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Top Chinese officials visit Putin in Moscow as China reaffirms its alliance with Russia

Chinese acts to reaffirm alliance with Russia and to quell attempts by Trump administration to make trouble between Russia and China.

Alexander Mercouris

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The pace of Russian-Chinese contacts has suddenly intensified with Russian President Putin hosting this month no fewer than three senior officials of the Chinese government, each one following the other in quick succession.

The first was Zhang Gaoli, the First Vice-Chairman of China’s State Council (ie. China’s deputy prime minister).  He has now been followed by Zhang Dejiang, the Chairman of the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress (China’s parliament), who met with Putin yesterday.

Now comes news of the pending visit of Li Zhanshu, the Director of the General Office of the Communist Party of China, who the Chinese Foreign Ministry says will visit Moscow on 25th April 2017, where he will meet over several days with President Putin and with various other senior Russian officials.

Of these three officials the most important is Li Zhanshu, whose position approximates to that of Anton Vaino, the head of the Russian President’s Executive Office.

Li and Vaino can be described as the chiefs of the staff of their respective leaders, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin.  Moreover it has been clear for some time that contact between China and Russia does not take place through the foreign ministries of the two countries (their foreign ministers – Wang Yi and Sergey Lavrov – rarely meet), but at some other level, and it is likely that it is conducted by Li and Vaino, who have immediate access to their chiefs, Xi and Putin.

If so then Li’s visit to Moscow is the visit to the Russian capital of the Chinese official in charge of managing China’s relations with its closest ally, Russia.

What explains this visit, coming so soon after the visits of two other high-ranking Chinese officials to Moscow?

At the most basic level it is likely that Li’s visit, like those of Zhang Gaoli and of Zhang Dejiang, is intended to prepare the way for Putin’s visit to China next month.  It is clear that this visit is going to be a major visit, and is seen as such by the leaderships of the two countries.  It is likely that intense discussions are underway to fine-tune arrangements for this visit, and to complete the details of whatever agreements are expected to be signed during it.

However it is difficult to avoid the impression that at least in Li’s case his visit is in part intended to coordinate with the Russians in light of the Trump administration’s ham-fisted attempts to cause trouble between Beijing and Moscow.  What suggests that this is the reason for Li’s visit is that there was so little advanced notice of it, suggesting that unlike the visits by Zhang Gaoli and Zhang Dejiang it was not arranged long ago but was arranged hurriedly at short notice.

That the Trump administration is indeed trying to make trouble between Beijing and Moscow has been all but confirmed by no less a person than President Trump’s National Security Adviser, General H.R. McMaster, who in an interview with ABC television said the following

What we do know is that, in the midst of responding to the mass murder of the Syrian regime, the president (Trump) and the first lady hosted an extraordinarily successful conference, summit, with President Xi and his team. And not only did they establish a very warm relationship, but… they worked together as well in connection with the response to the mass murder on the part of the Assad regime in connection with the U.N. vote.  I think President Xi was courageous in distancing himself from the Russians, isolating really the Russians and the BoliviansAnd I think the world saw that, and they (Xi) saw, well, what club do you want to be in? The Russian-Bolivian club? Or the — in the club with the United States, working together on our mutual interests and the interests of peace, security

(bold italics added)

This comment serves as a further illustration of the inexperience and naivety of US diplomacy in the age of Trump.  It confirms that China abstained in the vote in the UN Security Council on 12th April 2017 following a personal request from Trump to Xi Jinping.  However it completely misconstrues the meaning of that act.

The Chinese almost certainly cleared their decision to abstain in the UN Security Council vote ahead of the vote with Moscow.  From their point of view and that of the Russians a decision by China to abstain would have meant little.  There was no possibility that the draft Resolution would pass because Russia had already made known it would veto it, whilst the US had already removed the most offensive words in the draft of the Resolution before it was put to the vote by deleting wording in the draft which blamed the Khan Sheikhoun incident on the Syrian government before any investigation had taken place.

Why would China hurt and humiliate Trump – whom Xi Jinping had met just days before – by refusing his request and voting against a Resolution which was no longer controversial, which did not concern an issue important to China, and which the Chinese knew the Russians were going to veto anyway?

What was undoubtedly intended by the Chinese as a simple diplomatic courtesy to the new US President over an issue which for China is of secondary importance, is however now being misconstrued by the Trump administration as a big step by China against Russia.

To be clear, it would have been an entirely different matter if China had voted for the Resolution after Russia had made known it would vote against it.  In that case it would have been legitimate to speak of a serious rift over the Syrian issue between Beijing and Moscow.  However an abstention should not be construed in that way.

China has previously abstained on votes in the UN Security Council on Syria and Ukraine, and it is far from unusual for China to sidestep Western criticism by acting in this way over issues which it regards as being of only secondary importance to itself.  The Russians understand this fully, and have never shown any concern about it.

It is however fully understandable that in light of the sort of comments that have been coming out of the Trump administration the Chinese leadership should now be pulling out the stops to make clear that China’s alliance with Russia is unaffected and as strong as always.

The result is a series of articles which have appeared in the Chinese media, which have been strongly critical of the Trump administration’s actions (discussed here and here), a strong statement reaffirming support for Russia’s position in Syria rushed out by the BRICS group, which is unofficially led by China and Russia, and the visits by the three important Chinese dignitaries to Moscow.

The statement by the BRICS group is the most public expression of these Chinese steps.  It seems to have been hurriedly put together at a meeting of the BRICS special envoys in Visakhapatnam in India, and was published on 12th April 2017 – the same day as the UN Security Council vote – in a way that was obviously intended to offset any misconception arising from China’s decision to abstain in that vote.

Its full text has been published by Russia’s Foreign Ministry, and was undoubtedly agreed in advance following detailed discussions at the highest levels of the Russian and Chinese governments, but also involving the governments of the three other BRICS states: India, Brazil and South Africa.

The statement reaffirms the primacy of international law in settling disputes in the Middle East and elsewhere, and importantly it reaffirms the primary role of the UN Security Council as the only body empowered to authorise the use of force

BRICS Special Envoys on Middle East expressed their concern about internal crises that have emerged in a number of states in the region in recent years. They firmly advocated that these crises should be resolved in accordance with the international law and UN Charter, without resorting to force or external interference and through establishing broad national dialogue with due respect for independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the countries of the region…..

….In the course of the meeting, the role of the UN Security Council as the international body bearing the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security was underlined.  It was also stressed that military interventions that have not been authorized by the Security Council are incompatible with the UN Charter and unacceptable.

(bold italics added)

The highlighted words are straightforward criticisms of the US missile strike on Al-Shayrat air base on 6th April 2017, which was carried out without authorisation from the UN Security Council, though the statement is careful not to refer to the US by name.

Li Zhanshu’s pending visit to Moscow is almost certainly connected to these steps.

The idea that China can be sweet-talked out of an alliance with Russia it has spent 25 years creating as a result of a single meeting between the US and Chinese Presidents during which nothing of substance was agreed, is fanciful in the extreme.  It is a further illustration of the lack of understanding or experience of international diplomacy within the Trump administration.

President Trump is right to believe that establishing good personal relations with foreign leaders is critically important for the successful conduct of diplomacy.  The fact that he spent time meeting and talking to Xi Jinping and made a serious effort to establish a personal rapport with him promises well for the future.  It contrasts with the arrogant disdain towards foreign leaders of Barack Obama, who as President barely communicated with foreign leaders on a personal level at all.

However President Trump has to be realistic about what such personal diplomacy can do.  If he over-invests in it, and thinks he can change the entire foreign policy of a superpower like China by a single meeting and a few phone calls, then he is setting himself up for failure and disappointment.

In the meantime the way President Trump through his officials has misconstrued the habitual courtesy of the Chinese President, and tried to use it to make trouble between Moscow and Beijing, has almost certainly taught the Chinese of the need to handle him carefully.  He may find that in future meetings they are not quite so polite.

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New York Times hit piece on Trump and NATO exposes alliance as outdated and obsolete (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 61.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a quick look at the New York Times hit piece citing anonymous sources, with information that the U.S. President dared to question NATO’s viability.

Propaganda rag, the NYT, launched its latest presidential smear aimed at discrediting Trump and provoking the establishment, warmonger left into more impeachment – Twenty-fifth Amendment talking points.

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Via The American Conservative


The New York Times scored a serious scoop when it revealed on Monday that President Trump had questioned in governmental conversations—on more than one occasion, apparently—America’s membership in NATO. Unfortunately the paper then slipped into its typical mode of nostrum journalism. My Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “nostrum” as “quack medicine” entailing “exaggerated claims.” Here we had quack journalism executed in behalf of quack diplomacy.

The central exaggerated claim is contained in the first sentence, in which it is averred that NATO had “deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.” This is wrong, as can be seen through just a spare amount of history.

True, NATO saved Europe from the menace of Russian Bolshevism. But it did so not over 70 years but over 40 years—from 1949 to 1989. That’s when the Soviet Union had 1.3 million Soviet and client-state troops poised on Western Europe’s doorstep, positioned for an invasion of Europe through the lowlands of Germany’s Fulda Gap.

How was this possible? It was possible because Joseph Stalin had pushed his armies farther and farther into the West as the German Wehrmacht collapsed at the end of World War II. In doing so, and in the process capturing nearly all of Eastern Europe, he ensured that the Soviets had no Western enemies within a thousand miles of Leningrad or within 1,200 miles of Moscow. This vast territory represented not only security for the Russian motherland (which enjoys no natural geographical barriers to deter invasion from the West) but also a potent staging area for an invasion of Western Europe.

The first deterrent against such an invasion, which Stalin would have promulgated had he thought he could get away with it, was America’s nuclear monopoly. By the time that was lost, NATO had emerged as a powerful and very necessary deterrent. The Soviets, concluding that the cost of an invasion was too high, defaulted to a strategy of undermining Western interests anywhere around the world where that was possible. The result was global tensions stirred up at various global trouble spots, most notably Korea and Vietnam.

But Europe was saved, and NATO was the key. It deserves our respect and even reverence for its profound success as a military alliance during a time of serious threat to the West.

But then the threat went away. Gone were the 1.3 million Soviet and client-state troops. Gone was Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. Indeed, gone, by 1991, was the Soviet Union itself, an artificial regime of brutal ideology superimposed upon the cultural entity of Mother Russia. It was a time for celebration.

But it was also a time to contemplate the precise nature of the change that had washed over the world and to ponder what that might mean for old institutions—including NATO, a defensive military alliance created to deter aggression from a menacing enemy to the east. Here’s where Western thinking went awry. Rather than accepting as a great benefit the favorable developments enhancing Western security—the Soviet military retreat, the territorial reversal, the Soviet demise—the West turned NATO into a territorial aggressor of its own, absorbing nations that had been part of the Soviet sphere of control and pushing right up to the Russian border. Now Leningrad (renamed St. Petersburg after the obliteration of the menace of Soviet communism) resides within a hundred miles of NATO military forces, while Moscow is merely 200 miles from Western troops.

Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has absorbed 13 nations, some on the Russian border, others bordering lands that had been part of Russia’s sphere of interest for centuries. This constitutes a policy of encirclement, which no nation can accept without protest or pushback. And if NATO were to absorb those lands of traditional Russian influence—particularly Ukraine and Georgia—that would constitute a major threat to Russian security, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to emphasize to Western leaders for years.

So, no, NATO has not deterred Russian aggression for 70 years. It did so for 40 and has maintained a destabilizing posture toward Russia ever since. The problem here is the West’s inability to perceive how changed geopolitical circumstances might require a changed geopolitical strategy. The encirclement strategy has had plenty of critics—George Kennan before he died; academics John Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt, and Robert David English; former diplomat Jack Matlock; the editors of The Nation. But their voices have tended to get drowned out by the nostrum diplomacy and the nostrum journalism that supports it at every turn.

You can’t drown out Donald Trump because he’s president of the United States. And so he has to be traduced, ridiculed, dismissed, and marginalized. That’s what the Times story, by Julian Barnes and Helene Cooper, sought to do. Consider the lead, designed to emphasize just how outlandish Trump’s musings are before the reader even has a chance to absorb what he may have been thinking: “There are few things that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia desires more than the weakening of NATO, the military alliance among the United States, Europe and Canada that has deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.” Translation: “Take that, Mr. President! You’re an idiot.”

Henry Kissinger had something interesting to say about Trump in a recent interview with the Financial Times. “I think Trump may be one of those figures in history,” said the former secretary of state, “who appears from time to time to mark the end of an era and to force it to give up its old pretenses.” One Western pretense about Russia, so ardently enforced by the likes of Julian Barnes and Helene Cooper (who, it may be safe to say, know less about world affairs and their history than Henry Kissinger), is that nothing really changed with the Soviet collapse and NATO had to turn aggressive in order to keep that menacing nation in its place.

Trump clearly doesn’t buy that pretense. He said during the campaign that NATO was obsolete. Then he backtracked, saying he only wanted other NATO members to pay their fair share of the cost of deterrence. He even confessed, after Hillary Clinton identified NATO as “the strongest military alliance in the history of the world,” that he only said NATO was obsolete because he didn’t know much about it. But he was learning—enough, it appears, to support as president Montenegro’s entry into NATO in 2017. Is Montenegro, with 5,332 square miles and some 620,000 citizens, really a crucial element in Europe’s desperate project to protect itself against Putin’s Russia?

We all know that Trump is a crude figure—not just in his disgusting discourse but in his fumbling efforts to execute political decisions. As a politician, he often seems like a doctor attempting to perform open-heart surgery while wearing mittens. His idle musings about leaving NATO are a case in point—an example of a politician who lacks the skill and finesse to nudge the country in necessary new directions.

But Kissinger has a point about the man. America and the world have changed, while the old ways of thinking have not kept pace. The pretenses of the old have blinded the status quo defenders into thinking nothing has changed. Trump, almost alone among contemporary American politicians, is asking questions to which the world needs new answers. NATO, in its current configuration and outlook, is a danger to peace, not a guarantor of it.


Robert W. Merry, longtime Washington journalist and publishing executive, is the author most recently of President McKinley: Architect of the American Century

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Nigel Farage To Back Another “Vote Leave” Campaign If UK Holds Second Brexit Referendum

Nigel Farage said Friday that he would be willing to wage another “Vote Leave” campaign, even if he needed to use another party as the “vehicle” for his opposition.

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Via Zerohedge


Pro-European MPs from various political parties are pushing back against claims made by Prime Minister Theresa May’s government that a second Brexit referendum – which supporters have branded as a “People’s Vote” on May’s deal – would take roughly 14 months to organize, according to RT.

But while support for a second vote grows, one of the most notorious proponents of the original “Vote Leave” campaign is hinting at a possible return to politics to try and fight the effort.

After abandoning UKIP, the party he helped create, late last year, Nigel Farage said Friday that he would be willing to wage another “Vote Leave” campaign, even if he needed to use another party as the “vehicle” for his opposition. Farage also pointed out that a delay of Brexit Day would likely put it after the European Parliament elections in May.

“I think, I fear that the House of Commons is going to effectively overturn that Brexit. To me, the most likely outcome of all of this is an extension of Article 50. There could be another referendum,” he told Sky News.

According to official government guidance shown to lawmakers on Wednesday, which was subsequently leaked to the Telegraph, as May tries to head off a push by ministers who see a second referendum as the best viable alternative to May’s deal – a position that’s becoming increasingly popular with Labour Party MPs.

“In order to inform the discussions, a very short paper set out in factual detail the number of months that would be required, this was illustrative only and our position of course is that there will be no second referendum,,” May said. The statement comes as May has been meeting with ministers and leaders from all parties to try to find a consensus deal that could potentially pass in the House of Commons.

The 14 month estimate is how long May and her government expect it would take to pass the primary legislation calling for the referendum (seven months), conduct the question testing with the election committee (12 weeks), pass secondary legislation (six weeks) and conduct the campaigns (16 weeks).

May has repeatedly insisted that a second referendum wouldn’t be feasible because it would require a lengthy delay of Brexit Day, and because it would set a dangerous precedent that wouldn’t offer any more clarity (if some MPs are unhappy with the outcome, couldn’t they just push for a third referendum?). A spokesperson for No. 10 Downing Street said the guidance was produced purely for the purpose of “illustrative discussion” and that the government continued to oppose another vote.

Meanwhile, a vote on May’s “Plan B”, expected to include a few minor alterations from the deal’s previous iteration, has been called for Jan. 29, prompting some MPs to accuse May of trying to run out the clock. May is expected to present the new deal on Monday.

Former Tory Attorney General and pro-remainer MP Dominic Grieve blasted May’s timetable as wrong and said that the government “must be aware of it themselves,” while former Justice Minister Dr Phillip Lee, who resigned his cabinet seat in June over May’s Brexit policy, denounced her warning as “nonsense.”

As May pieces together her revised deal, more MPs are urging her to drop her infamous “red lines” (Labour in particular would like to see the UK remain part of the Customs Union), but with no clear alternative to May’s plan emerging, a delay of Brexit Day is looking like a virtual certainty.

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The National Security Agency Is A Criminal Organization

The National Security Agency values being able to blackmail citizens and members of government at home and abroad more than preventing terrorist attacks.

Paul Craig Roberts

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Via Paul Craig Roberts…


Years before Edward Snowden provided documented proof that the National Security Agency was really a national insecurity agency as it was violating law and the US Constitution and spying indiscriminately on American citizens, William Binney, who designed and developed the NSA spy program revealed the illegal and unconstitutional spying. Binney turned whistleblower, because NSA was using the program to spy on Americans. As Binney was well known to the US Congress, he did not think he needed any NSA document to make his case. But what he found out was “Congress would never hear me because then they’d lose plausible deniability. That was really their key. They needed to have plausible deniability so they can continue this massive spying program because it gave them power over everybody in the world. Even the members of Congress had power against others [in Congress]; they had power on judges on the Supreme Court, the federal judges, all of them. That’s why they’re so afraid. Everybody’s afraid because all this data that’s about them, the central agencies — the intelligence agencies — they have it. And that’s why Senator Schumer warned President Trump earlier, a few months ago, that he shouldn’t attack the intelligence community because they’ve got six ways to Sunday to come at you. That’s because it’s like J. Edgar Hoover on super steroids. . . . it’s leverage against every member of parliament and every government in the world.”

To prevent whistle-blowing, NSA has “a program now called ‘see something, say something’ about your fellow workers. That’s what the Stasi did. That’s why I call [NSA] the new New Stasi Agency. They’re picking up all the techniques from the Stasi and the KGB and the Gestapo and the SS. They just aren’t getting violent yet that we know of — internally in the US, outside is another story.”

As Binney had no documents to give to the media, blowing the whistle had no consequence for NSA. This is the reason that Snowden released the documents that proved NSA to be violating both law and the Constitution, but the corrupt US media focused blame on Snowden as a “traitor” and not on NSA for its violations.

Whistleblowers are protected by federal law. Regardless, the corrupt US government tried to prosecute Binney for speaking out, but as he had taken no classified document, a case could not be fabricated against him.

Binney blames the NSA’s law-breaking on Dick “Darth” Cheney. He says NSA’s violations of law and Constitution are so extreme that they would have to have been cleared at the top of the government.

Binney describes the spy network, explains that it was supposed to operate only against foreign enemies, and that using it for universal spying so overloads the system with data that the system fails to discover many terrorist activities. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/50932.htm

Apparently, the National Security Agency values being able to blackmail citizens and members of government at home and abroad more than preventing terrorist attacks.

Unfortunately for Americans, there are many Americans who blindly trust the government and provide the means, the misuse of which is used to enslave us. A large percentage of the work in science and technology serves not to free people but to enslave them. By now there is no excuse for scientists and engineers not to know this. Yet they persist in their construction of the means to destroy liberty.

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