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How bad is John Bolton? If he worked for Iran, the US would label him a fundamentalist extremist

The situation is starting to resemble a Hollywood-style, Wag-the-Dog, drum-up-a-war-to-distract-the-populace scenario.

Alex Christoforou

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The Dolls of Militarism: From War Hawks to Chickenhawks,” by Danny Sjursen.

Major Danny Sjursen, a TomDispatch regular, is a U.S. Army officer and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has written a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. He lives with his wife and four sons in Lawrence, Kansas. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet and check out his new podcast Fortress on a Hill, co-hosted with fellow vet Chris ‘Henri’ Henriksen.

Sometimes I get sick of saying it, but just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse…

Donald Trump’s continual cabinet reshuffling — otherwise the stuff of reality-TV drama — has become genuinely frightening. Like so many Russian matryoshki or nesting dolls, the president has been removing one war hawk after another, only to reveal yet more extreme versions of the same creature. And rumor has it that such personnel moves have yet to reach their end point.

In just the last few weeks, President Trump has fired his secretary of state and national security adviser, while nominating two fanatical replacements: CIA Director Mike Pompeo and former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton. The “old” team, Rex Tillerson and Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, were flawed choices from the start, but Pompeo and Bolton seem like an instant formula for a war — or two or three of them. (And keep in mind that we’re already actively fighting at least seven wars across the Greater Middle East and Africa.)

Tillerson gutted the State Department and, had he stuck around, might have gone down as one of the worst secretaries of state ever to walk the halls of Foggy Bottom. Still, the former ExxonMobil CEO does seem to have tried to restrain Trump’s more extreme positions on the Paris climate accords and the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal. In addition, as his infamous “moron” comment suggests, he evidently wasn’t cowed by our bully-in-chief.

Lieutenant General McMaster was no prince either. He helped craft a National Defense Strategy that all but declared a new Cold War on Russia and China. He was also to the right of reasonable on Iran and North Korea. Nevertheless, he is an intelligent man with genuine academic bona fides. I’ve met the guy and, even though we disagree on almost everything, he’s certainly preferable to a zealot like Bolton. McMaster thinks critically and wasn’t always reflexively pro-war. However, Trump, a man who likes his information in tiny doses (and preferably on Fox News), reportedly found H.R.’s detailed briefings insufferable. And McMaster’s recent suggestion that Russia played an “incontrovertible” role in the 2016 U.S. election evidently didn’t help him one bit either.

Think about it for a second. An embattled, scandal-ridden administration suddenly fires two hawkish, though tenuously mainstream, foreign policy advisers and replaces them with off-the-grid warmongers. Connect those dots and it gets scary, fast. In fact, the situation is starting to resemble a Hollywood-style, Wag-the-Dog, drum-up-a-war-to-distract-the-populace scenario.

With whom? Given the proclivities of Pompeo and Bolton, the obvious candidate is Iran. After all, as their records suggest, both the incoming secretary of state and the national security adviser suffer from acute cases of Iran hysteria and have been beating the Islamic Republic war drum for years now. So look for Trump and his two new subordinates to strike a less than substantial deal with nuclear North Korea (to show their cuddly diplomatic side) and then pivot toward tearing up the Iran nuclear deal in May and heading for military action against non-nuclear — and so more vulnerable — nuclear-pact-adhering Iran.

Count on this, at least: it’s going to be one hell of a ride for America’s already overstretched military men and women — and one hell of a cash bonanza for an already flush military-industrial complex.

The Bolton Problem

No question about it: John Bolton is a nightmare. If he worked for Iran or any other Muslim state, we’d label him a fundamentalist extremist. But he’s ours and his religion of choice has long been chauvinist interventionism, so instead he tends to get the lifeless (and perhaps not even accurate) label “neoconservative.”

How bad is he? Well, we’d all undoubtedly be far better served if Michael Bolton were national security adviser and just sang “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” throughout his term in office.

The national security adviser holds an incredibly influential position and doesn’t even require Senate confirmation hearings. Need proof? The establishment’s favorite statesman-cum-war criminal Henry Kissinger started out in that position for President Richard Nixon. The thought of Bolton’s voice being the final one Trump hears (and he’s well-known to be prone to whatever last catches his attention) before making decisions about war and peace should chill us all.

How dangerous is Bolton, who came to Trump, like so many others, via his position as a commentator at Fox News? Back in 2005, he couldn’t even pass muster among Republicans in Senate confirmation hearings to become President George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations. Dubya had to slip him in with a recess appointment (a decision even he came to regret). But give Bolton credit, at least, for consistency. He’s been wrong about every significant foreign policy move since 9/11. Of course, he was hardly alone in that in Washington politics, but he does stand out for his unapologetic regime-change enthusiasm. He’s repeatedly called for preventive war with North Korea. He’s long called for regime change in Iran by force of arms and, back in distant 2017, even placed a time stamp on that event (the end of 2018)!

He still insists that the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which shattered that country and the entire region, was justified, a fact that ought in itself to have disqualified him in the eyes of a president who, on the campaign trail, repeatedly called that war “dumb.”

A man who hasn’t learned from or even accepted the failure of regime change in Iraq is now to take the helm coordinating U.S. military policy for the future. If Iraq didn’t constitute a mistake, then what would? It’s hard to imagine. If preventive war — not exactly street legal in international law — is A-okay, why not, say, regime change in Syria (another country the president recently claimed he wanted to get out of) and risk war with Turkey, Iran, and Russia as well? Or how about directly taking on Iran, an event that could make the invasion of Iraq look like the “cakewalk” it was billed as back in early 2003? There are plenty of nasty regimes out there and you can bet on one thing: Bolton will advise the president to use his $716 billion military for more than just parades.

The Pompeo Problem

In 1986, Mike Pompeo was the class valedictorian at West Point and he then spent some time in the pre-9/11 Army. You might think that, all these years later, he would have at least a hint or two about the real-life costs of unwinnable, unnecessary wars in the Greater Middle East. Still, he’s clearly on the war-with-Iran crazy train. He’s even bragged that it would only take 2,000 air sorties to wipe out Iran’s nuclear capabilities. The million-dollar question that should follow evidently doesn’t even occur to him: What then? A ground invasion? An indefinite blockade and/or no fly zone? How would Israel respond? What about Russia? Would Shia militias turn on American troops elsewhere in the region?

If James Mattis keeps his job (an open question these days for the man who has confided to ever-ready-to-leak colleagues that he doubts he can even work with John Bolton), Pompeo could become the nation’s first top diplomat in memory to be more hawkish than the secretary of defense, himself a former four-star general. Foggy Bottom could then be renamed War Department 2.0.

Pompeo is a staunch Islamophobe and has even received an award from the extremist anti-Muslim hate group ACT for America. The presumptive secretary of state possesses the anti-Islamic, Christian zealotry of Vice President Mike Pence combined with the bombast of Trump and the (dangerous) intellect of the purported “adults” in (or now leaving) the “room,” Mattis and McMaster.

No less unsettling: Pompeo’s actions at his last job as CIA director. While there, for example, he fought to release documents that were designed to intimate alleged collusion between Iran and al-Qaeda. Forget all you know about the Middle East in these last years; forget that Osama bin Laden and Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei were on opposite sides of an ongoing, regional sectarian war; forget that Iran is actively fighting al-Qaeda-linked groups in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. Pay attention to Pompeo, a man ready to insist that Iran equals al-Qaeda and so is, in fact, the sort of 9/11-associated culprit to which Congress meant to apply its 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force.

In other words, while at the CIA, Pompeo continued to peddle an updated version of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld playbook that sold their invasion of choice — in that case, falsely linking Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda — to an uninformed citizenry. Or to put it another way, Pompeo and Bolton are on the same page, both ready to replay an old script one more time.

If John Bolton is still a true believer when it comes to the doctrine of crusading regime change, then Mike Pompeo is exactly the diplomat-in-chief to sell it to an intellectually unengaged president, a largely AWOL Congress, and a distracted public. All the pieces will soon be in place for the next disaster.

From Hawkish Generals to Chickenhawks

So what’s really going on here? Two disturbing trends seem to be at work: the move from rule by general to rule by civilian chickenhawk and the end of dissent (or even debate) within Trump’s inner circle.

The president’s initial record of appointing not one but three of “his” generals to run the national security team and the White House was itself a threat to the republic and its time-honored tradition of civilian primacy over the military. Those three flag officers — McMaster, Mattis, and retired general John Kelly — already inhabited their own echo chamber when it came to America’s wars. All of them were still wedded to the myth of the Iraq surge to “victory” of 2007-2008. According to this fable (still widely accepted in military circles), the U.S. military could’ve/would’ve/should’ve won in Iraq after General David Petraeus’s famed “surge” there, if only feckless Barack Obama had left the troops in Iraq just a bit longer (by which they meant, as in South Korea after 1953, for more or less ever).

In addition, appointing highly decorated veterans in an era in which all things military are adulated in this country had its own potential for squelching dissent. Witness Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders taunting a reporter that it would be “highly inappropriate” to question White House Chief of Staff John Kelly because he had once been a four-star Marine general. Still, Mattis and McMaster are at least intelligent, somewhat principled men who haven’t always toed the Trump line or kissed the proverbial ring. (McMaster had been bucking authority inside the Army for three decades, even writing a book arguing that the joint chiefs should have stood up to President Lyndon Johnson in the Vietnam War years.)

The president’s new appointees, civilians though they are, will out-hawk the generals any day of the week. Bolton, in particular, had made a name as a Fox News commentator calling for war with North Korea and Iran in the sort of language one doesn’t — in my experience — even hear in the military ranks. So, big picture, the national security state seems now to be moving from one threat to democracy, a politicized military, to another: the frenzied chickenhawkery of even more extreme civilians.

What President Trump seems to value most is sycophantic loyalty not to the nation but to himself, a quality that’s the most essential aspect of any cult of personality. Which means one thing: outright dissent of any real sort inside the administration is a thing of the past (an autocratic mood that could, sooner or later, spread to the larger society). What did McMaster and Tillerson ultimately have in common? Simply put, both attempted to restrain Trump’s more extreme impulses and neither truly clicked with the president on a personal level. Big mistake. What this president wants above all else isn’t critical thinking or informed debate on crucial issues but total allegiance.

The defining characteristics of this White House are nepotism and sycophancy. John Bolton is never going to temper Trump’s most bellicose instincts and Pompeo is already a Trump sycophant. When defending Pompeo’s appointment, Trump’s two main arguments were that he was a West Point graduate and that they are “always on the same wavelength.” It’s been widely reported that the two men have hit it off on a personal and professional level, as Pompeo personally delivered daily oral CIA intel briefs in the Oval Office (since Trump loathes reading). Pompeo grasped just how to get what he wanted in such a situation: stay in the boss’s good graces. Mind-melding with the president is the path to promotion in this administration.

As America enters the second spring of the Trump era, it’s creeping ever closer to yet more war. McMaster and Mattis may have written the National Defense Strategy that over-hyped the threats on this planet, but Bolton and Pompeo will have the opportunity to address these inflated threats in the worst way possible: by force of arms.

Trump finally has the minions he wants: devoted and fervently militaristic.

And while the public remains focused on the man’s outlandish shenanigans, his team will be cooking up something far worse: a new war to put all the others to shame.

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Russia makes MASSIVE progress on its ‘super-weapons’

Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle moves into serial production, nuclear-engine powered cruise missile tests continue, and more as Russia continues to outdo all Western military tech

Seraphim Hanisch

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On July 19th and 20th, The Russian Defense Ministry announced several milestones of progress in its advanced weapons systems programs. These programs were revealed to the world in March of this year, when Russian President Vladimir Putin gave the State of the Russian Federation speech.

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While at first the Western onlookers did not believe the amazing announcements of hypersonic weapons and nuclear-powered cruise missiles with unlimited range, subsequent releases and concurrent observation by the American military experts has shown these developments to be as real as Mr. Putin claimed they are.

TASS, the Russian News Agency, released information on these weapons systems in separate reports:

Kinzhal

The Kinzhal hypersonic missile:

Squadrons of MiG-31 fighter jets armed with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles should enter combat duty in the Black Sea region and at other Russian fleets and flotillas, said Russian military expert Viktor Murakhovsky, the editor-in-chief of the Arsenal Otechestva magazine.

Besides, a squadron (between 12 and 16 aircraft) of MiG-31 fighter jets armed with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles entered combat duty in the Caspian Sea region in April.

“I think at least one squadron of those complexes should be deployed at any fleet, in other words – at all regions where we have fleets and flotillas. We need to deploy them in the regions of the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Northern Fleet. The Pacific region also should not be forgotten,” Murakhovsky said.

He said that such systems can become a “good instrument” against not only vessels equipped with high-precision weapons, but also for countering carrier attack groups.

“We know how expensive a carrier attack group can be. By employing this asymmetric method, which is unbelievably cheap in comparison with building a carrier attack group, we can neutralize this threat almost completely,” the expert said.

Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile trials:

The Burevestnik is an entirely new cruise missile, powered by a nuclear engine. This gives the missile unlimited range. In theory, such a missile could be launched at a target and spend days or weeks in hidden flight using advanced guidance systems, and then close on its target at the optimal time to assure destruction of that target with maximum surprise. The TASS piece goes on to say:

The Russian Defense Ministry announced that Russia was preparing to test upgraded test prototypes of the nuclear-powered Burevestnik cruise missile with an unlimited range.

According to the expert, it is highly likely that the prototype of the missile “has already made a flight.”

“Clearly, it was something like the pop-up trials of Sarmat – a launch without the nuclear-powered engine, in other words, with an ordinary missile booster, conducted in order to assess the possibility of a launch, aerodynamics and the operability of the entire system in general,” [Murakhovsky] said.

Further reporting from TASS had this to add about the Burevestnik program:

Russia is getting ready for flight tests of the Burevestnik nuclear powered cruise missile, an official at the Defense Ministry told reporters on Thursday.

“The missile’s component makeup is being improved based on clarified requirements, while ground tests continue and preparations are being made for experimental flight tests of the improved missile,” the official said.

According to the Defense Ministry, “work on an unlimited-range missile is going according to plan.”

“In the meantime, launching systems are also being designed, while technological processes to manufacture, assemble and test the missile are being improved. This range of work will make it possible to start designing a totally new sort of weapon – a strategic nuclear complex armed with a nuclear powered missile,” the ministry official noted.

[The head] of the 12th Central Research Institute at Russia’s Defense Ministry Sergey Pertsev, in turn, said that the tests of the new cruise missile equipped with a small nuclear power unit had confirmed the accuracy of the technical decisions that Russian researchers, engineers and designers had made. In addition, the tests enabled the researchers “to receive valuable experimental data necessary for specifying a number of requirements.”

“A low-flying and low-observable cruise missile carrying a nuclear warhead, with an almost unlimited range, an unpredictable trajectory and capability to bypass interception lines is invincible to all the existing and advanced air and missile defense systems,” the Russian Defense Ministry stressed.

A further use of the nuclear engine technology is also expected in the Poseidon underwater drone, Mr. Murakhovsky stated that separate systems for the craft have been successfully tested. He further noted that the next task is to design the entire layout, build a test model and begin testing the whole platform.

The Avangard Hypersonic Missile

While the Kinzhal is a Mach-10 capable hypersonic system that can be launched from a fighter, the Avangard is a Mach-20 capable system that has intercontinental reach. There is almost no footage of this system released to the public, but the concept videos show how the system works. TASS reports this status:

Russia’s Strategic Missile Force is preparing a position area for accepting the Avangard hypersonic missile system for service as part of the efforts to strengthen the country’s military security, the Defense Ministry announced on Thursday.

“The Russian defense industry has completed developing the Avangard missile system with the principally new armament – the gliding cruise warhead. Industrial enterprises have switched to its serial production,” the Defense Ministry said.

“A set of organizational and technical measures is underway in the position area of the Dombarovsky large unit of the Strategic Missile Force to accept the Avangard missile system for operation,” it added.

The development of new strategic weapon systems “is aimed at increasing Russia’s defense capability and preventing any aggression against our country and its allies,” the Defense Ministry stressed.

The infrastructural facilities of the large unit’s position area have already been prepared for the missile system’s operation, the ministry said.

“The position area has been prepared in geodesic and engineering terms to accommodate the missile system. Work is underway to build new and reconstruct old facilities to provide for the operation and the combat use of the system. Technical and utility supply lines are being modernized and electric power, communications and command and control cables are being laid. Work has been arranged to train personnel and prepare armament, military and special hardware,” Russia’s Defense Ministry said.

Deputy Commander of Russia’s Strategic Missile Force for Armament Sergei Poroskun has said that the Avangard hypersonic missile system features combat capabilities that “make it possible to reliably breach any anti-missile defenses.”

The Okhotnik attack drone

The Okhotnik (“Hunter”) attack drone is now being viewed as a prototype for Russia’s “sixth-generation” fighter plane. TASS describes this in more detail:

According to [a defense industry] official, although the sixth generation fighter jet project “has not yet taken full shape, its main features are already known.”

“First of all, it should be unmanned and capable of performing any combat task in an autonomous regime. In this sense, Okhotnik will become the prototype of the sixth generation fighter jet,’ the source said, adding that the drone will be able to “take off, fulfill its objectives and return to the airfield.”

“However, it will not receive the function of decision-making regarding the use of weapons – this will be decided by a human,” he said.

TASS was unable to officially confirm the information at the time of the publication.

Another defense industry source earlier told TASS that the prototype of Okhotnik (Hunter) was ready and would start test flights this year.

The Russian Defense Ministry and the Sukhoi Company signed a contract for developing the 20-ton Okhotnik (Hunter) heavy unmanned strike aircraft in 2011. The drone’s mock-up model was made in 2014. According to unconfirmed reports, composite materials and anti-radar coating were used to create the Okhotnik. The drone is equipped with a reaction-jet propulsion and is supposed to develop a speed of 1000 kilometers per hour.

Peresvet laser weapons systems

TASS reported that the Russian military forces are now training for the use of the Peresvet combat laser system:

Russian Aerospace Force has accepted for service the laser complexes Peresvet and the military are now taking drills that involve the novel combat technologies, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

“The Peresvet laser complexes have been placed at sites of permanent deployment,” the report said. “Active efforts to make them fully operational are underway.”

“To ensure their proper functioning, the necessary infrastructures and specialized facilities for housing the complexes and duty crews have been built,” the ministry said.

The crews assigned to the Peresvets have taken upgrader courses at the Alexander Mozhaisky Military-Space Academy in St Petersburg.

The Russian military strategy of “asymmetric response.”

The overall defense strategy is termed an “asymmetric response”, and Mr. Murakhovsky explained the principle in this way:

“This is an asymmetric response, in which new classes of weapons are created, instead of new types within the framework of the existing systems. Other states are not expected to have anything of this kind [in the near future],” he said.

The expert described this response as “quite an efficient one, all the more so because it requires no additional investment – all the works are being carried out within the framework of the state procurement program.”

He added that unlike the Soviet Union, Russia avoids being dragged into a direct arms race and searches for cutting-edge solutions instead of simply increasing the number of weapons.

“The development of counter-weapons to those arms [may be possible] in distant future, but it does not mean that they can be created at all,” Murakhovsky added.

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From McCain to Brennan, Deep State soft coup against Trump picks up steam (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 59.

Alex Christoforou

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After Trump’s meeting with Putin in Helsinki, the Deep State smells blood, and is moving quickly to depose of US President Donald Trump.

Government officials and mainstream media puppets from left and right are condemning the US President over his press conference with Vladimir Putin.

Leading the charge are the usual Deep State, suspects, starting with John McCain and ending with the man many believe is behind the entire Trump-Russia collusion hoax, former Obama CIA boss John Brennan.

RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou examine the soft coup aimed at removing US President Trump by the November 2018 midterms. Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via The Independent

Conservative John McCain, who is facing a rare and terminal brain cancer, unleashed a damning statement against Mr Trump’s conference with Mr Putin, describing it as “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory”.

“President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin,” he said.

“It is tempting to describe the press conference as a pathetic rout — as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician. These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realise his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin’s regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbours, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world.”

The conservative senator’s comments arrived after the US president declined to name Russia as the adversary behind coordinated attacks on the 2016 presidential election.

While discussing whether he thought Russia was behind hacks against the 2016 election — as the US intelligence community has determined —the president said: “I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

“Dan Coats [the US Director of National Intelligence] said its Russia. President Putin says its not Russia,” said Mr Trump. “I don’t know why it would be…..I have confidence in both parties. President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

That set off a wave of condemnations from Democrats and Republicans alike.

“President Trump’s press conference with Putin was an embarrassing spectacle,” Bernie Sanders wrote in a tweet. “Rather than make clear that interference in our elections is unacceptable, Trump instead accepted Putin’s denials and cast doubt on the conclusions of our intelligence community. This is not normal.”

Jeff Flake, one of the only frequent Republican critics of Mr Trump in Congress, said the conference was “shameful” in a statement he posted across social media.

“I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression,” he said. “This is shameful.”

Former CIA Director John Brennan released a statement calling for Mr Trump’s impeachment and describing his comments as “treasonous”.

“Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes and misdemeanours,'” Mr Brennan wrote on Twitter. “It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???”

Elizabeth Warren also slammed the president for failing to hold Mr Putin accountable, writing on Twitter: “Russia interfered in our elections & attacked our democracy. Putin must be held accountable – not rewarded.”

“Disgraceful,” she concluded.

However, Mr Trump’s typical roster of critics weren’t the only legislators rebuking his bizarre denials of US intelligence. Lindsey Graham also criticised Mr Trump’s performance, adding that his denial of US intelligence will “be seen by Russia as a sign of weakness and create far more problems than it solves”.

“Missed opportunity by President Trump to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling and deliver a strong warning regarding future elections,” he said.

The Republican senator added a suggestion to Mr Trump: review the soccer ball Mr Putin gave to him as a gift for “listening devices” and “never allow it in the White House.”

Thomas Pickering, a regarded statesman and the former US ambassador to Russia, told MSNBC that he was in utter disbelief after the press conference was held on Monday.

“It’s a breathtaking denial of something that clearly is so obviously true,” he said. ”it represents the epitome of President Trump’s effort at self-promotion over the notion of defending the national interest of the United States.”

Mark Warner, a Virginia senator, also suggested Mr Trump committed a clear violation of his responsibilities as president.

Mr Trump committed “a breach of his duty to defend our country against its adversaries,” Mr Warner said. ”If the President cannot defend the United States and its interests in public, how can we trust him to stand up for our country in private?”

Meanwhile the latest Deep State leak, via the NYT, claims that US President Trump was told by Obama holdovers that Putin was involved in cyberattacks during the 2016 election. US intelligence told Trump this information days before the inauguration.

Via The Gateway Pundit

The same liberal hacks who illegally leaked this information want Americans to trust them as they continue to destroy this duly elected president.

President Trump on Wednesday told CBS anchor Jeff Glor that he has no confidence in the tainted intelligence by far left hacks Clapper, Brennan and Comey.

And, once again, the timing of this leak is not an accident.

Liberals are outraged that President Trump refused to chest bump Putin in Helsinki.

The deep state leaked this information to pile on the Republican president.

The New York Times reported…

Two weeks before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had personally ordered complex cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election.

The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the C.I.A. how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation.

Mr. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who attended the intelligence briefing. But ever since, Mr. Trump has tried to cloud the very clear findings that he received on Jan. 6, 2017, which his own intelligence leaders have unanimously endorsed.

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Russia ranks HIGHER than Switzerland in these areas of doing business

Some curious things happened with several businesspeople who attended World Cup events in Russia.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin

One of them was a distinctly renewed interest in doing business inside the country, and another was the realization to what extent perceptions have been tainted by media and political rhetoric directed against any real or imagined nastiness attributed to Russia these days.

These past few weeks have been invaluable, at the very least by affording a clear picture of Russia through which almost all anxiety-ridden preconceptions were illuminated and dispelled. More disturbing was the fact that the several businesspeople I was dealing with were furious. They were livid for being played for fools, and felt victimized by the dismally untrue picture painted about Russia and Russians in their home countries, both by their own politicians and the press.

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Most felt that they have been personally sanctioned by their own countries, betrayed through lack of clear unbiased information enabling them to participate and profit from Russia opportunities these past three growth years in spite of “sanctions”.

The door to doing good business in Russia has been and is open, and has been opening wider year after year. That is not just “highly likely”, but fact. Consistently improving structures, means and methods to conduct business in Russia sustainably, transparently and profitably are now part of the country’s DNA. It is a process, which has been worked on in the west for more than a century, and one, which Russia has only started these past 18 years.

True, there are sanctions, counter-sanctions, and regulations governing them that must be studied carefully. However if you are not a bank or doing business with those persons deemed worthy of being blacklisted by some countries “sanctions list”, in reality there are no obstacles that cannot be positively addressed and legally overcome despite the choir of political nay-sayers.

READ MORE: Russia just dumped $80 BILLION in US debt

The days of quickly turning over Russia opportunities into short-term cash are rapidly fading, they are a throwback to the 1990’s. Today the major and open opportunities are in the areas for Foreign Direct Investments. The nature of FDI is long term to make regularly recurring sustainable returns on investment.

Long term, Russia always was and increasingly confirms that it is a vibrant and attractive market. There is a significant consumer market with spending power, a well-educated workforce, a wealth of resources and the list goes on. The economic obstacles encountered have largely been imposed from without, and not from the dynamics and energies of the Russian economy itself.

Eventually sanctions will end, although the timeline is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile business continues, and any long-term engagement within Russia by establishing a working presence will yield both short and long-term investment rewards. These will only be amplified when the sanctions regimes are removed. In any event, these aspects are long-term investment decisions and one of the criteria in any risk assessment.

For some added perspective, Russia is ranked by the Financial Times as the No.2 country in Europe in terms of capital investments into Europe. It has a 2017 market share of 9% (US$ 15.9 billion) and includes 203 business projects. This is 2% higher than 2016 and better that 2014/2015 when sanctions were imposed.

Another item of perspective is the Country Risk Premium. All investors consider this when calculating the scope for long-term return on investments. What may surprise some is that Russia is no longer ranked as a very high-risk country. For comparisons sake: The risk premium for Germany is zero (no extra risk), the risk premium for Italy is 2.19%, and for Russia, it is 2.54%. When compared to politically popular investment destinations like Ukraine the risk premium is 10.4%  – food for thought. Bottom line is that the risks of investing in Russia are a smidge higher than investing in Italy.

Russia is ranked 35 among 190 economies in the ease of doing business, according to the latest World Bank annual ratings. The ranking of Russia improved to 35 in 2017 from 40 in 2016 and from 124 in 2010. It may also surprise some to learn that as concerns protecting the rights of minority investors, paying taxes, registering property and some other aspects of the World Bank comparisons, Russia comes out better than Switzerland (See: Rankings).

From operational standpoints, establishing an invested presence in Russia does not mean one must adopt Russian managerial methods or practices. The advantages for established foreign companies is that their management culture is readily applied and absorbed by a smart and willing workforce, enabling a seamless integration given the right training and tools.

The trend towards the ultimate globalization of business despite trade wars, tariffs, sanctions and counter-sanctions is clear. The internet of the planet, the blockchain and speed of information exchange makes it so whether we wish it or not. Personally, I hope that political globalization remains stillborn as geopolitics has a historical mandate to tinker with and play havoc with international trade.

Russia occupies a key strategic position between Europe and Asia. The “west” (US/Europe) have long had at times rather turbulent relationships with China. At the same time the Chinese are quite active investors in both the US and Europe, and western companies are often struggling to understand how to deal with China.

The answer to this conundrum is Russia: this is where East and West will ultimately come together with Russia playing a pivotal role in the relations between the west and China. At the end of the day, and taking the strategic long-term economic view, is what both Chinese and Western companies are investing in when they open their activities in Russia.

If long-term commitment and investment in Russia were simply a matter of transferring funds then I would not be bothering with this opinion article. Without a doubt, there are structural issues with investing in Russia. A still evolving and sometimes unclear rule of law, difficulties obtaining finance for investments directed towards Russia, the unique language and culture of business in the country. Nevertheless, companies that have an understanding and vision of global strategy will manage with these issues and have the means to mitigate them.

Money and other invested resources do not and should not play politics; any investment case when evaluated on objective financial criteria will reveal its fit, or lack of, within a company’s global strategic business objectives. The objective criteria for Russia over any long term horizon is both convincing and strong. This has been repeated by all of the businesspeople I have met with these past few weeks. Without doubt we shall see some new companies coming into the Russian market and objectively exploring the gains their playing fair business football here will yield.

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