas massacre.)

However, the President is honest enough to know that this is not the “fix” for the problem. But what more needs to be done is unclear, and so proposals, even highly criticized ones, like arming teachers or having US military veterans guard schools, are all being fielded at this time.

This event has brought on a very emotional activist movement. It is a little difficult to trust that it is so organic as it appears, because there is a great deal of organized and frankly disruptive action that makes the movement appear more like a post-Ferguson riot than a dignified statement.

Maybe this is because we have lost the ability as a nation to make dignified statements, or maybe it is really that a tipping point has been reached that says that something very significant must change, even to having an honest and fearless look at the Second Amendment itself.

In the New York Post’s “Opinion” section, retired Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters gives his take on the matter of “assault weapons” and why he believes they should be banned. Col. Peters’ take is “tuned” in his piece by his own recollection as a military man, using all sorts of weapons to do the job that military men and women do – kill people and break things. He did this as well as any soldier should, of course. His take is that private citizens should have no need of either automatic or semi-automatic weapons that can be modified for automatic effects. His reference to the Second Amendment is interesting, in that he points out that the whole text of the Amendment is not often considered. That text is:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

The italicized phrase is the part he points out – as Peters believes the support of a militia is what is needed, and that this is why people should have the right to keep and bear arms.

The Colt AR-15 (ArmaLite Rifle) semi-automatic rifle

But here is where he seems to depart from the truth of this matter. He goes on to say that the militia referred to is the “Reserves” or the “National Guard.” This statement is fraught with peril, for these two groups are branches of the US Military. They are not militia. Militia is defined as “a military force that is raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency.” But it is also defined as “a military force that engages in rebel or terrorist activities, typically in opposition to a regular army.”

While we may flinch at the word terrorist, let’s look at the American Revolution from the perspective of the Redcoats between 1765 and 1783. Militia did supplement the Continental Army of the colonies, but they acted as modern day guerilla fighters and terrorists might be accused of. And further, the argument of the framers of the Constitution upheld the idea that this ability to allow Americans to keep and bear arms was in case of a tyrannical government arising in the US, which would probably make use of the standing and reservist military forces to control the populace:

It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the last successful resistance of this country against the British arms, will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it. Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. [James Madison, c.f. Federalist 46]

And this sentiment was further amplified by Alexander Hamilton:

If circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow-citizens. This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, if it should exist. [Federalist 29]

The context of the times further lends witness to the thoughts of these two men. During President Obama’s time, many people in the USA were afraid of the government trying to seize total control of the populace, and so “preppers” abounded througout the USA. Many very reasonable people believed that Obama was the kiss of death to the Republic. Those same people do not think the same way about President Trump, and no doubt, based on Col. Peter’s other opinion pieces, he is a big Trump fan.

CNN’s townhall event on 21 February 2018

So, then, why the odd stance on gun control?

The simplest answer to this is that there is no answer that has really made itself clear for this problem. Part of this lies in the extreme emotion this time around, which is absolutely justified. But any wise person knows that it is not a good idea to make snap decisions based on anger, or fear. And right now, the expression of many who are speaking out in the US is an expression of anger, fear, terrible grief and sadness.

Again, all of these ARE justified. But activists on any side of this issue, whether advocating for more guns in more people’s hands, such as teachers and veterans patrolling schools, or fewer to no guns, as in changing the Second Amendment – both sides are attempting once again to play on emotion to make a decision that could endanger many more people.

While the students have walkouts demanding “Change!” I do not think they themselves know or agree on what that change should be, and what is worse, the fact that they are young and easily impressionable by those with carefully crafted emotion-grabbing lines means they are susceptible to being terribly misled. The final thought on this comes from the observation of the news on the school walkouts, with the headlines like “Mass. Students Are Organizing Walkouts, Calling for Change in Gun Laws“, or “Students Take Charge of Gun-safety Movement with Some Help from Existing Groups.”

A right analysis of these headlines should honestly read “Activists Take Advantage of Student Imagery to Promote X”, and X seems to mean something against that Second Amendment most of the time.

The most overt example of this of course happened with the help of CNN on Wednesday Night at a network-hosted “town hall” event that was hosted by Jake Tapper. A young student who survived the shooting was given a scripted question for him to ask in the event, and told to stick to that script. He appeared on Fox News to talk about this, but this is likely not the only incidence of this. Further, the town hall directly played on the emotion of the parents and kids to play the nation who viewed it, and although there were some revealing moments, this program was exploiting the crisis in classic fashion.

Young people are the future of our nation. But when they are used by ANYONE to promote some political point, especially when they are used at the time they are most vulnerable, such as now, is reprehensible. It seems very wrong when children are put “in control” and it is illogical and unsound, theatrical though it may be. It is also a sad sign of the sickness which continues to assail American society, that the adults in the room are nary to be found, except for maybe one or two.

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European Court of Justice rules Britain free to revoke Brexit unilaterally

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Britain can reverse Article 50.

RT

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Via RT…


The UK is free to unilaterally revoke a notification to depart from the EU, the European Court has ruled. The judicial body said this could be done without changing the terms of London’s membership in the bloc.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) opined in a document issued on Monday that Britain can reverse Article 50, which stipulates the way a member state leaves the bloc. The potentially important ruling comes only one day before the House of Commons votes on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the EU.

“When a Member State has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union, as the UK has done, that Member State is free to revoke unilaterally that notification,” the court’s decision reads.

By doing so, the respective state “reflects a sovereign decision to retain its status as a Member State of the European Union.”

That said, this possibility remains in place “as long as a withdrawal agreement concluded between the EU and that Member State has not entered into force.” Another condition is: “If no such agreement has been concluded, for as long as the two-year period from the date of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU.”

The case was opened when a cross-party group of British politicians asked the court whether an EU member such as the UK can decide on its own to revoke the withdrawal process. It included Labour MEPs Catherine Stihler and David Martin, Scottish MPs Joanna Cherry Alyn Smith, along with Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer.

They argued that unilateral revocation is possible and believe it could provide an opening to an alternative to Brexit, namely holding another popular vote to allow the UK to remain in the EU.

“If the UK chooses to change their minds on Brexit, then revoking Article 50 is an option and the European side should make every effort to welcome the UK back with open arms,” Smith, the SNP member, was quoted by Reuters.

However, May’s environment minister, Michael Gove, a staunch Brexit supporter, denounced the ECJ ruling, insisting the cabinet will not reverse its decision to leave. “We will leave on March 29, [2019]” he said, referring to the date set out in the UK-EU Brexit deal.

In the wake of the landmark vote on the Brexit deal, a group of senior ministers threatened to step down en masse if May does not try to negotiate a better deal in Brussels, according to the Telegraph. The ministers demanded that an alternative deal does not leave the UK trapped within the EU customs union indefinitely.

On Sunday, Will Quince resigned as parliamentary private secretary in the Ministry of Defense, saying in a Telegraph editorial that “I do not want to be explaining to my constituents why Brexit is still not over and we are still obeying EU rules in the early 2020s or beyond.”

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Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


On November 25, two artillery boats of the Gyurza-M class, the Berdiansk and Nikopol, one tugboat, the Yany Kapu, as well as 24 crew members of the Ukrainian Navy, including two SBU counterintelligence officers, were detained by Russian border forces. In the incident, the Russian Federation employed Sobol-class patrol boats Izumrud and Don, as  well as two Ka-52, two Su-25 and one Su-30 aircraft.

Ukraine’s provocation follows the advice of several American think-tanks like the Atlantic Council, which have been calling for NATO involvement in the Sea of Azov for months. The area is strategically important for Moscow, which views its southern borders, above all the Sea of Azov, as a potential flash point for conflict due to the Kiev’s NATO-backed provocations.

To deter such adventurism, Moscow has deployed to the Kerch Strait and the surrounding coastal area S-400 batteries, modernized S-300s, anti-ship Bal missile systems, as well as numerous electronic-warfare systems, not to mention the Russian assets and personnel arrayed in the military districts abutting Ukraine. Such provocations, egged on by NATO and American policy makers, are meant to provide a pretext for further sanctions against Moscow and further sabotage Russia’s relations with European countries like Germany, France and Italy, as well as, quite naturally, to frustrate any personal interaction between Trump and Putin.

This last objective seems to have been achieved, with the planned meeting between Trump and Putin at the G20 in Buenos Aires being cancelled. As to the the other objectives, they seem to have failed miserably, with Berlin, Paris and Rome showing no intention of imposing additional sanctions against Russia, recognizing the Ukrainian provocation fow what it is. The intention to further isolate Moscow by the neocons, neoliberals and most of the Anglo-Saxon establishment seems to have failed, demonstrated in Buenos Aires with the meeting between the BRICS countries on the sidelines and the bilateral meetings between Putin and Merkel.

On November 30, following almost two-and-a-half months of silence, the Israeli air force bombed Syria with three waves of cruise missiles. The first and second waves were repulsed over southern Syria, and the third, composed of surface-to-surface missiles, were also downed. At the same time, a loud explosion was heard in al-Kiswah, resulting in the blackout of Israeli positions in the area.

The Israeli attack was fully repulsed, with possibly two IDF drones being downed as well. This effectiveness of Syria’s air defenses corresponds with Russia’s integration of Syria’s air defenses with its own systems, manifestly improving the Syrians’ kill ratios even without employing the new S-300 systems delivered to Damascus, let alone Russia’s own S-400s. The Pantsirs and S-200s are enough for the moment, confirming my hypothesis more than two months ago that the modernized S-300 in the hands of the Syrian army is a potentially lethal weapon even for the F-35, forbidding the Israelis from employing their F-35s.

With the failed Israeli attack testifying to effectiveness of Russian air-defense measures recently deployed to the country, even the United States is finding it difficult to operate in the country. As the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War confirms:

“Russia has finished an advanced anti-access/area denial (A2AD) network in Syria that combines its own air defense and electronic warfare systems with modernized equipment. Russia can use these capabilities to mount the long-term strategic challenge of the US and NATO in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East, significantly widen the geographic reach of Russia’s air defense network. Russia stands to gain a long-term strategic advantage over NATO through its new capabilities in Syria. The US and NATO must now account for the risk of a dangerous escalation in the Middle East amidst any confrontation with Russia in Eastern Europe.”

The final blow in a decidedly negative week for Washington’s ambitions came in Buenos Aires during the G20, where Xi Jinping was clearly the most awaited guest, bringing in his wake investments and opportunities for cooperation and mutual benefit, as opposed to Washington’s sanctions and tariffs for its own benefit to the detriment of others. The key event of the summit was the dinner between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump that signalled Washington’s defeat in the trade war with Beijing. Donald Trump fired the first shot of the economic war, only to succumb just 12 months later with GM closing five plants and leaving 14,000 unemployed at home as Trump tweeted about his economic achievements.

Trump was forced to suspend any new tariffs for a period of ninety days, with his Chinese counterpart intent on demonstrating how an economic war between the two greatest commercial powers had always been a pointless propagandistic exercise. Trump’s backtracking highlights Washington’s vulnerability to de-dollarization, the Achilles’ heel of US hegemony.

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn. The struggle between the Western elites seems to be reaching a boil, with Frau Merkel ever more isolated and seeing her 14-year political dominance as chancellor petering out. Macron seems to be vying for the honor of being the most unpopular French leader in history, provoking violent protests that have lasted now for weeks, involving every sector of the population. Macron will probably be able to survive this political storm, but his political future looks dire.

The neocons/neoliberals have played one of the last cards available to them using the Ukrainian provocation, with Kiev only useful as the West’s cannon fodder against Russia. In Syria, with the conflict coming to a close and Turkey only able to look on even as it maintains a strong foothold in Idlib, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States are similarly unable to affect the course of the conflict. The latest Israeli aggression proved to be a humiliation for Tel Aviv and may have signalled a clear, possibly definitive warning from Moscow, Tehran and Damascus to all the forces in the region. The message seems to be that there is no longer any possibility of changing the course of the conflict in Syria, and every provocation from here on will be decisively slapped down. Idlib is going to be liberated and America’s illegal presence in the north of Syria will have to be dealt with at the right time.

Ukraine’s provocation has only strengthened Russia’s military footprint in Crimea and reinforced Russia’s sovereign control over the region. Israel’s recent failure in Syria only highlights how the various interventions of the US, the UK, France and Turkey over the years have only obliged the imposition of an almost unparalleled A2AD space that severely limits the range of options available to Damascus’s opponents.

The G20 also served to confirm Washington’s economic diminution commensurate with its military one in the face of an encroaching multipolar environment. The constant attempts to delegitimize the Trump administration by America’s elites, also declared an enemy by the European establishment, creates a picture of confusion in the West that benefits capitals like New Delhi, Moscow, Beijing and Tehran who offer instead stability, cooperation and dialogue.

As stated in previous articles, the confusion reigning amongst the Western elites only accelerates the transition to a multipolar world, progressively eroding the military and economic power of the US.

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The ‘America Last’ Express Hurtles On: Saudi Arabia, INF, Ukraine

Any realistic notion of American national interests comes last after the priorities of – well, pretty much everyone else with leverage in Washington.

Jim Jatras

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Authored by Jim Jatras via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


As the façade of 2016 Candidate Donald Trump’s promised “America First” continues to crumble away, the baked-into-the-cake pathologies of the foreign and security policy “experts” who monopolize President Trump’s administration plunge forward along their predetermined paths. Any realistic notion of American national interests comes last after the priorities of – well, pretty much everyone else with leverage in Washington.

Case in point, let’s start with Saudi Arabia and all the breast-beating over whether Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) really is guilty of ordering the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. (Spoiler Alert: You betcha!)

American and western media were all a-twitter last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s high five to Crown Pariah MbS at the G20. Amid the faux outrage – come on, does anyone really think MbS was the only killer in that room? – the gesture received America’s highest media tribute: a parody on “Saturday Night Live.”

What a circus. Apart from Putin’s greeting, the assembled hypocrites went out of their way to shun the leprous MbS, even shunting him to the margins of the group picture – as though the killing of one dodgy journalist outweighed their abetting MbS’s business-as-usual slaughter in Yemen. Really! I barely know the guy. We were never actually friends

Khashoggi’s gruesome death is the gift that keeps on giving, exacerbating as it does both international and domestic American fault lines. Let’s keep in mind that his affiliation was with the Muslim Brotherhood (and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan), the CIA, and (almost the same thing) the Washington Post. Internationally these line up with Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi elements currently on the outs with MbS and who would like to send him to join Khashoggi. Domestically in the US these add up to the Deep State and “the Resistance” to President Donald Trump, who are thrilled to be able to hang Khashoggi around his neck like an albatross, which he’s foolishly allowing to happen.

On the other hand, MbS is supported by Israel, which has a lot of clout on Capitol Hill (duh) and virtually owns the Trump administration (also duh). Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has Trump dancing to his tune via Jared Kushner (Trump and Kushner may now in fact be the same person), Ivanka Trump, and Sheldon Adelson, plus his entire foreign policy team, starting with National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Rather than wisely using the Khashoggi imbroglio as an opportunity to take the exit ramp away from US support for the crazed Wahhabist head-choppers in Riyadh of any faction, Team Trump is doggedly defending their the line in the sand in support of MbS personally as the spearhead of their anti-Iran, “Arab NATO” program.

The Resistance side is no less anti-Iran, but beating the Khashoggi drum and even tying it to support for Yemen slaughter (not that they really give a damn about Yemen, except for a few bleeding hearts like Senator Rand Paul and Representative Tulsi Gabbard, who even have the temerity to oppose the CIA’s arming of al-Qaeda in Syria!) is a twofer: to weaken and humiliate Trump, plus hoping at some point to install a replacement to MbS who would be a more reliable tool for their anti-Iran vendetta. The big break, if it comes, will be if Bibi’s foot soldiers around Trump decide they need to dump MbS as counterproductive to their agenda on Iran. Then they’ll stop resisting the Resistance, MbS will be removed (with extreme prejudice), and Trump will have egg on his face for having supported him for so long. For the Resistance, it’s win-win …

… if it happens that way. On the other hand, even exposed as the bloody minded killer he is, it’s not impossible MbS, with Israel backstopping him, can just tough it out. After all, those waiting in the wings in Riyadh are no angels either. At least in the short term MbS may still have the upper hand via squatter’s rights; he’s in power and the guy everybody still has to deal with. He can also still spread a lot of cash around as Khashoggi recedes into the rear view mirror.

If things really look as though they are going south on him, MbS might think to take leaf from the playbook of Georgia’s Mikheil Saakashvili in 2008 and Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko a couple of weeks ago (more below) and provoke an incident with Iran on his own to force Washington back him up. That would be risky, to say the least. It’s unlikely that even Bolton and Pompeo are ready for war – yet. They seem to believe their own propaganda about regime change via sanctions and economic collapse and the supposedly yuge popularity of the “People’s Mojahedin” (MEK), our designated replacement waiting to be parachuted into Tehran. They’ll at least want to run the sanctions game a while longer to weaken Iran (and humiliate the Europeans some more) before they go for Plan B if necessary. Also, they’d need a phony pretext along the lines of Iraqi WMDs, Benghazi, Racak, and it’s uncertain MbS is competent give them one all by himself.

If MbS does hazard to strike out on his own before they (Donald Kushner and Boltpeo) are ready, he may end up chewing on his tie like Saakashvili (or whatever the equivalent of that is with a thobe and gutra). At that point he would be universally seen as a liability and removed. Nothing can be ruled out of course, and if MbS thinks are getting really shaky he just might do it, figuring he’s got nothing to lose … but his head.

Shifting gears to the big league between the US and Russia, it’s virtually certain the Trump administration will follow through on its threat to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, originally concluded between the US and the USSR in 1987. Pompeo’s ultimatum to Russia to confess they were cheating and dispose of the offending 9M729 missiles was couched in a laundry list of “admit when you stopped beating your wife” charges: “These violations of the INF treaty cannot be viewed in isolation from the larger pattern of Russian lawlessness on the world stage. The list of Russia’s infamous acts is long: Georgia, Ukraine, Syria, election meddling, Skripal and now the Kerch Strait, to name just a few.”

Pompeo’s ultimatum came literally one day after Trump signaled in a Tweet that he does not want a new arms race:

‘I am certain that, at some time in the future, President Xi and I, together with President Putin of Russia, will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race. The U.S. spent 716 Billion Dollars this year. Crazy!’

Ha! Who does this Trump fellow think he is – the President? He doesn’t want a “crazy” arms race? Too bad. He’d better check with the guys he’s picked to run his administration for him. They’re completely copasetic with crazy – and then some!

Perhaps we can hold out a desperate hope that Trump’s intention is to replicate his tentative win on Korea, that threatening to pull out of the INF Treaty and accusing Moscow of every sin under the sun is just part of the “art of the deal,” “little rocket man” versus “mentally deranged dotard,” etc., with the real goal a new and better deal with Russia, maybe including China as well. But if that were so (there’s no evidence for it) there’s no need to trash the current agreement or even to threaten to do so. There is a lot that has changed technologically since 1987, and updates and revisions, perhaps in a protocol to the existing treaty might make sense.

That’s unlikely to happen though. Instead, not only will there be a new arms race in the intermediate range – which Moscow declares its willingness to undertake, however reluctantly – the flaccidity of America’s European so-called allies is again relevant. US threats to deploy intermediate-range missiles in Europe would be meaningless if European countries refused to host them because doing so would make them a target for Russian weapons. But while the European Union whines it would be better to keep the Treaty (just like it whined impotently about the JCPOA), NATO – mainly the same countries as belong to the EU – dutifully backed up the US position. There’s no evidence Europeans are prepared to confront Washington with a firm Ohne uns! if the INF agreement is terminated. Servility to their Transatlantic hegemon outweighs even their instinct for self-preservation. Whereas in the 1980s the first intermediate-range deployment of US Pershing missiles sparked a huge, mainly Leftist, European peace movement – which in turn helped lead to the INF Treaty in the first place – nothing of the sort exists now. This perhaps reflects the fact that today’s Left, which has little affinity with ordinary working people and is obsessed with Cultural Marxist identity politics, has become quite anti-Russian with the demise of communism.

Finally, moving to Ukraine, one would think the Trump Administration would not be particularly friendly towards a government that was complicit in the attempt to use the Christopher Steele dossier to put Hillary Clinton in the White House and then, when that failed, to cripple the Trump administration through the witch hunt known as Russiagate. While the major players were intelligence and law enforcement agencies of the United States and the United Kingdom(not necessarily in that order), other countries were involved too. One of the prominent ones was Ukraine, whose President Petro Poroshenko feared could be left out in the cold if Trump improved ties with Russia per his oft-stated intent– since after all, nobody in Washington could care less about Ukraine except as a club to beat Russia with. Steps were taken to avert that:

‘Andrii Telizhenko, a former high-ranking Ukrainian diplomat known well in Washington circles, had vital information about collusion between elements of Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko administration and the US’ Democratic National Committee (DNC) to dig up – or create – dirt on Donald Trump, but he has been chronically ignored by US investigators.

‘Telizhenko appeared as a key source in a January 2017 Politico article by Ken Vogel titled, “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire: Kiev officials are scrambling to make amends with the president-elect after quietly working to boost Clinton.”’

Whatever concerns Poroshenko might have had that his complicity in the anti-Trump US-UK Deep State plot would hurt his standing with the administration of his target have long since been put to rest. Trump’s turning his administration into a haven for Bush-era recidivists and others of the sort who have turned American policy into a shambles for the past three decades has seen to that. Hostility to Russia is and will remain a lodestar of US policy, whichipso facto makes Poroshenko our “friend.”

That means that Poroshenko need only poke the bear to get a growl and kneejerk pledges of support will click into place. While Ukraine may not be a full member of the golden circle of countries like Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom that have the US on a leash, it’s not too far from it either.

With his reelection prospects in March 2019 appearing dismal, Poroshenko decided to “wag the dog” with a stunt in the Kerch Strait connecting Crimea to the Russian mainland that he knew would provoke a Russian response. As Moon of Alabama reports:

‘The Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko sent the boats with the order not to coordinate their passage with Russian authorities. The captured sailors confirm that. He obviously wanted to provoke a violent Russian reaction.

‘The government of Ukraine practically admitted that the mission had nefarious intent:

“Ukraine’s state security service [SBU] says that its intelligence officers were among the crew on Ukrainian naval ships seized by Russia in a standoff near Crimea.

“The SBU agency said in a statement Tuesday that the officers were fulfilling counterintelligence operations for the Ukrainian navy, in response to ‘psychological and physical pressure’ by Russian spy services. It didn’t elaborate, but demanded that Russia stop such activity.”

“Russia’s FSB intelligence agency said late Monday that that there were SBU officers on board the Ukrainian ships, calling that proof of a “provocation” staged by Ukraine.”

Moscow is acutely aware of the danger of an attack to disable the Kerch Strait Bridge, built quickly and at great expense (a fact that undermines the oft-repeated anti-Russian claim that Moscow is plotting to seize Mariupol, Zaporozhye Oblast, and part of Kherson Oblast to establish a mainland route from Donbas to Crimea from the north). There have been rumors (perhaps no more than that) that Ukraine seeks to deploy a Special Atomic Demolition Munition (SADM), a small, man-portable, low-yield (circa one kiloton) device developed by NATO in the 1950s for destroying European infrastructure in advance of a Soviet invasion. Such a device would be deployable by divers if they had access to the bridge. Whether or not there’s any factual basis for such concerns, Moscow takes threats to the bridge seriously. In May 2018 the Russian Investigative Committee opened a criminal case against establishment commentator Tom Rogan and his Washington Examiner editor for advocating blowing up of the bridge, which Russian officials called incitement to terrorism.

Right on cue, Washington is preparing new sanctions, planning to send US warships into the Black Sea in a show of support for a country to which we are not allied (amid a lunatic call from the Atlantic Council to force an entry into the Sea of Azov as well!), and conducting “extraordinary” observation flight over Ukraine. What could possibly go wrong?

The bottom line is that Poroshenko now can jerk our chain and we will respond. While this time he failed to get a nationwide, 60-day martial law declaration approved by a Rada concerned he’d use it to cancel next year’s election, he did get 30 days in oblasts bordering Russia and Pridnestrovie. This will be useful not only for hampering electoral activities of his opponents in areas where he is even more unpopular than in the rest of Ukraine, it will facilitate seizures of churches and monasteries from the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church – a process that has already begun. He is secure in the knowledge that another provocation is always an option, in Kerch again, or the Donbas, or a grab against a major Church site like Pochaev or Pechersk.

Perhaps the saddest thing is that it has now become all so predictable. We were told that Donald Trump’s administration would put America and American interests first. But instead, those acting in his name tell us through their actions: “Get in line, peasants.”

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