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Elon Musk to create a site to battle fakes news, its name: PRAVDA

The creator of Space X and Tesla wants to battle fake news with “Pravda”

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Elon Musk is creating a website where “…the public can rate the core truth of any article & track the credibility score over time of each journalist, editor & publication,” as he said in a tweet.

Interestingly enough, he plans on naming it Pravda.

When we hear the name Pravda, we think of many things; for Russian speakers, this means “The Truth”, however, it was also the name of a famous Soviet newspaper, which has survived in various successor forms. For example, Komsomolskaya Pravda, who wrote an article (in Russian) about Musk’s idea of the site.

Musk also created a poll, asking people to vote as to whether or not they felt this was a good and useful idea, and so far, according to RIA Novosti, 88% of the 68 thousand asked, supported the creation of Pravda.

Musk said the site should not only have protection from bots, but also work to expose anyone who uses them for misinformation. While we know little about the purposed site, based on the description, it seems to be highly community based, where people essentially “rate” as he said, articles, journalists, editors, publications, etc. This could possibly be similar to how Reddit is karma based, though on a much higher level, with “the public” leaving reviews of articles and those who publish them.

This is perhaps the most important aspect of his announcement, in this age of fake news, the idea of the public rating the “truth” of an article. This is an issue perfectly captured in RIA Novosti’s headline describing his idea, which said in Russian “Everyone has his own Pravda (Truth)”. The double entendre of the word Pravda in Russian made the headline so poetic, and so powerful in revealing the major implications of this website. Before we jump into these implications, it is worth noting something interesting about the word Pravda, that non-Slavic speakers may not understand.

While the word does indeed mean “Truth” in Russian, it can also have the connotation of meaning “Law” (which is technically Zakon), for example, Russkaya Pravda, the earliest code of Laws in Rus’ (which was far more progressive than western laws for its day, even outlawing capital punishment in the High Middle Ages). The word can also mean in a classical sense Justice, and Righteousness as well.

This is because, in the West, its understood that just as religion is separate from the state, and the individual from the collective; there is the notion that the law, in its current form may not necessarily be what is right or true. To the Russian Orthodox Soul, this is ridiculous. It does not mean Russians can’t recognize if this is a reality, but deep down, it’s hard for Russians to understand how the Law should not be Just or Right. This is because if Russians believe that which is right, should be law, and is always based on truth, and likewise, if something is wrong, whether morally, spiritually, or literally, it must ultimately be based on lies. It is interesting to take a moment and observe this difference in Russian mentality about the word “Truth”, and compare it to the western one, where Justice, Truth, and Righteousness are seen as three distinct things.

The issue with Elon Musk’s Pravda, however, is just as the RIA Novosti headline described it.

Everyone always has his own truth. As we have seen in recent years, with the unprecedented battles throughout the entire world over “fake news”, what is true, and what is fake has become not only blurred, but highly contested in fierce battles between states and leaders.

What often happens is when one side does not like what the other is saying, they accuse them of spreading “fake news’. While the idea of lying is quite ancient, the new focus on “Fake News” is different, as both states and mega-companies like Facebook, which essentially control as much private information as states, are cracking down on what they perceive to be fake news.

Elon Musk notably came into his own conflict with Facebook about the massive scandal over how they handle their user’s data. He shocked everyone when deleted his Facebook accounts. Bare in mind, alternative media was reporting on what Facebook has been doing for years, however, until recently, it was branded mostly as conspiracy theories. Now that the truth is out, there are, of course, no apologies.

Love him or hate him, no one can deny Musk is very powerful, and he has proven he can achieve amazing things; he’s one of the few people that can seemingly turn any random idea into instant success – his track record speaks for itself.

As a result, we should be aware that if his previous record of success continues, and he develops this website, it will almost certainly become a big deal, and therefore, it’s worthy of our attention.

And so this brings us back to Pravda. As RIA Novosti said, everyone has their own Pravda, everyone has their own truth. It’s the age we live in. The biggest concern is if everyone has their own truth – which truth will be represented at Pravda.

Fake news is everywhere, and the average person is not an expert on every subject. We’ve seen time and time again how fake news is most commonly believed by uninformed people. Fake news is often so successful due to the general ignorance of the population about the subject in question.

Take for example the Ukraine Crisis; an article at the Washington Post found that less than 20% of Americans could locate Ukraine on the map, and the least informed among them (those who could not find it) was the group which most strongly supported military intervention in Ukraine.

About one in six (16 percent) Americans correctly located Ukraine, clicking somewhere within its borders. Most thought that Ukraine was located somewhere in Europe or Asia, but the median respondent was about 1,800 miles off … locating Ukraine somewhere in an area bordered by Portugal on the west, Sudan on the south, Kazakhstan on the east, and Finland on the north….The less people know about where Ukraine is located on a map, the more they want the U.S. to intervene militarily.

This would also imply these uninformed people, who couldn’t locate the nation, yet somehow felt their country should start a war there, believed the lies about a “Russian invasion”. They certainly can’t speak Ukrainian and/or Russian, or know anything about the culture for that matter. This is the issue with crowdsourced fact-checking. If the fact checkers are the general populace, they may be capable of speaking as to what is happening right before their eyes, but how are they informed enough to fact check stories about events in a distant country?

The public cannot be expected to be an expert on every subject. This is why there is no such thing, and likely never will be, an absolute direct democracy, where all matters are decided on by the people. Almost every form of large-scale human government and organization has a dedicated class of leaders. In Monarchies, the Sovereign is believed to be appointed by God, in representative democracies and republics, the people vote to elect leaders, who then represent them and make decisions on their behalf.

Even under the officially communist Soviet Union, and other socialist states, which had the official the goal to make all working people equal, it is still accepted there must be a dictatorship of the proletariat, to guide the people on the way to achieving communism. Without getting into a debate on the meaning and forms of Democracy, the fact remains, there is no practical system in which a majority vote can decide all matters.

One the one hand, it can lead to dangerous ochlocratia (Mob rule), in which there exists a tyranny of the majority, for example, 51% of the population voting to deprive the other 49% of their rights. On the other hand, individuals simply can not be considered capable of making high-level decisions on all major issues.

This is why we have doctors to help us with issues of our physical health, Clergymen to help us with our spiritual health, a military to defend us, economic experts to advise on these matters, lawyers on to council on legal issues, etc. So for example, continuing with the Ukraine crisis, say there is an article speaking about the major persecution of the canonical Orthodox Church occurring in Ukraine.

Ukrainian politicians want to DEMOLISH Kiev church lead by former US Navy chaplain

If people who believe the fake news about a “Russian invasion” hear the story, and find the Church belongs to the Moscow Patriarchate, they may assume the so-called Kiev Patriarchate is the legal Ukrainian church, whereas the former is under Russian influence. They may assume any news in favor of a Ukrainian Orthodox Church “of the Moscow Patriarchate”, must be biased in favor of Moscow, and so they can vote on the story as fake news.

These people are not clergymen or educated lay people, aware of the fact that the Church under Moscow is the only Orthodox Church in Ukraine which is recognized by the international Orthodox community, and supported by the majority of Ukrainians, as shown in this comparison below. They’re also not lawyers practicing Ukrainian law, and they don’t understand what is legal or not in Ukraine. How then, are they qualified to speak on issues in Ukraine, or Syria, or any distant country.

This is a potential danger of having the public vote on the truth of articles. It could be a good idea, but the scrutiny of a court of law could easily be thrown out in favor of a court of public opinion. Case in point, there was a very interesting poll by the very popular comment site Disqus, which we use on Duran (feel free to say hello in the comments and I will try to reply).

Disqus created a (now closed) poll, that asked users across all the many sites which use their comment service why they choose to downvote comments (Disqus users can upvote or downvote comments).

Here are the most common reasons Disqus observed about why people downvote comments:

  • The comment does not contribute to the discussion
  • You disagreed with the comment
  • You don’t like the user
  • You think the comment should appear lower in the discussion thread

The most common reason they found, for why people downvote, is that they disagree with the comment.

While this is not definitive, as they could disagree because they think a comment is factually wrong, they could also disagree simply because they don’t like it. Very often, in this era of fake news, humans make decisions as to what they believe and what they don’t, based on their preexisting biases.

Many don’t actually listen to hear all the viewpoints and make their own decision, but they enter into a story with a preconceived notion of what they believe, and they are essentially listening to confirm their biases. If they don’t agree with what they hear, they will label it as fake news. As a result, not only can the general public be misinformed, but they can also downvote a story simply because they don’t agree with it, considering their feelings to be the truth.

The idea purposed by Elon Musk may require a group of professional fact checkers, in addition to the public voting. This would ironically be not unlike Facebook, who announced they would work with “Third Party Fact Checkers” on news stories. Musk’s Pravda could face the same issues, as FB’s program, which allowed the mainstream media to fact-check themselves.

If one has no issue with the narratives pushed by the corporate media, this may not be an issue for them, but for those who consider the corporate media to be a key source of Fake News, this is naturally an issue. The “anti-fake” website could become subject to mob rule, where people vote based on their opinions rather than facts, and curated by the same people pushing the fake news.

Of course, there is also the biggest elephant in the room, given the name, is Pravda about obtaining the truth, or will it be another mainstream site directed against Russia and “Russian hackers”, as part of the general #Russia-gate story?

While the idea of Pravda could potentially be great, there can be major concerns with the execution. In all honesty, it will hinge on what Elon Musk specifically feels about the issue of fake news, and where it’s coming from. Everyone has their own “truth”, but the only one that will matter in on this website, is Musk’s.


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‘Too Big to Fail’: Russia-gate One Year After VIPS Showed a Leak, Not a Hack

One year later, the VIPS memo contending that the DNC emails were leaked and not hacked has yet to be successfully challenged. Meanwhile, the country sinks deeper into the morass of the new McCarthyism.

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Authored by Patrick Lawrence via ConsortiumNews.com:


A year has passed since highly credentialed intelligence professionals produced the first hard evidence that allegations of mail theft and other crimes attributed to Russia rested on purposeful falsification and subterfuge. The initial reaction to these revelations—a firestorm of frantic denial—augured ill, and the time since has fulfilled one’s worst expectations. One year later we live within an institutionalized proscription of proven reality. Our discourse consists of a series of fence posts and taboos. By any detached measure, this lands us in deep, serious trouble. The sprawl of what we call “Russia-gate” now brings our republic and its institutions to a moment of great peril—the gravest since the McCarthy years and possibly since the Civil War. No, I do not consider this hyperbole.

Much has happened since Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity published its report on intrusions into the Democratic Party’s mail servers on Consortium News on July 24 last year. Parts of the intelligence apparatus—by no means all or even most of it—have issued official “assessments” of Russian culpability. Media have produced countless multi-part “investigations,” “special reports,” and what-have-yous that amount to an orgy of faulty syllogisms. Robert Mueller’s special investigation has issued two sets of indictments that, on scrutiny, prove as wanting in evidence as the notoriously flimsy intelligence “assessment” of January 6, 2017.

Indictments are not evidence and do not need to contain evidence. That is supposed to come out at trial, which is veryunlikely to ever happen. Nevertheless, the corporate media has treated the indictments as convictions.

Numerous sets of sanctions against Russia, individual Russians, and Russian entities have been imposed on the basis of this great conjuring of assumption and presumption. The latest came last week, when the Trump administration announced measures in response to the alleged attempt to murder Sergei and Yulia Skripal, a former double agent and his daughter, in England last March. No evidence proving responsibility in the Skripal case has yet been produced. This amounts to our new standard. It prompted a reader with whom I am in regular contact to ask, “How far will we allow our government to escalate against others without proof of anything?”

This is a very good question.

There have been many attempts to discredit VIPS50 as the group’s document is called. There has been much amateurish journalism, false reporting, misrepresentation, distortion, misquotation, and omission. We have been treated to much shoddy science, attempts at character assassination, a great deal of base name-calling, and much else. Russia is routinely advanced as the greatest threat to democracy Americans now face. Is there any denying that we live amid an induced hysteria now comparable to the “Red under every bed” period of the 1950s?

None of this has altered the basic case. VIPS and forensic scientists working with it have continued their investigations. New facts, some of which alter conclusions drawn last year, have come to light, and these are to be addressed. But the basic evidence that Russia-gate is a false narrative concocted by various constituents of national power stands, difficult as this is to discern. Scrape back all that is ethically unacceptable and unscrupulously conveyed into the public sphere and you find that nothing has changed: No one “hacked” the Democratic party’s mail in the summer of 2016. It was leaked locally. From what one can make out, it was done to expose the party leadership’s corrupt efforts to sink Bernie Sanders’ insurgent campaign to win the Democratic nomination.

Cover of 2001 book that looks back on the earlier period of anti-Russia hysteria.

But in another, very profound way, more has changed since VIPS50 was published than one could have imagined a year ago. American discourse has descended to a dangerous level of irrationality. The most ordinary standards of evidentiary procedure are forgone. Many of our key institutions—the foreign policy apparatus, the media, key intelligence and law-enforcement agencies, the political leadership—are now extravagantly committed to a narrative none appears able to control. The risk of self-inflicted damage these institutions assume, should the truth of the Russia-gate events emerge—as one day it surely will—is nearly incalculable. This is what inspires my McCarthy and Civil War references. Russia-gate, in a phrase, has become too big to fail.

This column is an attack on no one. However it may be read, it is not intended as another round of vituperative argument adding to the din and fog we already suffer daily. No shred of ideology informs it. I write a lament—this for all we have done to ourselves and our institutions this past year, and to the prospect of an orderly world, and for all that must somehow be done to repair the damage once enough of us indeed recognize what has been done.

New VIPS Findings

Binney: Dares anyone to prove remote speeds.

The forensic scientists working with VIPS continued their research and experiments after VIPS50 was published. So have key members of the VIPS group, notably William Binney, the National Security Agency’s former technical director for global analysis and designer of programs the agency still uses to monitor internet traffic. Such work continues as we speak, indeed. This was always the intent: “Evidence to date” was the premise of VIPS50. Over the past year there have been confirmations of the original thesis and some surprises that alter secondary aspects of it. Let us look at the most significant of these findings.

At the time I reported on the findings of VIPS and associated forensic scientists, that the most fundamental evidence that the events of summer 2016 constituted a leak, not a hack, was the transfer rate—the speed at which data was copied. The speed proven then was an average of 22.7 megabytes per second. That speed matches what is standard when someone with physical access uses an external storage device to copy data from a computer or server and is much faster than a remote hack, reliant on communications topology available at the time, could achieve.

Binney experimented into the autumn. By mid-autumn he had tested several routes—from East Coast locations to cities in eastern Europe, from New Jersey to London. The fastest internet transfer speed achieved, during the New Jersey–to–Britain test, was 12.0 megabytes of data per second. Since this time it has emerged from G-2.0’s metadata that the detected average speed—the 22.7 megabytes per second—included peak speeds that ran as high as 49.1 megabytes per second, impossible over the internet. “You’d need a dedicated, leased, 400–megabit line all the way to Russia to achieve that result,” Binney said in a recent interview.

To my knowledge, no one with an understanding of the science involved, including various former skeptics, any longer questions the validity of the specific finding based on the observed transfer rate. That remains the bedrock evidence of the case VIPS and others advance without qualification. No one—including the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA—has come out against this finding,” Binney said Monday. “Anyone who says the speed we demonstrated can be achieved remotely, our position is ‘Let’s see it. We’ll help any way we can.’ There hasn’t been anyone yet.”

There is also the question of where and when leaks were executed. Research into this has turned out differently.

Evidence last year, based on analysis of the available metadata, showed that the copy operation date-stamped July 5, 2016, took place in the Eastern U.S. time zone. But Forensicator, one of the chief forensic investigators working on the mail-theft case anonymously, published evidence in May showing that while there was activity in the Eastern zone at the time of that copy, there was also a copy operation in the Pacific time zone, where clocks run three hours earlier that EST. In an earlier publication he had also reported activity in the Central time zone.

Plainly, more was awaiting discovery as to the when and where of the copy operations. The identity of Guccifer 2.0, who claimed to be a Romanian hacker but which the latest Mueller indictment claims is a construct of the GRU, Russian military intelligence, has never been proven. The question is what G–2.0 did with or to the data in question. It turns out that both more, and less, is known about G–2.0 than was thought to have been previously demonstrated. This work has been completed only recently. It was done by Binney in collaboration with Duncan Campbell, a British journalist who has followed the Russia-gate question closely.

Peak Speed Established

Binney visited Campbell in Brighton, England, early this past spring. They examined all the metadata associated with the files G–2.0 has made public. They looked at the number of files, the size of each, and the time stamps at the end of each. It was at this time that Binney and Campbell established the peak transfer rate at 49.1 megabytes per second.

But they discovered something else of significance, too. At some point G–2.0 had merged two sets of data, one dated July 5, 2016, which had been known, and another dated the following September 1, which had not been known. In essence, Campbell reverse-engineered G–2.0’s work: He took the sets of data G–2.0 presented as two and combined them back into one. “G–2.0 used an algorithm to make a downloaded file look like two files,” Binney explained. “Those two shuffled back together like a deck of cards.”

G–2.0 then took another step. Running another algorithm, he changed all the dates on all the files. With yet another algorithm, he changed the hours stamped on each file. These are called “range changes” among the professionals. The conclusion was then obvious: G–2.0 is a fabrication and a fabricator. Forensicator had already proven that the G–2.0 entity had inserted Russian “fingerprints” into the document known as the “Trump Opposition Report,” which G-2.0 had published on June 15, 2016. It is clear that no firm conclusions can be drawn at this point as to when or where G–2.0 did what he did.

“Now you need to prove everything you might think about him,” Binney told me. “We have no way of knowing anything about him or what he has done, apart from manipulating the files. We detected activity in the Eastern time zone. Now we have to ask again, ‘Which time zone?’ The West Coast copy operation [discovered by Forensicator] has to be proven. All the data has been manipulated. It’s a fabrication.”

This throws various things into question. The conclusions initially drawn on time and location in VIPS50 are now subject to these recent discoveries. “In retrospect, giving ‘equal importance’ status to data pertaining to the locale was mistaken,” Ray McGovern, a prominent VIPS member, wrote in a recent note. “The key finding on transfer speed always dwarfed it in importance.”

The indictments against 12 Russian intelligence officers announced in mid–July by Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney-general, also come into question. They rest in considerable part on evidence derived from G–2.0 and DCLeaks, another online persona. How credible are those indictments in view of what is now known about G–2.0?

Binney told me: “Once we proved G–2.0 is a fabrication and a manipulator, the timing and location questions couldn’t be answered but really didn’t matter. I don’t right now see a way of absolutely proving either time or location. But this doesn’t change anything. We know what we know: The intrusion into the Democratic National Committee mail was a local download—wherever ‘local’ is.” That doesn’t change. As to Rosenstein, he’ll have a lot to prove.”

What Role does Evidence Play?

Rosenstein at the Justice Department on July 13 announcing indictments against 12 GRU agents. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Rosenstein’s predicament—and there is no indication he understands it as one—brings us to an essential problem: What is the place of evidence in American public discourse? Of rational exchange?

The questions are germane far beyond the Russia-gate phenomenon, but it is there that answers are most urgent. What is implicit in the Rosenstein indictments has been evident everywhere in our public sphere for a year or more: Make a presumption supported by circumstantial evidence or none and build other presumptions upon it until a false narrative is constructed. The press has deployed this device for as long as I have been a practitioner: “Might” or “could” or “possibly” becomes “perhaps,” “probably” and “almost certainly,” and then moves on to unqualified fact in the course of, maybe, several weeks. Now this is how our most basic institutions—not least agencies of the Justice Department—routinely operate.

This is what I mean when I refer to ours as a republic in peril.

There is the argument that certain things have been uncovered over the past year, and these are enough to conclude that Russia plots to undermine our democracy. I refer to the small number of Facebook advertisements attributed to Russians, to strings of Twitter messages, to various phishing exercises that occur thousands of times a day the world over. To be clear, I am no more satisfied with the evidence of Russian involvement in these cases than I am with the evidence in any other aspect of the Russia-gate case. But for the sake of argument, let us say it is all true.

Does this line up with the Russophobic hysteria—not too strong a term—that envelops us? Does this explain the astonishing investments our public institutions, the press, and leading political parties have made in advancing this hysteria as they did a variant of in the 1950s?

As global politics go, some serious thought should be given to a reality we have created all by ourselves: It is now likely that America has built a new Cold War division with Russia that will prove permanent for the next 20 to 30 years. All this because of some Facebook ads and Twitter threads of unproven origin? Am I the only one who sees a weird and worrisome gap between what we are intent on believing—as against thinking or knowing—and the consequences of these beliefs?

There was an orthodoxy abroad many centuries ago called Fideism. In the simplest terms, it means the privileging of faith and belief over reason. It was the enemy of individual conscience, among much else. Fideism has deep roots, but it was well around in the 16th century, when Montaigne and others had to navigate its many dangers. Closer to our time, William James landed a variant on American shores with an 1896 address called “The Will to Believe.” Bertrand Russell countered this line of thinking a couple of decades later with “Free Thought and Official Propaganda,” a lecture whose title I will let speak for itself. Twenty years ago, none other than Pope John Paul II warned of a resurgence of Fideism. It is still around, in short.

Do we suffer from it? A variant of it, I would say, if not precisely in name. There seems to be a givenness to it in the American character. I think we are staring into a 21st century rendition of it.

To doubt the hollowed-out myth of American innocence is a grave sin against the faith. It is now unpatriotic to question the Russia-gate narrative despite the absence of evidence to support it. Informal censorship of differing perspectives is perfectly routine. It is now considered treasonous to question the word of intelligence agencies and the officials who lead them despite long records of deceit. Do we forget that it was only 15 years ago that these same institutions and people deceived us into an invasion of Iraq the consequences of which still persist?

This was the question Craig Murray, the former British diplomat (who has vital information on the DNC mail theft but who has never been interviewed by American investigators) posed a few weeks ago. Eugene Robinson gave a good-enough reply in a Washington Post opinion piece shortly afterward: “God Bless the Deep State,” the headline read.

How we got here deserves a work of social psychology, and I hope someone takes up the task. Understanding our path into our self-created crisis seems to me the first step to finding our way out of it.

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author, and lecturer. His most recent book is Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century (Yale). Follow him @thefloutist. His web site is www.patricklawrence.us. Support his work via www.patreon.com/thefloutist.

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America the Punitive

What do Russia, Turkey and Iran have in common?

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


There has been a dramatic shift in how the United States government carries out its business internationally. Admittedly, Washington has had a tendency to employ force to get what it has wanted ever since 9/11, but it also sometimes recognized that other countries had legitimate interests and accepted there was a place for diplomacy to resolve issues short of armed conflict. The Bush Administration reluctance to broaden its engagement in the Middle East after it recognized that it had blundered with Iraq followed by Obama’s relaxation of tensions with Cuba and his negotiation of a nuclear agreement with Iran demonstrated that sanity sometimes prevailed in the West Wing.

That willingness to be occasionally accommodating has changed dramatically, with the State Department under Mike Pompeo currently more prone to deliver threats than any suggestions that we all might try to get along. It would be reasonable enough to criticize such behavior because it is intrinsically wrong, but the truly frightening aspect of it would appear to be that it is based on the essentially neoconservative assumption that other countries will always back down when confronted with force majeure and that the use of violence as a tool in international relations is, ultimately, consequence free.

I am particularly disturbed with the consequence free part as it in turn is rooted in the belief that countries that have been threatened or even invaded have no collective memory of what occurred and will not respond vengefully when the situation changes. There have been a number of stunningly mindless acts of aggression over the past several weeks that are particularly troubling as they suggest that they will produce many more problems down the road than solutions.

The most recent is the new sanctioning of Russia over the Skripal poisoning in Salisbury England. For those not following developments, last week Washington abruptly and without any new evidence being presented, imposed additional trade sanctions on Russia in the belief that Moscow ordered and carried out the poisoning of Sergey Skripal and his daughter Yulia on March 4th. The report of the new sanctions was particularly surprising as Yulia Skripal has recently announced that she intends to return to her home in Russia, leading to the conclusion that even one of the alleged victims does not believe the narrative being promoted by the British and American governments.

Though Russian President Vladimir Putin has responded with restraint, avoiding a tit-for-tat, he is reported to be angry about the new move by the US government and now believes it to be an unreliable negotiating partner. Considering the friendly recent exchanges between Putin and Trump, the punishment of Russia has to be viewed as something of a surprise, suggesting that the president of the United States may not be in control of his own foreign policy.

Turkey is also feeling America’s wrath over the continued detention of an American Protestant Pastor Andrew Brunson by Ankara over charges that he was connected to the coup plotters of 2016, which were allegedly directed by Fetullah Gulen, a Muslim religious leader, who now resides in Pennsylvania. Donald Trump has made the detention the centerpiece of his Turkish policy, introducing sanctions and tariffs that have led in part to a collapse of the Turkish lira and a run on the banking system which could easily lead to default and grave damage to European banks that hold a large party of the country’s debt.

And then there is perennial favorite Iran, which was hit with reinstated sanctions last week and is confronting a ban on oil sales scheduled to go into effect on November 4th. The US has said it will sanction any country that buys Iranian oil after that date, though a number of governments including Turkey, India and China appear to be prepared to defy that demand. Several European countries are reportedly preparing mechanisms that will allow them to trade around US restrictions.

What do Russia, Turkey and Iran have in common? All are on the receiving end of punitive action by the United States over allegations of misbehavior that have not been demonstrated. Nobody has shown that Russia poisoned the Skripals, Turkey just might have a case that the Reverend Brunson was in contact with coup plotters, and Iran is in full compliance with the nuclear arms agreement signed in 2015. One has to conclude that the United States has now become the ultimate angry imperial power, lashing out with the only thing that seems to work – its ability to interfere in and control financial markets – to punish nations that do not play by its rules. Given Washington’s diminishing clout worldwide, it is a situation that is unsustainable and which will ultimately only really punish the American people as the United States becomes more isolated and its imperial overreach bankrupts the nation. As America weakens, Russia, Turkey, Iran and all the other countries that have been steamrolled by Washington will likely seek revenge. To avoid that, a dramatic course correction by the US is needed, but, unfortunately, is unlikely to take place.

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NATO Repeats the Great Mistake of the Warsaw Pact

NATO expansion continues to drive the world the closer towards the threat of thermonuclear war.

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Authored by Martin Sieff via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Through the 1990s, during the terms of US President Bill Clinton, NATO relentlessly and inexorably expanded through Central Europe. Today, the expansion of that alliance eastward – encircling Russia with fiercely Russo-phobic regimes in one tiny country after another and in Ukraine, which is not tiny at all – continues.

This NATO expansion – which the legendary George Kennan presciently warned against in vain – continues to drive the world the closer towards the threat of thermonuclear war. Far from bringing the United States and the Western NATO allies increased security, it strips them of the certainty of the peace and security they would enjoy if they instead sought a sincere, constructive and above all stable relationship with Russia.

It is argued that the addition of the old Warsaw Pact member states of Central Europe to NATO has dramatically strengthened NATO and gravely weakened Russia. This has been a universally-accepted assumption in the United States and throughout the West for the past quarter century. Yet it simply is not true.

In reality, the United States and its Western European allies are now discovering the hard way the same lesson that drained and exhausted the Soviet Union from the creation of the Warsaw Pact in 1955 to its dissolution 36 years later. The tier of Central European nations has always lacked the coherence, the industrial base and the combined economic infrastructure to generate significant industrial, financial or most of all strategic and military power.

In fact the current frustrating experience of NATO, and the long, exhausting tribulations that faced Soviet diplomats and generals for so many decades was entirely consistent with the previous historical record going back at least until 1718.

From 1718 until 1867 – a period of a century and a half – most of Central Europe, including even regions of Poland at the end of the 18th century, were consolidated within the Austro –Hungarian Empire, However even then, the Habsburg multi-national empire was always militarily weak and punched beneath its weight. After Emperor Franz Josef recklessly proclaimed his famous Compromise of 1867, the effectiveness of the imperial army was reduced to almost zero. The autonomous and feckless conduct of the Hungarian aristocracy ensured a level of confusion, division, incompetence and ineptitude that was revealed in the army’s total collapse against both Russia and Serbia in the great battles of 1914 at the start of World War I.

Germany moved in to occupy and consolidate the region in both world wars. But far from making Germany a global giant and enabling it to maintain its domination of Europe, the Central European regions – whether as part of Austro-Hungary during World War I or as independent nation-states allied to the Nazis in World War II – proved miniscule and worthless against the alliances of Russia, the United States, Britain and France that the Germans fought against in both global conflicts.

After the Soviet Union militarily destroyed the genocidal military power of Nazi Germany in World War II, Russia’s Great Patriotic War, the political consolidation of East Germany and Poland were strategically necessary for Russia’s security. But occupying and organizing the rest of the region was not. Far from strengthening the Soviet Union, those nations weakened and distracted it. Today, NATO is repeating the Soviet Mistake and that fatal move is inexorably draining the alliance of all its strength and credibility.

NATO is also repeating the disastrous mistake that France made in 1920-21 when it created a “Little Entente” of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Romania to supposedly counterbalance the revival of Germany. The plan failed completely.

Today those very same nations – enthusiastically joined by Hungary, Poland and the three little Baltic states – are relentlessly distorting both NATO and the EU. They generate weakness and chaos in the alliances they are in – not unity and strength.

As I have noted before in these columns, the great British historian Lord Correlli Barnett drew the important distinction between militarily powerful nations that are generators and exporters of security and those, either tiny or disorganized, pacifist and weak nations that have to import their security from more powerful states.

One might call such small countries “feeder” or “parasite” states. They siphon off energy and strength from their protector partners. They weaken their alliance partners rather than strengthening them.

The consistent lessons of more than 300 years of Central European history are therefore clear: Leading and organizing the tier of Central European nations in the Warsaw Pact did not strengthen the Soviet Union: Instead, those activities relentlessly weakened it.

Incorporating most of the small nations in Central Europe into any empire or alliance has never been a cause or generator of military or national strength, regardless of the ideology or religious faith involved. At best, it is a barometer of national strength.

When nations such as France, Germany, the Soviet Union or the United States are seen as rising powers in the world, the small countries of Central Europe always hasten to ally themselves accordingly. They therefore adopt and discard Ottoman Islamic imperialism. Austrian Christian imperialism, democracy, Nazism, Communism and again democracy as easily as putting on or off different costumes at a fancy dress ball in Vienna or Budapest.

As Russia rises once again in global standing and national power, supported by its genuinely powerful allies China, India and Pakistan in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the nations of Central Europe can be anticipated to reorient their own loyalties accordingly once again.

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