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Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin: Potential Partners – Not Allies or Even Friends

Far from being Putin’s Stooge Donald Trump is a pragmatic realist. However that is not enough for the Beltway’s insiders who have a pathological hatred of the Russian leader.

George Szamuely

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Reporters and pundits covering the presidential campaign of Donald Trump have been torn between two conflicting narratives: The first is that Trump is a reckless amateur and, as president with his finger on the nuclear button, he would bring the world to the brink of catastrophe. The second is that Trump is a cat’s paw for Russian President Vladimir Putin and, as president, he would, advertently or inadvertently, work to implement Moscow’s agenda for world domination.

The first narrative is a familiar one. Past Republican presidential candidates—Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan—have all had to fight off accusations that, if elected, they would waste no time before launching World War III. The second narrative however is somewhat unusual. It is not often that Republicans are accused of acting as witting or unwitting tools of the Kremlin—at least not by so-called liberals.

For it is liberal media outlets that are the most enthusiastic purveyors of this tale of Putin, the manipulative mastermind, and Trump, his would-be hand puppet. Most of these stories depict Trump as a buffoonish narcissist, easily susceptible to the empty flattery doled out by a predatory Putin. In a story titled “Putin’s Puppet,” Franklin Foer in Slate claimed that Putin “has a plan for destroying the West—and that plan looks a lot like Donald Trump.” Foer set the Red-baiting tone by announcing that Trump’s campaign is “the moral equivalent of Henry Wallace’s communist-infiltrated campaign for president in 1948….A foreign power that wishes ill upon the United States has attached itself to a major presidential campaign.” Trump’s ambition doesn’t go beyond fulfilment of a “longtime dream of planting his name in the Moscow skyline.” Putin’s dream is far more sinister:

If Putin wanted to concoct the ideal candidate to serve his purposes, his laboratory creation would look like Donald Trump. The Republican nominee wants to shatter our military alliances in Europe; he cheers the destruction of the European Union; he favors ratcheting down tensions with Russia over Ukraine and Syria, both as a matter of foreign policy and in service of his own pecuniary interests. A Trump presidency would weaken Putin’s greatest geo-strategic competitor. By stoking racial hatred, Trump will shred the fabric of American society.

“Trump is Vladimir Putin’s stooge,” Jonathan Chait claimed in New York in a story headlined “Why Is Donald Trump a Patsy for Vladimir Putin? The New York Review of Books also chimed in: Under a Trump presidency, “American policy to [sic] Europe will be guided by Russian interests,” wrote its resident “Russia expert” Timothy Snyder. Until “the rise of Trump the idea of an American who would volunteer to be a Kremlin client would have seemed unlikely. Trump represents an unprecedented standard of American servility, and should therefore be cultivated as a future Russian client.” Putin likes “weakness, which is what Trump offers…. an American president who shuns alliances with fellow democracies, praises dictators, and prefers “deals” to the rule of law would be a very easy mark in Moscow.” For Putin, “Trump is a small man who might gain great power. The trick is to manipulate the small man and thereby neutralize the great power. In another article, Snyder claimed that the Russian elite is rooting for Trump because of “their conviction that Trump will destroy U.S. power.” 

Most media outlets however didn’t waste time hiring experts. Standard-issue political operatives sufficed. Time ran a column titled Meet the Tyrant Donald Trump Loves the Most by Elise Jordan, speechwriter to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who now serves as MSNBC’s in-house Republican, ready at the drop of a hat to express the appropriate outrage at the latest pronouncement of Donald Trump’s. The Russian leader, according to Jordan, “senses that Trump’s rise portends weakness for America. No wonder Putin is openly excited by the prospect of facing off against an ignorant reality star whom he could easily dominate in the international pecking order.” Trump’s “attacks on strong women, [echo] Putin’s pathetic attempts at machismo.” Jordan’s fact-free rant culminated in the prediction that “It’s not too far-fetched to imagine Trump going full Putin and starting a war with Mexico, like Putin’s Crimea grab, if they don’t build the wall.” (Well, actually, it is too far-fetched. Trump has explained in some detail how he would persuade Mexico to pay for the wall. He said he would threaten to cut off the flow of money immigrants send back to Mexico via remittances. He would rescind the threat if Mexico made “a one-time payment of $5-10 billion” to pay for the border wall. Whatever one might think of the advisability or feasibility of this plan, it involves no threat of war.)

Another political operative who weighed in on the Putin-Trump relationship, this time at Politico, was one Evelyn Farkas, a former official in Obama’s Pentagon. Her screed, Trump and Putin: Two Liars Separated at Birth?, was notable in that she appears to hold Americans in as much contempt as she holds the Russians. The Russian people’s indifference to truth, she wrote, has enabled Putin “to secure and retain power, to run the Russian Federation as an autocratic, Mafia-style capitalist state, to pursue a neo-imperial foreign policy for its own sake.” As for Trump, “he is fostering and exploiting indifference toward truth in the service of fear, hatred and a mishmash of poor foreign and domestic policy ideas.”

Not terribly sophisticated but media outlets that make their living through clickbait were even less sophisticated. Salon, for example, has run innumerable stories suggesting a homoerotic relationship between the Russian leader and the American businessman. Donald Trump’s revealing man-crush on Vladimir Putin screamed a typical headline. The man-crush is mutual apparently. On another occasion, we were told that Putin has a “man-crush on Donald Trump.” On yet another occasion, Salon spoke of a “bromance”: “Donald Trump is a big fan of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Big fan. Huge fan.” Just in case readers still didn’t get the message, two days after the appearance of that story, Salon ran yet another  story on this theme, headlined Donald Trump’s got Putin fever. This was soon followed by yet another story telling us that Russian president Vladimir Putin has continued to sing Donald Trump’s praises.” Trump “can’t help but gush with praise at those who use violence to oppress their people,” Salon claimed more recently, “At the top of the list, of course, is Vladimir Putin, who Trump repeatedly swoons over like he’s a 12-year-old at a Justin Bieber concert.” Putin is aware that “Trump goes to sleep snuggling a photo of the Russian dictator every night, and are seeking ways to support Trump’s run, knowing that nothing would destabilise the United States and strengthen Russia’s position like a Trump win.”

Even the New York Times has picked up on the bromance” theme, running a story titled “Vladimir Putin Praises Donald Trump, Sealing a Long-Distance Bromance.” “Bromance” also featured on CNN. Many of the articles prominently feature a recently-painted mural on the wall of a bar in Vilnius, Lithuania, showing Putin and Trump locking lips.

The $1-a-word-anti-Putin-diatribe crowd would not be left out of the mix. The ubiquitous Julia Ioffe offered her usual venomous observations, this time laced with erotic suggestions: Russians were supposedly “salivating at the prospect” of a Trump presidency. There is “something Russian about Trump the man: he likes gold-plated opulence and surgically-perfected Eastern European women.” Anna Nemtsova wrote in The Daily Beast  that “The Kremlin hates everything about America except for Donald Trump.” Ivan Krastev in a New York Times op-ed titled “Why Putin Loves Trump,” explained that Putin’s “enthusiasm” for Trump was “rooted in the fact that they both live in a soap-opera world run by emotions rather than interests.”

What is remarkable about this abundance of lurid verbiage is the flimsy foundation on which it is based. Trump and Putin have in reality exchanged nothing more than a few pro forma compliments. Trump’s “man crush” is nothing more than an acknowledgment of something that even Putin’s critics don’t dispute: The Russian is a strong leader. “I’ve always felt fine about Putin. He’s a strong leader. He’s a powerful leader,” he told a TV interviewer. In addition, Trump has said many times that he believed—or hoped—that he would get on well with Putin. During the second presidential debate in September 2015, Trump declared that he “would get along with Putin.” But then, he added, “I would get along with a lot of the world leaders that this country is not getting along with.” He returned to this theme in another presidential debate: “Wouldn’t it be nice if actually we could get along with Russia?”

It is extraordinary that a statement promising improved relations should cause so much fury. In his National Interest-hosted foreign policy speech on April 27, 2016, Trump again reiterated that the United States and Russia “are not bound to be adversaries. We should seek common ground based on shared interests. Russia, for instance, has also seen the horror of Islamic terrorism. I believe an easing of tensions, and improved relations with Russia from a position of strength only is possible, absolutely possible.”

Putin, for his part, has also not gone beyond expressions of hope that the next U.S. president would seek better relations with Russia. To be sure, Putin has expressed himself positively about Trump. In December 2015, after pledging to work with “whomever the American voters choose,” Putin described Trump as “a very lively man, talented without doubt.” Putin went on, “He’s saying he wants to go to another level of relations—closer, deeper relations with Russia. How can we not welcome that? Of course we welcome that.” Of course, they do. After enduring years and years of verbal abuse from U.S. politicians and pundits, particularly at election time, Russians are understandably happy to hear that there is one political candidate who appears to be free of the usual animus toward Russia. Trump responded to Putin’s words by saying that it was “a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond. I have always felt that Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other towards defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect.”

In June 2016, Putin again pointed out that “We don’t back anyone, it’s not our business.” He however welcomed Trump’s promise to “restore relations with Russia.” While Russia would work with anyone the U.S. voters choose to lead them, his hope was that “this individual will want to improve relations with Russia and help build a more secure world.”

Interviewers have repeatedly baited Trump over his positive words about Russia. How could Trump not be appalled by a man who “kills journalists that don’t agree with him”? Trump responded, not unreasonably, that “our country does plenty of killing too.” This comment led to predictable spluttering and howls of outrage. Failed 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney tweeted: “Important distinction: thug Putin kills journalists and opponents; our presidents kill terrorists and enemy combatants.”

The terrorists and enemy combatants to whom Romney referred evidently include members of the media. At least 16 journalists have been killed by U.S. armed forces in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. Trump could have mentioned—but didn’t—the April 2003 bombing of Al Jazeera’s Baghdad headquarters that led to the killing of its correspondent Tareq Ayyoub. That same day, the United States shelled the Palestine hotel in Baghdad, home to most of the foreign correspondents in Iraq, killing two cameramen, Reuters’ Taras Protsyuk and Jose Couso of Spain’s Telecinco. The Committee to Protect Journalists has listed many other such incidents: There was Mazen Dana, a Reuters cameraman, who was killed by machine gun fire from a U.S. tank on Aug. 17, 2003, while he was filming near Abu Ghraib prison. There was cameraman Ali Abdel Aziz and reporter Ali al-Khatib, both of the United Arab Emirates-based news channel Al-Arabiya, who were shot dead near a U.S. military checkpoint in Baghdad in March 2004. Then there was Asaad Kadhim, a correspondent for the U.S.-funded Al-Iraqiya TV, and his driver, Hussein Saleh, who were killed by gunfire from U.S. forces near a checkpoint close to the Iraqi city of Samara. There was also Maha Ibrahim, a news producer for Iraqi television station Baghdad TV, who was shot and killed on June 25, 2005, by U.S. forces as she drove to work with her husband, also an employee of the station. Then there was the notorious videotaped 2007 Apache helicopter attack that led to the deaths of two Reuters news correspondents. 

Moreover, in 2015, the Pentagon published a law of war manual in which it declared that “journalists may be members of the armed forces, persons authorised to accompany the armed forces, or unprivileged belligerents.” In other words, not only are journalists to be considered legitimate military targets but, if captured, they would not be entitled to any protections under the Geneva Conventions.

To return: While Trump has promised to seek better relations with Russia, he has not yet indicated awareness of Russia’s security concerns, particularly those arising from NATO’s eastward expansion. On Ukraine, for example, Trump has not addressed the 2014 armed overthrow of the legitimate, elected government in Kiev and the role this played in the subsequent conflict in Ukraine. While Trump has eschewed the usual noisy Washington bluster that blames Putin for the spectacular failure of the policy of trying to muscle Ukraine into the Western alliance, Trump’s criticism of Washington’s Ukraine policy has not gone beyond demands that other countries take the lead: “I think maybe we should do a little following and let the neighbors take a little bit more of an active role in the Ukraine.” Americans have been the most aggressive on Ukraine, he complained in on another occasion. Why can’t others do a little more? “I never hear any other countries even mentioned and we’re fighting constantly. We’re talking about Ukraine, get out, do this, do that. And I mean, Ukraine’s very far away from us. How come the countries near the Ukraine, surrounding the Ukraine, how come they’re not opening up and they’re not at least protesting? I never hear anything from anybody except the United States.”

On the question of Ukraine’s membership of NATO, Trump has not gone beyond saying that he doesn’t care about the issue. “Whether it goes in or doesn’t go in, I wouldn’t care. If it goes in, great. If it doesn’t go in, great.” On Crimea, Trump has been non-committal, declaring it to be Europe’s, rather than America’s, problem. Trump has not been an enthusiastic about providing arms to Ukraine. Recently, the Trump campaign succeeded in making sure that the Republican platform rejected calls for sending lethal weapons to the government of Ukraine.

Trump’s approach toward Russia is in line with the general thrust of his proposed foreign policy. The only question he deems worthy of asking is: “What’s in it for us?” In his 2000 book The America We Deserve, he wrote that “Pulling back from Europe will save this country millions of dollars annually. The cost of stationing NATO troops in Europe is enormous, and these are clearly funds that can be put to better use.” These days, the gravamen of his complaints about NATO is that its members are getting a free ride. Only four NATO member-countries, besides the United States, are “spending the minimum required 2% of GDP on defence.” The United States spends “trillions of dollars over time on planes, missiles, ships, equipment, building up our military to provide a strong defence for Europe and Asia. The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defence, and if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves.”

However, there are more serious problems with NATO than other countries not pulling their weight. NATO’s reckless policies such as involvement in the war in Syria, overthrow of the legitimate government of Libya and the provision of weapons and training for the government of Ukraine, have seriously jeopardized the security of Western nations. Trump has studiously avoided asking the more fundamental question whether it is the continued existence of NATO that poses the most serious threat to world peace. 

To be sure, alone among today’s politicians, Trump has urged a reconsideration of NATO’s mission. NATO is obsolete, he has argued, unwilling to address the issues of today such as migration and Islamic terrorism. “We have the threat of terrorism and NATO doesn’t discuss terrorism,” he has  said.  “NATO’s not meant for terrorism. NATO doesn’t have the right countries in it for terrorism.” NATO needs to change. It will either be “readjusted to take care of terrorism or we’re going to have to set up a…new coalition, a new group of countries to handle terrorism because terrorism is out of control.”

Trump follows the unthinking consensus on missile defence. He has echoed the familiar neo-conservative complaint that Obama has supposedly “gutted” the program and “abandoned our missile defence plans with Poland and the Czech Republic.” Trump appears to be unaware of the components of the U.S. missile defence plans that have been implemented in recent years. In 2009, Obama announced the deployment on AEGIS warships of interceptors against short- and medium-range missiles. The following year NATO announced deployment of SM-3 missile interceptors. This land-based missile defence system became fully operational in May 2016, much to the annoyance of Moscow. NATO has already begun construction of an additional anti-missile platform in Poland. Today, NATO defensive shield includes a command-and-control center at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, a radar installation in Turkey and four ships capable of identifying enemy missiles and firing their own SM-3s based in Rota, Spain.

Trump, in other words, has deviated fairly mildly from Washington foreign policy orthodoxy. That is has elicited such a frenzied response illustrates the extent to which the U.S. foreign policy elite, especially its liberal wing, is committed to continuing, and even escalating, the conflict with Russia. Not only that, given the elite’s almost hysterical animus toward Putin, it is likely to be working overtime under a Clinton presidency trying to effect regime change in Moscow. Trump as a businessman has imbibed none of the pathology of the U.S. policymaking elite. Before entering politics, Trump was a builder who naturally saw Russia as an enticing source of business opportunities. As a neophyte politician, he is understandably baffled why he is expected to begin mobilising the nation to confront Russia. Trump may not have fully grasped that for U.S. policymakers the natural order of things is U.S. hegemonic rule over the entire planet. The role of the much-touted U.S. “friends and allies” is to serve as cheerleaders for U.S. rule. Russia however stands in the way. Hence, the extraordinary vitriol directed at Moscow.

As far as U.S. policymakers and their media acolytes are concerned, the goal of a liberal, rational foreign policy is to contain Russia and to sponsor opposition to its government. However, this policy, consisting as it does of NATO expansion, missile defence systems on Russia’s borders, growing NATO military presence in Eastern Europe, regime change operations in Russia isn’t terribly rational. In fact, it’s downright dangerous. Trump is one of the few politicians in the United States who has expressed concern about where this policy is leading. However, now that Trump is the official Republican presidential nominee, will he have the strength to resist the entreaties of his new Republican allies to provoke conflict with Russia?

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Second Canadian Citizen Disappears In China

According to the he Globe and Mail, the man was identified as Michael Spavor, a Canadian whose company Peaktu Cultural Exchange brings tourists and hockey players into North Korea.

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Via Zerohedge…


For a trade war that was supposed to be between the US and China, Canada has found itself increasingly in the middle of the crossfire. And so after the arrest of a former Canadian diplomat in Beijing in retaliation for the detention of the Huawei CFO in Vancouver, Canada said a second person has been questioned by Chinese authorities, further heightening tensions between the two countries.

The second person reached out to the Canadian government after being questioned by Chinese officials, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said, at which point Canada lost contact with him. His whereabouts are currently unknown and Global Affairs Canada said they are in contact with his family.

“We haven’t been able to make contact with him since he let us know about this,” Freeland told reporters Wednesday in Ottawa. “We are working very hard to ascertain his whereabouts and we have also raised this case with Chinese authorities.”

According to the he Globe and Mail, the man was identified as Michael Spavor, a Canadian whose company Peaktu Cultural Exchange brings tourists and hockey players into North Korea. He gained fame for helping arrange a visit to Pyongyang by former NBA player Dennis Rodman, and he met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on that trip, the newspaper reported. Attempts to reach Spavor on his contact number either in China, or North Korean went straight to voicemail.

Spavor’s personal Facebook page contains several images of him with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un including one of him with both Jong-un and former Dennis Rodman at an undisclosed location.

Michael P. Spavor, right, pictured here with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, second from right, and Dennis Rodman.

Another image shows the two sharing a drink on a boat.

The unexplained disappearance takes place after China’s spy agency detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig in Beijing on Monday, who was on leave from the foreign service. The arrest came nine days after Canada arrested Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou at the request of U.S. DOJ. While Canada has asked to see the former envoy after it was informed by fax of his arrest, Canada is unaware of Kovrig current whereabouts or the charges he faces.

“Michael did not engage in illegal activities nor did he do anything that endangered Chinese national security,” Rob Malley, chief executive officer of the ICG, said in a written statement. “He was doing what all Crisis Group analysts do: undertaking objective and impartial research.”

One possibility is that Kovrig may have been caught up in recent rule changes in China that affect non-governmental organizations, according to Bloomberg. The ICG wasn’t authorized to do work in China, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said during a regular press briefing in Beijing Wednesday.

“We welcome foreign travelers. But if they engage in activities that clearly violate Chinese laws and regulations, then it is totally another story,” he said, adding he had no information on Kovrig specifically.

As Bloomberg further notes, foreign non-governmental organizations are now required to register with the Chinese authorities under a 2017 law that subjects them to stringent reporting requirements. Under the law, organizations without a representative office in China must have a government sponsor and a local cooperative partner before conducting activities. ICG said this is the first time they’ve heard such an accusation from the Chinese authorities in a decade of working with the country. The company closed its Beijing operations in December 2016 because of the new Chinese law, according to a statement. Kovrig was working out of the Hong Kong office.

Meanwhile, realizing that it is increasingly bearing the brunt of China’s retaliatory anger, Trudeau’s government distanced itself from Meng’s case, saying it can’t interfere with the courts, but is closely involved in advocating on Kovrig’s behalf.

So far Canada has declined to speculate on whether there was a connection between the Kovrig and Meng cases, with neither Freeland nor Canadian Trade Minister Jim Carr saying Wednesday that there is any indication the cases are related. Then again, it is rather obvious they are. Indeed, Guy Saint-Jacques, who served as ambassador to China from 2012 to 2016 and worked with Kovrig, says the link is clear. “There’s no coincidence with China.”

“In this case, they couldn’t grab a Canadian diplomat because this would have created a major diplomatic incident,” he said. “Going after him I think was their way to send a message to the Canadian government and to put pressure.”

Even though Meng was granted bail late Tuesday, that did not placate China, whose foreign ministry spokesman said that “The Canadian side should correct its mistakes and release Ms. Meng Wanzhou immediately.”

The tension, according to Bloomberg,  may force Canadian companies to reconsider travel to China, and executives traveling to the Asian country will need to exercise extra caution, said Andy Chan, managing partner at Miller Thomson LLP in Vaughan, Ontario.

“Canadian business needs to look at and balance the reasons for the travel’’ between the business case and the “current political environment,’’ Chan said by email. Chinese officials subject business travelers to extra screening and in some case reject them from entering, he said.

Earlier in the day, SCMP reported that Chinese high-tech researchers were told “not to travel to the US unless it’s essential.”

And so, with Meng unlikely to be released from Canada any time soon, expect even more “Chinese (non) coincidences”, until eventually China does detain someone that the US does care about.

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Multipolar World Order in the Making: Qatar Dumps OPEC

Russia and Qatar’s global strategy also brings together and includes partners like Turkey.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The decision by Qatar to abandon OPEC threatens to redefine the global energy market, especially in light of Saudi Arabia’s growing difficulties and the growing influence of the Russian Federation in the OPEC+ mechanism.

In a surprising statement, Qatari energy minister Saad al-Kaabi warned OPEC on Monday December 3 that his country had sent all the necessary documentation to start the country’s withdrawal from the oil organization in January 2019. Al-Kaabi stressed that the decision had nothing to do with recent conflicts with Riyadh but was rather a strategic choice by Doha to focus on the production of LNG, which Qatar, together with the Russian Federation, is one of the largest global exporters of. Despite an annual oil extraction rate of only 1.8% of the total of OPEC countries (about 600,000 barrels a day), Qatar is one of the founding members of the organization and has always had a strong political influence on the governance of the organization. In a global context where international relations are entering a multipolar phase, things like cooperation and development become fundamental; so it should not surprise that Doha has decide to abandon OPEC. OPEC is one of the few unipolar organizations that no longer has a meaningful purpose in 2018, given the new realities governing international relations and the importance of the Russian Federation in the oil market.

Besides that, Saudi Arabia requires the organization to maintain a high level of oil production due to pressure coming from Washington to achieve a very low cost per barrel of oil. The US energy strategy targets Iranian and Russian revenue from oil exports, but it also aims to give the US a speedy economic boost. Trump often talks about the price of oil falling as his personal victory. The US imports about 10 million barrels of oil a day, which is why Trump wrongly believes that a decrease in the cost per barrel could favor a boost to the US economy. The economic reality shows a strong correlation between the price of oil and the financial growth of a country, with low prices of crude oil often synonymous of a slowing down in the economy.

It must be remembered that to keep oil prices low, OPEC countries are required to maintain a high rate of production, doubling the damage to themselves. Firstly, they take less income than expected and, secondly, they deplete their oil reserves to favor the strategy imposed by Saudi Arabia on OPEC to please the White House. It is clearly a strategy that for a country like Qatar (and perhaps Venezuela and Iran in the near future) makes little sense, given the diplomatic and commercial rupture with Riyadh stemming from tensions between the Gulf countries.

In contrast, the OPEC+ organization, which also includes other countries like the Russian Federation, Mexico and Kazakhstan, seems to now to determine oil and its cost per barrel. At the moment, OPEC and Russia have agreed to cut production by 1.2 million barrels per day, contradicting Trump’s desire for high oil output.

With this last choice Qatar sends a clear signal to the region and to traditional allies, moving to the side of OPEC+ and bringing its interests closer in line with those of the Russian Federation and its all-encompassing oil and gas strategy, two sectors in which Qatar and Russia dominate market share.

In addition, Russia and Qatar’s global strategy also brings together and includes partners like Turkey (a future energy hub connecting east and west as well as north and south) and Venezuela. In this sense, the meeting between Maduro and Erdogan seems to be a prelude to further reorganization of OPEC and its members.

The declining leadership role of Saudi Arabia in the oil and financial market goes hand in hand with the increase of power that countries like Qatar and Russia in the energy sectors are enjoying. The realignment of energy and finance signals the evident decline of the Israel-US-Saudi Arabia partnership. Not a day goes by without corruption scandals in Israel, accusations against the Saudis over Khashoggi or Yemen, and Trump’s unsuccessful strategies in the commercial, financial or energy arenas. The path this doomed

trio is taking will only procure less influence and power, isolating them more and more from their opponents and even historical allies.

Moscow, Beijing and New Delhi, the Eurasian powerhouses, seem to have every intention, as seen at the trilateral summit in Buenos Aires, of developing the ideal multipolar frameworks to avoid continued US dominance of the oil market through shale revenues or submissive allies as Saudi Arabia, even though the latest spike in production is a clear signal from Riyadh to the USA. In this sense, Qatar’s decision to abandon OPEC and start a complex and historical discussion with Moscow on LNG in the format of an enlarged OPEC marks the definitive decline of Saudi Arabia as a global energy power, to be replaced by Moscow and Doha as the main players in the energy market.

Qatar’s decision is, officially speaking, unconnected to the feud triggered by Saudi Arabia against the small emirate. However, it is evident that a host of factors has led to this historic decision. The unsuccessful military campaign in Yemen has weakened Saudi Arabia on all fronts, especially militarily and economically. The self-inflicted fall in the price of oil is rapidly consuming Saudi currency reserves, now at a new low of less than 500 billion dollars. Events related to Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) have de-legitimized the role of Riyadh in the world as a reliable diplomatic interlocutor. The internal and external repression by the Kingdom has provoked NGOs and governments like Canada’s to issue public rebukes that have done little to help MBS’s precarious position.

In Syria, the victory of Damascus and her allies has consolidated the role of Moscow in the region, increased Iranian influence, and brought Turkey and Qatar to the multipolar side, with Tehran and Moscow now the main players in the Middle East. In terms of military dominance, there has been a clear regional shift from Washington to Moscow; and from an energy perspective, Doha and Moscow are turning out to be the winners, with Riyadh once again on the losing side.

As long as the Saudi royal family continues to please Donald Trump, who is prone to catering to Israeli interests in the region, the situation of the Kingdom will only get worse. The latest agreement on oil production between Moscow and Riyad signals that someone in the Saudi royal family has probably figured this out.

Countries like Turkey, India, China, Russia and Iran understand the advantages of belonging to a multipolar world, thereby providing a collective geopolitical ballast that is mutually beneficial. The energy alignment between Qatar and the Russian Federation seems to support this general direction, a sort of G2 of LNG gas that will only strengthen the position of Moscow on the global chessboard, while guaranteeing a formidable military umbrella for Doha in case of a further worsening of relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

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Truth and Free Speech Are Being Taken Away From Us

A population that does not respect and defend free speech, debate, and truth will not long have the liberty that results from free speech, debate, and truth.

Paul Craig Roberts

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Authored by Paul Craig Roberts:


Dear Readers:

This is my quarterly request for your support.

Many supporters are now monthly donors. This call is a reminder to those who respond to the quarterly requests and to the many who are yet to respond. In keeping with a decision made by the regular donors, those of limited means are exempt from the request.

Free speech and the ability to speak truth are being shut down. It is happening with the complicity of the print and TV media, the liberal/progressive/left, the US Department of Justice (sic), the law schools and bar associations, Congress, and the federal judiciary.

The attack on Julian Assange is the arrow aimed at the heart of the ability to publish the truth. If a journalist can be indicted for espionage for publishing leaked documents that a corrupt government has classified in order to conceal its crimes, the First Amendment is dead.

Moreover, as the claim is that government was harmed by Wikileaks publishing the truth, Assange’s secret indictment sets the precedent that truth is harmful to government. This precedent will be extended to include the publication of any information or opinion, classified or not, that the government regards as harmful. The media then officially becomes what it mainly already is in effect—a Ministry of Propaganda for the government and those who control it.

As a person who has held high security clearances, I can say with confidence that no more than one percent of classified information falls in the realm of national security. Most classification is simply to prevent the people and Congress from knowing what is going on. Classification allows the various components of government to put the spin where they want it. “National security” has always been an excuse accepted by patriots for the government to conceal its wrong doings and hidden agendas.

Give thought to the alleged harm done by Wikileaks publishing the information leaked by Bradley Manning and the Clinton emails that were downloaded onto a thumb drive and not hacked as security experts have proved. Give thought to the documents proving the warrantless and thereby illegal spying by the NSA that Edward Snowden revealed. How was government hurt by the information? Government should have been hurt, but it was not. The presstitutes did not take up the issue. No one in government was punished for the war crimes, lies, and illegal and unconstitutional acts that the publication of the leaked documents revealed. None of Washington’s vassal governments renounced its vassalage on the basis of the information that revealed they were spied on and deceived. Washington’s vassal governments already knew that Washington lies and deceives them. The Chancellor of Germany simply accepted that Washington listens to her private telephone calls. Vassals simply accept indignities as a consequence of their vassalage. The only people punished were those who revealed the truth—Manning, Snowden, and Assange.

Washington imprisoned Manning and seeks to imprison Assange for damage that Washington did not suffer.

As a country loses its liberty, legal scholars who formerly would have protected liberty turn against it in order to curry favor with power. Recently, I read a specious legal argument that the First Amendment did not really protect Ellsberg and the New York Times when the Pentagon Papers were published, but that no president wanted to be the first one to break the tradition of extending such protection. The author claims that Assange is not protected by the First Amendment even though he is a journalist. The author of the article did not realize that his argument means that journalists have squatters’ rights in First Amendment protection. For the Justice Department to bring a case against Assange means overturning a right that is ensconced in common law as well as in the Constitution.

Washington has shown that it is not interested in any rights but its own to do what it wants. The George W. Bush regime overturned the Constitutional protection of habeas corpus when the regime declared that it could detain citizens indefinitely in prison without presentation of evidence to a court. The Obama regime destroyed due process and the Constitutional right to life when the regime declared that it could assassinate citizens on suspicion alone. Both regimes ignored statutory and Constitutional prohibitions on torture and only punished those who revealed the torture. If Bush and Obama had the right to torture, what was the point of prosecuting those who revealed that torture happened?

As the truth revealed by Wikileaks has had no adverse consequence for Washington, what is the point of Washington’s assault on Assange? In part it is revenge on an individual brazen enough to stand up to Washington, and in part it is to criminalize the telling of truth that is critical of the government.

Once there was a time when the media would have been up in arms in defense of Assange and press freedom. That was before the media was illegally concentrated in a few hands by the Clinton regime and before the media became concentrated ideologically. The media hates Donald Trump and thereby hates Assange for publishing the Hillary emails that the media believes cost Hillary the election. The media is much more intent on helping the Deep State deep-six Assange than the media is in defending its First Amendment protections.

The liberal/progressive/left sees it the same way. The politics of the liberal/progressive/left is Identity Politics, and Identity Politics hates white fly-over America that elected Trump. This is why the media and the liberal/progressive/left are helping the military/security complex tie Assange to Trump, Putin, and “Russiagate.” The Guardian newspaper has destroyed what little credibility it still had by publishing obviously false information concocted to connect Assange to “Russiagate.” See: https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2018/11/30/the-guardian-is-a-professional-liar-not-a-newspaper/and http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/50715.htm

The military/security complex planted on its media assets the fiction that Assange fled to the Ecuadorian Embassy to escape prosecution for rape.The presstitutes consistently repeat the lie, as Harriet Alexander in the UK Telegraph does, that “Mr Assange fled to the embassy to avoid charges of rape, sexual molestation and coercion. All charges were dropped by May 2017” (http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/50716.htm ).

There were never any such charges filed against Assange. Assange took asylum in the embassy, because it was clear that he was going to be extradited to Washington where he would get a show trial as a spy. It is not possible that Harriet Alexander and the editors at the Telegraph do not know this. Nevertheless, they repeat the lie, the purpose of which is to put Assange in a bad light that will aid his conviction on false charges.

Washington knew that it could tell this lie about Assange raping women because Washington knew that #MeToo and other radical feminists believe that that is what men do, and that #MeToo would be delighted to have yet another celebrity provided for their denunciation.

Washington also knew that its media whores hated Assange for having the integrity and courage that they do not have and that they would willingly stomp him to death with their hobnailed boots.

The US Justice (sic) Department knows it has concocted a false case and intentionally kept it secret, but has no worry because insouciant Americans will believe its indictment regardless.

The judiciary will permit the false case to be tried in a federal court because every judge wants to be elevated rather than criticized and even framed, and the jury will be too afraid to go against Assange’s public conviction in the media to find him innocent.

The jury’s guilty verdict will murder the First Amendment, but the jury will be able to go home to their neighborhoods without being ostracized.

It is not only the government that is attacking free speech. Free speech is under full scale attack by everyone who claims to be “offended,” by the invention of “hate speech” to control what can be said about “victim groups,” by the Israel Lobby that is having laws passed that prohibit the boycotting of Israel for its mistreatment of Palestinians and by equating criticism of the Israeli government with anti-semitism. ( See, for example, https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-film-the-israel-lobby-does-not-want-you-to-see/5661958 ). Twitter, Facebook, and Google are all active in deciding what can and cannot be said. (See, for example,https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2018/11/30/stating-the-fact-that-men-are-not-women-gets-feminist-banned-from-twitter/ ). Public forums are denied to people who are disapproved of by other people.

A population that does not respect and defend free speech, debate, and truth will not long have the liberty that results from free speech, debate, and truth. This website respects truth, and it requires your support.

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