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Did Greek newspaper “To Vima” damage Greek – Russian relations, by trying to make Tsipras look good?

The Greek media story that Russia refused Greece’s request for $10 billion appears to be an attempt to divert blame from Tsipras…But what it is really going to do is infuriate Putin and the Russian government.

Alex Christoforou

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Post by Alexander Mercouris entitled, “Greek Media Almost Certainly Lying: Putin Never Said No – Tsipras Never Asked“. Originally appeared on Russia Insider.

The Russian government has formally denied reports that have appeared in the Greek newspaper To Vima that in the hours following the referendum Putin rejected a plea from Tsipras for $10 billion to support a new drachma.

The report in fact makes no sense. Putin would not have been in a position to accede to such a request if it were ever made.

Russia could only have provided Greece with $10 billion at such short notice from its National Welfare Fund. That is prohibited by the Fund’s rules which prevent the fund from investing in anything other than AAA rated securities. Greece’s rating has junk status so a loan to Greece would have breached the fund’s rules.

Putin did once order the fund to lend money to a borrower whose credit rating did not qualify for a loan from the fund. That was in December 2013 when he agreed to a loan to Ukraine using money drawn from the fund.

The Russians have regretted that decision ever since. Suffice to say that the Ukrainians have been arguing that because the loan was made contrary to the fund’s rules, that makes it a private debt — rather than a public one — entitling them to default on it.

The Russians are not prepared to be put in that position again and have repeatedly and publicly ruled out such a loan to Greece. It is inconceivable that Tsipras was not aware of this when he spoke to Putin since the Russians have repeatedly spoken about it.

The only other possible source of funds would have been as a pre-payment from Gazprom as part of a pipeline deal. The Russians did offer such a $5 billion pre-payment in April when Tsipras and the Greek government rejected it – a fact to which To Vima admits.

The pipeline deal that was eventually signed in June did not come with a pre-payment and it is hardly credible that in the hours immediately following the referendum Tsipras could have believed that the whole deal could be renegotiated at short notice to provide for one.

If Tsipras did make such a request to Putin in the hours following the referendum — or even in the weeks leading up to it — then it would only have reinforced the Russians’ impression that they were dealing with an amateur who could not make his mind up and who could not be trusted.

It is far more likely — and far more consistent with the known facts — that the request for the $10 billion was never made.

Throughout their dealings with Tsipras the Russians repeatedly said that he had not asked them for financial help for Greece but that they would consider such a request if he ever made it.

It is possible that the Russians said that to help Tsipras save face, but it is more likely that they are telling the truth.

Varoufakis, who would be in a position to know, has never mentioned such a request in the detailed accounts he has given of the various negotiations, and it is difficult to see why he would not have done so if such a request had actually been made.

Why then, if it is untrue, is this story appearing now?

The short answer is because of the political crisis in Greece. As the crisis deepens it is becoming urgently necessary for Tsipras and his supporters to claim that there was no alternative and to shift the blame on someone else.

That appears to be the motive behind this story, with Putin, together with Tehran and Beijing — who supposedly also refused Tsipras’s requests for help — being cast as the people who let down Greece in its hour of need, leaving Tsipras with no choice but to submit to the EU’s demands.

Unfortunately this incident is likely to have serious repercussions.

I have already written of how Tsipras’s manipulative approach to the Russians will have offended and infuriated them.

This latest incident is going to increase the damage significantly.

Putin has repeatedly made known that nothing infuriates him more than to have his confidential discussions with foreign leaders misused to peddle distorted or fabricated versions of things he has privately said.

He has publicly complained about how it was done by Anders Fogh Rasmussen when he was Prime Minister of Denmark.

When Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, did the same thing during the most intense period of the Ukrainian conflict last year, Putin threatened to publish the stenographic record of the whole conversation, forcing Barroso into a public retraction.

If Putin thinks Tsipras has done the same thing, then it will have damaged irreparably Putin’s confidence in him.

Putin will anyway be more careful from now on about what he says to any visitors who come to him from Greece.

References:

http://russia-insider.com/en/politics/greek-media-story-russia-refused-greeces-request-10-billion-almost-certainly-untrue-and

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Russia Lures International Arms Buyers With Half-Priced, More Effective Missile System

The Russian S-400 mobile long-range surface-to-air missile system costs around $500 million, vs. the $1 billion price tag for a US-made Raytheon Patriot Pac-2 battery.

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Via Zerohedge


Russia has been pitching a rival missile platform that costs half of those made by US companies, reports CNBC, which has resulted in several countries dealing with the Kremlin “despite the potential for blowback.”

Sefa Karacan | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The Russian S-400 mobile long-range surface-to-air missile system costs around $500 million, vs. the $1 billion price tag for a US-made Raytheon Patriot Pac-2 battery, while a THAAD battery made by Lockheed Martin costs just about $3 billion, according to people with first-hand knowledge of a US intelligence assessment.

Nearly 13 countries have expressed interest in buying Russia’s S-400, a move that could trigger potential U.S. sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which President Donald Trump signed in August 2017. In September, the U.S. slapped sanctions on China  for buying fighter jets and missiles from Russia. However, the U.S. could grant sanction waivers. –CNBC

Turkey, meanwhile, may be hit with US sanctions over their decision to purchase the S-400 defense system, which the United States says poses a risk to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform.

Meanwhile, India called the United States’ bluff over sanctions in late Ocotber, standing its ground in its decision to buy the S-400.

One of the reasons Russian systems are generally considered less expensive than their American counterparts is because they don’t include pricey ongoing maintenance.

“When foreign militaries buy American, above and beyond the purchase, they are buying a partnership with the U.S. military,” Andrew Hunter, director of the Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told CNBC. “And that plus the maintenance and technical assistance is a big part of the cost difference.

The S-400 system made its debut in 2007, succeeding the S-200 and S-300 missile systems. According to CNBC, “the Russian-made S-400 is capable of engaging a wider array of targets, at longer ranges and against multiple threats simultaneously,” vs. US-made systems.

In terms of capability, one source noted that while there is no perfect weapon, the S-400 eclipses even THAAD, America’s missile defense crown jewel.

When asked why nations seek to buy the S-400 instead of America’s Patriot or THAAD systems, one of the people with knowledge of the intelligence report explained that foreign militaries aren’t willing to stick with the cumbersome process of buying weapons from the U.S. government. –CNBC

“Many of these countries do not want to wait for U.S. regulatory hurdles,” said a CNBC source with first hand knowledge of the assessment. “The S-400 has less export restrictions and the Kremlin is willing to expedite sales by skipping over any regulatory hurdles.

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Britain’s Enemy Is Not Russia But It’s Own Ruling Class, UN Report Confirms

In austerity Britain, who the enemy is has never been more clear.

The Duran

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Authored by John Wright. op-ed via RT.com:


As the UK political establishment rips itself to pieces over Brexit, a far greater crisis continues to afflict millions of victims of Tory austerity…

A devastating UN report into poverty in the UK provides incontrovertible evidence that the enemy of the British people is the very ruling class that has gone out of its way these past few years to convince them it is Russia.

Professor Philip Alston, in his capacity as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, spent two weeks touring the United Kingdom. He did so investigating the impact of eight years of one of the most extreme austerity programs among advanced G20 economies in response to the 2008 financial crash and subsequent global recession.

What he found was evidence of a systematic, wilful, concerted and brutal economic war unleashed by the country’s right-wing Tory establishment against the poorest and most vulnerable section of British society– upending the lives of millions of people who were not responsible for the aforementioned financial crash and recession but who have been forced to pay the price.

From the report’s introduction:

“It…seems patently unjust and contrary to British values that so many people are living in poverty. This is obvious to anyone who opens their eyes to see the immense growth in foodbanks and the queues waiting outside them, the people sleeping rough in the streets, the growth of homelessness, the sense of deep despair that leads even the Government to appoint a Minister for Suicide Prevention and civil society to report in depth on unheard of levels of loneliness and isolation.”

Though as a citizen of the UK I respectfully beg to differ with the professor’s claim that such social and economic carnage seems “contrary to British values,” (on the contrary it is entirely in keeping with the values of the country’s Tory establishment, an establishment for whom the dehumanization of the poor and working class is central to its ideology), the point he makes about it being “obvious to anyone who opens their eyes,” is well made.

For it is now the case that in every town and city centre in Britain, it is impossible to walk in any direction for more than a minute before coming across homeless people begging in the street. And the fact that some 13,000 of them are former soldiers, casualties of the country’s various military adventures in recent years, undertaken in service to Washington, exposes the pious platitudes peddled by politicians and the government as reverence for the troops and their ‘sacrifice,’ as insincere garbage.

Overall, 14 million people in the UK are now living in poverty, a figure which translates into an entire fifth of the population. Four million of them are children, while, according to Professor Alston, 1.5 million people are destitute – that is, unable to afford the basic necessities of life.

And this is what the ruling class of the fifth largest economy in the world, a country that parades itself on the world stage as a pillar of democracy and human rights, considers progress.

The values responsible for creating such a grim social landscape are compatible with the 18th not 21st century. They are proof positive that the network of elite private schools – Eton, Harrow, Fettes College et al. – where those responsible for this human carnage are inculcated with the sense of entitlement and born to rule ethos that defines them, are Britain’s hotbeds of extremism.

Professor Alston:

“British compassion for those who are suffering has been replaced by a punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous approach apparently designed to instill discipline where it is least useful, to impose a rigid order on the lives of those least capable of coping with today’s world, and elevating the goal of enforcing blind compliance over a genuine concern to improve the well-being of those at the lowest levels of British society.”

Here, set out above in bold relief, is the barbarism that walks hand in hand with free market capitalism. It is the same barbarism that was responsible for pushing post-Soviet Russia into a decade-long economic and social abyss in the 1990s, and the values that have pushed 14 million people in the UK into the same economic and social abyss in our time.

Austerity, it bears emphasizing, is not and never has been a viable economic response to recession in a given economy.

Instead, it is an ideological club, wielded on behalf of the rich and big business to ensure that the price paid for said economic recession is borne exclusively by those least able to bear it – namely, the poor and working people. It is class war by any other name, packaged and presented as legitimate government policy.

However, in Britain’s case in 2018, this is a war like no other because, as Professor Philip Alston’s report lays bare, only one side in this war has been throwing all the punches and only one side has been taking them.

With Christmas season upon us, the scale of human suffering across the UK ensures that the elaborate ad campaigns inviting us to shop and indulge to our heart’s content – ads depicting the middle class dream of affluence and material comfort – take on the character of a provocation. In fact, they call to mind the truism that wars take place when the government tells you who the enemy is, while revolutions take place when you work it out for yourself.

In austerity Britain, who the enemy is has never been more clear.

 

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America Has Built 800+ Military Bases Worldwide. So Why Can’t It Build a Mexican Border Wall?

How did America arrive at a place where such a fundamental element of nationhood – the ability to control borders from any and all outside illegal intruders – be considered a radical concept?

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Authored by Robert Bridge via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The US government has constructed at tremendous cost to its taxpayers some of the most impressive structures – both architectural and organizational – of all time. Yet somehow it has failed to build a viable wall on the Mexican border.

In 1931, during the Great Depression, the US government began construction of the Hoover Dam, one of the most ambitious civil engineering projects ever attempted. Employing thousands of US laborers, some 100 of whom reportedly lost their lives in the course of the project, the dam is mind-boggling due its sheer size, rivaling that of the pyramids.

At 726 feet tall, the wedge-shaped structure is 660 ft (200 m) thick at its base, narrowing to 45 ft (14 m) at the top, which provides enough room to accommodate a highway connecting Nevada and Arizona. The project required millions of cubic feet of concrete – said to be enough to pave a two-lane highway from San Francisco to New York – and tens of millions of pounds of steel.

Many decades later, the US government undertook another extensive project known as the US Embassy in Baghdad. Although rarely discussed in the US media, this 104-acre slice of American property in a foreign country is so immense that it rivals Vatican City in terms of size [the Vatican is an independent city-state, complete with its own euro-based currency and security detail, located inside of Rome].

Officially opened in 2009, the $750 million embassy, which is situated in Baghdad’s so-called Green Zone, is by far the most expansive and expensive embassy in the world. Why does a foreign nation need a footprint the size of a small country to house a few thousand diplomats and private contractors? That is a very good question, but one that was never really pursued by legislators when Congress approved plans in 2005 for the mega structure under the Bush administration.

To this day, much of the complex remains under heavy wraps due to “security concerns.” Yet this behemoth cash cow continues to suck money dry from government coffers; in 2012, just several years after its construction was finished, the Obama administration requested and got more than $100 million for a “massive” upgrade to the compound.

Speaking of Iraq, which suffered military conquest at the hands of US-led forces starting in 2003, the United States also managed to find ways to construct some 900+ military bases around the world. Needless to say, this is no cheap venture, and helps to explain why the US military budget is approaching $1 trillion dollars annually – more than China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, United Kingdom, and Japan combined.

In light of these monumental projects, it goes without saying that the United States certainly possesses the technical prowess and the financial wherewithal to perform the simple task of building a wall, and more specifically, a wall on the Mexican border. Yet thus far, and despite the fact that Donald Trump pledged on the campaign trail that would be his first task in office, the wall remains – a bit like Barack Obama’s past promise to shut down Guantanamo Bay detention center – a pipe dream.

How did we Americans arrive at a place where such a fundamental element of nationhood – that is, the ability to control our borders from any and all outside illegal intruders – is considered a radical concept? Since when did the universally accepted idea of a strong national border become an issue for debate and contention among our legislators? Since when have weak, porous borders become a desired state of affairs for a global superpower, and especially one that has a habit of attacking sovereign states? Part of the answer seems to lie within the present atmosphere of political correctness and identity politics that has conflated the need for a strong border with racism and even white supremacist ideology. More on that in a moment.

Just this week, part of the South American ‘caravan’ that the US mainstream media had called a “myth” has turned up on America’s doorstep in the Mexican town of Tijuana. Images show dozens of young men straddling the top of the border fence with none of the US troops that Trump activated in sight. Now, if the US Democrats had their way, these thousands of illegal aliens would be awarded amnesty and shepherded into ‘sanctuary cities’ where these individuals would slip undetected into the fabric of American society. And for those – including the US president – who voice opposition to this invasion, they are casually branded as racist or a white supremacist. However, the real motivation for the Democrats behind such ad hominem attacks is raw political opportunism.

The Democrats are actually building part of their platform on awarding asylum to illegals, and despite the fact that many of these people are not suffering political repression back home. In fact, most of these people just want to improve their financial well-being. In other words, the great majority of these new arrivals – as was established by on-the-ground interviews – are economic migrants.

And who can blame anyone for wanting a better life? After all, it was the incentive of economic opportunity that first brought millions of migrants to America in the first place. However, the difference between the migrants from past generations and many of those arriving today is that the former went through a lengthy legal process for entering the country. Today, it’s even worse than just a matter of legality; it’s a matter of criminality on multiple fronts.

What the US mainstream media fails to inform the American public is that the overwhelming majority of people from this so-called ‘caravan’ are young, male and oftentimes dangerous. This much was confirmed by Chris Farrell of Judicial Watch, one of the only Western journalists to actually travel to South America and report on the march of migrants firsthand. In addition to reporting that, in his estimation, some 98 percent of the migrants were young and male, he added that some of them bore tattoos that identified them as members of the notorious MS13 international crime gang. To get a better understanding of this caravan and the true makeup of its participants I would encourage the reader to watch Farrell’s interview in its entirety.

Now this leads us to the question of constructing a wall on the US-Mexico border. To date, those efforts have gone fizzled. In March, Congress passed its trillion-dollar spending bill; glaringly missing from the numerous pages was funding for construction of Trump’s wall. Instead, $1.6 billion was put aside for “border security,” as well as replacing parts of the existing fence. In other words, nothing that will prevent illegals from entering the United States.

Republican Rep. Jim Jordan said this week that the Trump White House has one last chance – with a lame duck Republican Congress still in place – to secure funding for the US-Mexican border wall.

“We should be focused on that one main thing over the next several weeks as we still have a few weeks left while Republicans control all of government,” Jordan said in an interview.

Time is ticking like a bomb for the American people to restore control over its southern border, and there is no good excuse for not completing this monumental project. Americans should not be cowered by accusations of ‘racism,’ when the country itself has been founded on the blood, sweat and tears of migrants throughout history. Much of the so-called racism that exists in America is a figment of the media’s hyperactive imagination. Nor should the expense of the project – considering the price tag for so many other US adventures and misadventures, up to and including wars abroad – be a reason for preventing it.

The overall cost of failing to protect America’s border will far excel the total price of a wall if action is not taken now. It’s time for America to act like a real nation – a superpower with a backbone – and protect its border.

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