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China applauds Putin’s win, backs Russia on Skripal case, hails China’s ‘strategic partnership’ with Russia

Messages of support for Russia and its “comprehensive collaborative strategic partnership” pour in from China

Alexander Mercouris

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President Putin’s massive election victory and the fallout from the Skripal case have provided Global Times – an English language newspaper published under the auspices of the People’s Daily, the official organ of China’s Communist Party, and therefore reflecting the views of China’s leadership – with the opportunity to give Russia strong backing as it comes under renewed Western pressure.

The first editorial, published on 16th March 2018 under the title “West hopes to hurt, intimidate Russia”, makes clear that China sides with Russia over the handling of the Skripal case

This new round of “bullying” of Russia by the US and its European allies is quite abrupt and acute. London ignored usual diplomatic procedures to issue an ultimatum to Moscow and began sanctions. It feels like racing against time.

(bold italics added)

The second editorial, published on 19th March 2018 under the title “Western sanctions boost support for Putin”, makes the same point, though rather more trenchantly

Before the just-concluded election, the UK issued an ultimatum to the Kremlin to account for the poisoning of a former Russian agent on British soil, without solid proof. It was a humiliation for Moscow.

(bold italics added)

Both editorials see the Skripal case as a continuation of the Western campaign to undermine President Putin in order to disrupt Russia’s independent course.

Both editorials link the Skripal case to Russia’s Presidential election which took place on 18th March 2018.

The first editorial – published before Russia’s Presidential election – puts it this way

It makes people think of the upcoming Russian presidential election on March 18. The West wrestling with Russia at this particular moment has become a major factor for Russia’s elections. It is hard to distinguish how much of the antagonism reflect its true severity and how much is designed to target Russia’s elections.

The past couple of years has witnessed the most strenuous period of Russia’s relations with the West. The improvement in their relations since the end of the Cold War has almost run out. However, today’s Russia, without satellite states, is incomparable with the strength of the former Soviet Union when dealing with the strategic pressure from the West……

Analysts believe Putin will win the election without a doubt, and that the West’s sanctions will likely provide new momentum for Putin’s supporters. But maybe some Western elite think the other way and wish to drain Putin’s votes or undermine his authority via a new round of sanctions that may pressure the Russian public.

(bold italics added)

The second editorial – published after President Putin’s overwhelming victory in the Presidential election – makes the same point, whilst noting that the plan to undermine public support for President Putin in Russia has failed, with the West’s ongoing anti-Russian and anti-Putin campaign instead consolidating Russian society behind him

The past six years have seen the most intense conflicts between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War and Western countries have imposed severe sanctions against Moscow. During the same period, the price of oil stayed low. The Russian economy was hence facing a double blow. With the increasing cost of its national defense, the Russian government found available funds diminished to invest in improving people’s living standards. The Western political logic was like this: Even if Putin remains in his post, his support will decline. 

But the election showed the opposite. It seems that Russian people generally attributed the nation’s current difficulties to pressure and sanctions piled on them by the West. Meanwhile, they believe that Putin is the one defending their interests and without him, their situation would be even worse.

(bold italics added)

Both editorials note that Russia’s economy has proved highly resistant to the West’s sanctions, and both explain why.

The first editorial says “Russia’s rich natural resources make it highly self-sufficient to counter sanctions”.

The second editorial goes into more detail

Sanctions against Russia……economically….will…have little effect. The Russian economy returned to modest growth in 2017. Russia enjoys rich resources, high-level intellectuals and in the Soviet era, abundant technological breakthroughs. It is not a nation that can be besieged to death.

Global Times then proceeds to draw lessons from this for China, which is itself now starting to come under economic pressure from the US.

Firstly, as the first editorial points out, the West is as capable of applying sanctions pressure on China as it is against Russia

Western countries have been quite freewheeling in imposing sanctions on Russia, as they don’t see much cost in doing so.

The harsh attitude of Western countries toward Russia resembles their unity in the face of major geopolitical and value challenges despite problems in their own camp. Any non-Western competitor could become their shared target, which is part of the current world order.

Independent forces, including China, all face such risks.

(bold italics added)

Secondly, Russia has managed to resist the West’s pressure in part because of its “rich natural resources” – ie. its economic self-sufficiency – but also because of the strong national spirit of its people

The Western powers should reflect on the fact that they are not setting themselves against Putin alone, but against the entire Russian nation which defeated Napoleon and Hitler and is not afraid of anyone. Patriotism and self-esteem as citizens of a major power are pervasive in the Russian people. When the West fights these sentiments, its efforts amount to nothing….

Sanctions against Russia have failed politically because they have only promoted the unity of Russian society….

Discussions about how Russia will transition toward a post-Putin era have already started in Western nations, but they do not understand Russia in believing that Putin’s emergence was an accident. The truth is Putin represents the country’s national interest. The support he won reflects the support Russian people have for their national interest.

The implication is clear enough: in order for China to be able to resist Western pressure – the application of which I suspect the Chinese leadership believes is only a matter of time – China needs the same two things that have enabled Russia to resist Western pressure so successfully: a spirit of national unity and economic self-sufficiency.

Following my visit to China last August I have no doubt about the Chinese people’s spirit of national unity.  However these words in the second editorial are no doubt in part intended to remind China’s people of the cost they will pay if they ever lose it and succumb to the allure of the West

Moscow once tried to integrate with the West. Losing the Soviet Union was the price it paid for that. But in the end, its enthusiasm encountered the cold shoulder of the West. NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe was widely considered by Russian people as Western treachery following the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Today Russian society is filled with desire to see their country rise again.

As to economic self-sufficiency, China though possessing an economy many orders of magnitude larger than Russia’s, unlike Russia is not economically fully self-sufficient.

However Global Times points to the solution, which it turns out is an ever-closer relationship with Russia

The China-Russia comprehensive strategic collaborative partnership also made sure that the West would fail to contain either Beijing or Moscow.

(bold italics added)

In other words the Russian-Chinese alliance guarantees each country’s security from pressure by the West.

Russia can to look to China to supplement its financial resources.  China can look to Russia for the food, energy and raw materials it needs.

Though the two editorials don’t say so, and the point is never publicly spoken about, the main purpose of President Xi Jinping’s One Belt, One Road Initiative is to tie the economic resources of the China and Russia together, with Russian President Vladimir Putin being President Xi Jinping’s essential partner in the whole enterprise.

President Putin alluded to this fact in his message of congratulation to President Xi Jinping following the latter’s recent re-election as President of China

This decision by the National People’s Congress of China has become another proof of your great authority, a recognition of your efforts in ensuring dynamic socioeconomic development of the country and protecting its interests on the global stage,” the Russian President stressed.

Vladimir Putin noted the unprecedented high level of relations between Russia and China achieved recently to a large extent due to the personal efforts of Xi Jinping. These relations have become a true example of equal and mutually beneficial cooperation between leading powers.

The President of Russia conveyed to his Chinese counterpart that he would be happy to have new meetings with him, and expressed confidence in further strengthening, through reciprocal efforts, the Russia-China comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation, in filling it with new content which will contribute to the prosperity of the two friendly peoples and to greater security and stability on the Eurasian continent and in the whole world.

President Xi Jinping then reciprocated in his message of congratulation to President Putin following the latter’s re-election as President of Russia a day after

In the message, Xi said that over recent years, the Russian people have united as one in firmly advancing on the path of strengthening the nation, realizing rejuvenation and development, achieving remarkable success in economic and social development, and playing an important constructive role in international affairs.

Xi expressed the belief that Russia will definitely be able to keep creating new glories in national development.

Currently, the China-Russia comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership is at the best level in history, which sets an example for building a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness and justice, cooperation and all-win results, and a community with a shared future for mankind, Xi said.

China is willing to work with Russia to keep promoting China-Russia relations to a higher level, provide driving force for respective national development in both countries, and promote regional and global peace and tranquility, Xi said.

I would finish by referring to the remarkably fulsome language Global Times uses to describe the current relationship between China and Russia.

What was once referred to as a ‘strategic partnership’ became a few years ago a ‘grand strategic partnership’.

Now Global Times calls it “the China-Russia comprehensive strategic collaborative partnership”.  Note that both President Putin and President Xi Jinping referred to it as a “comprehensive strategic cooperation partnership” in their respective telegrams to each other.  It appears that this is now the agreed formula used to describe the relationship.

I wonder for how much longer the Chinese and the Russians will go on pretending that their relationship is anything other than what it obviously is, something which can be summed up altogether more simply, with one word: alliance.

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FBI recommended Michael Flynn not have lawyer present during interview, did not warn of false statement consequences

Flynn is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 18.

Washington Examiner

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Via The Washington Examiner…


Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who arranged the bureau’s interview with then-national security adviser Michael Flynn at the White House on Jan. 24, 2017 — the interview that ultimately led to Flynn’s guilty plea on one count of making false statements — suggested Flynn not have a lawyer present at the session, according to newly-filed court documents. In addition, FBI officials, along with the two agents who interviewed Flynn, decided specifically not to warn him that there would be penalties for making false statements because the agents wanted to ensure that Flynn was “relaxed” during the session.

The new information, drawn from McCabe’s account of events plus the FBI agents’ writeup of the interview — the so-called 302 report — is contained in a sentencing memo filed Tuesday by Flynn’s defense team.

Citing McCabe’s account, the sentencing memo says that shortly after noon on Jan. 24 — the fourth day of the new Trump administration — McCabe called Flynn on a secure phone in Flynn’s West Wing office. The two men discussed business briefly and then McCabe said that he “felt that we needed to have two of our agents sit down” with Flynn to discuss Flynn’s talks with Russian officials during the presidential transition.

McCabe, by his own account, urged Flynn to talk to the agents alone, without a lawyer present. “I explained that I thought the quickest way to get this done was to have a conversation between [Flynn] and the agents only,” McCabe wrote. “I further stated that if LTG Flynn wished to include anyone else in the meeting, like the White House counsel for instance, that I would need to involve the Department of Justice. [Flynn] stated that this would not be necessary and agreed to meet with the agents without any additional participants.”

Within two hours, the agents were in Flynn’s office. According to the 302 report quoted in the Flynn sentencing document, the agents said Flynn was “relaxed and jocular” and offered the agents “a little tour” of his part of the White House.

“The agents did not provide Gen. Flynn with a warning of the penalties for making a false statement under 18 U.S.C. 1001 before, during, or after the interview,” the Flynn memo says. According to the 302, before the interview, McCabe and other FBI officials “decided the agents would not warn Flynn that it was a crime to lie during an FBI interview because they wanted Flynn to be relaxed, and they were concerned that giving the warnings might adversely affect the rapport.”

The agents had, of course, seen transcripts of Flynn’s wiretapped conversations with Russian then-ambassador Sergey Kislyak. “Before the interview, FBI officials had also decided that if ‘Flynn said he did not remember something they knew he said, they would use the exact words Flynn used … to try to refresh his recollection. If Flynn still would not confirm what he said … they would not confront him or talk him through it,'” the Flynn memo says, citing the FBI 302.

“One of the agents reported that Gen. Flynn was ‘unguarded’ during the interview and ‘clearly saw the FBI agents as allies,'” the Flynn memo says, again citing the 302.

Later in the memo, Flynn’s lawyers argue that the FBI treated Flynn differently from two other Trump-Russia figures who have pleaded guilty to and been sentenced for making false statements. One of them, Alexander Van der Zwaan, “was represented by counsel during the interview; he was interviewed at a time when there was a publicly disclosed, full-bore investigation regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election; and he was given a warning that it is a federal crime to lie during the interview,” according to the memo. The other, George Papadopoulos, “was specifically notified of the seriousness of the investigation…was warned that lying to investigators was a ‘federal offense’…had time to reflect on his answers…and met with the FBI the following month for a further set of interviews, accompanied by his counsel, and did not correct his false statements.”

The message of the sentencing memo is clear: Flynn, his lawyers suggest, was surprised, rushed, not warned of the context or seriousness of the questioning, and discouraged from having a lawyer present.

That is all the sentencing document contains about the interview itself. In a footnote, Flynn’s lawyers noted that the government did not object to the quotations from the FBI 302 report.

In one striking detail, footnotes in the Flynn memo say the 302 report cited was dated Aug. 22, 2017 — nearly seven months after the Flynn interview. It is not clear why the report would be written so long after the interview itself.

The brief excerpts from the 302 used in the Flynn defense memo will likely spur more requests from Congress to see the original FBI documents. Both House and Senate investigating committees have demanded that the Justice Department allow them to see the Flynn 302, but have so far been refused.

In the memo, Flynn’s lawyers say that he made a “serious error in judgment” in the interview. Citing Flynn’s distinguished 30-plus year record of service in the U.S. Army, they ask the judge to go along with special counsel Robert Mueller’s recommendation that Flynn be spared any time in prison.

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Macron offers crumbs to protestors in bid to save his globalist agenda (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 36.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at French President Macron’s pathetic display of leadership as he offers protestors little in the way of concessions while at the same time promising to crack down hard on any and all citizens who resort to violence.

Meanwhile France’s economy is set for a deep recession as French output and production grinds to a halt.

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Via Zerohedge


As if Brussels didn’t have its hands full already with Italy and the UK, the European Union will soon be forced to rationalize why one of its favorite core members is allowed to pursue populist measures to blow out its budget deficit to ease domestic unrest while another is threatened with fines potentially amounting to billions of euros.

When blaming Russia failed to quell the widespread anger elicited by his policies, French President Emmanuel Macron tried to appease the increasingly violent “yellow vests” protesters who have sacked his capital city by offering massive tax cuts that could blow the French budget out beyond the 3% budget threshold outlined in the bloc’s fiscal rules.

Given the concessions recently offered by Italy’s populists, Macron’s couldn’t have picked a worse time to challenge the bloc’s fiscal conventions. As Bloomberg pointed out, these rules will almost certainly set the Continent’s second largest economy on a collision course with Brussels. To be clear, Macron’s offered cuts come with a price tag of about €11 billion according to Les Echos, and will leave the country with a budget gap of 3.5% of GDP in 2019, with one government official said the deficit may be higher than 3.6%.

By comparison, Italy’s initial projections put its deficit target at 2.4%, a number which Europe has repeatedly refused to consider.

Macron’s promises of fiscal stimulus – which come on top of his government’s decision to delay the planned gas-tax hikes that helped inspire the protests – were part of a broader ‘mea culpa’ offered by Macron in a speech Monday night, where he also planned to hike France’s minimum wage.

Of course, when Brussels inevitably objects, perhaps Macron could just show them this video of French police tossing a wheelchair-bound protester to the ground.

Already, the Italians are complaining.  Speaking on Tuesday, Italian cabinet undersecretary Giancarlo Giorgetti said Italy hasn’t breached the EU deficit limit. “I repeat that from the Italian government there is a reasonable approach, if there is one also from the EU a solution will be found.”

“France has several times breached the 3% deficit. Italy hasn’t done it. They are different situations. There are many indicators to assess.”

Still, as one Guardian columnist pointed out in an op-ed published Tuesday morning, the fact that the gilets jaunes (yellow vest) organizers managed to pressure Macron to cave and grant concessions after just 4 weeks of protests will only embolden them to push for even more radical demands: The collapse of the government of the supremely unpopular Macron.

Then again, with Brussels now facing certain accusations of hypocrisy, the fact that Macron was pressured into the exact same populist measures for which Italy has been slammed, the French fiasco raises the odds that Rome can pass any deficit measure it wants with the EU now forced to quietly look away even as it jawbones all the way from the bank (i.e., the German taxpayers).

“Macron’s spending will encourage Salvini and Di Maio,” said Giovanni Orsina, head of the School of Government at Rome’s Luiss-Guido Carli University. “Macron was supposed to be the spearhead of pro-European forces, if he himself is forced to challenge EU rules, Salvini and Di Maio will jump on that to push their contention that those rules are wrong.”

While we look forward to how Brussels will square this circle, markets are less excited.

Exhausted from lurching from one extreme to another following conflicting headlines, traders are already asking if “France is the new Italy.” The reason: the French OAT curve has bear steepened this morning with 10Y yields rising as much as ~6bp, with the Bund/OAT spread reaching the widest since May 2017 and the French presidential election. Though well below the peaks of last year, further widening would push the gap into levels reserved for heightened political risk.

As Bloomberg macro analyst Michael Read notes this morning, it’s hard to see a specific near-term trigger blowing out the Bund/OAT spread but the trend looks likely to slowly drift higher.

While Macron has to fight on both domestic and European fronts, he’ll need to keep peace at home to stay on top. Remember that we saw the 10Y spread widen to ~80bps around the May ’17 elections as concerns of a move toward the political fringe played out in the markets, and the French President’s popularity ratings already look far from rosy.

And just like that France may have solved the Italian crisis.

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Watch: Democrat Chuck Schumer shows his East Coast elitism on live TV

Amazing moment in which the President exhibits “transparency in government” and shows the world who the Democrat leaders really are.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the reasons Donald Trump was elected to the Presidency was because of his pugnacious, “in your face” character he presented – and promised TO present – against Democrat policy decisions and “stupid government” in general.

One of the reasons President Donald Trump is reviled is because of his pugnacious, “in your face” character he presented – and promised TO present – in the American political scene.

In other words, there are two reactions to the same characteristic. On Tuesday, the President did something that probably cheered and delighted a great many Americans who witnessed this.

The Democrats have been unanimous in taking any chance to roast the President, or to call for his impeachment, or to incite violence against him. But Tuesday was President Trump’s turn. He invited the two Democrat leaders, presumptive incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and then, he turned the cameras on:

As Tucker Carlson notes, the body language from Schumer was fury. The old (something)-eating grin covered up humiliation, embarrassment and probably no small amount of fear, as this whole incident was filmed and broadcast openly and transparently to the American public. Nancy Pelosi was similarly agitated, and she expressed it later after this humiliation on camera, saying, “It’s like a manhood thing for him… As if manhood could ever be associated with him.”

She didn’t stop there. According to a report from the New York Daily News, the Queen Bee took the rhetoric a step below even her sense of dignity:

Pelosi stressed she made clear to Trump there isn’t enough support in Congress for a wall and speculated the President is refusing to back down because he’s scared to run away with his tail between his legs.

“I was trying to be the mom. I can’t explain it to you. It was so wild,” Pelosi said of the Oval Office meet, which was also attended by Vice President Pence and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “It goes to show you: you get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you.”

This represented the first salvo in a major spin-job for the ultra-liberal San Francisco Democrat. The rhetoric spun by Mrs. Pelosi and Chuck Schumer was desperate as they tried to deflect their humiliation and place it back on the President:

With reporters still present, Trump boasted during the Oval meeting he would be “proud” to shutdown the government if Congress doesn’t earmark cash for his wall before a Dec. 21 spending deadline.

Pelosi told Democrats that Trump’s boisterousness will be beneficial for them.

“The fact is we did get him to say, to fully own that the shutdown was his,” Pelosi said. “That was an accomplishment.”

The press tried to characterize this as a “Trump Tantrum”, saying things like this lede:

While “discussing” a budgetary agreement for the government, President Donald Trump crossed his arms and declared: “we will shut down the government if there is no wall.”

While the Democrats and the mainstream media in the US are sure to largely buy these interpretations of the event, the fact that this matter was televised live shows that the matter was entirely different, and this will be discomfiting to all but those Democrats and Trump-dislikers that will not look at reality.

There appears to be a twofold accomplishment for the President in this confrontation:

  1. The President revealed to his support base the real nature of the conversation with the Democrat leadership, because anyone watching this broadcast (and later, video clip) saw it unedited with their own eyes. They witnessed the pettiness of both Democrats and they witnessed a President completely comfortable and confident about the situation.
  2. President Trump probably made many of his supporters cheer with the commitment to shut down the government if he doesn’t get his border wall funding. This cheering is for both the strength shown about getting the wall finished and the promise to shut the government down, and further, Mr. Trump’s assertion that he would be “proud” to shut the government down, taking complete ownership willingly, reflects a sentiment that many of his supporters share.

The usual pattern is for the media, Democrats and even some Republicans to create a “scare” narrative about government shutdowns, about how doing this is a sure-fire path to chaos and suffering for the United States.

But the educated understanding of how shutdowns work reveals something completely different. Vital services never close. However, National Parks can close partly or completely, and some non-essential government agencies are shuttered. While this is an inconvenience for the employees furloughed during the shutdown, they eventually are re-compensated for the time lost, and are likely to receive help during the shutdown period if they need it. The impact on the nation is minimal, aside from the fact that the government stops spending money at the same frenetic pace as usual.

President Trump’s expression of willingness to do this action and his singling out of the Dem leadership gives the Democrats a real problem. Now the entire country sees their nature. As President Trump is a populist, this visceral display of Democrat opposition and pettiness will make at least some impact on the population, even that group of people who are not Trump fans.

The media reaction and that of the Democrats here show, amazingly, that after three years-plus of Donald Trump being a thorn in their side, they still do not understand how he works, and they also cannot match it against their expected “norms” of establishment behavior.

This may be a brilliant masterstroke, and it also may be followed up by more. The President relishes head-to-head conflict. The reactions of these congress members showed who they really are.

Let the games begin.

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