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The Case of Azerbaijan: How ‘Democrats’ Sacrifice Principles for Oil

The US foreign policy has invariably made it clear to the countries beyond the NATO or its nuclear club that a long and prosperous ruling is up to their loyalty to America’s strategic interests.

Ion Todescu

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An information society is a thing of curiosity. A human has always been dependent on the public opinion turning eventually into a milk-and-water illusion nourished by the mass media. Be it a federal TV channel or a popular blogger – opinion makers have successfully replaced people’s brains. And it’s a sin to take no advantage of it.

One of the US foreign policy’s priorities is promotion of democratic ideals as well as rule of humanism and human rights. Under slogans like these the US has launched numerous military operations (to make a long story short, invasions); its “color revolutions” have overthrown many a government, but none of those loyal to the USA. However, it concerns the most impudent “dictators” alone who refused to sell out their countries’ natural resources to American transnational corporations.

The US foreign policy has invariably made it clear to the countries beyond the NATO or its nuclear club that a long and prosperous ruling is up to their loyalty to America’s strategic interests. The leaders of the countries mentioned have come to a very important conclusion: convincing the US government of your loyalty shall entitle you to do whatever you may choose as long as everything across the ocean is up and running.

This is the pattern adhered by Ilham Aliev, President of Azerbaijan – an extremely oil-rich state in the South Caucasus. This guy who literally inherited power from his father Heydar Aliev in 2003, has been reigning supreme for years. It’s interesting to know the state machine of Azerbaijan fused with a criminal group headed by the president himself quite a long time ago.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the US Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (the latter is a most peculiar) report that the situation around these very rights protection in Azerbaijan leaves much to be desired. Everything to be avoided like the plague is there to be seen: media censorship, free speech violations, political prisoners, executions, and tortures.

The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) has named Azerbaijani President Aliyev Corruption’s “Person of the Year”; what is more, he is featured in the scandalous Panama Papers. But every cloud has a silver lining, and Aliyev’s only positive trait is that he’s anything but anti-Semite. Probably that must have been the reason for Israeli Ambassador in Azerbaijan Rafael Harpaz to claim that Azerbaijani tolerance was to be followed by the rest of the world. Lord forbid, Mr. Harpaz!

The White House, OSCE and other organizations have been criticizing Baku for disastrous human rights situation for years. One might think it would far sooner have brought the US Special Forces to the Caspian Sea shore to finally have the poor Caucasian Republic democratized. And overseas oil companies, in turn, would have laid their hands on Caspian oil fields as it already took place in Iraq, for instance.

An old dictator is a wise dictator though. Aliyev knew perfectly well that one of his throne legs was unsteady. The President of Azerbaijan thinking over an upcoming arrival of “the American democracy” realized it would be much more profitable to buy confidence by proving Azerbaijani liking for the West and its loyalty.

Lobbying is quite legal and wide-spread activity in this country. Many go-ahead people rich in high-level ties are busy bringing together businessmen and senators, magnates and congressmen, trade union chiefs and parties’ leaders. They search and hire journalists ready to write an article or two for popular news outlets at a moderate charge. Most esteemed and respected top-dogs are invited to federal TV channels on their order to give out their expert judgment on whichever the occurrence may be. You think it’s hoax altogether, don’t you? No, it’s honest business. The public opinion is legally bought from those who are able enough to generate it.

Aliyev made up his mind not to put all his eggs in one basket and hired several lobbying companies at a time through different channels. The largest and most powerful ones were Tool Shed Group, Roberti Global, DCI Group and attention! – Podesta Group. True, they consented to have Aliyev’s chair concreted for a far from modest consideration.

Let us have a look at the list of politicians financed by DCI Group AZ LLC, a department specially established for Azerbaijani Affairs. Below are the people to do the spadework aimed at projecting an image of the “right Azerbaijan” for Aliyev’s funds: Claire McCaskill, Mitt Romney, Deb Fisher, etc.

There is an extract from DCI Group AZ foreign agent registration statement, i.e. it’s posed as a company acting at an order of a foreign principal. The extract pictures politicians and their financial “backing” allocated from Azerbaijani tranches.

One of the most effective ways to have an opposition formed and an intelligence network set up (which is in great use by the US) is starting a non-government organization under the auspices of the State Department and its subsidiary commissions. Their operations and reports determine largely the US foreign policy. And what did Aliyev do? He just bribed NGO heads and their supervisors in Washington, D.C. Hats off to Mr. Aliyev, the Mafiosi dictator is smart enough to have done what the other less enterprising oil Republic leaders overlooked. They might have found it too disgusting to do the same though.

And now let’s watch a new reality being created as soon as pros get down to business. The story culminated in the US. Helsinki Commission sitting. The organization is designed to promote human rights and all the other humanistic values and is liable to account to the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor and then higher to the State Department. Many outstanding people took part in the sitting mentioned, among them Ben Cardin (Democratic Senator from Maryland), Tom O.Melia (the then Bureau head and current USAID Assistant Administrator), Eric Rubin (ex-Chief of the European and Eurasian Affairs Bureau), Miriam Lanskoy (Senior Director for Russia and Eurasia at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and Brenda Shaffer (a visiting professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Russia, Eurasia and Eastern Europe Studies).

In a nutshell, all those most esteemed persons differently described the well-living of Azerbaijanis. Had they really heard of human rights before, they still failed to follow them as we have earlier seen. Who were those people? Ms. Miriam Lanskoy is quite noteworthy for her spending quite much time in the city of Baku; as far as Nagorno-Karabakh developments (the disputed border region between Armenia and Azerbaijan) are concerned she would always back Illham Aliyev, with her statements often contradicting official observers’ reports. Brenda Shaffer cooperates with a number of analytical centers close to the US government and above all holds the office of Adviser to the President of SOCAR for Strategic Affairs. The oil company of Azerbaijan is known to be co-headed by Mr. Aliyev. The information about it is provided here.

SOCAR turns out be one of the biggest US financial donors.  The above-stated DCI Group, Roberti White and Tool Shed Group have won contracts through the SOCAR’s leadership.

As indicated below, Roberti White LLC is registered as a foreign agent subsidized by SOCAR.

Additionally, SOCAR was responsible for an all-expense-paid trip to Azerbaijan for US Congressmen

Despite this financial channel’s huge capacities it is by far not the only one. Aliyev has set a diplomatic field in motion to faster have his goals achieved. The Ambassador of Republic of Azerbaijan to the United States Elin Suleymanov and his wife Lala Abdurahmanova are absolutely confident in doing what they’re supposed to do. It was Mr. Suleymanov himself, who signed a collaboration agreement with Podesta Group. There is a Podesta CEO Kimberley Fritts’s signature to be seen on the paper; however he’s got another principal ally in America’s political establishment rather than her.

Have a look at the amendment to Azerbaijani government-Podesta Group agreement:

Podesta Group is considered one of the most influential lobbying companies. It was founded in 1988 by brothers John and Tony Podesta.  Kimberley Fritts and Tony Podesta are reported to be the CEO and the Chairman respectively. John is de jure no company’s member since he left his office for the high politics, de facto is he a grey cardinal of the Democratic Party, while Tony’s doing big business. The two together have succeeded in setting up an effective system designed for financial elite and the Democratic leadership cooperation.

It’s worth noting, that Suleymanov is in most friendly relations  with the Podesta brothers, his wife is fairly well-received not only by prominent Democrats, but also by Hilary Clinton’s entourage; that is especially topical on the threshold of the election to come.   

Suffice it to mention, that Lala Abdurahmanova throws receptions on a regular basis, with Capricia Marshall (the Atlantic Council member, ex-States Department employee, Hillary Clinton’s confidante) and Debbie Dingel (Michigan congresswoman and a vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton) being frequent guests. John Podesta, a great buddy of Ambassador Suleymanov, chairs the very presidential campaign of Ex-State Secretary. It would be interesting to find out whether Mr. Aliyev makes his own plans on Clinton’s presidency in this connection.

To sum up, I’d like to present you a couple of diagrams for simpler understanding.

There is an outline of Azerbaijan’s lobbying activity financing in the USA.

The companies pictured are the way to buy expert opinions, politicians’ ayes and noes as well to have favorable decisions promoted. They are essentially Aliyev’s attorneys in the eyes of American political elite.

The second diagram depicts in minute detail the way the Democratic Party opens out its arms to oil money inflow and appears to clean forget their principles allegedly to be topped in the list. It’s not as easy as falling off the log to make the diagram out; nevertheless, I would ask you to spend a little time of yours and obtain further insight into it. It’s bound to be a sort of novelty for you.

As to power race, people would always take any steps imaginable going back on their promises and dishonoring the ideals they used believe in. Hillary Clinton is not apparently a book to take a page out. She seems to be able to abandon the genuine goals which the Democratic Party has been intent on throughout the history. And it doesn’t matter in the least that the election campaign is being paid out by a mere dictator neglecting human rights in his own country. Who cares?  It is all solely for the election victory! 

At the end of the day John Podesta has promised to open UFO X-files to the public domain given Hillary comes through with flying colors. Perhaps he has no trouble disclosing the truth about extraterrestrials which is not the case with the US-oil magnates’ cooperation.

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Airline wars heat up, as industry undergoes massive disruption (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 145.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the global commercial airline industry, which is undergoing massive changes, as competition creeps in from Russia and China.

Reuters reports that Boeing Co’s legal troubles grew as a new lawsuit accused the company of defrauding shareholders by concealing safety deficiencies in its 737 MAX planes before two fatal crashes led to their worldwide grounding.

The proposed class action filed in Chicago federal court seeks damages for alleged securities fraud violations, after Boeing’s market value tumbled by $34 billion within two weeks of the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX.

*****

According to the complaint, Boeing “effectively put profitability and growth ahead of airplane safety and honesty” by rushing the 737 MAX to market to compete with Airbus SE, while leaving out “extra” or “optional” features designed to prevent the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes.

It also said Boeing’s statements about its growth prospects and the 737 MAX were undermined by its alleged conflict of interest from retaining broad authority from federal regulators to assess the plane’s safety.

*****

Boeing said on Tuesday that aircraft orders in the first quarter fell to 95 from 180 a year earlier, with no orders for the 737 MAX following the worldwide grounding.

On April 5, it said it planned to cut monthly 737 production to 42 planes from 52, and was making progress on a 737 MAX software update to prevent further accidents.

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Via Zerohedge…

Step aside (fading) trade war with China: there is a new aggressor – at least according to the US Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer – in town.

In a statement on the USTR’s website published late on Monday, the US fair trade agency announced that under Section 301 of the Trade Act, it was proposing a list of EU products to be covered by additional duties. And as justification for the incremental import taxes, the USTR said that it was in response to EU aircraft subsidies, specifically to Europea’s aerospace giant, Airbus, which “have caused adverse effects to the United States” and which the USTR estimates cause $11 billion in harm to the US each year

One can’t help but notice that the latest shot across the bow in the simmering trade war with Europe comes as i) Trump is reportedly preparing to fold in his trade war with China, punting enforcement to whoever is president in 2025, and ii) comes just as Boeing has found itself scrambling to preserve orders as the world has put its orderbook for Boeing 737 MAX airplanes on hold, which prompted Boeing to cut 737 production by 20% on Friday.

While the first may be purely a coincidence, the second – which is expected to not only slam Boeing’s financials for Q1 and Q2, but may also adversely impact US GDP – had at least some impact on the decision to proceed with these tariffs at this moment.

We now await Europe’s angry response to what is Trump’s latest salvo in what is once again a global trade war. And, paradoxically, we also expect this news to send stocks blasting higher as, taking a page from the US-China trade book, every day algos will price in imminent “US-European trade deal optimism.”

Below the full statement from the USTR (link):

USTR Proposes Products for Tariff Countermeasures in Response to Harm Caused by EU Aircraft Subsidies

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has found repeatedly that European Union (EU) subsidies to Airbus have caused adverse effects to the United States.  Today, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) begins its process under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to identify products of the EU to which additional duties may be applied until the EU removes those subsidies.

USTR is releasing for public comment a preliminary list of EU products to be covered by additional duties.  USTR estimates the harm from the EU subsidies as $11 billion in trade each year.  The amount is subject to an arbitration at the WTO, the result of which is expected to be issued this summer.

“This case has been in litigation for 14 years, and the time has come for action. The Administration is preparing to respond immediately when the WTO issues its finding on the value of U.S. countermeasures,” said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.  “Our ultimate goal is to reach an agreement with the EU to end all WTO-inconsistent subsidies to large civil aircraft.  When the EU ends these harmful subsidies, the additional U.S. duties imposed in response can be lifted.”

In line with U.S. law, the preliminary list contains a number of products in the civil aviation sector, including Airbus aircraft.  Once the WTO arbitrator issues its report on the value of countermeasures, USTR will announce a final product list covering a level of trade commensurate with the adverse effects determined to exist.

Background

After many years of seeking unsuccessfully to convince the EU and four of its member States (France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom) to cease their subsidization of Airbus, the United States brought a WTO challenge to EU subsidies in 2004. In 2011, the WTO found that the EU provided Airbus $18 billion in subsidized financing from 1968 to 2006.  In particular, the WTO found that European “launch aid” subsidies were instrumental in permitting Airbus to launch every model of its large civil aircraft, causing Boeing to lose sales of more than 300 aircraft and market share throughout the world.

In response, the EU removed two minor subsidies, but left most of them unchanged.  The EU also granted Airbus more than $5 billion in new subsidized “launch aid” financing for the A350 XWB.  The United States requested establishment of a compliance panel in March 2012 to address the EU’s failure to remove its old subsidies, as well as the new subsidies and their adverse effects.  That process came to a close with the issuance of an appellate report in May 2018 finding that EU subsidies to high-value, twin-aisle aircraft have caused serious prejudice to U.S. interests.  The report found that billions of dollars in launch aid to the A350 XWB and A380 cause significant lost sales to Boeing 787 and 747 aircraft, as well as lost market share for Boeing very large aircraft in the EU, Australia, China, Korea, Singapore, and UAE markets.

Based on the appellate report, the United States requested authority to impose countermeasures worth $11.2 billion per year, commensurate with the adverse effects caused by EU subsidies.  The EU challenged that estimate, and a WTO arbitrator is currently evaluating those claims

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Mueller report takes ‘Russian meddling’ for granted, offers no actual evidence

RT

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Via RT…


Special counsel Robert Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ report has cleared Donald Trump of ‘collusion’ charges but maintains that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. Yet concrete evidence of that is nowhere to be seen.

The report by Mueller and his team, made public on Thursday by the US Department of Justice, exonerates not just Trump but all Americans of any “collusion” with Russia, “obliterating” the Russiagate conspiracy theory, as journalist Glenn Greenwald put it.

However, it asserts that Russian “interference” in the election did happen, and says it consisted of a campaign on social media as well as Russian military intelligence (repeatedly referred to by its old, Soviet-era name, GRU) “hacking” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the DNC, and the private email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta.

As evidence of this, the report basically offers nothing but Mueller’s indictment of “GRU agents,” delivered on the eve of the Helsinki Summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in what was surely a cosmic coincidence.

Indictments are not evidence, however, but allegations. Any time it looks like the report might be bringing up proof, it ends up being redacted, ostensibly to protect sources and methods, and out of concern it might cause “harm to an ongoing matter.”

‘Active measures’ on social media

Mueller’s report leads with the claim that the Internet Research Agency (IRA) ran an “active measures” campaign of social media influence. Citing Facebook and Twitter estimates, the report says this consisted of 470 Facebook accounts that made 80,000 posts that may have been seen by up to 126 million people, between January 2015 and August 2017 (almost a year after the election), and 3,814 Twitter accounts that “may have been” in contact with about 1.4 million people.

Those numbers may seem substantial but, as investigative journalist Gareth Porter pointed out in November 2018, they should be regarded against the background of 33 trillion Facebook posts made during the same period.

According to Mueller, the IRA mind-controlled the American electorate by spending “approximately $100,000” on Facebook ads, hiring someone to walk around New York City “dressed up as Santa Claus with a Trump mask,” and getting Trump campaign affiliates to promote “dozens of tweets, posts, and other political content created by the IRA.” Dozens!

Meanwhile, the key evidence against IRA’s alleged boss Evgeny Prigozhin is that he “appeared together in public photographs” with Putin.

Alleged hacking & release

The report claims that the GRU hacked their way into 29 DCCC computers and another 30 DNC computers, and downloaded data using software called “X-Tunnel.” It is unclear how Mueller’s investigators claim to know this, as the report makes no mention of them or FBI actually examining DNC or DCCC computers. Presumably they took the word of CrowdStrike, the Democrats’ private contractor, for it.

However obtained, the documents were published first through DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 – which the report claims are “fictitious online personas” created by the GRU – and later through WikiLeaks. What is Mueller’s proof that these two entities were “GRU” cutouts? In a word, this:

That the Guccifer 2.0 persona provided reporters access to a restricted portion of the DCLeaks website tends to indicate that both personas were operated by the same or a closely-related group of people.(p. 43)

However, the report acknowledges that the “first known contact” between Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks was on September 15, 2016 – months after the DNC and DCCC documents were published! Here we do get actual evidence: direct messages on Twitter obtained by investigators. Behold, these “spies” are so good, they don’t even talk – and when they do, they use unsecured channels.

Mueller notably claims “it is clear that the stolen DNC and Podesta documents were transferred from the GRU to WikiLeaks” (the rest of that sentence is redacted), but the report clearly implies the investigators do not actually know how. On page 47, the report says Mueller “cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred to WikiLeaks through intermediaries who visited during the summer of 2016.”

Strangely, the report accuses WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange of making “public statements apparently designed to obscure the source” of the materials (p.48), notably the offer of a reward for finding the murderer of DNC staffer Seth Rich – even though this can be read as corroborating the intermediaries theory, and Assange never actually said Rich was his source.

The rest of Mueller’s report goes on to discuss the Trump campaign’s contacts with anyone even remotely Russian and to create torturous constructions that the president had “obstructed” justice by basically defending himself from charges of being a Russian agent – neither of which resulted in any indictments, however. But the central premise that the 22-month investigation, breathless media coverage, and the 448-page report are based on – that Russia somehow meddled in the 2016 election – remains unproven.

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Rumors of War: Washington Is Looking for a Fight

The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote.

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


It is depressing to observe how the United States of America has become the evil empire. Having served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War and in the Central Intelligence Agency for the second half of the Cold War, I had an insider’s viewpoint of how an essentially pragmatic national security policy was being transformed bit by bit into a bipartisan doctrine that featured as a sine qua non global dominance for Washington. Unfortunately, when the Soviet Union collapsed the opportunity to end once and for all the bipolar nuclear confrontation that threatened global annihilation was squandered as President Bill Clinton chose instead to humiliate and use NATO to contain an already demoralized and effectively leaderless Russia.

American Exceptionalism became the battle cry for an increasingly clueless federal government as well as for a media-deluded public. When 9/11 arrived, the country was ready to lash out at the rest of the world. President George W. Bush growled that “There’s a new sheriff in town and you are either with us or against us.” Afghanistan followed, then Iraq, and, in a spirit of bipartisanship, the Democrats came up with Libya and the first serious engagement in Syria. In its current manifestation, one finds a United States that threatens Iran on a nearly weekly basis and tears up arms control agreements with Russia while also maintaining deployments of US forces in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and places like Mali. Scattered across the globe are 800 American military bases while Washington’s principal enemies du jour Russia and China have, respectively, only one and none.

Never before in my lifetime has the United States been so belligerent, and that in spite of the fact that there is no single enemy or combination of enemies that actually threaten either the geographical United States or a vital interest. Venezuela is being threatened with invasion primarily because it is in the western hemisphere and therefore subject to Washington’s claimed proconsular authority. Last Wednesday Vice President Mike Pence told the United Nations Security Council that the White House will remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from power, preferably using diplomacy and sanctions, but “all options are on the table.” Pence warned that Russia and other friends of Maduro need to leave now or face the consequences.

The development of the United States as a hostile and somewhat unpredictable force has not gone unnoticed. Russia has accepted that war is coming no matter what it does in dealing with Trump and is upgrading its forces. By some estimates, its army is better equipped and more combat ready than is that of the United States, which spends nearly ten times as much on “defense.”

Iran is also upgrading its defensive capabilities, which are formidable. Now that Washington has withdrawn from the nuclear agreement with Iran, has placed a series of increasingly punitive sanctions on the country, and, most recently, has declared a part of the Iranian military to be a “foreign terrorist organization” and therefore subject to attack by US forces at any time, it is clear that war will be the next step. In three weeks, the United States will seek to enforce a global ban on any purchases of Iranian oil. A number of countries, including US nominal ally Turkey, have said they will ignore the ban and it will be interesting to see what the US Navy intends to do to enforce it. Or what Iran will do to break the blockade.

But even given all of the horrific decisions being made in the White House, there is one organization that is far crazier and possibly even more dangerous. That is the United States Congress, which is, not surprisingly, a legislative body that is viewed positively by only 18 per cent of the American people.

A current bill originally entitled the “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019,” is numbered S-1189. It has been introduced in the Senate which will “…require the Secretary of State to determine whether the Russian Federation should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and whether Russian-sponsored armed entities in Ukraine should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.” The bill is sponsored by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and is co-sponsored by Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

The current version of the bill was introduced on April 11th and it is by no means clear what kind of support it might actually have, but the fact that it actually has surfaced at all should be disturbing to anyone who believes it is in the world’s best interest to avoid direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia.

In a a press release by Gardner, who has long been pushing to have Russia listed as a state sponsor of terrorism, a February version of the bill is described as “…comprehensive legislation [that] seeks to increase economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on the Russian Federation in response to Russia’s interference in democratic processes abroad, malign influence in Syria, and aggression against Ukraine, including in the Kerch Strait. The legislation establishes a comprehensive policy response to better position the US government to address Kremlin aggression by creating new policy offices on cyber defenses and sanctions coordination. The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote. It also increases sanctions pressure on Moscow for its interference in democratic processes abroad and continued aggression against Ukraine.”

The February version of the bill included Menendez, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as co-sponsors, suggesting that provoking war is truly bipartisan in today’s Washington.

Each Senator co-sponsor contributed a personal comment to the press release. Gardner observed that “Putin’s Russia is an outlaw regime that is hell-bent on undermining international law and destroying the US-led liberal global order.” Menendez noted that “President Trump’s willful paralysis in the face of Kremlin aggression has reached a boiling point in Congress” while Graham added that “Our goal is to change the status quo and impose meaningful sanctions and measures against Putin’s Russia. He should cease and desist meddling in the US electoral process, halt cyberattacks on American infrastructure, remove Russia from Ukraine, and stop efforts to create chaos in Syria.” Cardin contributed “Congress continues to take the lead in defending US national security against continuing Russian aggression against democratic institutions at home and abroad” and Shaheen observed that “This legislation builds on previous efforts in Congress to hold Russia accountable for its bellicose behavior against the United States and its determination to destabilize our global world order.”

The Senatorial commentary is, of course, greatly exaggerated and sometimes completely false regarding what is going on in the world, but it is revealing of how ignorant American legislators can be and often are. The Senators also ignore the fact that the designation of presumed Kremlin surrogate forces as “foreign terrorist organizations” is equivalent to a declaration of war against them by the US military, while hypocritically calling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism is bad enough, as it is demonstrably untrue. But the real damage comes from the existence of the bill itself. It will solidify support for hardliners on both sides, guaranteeing that there will be no rapprochement between Washington and Moscow for the foreseeable future, a development that is bad for everyone involved. Whether it can be characterized as an unintended consequence of unwise decision making or perhaps something more sinister involving a deeply corrupted congress and administration remains to be determined.

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