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Interesting week for Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump

Russian President Putin takes a potentially important step in the Ukrainian conflict by recognising the documents of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics whilst US President Trump stands in Washington and appeals over the heads of the US media directly to the American people.

The Saker

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This article is published with the permission of the author and was first published by The Saker

Putin’s latest move

I don’t follow the western corporate media so I don’t really know how much coverage this development has received in the West, but in Russia and the Ukraine the big news is the decision by Russia to begin recognizing official Novorussian documents such as passports, driver licenses, school and college diplomas, etc. The Russians were pretty specific in the way the made the announcement. They said that it was a temporary measure dictated by humanitarian considerations. They have a point. Until now, the residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics had to travel to the Nazi-occupied Ukraine to try to get their documents. Which, considering how the Ukronazis consider anybody from the Donbass was not only futile, but sometimes dangerous. This decision makes perfect sense practically. But, of course, it has a far-reaching symbolic dimension too. The timing is also crucial: by recognizing the documents issued by the DNR and LNR authorities, the Russians have de facto “semi-recognized” the authorities which issued them and that is just a fairly short step away from recognizing these republics.

Right now, the Kremlin is vehemently denying any such thoughts. But all the Kremlin-affiliated commentators are rather blunt about what this really means. According to them, the message for the junta in Kiev is simple: if you attack Novorussia or if you officially ditch the Minks agreements we will immediately recognize these two republics. And, once that happens, it’s over the the Ukronazis, these republics will be gone just like South Ossetia or Abkhazia. Of course, nobody will officially recognize the independence of these republics, but neither will anybody do anything meaningful about it. And, let’s be honest, the Russian authorities couldn’t care less about what western politicians or their corporate media have to say: they already heard it all and it’s not like they could be demonized much further.

The next logical move would be to move the Russian border control from the Russian border to the line of contact. Or not. If the Russians don’t do it, this might be a sign that they support the official position of the Republics which is that they want to liberate the totality of the Doentsk and Lugansk regions. By the way, the Russian Border Guards are elite and highly militarized forces whose presence on the line of contact would in no way prevent a Novorussian (counter-)attack against the Ukronazi forces. So the decision about where to deploy them would have a primarily political dimension and no real military consequences.

Right now the Ukronazis have basically gone officially on record in declaring that they never intended to abide by the terms of the Minsk 1 and Minsk 2 agreements. Here is what Anton Gerashchenko, an special adviser to the Minister of internal Affairs of Ukraine and a member of the Board of the Ministry of internal Affairs of Ukraine openly declared on Ukrainian national TV: (emphasis added).

Let’s immediately say that the Minsk Agreements were not implemented from the day they were signed in February 2015. This was a temporary measure on the side of the Ukraine and, I will be honest, a deliberate deception. Remember that the first Minsk Agreement was signed following the military disaster near Ialovaisk when we had no forces to defend the front from Donetsk to Mariupol. The second Minsk Agreement was signed following the treacherous Russian aggression on Debaltsevo and the formation of the “Debaltsevo Cauldron”. These agreements are not international agreements or anything else.

Needless to say, NOBODY in the West paid any attention to this statement, and why would they, after all, their line has always been that Russia is not abiding by the Minsk Agreement, even if Russia is not even a party to them (Russia is only a witness and guarantor). And if a senior Ukronazi official says otherwise, who cares?!

This amazing admission by Gerashchenko is only the latest in a series of steps taken and statements made by various Ukronazis to the effect that “we are done negotiating and from now on, we will solve this problem by force”. So far, the “force” applied has been primarily in the form of a total blockade of the Donbass which included the prevention of a large amount of vitally needed coal to the Nazi-occupied Ukraine from the Donbass even though this shipment had already been paid for. Officially Poroshenko does not condone this blockade, but in practice he is either unwilling or unable to prevent or stop it. Another sign that the Independent Banderastan is falling apart.

There is a strong feeling in Russia that Poroshenko is powerless and that the Ukronazi crazies are up to no good. Clearly, *nobody* in the Ukronazis elites has any intention of actually implementing the Minsk 1 and Minsk 2 agreements. That, by the way, might be a dangerous approach for a number of reasons:

First, these agreements were endorsed by the UNSC and every country out there, at least as far as I know. So Gerashchenko is wrong – the Minsk Agreements are binding under international law.

Second, the Ukrainian authorities recently found and released a document showing that Yanukovich had made an official request for a Russian intervention in the Ukraine. They wanted to show that he was a traitor. But in the process, they also showed that the last legitimate president of the Ukraine had made a legal request for a Russian intervention which might well mean that, at least in legal terms, any subsequent Russian intervention in the Ukraine would be 100% legal.

Even better, Yanukovich is still in Russia. And, from a legal point of view, you could make the case that he is still the legitimate president of the Ukraine. If the Yemeni President in exile Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi could ask the Saudis to intervene in Yemen, why would that no be an option for Poroshenko Yanukovich to ask for such an intervention in the Ukraine?

Right now, the Russians are making no such legalistic statements. But you can be sure that they have already aligned all their ducks in a neat row just in case they do decide to openly intervene in this civil war.

How realistic is the possibility of a Russian recognition of the breakaway republics or an overt Russian intervention in the Ukraine?

I think that it all depends on what the Ukronazis crazies do. If they really attack Novorussia I expect the Kremlin to recognize the DNR and LRN. A Russian intervention? I doubt it, but only because I believe that the DNR/LNR can handle a Nazi attack. So the only question for me is how long Poroshenko will stay in power and what the real crazies will do once they overthrow him. Right now this mostly depends on the USA but since the US elites are locked in desperate struggle for power, I don’t see the Trump taking and dramatic decisions anyway, not in the Ukraine, not elsewhere. At least not as long as there is a question mark as to who is really in charge in the White House. Everybody is waiting for the outcome of that struggle, including Moscow and Kiev.

Trump – all words, no action, but good words

In the meantime, Trump has been busy doing speeches. Which sounds pretty bad until you realize that these are good speeches, very good ones even. For one thing, he still is holding very firmly to the line that the “fake news” (which in “Trumpese” means CNN & Co. + BBC) are the enemies of the people. The other good thing that twice in a row now he has addressed himself directly to the people. Sounds like nothing, but I think that this is huge because the Neocons have now nicely boxed Trump in with advisors and aides which span from mediocre, to bad to outright evil. The firing of Flynn was a self-defeating disaster for Trump who now is more or less alone, with only one loyal ally left, Bannon. I am not sure how much Bannon can do or, for that matter, how long until the Neocons get to him too, but besides Bannon I see nobody loyal to Trump and his campaign promises. Nobody except those who put him in power of course, the millions of Americans who voted for him. And that is why Trump is doing the right thing speaking directly to them: they might well turn out to be his biggest weapon against the “DC swamp”.

Furthermore, by beating on the media, especially CNN and the rest of the main US TV channels, Trump is pushing the US public to turn to other information sources, including those sympathetic to him, primarily on the Internet. Good move – that is how he won the first time around and that is how he might win again.

The Neocons and the US ‘deep state’ have to carefully weigh the risks of continuing their vendetta against Trump. Right now, they appear to be preparing to go after Bannon. But what will they do if Trump, instead of ditching Bannon like he ditched Flynn, decides to dig in and fight with everything he has got? Then what? If there is one thing the Neocons and the deep state hate is to have a powerful light pointed directly at them. They like to play in the dark, away from an always potentially hostile public eye. If Trump decides to fight back, really fight back, and if he appeals directly to the people for support, there is no saying what could happen next.

I strongly believe that the American general public is deeply frustrated and angry. Obama’s betrayal of all his campaign promises only made these feelings worse. But when Obama had just made it to the White House I remember thinking that if he really tried to take on the War Machine and if he came to the conclusion that the ‘deep state’ was not going to let him take action or threaten him he could simply make a public appeal for help and that millions of Americans would flood the streets of Washington DC in support of “their guy” against the “bastards in DC”. Obama was a fake. But Trump might not be. What if the Three Letter Agencies or Congress suddenly tried to, say, impeach Trump and what if he decided ask for the support of the people – would millions not flood the streets of DC? I bet you that Florida alone would send more than a million. Ditto for Texas. And I don’t exactly imagine the cops going out of their way to stop them. The bottom line is this: in any confrontation between Congress and Trump most of the people will back Trump. And, if it ever came to that, and for whatever it is worth, in any confrontation between Trump-haters and Trump-supporters the latter will easily defeat the former. The “basket of deplorables” are still, thank God, the majority in this country and they have a lot more power than the various minorities who backed the Clinton gang.

There are other, less dramatic but even more likely scenarios to consider. Say Congress tries to impeach Trump and he appeals to the people and declares that the “DC swamp” is trying to sabotage the outcome of the elections and impose its will upon the American people. Governors in states like Florida or Texas, pushed by their public opinion, might simply decide not to recognize the legitimacy of what would be an attempted coup by Congress against the Executive branch of government. Now you tell me – does Congress really have the means to impose it’s will against states like Florida or Texas? I don’t mean legally, I mean practically. Let me put it this way: if the states revolt against the federal government does the latter have the means to impose its authority? Are the creation of USNORTHCOM and the statutory exceptions from the Posse Comitatus Act (which makes it possible to use the National Guard to suppress insurrections, unlawful obstructions, assemblages, or rebellions) sufficient to guarantee that the “DC swamp” can impose its will on the rest of the country? I would remind any “DC swamp” members reading these lines that the KGB special forces refused not once, but twice, to open fire against the demonstrators in Moscow (in 1991 and 1993) even though they had received a direct order by the President to do just that. Is there any reason to believe that US cops and soldiers would be more willing than the KGB special forces to massacre their own people?

Donald Trump has probably lost most of his power in Washington DC, but that does not entail that this is the case in the rest of the USA. The Neocons can feel like the big guy on the block inside the Beltway, but beyond that they are mostly in “enemy territory” controlled by the “deplorables”, something to keep in mind before triggering a major crisis.

This week I got the feeling that Trump was reaching out and directly seeking for the support to the American people. I think he get it if needed. If this is so, then the focus of his Presidency will be less on foreign affairs, were the USA will be mostly paralyzed, than on internal US politics were he still might make a difference. On Russia the Neocons have basically beat Trump – he won’t have the means to engage in any big negotiating with Vladimir Putin. But, at least, neither will he constantly be trying to make things worse. The more the US elites fight each other, the less venom they will have left for the rest of mankind. Thank God for small favors…

I can only hope that Trump will continue to appeal directly the people and try to bypass the immense machine which is currently trying to isolate him. Of course, I would much prefer that Trump take some strong and meaningful action against the deep state, but I am not holding my breath.

Tonight I spoke with a friend who knows a great deal more about Trump than I do and he told me that I have been too quick in judging Trump and that while the Flynn episode was definitely a setback, the struggle is far from over and that we are in for a very long war. I hope that my friend is right, but I will only breathe a sigh of relief if and when I see Trump hitting back and hitting hard. Only time will tell.

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Beijing Threatens “Severe” Retaliation Against Canada If Huawei CFO Is Not Released

China’s warning marks an escalation in Beijing’s rhetoric as investors worry that the arrest could cause the shaky trade detente between the US and China to devolve into acrimony.

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Via Zerohedge


Canada’s extraordinary arrest one week ago of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei founder and billionaire executive Ren Zhengfei, and its decision to charge her with “multiple” counts of fraud – a preamble to her likely extradition to the US to face charges of knowingly violating US and EU sanctions on Iran – has elicited widespread anger in Beijing, which declared Meng’s detention a “violation of human rights” during a bail hearing for the jailed executive on Friday.

That anger has apparently only intensified after the hearing adjourned without a decision (it will resume on Monday, allowing Meng’s defense team to argue for why she should be released on bail, contrary to the wishes of government attorneys who are prosecuting the case).

And with Canada insisting that it will prosecute Meng to the full extent of the law over allegations that she mislead banks about the true relationship of a Huawei subsidiary called Skycom, angry Chinese officials have decided to issue an ultimatum directly to the Canadian ambassador, who was summoned to a meeting in Beijing on Saturday and told in no uncertain terms that Canada will face “severe consequences” if Meng isn’t released, according to the Wall Street Journal.

China’s foreign ministry publicized the warning in a statement (though Canadian officials have yet to comment):

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng summoned Canada’s ambassador to Beijing, John McCallum, on Saturday to deliver the warning, according to a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

The statement doesn’t mention the name of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, though it refers to a Huawei “principal” taken into custody at U.S. request while changing planes in Vancouver, as was Ms. Meng. The statement accuses Canada of “severely violating the legal, legitimate rights of a Chinese citizen” and demands the person’s release.

“Otherwise there will be severe consequences, and Canada must bear the full responsibility,” said the statement, which was posted online late Saturday.

Phone calls to the Canadian Embassy rang unanswered while the Canadian government’s global affairs media office didn’t immediately respond to an email request for comment.

The warning marks an escalation in Beijing’s rhetoric as investors worry that the arrest could cause the shaky trade detente between the US and China to devolve into acrimony. A federal judge issued a warrant for Meng’s arrest back in August. Though after she was made aware of the warrant, Meng avoided travel to the US. She was arrested in Vancouver last Saturday while traveling to Mexico.

Aside from breaking off trade talks, some are worried that Beijing could seek to retaliate in kind by arresting a notable US executive. While the threats of Chinese bureaucrats might not amount to much in the eyes of US prosecutors, threatening a US executive with long-term detention in a Chinese “reeducation camp” just might.

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The trials of Julian Assange

Eresh Omar Jamal interviews Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi in relation to the situation of Julian Assange.

The Duran

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Authored by Eresh Omar Jamal for The Daily Star (Bangladesh):


Stefania Maurizi is an investigative journalist working for the Italian daily La Repubblica. She has worked on all WikiLeaks releases of secret documents and partnered with Glenn Greenwald to reveal the Snowden Files about Italy. She has authored two books—Dossier WikiLeaks: Segreti Italiani and Una Bomba, Dieci Storie. In an exclusive interview with Eresh Omar Jamal of The Daily Star, Maurizi talks about the continued arbitrary detention of Julian Assange, why powerful governments see WikiLeaks as an existential threat, and the implications for global press freedom if Assange is prosecuted for publishing secret government documents.

You recently had the chance to visit Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. When was this and can you describe the state he is in?

I was able to visit him on November 19, after 8 months of failed attempts, because last March the Ecuadorian authorities cut off all his social and professional contacts, with the exception of his lawyers, and in the preceding 8 months, I had asked for permission to visit him nine times without success—the Ecuadorian authorities didn’t reply at all to my requests.

When I was finally granted permission to visit the WikiLeaks founder at the Ecuadorian embassy in London last November, I was literally shocked to see the huge impact his isolation has had on his health. Because I have worked as a media partner with him and his organisation, WikiLeaks, for the last nine years, I have met him many times and can tell when there are any changes in his body and mind. I wondered how his mind could keep working; but after talking to him in the embassy for two hours, I have no doubt that his mind is working fine. I still wonder how that’s possible after six and a half years of detention without even one hour of being outdoors. I would have had a physical and mental breakdown after just 6 months, not after 6 years.

Detention and isolation are killing him slowly, and no one is doing anything to stop it. The media reports, the commentators comment, but at the end of the day, he is still there; having spent the last six and a half years confined to a tiny building with no access to sunlight or to proper medical treatment. And this is happening in London, in the heart of Europe. He is not sitting in an embassy in Pyongyang. It is truly tragic and completely unacceptable. And I’m simply appalled at the way the UK authorities have contributed to his arbitrary detention, and have opposed any solution to this intractable legal and diplomatic quagmire.

Having bravely defended Assange for years, the Ecuadorian government in late March cut off almost all his communications with the outside world. What prompted this turnabout and what is its purpose?

Politics has completely changed in Ecuador, and more in general, in Latin America, since 2012, when Ecuador granted Julian Assange asylum. I have never had any interviews with the current Ecuadorian President, Mr Lenin Moreno, but based on his public declarations, it’s rather obvious to me that he does not approve of what Julian Assange and WikiLeaks do.

With all his problems, Rafael Correa (former president of Ecuador) protected Assange from the very beginning, whereas Lenin Moreno considers him a liability. Moreno is under pressure from the right-wing politicians in Ecuador, and also from very powerful governments, like the US and UK governments, who will leave no stones unturned to jail Assange and destroy WikiLeaks. I am not sure how long Lenin Moreno will hold out against this immense pressure, provided that he wants to hold out at all.

Assange was vindicated not so long ago as to why he cannot leave the embassy when the US Department of Justice “accidentally” revealed in November that the founder of WikiLeaks had been secretly charged in the US. What do you think those charges are for?

It’s hard to say unless the charges get declassified and I really appreciate how the US organisation, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, is fighting before the court in the Eastern District of Virginia, US, to have the charges declassified.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the US authorities have always wanted to charge him for WikiLeaks’ publications. They have wanted to do so from the very beginning, since 2010, when WikiLeaks released its bombshell publications like the US diplomatic cables.

But the US authorities have been unable to do so due to the fact that WikiLeaks’ publication activities enjoy constitutional protection thanks to the First Amendment. So it will be very interesting to see how they will get around this constitutional protection in order to be able to charge him and other WikiLeaks journalists and put them all in jail.

Why have some of the most powerful governments and intelligence agencies invested so much resources to attack Assange and WikiLeaks?

You have to realise what it meant for the US national security complex to witness the publication of 76,000 secret documents about the war in Afghanistan, and then another 390,000 secret reports about the war in Iraq; followed by 251,287 US diplomatic cables and 779 secret files on the Guantanamo detainees; and to watch WikiLeaks save Edward Snowden, while the US was trying everything it could do, to show the world that there is no way of exposing the NSA’s secrets and keep your head attached to your neck having done so.

You have to realise what this means in an environment like that of the US, where even the most brilliant national security reporters didn’t dare to publish the name of the head of the CIA Counterterrorism Center, Michael D’Andrea, even though his name and the abuses committed by his centre were open secrets within their inner circles. Although the New York Times finally did, later on. But this was and still is the reality in the US, and even though it may not be as bad in the UK, it’s still quite bad. Look at what happened with the arrest of Glenn Greenwald’s husband, David Miranda, at the Heathrow Airport during the publication of the Snowden Files. Look at what happened with The Guardian being forced to destroy its hard drives during the publication of those files.

There are different levels of power in our societies and generally in our western democracies, criticism against the low, medium and high levels of power via journalistic activities is tolerated. Journalists may get hit with libel cases, have troubles with their careers; however, exposing those levels is permitted. The problem is when journalists and media organisations touch the highest levels, the levels where states and intelligence agencies operate.

WikiLeaks is a media organisation that has published secret documents about these entities for years, and Julian Assange and his staff have done this consistently, not occasionally like all the other media organisations do. You can imagine the anger these powerful entities have towards WikiLeaks—they perceive WikiLeaks as an existential threat and they want to set an example that says, “Don’t you dare expose our secrets and crimes, because if you do, we will smash you.”

If Assange is prosecuted, what impact might it have on other publishers and journalists and on press freedom globally?

It will have a huge impact and that is why organisations like the American Civil Liberties Union are speaking out. Never before in the US has an editor and media organisation ended up in jail for publishing information in the public interest. If Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks’ staff end up in jail, it will be the first time in US history and will set a devastating precedent for attack on press freedom in the US, but actually, not only in the US. Because if a country like the US, in which the activities of the press enjoy constitutional protection, treats journalists this way, you can imagine how other countries where the press doesn’t enjoy such strong protection will react. It will send a clear message to them: “Your hands are free.”

At the end of the day, I think there are two sides to this Assange and WikiLeaks saga: the US-UK national security complex, but more in general, I would say, the people within the national security complex, who want to destroy Julian Assange and WikiLeaks to send a clear message to journalists: “Don’t mess with us if you don’t want your lives to be destroyed.” While on the other side, there are the freedom of the press guys, meaning journalists like me, who want to demonstrate the exact opposite: that we can expose power at the highest levels, we can expose the darkest corners of governments and come out alive and well. And actually, we must do this, because real power is invisible and hides in the darkest corners.

Eresh Omar Jamal is a journalist for The Daily Star (Bangladesh). You can find him on Twitter: @EreshOmarJamal and Stefania Maurizi: @SMaurizi

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Diplomacy a Waste of Time with Washington

Trump’s JCPOA pullout and threatened INF Treaty withdrawal show Washington can never be trusted.

The Duran

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Authored by Stephen Lendman:


The US is a serial lawbreaker, operating by its own rules, no others.

Time and again, it flagrantly breaches international treaties, Security Council resolutions, and other rule of law principles, including its own Constitution.

Diplomacy with Republicans and undemocratic Dems is an exercise in futility.

Trump’s JCPOA pullout and threatened INF Treaty withdrawal show Washington can never be trusted.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova’s proposed US outreach to discuss INF Treaty bilateral differences is well intended – despite knowing nothing is accomplished when talks with Washington are held, so why bother.

It’s just a matter of time before the US breaches another promise. They’re hollow when made. Kremlin good intentions aren’t enough to overcome US duplicity and implacable hostility toward Russia.

“We are ready to continue the dialogue in appropriate formats on the entire range of problems related to this document on the basis of professionalism and mutual respect, without putting forward unsubstantiated accusations and ultimatums. Our proposals are well known and remain on the negotiating table,” said Zakharova, adding:

“We have admitted (US) documents for further consideration. This text again includes accusations in the form of unfounded and unsubstantiated information about Russia’s alleged violations of this deal.

Comments to Washington like the above and similar remarks are like talking to a wall. The US demands all countries bend to its will, offering nothing in return but betrayal – especially in dealings with Russia, China, Iran, and other sovereign independent governments it seeks to replace with pro-Western puppet ones.

Not a shred of evidence suggests Russia violated its INF Treaty obligations. The accusation is baseless like all others against the Kremlin.

“No one has officially or by any other means handed over to Russia any files or facts, confirming that Russia breaches or does not comply with this deal,” Zakharova stressed, adding:

“We again confirm our consistent position that the INF Treaty is one of the key pillars of strategic stability and international security.”

It’s why the Trump regime intends abolishing it by pulling out. Strategic stability and international security defeat its agenda. Endless wars and chaos serve it.

The US, UK, France, Israel, and their imperial partners get away with repeated international law breaches because the EU, UN, and rest of the world community lack backbone enough to challenge them.

It’s how it is no matter how egregious their actions, notably their endless wars of aggression, supporting the world’s worst tinpot pot despots, and failing to back the rights of persecuted Palestinians and other long-suffering people.

The only language Republicans and Dems understand is toughness. Putin pretends a Russian/US partnership exists to his discredit – a show of weakness, not strength and responsible leadership.

In response to the Trump regime’s intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty, he said Russia will “react accordingly” – precisely what, he didn’t say.

A few suggestions, Mr. President.

  • Recall your ambassador to Washington. Expel the Trump regime’s envoy from Moscow and other key embassy personnel.
  • Arrest US spies in Russia you long ago identified. Imprison them until the US releases all Russian political prisoners. Agree to swap US detainees for all of them, no exceptions.
  • Install enough S-400 air defense systems to cover all Syrian airspace. Warn Washington, Britain, France and Israel that their aircraft, missiles and other aerial activities in its airspace will be destroyed in flight unless permission from Damascus is gotten – clearly not forthcoming.
  • Publicly and repeatedly accuse the above countries of supporting the scourge of ISIS and likeminded terrorists they pretend to oppose.
  • Warn them in no uncertain terms that their aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic no longer will be tolerated. Tell them the same goes if they dare attack Iran.
  • Stop pretending Mohammad bin Salman didn’t order Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, along with ignoring the kingdom’s horrendous human rights abuses domestically and abroad – including support for ISIS and other terrorists.
  • Put observance of rule of law principles and honor above dirty business as usual with the kingdom and other despotic regimes for profits.
  • Do the right things at all times and damn the short-term consequences – including toughness on Washington, the UK, Israel, and their imperial partners in high crimes of war and against humanity.

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: stephenlendman.org (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at [email protected].

My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

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