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Educating Trump: Putin’s task for their G20 meeting

The most valuable thing President Putin can do at his forthcoming G20 meeting with President Trump is school an inexperienced US President in the proper conduct of international relations.

Alexander Mercouris

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The US and Russia have confirmed that the first face-to-face meeting between US President Trump and Russian President Putin will take place during the G20 summit in Hamburg on 7th July 2017.

Though elements of the US bureaucracy in alliance with the US media have been working overtime to prevent this meeting from taking place, it seems that it will be a proper meeting, with Trump and Putin having comprehensive discussions with each other, and not the kind of short, tense and cursory discussion which is what meetings between Obama and Putin had become.

The fact that this will be a proper meeting between the two Presidents is in contrast to the recent brief encounter President Trump had with Ukrainian President Poroshenko.

Poroshenko contrived that meeting with Trump during his recent trip to Washington.  Not only was that meeting however extremely brief, with the media present throughout it, but there was no subsequent joint press conference, showing that nothing of substance was discussed.

It seems that Poroshenko – more one suspects for propaganda reasons than for any others – wanted to stage an encounter with Trump before Trump met with Putin.  Though that objective was achieved, Trump will almost certainly have been irritated, and his lack of enthusiasm for his Ukrainian guest was all too obvious.

Notwithstanding that the meeting between Trump and Putin will be a proper full-scale meeting, with Trump still dogged by Russiagate it is difficult to see how anything substantive in terms of actual agreements can come out of the meeting.  The best that can be hoped for is that Trump and Putin will at least reach some understanding on Syria, where the US and Russian militaries are simultaneously helping their proxies fight ISIS whilst simultaneously shadow-boxing with each other.  That is hugely distracting and draining of energy, and the only beneficiary from it is ISIS.

The trouble is that even if Presidents Trump and Putin do come to some agreement on Syria, it is far from clear that President Trump is in any position to enforce it on his bureaucracy, some elements of whom are all but guaranteed to want to sabotage it.  Nonetheless it is the only area where any actual progress looks possible.

In my opinion the best thing that might come from the summit is for Trump and Putin to establish a personal relationship with each other which might evolve into something which is altogether much more important.

In his recent expose of the Khan Sheikhoun attack and the US strike on Syria’s Al-Shayrat air base Seymour Hersh conveyed from his sources the opinion of President Trump that is started to form within the highest levels of the US defence and security establishment.  This is that President Trump is “not stupid and not unkind”, but that because of his inexperience and lack of self-confidence he is also simultaneously wilful, stubborn and easily led.

That is very much my opinion of President Trump also.  I would go further and add that on key international questions – including relations with Russia, and his wish to prioritise US interests over the neocons’ dangerous world hegemonic project – his instincts are far better (and bring him much closer to the American people) than is true of the elements in the bureaucracy who are fighting him.

The problem is that President Trump has come to the Presidency with a complete lack of foreign policy experience.   He has made some intelligent picks for his foreign policy team.  Secretary of State Tillerson looks like being the most capable foreign minister the US has had for a long time, and whilst Generals Mattis and McMaster are hardly men of genius (as they are sometimes made out to be), they at least come across as as competent and loyal. In addition Trump’s habit of speaking directly to other world leaders rather than holding himself aloof from them (as Barack Obama did) cannot be commended too strongly.  However it is clear that because of his lack of experience President Trump doesn’t known how to evaluate the information and advice he is given and that as a result he is all too easily manipulated, as he was over the Khan Sheikhoun attack, and as he was by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his recent trip to Saudi Arabia.

Unfortunately it is also clear that this proud and grossly abused man has become deeply suspicious of those around him, which in view of what he has had to put up with over the last year (including from before he was elected President) in no way surprises me.

What this situation urgently calls for is someone whom Trump is able to trust and like, and who is not afraid of being sacked by him, to be available for Trump to turn to in moments of decision and crisis to talk things through.

Unfortunately none of the US’s traditional allies has a leader who comes close to filling that role.

In Europe the strongest leader is Angela Merkel who has made no secret of her hostility to Trump, and who – as her record has repeatedly shown – cannot be trusted anyway.   Macron – arrogant, manipulative and inexperienced – is in no position to fulfil that role either, whilst Britain is currently sunk in political crisis with its Prime Minister Theresa May to whom Trump seems instinctively to have first looked to for help turning out to be a broken reed.

Further afield, Netanyahu of Israel though worldly and highly intelligent already has a dangerously excessive influence in Washington, and his interests are anyway regional rather than global. Shinzo Abe of Japan, though also highly intelligent and worldly, simply does not have the international stature to fulfil such a role.  Modi of India in his country’s interests is altogether too calculating to speak to Trump with the forthrightness that such a role requires, and can be ruled out as well.

That leaves President Putin of Russia as the obvious person to fulfil this role.  Putin’s experience, intelligence, worldliness and forthrightness, qualify him perfectly for it.

Putin here has an advantage over China’s Xi Jinping.  One of the reasons the Mar-a-Lago summit between Trump and Xi Jinping has gone awry is because instead of talking to Trump with straightforward frankness Xi Jinping addressed him with his typical courtesy.

Here it is important to put aside ethnicist stereotypes.  As anyone who has had dealings with the Chinese can vouch, they can speak with complete frankness when the need requires them to, which is what Xi Jinping has repeatedly done in the several telephone conversations he has had with Trump since the Mar-a-Lago meeting.

However it remains true that China remains something of a ‘face’ culture, and the whole circumstances of the Mar-a-Lago summit – with Trump lavishly entertaining Xi Jinping in his private home, and introducing Xi Jinping to his family there – would have acted to make Xi Jinping want to pull his punches.

The result is the misunderstandings between the two Presidents which I have previously written about.

In Russia by contrast the quality most valued is forthrightness.  Putin exemplifies it, which is why his relations with the likes of Obama, Merkel, Cameron and Hollande – all unused to being spoken to in that way – have become so bad.

What that means is that Trump can always rely on Putin to say it to him exactly as it is, always with respect and courtesy, but invariably so and in all circumstances.

Arguably that is exactly what Trump needs as he gradually finds his way, and everything that is known about him suggests that unlike Obama, Merkel, Cameron, Hollande and the rest, he actually likes it and appreciates it.

Saying that Putin is the person Trump should look to to discuss international questions is of course all very well.  Unfortunately the mere suggestion that the President is looking to the Russian leader for advice is probably the single thing which would be most calculated to raise a storm in Washington.  The wholly artificial indeed nonsensical storm which was stirred up following Trump’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in the Oval Office back in May gives a good foretaste of the likely reaction.

Nonetheless the establishment of some sort of dialogue between Putin and Trump is not only the best way to bring some order to international relations and to stabilise the situation in Syria in particular, but it is also arguably the best way forward for the Trump Presidency itself, helping an inexperienced President to become in the best sense a genuinely transformative President.

Moreover though there would be intense hostility to such a move within the US from the usual suspects in the US bureaucracy and the media, the pattern of recent elections in the US suggests that many people there would welcome it, whilst recent articles in the US’s massive academic media suggests it has a fair amount of elite support as well.

Whether these hopes will be fulfilled or will be stillborn depends ultimately on the evolution of the domestic political situation in the US.  Events in recent weeks however show that Trump’s political position within the US is much stronger than many – including possibly he himself – have realised, whilst there are what may be the first tentative signs that the preposterous Russiagate scandal may be starting to collapse under the weight of its own absurdity.

If so, then despite all the pessimistic forecasts and the likely absence of any substantive agreements, the coming Trump-Putin meeting on 7th July 2017 could plant a seed with the potential to grow into something highly fruitful, not just for the future of international relations but for the Trump Presidency itself.

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Is this man the puppet master of Ukraine’s new president or an overhyped bogeyman?

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

RT

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Via RT…


It doesn’t actually matter if Ukrainian-Israeli billionaire Igor Kolomoisky is the real power behind Volodymyr Zelensky – the president elect has to get rid of the oligarch if he is to make a break with the country’s corrupt past.

The plots, deceits and conflicts of interest in Ukrainian politics are so transparent and hyperbolic, that to say that novice politician Zelensky was a protégé of his long-time employer was not something that required months of local investigative journalism – it was just out there.

Zelensky’s comedy troupe has been on Kolomoisky’s top-rated channel for the past eight years, and his media asset spent every possible resource promoting the contender against incumbent Petro Poroshenko, a personal enemy of the tycoon, who hasn’t even risked entering Ukraine in the past months.

Similarly, the millions and the nous needed to run a presidential campaign in a country of nearly 50 million people had to come from somewhere, and Kolomoisky’s lieutenants were said to be in all key posts. The two issued half-hearted denials that one was a frontman for the other, insisting that they were business partners with a cordial working relationship, but voters had to take their word for it.

Now that the supposed scheme has paid off with Zelensky’s spectacular victory in Sunday’s run-off, Ukrainian voters are asking: what does Kolomoisky want now, and will he be allowed to run the show?

‘One-of-a-kind chancer’

Born in 1963, in a family of two Jewish engineers, Kolomoisky is the type of businessman that was once the staple of the post-Soviet public sphere, but represents a dying breed.

That is, he is not an entrepreneur in the established Western sense at all – he did not go from a Soviet bloc apartment to Lake Geneva villas by inventing a new product, or even setting up an efficient business structure in an existing field.

Rather he is an opportunist who got wealthy by skilfully reading trends as the Soviet economy opened up – selling Western-made computers in the late 1980s – and later when independent Ukraine transitioned to a market economy and Kolomoisky managed to get his hands on a large amount of privatisation vouchers that put many of the juiciest local metals and energy concerns into his hands, which he then modernised.

What he possesses is a chutzpah and unscrupulousness that is rare even among his peers. Vladimir Putin once called him a “one-of-a-kind chancer” who managed to “swindle [Chelsea owner] Roman Abramovich himself.” In the perma-chaos of Ukrainian law and politics, where all moves are always on the table, his tactical acumen has got him ahead.

Kolomoisky’s lifeblood is connections and power rather than any pure profit on the balance sheet, though no one actually knows how that would read, as the Privat Group he part-owns is reported to own over 100 businesses in dozens of Ukrainian spheres through a complex network of offshore companies and obscure intermediaries (“There is no Privat Group, it is a media confection,” the oligarch himself says, straight-faced.)

Unsurprisingly, he has been dabbling in politics for decades, particularly following the first Orange Revolution in 2004. Though the vehicles for his support have not been noted for a particular ideological consistency – in reportedly backing Viktor Yushchenko, then Yulia Tymoshenko, he was merely putting his millions on what he thought would be a winning horse.

Grasp exceeds reach

But at some point in the post-Maidan euphoria, Kolomoisky’s narcissism got the better of him, and he accepted a post as the governor of his home region of Dnepropetrovsk, in 2014.

The qualities that might have made him a tolerable rogue on TV, began to grate in a more official role. From his penchant for using the political arena to settle his business disputes, to creating his own paramilitary force by sponsoring anti-Russian battalions out of his own pocket, to his somewhat charmless habit of grilling and threatening to put in prison those less powerful than him in fits of pique (“You wait for me out here like a wife for a cheating husband,” begins a viral expletive-strewn rant against an overwhelmed Radio Free Europe reporter).

There is a temptation here for a comparison with a Donald Trump given a developing country to play with, but for all of the shenanigans, his ideological views have always been relatively straightforward. Despite his Russia-loathing patriotism, not even his fans know what Kolomoisky stands for.

The oligarch fell out with fellow billionaire Poroshenko in early 2015, following a battle over the control of a large oil transport company between the state and the governor. The following year, his Privat Bank, which at one point handled one in four financial transactions in the country was nationalized, though the government said that Kolomoisky had turned it into a mere shell by giving $5 billion of its savings to Privat Group companies.

Other significant assets were seized, the government took to London to launch a case against his international companies, and though never banished, Kolomoisky himself decided it would be safer if he spent as long as necessary jetting between his adopted homes in Switzerland and Tel Aviv, with the occasional trip to London for the foreseeable future.

But the adventurer falls – and rises again. The London case has been dropped due to lack of jurisdiction, and only last week a ruling came shockingly overturning the three-year-old nationalization of Privat Bank.

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

Own man

Zelensky must disabuse him of that notion.

It doesn’t matter that they are friends. Or what handshake agreements they made beforehand. Or that he travelled to Geneva and Tel-Aviv 13 times in the past two years. Or what kompromat Kolomoisky may or may not have on him. It doesn’t matter that his head of security is the man who, for years, guarded the oligarch, and that he may quite genuinely fear for his own safety (it’s not like nothing bad has ever happened to Ukrainian presidents).

Volodymyr Zelensky is now the leader of a large country, with the backing of 13.5 million voters. It is to them that he promised a break with past bribery, graft and cronyism. Even by tolerating one man – and one who makes Poroshenko look wholesome – next to him, he discredits all of that. He will have the support of the people if he pits himself against the puppet master – no one would have elected Kolomoisky in his stead.

Whether the oligarch is told to stay away, whether Ukraine enables the financial fraud investigation into him that has been opened by the FBI, or if he is just treated to the letter of the law, all will be good enough. This is the first and main test, and millions who were prepared to accept the legal fiction of the independent candidate two months ago, will now want to see reality to match. Zelensky’s TV president protagonist in Servant of the People – also broadcast by Kolomoisky’s channel, obviously, would never have compromised like that.

What hinges on this is not just the fate of Zelensky’s presidency, but the chance for Ukraine to restore battered faith in its democracy shaken by a succession of compromised failures at the helm.

Igor Ogorodnev

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Roger Waters – The People’s Champion for Freedom

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there.

Richard Galustian

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Submitted by Richard Galustian 

Roger Waters is one of Britain’s most successful and talented musicians and composers but more importantly is an outstanding champion for freedom in the world, beyond compare to any other artist turned political activist.

By way of background, he co-founded the rock band Pink Floyd in 1965.

A landmark turning point of his political activism occurred in 1990, when Waters staged probably the largest rock concert in history, ‘The Wall – Live in Berlin’, with an attendance of nearly half a million people.

In more recent years Waters famously narrated the 2016 documentary ‘The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States’ about the insidious influence of Zionist Israel to shape American public opinion.

Waters has been an outspoken critic of America’s Neocons and particularly Donald Trump and his policies.

In 2017, Waters condemned Trump’s plan to build a wall separating the United States and Mexico, saying that his band’s iconic famous song, ‘The Wall’ is as he put it “very relevant now with Mr. Trump and all of this talk of building walls and creating as much enmity as possible between races and religions.”

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there, or any place else for that matter.

Here below is a must see recent Roger Waters interview, via satellite from New York, where he speaks brilliantly, succinctly and honestly, unlike no other celebrity, about FREEDOM and the related issues of the day.

The only other artist turned activist, but purely for human rights reasons, as she is apolitical, is the incredible Carla Ortiz.

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ISIS Says Behind Sri Lanka Bombings; Was ‘Retaliation’ For New Zealand Mosque Massacre

ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. 

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Via Zerohedge…


Shortly after the death toll from Sunday’s Easter bombings in Sri Lanka climbed above the 300 mark, ISIS validated the Sri Lankan government’s suspicions that a domestic jihadi organization had help from an international terror network while planning the bombings were validated when ISIS took credit for the attacks.

The claim was made via a report from ISIS’s Amaq news agency. Though the group has lost almost all of the territory that was once part of its transnational caliphate, ISIS now boasts cells across the Muslim world, including in North Africa and elsewhere. Before ISIS took credit for the attack, a Sri Lankan official revealed that Sunday’s attacks were intended as retaliation for the killing of 50 Muslims during last month’s mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

However, the Sri Lankan government didn’t offer any evidence for that claim, or the claim that Sunday’s attacks were planned by two Islamic groups (though that now appears to have been substantiated by ISIS’s claim of responsibility). The group is believed to have worked with the National Tawheed Jamaath, according to the NYT.

“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene told the Parliament.

Meanwhile, the number of suspects arrested in connection with the attacks had increased to 40 from 24 as of Tuesday. The government had declared a national emergency that allowed it sweeping powers to interrogate and detain suspects.

On Monday, the FBI pledged to send agents to Sri Lanka and provide laboratory support for the investigation.

As the death toll in Sri Lanka climbs, the attack is cementing its position as the deadliest terror attack in the region.

  • 321 (as of now): Sri Lanka bombings, 2019
  • 257 Mumbai attacks, 1993
  • 189 Mumbai train blasts, 2006 166 Mumbai attacks, 2008
  • 151 APS/Peshawar school attack, 2014
  • 149 Mastung/Balochistan election rally attack, 2018

Meanwhile, funeral services for some of the bombing victims began on Tuesday.

Even before ISIS took credit for the attack, analysts told the Washington Post that its unprecedented violence suggested that a well-financed international organization was likely involved.

The bombings on Sunday, however, came with little precedent. Sri Lanka may have endured a ghastly civil war and suicide bombings in the past – some credit the Tamil Tigers with pioneering the tactic – but nothing of this scale. Analysts were stunned by the apparent level of coordination behind the strikes, which occurred around the same time on both sides of the country, and suggested the attacks carried the hallmarks of a more international plot.

“Sri Lanka has never seen this sort of attack – coordinated, multiple, high-casualty – ever before, even with the Tamil Tigers during the course of a brutal civil war,” Alan Keenan, a Sri Lanka expert at the International Crisis Group, told the Financial Times. “I’m not really convinced this is a Sri Lankan thing. I think the dynamics are global, not driven by some indigenous debate. It seems to me to be a different kind of ballgame.”

Hinting at possible ISIS involvement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a Monday press conference that “radical Islamic terror” remained a threat even after ISIS’s defeats in Syria.

Of course, ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. The extremist group said the attacks were targeting Christians and “coalition countries” and were carried out by fighters from its organization.

Speculation that the government had advanced warning of the attacks, but failed to act amid a power struggle between the country’s president and prime minister, unnerved citizens and contributed to a brewing backlash. Following the bombings, schools and mass had been canceled until at least Monday, with masses called off “until further notice.”

 

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