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Why Europe is obsessed with fighting ‘Russian propaganda’

The European Union relies on propaganda against Russia to draw attention away from critical economic shortcomings.

Haneul Na'avi

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“See how elastic our prejudices grow when once love comes to bend them.” — Moby Dick

Members of European Parliament (MEPs) convened on 23 Nov. to enact yet another non-legislative motion to combat “Russian propaganda”.

The EU resolution, created by European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) member Anna Fotgya (Poland), rallied parliamentarians in a torch and pitchfork session to scapegoat Russian media for exposing the hard truths about incompetent Western leadership.

Citing the typical Crimean ‘annexation’,“[…] the European Parliament condemned Russia’s state media as ‘disinformation and propaganda’ designed to ‘increase Russia’s influence and weaken the EU’, [which] passed by 304 votes to 179, with 208 abstentions”, the Moscow Times reported.

The resolution also called for “investing more in awareness raising, education, online and local media, investigative journalism and information literacy”.

Russian Spokesperson Maria Zakharova promptly responded to the accusations:

“[It] is beyond my understanding what our Western colleagues are so afraid of. I cannot call this anything but fear […] [the resolution] is stupidity and fear through and through.”

Europe’s “investments” in the Russian economy, including backing regime change in Ukraine and Syria, enacting unilateral sanctions, and bailing out Ukraine’s criminal government, have yet to yield any return on investment.

In fact, evidence shows that the EU has placed stock by ignoring its trade deficit with Russia and forging deeper ties to the indebted United States economy.

In 2014, Germany was Russia’s second-largest EU trading partner (6.6%) after the Netherlands (8.7%). Conversely, Russia was the EU’s fourth largest trading partner in 2015. Germany’s successes in the single market made it an easy target for American imperialism.

To increase its market share, US officials targeted Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands—Russia’s top three trading partners—with sanctions to procure future negotiations and trade deals.

A 2014 CNN article explained this in perfect detail:

[…] the European Union exports about 100 billion euros worth of goods and services to Russia and takes in roughly 200 billion euros of the latter’s imports […] For Germany, curtailed trade with Russia could really bite. And considering as the former is Europe’s biggest economy the implications would be felt well beyond its borders.

German financial analyst Ernest Wolff extrapolates from this observation in a Sputnik article:

“Over 6,000 German companies are trading with Russia, and many of them are now experiencing difficulties, and this is exactly what the sanctions were aimed at,” he stated.

“[It] clearly plays into the hands of the US geopolitical interests and American capital. If the US employment and labor law is introduced in European companies, this will bring the US one step closer towards US global dominance,” he mentioned.

Several conditions within EU-Russian trade became evident in 2014, which are intrinsically linked to the desperate US-EU EuroMaidan colour revolution.

Firstly, it was an attempt to circumvent Europe’s chasmic trade deficit. From 2005-2015, the EU traded disproportionately with Russia, incurring a deficit of over $90b in 2011.

The same year, EU and US officials began secret consultations of a future agreement “based on the recommendations of the EU-US High Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth that steered the deliberations on the future EU-US relations,” the EU Commission reported. The ‘agreement’ would later become the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

According to a 2013 London Centre for Economic Policy Research study, [it] “could bring the EU economic gains of €119 billion a year [and] translate on average to an extra €545 in disposable income each year for a family of four in the EU.”

In reality, this was to counteract Russia’s positive trade balance of $196b (2011), with $506b in exports and $310b in imports; the highest on record.

Conversely, the US incurred a trade deficit of over $72b (2011), with imports at $2.06t and exports at 1.34t. America’s massive trade and fiscal deficits, exacerbated by the 2008 financial crisis and endless war in the Middle East, increased America’s appetite for surplus value in new markets to make up for the deficit, using conflict to divide the EU from Russia and finalise plans for the TTIP.

Furthermore, Russia’s growing Economic Complexity Index (ECI), which attracts trading partners to bundled export packages, also prompted the shift in policy. Russia’s ECI ranking almost doubled from its lowest point in 2009 (50) to 2014 (27), 5 points away from its record high in 1992 (22), diversifying its markets to weather the US-inspired 2008 global financial crisis.

The Council of the European Union then worked to entice as many countries away from Russia’s geopolitical orbit amidst the chaos, on behalf of Washington:

Major progress was achieved in the field of visa liberalisation with the Republic of Moldova with entry into force of the visa free regime in April. The visa facilitation agreement and readmission agreement entered into force on 1 January 2014 between EU and Armenia and on 1 September 2014 between EU and Azerbaijan […] The EU began negotiations on Visa Facilitation Agreement with Belarus.

Nevertheless, the subterfuge backfired. Armenia, instead of pivoting westward, joined the Eurasian Economic Union, blocking progress on the South Stream pipeline and fuelling tensions with EU vassal state Azerbaijan.

Additionally, Moldova’s leadership recently became ‘pro-Russian’, thanks to Party of Socialists’ Chairman Igor Dodon winning the country’s 2016 elections, infuriating Brussels even further.

The main problem for Brussels lies not in Moscow, but in the streets of Europe, as anti-TTIP protesters denounce the theft of worker’s rights, increased imports of genetically-modified foods, repressive copyright laws, as well as impending corporate rule over individual sovereign states.

So, how has ‘big, bad Vlad’ undermined the ‘weakened’ the ‘free and democratic’ European Union?

Amidst Western sanctions, President Vladimir Putin has made it even easier to do business in Russia by creating Special Investment Contracts (SICs), which “support potential investors in transferring business into Russia” as well as create “new facilities and receiving the status of Russian domestic [manufacturers]”, quotes the Moscow Times.

This has attracted multinational businesses to Russia and facilitated joint ventures between Moscow and other economic powerhouses. EuroChem, one of Europe’s largest mineral fertiliser producers based in Zug, Switzerland, recently signed a massive SIC at the 2016 St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Sochi, Russia.

“EuroChem’s investment in three projects [Kingisepp, EuroChem-VolgaKaliy and EuroChem-Usolskiy] totals approximately RUB 287 billion while their implementation will create 3,750 new jobs in the aforementioned regions and will ensure annual tax revenues of RUB 22 billion,” the company highlighted.

Success stories such as these have increased Russia’s standing in the World Bank Doing Business ranking for startups, moving it from 37 to 26 (↑11%), mitigating sanctions in 2016.

Due to Europe’s counterproductive actions, Russia has also purged much of the EU’s market share and passed it to China—its largest trading partner. A Bruegel working paper elaborates:

[…] the EU’s relative comparative advantage is being chipped away as it continues to lose market share, and the question really is how much this might be related to China’s increasing export capacity. […] China has moved from supplying only 3.9 percent of Russia’s imports in 1998 to more than 21 percent in 2014. In the meantime the EU’s share has gradually decreased from nearly 70 percent to 55 percent.

Additionally, the largest indicator of Russia’s intentions with the European Union stems from the MIR Initiative, a large-scale freighting infrastructure project headed by Dr. Ernest Sultanov.

According to the organisation’s two charters, signed in Turin, Italy and Sochi, Russia, Moscow will play an indispensable role as an international conduit between Asia and Europe. The initiative makes a ‘Silk Road Metro‘ of the entire Asian and European continent, placing Moscow at a sensitive, critical junction to transport both freighters and passengers via high-speed rail.

Chinese President Xi spearheaded the ambitious New Silk Road project in 2013, which is a modernised version of intercontinental trade during the Han dynasty, in order to lift billions of people out of poverty across Asia, the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region, and Europe.

Dr. Sultanov theorises the following about his perspective on the MIR Initiative:

[The] creation of common infrastructure is certainly a key factor in promoting a sustainable model of development in the world today. Social mobility, security and economic upliftment find their base on [transportation] mobility and presence of infrastructure and communications permitting the fast passage of people, goods and ideas.

Socio-economic and transport/communication mobility are inversely proportional to the risk of [unacceptable] and conflict behavior: i.e. the higher system mobility a region features, the less likely it is to see a crisis or conflict break out. A common transport system in constant development unhindered by any walls or barriers is the most important factor that allowed Europe to decrease the chance of internal clashes.

The MIR Initiative is arguably the paragon of future Russo-European relations, and only ‘weakens’ the Western narrative about ‘Russian aggression’. On the contrary; it is imperative that Russia maintains stability to ensure the Silk Road’s success. Even the initiative’s Turin charter, signed by 13 high-ranking international officials, states the following:

A large infrastructure project requires a prolonged mobilization of important interests, seamless cooperation among institutions, international political action at the highest levels, and enormous resources. However, the most essential precondition is the creation of a deep consensus among countries that are located far from one another and often in conflict (as it is now occurring in the METR region). These countries could be motivated to understand one another and to cooperate because of efforts of Eurasian corridor cities.

The very definition of propaganda is “the organized dissemination of information, allegations, etc, to assist or damage the cause of a government, movement, etc”, which is precisely what the European Union is using to slander the Russian government. By shifting towards US foreign policy, Europe risks alienating herself from a rising Asia and Eurasia.

As Europe’s business class pivots eastward, they disprove Mrs. Fotgya’s baseless claims, and Zakharova is correct to say that if “the European Union has any internal issues, the cause of those problems must be found within, rather than blaming them on a third party.”

Whether or not European MEPs kowtow a Eurosceptic organisation that wishes to “decentralise power back to national capitals” and support “transatlantic alliances” will not deter Vladimir Putin from doing everything possible to make peace with the European continent and building a New World Order with Asia and Eurasia fully united in purpose. If this scares Europe, then so be it.

Better yet, EU parliamentarians should step off of the USS Pequod and chart their own destiny.

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Republicans call Justice Department’s Bruce Ohr to testify, but where is British Spy Steele? (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 78.

Alex Christoforou

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Representative Mark Meadows tweeted Friday…

“DOJ official Bruce Ohr will come before Congress on August 28 to answer why he had 60+ contacts with dossier author Chris Steele, as far back as January 2016. He owes the American public the full truth.”

Lawmakers believe former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr is a central figure to finding out how the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid PR smear firm Fusion GPS and British spy Christopher Steele to fuel a conspiracy of Trump campaign collusion with Russians at the top levels of the Justice Department and the FBI.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) said Sunday to Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo…

So here you have information flowing from the Clinton campaign from the Russians, likely — I believe was handed directly from Russian propaganda arms to the Clinton campaign, fed into the top levels of the FBI and Department of Justice to open up a counter-intelligence investigation into a political campaign that has now polluted nearly every top official at the DOJ and FBI over the course of the last couple years. It is absolutely amazing,

According to Breitbart, during the 2016 election, Ohr served as associate deputy attorney general, and as an assistant to former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and to then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. His office was four doors down from Rosenstein on the fourth floor. He was also dual-hatted as the director of the DOJ’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Ohr’s contacts with Steele, an ex-British spy, are said to date back more than a decade. Steele is a former FBI informant who had helped the FBI prosecute corruption by FIFA officials. But it is Ohr and Steele’s communications in 2016 that lawmakers are most interested in.

Emails handed over to Congress by the Justice Department show that Ohr, Steele, and Simpson communicated throughout 2016, as Steele and Simpson were being paid by the Clinton campaign and the DNC to dig up dirt on Trump.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the role Bruce Ohr played in Hillary Clinton’s Deep State attack against the Presidency of Donald Trump, and why the most central of figures in the Trump-Russia collusion hoax, British spy for hire Christopher Steele, is not sitting before Congress, testifying to the real election collusion between the UK, the Obama White House, the FBI and the DOJ.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via The Washington Times

Republicans in a joint session of House committees are set to interview former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr this month to gauge whether a complex conspiracy against Donald Trump existed among Hillary Clinton loyalists and the Justice Department.

“DOJ official Bruce Ohr will come before Congress on August 28 to answer why he had 60+contacts with dossier author Chris Steele as far back as January 2016. He owes the American public the full truth,” tweeted Rep. Mark Meadows, North Carolina Republican and member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

His panel and the House Judiciary Committee plan to hold a joint hearing to interview Mr. Ohr, according to The Daily Caller.

FBI documents show that the bureau bluntly told dossier writer Christopher Steele in November 2016 that it no longer wanted to hear about his collection of accusations against Mr. Trump.

But for months afterward, the FBI appeared to violate its own edict as agents continued to receive the former British spy’s scandalous charges centered on supposed TrumpRussia collusion.

 

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The US-Turkey Crisis: The NATO Alliance Forged in 1949 Is Today Largely Irrelevant

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via American Herald Tribune:


There has been some reporting in the United States mass media about the deteriorating relationship between Washington and Ankara and what it might mean. Such a falling out between NATO members has not been seen since France left the alliance in 1966 and observers note that the hostility emanating from both sides suggests that far worse is to come as neither party appears prepared to moderate its current position while diplomatic exchanges have been half-hearted and designed to lead nowhere.

The immediate cause of the breakdown is ostensibly President Donald Trump’s demand that an American Protestant minister who has lived in Turkey for twenty-three years be released from detention. Andrew Brunson was arrested 21 months ago and charged with being a supporter of the alleged conspiracy behind the military coup in 2016 that sought to kill or replace President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan has asserted that the coup was directed by former political associate Fetullah Gulen, who lives in exile in Pennsylvania, but has produced little credible evidence to support that claim. In the aftermath of the coup attempt, Erdogan has had himself voted extraordinary special powers to maintain public order and has arrested 160,000 people, including 20 Americans, who have been imprisoned. More than 170,000 civil servants, teachers, and military personnel have lost their jobs, the judiciary has been hobbled, and senior army officers have been replaced by loyalists.

Gulen is a religious leader who claims to promote a moderate brand of Islam that is compatible with western values. His power base consists of a large number of private schools that educate according to his curriculum, with particular emphasis on math and sciences. Many of the graduates become part of a loose affiliation that has sometimes been described as a cult. Gulen also owns and operates a number of media outlets, all of which have now been shut by Erdogan as part of his clamp down on the press. Turkey currently imprisons more journalists than any other country.

It is widely believed that Erdogan has been offering to release Brunson in exchange for Gulen, but President Donald Trump has instead offered only a Turkish banker currently in a U.S. prison while also turning the heat up in the belief that pressure on Turkey will force it to yield. Washington began the tit-for-tat by imposing sanctions on two cabinet-level officials in Erdogan’s government: Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul. Ankara has now also been on the receiving end of a Trump tweet and tariffs have been placed on a broad range of Turkish products, to include steel and aluminum.

The view that economic pressure will force the Turks to yield could be mistaken and demonstrates that the Administration does not include anyone who knows that Americans have been unpopular in Turkey since the Gulf War. The threats from Washington might actually rally skeptical and normally pro-western Turks around Erdogan but U.S. sanctions have already hit the Turkish economy hard, with the lira having lost 40% of its value this year and continuing to sink rapidly. Foreign investors, who fueled much of Turkey’s recent economic growth, have fled the market, suggesting that a collapse in credit might be on the way. Those European banks that hold Turkish debt are fearing a possible default.

It is a spectacle of one NATO member driving another NATO member’s economy into the ground over a political dispute. Erdogan has responded in his autocratic fashion by condemning “interest rates” and calling for an “economic war” against the U.S., telling his supporters to unload all their liquid valuables, gold and foreign to buy the plummeting lira, a certain recipe for disaster. If they do that, they will likely lose everything.

Other contentious issues involved in the badly damaged bilateral relationship are conflicting views on what to do about Syria, where the Turks have a legitimate interest due to potential Kurdish terrorism and are seeking a buffer zone, as well as Ankara’s interest in buying Russian air defense missile systems, which has prompted the U.S. to suspend sales of the new F-35 fighter. The Turks have also indicated that they have no interest in enforcing the sanctions on Iran that were re-imposed last week and they will continue to buy Iranian oil after the November 4th initiation of a U.S. ban on such purchases. The Trump Administration has warned that it will sanction any country that refuses to comply, setting the stage for a massive confrontation between Washington and Ankara involving the Turkish Central Bank.

In terms of U.S. interests, Turkey, which has the second largest army in NATO, is of strategic value because it is Muslim, countering arguments that the alliance is some kind of Christian club working to suppress Islam in the Middle East. And it is also important because of its geographic location close to hot spots where the American military is currently engaged. If the U.S. heeds Trump’s call to cut back on involvement in the region, Turkey will become less valuable, but currently, access to the Incirlik Airbase, near Adana and the Syrian border, is vital.

Indeed, Incirlik has become one of the flashpoints in the argument with Washington. Last week, a group of lawyers connected politically to Erdogan initiated legal action against U.S. officers at Incirlik over claimed ties to “terrorists” linked to Gulen. The “Association for Social Justice and Aid” has called for a temporary halt to all operations at the base to permit a search for evidence. The attorneys are asking for the detention of seven named American Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels. General Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command based in Germany is also cited. If the lawyers are successful in court, it will mean a major conflict as Washington asserts the rights of the officers under the Status of Forces Agreement, while Turkey will no doubt insist that the Americans are criminals and have no protection.

Another trial balloon being floated by Erdogan is even more frightening in terms of the demons that it could be unleashing. Abdurrahman Dilipak, an Islamist columnist writing in the pro-government newspaper Yeni Atik, has suggested that there might well be a second terrorist attack on the United States like 9/11. Dilipak threatened that if Trump does nothing to reduce tension “…some people will teach him [to do] that. It must be seen that if internal tensions with the United States continue like this that a September 11 is no unlikely possibility.” Dilipak also warned that presumed Gulenist “U.S. collaborators” inside Turkey would be severely punished if they dared to go out into the streets to protest in support of Washington.

If recent developments in Turkey deteriorate further it might well suggest that Donald Trump’s instinct to disengage from the Middle East was the right call, though it could equally be seen as a rejection of the tactic being employed, i.e. using heavy-handed sanctions and tariffs to compel obedience from governments disinclined to follow Washington’s leadership. Either way, the Turkish-American relationship is in trouble and increasingly a liability for both sides, yet another indication that the NATO alliance forged in 1949 against the Soviet Union is today largely irrelevant.

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Is This The Most Important Geopolitical Deal Of 2018?

After more than 20 years of fraught diplomatic efforts, the five littoral Caspian nations agreed upon a legal framework for sharing the world’s largest inland body of water.

The Duran

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Authored by Olgu Okumus via Oilprice.com:


The two-decade-long dispute on the statute of the Caspian Sea, the world largest water reserve, came to an end last Sunday when five littoral states (Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan) agreed to give it a special legal status – it is now neither a sea, nor a lake. Before the final agreement became public, the BBC wrote that all littoral states will have the freedom of access beyond their territorial waters, but natural resources will be divided up. Russia, for its part, has guaranteed a military presence in the entire basin and won’t accept any NATO forces in the Caspian.

Russian energy companies can explore the Caspian’s 50 billion barrels of oil and its 8.4 trillion cubic meters of natural gas reserves, Turkmenistan can finally start considering linking its gas to the Turkish-Azeri joint project TANAP through a trans-Caspian pipeline, while Iran has gained increased energy supplies for its largest cities in the north of the country (Tehran, Tabriz, and Mashhad) – however, Iran has also put itself under the shadow of Russian ships. This controversy makes one wonder to what degree U.S. sanctions made Iran vulnerable enough to accept what it has always avoided – and how much these U.S. sanctions actually served NATO’s interests.

If the seabed, rich in oil and gas, is divided this means more wealth and energy for the region. From 1970 until the dissolution of the Soviet Union (USSR) in 1991, the Caspian Sea was divided into subsectors for Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan – all constituent republics of the USSR. The division was implemented on the basis of the internationally-accepted median line.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the new order required new regulations. The question was over whether the Caspian was a sea or a lake? If it was treated as a sea, then it would have to be covered by international maritime law, namely the United Nations Law of the Sea. But if it is defined as a lake, then it could be divided equally between all five countries. The so-called “lake or sea” dispute revolved over the sovereignty of states, but also touched on some key global issues – exploiting oil and gas reserves in the Caspian Basin, freedom of access, the right to build beyond territorial waters, access to fishing and (last but not least) managing maritime pollution.

The IEA concluded in World Energy Outlook (WEO) 2017 that offshore energy has a promising future. More than a quarter of today’s oil and gas supply is produced offshore, and integrated offshore thinking will extend this beyond traditional sources onwards to renewables and more. Caspian offshore hydrocarbon reserves are around 50 billion barrels of oil equivalent (equivalent to one third of Iraq’s total oil reserves) and 8.4 trillion cubic meters of gas (almost equivalent to the U.S.’ entire proven gas reserves). As if these quantities were not themselves enough to rebalance Eurasian energy demand equations, the agreement will also allow Turkmenistan to build the Trans-Caspian pipeline, connecting Turkmenistan’s resources to the Azeri-Turkish joint project TANAP, and onwards to Europe – this could easily become a counter-balance factor to the growing LNG business in Europe.

Even though we still don’t have firm and total details on the agreement, Iran seems to have gained much less than its neighbors, as it has shortest border on the Caspian. From an energy perspective, Iran would be a natural market for the Caspian basin’s oil and gas, as Iran’s major cities (Tehran, Tabriz, and Mashhad) are closer to the Caspian than they are to Iran’s major oil and gas fields. Purchasing energy from the Caspian would also allow Iran to export more of its own oil and gas, making the country a transit route from the Caspian basin to world markets. For instance, for Turkmenistan (who would like to sell gas to Pakistan) Iran provides a convenient geography. Iran could earn fees for swap arrangements or for providing a transit route and justify its trade with Turkey and Turkmenistan as the swap deal is allowed under the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA, or the D’Amato Act).

If the surface water will be in common usage, all littoral states will have access beyond their territorial waters. In practical terms, this represents an increasingly engaged Russian presence in the Basin. It also reduces any room for a NATO presence, as it seems to be understood that only the five littoral states will have a right to military presence in the Caspian. Considering the fact that Russia has already used its warships in the Caspian to launch missile attacks on targets within Syria, this increased Russian presence could potentially turn into a security threat for Iran.

Many questions can now be asked on what Tehran might have received in the swap but one piece of evidence for what might have pushed Iran into agreement in its vulnerable position in the face of increased U.S. sanctions. Given that the result of those sanctions seems to be Iran agreeing to a Caspian deal that allows Russia to place warships on its borders, remove NATO from the Caspian basin equation, and increase non-Western based energy supplies (themselves either directly or indirectly within Russia’s sphere of geopolitical influence) it makes one wonder whose interests those sanctions actually served?

By Olgu Okumus for Oilprice.com

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