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McFaul on Russia: How the US’ Demands Risk War

US imposed binary (US = good – Russia = bad) and demands Russia and all other countries unconditionally submit to US demands is the true threat to peace.

Alexander Mercouris

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In a lengthy article in the Washington Post lamenting the Brexit vote and calling it a “victory for Putin”,

former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul slips out a fascinating comment that is very revealing of the looking glass world of neocon thinking:

“He (Putin) stopped NATO’s expansion by invading Georgia in 2008 and slowed E.U. expansion by invading Ukraine in 2014. He has increased Russia’s economic hegemony in large parts of the former Soviet Union by building the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). As a result of his military intervention in Syria, Putin is expanding Russia’s presence in the Middle East, as Europe and the United States pull back.”

In McFaul’s world all this is taken as axiomatically bad.  But what actually makes it bad?  Let us take each of these propositions one by one:

Stopping NATO expansion and slowing EU expansion

Putin or rather Russia did not invade Georgia in 2008.  As was conclusively established by an EU report what happened in 2008 was that Georgia attacked South Ossetia and Russia repulsed the Georgian attack.

Nor did Russia invade Ukraine in 2014.  What happened in 2014 was that following a violent and unconstitutional coup in Kiev, which overthrew the country’s democratically elected President, Crimea voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia whilst Ukraine’s eastern regions – which had overwhelmingly voted for the overthrown President – protested following his overthrow and demanded more autonomy.  The new coup-installed Ukrainian government in Kiev in turn responded by launching a military attack on the protesters in the eastern regions causing the war there.  The fact that the conflict in Ukraine is a civil war is explicitly recognised in the Minsk II agreement – which was brokered by the Germans and the French and which sets out a road-map for a political settlement – and which is itself an international legal document approved and supported as such by the US and by a vote of the UN Security Council.

Putting aside these factual points, why is it wrong for Russia to oppose the expansion of NATO and the EU to its borders and why is it right to seek to expand them in that way?  Why is it a bad thing if the expansion of the one is halted and the expansion of the other is slowed down?

McFaul does not answer or even pose these questions.  For him the mere fact the US wants these organisations expanded right up to Russia’s border suffices in itself to make their expansion good and Russian opposition bad.  As his comment all too obviously shows, in McFaul’s world Russia is not entitled to have opinions on such questions, much less to act on them, even though they concern questions which are vital to Russia’s security and national interests.

The Eurasian Economic Union

Unlike the EU, which has expanded following wars in Yugoslavia and which McFaul wants to expand into Ukraine following a violent coup there, the Eurasian Economic Union has been established entirely peacefully.

Why is wrong and bad for Russia to promote peacefully the EEU and good and right for the US to promote – sometimes violently – the EU?

In his article McFaul essentially accuses Russia of working to subvert and disintegrate the EU for example by wanting Brexit.  Yet isn’t that precisely what he wants the US and EU to do to the EEU?   Why is Russia doing the one to the EU wrong and bad and the US and the EU doing the same to the EEU good and right?

As it happens McFaul is wrong.  The Russians are not trying to subvert or disintegrate the EU.  The “evidence” they are amounts to nothing more than the fact that Marine Le Pen’s party in France once borrowed some money from a Russian commercial bank.  The Russians did not try to achieve a Leave vote in the British Brexit Referendum and Putin did not welcome the result when it came out.  As Putin made perfectly clear at his speech in SPIEF 2016, far from wanting to destroy the EU the Russians want it to become a partner in their Greater Eurasia project.

By contrast the US has openly committed itself to doing all it can to stop or delay the EEU.  The coup in Kiev and the war in Ukraine are at least in part a result of that. 

Expanding Russia’s presence in the Middle East and the war in Syria

The US has been trying to expand its presence in the Middle East for decades.  It has bases in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Bahrain and Turkey.  It is allied to Israel and Saudi Arabia.  It has waged aggressive wars which have overthrown the governments of Iraq and Libya.  It has for some years supported the insurgency which is seeking to overthrow the government of Syria; and it has placed Iran under virtual siege.

Why is it good and right for the US to expand its presence in the Middle East in this way through war and violence and wrong and bad for Russia to do the same?

As it happens McFaul is again misrepresenting Russian policy.  Firstly it is debatable whether Russian influence in the Middle East is really expanding.  Russia already had a presence in Syria before the war there started and though Russia’s ties with Iran are growing stronger Iran is in no sense a Russian vassal state or satellite and will not become one.  As for the Russian intervention in Syria, as the Russians have been at pains to point out unlike the various US interventions it is not merely legal but supports an existing government – and thus order and stability in the region – rather than seeking to overthrow or disrupt it.  Moreover unlike the US, which never talks to Russia about anything unless forced to do so, the Russians have gone to great lengths to talk to the US about Syria and to try to work with the US to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Syria.

McFaul’s piece encapsulates everything which is wrong and dangerous about US policy.  As is only too obvious, in his world view and in that of the neocons Russia – and all other countries – are not entitled to their own opinions and are certainly not entitled to an independent foreign policy.  The only proper and “good” course for them is to agree to whatever the US demands of them.  When they behave differently by acting in their own interests they are doing something wrong and bad, become “evil” and are vilified and attacked.

This is an impossible, overweening demand the like of which has never been made by any Great Power since the Fall of the Roman Empire.  There is no possibility of strong independent countries like Russia ever agreeing to it.  Demanding it of them is what is driving the world towards war. 

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Macron cuts ski holiday short, vowing crack down on Yellow Vests (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 109.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the 18th consecutive week of Yellow Vests protests in Paris. Following last weeks lower participation, Saturday’s Yellow Vests in Paris gathered larger crowds, with various outbreaks of violence and rioting that has been blamed on extreme elements, who French authorities claim have infiltrated the movement.

“Act XVIII” of the protests has shown that the Yellow Vests have not given up. France’s Champs-Élysées boulevard was where most of the violence occurred, with the street being left in a pile of broken glass and flames.

One day after Paris was set ablaze, French President Emmanuel Macron cut his ski holiday short, returning to Paris and vowing to take “strong decisions” to prevent more violence.

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Via Zerohedge


Paris awoke on Sunday to smouldering fires, broken windows and looted stores following the 18th consecutive Saturday of Yellow Vest protests.

Around 200 people were arrested according to BFM TV, while about 80 shops near the iconic Champs Elysees had been damaged and/or looted according to AFP, citing Champs Elysees committee president Jean-Noel Reinhardt.

The 373-year-old Saint Sulpice Roman Catholic church was set on fire while people were inside, however nobody was injured. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

The riots were so severe that French President Emmanuel Macron cut short a vacation at the La Mongie ski resort in the Hautes-Pyrénées following a three-day tour of East Africa which took him to Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Macron skied on Friday, telling La Depeche du Midi “I’m going to spend two-three days here to relax, to find landscapes and friendly faces,” adding “I’m happy to see the Pyrenees like that, radiant, although I know it was more difficult at Christmas” referring to the lack of snow in December.

In response to Saturday’s violence, Macron said over Twitter that “strong decisions” were coming to prevent more violence.

Macron said some individuals — dubbed “black blocs” by French police forces — were taking advantage of the protests by the Yellow Vest grassroots movement to “damage the Republic, to break, to destroy.” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Twitter that those who excused or encouraged such violence were complicit in it. –Bloomberg

The French President has family ties in the Hautes-Pyrénées, including Bagnères de Bigorre where his grandmother lived. He is a regular visitor to the region.

Emmanuel Macron (2ndL), head of the political movement In Marche! (Onwards!) And candidate for the 2017 presidential election, and his wife Brigitte Trogneux (L) have lunch April 12, 2017 (Reuters)

 

 

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Vesti calls out Pompeo on lying about Russia invading Ukraine [Video]

Secretary Pompeo displayed either stunning ignorance or a mass-attack of propaganda about what must be the most invisible war in history.

Seraphim Hanisch

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After the 2014 Maidan revolution and the subsequent secessions of Lugansk and Donetsk in Ukraine, and after the rejoining of Crimea with its original nation of Russia, the Western media went on a campaign to prove the Russia is (/ was / was about to / had already / might / was thinking about / was planning to … etc.) invade Ukraine. For the next year or so, about every two weeks, internet news sources like Yahoo! News showed viewers pictures of tanks, box trucks and convoys to “prove” that the invasion was underway (or any of the other statuses confirming the possibilities above stated.) This information was doubtless provided to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Apparently, Secretary Pompeo believed this ruse, or is being paid to believe this ruse because in a speech recently, he talked about it as fact:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine an attempt to gain access to Ukraine’s oil and gas reserves.

He stated this at IHS Markit’s CERAWeek conference in Houston, the USA, Reuters reports.

Pompeo urged the oil industry to work with the Trump administration to promote U.S. foreign policy interests, especially in Asia and in Europe, and to punish what he called “bad actors” on the world stage.

The United States has imposed harsh sanctions in the past several months on two major world oil producers, Venezuela and Iran.

Pompeo said the U.S. oil-and-gas export boom had given the United States the ability to meet energy demand once satisfied by its geopolitical rivals.

“We don’t want our European allies hooked on Russian gas through the Nord Stream 2 project, any more than we ourselves want to be dependent on Venezuelan oil supplies,” Pompeo said, referring to a natural gas pipeline expansion from Russia to Central Europe.

Pompeo called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an attempt to gain access to the country’s oil and gas reserves.

Although the state-run news agency Vesti News often comes under criticism for rather reckless, or at least, extremely sarcastic propaganda at times, here they rightly nailed Mr. Pompeo’s lies to the wall and billboarded it on their program:

The news anchors even made a wisecrack about one of the political figures, Konstantin Zatulin saying as a joke that Russia plans to invade the United States to get its oil. They further noted that Secretary Pompeo is uneducated about the region and situation, but they offered him the chance to come to Russia and learn the correct information about what is going on.

To wit, Russia has not invaded Ukraine at all. There is no evidence to support such a claim, while there IS evidence to show that the West is actively interfering with Russia through the use of Ukraine as a proxyWhile this runs counter to the American narrative, it is simply the truth. Ukraine appears to be the victim of its own ambitions at this point, for while the US tantalizes the leadership of the country and even interferes with the Orthodox Church in the region, the country lurches towards a presidential election with three very poor candidates, most notably the one who is president there now, Petro Poroshenko.

However, the oil and gas side of the anti-Russian propaganda operation by the US is significant. The US wishes for Europe to buy gas from American suppliers, even though this is woefully inconvenient and expensive when Russia is literally at Europe’s doorstep with easy supplies. However, the Cold War Party in the United States, which still has a significant hold on US policy making categorizes the sale of Russia gas to powers like NATO ally Germany as a “threat” to European security.

It is interesting that Angela Merkel herself does not hold this line of thinking. It is also interesting and worthy of note, that this is not the only NATO member that is dealing more and more with Russia in terms of business. It underscores the loss of purpose that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization suffers now since there is no Soviet Union to fight.

However, the US remains undaunted. If there is no enemy to fight, the Americans feel that they must create one, and Russia has been the main scapegoat for American power ambitions. More than ever now, this tactic appears to be the one in use for determining the US stance towards other powers in the world.

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Ariel Cohen explains Washington’s latest foreign policy strategy [Video]

Excellent interview Ariel Cohen and Vladimir Solovyov reveals the forces at work in and behind American foreign policy.

Seraphim Hanisch

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While the American people and press are pretty much complicit in reassuring the masses that America is the only “right” superpower on earth, and that Russia and China represent “enemy threats” for doing nothing more than existing and being successfully competitive in world markets, Russia Channel One got a stunner of a video interview with Ariel Cohen.

Who is Ariel Cohen? Wikipedia offers this information about him:

Ariel Cohen (born April 3, 1959 in Crimea in YaltaUSSR) is a political scientist focusing on political risk, international security and energy policy, and the rule of law.[1] Cohen currently serves as the Director of The Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics (CENRG) at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security (IAGS). CENRG focuses on the nexus between energy, geopolitics and security, and natural resources and growth. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, within the Global Energy Center and the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.[2] Until July 2014, Dr. Cohen was a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He specializes in Russia/Eurasia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Cohen has testified before committees of the U.S. Congress, including the Senate and House Foreign Relations Committees, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Judiciary Committee and the Helsinki Commission.[4] He also served as a Policy Adviser with the National Institute for Public Policy’s Center for Deterrence Analysis.[5] In addition, Cohen has consulted for USAID, the World Bank and the Pentagon.[6][7]

Cohen is a frequent writer and commentator in the American and international media. He has appeared on CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX, C-SPAN, BBC-TV and Al Jazeera English, as well as Russian and Ukrainian national TV networks. He was a commentator on a Voice of America weekly radio and TV show for eight years. Currently, he is a Contributing Editor to the National Interest and a blogger for Voice of America. He has written guest columns for the New York TimesInternational Herald TribuneChristian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, EurasiaNet, Valdai Discussion Club,[8] and National Review Online. In Europe, Cohen’s analyses have appeared in Kommersant, Izvestiya, Hurriyet, the popular Russian website Ezhenedelny Zhurnal, and many others.[9][10]

Mr. Cohen came on Russian TV for a lengthy interview running about 17 minutes. This interview, shown in full below, is extremely instructive in illustrating the nature of the American foreign policy directives such as they are at this time.

We have seen evidence of this in recent statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, and an honestly unabashed bit of fear mongering about China’s company Huawei and its forthcoming 5G networks, which we will investigate in more detail in another piece. Both bits of rhetoric reflect a re-polished narrative that, paraphrased, says to the other world powers,

Either you do as we tell you, or you are our enemy. You are not even permitted to out-compete with us in business, let alone foreign relations. The world is ours and if you try to step out of place, you will be dealt with as an enemy power.

This is probably justified paranoia, because it is losing its place. Where the United Stated used to stand for opposition against tyranny in the world, it now acts as the tyrant, and even as a bully. Russia and China’s reaction might be seen as ignoring the bully and his bluster and just going about doing their own thing. It isn’t a fight, but it is treating the bully with contempt, as bullies indeed deserve.

Ariel Cohen rightly points out that there is a great deal of political inertia in the matter of allowing Russia and China to just do their own thing. The US appears to be acting paranoid about losing its place. His explanations appear very sound and very reasonable and factual. Far from some of the snark Vesti is often infamous for, this interview is so clear it is tragic that most Americans will never see it.

The tragedy for the US leadership that buys this strategy is that they appear to be blinded so much by their own passion that they cannot break free of it to save themselves.

This is not the first time that such events have happened to an empire. It happened in Rome; it happened for England; and it happened for the shorter-lived empires of Nazi Germany and ISIS. It happens every time that someone in power becomes afraid to lose it, and when the forces that propelled that rise to power no longer are present. The US is a superpower without a reason to be a superpower.

That can be very dangerous.

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