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Merkel turning toward Moscow? Bavaria’s governor leads huge German delegation to Russia

Bavarian governor Horst Seehofer met Vladimir Putin last week. Did he bring any offer of a policy change from Berlin?

Ricky Twisdale

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Besides French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s surprise meeting with Vladimir Putin today, another important meeting between German leaders and Russia’s president happened last week, but has gone almost unreported outside German media.

Bavarian governor Horst Seehofer, who holds a powerful position in German politics, visited Moscow on March 16th, bringing with him a massive delegation of German political and business leaders.

Seehofer has gone on record many times as a staunch opponent of the EU’s anti-Russian sanctions, saying they are killing German businesses. He’s also said that, “Without Moscow, may of the world’s crises can’t be solved,” and praised Putin as “noble” for not involving himself in Germany’s domestic affairs.

Spiegel Online gave the following details of the trip:

[Mr. Seehofer] came with a 80 member delegation representing Bavarian society groups, cultural representatives, journalists, industry and agriculture. Those last two branches of the economy have been long demanding at least an easing of sanctions imposed after the annexation of Crimea, and they hope for an end to Russia’s embargo in return.

There are more than 5,000 firms active in Russia with German share holders, and more than a quarter come from Bavaria. The volume of trade between Bavaria and Russia last year was €7.62 billion. Four years ago, i.e. before the sanctions, the figure stood at €13.1 billion.

Putin received Seehofer like none other,” declared the headline from German news channel Welt24. Indeed, the governor was treated, and behaved essentially as if he were, a head-of-state.

Bavaria, as the largest and most economically powerful state in Germany, does carry weight in Berlin. Seehofer represents Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU) political party – the longtime ally of Angela Merkel’s CDU which is the mainstream conservative party in the rest of Germany.

Of course, Bavaria is not a sovereign state (not for more than a century, anyway) and Seehofer has no right to conduct an independent foreign policy. Berlin certainly tacitly approved the trip, even though there are differences in the public positions of Seehofer and Merkel on a range of issues from refugee policy to anti-Russian sanctions.

During the meeting, the governor conveyed “especially warm greetings” from the German chancellor to the Russian president, thus fulfilling diplomatic protocol.

She reminded me several times not to forget that,” he added, chuckling.

Seehofer also revealed something else: that Angela Merkel will herself visit Putin in Moscow on May 2nd.

This is important news, as it will certainly come prior to any future summit between Trump and Putin, which will remain politically impossible for Trump for some time.

Having just left discussions with Donald Trump in Washington, the question is what agenda Angela Merkel will advance when she arrives in Moscow in May. Will she continue representing the neo-con globalist camp and it’s policy of confrontation, or will she pivot to Donald Trump’s position, bringing proposals for rapprochement?

A rapprochement is very much what is desired in Munich. And without the support of Seehofer and Bavaria’s CSU, Merkel cannot prevail in German parliamentary elections scheduled for this September.

 

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EU Army: Fact or Fiction? (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 152.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and International Affairs and Security Analyst via Moscow, Mark Sleboda discuss the possibility, and feasibility, of putting together an EU army, as French President Macron is now boasting about.

Will an EU Army replace, rival, or fold into NATO? How will the US respond to Europe’s military initiative, and how will Russia deal an EU army?

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Via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


“Insulting” – that’s how US President Donald Trump sharply reacted to the idea of a “real European army” proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron.

And it was how Macron rationalized the need for an independent military force for Europe that perhaps most irked the American leader.

Speaking on a tour of World War I battlefields in northern France last week, Macron said that Europe needed to defend itself from “China, Russia and even the United States of America”.

It was a pretty extraordinary choice of words by the French leader. To frame the US among an array of perceived foreign enemy powers was a devastating blow to the concept of a much-vaunted transatlantic alliance.

Since the Second World War, ending 1945, the concept of an American-European alliance has been the bedrock of a supposed inviolable, mutual defense pact. That nearly seven-decade alliance is now being questioned more than ever.

Macron’s call for a European army was further backed up by German Chancellor Angela Merkel who also pointedly said this week that Europe can no longer rely on the US for its defense.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has welcomed the proposal for Europe to form its own military organization, independent from Washington. No doubt, Moscow views such a development as augmenting a move towards a multipolar international order, which Russia and China, among others, have been advocating in opposition to American ambitions of unipolar dominance.

When Trump arrived in Paris last weekend along with dozens of other world leaders, including Putin, to commemorate the centennial anniversary marking the end of World War I, there was a notable frostiness between Macron and the American president. Only a few months ago, Macron and Trump had appeared the best of friends in what some observers referred to as a “bromance”.

During the Paris events, Macron sought to placate Trump by saying that the European army proposal would have a “complementary” role to the US-led NATO military alliance. However, their relationship further soured when Macron later delivered a speech in which he made a veiled rebuke of Trump’s “nationalist” politics.

Days later, on returning to Washington, Trump then fired off a fusillade of angry tweets attacking Macron in very personal terms over a range of issues, including “unfair” economic trade and France’s alleged ungrateful attitude towards the US liberation of Paris from Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

The rift between the US and Europe has been brewing even before Trump’s presidency. For years, Washington has been carping that the Europeans need to spend more on military defense, claiming that the US has been shouldering the burden for too long. Trump has taken the griping to a new, higher level. Recall that he has threatened to pull out of NATO because the Europeans were “free loading” on American “protection”.

The irony is that now the French and German leaders are talking about setting up their own military defenses, Trump has blown a fuse.

Evidently, the American contention is not about “burden sharing” of defense. If Washington was genuinely aggrieved about supposedly defending Europe at too much of its own expense, then Trump, one would think, would be only too glad to hear that the Europeans were at last making their own military arrangements, and taking the burden off Washington.

This gets to the heart of the matter about the real purpose of NATO and presence of tens of thousands of US troops stationed in bases across Europe since 1945. American military presence in Europe is not about “protecting” its supposed allies. It is, and always has been, about projecting American power over Europe. In reality, American troops and bases in Europe are more functioning as an occupying force, keeping the Europeans in line with Washington’s strategic objectives of hegemony over the continent.

Macron and Merkel’s vision of a European army is probably fanciful anyway, without any real prospect of materializing. How such a new defense arrangement would work independently from the 29-member NATO alliance led by the US seems unwieldy and impractical.

But the latest tensions between Washington and European leaders over military organization demonstrate the real nature of America’s relationship to Europe. It is about domination by Washington over Europe and has little to do with partnership and protection.

When Trump and previous US presidents have urged greater military spending by Europe the ulterior agenda is for Europeans to pay more to underpin American military presence, not for Europeans to find their own independent defense arrangement.

Tensions in the transatlantic axis seem to be coming to a head, heightened by Trump’s nationalistic “America First” policy. Rivalries are sharpening over trade, US sanctions on Iran, Trump’s threats against European energy plans with Russia, the Paris Climate Accord, and squabbling over NATO expenditures.

There is nothing progressive about Macron or Merkel’s call for a European army. It is more to do with France and Germany wanting to assert themselves as great powers and to shake off American tutelage out of frustration with Trump’s domineering petulance.

Only last week, Macron caused controversy when he praised French military general Philippe Pétain who collaborated with Nazi Germany as leader of Vichy France (1940-44). Macron wants a European army to satisfy his own nationalistic ambitions of revamping French global power. This week, he spent the night onboard a refurbished French aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, from which he gave a media interview saying that being “an ally of America meant not being a vassal”. Touché!

A progressive challenge from Europe to American power would not involve setting up a new army. Instead it would involve Europeans pushing for the disbandment of NATO as an obsolete organization and for the withdrawal of US-led forces which are dangerously amassing on Russia’s border.

Nonetheless, the one positive thing to emerge from the transatlantic spat over military defenses is that it illustrates more than ever how European protection is not the real purpose of Washington’s relationship to the continent. The purpose is one of using Europe as a platform for projecting America’s power, in particular against Russia.

The recent announcement by the Trump administration that it is willing to rip up yet another nuclear arms control treaty – the INF following the ABM in 2002 – clearly shows that Washington, ultimately, has recklessly scant concern for Europe’s security with regard to a possible future war with Russia.

For Washington, despite all the chivalrous rhetoric, Europe is not a partner nor even an ally. It is a vassal. Admittedly, thousands of American troops died while bravely fighting wars in Europe. But they are distinct from the US ruling class. At bottom, Europe is merely a battlefield for American military power, just as it was in two previous world wars. One hundred years after the end of World War I, the same callous calculus for the imperial planners in Washington is at play.

European ideas for independent defense is why Washington has reacted so furiously. It’s not willing to give up its European front.

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Zuckerberg Clings To Power While Sandberg Claims Ignorance After Damaging NYT Report

The New York Times reported that Facebook hired GOP PR firm, Defenders, to smear liberal detractors as Soros operatives. 

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Facebook executives Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are battling backlash over an explosive investigation by the New York Times into Facebook’s mercenary damage control tactics in the wake of several major scandals.

Despite fresh calls from investors for Zuckerberg to step down in his dual role as CEO and chairman and appoint an independent director to oversee the board, the 34-year-old tech titan brushed off the suggestion during a Thursday call with journalists.

“A company with Facebook’s massive reach and influence requires robust oversight and that can only be achieved through an independent chair who is empowered to provide critical checks on company leadership,” said New York City comptroller, Scott Stringer.

Zuckerberg disagrees. “I don’t think that that specific proposal is the right way to go,” said the Facebook CEO when asked if he would consider stepping down, adding that other initiatives had been launched to “get more independence into our systems.”

The measures include creating an independent body to advise the company on decisions over whether controversial content should remain on the site.

Ultimately, he said Facebook is never going to eradicate mistakes. “We’re never going to get to the point where there are no errors,” he told reporters. “I’m trying to set up the company so that way we have our board, and we report on our financial results and do a call every quarter, but that also we have this independent oversight that is just focused on the community.” –Business Insider

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, meanwhile, is claiming ignorance – telling CBS This Morning co-host Norah O’Donnell “we absolutely did not pay anyone to create fake news – that they have assured me was not happening.”

In their Wednesday exposé – the culmination of interviews with over 50 current and former company executives, lawmakers, government officials, lobbyists and congressional staff members,the New York Times reported that Facebook had hired GOP PR firm, Defenders, which smeared liberal detractors as Soros operatives – and worked with a sister company to create negative propaganda about competitors Google and Apple.

Mr. Kaplan prevailed on Ms. Sandberg to promote Kevin Martin, a former Federal Communications Commission chairman and fellow Bush administration veteran, to lead the company’s American lobbying efforts. Facebook also expanded its work with Definers.

On a conservative news site called the NTK Network, dozens of articles blasted Google and Apple for unsavory business practices. One story called Mr. Cook hypocritical for chiding Facebook over privacy, noting that Apple also collects reams of data from users. Another played down the impact of the Russians’ use of Facebook.

The rash of news coverage was no accident: NTK is an affiliate of Definers, sharing offices and staff with the public relations firm in Arlington, Va. Many NTK Network stories are written by staff members at Definers or America Rising, the company’s political opposition-research arm, to attack their clients’ enemies. –NYT

Meanwhile, Sandberg stressed that Facebook was undertaking new security measures, telling O’Donnell: “Our strategy was to shore up the security on Facebook and make major investments there,” and that the company had made significant investments in combatting fake news and foreign influence.

“It was not what I was doing nor was it the company’s strategy to deflect, to deny or to hire PR firms to do things. That’s not the strategy. And I was part of none of that. We’ve taken great steps, we’ve made huge investments. We’ve invested a ton in AI and technology and if you were following us before the election you saw those efforts pay off. We were able to take down lots of stuff over and over, over and over because we were now focused on this,” said Sandberg.

When asked if rank-and-file employees are confident in her, Sandberg replied: “Yes, I believe so.

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Hillary Clinton Ordered To Answer Additional Questions Under Oath About Private Email Server

A federal court ordered Hillary Clinton to answer more questions about her illicit email system.

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Via Zerohedge


A federal judge has ordered Hillary Clinton to respond to further questions, under oath, about her private email server.

Following a lengthy Wednesday court hearing, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan (who is also presiding over fmr. National Security adviser Michael Flynn’s case), ruled that Clinton has 30 days to answer two additional questions about her controversial email system in response to a lawsuit from Judicial Watch.

Hillary must answer the following questions by December 17 (via Judicial Watch)

  • Describe the creation of the clintonemail.com system, including who decided to create the system, the date it was decided to create the system, why it was created, who set it up, and when it became operational.
  • During your October 22, 2015 appearance before the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Benghazi, you testified that 90 to 95 percent of your emails “were in the State’s system” and “if they wanted to see them, they would certainly have been able to do so.” Identify the basis for this statement, including all facts on which you relied in support of the statement, how and when you became aware of these facts, and, if you were made aware of these facts by or through another person, identify the person who made you aware of these facts.

Sillivan rejected Clinton’s assertion of attorney-client privilege on the question over emails “in the State’s system,” however he did give Clinton a few victories:

The court refused Judicial Watch’s and media’s requests to unseal the deposition videos of Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills and other Clinton State Department officials. And it upheld Clinton’s objections to answering a question about why she refused to stop using her Blackberry despite warnings from State Department security personnel. Justice Department lawyers for the State Department defended Clinton’s refusal to answer certain questions and argued for the continued secrecy of the deposition videos. –Judicial Watch

Wednesday’s decision is the latest twist in a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit targeting former Clinton deputy chief of staff, Huma Abedin. The case seeks records which authorized Abedin to conduct outside employment while also employed by the Department of State.

“A federal court ordered Hillary Clinton to answer more questions about her illicit email system – which is good news,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It is shameful that Judicial Watch attorneys must continue to battle the State and Justice Departments, which still defend Hillary Clinton, for basic answers to our questions about Clinton’s email misconduct.”

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